Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dilled Carrots

Usually I think of pickles and preserves as a summer project. But with baby carrots in a bag ubiquitous year round at the grocery store, there's no reason not to make some of these flavorful little treats this weekend. Hmmmm...how about using them as stocking stuffers/hostess gifts for your foodie friends?

Dilled Carrots
Makes about seven pint jars.

6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt
4 cloves garlic, halved
14 heads of dill (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dill seed per jar)
3 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
5 pounds baby carrots

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water, and salt. Stir well and dissolve over medium-high heat.

Place 1/2 clove garlic, 1 dill head and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in each prepared pint jar. Pack carrots into jars to within 1/2 inch of top of jar. Top with second head of dill.

Ladle pickling liquid into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Wipe rim and top jrs with lids and bands.

Seal jars and process in hot water, using proper canning techniques, for 15 minutes total.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not...Celery Salad

As I was slicing and dicing the celery for the other half's delicious cornbread dressing recipe last week I was left with those pale stalks in the center and the leaves. They looked so crisp and fresh, I hated to see them go to waste. I knew if I put them in the refrigerator, they'd end up in the compost pail next time I cleaned it out. So I put them to immediate use.

I cut them up into bite-size pieces and dressed them simply with a splash of red wine vinegar, a glug of olive oil and some salt and garlic pepper. It was a delicious, bright snack. I felt quite virtuous...both for being healthy and putting what could have been wasted to excellent use.

Do you have similar tips? I'd love to hear them in the Comments below...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Croquettes

This is one of the best ways to use up leftover turkey that I've ever found. As a matter of fact, it's so delicious that I don't just limit myself to making these at this time of year. It's a great easy recipe to keep in your repertoire. Poach a single turkey breast (remarkably easy to find in the grocery meat section these days) in some water and you're set.

Note: This makes quite a few croquettes, and is a hard recipe to cut in half. I took the leftover mixture and put it in a small ramekin topped with breadcrumbs. Heated it through and voila...turkey meat loaf of sorts. Quite tasty.

Turkey Croquettes
From Martha Stewart Living.
Makes 20 croquettes.

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh savory or thyme
2 cups finely chopped cooked turkey
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cranberry sauce, for serving

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1 teaspoons salt, and teaspoon pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in sage and savory or thyme, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in turkey and cream, and cook until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool for 15 minutes.

Add potatoes, flour, and egg to turkey, and season with salt and pepper.

Drop 2 tablespoons turkey mixture into a shallow bowl of breadcrumbs, turn to coat, and pat into 2-inch disks. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. (Note: Do NOT skip the chilling step. It helps them from falling apart when you're frying them. I learned this the hard way...)

Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook croquettes in a single layer until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with cranberry sauce.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sage Mashed Potatoes

Sure we know sage goes on the turkey and especially in the dressing. But why not in the mashed potatoes? The double sage infusion gives them an herbal kick that will make Turkey Day even more decadent.

Sage Mashed Potatoes
Serves 10-12.

3 pounds red-skinned potatoes
6 sprigs fresh sage
2 cups half and half
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, mined
Additional sage leaves

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into large chunks. Remove the leaves from the six sage sprigs. Cook the potatoes and sage stems in a large pot of boiling salted water until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince the fresh sage leaves.

Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot, mash them coarsely and set aside.

Add the boiled sage stems and minced sage leaves to a medium saucepan along with the half and half, butter and garlic. Heat over medium heat just until it begins to boil. Immediately remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Strain the steeped mixture, and pour it into the mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir until smooth.

Before serving, garnish the mashed potatoes with additional chopped sage for even more herbal flavor.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Turkey Day Resources

I haven't been able to post as many Thanksgiving-related posts as usual this year...life has gotten in the way of blogging. Never fear...I did yeoman's work last year.

