Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Frozen Edition

Hot enough for ya? It certainly is for me. I'm hoping that summer takes the hint over the Labor Day weekend and starts packing up for good. In the meantime, here are a couple of cooling Tuesday Tips.

  • Take that watermelon you bought at the market and pureé it up. Freeze it in ice cube trays and use to chill your club soda, ginger ale or lemonade.
  • It's definitely too hot for coffee. Pour your morning leftovers into ice cube trays and then chill your iced coffee. It won't get watered down as the cubes melt.
  • No sense in letting your Bloody Mary get watered down either. You can certainly freeze tomato juice in an ice cube tray, but why not use frozen grape or cherry tomatoes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Corn on the Cob Toppings

The corn is still beautiful and fresh in the grocery stores and farmers markets. And cheap. So corn on the cob is a common side dish these days. But, as delicious as it is, it can get a little repetitive when spread with the ubiquitous butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Here are a few variations to take things to a new level:

  • Whisk together softened butter with minced fresh basil and grated lemon zest.
  • Mix 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, 1 tablespoon lime zest and 1 tablespoon lime juice.
  • Stir freshly grated Parmesan and coarsely ground pepper into mayonnaise.
  • Puree oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes with their oil.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon each ground ginger, paprika and ground coriander with 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin and turmeric. Brush the corn with oil, sprinkle with the spice mixture and grill. Serve with a spreadable sauce of chopped cilantro blended into yogurt.
  • Squeeze two heads of roasted garlic into a bowl and mix with 1 grated tomato and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Cover the cooked corns with the mixture.
  • Mix a few crushed fennel seeds into softened butter along with a little orange zest.
  • And, of course, there's always the Mexican way: Grill your corn and then roll in melted butter. Slather with mayo, sprinkle with Cotija cheese and serve with a lime wedge.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beets with Chive Sour Cream

I've spoken before of my fondness for roasted beets. I usually make enough that there are a few leftovers for the week to come. They're great cold with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Here's a new condiment I've started to use on them...chive sour cream. You know...the stuff you make to go on your baked potato.

All you have to do is mix some chopped chives and a pinch of salt into sour cream...or even a little Greek yogurt. Serve alongside beet wedges.


Friday, August 27, 2010

BLT Redux Part II: Fried Green Tomato BLT's

I'm a Southerner. I like fried green tomatoes. And I'm an American. Love BLT's. Here's the two combined in a perfect marriage.

Fried Green Tomato BLT's
From Food and Wine magazine.
Serves 4.

4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Canola oil
8 thick-cut slices of whole wheat or multigrain bread, toasted
Low-fat mayonnaise and baby arugula, for assembling
(Note: If you want to go old-school, use white bread, full-fat mayo and leaf lettuce.)

Preheat the oven to 400° and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange the bacon on the foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until crispy. Drain the bacon and cut in half.

Meanwhile, put the flour, egg mixture and cornmeal in 3 shallow bowls. Season the cornmeal generously with salt and pepper. Dip the tomato slices in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the cornmeal, pressing to help it adhere. Transfer the slices to a wax paper–lined platter.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, 5 minutes. Drain the tomatoes on paper towels.

Lay 4 slices of toast on a work surface and lightly spread with mayonnaise. Top with the green tomatoes, bacon and arugula. Close the sandwiches, cut in half and serve.

Food/Wine Pairing: Food and Wine suggests a tangy Sauvignon Blanc. Sounds perfect.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BLT Redux: Stuffed Tomatoes

I love me some BLT. Actually usually just BT. Juicy red tomatoes and crisp bacon on white bread with mayo and a little salt and pepper. Delish.

Here's a BLT deconstructed and then put back together again. It's fancy enough for a dinner party, I think.

BLT-Style Stuffed Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings.

4 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 clove garlic, minced and sauteed
1/2 cup chopped lettuce
1/2 cup stale bread cubes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Hollow the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and invert for 30 minutes to drain.

Crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces and mix with the garlic. Add lettuce, bread and mayo and mix well.

Place the hollowed-out tomatoes in a baking dish and fill with bacon mixture. (For added decadence, brush tops with bacon drippings.)

Bake at 425° for 20-30 minutes.

