Friday, December 31, 2010

A Thought for 2011

As we get ready for the New Year, here's a thought we're going to live by in 2011:

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
Viriginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Here's to the most beautiful year you can have!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels

These were a hit at my parents' house on Christmas night. You should make them for your New Year's Eve soiree....

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels
From Real Simple.
Makes about 20 appetizers.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.25-ounce box), thawed
1 large egg, beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (1 1⁄2 ounces)
kosher salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or your trusty Silpat.

Unfold the pastry and brush with the egg. Sprinkle with the scallions, ¼ cup of the Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Roll tightly into a log. Freeze until firm but still sliceable, about 20 minutes.

Slice the log into ¼-inch-thick rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pomegranate Gin Sling

For some reason, in our world, Thanksgiving is about eating and Christmas is about drinking. Our holiday meal is simple roast tenderloin with the regular acoutrements (including a really nice Cabernet). During the cocktail hour(s) beforehand, as we open presents and rifle through stockings, we partake of lots of little nibbles and a special cocktail or two. Here's one that's just the ticket.

Pomegranate Gin Sling
Makes two cocktails.

1/4 cup gin
1/4 cup pomegranate juice, chilled
1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
12 pomegranate seeds
2 lime slices

Combine fist 4 ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker; strain even portions into two chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and lime slices.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies

Need a quick dessert? Something for the kids' holiday party? Gift for the neighbors? Here you go. This EASY recipe does all that and more. Santa would be quite satisfied with a plate of these spicy rich goodies as he works Christmas Eve.

(Note: The glaze/frosting is delicious, but it's gilding the lily. These cookies are delicious without it.)

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies
From Southern Living.
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 chai tea bag
1 (17.5-oz.) package sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg
4 tablespoons eggnog, divided
Parchment paper
Cinnamon sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove tea leaves from tea bag; discard bag.

Stir together tea leaves, cookie mix, butter, egg, and 2 tablespoons eggnog until well blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Flatten dough slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in cinnamon sugar. (Note: I pressed the cookies down with a glass I sprayed with cooking spray, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on.)

Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 10 minutes).

Whisk together powdered sugar, nutmeg, and remaining 2 Tbsp. eggnog until smooth. Spoon over cooled cookies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chicken-White Bean Chili

I made this for a potluck at work today and was reminded how delicious it is. Might be just the ticket for your Christmas Eve...

Martina's Bus Stop White Chili
Adapted from a recipe from People magazine.
(I've made a few adjustments to kick up the spice and make it a little thicker.)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-14 1/2 ounce cans chicken broth
1 tablespoon garlic pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-15 ounce cans great northern beans
2-4 1/2 ounce cans chopped green chiles
1 can cream of chicken soup
Half of a 7 ounce can of pickled jalapeno peppers

For garnish: minced cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips and grated cheese

Put chicken in a glass baking dish, pour in both cans of chicken broth, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350° oven for one hour. Remove chicken and reserve broth.

Cut chicken into small pieces and season with garlic pepper. Heat olive oil in stock pot and sauté chicken for 2-3 minutes.

Puree jalapeno peppers, with juice, and set aside. (If you want your chili super thick, at this point, also drain and rinse one or more of the cans of white beans.)

Add reserved broth, beans, chiles, cream of chicken soup, and pureed jalapenos to stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cocktail of the Week (Part 2): Cranberry Daiquiri

This recipe is from the great book Mix Shake Stir, a collection of cocktails from acclaimed chef Danny Meyer's New York restaurants. The book says this is Gramercy Tavern's all-time best-selling cocktail. It's gonna be perfect as we celebrate Christmas Eve.

Cranberry Daiquiri
Makes 1 cocktail.

1 1/2 tablespoons Drunken Cranberries, plus 1 ounce of their liquid (I posted the recipe for Drunken Cranberries yesterday.)
Crushed ice
Ice cubes
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Thread 1/2 tablespoon cranberries onto a small skewer; set aside. Place a small amount of crushed ice in a chilled martini glass. Add remaining tablespoon cranberries; set aside.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add rum, cranberry liquid, and lime juice. Cover and shake vigorously to combine; strain into prepared glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cocktail of the Week (Part 1): Drunken Cranberries

I think I have found this year's Christmas Eve cocktail. This one will be delicious with our traditional Tex-Mex feast. And two bonuses: It will use up a few of the cranberries I have leftover from Turkey Day and will look beautiful in our red martini glasses.

This is the glorified simple syrup that is the basis for the drink. I'll post the recipe for the cocktail itself tomorrow.

Drunken Cranberries
Makes about 3 cups.

1 1/2 cups Simple Syrup
2 sticks cinnamon
Zest from 1 large orange
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups white rum, such as Bacardi Silver

In a large saucepan, combine simple syrup, cinnamon, and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add cranberries. Cook until cranberries just begin to pop and skins begin to split, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Strain liquid into a large container. Discard cinnamon and orange zest; add cranberries to liquid, along with rum. If cranberries are not fully submerged in liquid, add equal parts simple syrup and rum until they are completely covered. Let cool completely.

Cover, and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

You're up to your eyeballs in homemade gift making, present wrapping, tree trimming and overall decking of the halls. Doesn't mean you can't make a delicious meal quickly. Skip the fast food and make this tasty, tasty salmon dish. Instant rice pilaf and frozen broccoli on the side...voila!

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light.

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place fish on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425° for 15-18 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wrapping Tip of the Century

This post is only one tip because it is so brilliant. (And so simple when you think about it...)

Slit an empty cardboard paper towel tube up one side. Use it as a protective sleeve on your gift wrap to keep it from being torn or frayed.

Good one, huh?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow Cooker Chinese Barbecued Pork Roast

I posted a great Mexican-spiced marinade for a pork shoulder roast a week or so ago. Here's the Asian version. And it goes in the slow cooker, so perfect for a weeknight meal.

Slow Cooker Chinese Barbecued Pork Roast
Makes 8 servings.
From Cooking Light magazine.

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm.

Add broth to sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks; serve with sauce.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

I made this delicious cake as a part of the cornucopia of desserts we had to cap our Thanksgiving meal this year. It was delicious and fit right in to the Turkey Day theme...cranberries galore!

But I think it's an even better choice for your Christmas feast. It's a great stand-in for fruitcake...the same nutty, spicy flavor without the gloppy fruit. And the five spice powder take it past the "traditional" spice cake.

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake
Makes 12-14 servings.
From Bon Appetit.

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain reduced-fat (2%) Greek-style yogurt
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 cup halved fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw)
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons (about) orange juice

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan.

Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek-style yogurt.

Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:
Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

OK...with the "milk wars" going on, (99 cents a gallon here in Dallas right now) you should be making homemade ricotta instead of buying it in those plastic tubs at the grocery store. Saves some money and much better (non-chemicalized) anyway.

