Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lobster Bisque

Our New Year's Eve this year was a stay-at-home affair. A bottle of Schramsberg. Some nibbles. And, as a grand finale, this delicious bisque.

This was the first time I had made it, and, not finding a recipe I thought I would really like, I researched and then came up with this one on my own. Essentially it's a great lobster stock combined with a seasoned vegetable broth (both cooked slowly to bring out loads of flavor) and then decked out with heavy cream and a bit of sherry. Thumbs up...even if I do say so myself.

Lobster Bisque
Makes 8-10 servings.

2 1 1/2 pound live lobsters
6 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, diced
1 carrot, sliced
4 stalks celery (with leaves), sliced
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 shallots, diced
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
3 cups cream
1/2 cup good-quality dry sherry
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water

In a large stockpot filled with boiling (unsalted) water, submerge the lobsters headfirst. Cover and cook for eight minutes. Remove the lobsters and reserve the cooking liquid.

Let the lobsters rest until cool enough to handle. Reserving the shells, remove the meat from the claws and the tails and set aside.

Cut the lobster bodies into three or four pieces each and place the pieces, along with the claw and tail shells, into a stockpot with 6 cups of the reserved lobster cooking liquid. Stir in tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile in another large sauce pan, over medium high-heat, heat the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, carrot, celery, onion , garlic and shallots. Stirring occasionally, cook the vegetables until the onions are slightly translucent, about 8 minutes. (Be careful not to allow anything to brown.)

Add another 6 cups of the reserved lobster cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add thyme, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns and saffron threads. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the lobster stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a large stock pot. (You're done with the cooking liquid, so it could go back in that pot if you'd like.) Discard the solids.

Strain the vegetable stock through a fine-mesh strainer into the same pot as the lobster stock, pressing on the solids to get as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Place the stock pot with the combined lobster and vegetable stocks over low heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cream and the sherry and allow to cook for 20 minutes.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together so the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour into the bisque and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve warm with pieces of the lobster claws and tail on top.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spinach and Goat Cheese Salad with Frizzled Prosciutto

This posting isn't so much a recipe as a reminder. To improvise. To think outside the box. To use what you have on hand as inspiration.

We quite often have one of those big plastic boxes of baby spinach in our fridge. I add it to sandwiches. Steam it up for a quick side. Or throw it in a bowl as a salad. But I was itching for a new salad "recipe." One beyond the typical bacon, hard-boiled egg, Catalina dressing version.

I was thrilled to run across this one as I reorganized a stack of recipes the other day. I had a couple pieces of prosciutto leftover from a party I could "frizzle." Some Boursin cheese from our Christmas cheese board could stand in for the goat cheese. And I can whip up a balsamic vinaigrette with both hands tied behind my back.

Here's the recipe. But what flights of fancy does it take you on? How about blue cheese instead of goat? Is there another "bacon" you could use? A favorite salad dressing to drizzle on top? Ooooo...what about pecans for some crunch? You get the idea....

Spinach and Goat Cheese Salad with Frizzled Prosciutto
From Cooking Light.
Makes 8 servings.

2 thin slices prosciutto, cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 1/4 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach (about 10 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange prosciutto in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely.

Combine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Combine prosciutto and spinach in a large bowl. Drizzle vinegar mixture over spinach mixture; toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Brandy Crusta

First created in nineteenth-century New Orleans, here's a classic cocktail to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold winter evening.

Brandy Crusta
Makes 1 cocktail.

1 1/2 ounces brandy
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.

Strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chinese-Style Chicken in Lettuce Cups

While this is not a stand-in for the lettuce wraps from local Asian joint Pei Wei (They use a spicier brown sauce than this recipe.), it's a yummy, healthy lunch or dinner. And it comes together quite quickly.

Chinese-Style Chicken in Lettuce Cups
Makes 2 main-course servings.

3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large jalapeno chili, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce (or Tabasco if you don't have garlic chili sauce)

1 tablespoon sesame oil
Boston lettuce leaves
Chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro and chopped green onions, optional

Combine first 8 ingredients in medium bowl and stir to blend well. (Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat sesame oil in heavy medium skillet over high heat. Add chicken mixture and sauté until chicken is cooled through, breaking up clumps, about 4 minutes.

