Friday, June 18, 2010

The Blog's Summer Vacation

It's hotter than heck here in Dallas, so we're doing all we can to stay cool. With little being cooked, there's not a lot to post on here. So we'll be taking the rest of the month off. But will be back July 1 with lots more to make your life more beautiful.

Until then.....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bayou Catfish Fillets

Here's a fairly quick-and-easy main course. The cornmeal makes it almost-fried, the spices almost-blackened and the lack of oil almost-healthy.

Bayou Catfish Fillets
From Cooking Light.
Makes 6 servings.

2 tablespoons white cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 (6-ounce) catfish fillets
Cooking spray

Preheat broiler.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 catfish fillet. Seal bag, and shake well. Remove fillet from bag, and place on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with the remaining fillets and cornmeal mixture. Broil 6 inches from heat for 6 minutes.

Carefully turn fillets over, and broil 6 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Indian-Spiced Okra

Here in the South, okra is an ingredient we're used to. We pickle it, dredge it in cornmeal and fry it up, and add it to stews like gumbos and burgoos. Better not forget our culinary brethren across the globe though. Okra plays an important role in Indian cooking as well. This tasty recipe uses typical seasonings from that cuisine, and the result is a crunchy, nutty, spicy delight.

Indian-Spiced Okra
Adapted from Cooking Light.
Makes six servings.

1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 pound small to medium okra pods, trimmed
2 tablespoons water

Cook mustard seeds in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 30 seconds or until toasted and fragrant. Add olive oil , seasonings and okra; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high; cook an additional 2 minutes or until okra is lightly browned and liquid has completely evaporated.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Fish Fillets

Here's an easy glaze for that piece of fish you're baking/broiling tonight. Keep with the Asian theme and serve with a dollop of sambal oelek (red chile sauce) mayo and a side of slaw dressed with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.

Sweet and Spicy Asian Glaze
Makes enough for two fish fillets.

2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 scallion, white and green parts chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together and use to glaze fish before baking or broiling.

(Hint: Cook the fish partially and then add the glaze in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Otherwise, the honey tends to scorch.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Summer Squash Fritters

A work colleague has the "curse of the zucchini"....wonderfully productive vines that allow her to share the bounty with us weekly. I can't ever pass it up, so I'm always on the look out for new and interesting ways to prepare it.

This one fits the bill. It's is almost a combination of squash casserole and the cornmeal-crusted yellow squash my other half loves so much. See what you think...

(P.S. Don't worry if you think you've made too much of the fritter mixture...put it in a small baking dish topped with breadcrumbs and heat it up a night or two later.)

Summer Squash Fritters

5 cups coarsely chopped or grated yellow or zucchini squash (about three squash)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
Cooking spray
Canola oil, for frying

Steam squash and 1/2 cup onions, covered, 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Stir in breadcrumbs, seasonings and eggs. Cover and chill for 3 hours; drain away any excess liquid.

Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Divide squash mixture into small patties. Coat on both sides with cornmeal.

Heat 1/2 inch depth canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place 4 fritters in pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove from pan and keep warm. Repeat with remaining patties. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sweet Corn Relish

It's that time of the year when dinners should be simple. Steamed fish. Grilled chicken. You know the drill.

But those simpler meals can also be pretty "blah." Not so when you have great, fresh relishes like this. A spoonful alongside your perfectly-cooked protein makes it a summer supper to celebrate. Even better, wrap the fish/chicken in a tortilla, top it with relish and declare "Taco Night."

Sweet Corn Relish
From Cooking Light.
Makes 6 cups. (Can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to six weeks.)

6 cups fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears)
3 cups chopped green cabbage
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 2 large)
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and most of liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Cool; pour into airtight containers.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Amelia

Last week I posted a recipe for some yummy blackberry-ginger syrup, then used it as the base for a cocktail.

This week, in the ongoing "scavenger hunt" of using things on hand for meals, I decided to take the same tack for my evening libation. I'd run across this recipe which originally called for blackberry puree and adapted it to use the syrup's quite tasty.

Adapted from a recipe reprinted from Speakeasy in The Dallas Morning News.

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ounce blackberry-ginger syrup

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with mint if desired.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Spaghetti with Quick-Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese

You want to eat a little lighter during the summer, no? And don't want to heat up the kitchen either. This one heats the kitchen but not for long, and it's quite tasty. (And actually very delicious the next day chilled or at room temp. Even more refreshing...)

Spaghetti with Quick-Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese
From Cooking Light.
Makes 6 servings. (But it halves easily.)

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
2 pints cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup (3 ounces)crumbled semisoft goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450°.

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and spaghetti to boiling water; cook 10 minutes or until spaghetti is al dente. Drain spaghetti in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Return spaghetti to pan; set aside, and keep warm.

While spaghetti cooks, combine tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper on a jelly-roll pan, tossing well to coat. Bake tomato mixture at 450° for 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and lightly charred in places.