Once you have your finished project, toss it with some pasta and fresh herbs, use it in your favorite lasagna, stuff a chicken breast before baking, or just stir in a few herbs and spread on a cracker for a quick cocktail hour snack.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream (or half and half or even more milk)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick curds and the thin whey.

Pour mixture into a sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth over a deep bowl. Allow to drain at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, discarding the accumulated liquid as you need to. (The longer the ricotta drains, the thicker it will be, so adjust time according to your final needs and preference.)

Transfer to a bowl and use immediately or cover with plastic wrap.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mojo Marinade

Living in Texas, I'm lucky enough to live down the street from not one, but several Hispanic groceries. And tamales are a mainstay at this time of year. (We'll be ordering and devouring several dozen when the family comes over for Christmas...) What goes into tamales? Pork shoulder. And thanks to some practice, I have learned how to nail a braised pork shoulder.

Whatever the seasoning, the technique is the same. Marinate if you'd like (more on that in a second). Score the skin and fat in a diamond pattern. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes to get the skin brown and crispy. Add a bit of liquid if it needs, apple juice and chicken broth are all good choices. Cover and braise at 300° until internal temperature is 180°. (That will take about 4 hours for a 7 pound roast.) The pork will fall off the bone. You can pull it apart and serve as roast, in tacos or on a bun. You'll love it.

As for the marinade, lots of options here too. How about garlic pepper and oregano for Italian style. BBQ rub for authentic pulled pork. Or mojo for a truly Latin twist. Again, thanks to the neighborhood carniceria, I can buy this bottled, but why not make it from scratch. Even more delicious...

(You can use this on chicken and beef for a mean fajita as well.)

Mojo Marinade

1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
30 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh orange juice
2 cups fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Purée oregano, cumin, garlic, and 2 tbsp. orange juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining orange juice and lime juice and stir to combine.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Red Pepper Feta Dip

Ironically, as I post this, I am watching a DVR'd episode of Iron Chef America with secret ingredient bell pepper. So far, neither competitor has made this dip. But they should. It's delicious.

And it's a great one for the holidays. Easy enough to whip together at the last minute. With festive red color to boot.

Red Pepper Feta Dip
Makes one cup.

2 roasted red peppers (from a jar), drained and chopped
6 ounces feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with toasted pita wedges and fresh vegetables.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Eggnog Pound Cake

Need an easy Christmasy dessert? Here you go.

Eggnog Pound Cake
From Southern Living.
Makes twelve servings.

1 (16-oz.) package pound cake mix
1 1/4 cups eggnog
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat all ingredients together at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes. Pour into a lightly greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. (Or use a different pan and cook according to pound cake mix box directions. I used a holiday style Bundt pan.)

Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). (I dusted mine with powdered sugar before servings.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Birthday! A Dr Pepper Cocktail

It's a magical day for us Texas folk. Dr Pepper, that luscious nectar I grew up on, was patented 125 years ago today. Since I didn't get to make these delicious-sounding Dr Pepper-braised short ribs from Dean Fearing, I'll mix up this yummy cocktail and raise a glass. Maybe I'll even raise one at 10, 2 AND 4.

Dr Pepper Cocktail
Makes one cocktail.

3 ounces Dr Pepper
2 ounces vodka
1 1/2 ounces triple sec

Mis all ingredients in an ice-filled Collins glass.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dilled Carrots

Usually I think of pickles and preserves as a summer project. But with baby carrots in a bag ubiquitous year round at the grocery store, there's no reason not to make some of these flavorful little treats this weekend. about using them as stocking stuffers/hostess gifts for your foodie friends?

Dilled Carrots
Makes about seven pint jars.

6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt
4 cloves garlic, halved
14 heads of dill (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dill seed per jar)
3 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
5 pounds baby carrots

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water, and salt. Stir well and dissolve over medium-high heat.

Place 1/2 clove garlic, 1 dill head and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in each prepared pint jar. Pack carrots into jars to within 1/2 inch of top of jar. Top with second head of dill.

Ladle pickling liquid into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Wipe rim and top jrs with lids and bands.

Seal jars and process in hot water, using proper canning techniques, for 15 minutes total.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not...Celery Salad

As I was slicing and dicing the celery for the other half's delicious cornbread dressing recipe last week I was left with those pale stalks in the center and the leaves. They looked so crisp and fresh, I hated to see them go to waste. I knew if I put them in the refrigerator, they'd end up in the compost pail next time I cleaned it out. So I put them to immediate use.

I cut them up into bite-size pieces and dressed them simply with a splash of red wine vinegar, a glug of olive oil and some salt and garlic pepper. It was a delicious, bright snack. I felt quite virtuous...both for being healthy and putting what could have been wasted to excellent use.

Do you have similar tips? I'd love to hear them in the Comments below...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Croquettes

This is one of the best ways to use up leftover turkey that I've ever found. As a matter of fact, it's so delicious that I don't just limit myself to making these at this time of year. It's a great easy recipe to keep in your repertoire. Poach a single turkey breast (remarkably easy to find in the grocery meat section these days) in some water and you're set.

Note: This makes quite a few croquettes, and is a hard recipe to cut in half. I took the leftover mixture and put it in a small ramekin topped with breadcrumbs. Heated it through and voila...turkey meat loaf of sorts. Quite tasty.

Turkey Croquettes
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes 20 croquettes.

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh savory or thyme
2 cups finely chopped cooked turkey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cranberry sauce, for serving

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1 teaspoons salt, and teaspoon pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in sage and savory or thyme, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in turkey and cream, and cook until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool for 15 minutes.

Add potatoes, flour, and egg to turkey, and season with salt and pepper.

Drop 2 tablespoons turkey mixture into a shallow bowl of breadcrumbs, turn to coat, and pat into 2-inch disks. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. (Note: Do NOT skip the chilling step. It helps them from falling apart when you're frying them. I learned this the hard way...)

Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook croquettes in a single layer until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with cranberry sauce.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sage Mashed Potatoes

Sure we know sage goes on the turkey and especially in the dressing. But why not in the mashed potatoes? The double sage infusion gives them an herbal kick that will make Turkey Day even more decadent.

Sage Mashed Potatoes
Serves 10-12.

3 pounds red-skinned potatoes
6 sprigs fresh sage
2 cups half and half
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, mined
Additional sage leaves

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into large chunks. Remove the leaves from the six sage sprigs. Cook the potatoes and sage stems in a large pot of boiling salted water until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince the fresh sage leaves.

Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot, mash them coarsely and set aside.

Add the boiled sage stems and minced sage leaves to a medium saucepan along with the half and half, butter and garlic. Heat over medium heat just until it begins to boil. Immediately remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Strain the steeped mixture, and pour it into the mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir until smooth.

Before serving, garnish the mashed potatoes with additional chopped sage for even more herbal flavor.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Turkey Day Resources

I haven't been able to post as many Thanksgiving-related posts as usual this has gotten in the way of blogging. Never fear...I did yeoman's work last year.

