Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tequila-Jalapeno Aioli

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: The Aqueduct

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

Makes one cocktail.

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parsley Walnut Pesto

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

But no more.

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

Parsley Walnut Pesto
Makes about one cup.

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pastrami-Spiced Salmon

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

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

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

Prepare grill.

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

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Romaine Salad with Red Wine Vinegar

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

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

Romaine Salad
Makes 4 servings.

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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

Quinoa Muffins
From Everyday Food.
Makes 12 muffins.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Safety First!

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kicked-Up Cornbread Mini-Muffins

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

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

Bake as directed.

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

Bake as directed.

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

Bake as directed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Country Pork Ribs

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

Sweet and Spicy Country Ribs
Makes four servings.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mashed Potato Croquettes

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

Potato Croquettes
From Everyday Food.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Asian Carrot Slaw

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

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

Asian Carrot Slaw
Makes four servings.

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Tips: How to Make a Bed

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tuna Salad with Celery and Radishes

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

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

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

Combine all ingredients and stir.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 08, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Sidecar

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

Makes one cocktail.

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

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

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

Strain into cocktail glass and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mashed Tomato Potatoes

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

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

Smashed Tomato Potatoes
Makes 8 servings.
From Real Simple.

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Roasted Radishes

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Storing Cheese

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

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

Monday, October 04, 2010

It's National Popcorn Month!

Did you know? How are YOU going to celebrate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mussels in a Sherry Marinade

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

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

Mussels in a Sherry Vinaigrette
Makes 8 servings.

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

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

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

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

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