Serve wrapped in lettuce leaves with toppings if desired.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

Turnips are an under appreciated vegetable. Luckily, not so much at our house. My other half loves them. We treat them like potatoes most of the time. Cubed and boiled in water with a little sugar. Cut into small chunks and then roasted with a little olive oil and garlic pepper. Even mashed.

So why not scalloped?

Why not indeed?

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin
From Cooking Light.
Makes 8 servings.

3 3/4 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled turnip (Do yourself a favor and use your mandoline.)
3 3/4 cups (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled parsnip
6 cups water
Cooking spray
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until almost tender. Drain; let stand 5 minutes. Arrange about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture into each of 8 (5 1/2-inch) round gratin dishes coated with cooking spray.

Combine milk, broth, flour, salt, and pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until thick. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spoon about 3 tablespoons sauce over each serving.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko; toast 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over cheese mixture. Place dishes on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Best Technique: Steamed Rice

I love/adore/covet/crave white rice. With a pat of butter and generously seasoned with salt and pepper, it's one of my favorite comfort foods.

However, I seem to have lost my knack for cooking it. After years of making my Uncle Ben's with no problem, recent batches have turned out gummy or undercooked. Good thing Martha saved the day before I lowered myself to buying one of those rice cooker contraptions. (After all, what kind of cook can you claim to be if you cannot make good rice in a saucepan?)

Turns out I was following the wrong directions. Here, straight from the pages of Martha Stewart Living is my new rice-cooking technique.

1) Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in 1 cup long-grain white rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return to a boil over medium-high heat.

2) Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender and has absorbed all the water, 16 to 18 minutes (check only toward the end of cooking time). The rice will be studded with steam holes when ready.

Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before eating.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spicy Moroccan Carrots

I know I should eat carrots. Good for your eyes. Betacarotene. Yadda yadda. But I cannot tell you the number of times that I have bought bags of those nubby little "baby" carrots only to throw them into compost afew weeks later.

This recipe changes that. It's such an easy way to give carrots that extra blast of flavor. They're a great side dish, but also perfect as a healthy snack when served at room temperature.

Rabbit food indeed.

Spicy Moroccan Carrots
Serves 4-6.
(I made a much smaller recipe for just the two of us with no problems. Adjust to your liking.)

2 pounds carrots, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika (I used Spanish smoked paprika and it was delicious.)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar

Place carrots in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil, cooking until slightly tender but not overdone, approximately 15 minutes depending on the size of the carrots.

Drain and place carrots in an ice-water bath until cool, then slice diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.

In a large pan, sauté the carrot slices in olive oil until slightly brown, cooking them in small batches if your pan becomes crowded. Place carrots in a bowl, add the olive oil and the remaining ingredients, and mix well. For best results, refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Silver 75

I'm not sure why, but we seem to drink more bubbly during the winter around our house. Instead of a g & t before dinner, we pop the top of one of our favorite Spanish or California (or even New Mexico!) sparkling wines. (We save the delicious Schramsberg for special occasions.)

Sometimes, I'll mix things up a little more and make a Champagne cocktail. Here's a good one...a twist on the also refreshing French 75. And it's a great way to use some of the big bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur we have sitting on the bar. (And if you live in Dallas and don't want to buy your own big bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, it's my understanding that they serve this drink at The Porch on Henderson Avenue.)

Silver 75
Makes 1 cocktail.

1 ounce Milagro tequila
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
½ ounce lime juice
3 ounces Brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker or pint glass, measure out the tequila, St. Germain and lime juice. Add ice and shake. Pour the Champagne into a chilled martini glass. Strain the contents of the shaker over the Champagne. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Red-Wine Braised Cabbage and Onions

I think that vegetables during the winter can be a bit of a struggle. There's not much at the farmers market..always my first choice for fresh veggies. And, while there are choices at the grocery store (imported from who knows where), steamed broccoli or steamed squash doesn't always stand up to the kinds of full-flavored roasted meats that are such comfort food around our house during cold weather.