Food/Wine Pairing: I'd stick with my classic bacon and tomato sandwich pairing for this one too: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Herb Salad

Sometimes on this miserably hot Dallas summer days, dinner is nothing but a salad. No oven necessary. But "nothing but a salad" doens't have to mean boring. It doesn't even have to mean all lettuce.

This bright and fresh bowl of yumminess uses a variety of fresh herbs...hopefully from your own garden...to take this salad to a whole new level.

Herb Salad

3 tablespoons snipped chives
3 tablespoons parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons finely grated ricotta salata or a couple of shavings of Parmesan for the top

Toss the herbs and lettuce together and dress with a light vinaigrette. (A recipe for a good one follows below.) Top with cheese.

Shallot Vinaigrette
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablepoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Mix the shallot, zest and juice in a small bowl. While whisking, drizzle the olive oil in to form a vinaigrette.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Egg Edition

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Not sure about that one, but I DO know that these egg-related tips will make things a little less complicated.
  • I hardboil eggs ahead of time most weeks. That way, they're ready as a quick healthy snack or to be added to salads. But how to tell them apart? Put a couple of drops of food coloring in the cooking water and you'll be able to recognize the cooked ones from their tint.
  • And how do you make those hard-boiled eggs easier to peel. Put them in a bowl of oce water for several minutes. The eggs will shrink away from the shell's interior and peeling them will be a piece of cake.
  • Finally, an easy way to dice the eggs for our macaroni or tuna salad. Slice and then press the eggs through a cooling rack with square grids directly into your bowl.

More next Tuesday...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Carrot Pickles with Shallots and Dill

Pickles. pickles, everywhere. I am OBSESSED! These are yummy.

Carrot Pickles with Shallots and Dill
Makes 1 quart.

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeked and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
6 sprigs dill (or substitute cilantro for a Southwestern kick)
1 cup white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

Combine the carrots, shallots and dill in a quart jar. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar with 1 cup water and the garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds and peppercorns. Heat until it simmers. Pour the brine over the carrot mixture. Cover loosely and let cool to room temperature. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Peaches

Sure peaches are delicious over ice cream or in a breakfast smoothie or a cobbler or just eaten out of hand. But there's no reason not to include them in an appetizer or main course.

Make this recipe and then spoon it on top of a toasted baguette slice spread with goat cheese. Or use it (again with goat cheese and a pinch of thyme) as a stuffing for a pounded-out chicken breast that you bread and bake.

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Peaches

1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
6 ripe peaches, halved
Vegetable cooking spray

Whisk together first 3 ingredients. Brush half of honey mixture evenly over cut sides of peaches.

Coat a cold cooking grate with cooking spray, and place on grill over medium heat (300° to 350°). Arrange peach halves, cut sides up, on grate; grill, covered with grill lid, 3 minutes on each side or until tender and golden. Remove from grill, and brush cut sides of peaches evenly with remaining honey mixture. (Alternatively, grill indoors on the stovetop with a cast iron grill pan.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fifteen Minutes to a Cleaner Car

My car gets messy. Papers. Take-out breakfast wrappers. Change. You name it. These hints from Real Simple helped me clean things up in 15 minutes. I'm glad to share...

You'll need a small plastic bin, garbage bags, paper grocery bag, glass cleaner, cleaning wipes, a flat-head screwdriver, paper towels, and a hand vacuum.

Minute 1: Toss items that shouldn’t be in the car into a small bin. Throw trash into a garbage bag and recyclables into the paper bag. Spritz the cup holders with glass cleaner and let sit.

Minutes 2 and 3: Using the wipes, clean the dashboard, center console, inside door pockets, steering wheel, and gearshift.

Minutes 4 and 5: Clean leather seats with a few wipes. (Seats that are upholstered will get vacuumed later.)

Minutes 6 and 7: Wrap a wipe around the end of a flat-head screwdriver, and run it along the buttons and switches on the dashboard. Wipe out the cup holders with paper towels.

Minutes 8 through 10: Spray glass cleaner on paper towels and wipe all the windows, including the windshield, sunroof, and rear window.

Minute 11: Remove the floor mats and whack them against each other to dislodge any dirt.

Minutes 12 through 14: On the driveway, vacuum the floor mats with the bare hose of a hand vac for maximum power (do not attach a tool). Vacuum the seat upholstery and foot wells, shifting the front seats fully forward, then back, to hit every spot.

