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.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Kicked-Up Gazpacho

I posted a wonderful gazpacho recipe yesterday. It's fantastic as is. But that's not to stay that it couldn't be even better. Let's explore....

Additional Spices and Flavors
Now I wouldn't throw all of these in at once, but here are a few things you could throw in to amp up the spice and or flavor of the soup.
  • Diced jalapeno-Enough said.
  • Cayenne pepper-A little goes a long way, but this definitely turns up the temperature.
  • Smoked paprika-This classic Spanish ingredient will take your taste buds right to Andalucia.
  • Lime or lemon juice-If you're like me, a squeeze of acidity gives things just the right bright touch.
  • Tequila-Don't laugh. It's not quite a cocktail...just a high-octane soup. And an aged 100% agave tequila gives a beautiful richness to the taste profile.


Here are a few things you could throw on top of the soup for added decadence and texture.

  • Cooked crab meat
  • Steamed or grilled shrimp
  • Toasted sliced almonds
  • A crumble of goat cheese
  • Diced avocado
  • Tiny diced celery
  • Mini toasted croutons
  • Slivers of Spanish jamon, baked until crispy
  • I've even seen it topped with minced hard-boiled egg.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Classic Gazpacho

It's still hot, hot, hot. But there are plenty of tomatoes, cukes and peppers at the farmer's market. So it's time to skip the stove and make this classic bracing cold soup. This is a basic recipe taken from the great reference cookbook The New Best Recipe. I've posted it here as is. But tune in tomorrow for some ways to kick it up with a few extra ingredients and an interesting garnish or two.

Classic Gazpacho
Serves 8-10.

(Hint: One of these makes the slicing and dicing MUCH easier.)

3 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 medium red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 small cucumbers, one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 large shallots, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
Ground black pepper
5 cups tomato juice (Blogger's Note: Kick it up a notch with Spicy Hot V-8 if you'd like.)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 ice cubes

Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onion, garlic, salt, vinegar, and black pepper to taste in a large nonreactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, and ice cubes. Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend the flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes.

Serve cold, drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil if desired.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Greek-Style Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is one of those staples that scares people. First you have to get past the spelling and pronunciation. Then the odd tail that comes off the spheres when they're cooked. It's a lot less threatening to cook up some rice.

Quinoa is a versatile ingredient. With a mild, nutty flavor, it's most often used as a grain, but it has a much superior protein content. That makes it a perfect ingredient in a healthy vegetarian diet.

I've been using it more often lately. With some leftover cooked quinoa from a recipe the other night, I whipped up this delicious salad. With a side of pita and hummus (or by itself), it's a great light lunch.

Greek-Style Quinoa Salad
Makes two servings.

3 cups cooked quinoa
2 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch scallions, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
(And believe me...I would have added some chopped Kalamata olives if I'd had them.)

Combine all ingredients. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Bottom of the Jar" Salad Dressing

While cleaning out the refrigerator the other day, I found a jar of orange marmalade with a few tablespoons of marmalade left at the bottom. What to do, what to do? Well, with this recipe as an inspiration, I whipped up a nice dressing for a spinach salad. Added a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic pepper and a splash of fresh lemon juice. Shook it up and voila! It was delicious on spinach with mushroom, tomatoes, and avocado.

It got me to thinking...I bet you could riff on this idea and come up with an endless list of salad dressings, glazes for pork or chicken and the like. Just to take the orange marmalade idea a few steps could add honey and some garlic and ginger. Or go Southwestern with cumin and chile powder. Hankering for some spice? How about red pepper flakes or even a touch of wasabi.

And that just gets you started. How about a strawberry jam-based dressing with really good balsamic on baby greens with goat cheese? Or cherry preserves kicked up with garlic and thyme as a glaze for roast pork?

What are your ideas for the bottom of the jar?

Only problem I've created? The marmalade dressing was so delicious that I went to the grocery the next day and bought another space achieved in refrigerator? Nada.