This recipe screams "WINTER!" though. Inexpensive winter vegetables cooked slowly with a rich flavorful "gravy." When the Gourmet writers described it, they said it's "the vegetable incarnation of mulled wine." It's the perfect bed for a slab of roast pork or braised chicken.

Note: Although I am posting the original recipe, I halved the recipe. It still would have served 6-8 generously. And you might want to tinker with the ratios to taste. I thought the final dish was a little sweet, but my other half wanted a little less vinegar. Play with it to suit your own palate.

Red-Wine Braised Cabbage and Onions
From Gourmet magazine. (RIP)
Makes 8-10 servings.

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 pound red onions, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 (3-pound) head of red cabbage, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges and wedges cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (16 cups)
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups water
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 firm sweet apple, such as Honey Crisp, Gala, or Fuji, peeled and coarsely grated
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
10 whole black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

Heat butter in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then cook onion and cabbage, stirring frequently, until wilted and slightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Add wine, water, vinegars, apple, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil.

Wrap peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie with string. Add to cabbage mixture, then cover cabbage directly with a round of parchment or wax paper and cover pot with lid. Reduce heat and simmer until cabbage is very tender, about 2 hours.

Discard cheesecloth bundle and season cabbage with salt and pepper.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oyster Tartlets

We usually have a big Academy Awards party every year. Not sure we will this year, but if so, here's a glamorous little nibble I just might serve. They were tested (and gobbled up) by me and the other half with our New Year's Eve bubbly.

Oyster Tartlets
Makes 24 appetizers.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
24 prebaked mini phyllo shells
24 small shucked oysters (or larger oysters cut into 24 small pieces)

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderately high heat. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer, whisking. Stir in the onion and bay leaf and simmer over low heat, whisking, until no floury taste remains, 10 minutes. Pass through a coarse strainer set over a small bowl; discard the bay leaf. Stir in the horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the sauce.

In a small bowl, combine the panko and cheese and stir in the olive oil. Arrange the phyllo shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Place an oyster in each shell. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the horseradish sauce into each shell, and sprinkle the panko mixture on top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 10 minutes, until hot throughout and crisp on top. Serve right away. They are best when they are piping hot.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Swiss-Steak-Style Smothered Pork Chops

I grabbed a couple of pork chops from the "clearance" bin of the grocery meat section the other night. (It's not as bad as it sounds. Just things close to that "sell by" date that they have discounted significantly. I've bought some great steaks this way.)

I wasn't sure what I was going to do them, but inspired by a Swiss steak recipe I had ripped out of a magazine, here's what I came up with.

Swiss-Steak-Style Smothered Pork Chops
Makes 2 servings.

2 pork chops (boneless, bone-in, doesn't matter. You'll just adjust cooking time slightly based on thickness of the chops.)
5 tablespoons flour, divided use
1 can chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Mix chicken broth and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir in thyme and Dijon mustard.

Coat pork chops with remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Season with salt and ground pepper.

In a no-stick skillet, heat one teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chops and cook two minutes per side. Pour in broth mixture; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 25 minutes or until pork is good and tender. Uncover and cook until the gravy thickens a bit, about 3 minutes.

Serve with smashed potatoes or rice.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Asian-Style Spicy Coleslaw

After a couple of weekends of recipe re-organization, I decided that, as a New Year's resolution, I was going to dip into those delicious folders more often to make my little kitchen experiments. So, one recent Saturday night I had my own little Asian food-palooza...with my other half as tasting partner, of course. Dumplings, meatballs, kombu broth...oh, my.

I figured we better have some sort of green vegetable as well. This coleslaw did the trick. It has your typical sweet-sour cole slaw taste, but with the added bonuses of a bit of peanut butter and Sriracha heat. And, while you can't taste the funky fish sauce in the final mixture, don't be afraid of it and skip it. It provides a complex taste backbone you will love.

We enjoyed it with our dumplings, and then I packed a bit with a couple of Asian-spiced grilled shrimp on top for a great weekday lunch. Definitely a recipe worth repeating.

(Note: I've adapted the recipe from the original 10 servings size. And adjusted the proportions just slightly. I also used pre-packaged cole slaw mix. You can certainly shred your own mix of cabbage and carrots to total 8-10 cups.)