Here's a link to last year's countdown to Thanksgiving. It's chockful of recipes (including what to do with leftovers), cocktails, decorations and wine pairings. Check it out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes

This is just the thing you need to spice up your Turkey Day feast. Sure there will be the traditionalists that want marshamallows on top, but see if you can't sway them to this delicious Indian-tinged side dish. If you don't think you can take the chance, no worries. Save this one for another great dinner. After all, you're not just serving sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, are you?

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes
From Cooking Light.
Makes six servings.

6 1/2 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place potato in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well; return to pan. Keep warm.

Melt butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots to pan; cook 6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in brown sugar, salt, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shallot mixture, half-and-half, and lemon juice to potato. Mash potato mixture with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

This delicious spiced nuts recipe makes two magical additions to my standard "off the top of my head" version--egg white and cumin. The egg white makes a deliciously crunchy glaze and the cumin adds just the perfect earthy undertone.


Sweet and Spicy Pecans

1 large egg white
2 cups unsalted pecan halves
2 cups unsalted roasted cashews
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250° F. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water in a large bowl until foamy. Add the nuts, sugar, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are mostly dry but still slightly sticky, about 40 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the oven and stir. Reduce the temperature to 200° F. Return the nuts to the oven and bake until crisp, about 30 more minutes. Stir to loosen the nuts from the baking sheet; cool completely on the sheet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake

I blame our lovely next door neighbor for my addiction to this stuff. It's like sugar-laced, holiday-themed crack. She brought some over last Thanksgiving, and I proud of myself that I haven't prepared it every week since then. I think it's time though. Excuse me please...

Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake
Makes 10-12 servings. (Unless I'm eating it.)

1 can pumpkin
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecan pieces

Using an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin and evaporated milk together. Beat the eggs slightly and add to pumpkin-milk mixture. Add sugar, salt and spices and mix well.

Pour into a 9 x 13 greased pan.

Sprinkle the cake mix over the filling and pour the melted butter over the cake mix. Sprinkle with pecan pieces.

Bake at 325° for 1 1/2 hours.

Serve topped with Cool Whip or whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Whipping Up Some Cream

Whipped cream gets a lot more use around my kitchen around the holidays—on the top of pumpkin pie, dolloped onto hot chocolate or stirred into homemade egg nog. Here are a couple of tips to make things a bit easier and a lot more successful.

  • It's always best to have chilled your beaters and bowl before you start, but here's a quick fix. Fill large bowl with ice water. Pour the whipping cream into a smaller bowl and set into the ice water. Anchor both bowls with your hand and beat with a hand mixer.

  • Need whipped cream and don't have a mixer? Place the cream in a chilled glass jar with t atught-fitting lid. Shake away for five minutes or so and voila. (It's great exercise too.) Hmm....wonder if it would work in a cocktail shaker?

  • Keep your whipped cream from getting weepy and runny. After whipping, put it in a strainer over a bowl and let the excess liquid drip out.

  • If you're really in a bind and don't have whipping cream on hand, how about vanilla ice cream a s a stand-in? Put some in a bolw and let it thaw for a minute or two. Then whip with stand mixer or hand blender. Voila!

Now whip it...whip it good.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Green Bean-Chayote Squash Casserole with Fried Onion Strings

I've posted my version of green bean casserole before. It's not at all hard for me to admit that this one has it beat hands down. It's from one of Grady Spears' cowboy cookbooks and even incorporates chayote squash, an ingredient important to Latin American cuisine. If you're looking for a decadent Southwestern addition to your Turkey Day table, this is it. (And, yes, Virginia, it includes the ubiquitous fried onion strings. Although these are far better than those things from a can.)

Green Bean-Chayote Squash Casserole with Fried Onion Strings
Makes 6-8 servings.

1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 pound fresh chayote squash, peeled, seeded, and julienned
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound bacon, diced
3/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups heavy cream (I didn't say it was healthy, did I?)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Asiago cheese
Fried Onion Strings

Blanch the green beans and chayote in a large pot of water for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile butter a 9 by 13 baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring as necessary to separate the pieces so they cook evenly. Drain the grease as it accumulates so that the bacon won't be swimming in grease. When the bacon is half-cooked, add the onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is done and the onion is soft. Transfer to the buttered casserole and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat the unsalted butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter to create a roux, and cook for several minutes until the roux becomes fragrant but does not brown. Add the cream slowly while whisking to prevent lumps. Adjust the heat so that the sauce is simmering, not boiling. Add salt and pepper and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Put the green beans and chayote squash into the casserole with the bacon-onion mixture and cover with white sauce. Top with the grated cheese and place in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling.

Remove the casserole from the oven and top with the warm, crispy, fried onion strings. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Cranberry Caipirinha

I know that cranberries are a wonderful part of most people's Thanksgiving feasts. But I like to use them in ways other than just the ubiquitous sauce. Even in a pre-dinner cocktail. This one will bring a little summer to your almost-winter meal.

And it's excuse enough to buy some of those cranberries on sale right now and freeze them to serve this cocktail at a patio party in the heat of next summer.

Cranberry Caipirinha
Makes one cocktail.

1/2 lime, cut in wedges
1 small orange wedge
10 cranberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 ounces cachaca (I've been liking Leblon.)

Place the lime, orange and cranberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the brown sugar and muddle. Add crushed ice, lime juice and cachaca and shake vigorously.

Pour everything, fruit, ice and all, into a rocks glass and serve.

Cheers! I'm thankful for a refreshing cocktail like this one....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Pineapple Cranberry Sauce with Chiles and Cilantro

I really like this tropical/Southwestern take on traditional cranberry sauce. It will make folks (like my brother-in-law) who like a little spicy heat quite happy. And it's a great recipe to hang on to long after Turkey Day. Freeze some fresh cranberries and whip up a batch of this anytime you're roasting chicken or a pork tenderloin.

Pineapple Cranberry Sauce with Chiles and Cilantro
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups 1/3-inch cubes peeled cored fresh pineapple
2 thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Transfer sauce to medium bowl. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mediterranean "Pizza" I'm performing a little experiment in the month of November. We have too much "stuff" in the pantry, in the freezer (all three of them) and in the cupboards. Therefore, I am not setting foot in a grocery store all month. (Don't worry...I have plenty of Thanksgiving/holiday recipes already tested to post.)

Here's something I came up with last night. Armed with leftover pita bread from the Halloween party, a bunch of spinach about to go south, and a recipe inspiration from Real Simple, this was dinner.

Mediterranean "Pizza"
Serves two.

Two whole pita breads. (I used whole wheat.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Ground pepper and kosher salt
1 pound baby spinach
2-3 jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 eggs

In a large sauté pan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions until translucent and just starting to color, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, oregano, pepper and salt and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, stirring often, 3-4 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a shallow baking dish, place the pita bread halves. Mound the spinach on top, making a well in the center. Sprinkle the feta on top. Crack an egg into each of the wells. Bake in a preheated 425° oven until the eggs are set, 11-13 minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red Onion-Horseradish Dip

Might as well call this Evil Dip. It is redolent with some of the stinkiest--and most delicious--things in existence. Just don't fix it for a first date....