Minute 15: Replace the mats and return the seats to their original positions. Open all the doors and let fresh air blow through.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dill and Black Pepper Gravlax

I love gravlax/lox/smoked salmon/whatever you want to call it. But I don't love paying $20 or more a pound. Usually I end up buying the bargain basement lox trimmings. Still delicious, but not necessarily luxurious.

After finding this recipe in an Emeril Lagasse cookbook, I'll never buy it again. Instead, I'll grab a big piece of salmon when it's on sale and make my own. It's beautiful and full of flavor. Bagel, anyone?

Dill and Black Pepper Gravlax
From Emeril Lagasse's Farm to Fork.

½ cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup coarsely cracked fresh black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1 two-pound side of wild salmon, scaled, pin bones removed, rinsed under cold water and patted dry

Combine the salt, sugar, and cracked black pepper in a mixing bowl. Transfer half the mixture to a non-reactive pan or baking dish large enough to hold the salmon.

Place the salmon skin-side down on the salt mixture. Cover the flesh side of the salmon with the remaining salt mixture and pack it evenly to distribute. Sprinkle the dill on the flesh side and cover the salmon tightly with plastic wrap on top. Place a flat-bottom container the size of the salmon (another baking dish or sheet) and weigh it with a heavy object such as a skillet, bricks (wrapped in foil) or a few cans. Refrigerate the salmon for 30 to 36 hours, turning it occasionally to ensure even curing.

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, wipe off as much of the curing mixture as possible (lightly rinse if desired), and pat the salmon dry. Salmon may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper and stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Spruced Up Spinach Salad with Scallops and Grilled Onions

Spinach is a standard fridge content at our house. I use it on sandwiches (both lunch and breakfast), sauté it as a quick side, and include it in salads more often than not. The other night, I decided to make a spinach salad the main event. But decided that the typical combo of bacon, hard-boiled egg and Catalina dressing wasn't sexy enough.

Solution? I caramelized a few thick onion slices in the grill pan, grabbed some scallops from the freezer and gave them a quick sear. Added them to the spinach along with some beautiful golden tomatoes and a little goat cheese. All it needed was a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a glug (that's a culinary technical term) of olive oil and a sprinkling of toasted almond slices for crunch.

Dee-lish-us! Try it for yourself and see.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Tips: The Inaugural Edition

Sure recipes are good. And I hope this blog serves as both encyclopedia and inspiration as you hit the kitchen or the bar. But often I find that it's the resources, tips, techniques, and tools that I've accumulated over the years that make the beautiful life we all deserve far easier to accomplish.

So I'm starting a new series. Every Tuesday (until I run out of tips) I'll post several tricks of the trade to make your life a bit simpler.

For this inaugural edition smack dab in the middle of grilling season, I'll share several things for you to take outside along with the barbecue sauce.
  • Don't dirty two platters every time you grill. Cover the platter with foil and put the meat or fish on it when you head grill-side. Then discard the foil. You have a clean carrier for the finished product.
  • If you're a saver shopper, you probably buy pork chops, steaks and the like when they're on sale and then freeze them in meal-size portions. Save yourself a step and put the marinade (your favorite herbs and liquids like wine or soy sauce or fruit juice) in with the meat in the freezer bag. Label it and put in the freezer. Take the package out the night before you want to grill it up and put it in the fridge. It will marinate as it thaws.
  • Burgers make a great meal, and lots of people pre-make patties and freeze them ahead of time. Take it up a flavor step and make your favorite meatloaf mix. Freeze it in patty form and you've got a burger that no one can resist. Or a single serving of meat loaf when you've got a craving.

Come back next week for more...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thai Tomatoes with Ginger and Jalapeno

I'm a big fan of the tomato. Especially the great big red ones I can buy at the Dallas Farmer's Market. A sprinkle of salt and a crack of pepper is all it takes to elevate them to sublime perfection.

But sometimes it can be interesting to supplement their inherent deliciousness with additional ingredients to add some variety to your supper plate.

Here's a way to give them that kick that you get in Thai food from chile peppers and ginger.

Cut 3 or 4 tomatoes into wedges or chunks and combine them with 1 jalapeño pepper (seeded and minced), a couple of tablespoons of grated ginger, and splash each of lemon juice (or rice wine vinegar) and olive (or sesame) oil. Toss together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

How does that sound alongside a nice piece of grilled salmon or snapper?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Crab-Stuffed Sole Meunière

On a recent weekend jaunt to Las Vegas, the other half was particularly impressed by the crab-stuffed sole at one of the buffets. So much so that he took "all you can eat" to a new level.