Asian-Style Spicy Coleslaw
Makes 6-8 servings.
Adapted from Food & Wine.

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Sriracha chile sauce
1 package cole slaw mix (8 cups, includes green cabbage, purple cabbage, and shredded carrots)
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned finely
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter together with the lime juice, fish sauce, water, sugar, garlic and Sriracha.

In a large bowl, toss the coleslaw, red bell pepper and cilantro with the dressing. Season with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately. (Although leftovers are delicious also.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yes, The Mixer Matters....

I've been reading about "boutique" mixers like Fever-Tree and Q for awhile, but had never tried them. A couple of weeks ago, in a quest for tonic water for the other half's evening cocktail and trying to avoid the parking and traffic hassle at our neighborhood Kroger, I ducked into the more convenient Whole Foods instead. They didn't have the traditional half-liter or bigger bottles of our standby Schweppes or Canada Dry (or even worse, generic...shhhhh.). Instead, I paid four times the single bottle price for a four pack of tiny little glass bottles of Fever-Tree...cursing under my breath all the way.

He used one of the bottles that night, but the others have been sitting on the bar like the tiny little Holy Grails they are. Last week, spurred on by mention in the day's Dallas Morning News and a promotional e-mail from our local liquor purveyor, I decided to do a comparative tasting. Treating it just like I would wine, I poured a bit of Fever-Tree and Canada Dry in two sherry copitas to evaluate.

One the nose, the Canada Dry smelled like Sprite, sweetly (in almost a cloying way) citrusy. The Fever-Tree had a cleaner aroma. Almost salty with a nice undertone of TRUE (think zest) lemon.

Taste? No comparison. The Canada Dry let its high fructose corn syrup shine through. And was bitter, but unpleasantly so. The Fever-Tree was fan-tas-tic. Bitter, but cleanly so. And much more naturally sweet thanks to its cane sugar.

Same thing when mixed with Bombay Sapphire. The Fever-Tree highlighted and complemented the gin. The Canada Dry...well, you get the idea.

I don't know whether to be excited or crushed. A simple gin and tonic was more than delicious with the Fever-Tree. But it's so much more expensive. I guess you DO get what you pay for.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cumin-Roasted Potatoes with Caviar and Smoked Salmon

Here's a nibble I fixed for our just-the-two-of-us New Year's Eve soiree. It's quite worthy of a place on your oh-so-swank Academy Awards party. You are planning one, right?!?

Cumin-Roasted Potatoes with Caviar and Smoked Salmon
Makes 24 appetizers. (But can be cut in half or fourths easily.)

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 teaspoon (packed) minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely crushed cumin seeds
12 small fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 14 ounces) (I cut some of the larger ones crosswise into smaller two-bite pieces as well.)
3 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into 1/2-inch-by-2 1/2-inch strips
1 ounce caviar (Feel free to use the "value"-priced caviar you can find at grocery stores.)
Small fresh dill sprigs

Stir crème fraîche, minced dill, and lemon juice in small bowl. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 450°F. Brush nonstick baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil and cumin in large bowl. Add potatoes; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes, cut side down, on baking sheet and roast until tender and cut sides are brown, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly.

Arrange potato halves, cut side up, on platter. Top each with 1 teaspoon crème fraiche, 1 salmon strip, and 1/2 teaspoon caviar. Garnish with dill sprigs.

Food/Wine Pairing: Bubbly, of course!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sloppy Joes

If you have kids, you know the scene. Little Johnny comes home from school and lets you know that his big project is dues tomorrow. A papier-mache volcano or something. Off to the craft store you go.

Same thing happens to me. Only I don't have's my other half who arrives needing some kind of food to take to work for a pot-luck.

This time it was for a "tailgate party." He knew that potluck stalwarts like queso, mini-meatballs and veggies with dip were already claimed. We settled on Sloppy Joes as his contribution. (I'll leave out the part where he suggested we buy some ground beef and mix it up with canned Manwich sauce. That's a little too Sandra Lee for me.) After a little online recipe research and trip to the grocery (I made him come with me), we whipped a batch of this yummy mixture.