It also makes a great topping for a baked potato or a perfectly grilled steak. I'm thinking about using it stuff chicken breasts as well...

Red Onion-Horseradish Dip

4 oz. wedge blue cheese
1/2 of an 8-oz. carton dairy sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 of a medium red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp. prepared horseradish
Additional chopped red onion (optional)

In medium bowl crumble about three-quarters of the blue cheese. Add sour cream, whipping cream, red onion, garlic and horseradish. Use immersion blender to blend cheese mixture until almost smooth. Top with remaining blue cheese and red onion. Serve with raw vegetables or toasted baguette slices.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts

Did you miss me? I've been buried with work and life, but will try and do better in posting so that I can pass on some great recipes and entertaining tips as we jump into the holiday season. Here's a great one....

I have several spicy nut mixture recipes I use...usually involving brown sugar and a pinch or two each of cinnamon and cayenne. This one kicks things up by adding rosemary. They're addictive.

Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts

2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt (I used kosher salt with fine results.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tequila-Jalapeno Aioli

This yummy condiment was a part of a larger recipe for Kobe sliders. But I think it's perfect on its own as a dipping sauce for boiled shrimp, a topping for broiled tilapia or a dollop on steamed broccoli. Oh....or as a spread on a Kobe slider.

Tequila-Jalapeño Aioli
Makes 2 cups. (But use these ingredients and similar proportions to make a much more managable amount if you'd like.)

2 cups mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tequila
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together. For a smoother sauce, pulse it all in a food processor until it's the consistency you want.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Here are a few tips to keep things cleaner in your kitchen.

  • Grab a used toothbrush and stash it next to your kitchen sink. It is invaluable in cleaning food processor blades, microplane graters, garlic presses, et al.
  • My recipe cards and pages always end up dirty by the time I'm finished cooking. Two ideas: If small enough, weave it into the tines of a fork set upside down into a coffee mug. If larger, grab a refrigerator magnet and attach it to your metal oven hood.
  • An immersion blender is a great tool in the kitchen, but it gets dirty. Especially after you've left it sitting on the counter while you enjoyed your creamy tomato basil soup. To clean it off, blend up a bowl of warm soapy water. The blade action will help the blender clean itself. Rinse thoroughly and put away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: The Aqueduct

Created at the Thoroughbred Club in Charleston, South Carolina and named after a racetrack in New York City, this drink is a nice bridge between a summery Tom Collins and a snifter of brandy by a roaring fire. In other words, prefect for a Texas autumn evening.

Makes one cocktail.

2 maraschino cherries, plus 1 maraschino cherry and 1 orange wheel skewered on a pick for garnish
1 orange slice, halved crosswise
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce chilled club soda

In a rocks glass, muddle the 2 cherries with the orange slice, Simple Syrup and bitters. Add the bourbon, then fill the glass with ice and add the club soda. Pour the drink back and forth between the rocks glass and a pint glass 3 times, then pour it into the rocks glass. Garnish with the skewered cherry and orange wheel.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parsley Walnut Pesto

How many of us have bought a bunch of parsley for a recipe only to throw most of it away several days later despite our best efforts to keep it fresh? I know I have.

But no more.

Here's a recipe that will use that leftover parsley and some other ingredients you probably have on hand. Toss the final product with pasta or spaghetti squash, spread it on a piece of toasted baguette or enjoy on a piece of roast chicken. Leftovers never tasted so good.

Parsley Walnut Pesto
Makes about one cup.

1/4 cup walnuts (3/4 oz)
1/2 garlic clove
1 1/3 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (or a splash of lemon juice)

Toast nuts in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 6 minutes, then cool completely.

Pulse nuts and garlic in a food processor until finely ground. Add parsley, oil, cheese, water, salt, pepper, and zest and pulse until parsley is coarsely chopped.

Use your tastebuds to make it perfect. Adjust the lemon juice, salt, pepper or oil to get things to the flavor and consistency that you love.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pastrami-Spiced Salmon

Here's the latest chapter in my new love affair with salmon. Seasoning it with the same spices used to cure pastrami results in a bold piece of fish. It was great for dinner and perhaps even better the next morning cold on a bagel with cream cheese.

Pastrami-Spiced Salmon
From Cooking Light.
Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (This has a definite might start with the smaller amount and see what you think.)
1 (1 1/2-pound) center-cut salmon fillet
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray

Prepare grill.

Combine first 7 ingredients. Place salmon fillet, skin side down, on a cutting board or work surface; brush evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle spice mixture evenly over salmon; gently rub mixture into fish. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and chill 15 minutes.

Place fish, skin side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. (Alternate cooking method: Bake uncovered in a 400° oven for 10-12 minutes.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Romaine Salad with Red Wine Vinegar

The glass jar you see here is my newest experiment. I've been making my own red wine vinegar. It's actually pretty simple. Buy a vinegar starter aka "mother" (check out homebrew suppliers online) and add it to a bottle of red wine and some water. Periodically, add leftover red wine to keep things going. I'll let you do your own online research for the specifics. It's worth the adventure...start now and you'll have great holiday gifts.

But this post is about enjoying the spoils of my culinary victory. The final product is clear and crisp with a flavor that can only be described as zingy. It's delicious on this simple salad.

Romaine Salad
Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
Salt and pepper
1 large heart of romaine, chopped (or use another crisp lettuce like butter or even iceberg)
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1 large tomato, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar with the oregano and season to taste. Add the lettuce and toss well. Add remaining ingredients and serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quinoa Muffins there's no doubt these muffins are healthy. They're dense and not as moist as the fat-laden thing you bought at Starbuck's this morning. But they're packed with protein-rich quinoa and just enough fruit and sugar to make them delicious. Even more wonderful with a light smear of cream cheese and a drizzle of honey.

Quinoa Muffins
From Everyday Food.
Makes 12 muffins.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Safety First!

Lots can go wrong in the kitchen. And I have the burn and cut scars to prove it. Try these tips to keep yourself out of danger.

  • When you take that sauté pan out of the oven (after finishing your fish, for example), put the oven mitt over the handle, so you don't forget and grab it by mistake.
  • You drink wine; you have plenty of corks afterwards. Stick them on the ends of fondue forks, shishkabob skewers, food processor blades, even paring knives before you put them away in the drawer. You're far less likely to impale yourself while searching for the measuring spoons.
  • How many times have you grated cheese of something else on a box greater only to grate your knuckles or fingertips? Save yourself and stick pastry tips onto the end of your fingers. No more blood in the nachos.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan

This is a great recipe for what is right now in Texas the "in-between" season. Warm enough for shorts and brunch on a sunny patio, but still with a nip in the air as you go out for the morning newspaper.