Add tomatoes and any tomato juice to spaghetti in Dutch oven. Add 1/4 cup reserved cooking water to jelly-roll pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; carefully pour water mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons oil into spaghetti mixture. Place Dutch oven over medium heat. Add remaining reserved cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until spaghetti mixture is moist, tossing frequently. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Southwestern Turkey and Corn Stuffed Peppers

I hate to throw food away. Especially produce. So, every so often, I find myself confronted with a pile of soon-to-be-bad veggies. And I get to come up with dishes like this one. Inspired by recipes I've run across before and the home-cooking my mom fixed when I was growing up, I put red bell peppers, fresh corn and a few other handy ingredients to work. The results were delicious.

How delicious? So yummy that we ate them up before I remembered to take a evidenced by the empty baking dish to the left.

(This is a forgiving recipe so feel free to adjust spices and other ingredient quantities as you see fit.)

Southwestern Turkey and Corn Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4.

4 bell peppers (I prefer red for their sweetness.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground turkey
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Pinch crushed red pepper
Salt and garlic pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese, divided use

Trim the top quarter of the bell peppers off and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Finely dice any of the usable (i.e. non-stem) pepper tops and set aside.

Combine bread crumbs and 1/2 cup cheese and set aside. This is the topping for the stuffed peppers.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add any diced pepper and cook for 2 additional minute. Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink, about five minutes. (As you cook the turkey, use your spatula to break it into smaller chunks.)

Add the corn and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add tomato paste and spices and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 3 minutes and taste for seasoning. Season to taste with salt and garlic pepper.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Spoon filling into bell pepper shells. (You're probably going to end up with extra filling. Save it as burrito filling for lunch tomorrow, you lucky devil.) Top with breadcrumb/cheese mixture.

Place peppers into a baking dish and cook in pre-heated 350° oven until filling is heated through and topping is browned and cheese melted.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cheese Please...

With the house to myself last Saturday night, I treated myself to a supper for the gods. Cheese. (Yes, just cheese.)
Last week, I discovered I had a soon to expire Groupon (worth checking out if you don't subscribe in your city) to a premier cheese purveyor here in Big D...Molto Formaggio.
Armed with the opportunity for $25 worth of "free" cheese, I did a little research on their website and had a couple of cheeses in mind. Ordered one of them and the great guy who was assisting me suggested another. We went back and forth, with me tasting all along, and ended up with a cheeseboard of five different cheeses that I unwrapped and let come to room temperature the other night. With a couple of flatbread crackers and a glass (or several) of wine, I was in bliss.

Here are tasting notes (and price per pound) on the cheeses I bought:
  • Brillat Savarin: This is one I knew that I wanted going in. It's a wonderfully funky triple creme Brie-style cheese. The longer it sits out, the gooier it gets.... ($36)

  • Bayley Hazen Blue: This is another one I had on my shopping list. Made by Vermont's Jasper Hill Farm, it is a delicious, not too sharp blue cheese almost with the texture of butter. Complex, it's nutty and grassy...and delicious. If you're a fan of blue cheese, it's definitely worth a try. ($24)

  • Stichelton: This one was suggested by the cheesemonger after I asked for the Bayley Hazen Blue. It's also delicious. Similar to Stilton, it's made in Nottinghamshire with unpasteurized cows' milk. Rich and creamy (and even milder than the Bayley Hazen), it would be the perfect foil for a slice or two of crisp apple British tradition...a snifter of Port. It might just be my new favorite blue...($30)

  • Roccolo: This cheese was suggested when I said that I wanted something nutty...along the lines of Gruyere. It's delicious...less nutty than, but rivaling, my cheese fave Walserstoltz. A washed-rind cow's milk cheese from Italy, Roccolo starts mushroomy by the rind and gets softer and saltier toward the center. Check it out. ($21)

  • Sotto Cenere al Tartufo: This one was the wild card. I asked the cheesemonger to give me a cheese I simply couldn't miss out on. He immediately asked me if I like truffles. I answered yes. (Who doesn't?) It's a semi-soft raw cow's milk cheese infused with slices of truffle. But the truffles aren't get just a hint. It reminded me of sprinkling a good scrambled egg with truffle salt. Thanks, cheesemonger, for the suggestion. ($27)

Food/Wine Pairing: Of course, I was going to open a bottle of wine for this cheese feast. Serendipitously, it ended up being the varietal that the cheesemonger suggested. When he asked me what wine I would pair them with, I said "whatever red I run across in my cellar." He presciently said, "Maybe a Primitivo." Turns out that was the first wine I saw when I opened the mini-fridge. A rustic Primitivo from Viansa with just enough fruit to serve as a foil for the aggressiveness of some of the cheeses.

Treat yourself...or your dinner party guests...with a similar cheese board. And don't forget to trust your knowledgeable cheesemonger in making your purchase decisions.