Here's a link to last year's countdown to Thanksgiving. It's chockful of recipes (including what to do with leftovers), cocktails, decorations and wine pairings. Check it out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes

This is just the thing you need to spice up your Turkey Day feast. Sure there will be the traditionalists that want marshamallows on top, but see if you can't sway them to this delicious Indian-tinged side dish. If you don't think you can take the chance, no worries. Save this one for another great dinner. After all, you're not just serving sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, are you?

Curry-Spiced Sweet Potatoes
From Cooking Light.
Makes six servings.

6 1/2 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place potato in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well; return to pan. Keep warm.

Melt butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots to pan; cook 6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in brown sugar, salt, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shallot mixture, half-and-half, and lemon juice to potato. Mash potato mixture with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

This delicious spiced nuts recipe makes two magical additions to my standard "off the top of my head" version--egg white and cumin. The egg white makes a deliciously crunchy glaze and the cumin adds just the perfect earthy undertone.


Sweet and Spicy Pecans

1 large egg white
2 cups unsalted pecan halves
2 cups unsalted roasted cashews
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250° F. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water in a large bowl until foamy. Add the nuts, sugar, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are mostly dry but still slightly sticky, about 40 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the oven and stir. Reduce the temperature to 200° F. Return the nuts to the oven and bake until crisp, about 30 more minutes. Stir to loosen the nuts from the baking sheet; cool completely on the sheet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake

I blame our lovely next door neighbor for my addiction to this stuff. It's like sugar-laced, holiday-themed crack. She brought some over last Thanksgiving, and I proud of myself that I haven't prepared it every week since then. I think it's time though. Excuse me please...

Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Cake
Makes 10-12 servings. (Unless I'm eating it.)

1 can pumpkin
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecan pieces

Using an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin and evaporated milk together. Beat the eggs slightly and add to pumpkin-milk mixture. Add sugar, salt and spices and mix well.

Pour into a 9 x 13 greased pan.

Sprinkle the cake mix over the filling and pour the melted butter over the cake mix. Sprinkle with pecan pieces.

Bake at 325° for 1 1/2 hours.

Serve topped with Cool Whip or whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Whipping Up Some Cream

Whipped cream gets a lot more use around my kitchen around the holidays—on the top of pumpkin pie, dolloped onto hot chocolate or stirred into homemade egg nog. Here are a couple of tips to make things a bit easier and a lot more successful.

  • It's always best to have chilled your beaters and bowl before you start, but here's a quick fix. Fill large bowl with ice water. Pour the whipping cream into a smaller bowl and set into the ice water. Anchor both bowls with your hand and beat with a hand mixer.

  • Need whipped cream and don't have a mixer? Place the cream in a chilled glass jar with t atught-fitting lid. Shake away for five minutes or so and voila. (It's great exercise too.) Hmm....wonder if it would work in a cocktail shaker?

  • Keep your whipped cream from getting weepy and runny. After whipping, put it in a strainer over a bowl and let the excess liquid drip out.

  • If you're really in a bind and don't have whipping cream on hand, how about vanilla ice cream a s a stand-in? Put some in a bolw and let it thaw for a minute or two. Then whip with stand mixer or hand blender. Voila!

Now whip it...whip it good.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Green Bean-Chayote Squash Casserole with Fried Onion Strings

I've posted my version of green bean casserole before. It's not at all hard for me to admit that this one has it beat hands down. It's from one of Grady Spears' cowboy cookbooks and even incorporates chayote squash, an ingredient important to Latin American cuisine. If you're looking for a decadent Southwestern addition to your Turkey Day table, this is it. (And, yes, Virginia, it includes the ubiquitous fried onion strings. Although these are far better than those things from a can.)

Green Bean-Chayote Squash Casserole with Fried Onion Strings
Makes 6-8 servings.