This dish uses the last of that basil still in your herb garden and the few tomatoes you scrounged up from the farmers market...tossed with one of my favorite winter squashes. It's yummy. And a great way to get people to try spaghetti squash. The deconstructed pesto sauce provides a great flavor punch.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan
Makes two servings.

One 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, reserving one half for another use, and the seeds discarded
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves plus additional for garnish
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup thinly sliced cherry tomatoes (or one cup coarsely chopped beefsteak tomatoes)

In a glass baking dish arrange the squash half, cut side down, pour 1/4 cup water around it, and place in a preheated 400° oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the oil, 1/4 cup of the basil, the oregano, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, stir in the tomatoes, and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

While the squash is still warm scrape it with a fork to form strands, add the strands to the tomato mixture, and toss the mixture until it is combined. Divide the mixture between 2 bowls, sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan over it, and garnish it with the additional basil.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kicked-Up Cornbread Mini-Muffins

No plain ol' cornbread for me anymore. Whip up a batch of your favorite recipe. (I'm partial to Jiffy myself.) And then add these things in before you pour into mini-muffin pans. Each variation lists ingredient amounts for a full 12 muffins; split in half or thirds if you'd like a taste of each in one sitting.

Orange-Rosemary Cornbread Mini-Muffins
Into one batch of cornbread batter, stir in:
3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bake as directed.

Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread Mini-Muffins
Into one batch of cornbread batter, stir in:
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño chile
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Bake as directed.

Caramelized Onion-Bacon Cornbread Mini-Muffins
Into one batch of cornbread batter, stir in:
1/2 cup caramelized onions
4 strips cooked bacon, broken into small pieces

Bake as directed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Country Pork Ribs

I love my time in the kitchen, but I also love my vacations from the kitchen. A recipe like this one--utilizing the faithful Crock Pot--gives you a delicious main course with a minimum of time and effort.

Sweet and Spicy Country Ribs
Makes four servings.

1 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 pounds pork country ribs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the ribs on all sides with salt and pepper and brown, in batches, about 2 minutes per side. (Make sure and get all for sides of these squarish cuts.)

Combine the onion, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire, chili powder, and oregano in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Place the browned ribs in the mixture.

Cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 3 1/2 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice with a little of the sauce spooned over the top. (Pull the sauce out of the Crock Pot and de-fat it if you'd like.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mashed Potato Croquettes

We always make too many mashed potatos, dang it. Here's this recipe to the rescue. A way to get creative with the leftovers without being too fancy. The final product is like little light tater tots. Try them...I'm betting your kids (and the other folks at your table) will love them.

Potato Croquettes
From Everyday Food.

2 cups mashed potatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, stir together mashed potatoes and parsley; season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, place flour; season with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, whisk egg with 1 tablespoon water. In a third shallow bowl, place 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs.

Form potato mixture into 3/4-by-2-inch logs. Roll in flour, shaking off excess, dip in egg wash, then roll in breadcrumbs to coat. In a heavy medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 inches vegetable oil over medium-high until hot. In batches, fry croquettes until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per batch, turing as needed. Drain on paper towels.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Asian Carrot Slaw

If you're like me you try to find something healthy to snack on mid-morning and then again mid-afternoon. But the stuff hanging out around the office kitchen is NOT healthy (Chex mix, Reese's Pieces, leftover donuts). And another baggie of celery or carrot sticks is as boring as it comes.

But with a little preparation and a little inspiration, you can have a tasty pick-me-up like this one...

Asian Carrot Slaw
Makes four servings.

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon lime zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a bowl, combine carrots, scallions, vinegar, oil, sesame seeds, and lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Tips: How to Make a Bed

No, I don't mean that flat platform you sleep on. I'm talking about a bed of ingredients that kick roasting up a notch.
  • Bake your fish or chicken pieces on a bed of celery, onion and parsley. It will flavor the protein and keep things from sticking. get creative and fold the veggie into mashed potatoes for a flavorful side dish.
  • For a whole chicken, use larger pieces of carrot, celery sticks and thick onion slices. Makes a great platform. Save the veggies to chop and toss with leftover chicken and a dollop of mayo for a delicious chicken salad.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tuna Salad with Celery and Radishes

Here's a light and yummy lunch idea....oith no mayo to weigh it down. (Confession: It makes a really good breakfast also with a piece of whole wheat toast alongside.)

Tuna Salad with Celery and Radishes
Makes two lunch-size servings. (But easy to double.)

1 (5 ounce) can tuna in water, drained
4 small radishes, cut into wedges
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and stir.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Drink Local (Sort Of)...Adi Rose Abigail

I rip things out of magazines all the time. Products to research, recipes to try, wines to look for. One scrap that I ran across a week or so ago was a review of the 2007 Adi Rose Abigail. It was one of just a few domestic rosés to make the 2009 Food & Wine Wine Guide. And was named the No. 1 oyster wine the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York. Just enough kudos to convince me to pay the $20 it took at Central opposed to my normal purchases of MacPherson's Rosé of Syrah or Crios de Susana Balbo's yummy Malbec rosé.

Added encouragement came from the fact that, despite coming from Adams Wine Co. in Napa Valley, the winemaker Beth Adams grew up here in Dallas. How did it rank?

It's quite wonderful. Nice fruit, but not at all sweet...the backbone of acidity and minerality ensures that. I think it would stand up to lighter meat dishes like grilled chicken or roast pork...maybe with a slightly spicy sauce. Also would be tasty with a bit of goat cheese. And I'll definitely have to try it with oysters. Or, heck, just sip it on a weekend afternoon.

It's worth the splurge. Might not take the place of my house rosés, but I'll definitely buy it again.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Sidecar

Here's a classic. It packs a punch but is easygoing as you sip it. It has a nice frosty dusky color that might make it perfect for a Halloween or Thanksgiving celebration.

Makes one cocktail.

2 tablespoons sugar
Lemon wedge
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Using lemon wedge and sugar placed on a small plate or dish, rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar.

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Shake vigorously.

Strain into cocktail glass and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mashed Tomato Potatoes

*Sniffle* The summer tomato season is over. Yeah, you might be able to find a few in your farmers market, but they are well past their prime. And those insipid pretenders you find in the grocery store simply can't perform on their own with a simple sprinkle of sea salt. Sigh.

So we'll have to make-do until next May. In the meantime, you can use tomatoes in recipes that let them participate without making them the spotlight. Like this one...

Smashed Tomato Potatoes
Makes 8 servings.
From Real Simple.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds tomatoes (about 5 medium), chopped

Place the potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until a fork easily pierces a potato.

Drain the potatoes and garlic. Mash with a potato masher or a fork until smooth. Blend in the milk, butter, parsley, scallions, Parmesan, and salt. Gently fold in the tomatoes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Roasted Radishes

I think we treat radishes unfairly. We pigeonhole them into the "raw and crispy only" category. Slice them into salads, eat them out of hand raw with a little salt, or even stretch things and include them in a tea sandwich. But that's not enough. These little red orbs are begging to break out. I've had them braised in a little butter before, and they tricked me into thinking they were new potatoes.