Loaded in a Crock Pot to reheat and accompanied by mini-rolls and a little shredded mozzarella cheese, it was the hit of the lunch.

I'll definitely make it again. Maybe even with ground turkey and turkey sausage to make it a bit healthier. The sauce ingredients provide plenty of great flavor so the extra fat isn't needed.

Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Southern Living.
Makes 8- 10 main course servings. More if you're serving them "slider" size.

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (16-oz.) package ground pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 hamburger buns, toasted

Brown beef and sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring 10 minutes or until beef and sausage crumble and are no longer pink. Add onion and green pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Drain well.

Return meat mixture to pan. Stir in tomato sauce and next 10 ingredients. Stir to combine and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes.

(As with most sauces\, this is even better if you refrigerate overnight and then reheat the next evening for dinner. The flavors have a chance to REALLY meld that way.)

Note: To freeze leftover Sloppy Joe mixture, let cool completely. Place in zip-top plastic freezer bags; lay bags flat, and stack in freezer. Freeze up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Smoked Salmon and Dill Tortilla

I'm still playing pantry/refrigerator/ freezer roulette around the old homestead. In my continuing effort to be a good recessionista, I'm trying to use up the things we already have rather than just buying more stuff. That led to this yummy chicken soup. And, a couple of days ago, it led to this recipe.

I had smoked salmon and dill leftover from a New Year's Eve nibble I had made. And usually have a few potatoes lying around. And always eggs. Thus, this take on a Spanish classic that I adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light. A small wedge of it was a perfect light supper. And it's delicious rewarmed (or even just cold) as breakfast or lunch.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Tortilla
Adapted from Cooking Light.
Makes 8 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 pounds Yukon gold or red potatoes, thinly sliced (about 6 cups) (No need to peel them.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped smoked salmon
1/2 cup light sour cream
Chopped fresh dill

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add potatoes to pan. Cook 8 minutes, turning frequently (don't let potatoes brown or crisp too much). Reduce heat to medium, and cook 20 minutes or until tender, stirring and turning frequently. Transfer potatoes to a bowl. Wipe pan with a paper towel.

Combine onion, dill, salt, pepper, and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in salmon. Add potato, and stir gently to combine. Try not to break potatoes up too much.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add potato mixture; cook 3 minutes, gently pressing down potatoes with spatula to slightly flatten mixture in pan.

To finish tortilla, place pan in pre-heated 400° oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until eggs are set in center. Remove pan from oven. Place a plate upside down on top of tortilla; invert onto plate. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges, and top with sour cream mixed with dill.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Warm Tomato Dressing

We're so spoiled here in North Texas with wonderful juicy farm-grown tomatoes during the summer. And I refuse to serve the mediocre fresh tomatoes available at groceries here in the dead of winter. They are mealy substitutes for the real thing.

But I still like the zing that tomatoes can bring to a meal. Here's a recipe I discovered that concentrates the flavors of grocery store cherry tomatoes into something that is quite a delicious accompaniment to baked chicken, roast pork or even fish.

Warm Tomato Dressing
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes 1 1/4 cups.

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces (1-pint container) grape or cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add tomatoes, and cook, swirling pan often, until skins are blistered, about 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, red wine, and balsamic vinegar, and cook until liquid reduces by half and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, salt, and red-wine vinegar, and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately, or cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Warm over low heat before using.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Parmesan Parsley Biscuit Flatbreads

Sometimes a piece of bread can make the meal. But not just a tired piece of something or other. Bread with great flavor and interesting texture. It can really make an otherwise humdrum dinner quite the special occasion.

Now I know I risk accusations of hyperbole with the previous paragraph. Especially since my other half sullied this recipe's reputation by wondering if it were something from the despicable (at least in my book) Sandra Lee. And while it might appear to be just that (dang canned biscuits), it comes form that stalwart Southern Living. And as an avowed "not a bread person," I thought they were delicious. Try them and let me know what you think...

Parmesan Parsley Biscuit Flatbreads
Makes 8 servings.