So, of course, I was required to come home and recreate the recipe. I did a pretty bang-up job...if I do say so myself. This version gilds the lily by topping the fish with a bright classic butter sauce with lemon and parsley.

Crab-Stuffed Sole Meunière
Makes 2 servings.

For crab stuffing and fish:
4 oz jumbo lump crab meat (1 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely diced yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2(4 ounce)sole fillets
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

To prepare stuffing and fish:
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Mix crab, mayonnaise, bell pepper, and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Place flour in pie dish. Rinse fish; pat with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of fish with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge fish on both sides with flour; shake off excess.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmers. Add butter; quickly swirl skillet to coat. When foam subsides, add fish and cook just until golden on bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden on bottom, 1 minute more. (You don't want fish to be cooked completely.) Place fish fillets in lightly-oiled pie plate.

Divide stuffing among fillets, mounding on thicker half of each. Fold thinner half of fillet over stuffing, tucking end under to form a packet. Cover with a round of parchment paper, then cover pie plate tightly with foil.

Bake in upper third of oven until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Uncover and add bread crumb topping (recipe below) for last 3-4 minutes of cooking.

For garlic bread crumb topping:
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

Make bread crumbs while sole is baking:

Cook garlic in oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in zest and season with salt and pepper.

For sauce:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice (sauce may sputter).

To serve, spoon sauce onto serving plates and place sole on top. (That way, you get the deliciousness of the sauce while the breadcrumbs stay toasty crisp.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly

The other night, after making my third summertime batch of my world-famous chow chow, I found myself with several leftover red bell peppers. I wasn't in the mood for grilling or stir-frying, so I pulled out my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and found this recipe. I whipped up a batch and have already added it to the repertoire.

It's quite complex. Like a good wine, it hits you in several waves. First sweet, then tangy, then that prickle of spicy heat at the back of your throat. It would be delicious as a glaze (or just condiment) for pork or salmon. I think I'm going to try it on a roast beef sandwich. And it was a hit at a party the other night when I poured it over cream cheese and served it with crackers.

Balsamic Red Pepper Jelly
Makes about seven 4 ounce jars.

5 medium red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
3 medium jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and deveined (I left one pepper whole for a little more spice.)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I substituted apple cider vinegar in a pinch.)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package (1.75 ounces) regular powdered fruit pectin
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar

Finely dice enough red pepper to measure 1/2 cup and set aside. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pureé remaining red peppers, jalapeño peppers and garlic until smooth.

Transfer pureé to a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of moistened cheesecloth set over a deep bowl. Let drip, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. Measure 1 1/2 cups pepper juice. (If you don't have the required amount, add 1/2 cup boiling water to the remaining pulp to extract additional juice.)

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

Transfer pepper juice to a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Add reserved diced red pepper, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.

Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. 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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Grapefruit Martini

Here's a slightly fruity, but definitely high-octane, cocktail for a summer night.


Grapefruit-Vodka Cocktail
Makes one cocktail.

2 ounces vodka
2 ounces grapefruit juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
1/2 ounce Cointreau (or another orange liqueur)
Splash simple syrup, if desired.

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Almond Butter...Have You Tried It?

I'm a vocal advocate for peanut butter. It's a nice add-on to a piece of toast or a bagel for breakfast. And I keep a jar (crunchy of course) in the fridge at work so I can grab a spoonful for a quick protein-packed snack.

But I'm now a big fan of almond butter these days. An article I read recently said that two tablespoons provides 30 percent of your magnesium and are a good source of calcium.

You can certainly try it in the manners I mention above. But I like these ideas also.
  • A sandwich made with toasted bread, 1 1/2 tablespoons almond butter, half a sliced banana, and 1 tablespoon honey.
  • Or this savory option. Again, toasted bread (sourdough sounds perfect) spread with almond butter and layered with turkey bacon and thin apple slices.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pickled Okra

I can't believe I didn't capture this recipe last year when I first made it. Pronouncing that "I had become a Southern woman of a certain age," I actually canned last summer. Chow chow like the other half's grandmother used to make. And these delicious little bites.