This recipe is along the same lines. Slow-roasted with simple seasonings, they make a great, almost starchy side for chicken or pork. Here's how you do it.

Trim the top and bottom of the radishes and cut the larger ones in half lengthwise. Toss with olive oil, a pinch each of salt and garlic pepper and a little fresh or dried thyme. Roast in a preheated 425° oven for 40-50 minutes, until fork tender.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Storing Cheese

Hopefully, like me, you keep cheese around as a staple. And not just the grated stuff in a plastic bag, but quality stuff that you can add to a salad or the top of a dish for that perfect finish. Here are some ideas to make your investment last even longer.

  • Store that wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano in a plastic container with a couple of sugar cubes. The sugar will absorb the moisture and prevent the cheese from getting moldy. make sure to replace the sugar cubes as they get soggy and lose their effectiveness.
  • Freeze your blue cheese. Just throw it in a Ziploc bag. The frozen stuff will break off easily, or, even better, shave it off with a vegetable peeler.
  • Feta is betta in brine.Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in a cup of water in a resealable container. Submerge the cheese completely and it will keep for up to three weeks.
  • And if your Parmesan dries out and becomes too hard to grate? Wrap it in a damp paper towel, place in a Ziploc and chill in the fridge for a day. Take it out and it should be good to go.

Monday, October 04, 2010

It's National Popcorn Month!

Did you know? How are YOU going to celebrate?

Sure it's a moviewatching staple. But it's also gaining popularity as a healthy snack. (Air-popped...hold the butter and salt.) Whatver the occasion, Americans eat almost 16 billion quarts of the stuff a year.

And, yes, I like mine with butter and satl, but there are other interesting flavors to try. Here are several seasoning blends I had out for last year's Academy Awards party. Guests could scoop up the popcorn, spray on a little olive oil or butter and season to their heart's delight.

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper, (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 cup finely grated (about 1/2 ounce) Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, (optional)

1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch cayenne pepper

For each of these mixtures, simply place all of the ingredients in a medium bowl; stir until they are combined, and transfer to an airtight container for storage. All of the variations can be doubled or tripled, depending on the size of the container you plan to use. The Italian mixture should be kept in the refrigerator, as it contains fresh cheese. Season popcorn to taste.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mussels in a Sherry Marinade

I am fully aware that this recipe is not going to appeal to everyone. Fine by me...means more for me. I'll take my bowl, my cocktail fork and my crusty bread and see you tomorrow.

However, if you'd like to join me in this briny decadence, whip up a batch for a casual cocktail party and serve with copitas of dry Sherry or glasses of crisp white wine.

Mussels in a Sherry Vinaigrette
Makes 8 servings.

1 cup dry white wine
1 cup medium dry sherry
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
3-4 sprigs thyme
3-4 bay leaves
1 dried red chile pepper
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

Tie the chile pepper, cloves and peppercorns in cheesecloth to make a sachet. Combine all other ingredients except mussels in a very large pan. Add the sachet and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add mussels to hot marinade. Cover pan and cook over high heat, stirring once, just until mussels open, about 5 minutes. Let cool in the liquid.

Transfer mussels and marinade to a bowl, discarding any unopened mussels. Discard sachet.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Mussels will absorb almost all the liquid and become plump. Let them come to room temperature before serving in bowls.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Okra Fritters

Okra is a survivor. Sure it gives us tender little green pods at the beginning of the season...perfect for steaming and eating while hot with just a drizzle of butter and sprinkle of salt. But then it keeps going and going. Standing up to the unbreakable Texas summer while the rest of us are wilting...along with the tomatoes and summer squash. So I always think of it as the last veggie standing and use it as we say farewell to summer and hello to autumn. Here's a perfect recipe for its grand finale. They're great on their own, but sublime when dipped in a little homemade Ranch dressing.

Okra Fritters
Makes 4 servings.
From Everyday Food.

2 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups frozen sliced okra, thawed and coarsely chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, diced small (1/2 cup)
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium. In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add okra and onion and toss to coat. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk. Add to okra mixture and stir just until combined.

In two batches, drop batter in 2-tablespoonful mounds into oil. With a small spatula or butter knife, gently flatten each mound and fry until golden, about 4 minutes per side, flipping once (adjust heat if browning too quickly). Drain on paper towels. Season with salt and serve warm. Makes about 10.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Top Chef Tuna Toppings

A couple of nights ago, the other half and I completely indulged our inner Leos and got all competitive in the kitchen. The "secret ingredient": basic seared tuna. We both decided we wanted a little something different to top it off. He went semi-Greek. Into the blender went peeled cucumber, red onion and a big dollop of mayo. Whipped it up and seasoned to taste with garlic pepper and a pinch of salt. The twist was that he then strained it through paper towels a bit so it wasn't at all runny. It was pretty good.

I went Asian...the way I usually go with tuna. I grabbed the alligator chopper and got some finely diced red bell pepper, cucumber and purple onion ready for the bowl. A splash each of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Grating of ginger. Pinch of red pepper flakes and sugar. Salt and pepper of course. And then to gild the lily some toasted sesame seeds. (Now I'm kicking myself for not putting a little radish in also.) It was quite tasty. Wondering what else I can spoon it on the rest of the week.

How about you? What was the result of the last cooking competition in YOUR house?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Mr. Clean Edition

I love cooking, but I (and the other half) don't like the mess it can make in the kitchen. here are a few tips to keep things on the tidier side...
  • Those little tomato paste cans can be difficult to get everything out of. Instead of dirtying a spatula, just use the can opener to release the lids from both ends. Take one of them off and use the other end to press the paste (every bit of it) out.
  • Keep your hands (and a bowl or two) clean by mixing your meatloaf in a large, resealable plastic bag. Put everything in and knead away.
  • Use a similar plastic bag trick to make beautiful deviled eggs. Place the yolk mixture in a sandwich bag and snip off the corner. Use it as you would a piping bag to fill the whites and then throw it away when finished.
  • Don't let those kernels fly all over the kitchen when you cut corn off the cob. Get your Bundt pan out. The center hole makes a perfect stand for the cob and the corn will fall into the pan as you slice it off.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baked Stuffed Clams

Here's a pretty simple and definitely delicious appetizer. It would make a great first course at a dinner party, whether you're sitting at the table or passing around on trays during cocktails. And, since every night is a party, right?...whip up a batch for your own personal middle-of-the-week celebration.

Baked Stuffed Clams
Makes 6 servings. (Fewer if I'm at your party...)

For the clams:
24 small clams, scrubbed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Warm olive oil in saucepan; add garlic, red pepper and a pinch of salt. Add clams and cook covered for 2-3 minutes. Add water and parsley and re-cover. Cook another 2-3 minutes until clams open. Discard unopened clams. Reserve 1/4 cup of clam sauce.