1 (16.3-oz.) can refrigerated jumbo biscuits
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
pinch kosher salt
pinch freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Separate biscuits into individual rounds. Pour olive oil onto a baking sheet. Dip both sides of each biscuit round in oil, and arrange on baking sheet. Using fingertips, press each biscuit into a 4-inch free-form flat circle. Sprinkle each flattened biscuit with Parmesan cheese, parsley, kosher salt, and pepper. Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into strips.

Variation: Rosemary-Garlic Biscuit Flatbreads: Omit the Parmesan cheese and parsley, and then prepare the recipe as directed. Sprinkle the biscuits evenly with 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary and 2 minced garlic cloves.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pantry/Refrigerator Chicken Noodle Soup

Yes, winter is definitely a great time for soup. But it doesn't have to be a difficult process involving exotic ingredients and complicated cooking techniques. Chances are you have the ingredients for a great chicken soup in your refrigerator and pantry. I discovered that I did the other day. A little slicing and dicing and stirring later, I had a delicious rich warming soup. Just what the doctor ordered.

Inspired by a recipe from NPR's The Splendid Table, I pulled out chicken thighs from the freezer. Half a bag of egg noodles from the pantry. And assorted veggies, including corn and a portobello mushroom, from the fridge. Here's the result.

Note: This recipe is just a framework. Tailor ingredients and quantities to your taste and what you have on hand. You could also omit the chicken and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian option.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6-8.

4 chicken thighs
8-12 cups water
Olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks (including the leafy tops), thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or substitute a generous pinch of garlic pepper as I do quite often)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning (and/or basil, thyme, herbes de provence, etc.)
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
2 zucchini (or yellow squash), thinly sliced
Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (or substitute an equal amount of frozen corn)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 portobello mushroom, roughly chopped (This adds a wonderful richness to the final product.)
2-4 cups uncooked egg noodles

In a sauce pan, simmer the chicken thighs in water until done, approximately 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, skin and debone the chicken. Tear or cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, defat the cooking liquid to your liking. Set aside and reserve.

In a stock pot placed over medium heat, pour several tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the vegetables are wilted and aromatic. Make sure and stir often; you don't want anything to burn or get too brown.

Stir in the tomato paste and spices. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add the remaining vegetables and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and partially cover. Cook for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the egg noodles and chicken. Cook for another 10-12 minutes, until the egg noodles are tender and the chicken is heated through.

If you'd like, sprinkle a little shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese on top when serving.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Spinach Salad That's Simple And To The Point....

I'm betting that there are plenty of you out there who, like me, are on the losing-weight/eating healthy-as-a-New-Year's-resolution bandwagon. I'm not doing anything drastic...just smaller portions of healthier foods. That will mean salads for dinner more than usual. And it doens't even have to be a "main course" salad with protein all the time. But it DOES need to have interesting ingredients that provide a variety of textures and tastes. This one does just that. It was tossed together by a co-worker for our recent "pot luck" holiday luncheon. It piqued my interest so I asked for the "recipe." Here you go....

Spinach Salad

Toss together (in your own desired quantities/ratios) the following:

Baby spinach
Purple onion (very thinly sliced)
Mozzarella cheese (Bocconcini would be perfect.)
Cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinaigrette

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Texas Caviar

The wonderful and traditional black-eyed pea deserves at least one more featured recipe as we begin 2010. Those of us here in the South are quite familiar with the black-eyed pea salad know as "Texas caviar." Here's a version an officemate brought in to share last week. I like it a lot...the recipe adds great variety of flavor and texture by throwing in additional ingredients like corn and black olives. Yum.

Texas Caviar
Makes about 6 cups.

2 cans black-eyed peas, well-drained
1 can shoe peg corn, well-drained
2 cans chopped green chiles, well-drained
1 can yellow corn, well-drained
1 can black beans, well-drained
1/2 cup sliced black olives, well-drained
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian dressing

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Serve with tortilla chips. (Or my favorite...Fritos Scoops!)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Black-Eyed Pea Dip

Happy New Year! Here's hoping your life is truly beautiful in 2010...

Looking for a way to get your lucky black-eyed pea quota while you watch some football? Here's how you do it...

Black-Eyed Pea Dip
From Southern Living.
Makes approximately 2 cups.

1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas seasoned with pork, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons garlic Ranch dressing
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients. Serve with crackers or corn chips.