But when I went to do it again THIS summer, I couldn't find my recipe. No worries. I recreated it...just as delicious. If not better. So impressive that I'm thinking about sending a couple of jars over to the judges at the Great State Fair of Texas.

Pickled Okra
Makes 4 pints. (Although you'll want to make at least a double batch to share with friends and family.)

2 pounds okra (I like a mix of sizes...full-size to serve as a Bloody Mary garnish and also little buds that can be eaten in one fell swoop alongside a sandwich.)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided use
Dried hot Thai chiles (1 or 2 per jar depending on how spicy you want things.)
4 peeled garlic cloves
4 sprigs of fresh dill
4 teaspoons mustard seeds
4 teaspoons whole peppercorns
4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Soak okra in water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon salt and stir to dissolve. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Drain and rinse the okra and blot dry with paper towels.

Prepare 4 pint jars and lids for canning.

Pack the okra into the jars. Add peppers (1 or 2), 1 clove garlic, 1 dill sprig, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, and 1 teaspoon peppercorns in each jar.

In a large pot, combine vinegar, 1 1/2 cups water, sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, reduce to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the hot brine over the packed okra until it is 1/4 inch below the rim of the jars. Seal and process in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes. (Or refrigerate if you're going to use quickly.)

Let stand for one week before using.

Will keep for 1 year if processed. 6 months if simply refrigerated.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Emeril's New Book: Farm to Fork

Well, Martha has done it again. (Yes, THAT Martha.) After "acquiring" all that is Emeril Lagasse, she has molded him into a whole new guy. I had begun to notice the change on The Martha Show. When Emeril came on to cook, there were no "BAM's." No screams from the audience when he announced he was adding garlic. And a merciful break from having to make everything (dessert included) Creole.

Clearly, this transformation has translated to the page. Lagasse's newest tome Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh needs to go on your Amazon wish list. From the bucolic photo of Emeril on the front cover to the looping green font in the table of contents, this seems about as far away from Emeril as it can be. And yet, truthfully, it isn't. The stories Emeril tells in the introduction about his "connection with the soil" and his relatives take him back to his roots. And I like them.

The recipes are interesting. Some that I've marked to try include: Tomato Tartare and Micro Greens with Shallot Vinaigrette, Charred Chayote Soup with Adobo Shrimp, Green Onion Spoonbread and Turnip and Radish Slaw with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Chive Oil.

And there's still plenty of the old Emeril (or at least his ingredients) to celebrate; you can still find oysters, corn, bacon and a few things destined for the deep fryer.

Congrats, Emeril. Let Martha keep steering you in this new (old?) direction and I'll keep on buying your stuff.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Whole Wheat Toast with Cucumber and Feta

There's a high-powered toaster at my office. I keep 7 (or 9 or 13 or 42) grain bread on hand, and toast has become a common breakfast if I haven't fixed anything at home. But not toast with jam. Or cinnamon toast. Or anything "traditional." My toast ends up becoming an open-faced veggie sandwich quite often. For example......

A Laughing Cow wedge spread on the toast and topped with a slice or two of tomato.

Cream cheese topped with a handful of spinach leaves.

Here's the latest one I want to try:

A mixture of feta and splashes of olive oil and lemon juice blended and spread on the toast. Then topped with thin slices of cucumber.

Now that's a "tea" sandwich I can support!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Chelsea Sidecar

One of my favorite summer cocktails is the Tom Collins: gin with just enough sweetness and fizz to be even more refreshing. Here's another higher-octane drink that could be its kissing cousin.

Chelsea Sidecar
Makes one cocktail.

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Breaded Pork Chops with Fennel Seeds and Thyme

I've been playing Pantry Roulette lately...putting my creativity to work to cook a delicious and interesting dinner using just the things we already have on hand. As much food as there is in the pantry and freezer, we're pretty much always in good shape. But with this meal, I hit the flavor jackpot for sure.

Let me walk you through it. It's not really a recipe...just a process that you can adjust to fit your own needs and your own pantry contents.

Take two pork chops (bone-in, boneless, thick or thin, it doesn't matter) and soak in milk...or even better, buttermilk. In a separate bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, a tablespoon or two of flour, a pinch each of salt and garlic pepper. some dried thyme and a few fennel seeds. (The breading is where you can get creative. Use whatever favorite herbs and spices you have on hand.)