For the stuffing:
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely ground toasted breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ounces sauce from steamed clams

Detach clams from shells and replace, discarding one half of each shell.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spoon small amount of stuffing mixture on top of each clam. Refrigerate for 3 hours covered to allow stuffing to set.

Place clams under preheated broiler for 5 minutes, until a little crust forms. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ginger Pickled Radishes

I've become a condiment guy...using pickles, chutneys, and other great products (usually homemade) to kick simple dinners up a notch or two. This tasty pickle seems a hybrid...the radishes make me think Mexican, but the ginger and Thai chiles are definitely Asian-inspired. So why not use them to complement foods from both cultures? My first experiment...adding a bit of crunch to pulled pork tacos. The verdict? Delicioso.

Ginger Pickled Radishes
Makes about two pints when sliced.
From Food & Wine magazine.

2 bunches round, red radishes
3 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 garlic cloves
2 Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin rounds

Trim the radishes, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems. Halve the radishes lengthwise and transfer to a 2-quart glass jar. (Note: I sliced my radishes so that they were more easily tucked into my tacos.)

In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt and bring to a boil, stirring. Let cool to warm, then add the garlic, chiles and ginger. Cover the radishes with the brine. Let stand until the brine has cooled, then cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Southern Food and Wine Pairings

I'm a native Texan born and bred, and I celebrate my Texan/Southern heritage in the kitchen quite regularly. I also drink wine almost every evening with dinner. Sometimes it's a challenge to figure out which wines to serve with Southern favorites. How exciting to find this pairing guide in September's Food & Wine! And it makes sense too. Here's what they had to say...the notes are mine.

I like this idea. You want something full-bodies enough to stand up to the crust, but with a delicacy that lets the sweetness of the juicy chicken shine. Floral Viognier would be just the ticket.

Makes sense to me. I always reach for a spicy Zin whenn we have BBQ, so this is a natural.

Yum. The crisp acidity of the wine would cut through the spice and stand up to this bold dish without overpowering.

I trust my favorite cooking magazine on this one, but am a little suspicious. Sure the peppery earthy quality of the wine would support the flavors in this black-eyed pea and rice casserole, but I'd want to make sure it didn't overwhelm what is really a simple peasant dish.

And, finally, with BURGOO, SYRAH.
Right on. This stew/chili needs an assrtive wine to take it to the next level. Syrah is just the thing.

There are others out there I've used as well...Chardonnay with shrimp and grits for example. What about you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Corn Bread with Corn Relish

Back in June, I posted a recipe for a corn relish that is delicious on chicken, fish, grilled shrimp, you name it. We've been through a couple of batches this summer, but I had a bit the left last week that I wanted to go ahead and use up. This recipe rode to the rescue. The final product is a wonderfully moist bread studded with the relish vegetables and spiked with yummy herbs and spices.

Corn Bread with Corn Relish
From Food and Wine magazine.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup stone-ground yellow or white cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups well-drained corn relish

Preheat the oven to 425°. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat and add 2 tablespoons of the butter.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a large glass measuring cup, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in a microwave oven. Whisk in the eggs and milk until blended. Add the liquid ingredients and the corn relish to the cornmeal mixture and stir with a spatula just until the batter is evenly moistened.

Scrape the batter into the hot skillet and spread it evenly. Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the corn bread is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the skillet to a rack and let the corn bread cool for about 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Well-Preserved Edition

It's always frustrating to throw food away, whether herbs, produce or leftovers. here are a few tips to prevent that from happening at your house.
  • I've learned that the best way to preserve fresh ginger is to store it peeled in sake (Japanese rice wine). Cover the ginger in sake in a glass jar and refrigerate. When ready to use, rinse the ginger and then slice or mince as usual. The ginger picks up just a tiny bit of the sake flavor (perfectly fine for your Asian recipes anyway) and keeps for several weeks this way.
  • Mushrooms actually freeze pretty well. Slice them and lay in a single layer on wax paper lined trays and freeze. When frozen, place in zip-loc bags and back int he freezer for easier storage.
  • Keep an egg carton on hand to store your strawberries. Put one berry in each slot. the cardboard allows air to circulate around the fruit better.
  • Fresh pineapple can go bad quickly. Not if you cut into pieces and store in a glass or plastic container with orange juice to cover. It will keep for a week and you end up with delicious juice afterwards.
  • Don't throw that lime away after you've squeezed it into your cocktail. Zest it and mix with one part kosher salt. The salt will absorb the citrus oil and preserve the zest. Use the salt mix to season veggies and meats for grilling. Use the same trick with orange and lemon as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Blackberry Margarita

They're not in season here in Texas right now, but the grocery stores are still selling blackberries cheap, cheap, cheap. I've thrown them into yogurt...why not throw them into a refreshing cocktail like this one?

Blackberry Margarita
Makes 4 cocktails.

1 cup fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup blanco tequila
1 (12 ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed)
Club soda

Mash together blackberries and sugar in a medium bowl with a potato masher. Press mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a small bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Discard pulp and seeds. (Or do as I did and skip the straining step. I don't mind a few blackberries seeds in my drink.)

Pour blackberry mixture into a large pitcher. Stir in tequila and lemonade concentrate until blended. Pour into ice-filled glasses and top with club soda.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Summer Vegetable Casserole

I have said that I am REALLY sick of seeing tomato-zucchini tart/gratin/casserole recipes this summer. Seems that food magazines are desperate to help us get rid of summer's bounty. This recipe gets my approval though. It takes things one step further by adding onion and red bell pepper over a potato base. It's delicious.

Summer Vegetable Casserole
Makes 4-6 servings.
From Food & Wine magazine.

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 small zucchini (1/2 pound), sliced on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread the potatoes in the dish in an even layer; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Arrange two-thirds of the bell pepper mixture over the potatoes and drizzle with oil.

Top with the tomatoes and the zucchini; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining bell pepper mixture and sprinkle with the cheese.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 425°. Uncover the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes longer, until the vegetables are tender and glazed on top. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blackberry-Apple Upside-Down Cake

I don't post dessert recipes very often...we just don't eat them very often. That isn't to say that I don't drool over them in food magazines and rip them out for filing. This is one I couldn't resist. It's simple and features fresh fruits to delicious results.

(Note for future improvisation: The cake recipe itself would be a perfect foil for other fruit combinations as well.)

Blackberry-Apple Upside-Down Cake
Makes 8 servings.
From Southern Living.

3/4 cup butter, softened and divided
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large Gala apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a lightly greased 9-inch round cake pan (with sides that are at least 2 inches high) over low heat. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with brown sugar; drizzle honey over brown sugar. Arrange apple slices in concentric circles over brown sugar mixture, overlapping as needed; sprinkle with blackberries.

Beat granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour and baking powder. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Spoon batter over blackberries in pan.

Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto a serving plate, spooning any topping in pan over cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mussels in Wine, Mustard, and Saffron Broth

The other half was out of town on business a couple of nights ago. That always means that I get the kitchen to myself to whip something up that will satisfy my palate and my palate alone. I headed to Central Market to buy some mussels. It was cheaper to buy a two pound bag than the much smaller amount I needed for my single serving. That meant not only a delicious dinner, but also the opportunity to experiment with a couple of other recipes. I'll post them soon.

But here's the star of the evening. Supposedly from Thomas Keller's Bouchon restaurant, the broth is wonderfully complex, skipping from flavor to flavor and back again with every bite. It's beautifully lemon-yellow from the butter and mustard with flecks or orange saffron and bright green parsley throughout. (I'll admit that I've saved it and am going to use it to make what I imagine will be some awesome rice tomorrow night.)

Mussels in Wine, Mustard, and Saffron Broth
Makes 6 first-course servings.
(Note: It's easy to adjust quantities and make even, as I did, a single serving.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup finely chopped shallots (about 4 large)
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I chickened out and used milk.)
3 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic and thyme. Sprinkle with pepper. Sauté until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in wine and mustard. Boil 2 minutes. Add saffron. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.

Add cream and mussels to pot and return to boil. Cover and cook until mussels open, about 6 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Divide mussels and broth among 6 shallow bowls, discarding any mussels that do not open) and serve.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Bacon, Bacon, Bacon

Everything is better with bacon, right? Well, here are a few tips to help make food's best friend even easier to use...

  • Sometimes you just need a few small pieces of bacon to flavor your pot of green beans or crumble on a salad. If you keep a package of sliced bacon in the freezer, all you have to do is slice a few chunks off with a serrated knife and then put the rest back in the freezer for next time.
  • Wrapping shrimp or water chestnuts or scallops with bacon can make a delicious appetizer. But all too often the bacon stays soggy and undercooked while the shrimp end up dry and unappetizing. You can prevent this by pre-cooking the bacon just until done. then wrap around the seafood and secure with a toothpick. Bake or broil until crispy. Problem solved.
  • Here's my favorite way to cook bacon. Preheat your oven to 350°. Place your bacon strips on a rimmed sheet pan lined with foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until done to your liking. Put on a paper-towel lined plate to absorb the grease. carefully fold the foil up and throw away. It's a lot less messy and the bacon ends up perfect every time.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Southwestern Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers

No need to stuff those bell peppers with loads of meat and cheese. Here's a healthy protein-packed substitute. "Keen-wa," anyone?

Southwestern Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
Makes 4 servings.

4 bell peppers (I prefer the sweeter red ones.), tops cut off and seeds and ribs removed
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 cup cooked corn
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Pinch each of cumin, chile powder, Mexican oregano, salt and garlic pepper
Optional: 1 cup crushed tortilla chips and 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Place bell peppers upright in a baking dish.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stuff mixture in bell peppers.

If desired, top with a mixture of crushed tortilla chips and a little more cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated 350° oven until heated through, about 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Steamed Clams and Corn

I'd been eyeing this recipe for a while. I ripped it out of Martha Stewart Living and kept thinking that it would be a great inland substitute for a seaside clambake. Finally fixed it over the Labor Day weekend. I was right...with a glass (or two) of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, I felt like I was on the beach on Cape Cod.

But there was another pleasant surprise. It had never crossed my mind that throwing a few slices of jalapeño pepper in the pot would infuse everything with such flavor. A subtle, but delicious little spicy kick in the clams and corn alike. I am ready to use the technique in other ways. Definitely will cook corn on the cob with a little jalapeño from now on. And maybe white rice also. Hmmm...what about when poaching chicken for chicken salad? The possibilities just might be endless.

I also LOVED eating the little coins of corn on the cob. Much easier on my 42-year-old teeth than chomping on the whole cob.

Anyway...back to the recipe.

Steamed Clams and Corn
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes two servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sliced shallot
1 sliced jalapeño pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
12 small littleneck clams
2 ears of corn, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch coins
Cilantro or scallions for garnish

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add shallot and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in white wine and bring to a simmer. Add clams and corn. Cover and cook until clams open, about 7 minutes. (Discard any clams that don't open.)

Serve in bowls with cilantro or scallions as garnish and crusty bread to sop up the juices.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Honey & Hoisin-Glazed Salmon

Here's a quick supper recipe for a weeknight when salmon is on sale at your supermarket. (Don't forget to buy the more environmentally-friendly wild-caught kind...)

Honey & Hoisin-Glazed Salmon
Makes 4 servings.

In a small bowl or ramekin, combine:
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Stir to combine.

Place 4 6-ounce salmon fillet portions (I prefer skinless.) in a baking dish and season lightly with salt and pepper. Brush glaze over salmon.

Place baking dish in a pre-heated 400° oven and cook just until done, 10-12 minutes.

(It's delicious served with wild rice and steamed broccoli.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Strawberry Lemonade Vodka Iced Tea

I discovered this one over the long Labor Day weekend. It was a perfect sipper while sitting around and not laboring at all.

Strawberry Lemonade Vodka Iced Tea
Adapted from Everyday Food.
Makes 4 cocktails.

In a medium jar, combine 1 Earl Grey teabag, 1 cup sliced strawberries and 1 cup vodka. Let steep for one hour.

Meanwhile in a microwavable measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup fresh lemon juice. Microwave for about 45 seconds until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely.

After tea mixture has steeped and lemonade mix has cooled, combine in a pitcher and stir to combine.

Pour into 4 ice-filled highball glasses and top each with club soda.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Steakhouse Edition

Sunday nights are often steak nights at our house. A perfectly seasoned ribeye on the grill, crisp wedge salad, and a good Cabernet. Here are some tricks that you should adopt for your own special meal.
  • Rub the outside of your potatoes with oil before baking. You'll end up with crisp, brown skin that you'll want to eat along with the rest of the spud. And skip the aluminum just steams the potato.
  • Don't just use a brush to baste the steak. Tie several sprigs of rosemary around a chopstick with cotton twine. You'll get great herb flavor along with any marinade you're brushing on.
  • Need a couple slices bacon for that wedge salad? Use your George Foreman grill. It will cook the bacon perfectly, won't splatter, and the grease will drip into the drainage cup for easy clean-up.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

Well...not quite. But a couple of pints as least.

The other half loves sweet banana peppers. So I thought I was going a good thing when I bought a big basket at the farmers market. Only to find out that he wasn't sure he wanted to eat them this week. Dang acid reflux.

When I wondered aloud what to do with them, he used the refrain we've used quite often this summer when faced when a surfeit of okra, red bell peppers or onions. "CAN IT!" (The alternative version is "Pickle it.", also applicable in this instance.

So I did. I adapted a recipe I found online and ended up with several jars of these spicy sweet little goodies.

Spicy Pickled Banana Peppers
Makes about 5 pint jars.

6 cups sliced banana peppers
4 cups sliced jalapeño peppers
1 poblano pepper, diced finely (optional)
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 teaspoons whole peppercorns

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

In a large glass bowl, combine peppers. Mix well and set aside.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes.

Pack peppers into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Put 1 teaspoon peppercorns in each jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.