Lift the pork chops out of the milk and dredge in the breadcrumb mixture.

In a skillet with a little olive oil, brown the pork chops on both sides. Place in a baking dish on a bed of stuffing or wild rice or white rice. Cover with foil and bake at 350° until the pork chops are done, around 20-30 minutes depending on thickness.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Radish Pickles

I have gone crazy with the canning and pickling this summer. Perhaps it's because it's so hot that I don't want to cook anything and could settle for a plateful of various crisp, cool, tangy pickles. Here's a perfect Southern version courtesy the Lee Brothers. The turmeric turns the pickles a beautiful shade of almost carroty orange. They're delicious.

Radish Pickles
Makes 1 quart.

2 pounds round red radishes, trimmed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Layer the radishes in a quart size jar. Combine the vinegar and 1 cup water into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, salt, sugar, turmeric and peppercorns. When the mixture starts to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and pour the brine over the radishes. Cover loosely and let cool to room temperature. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour.

The pickles will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Best Cuts of Steak for Grilling

Season steak with salt and pepper. Splash with Worcestershire sauce. Place on hot grill and sear on one side for 4-5 minutes. Flip steak and turn grill heat down. Close cover and cook to a perfect 130° medium-rare. (Use a meat thermometer to monitor carefully.) Remove from grill. Let rest for 5 minutes. Dig in.

I can't tell you the number of times I have followed that process for a wonderful steak dinner. My cut of choice is rib-eye. It's the perfect grilling cut with its marbling of fat throughout.

But after seeing a recent article in Bon Appetit, I just might visit my butcher and broaden my horizons. Here are some other cuts they suggested for the grill.

Hanger steak:
AKA "butcher's tenderloin" since the butchers would often keep for them selves. It resembles flank steak and, after a good marinade, should be cooked quickly over high heat to rare or medium-rare to avoid toughness.

Flatiron steak:
This is a trendy one right now. This comes from the cow's shoulder and is a piece of what we can buy in the supermarket as a "top blade" roast. It's really affordable and can be cooked as you would grill any other "typical" steak.

Skirt steak:
This is what we Texans use to make fajitas. Marinate and cook as you would hanger steak and then cut across the grain for maximum tenderness.

A New York strip and a filet alongside each other, separated by a bone for the dog to gnaw on afterwards. As Gershwin would say, who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Grilled Green Tomatoes with Basil Mayonnaise

Sure...we all know that fresh bail and ripe tomatoes is a great pairing for summer. Especially when you throw some mozarella, sea salt and good olive oil in the mix.
But I never knew that basil was so good with green tomatoes. Try it and discover for yourself.

Basil Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until sauce is smooth.

Serve with grilled green tomatoes. Or fish. Or grilled chicken. Or on a sandwich. Or...

You get the picture.....

Monday, August 02, 2010

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Pinto Beans

The other half had the best of intentions. He wanted to make a pot of beans "just like (his) grandmother used to make." Beans, bacon and onion cooked down to soupy consistency and served over big slabs of cornbread.

But first the bag of pinto beans sat on the kitchen counter for a week or so. When they finally went into water to soak "overnight," time crunch and schedule conflicts left them in their mini-swimming pool for a couple of days. It was time for me to take matters into my own hands. Faced with the prospect of having to throw them out, my frugality-and creativity- kicked in.

Right before bed, I grabbed the CrockPot from its shelf in the garage and plugged it in. Concocted the "recipe" below and let all cook overnight. They might not be exactly like Grandma's, but they're mighty tasty.

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Pinto Beans
Makes 10-12 servings.

1 pound dried pinto beans, sorted and picked over to remove stones
4 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes and chiles
I medium onion, diced
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic pepper
4 tablespoons juice from jarred pickled jalapenos, optional

Soak beans in enough water to cover for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse.

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Southern Cheese Shortbread Crackers

This recipe came about as an improvisation on the classic Southern cheese straw. The final product was crisp and cheesy with just enough spice. They would be the perfect accompaniment to a Bloody Mary or a dirty martini.

Or, quite frankly, any other cocktail you have in mind.

Southern Cheese Shortbread Crackers
Makes about 4 dozen crackers.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or up to 1 teaspoon if you want a real kick)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth dough is formed.

Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut into 1 inch by 3 inch crackers and place on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 300° F oven. For more even browning, turn over halfway through baking.