1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 pound fresh chayote squash, peeled, seeded, and julienned
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound bacon, diced
3/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups heavy cream (I didn't say it was healthy, did I?)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Asiago cheese
Fried Onion Strings

Blanch the green beans and chayote in a large pot of water for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile butter a 9 by 13 baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, stirring as necessary to separate the pieces so they cook evenly. Drain the grease as it accumulates so that the bacon won't be swimming in grease. When the bacon is half-cooked, add the onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is done and the onion is soft. Transfer to the buttered casserole and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat the unsalted butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter to create a roux, and cook for several minutes until the roux becomes fragrant but does not brown. Add the cream slowly while whisking to prevent lumps. Adjust the heat so that the sauce is simmering, not boiling. Add salt and pepper and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Put the green beans and chayote squash into the casserole with the bacon-onion mixture and cover with white sauce. Top with the grated cheese and place in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling.

Remove the casserole from the oven and top with the warm, crispy, fried onion strings. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cocktail of the Week: Cranberry Caipirinha

I know that cranberries are a wonderful part of most people's Thanksgiving feasts. But I like to use them in ways other than just the ubiquitous sauce. Even in a pre-dinner cocktail. This one will bring a little summer to your almost-winter meal.

And it's excuse enough to buy some of those cranberries on sale right now and freeze them to serve this cocktail at a patio party in the heat of next summer.

Cranberry Caipirinha
Makes one cocktail.

1/2 lime, cut in wedges
1 small orange wedge
10 cranberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 ounces cachaca (I've been liking Leblon.)

Place the lime, orange and cranberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the brown sugar and muddle. Add crushed ice, lime juice and cachaca and shake vigorously.

Pour everything, fruit, ice and all, into a rocks glass and serve.

Cheers! I'm thankful for a refreshing cocktail like this one....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Pineapple Cranberry Sauce with Chiles and Cilantro

I really like this tropical/Southwestern take on traditional cranberry sauce. It will make folks (like my brother-in-law) who like a little spicy heat quite happy. And it's a great recipe to hang on to long after Turkey Day. Freeze some fresh cranberries and whip up a batch of this anytime you're roasting chicken or a pork tenderloin.

Pineapple Cranberry Sauce with Chiles and Cilantro
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups 1/3-inch cubes peeled cored fresh pineapple
2 thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Transfer sauce to medium bowl. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mediterranean "Pizza"

OK...so I'm performing a little experiment in the month of November. We have too much "stuff" in the pantry, in the freezer (all three of them) and in the cupboards. Therefore, I am not setting foot in a grocery store all month. (Don't worry...I have plenty of Thanksgiving/holiday recipes already tested to post.)

Here's something I came up with last night. Armed with leftover pita bread from the Halloween party, a bunch of spinach about to go south, and a recipe inspiration from Real Simple, this was dinner.

Mediterranean "Pizza"
Serves two.

Two whole pita breads. (I used whole wheat.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Ground pepper and kosher salt
1 pound baby spinach
2-3 jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 eggs

In a large sauté pan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions until translucent and just starting to color, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, oregano, pepper and salt and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, stirring often, 3-4 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a shallow baking dish, place the pita bread halves. Mound the spinach on top, making a well in the center. Sprinkle the feta on top. Crack an egg into each of the wells. Bake in a preheated 425° oven until the eggs are set, 11-13 minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red Onion-Horseradish Dip

Might as well call this Evil Dip. It is redolent with some of the stinkiest--and most delicious--things in existence. Just don't fix it for a first date....

It also makes a great topping for a baked potato or a perfectly grilled steak. I'm thinking about using it stuff chicken breasts as well...

Red Onion-Horseradish Dip

4 oz. wedge blue cheese
1/2 of an 8-oz. carton dairy sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 of a medium red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp. prepared horseradish
Additional chopped red onion (optional)

In medium bowl crumble about three-quarters of the blue cheese. Add sour cream, whipping cream, red onion, garlic and horseradish. Use immersion blender to blend cheese mixture until almost smooth. Top with remaining blue cheese and red onion. Serve with raw vegetables or toasted baguette slices.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts

Did you miss me? I've been buried with work and life, but will try and do better in posting so that I can pass on some great recipes and entertaining tips as we jump into the holiday season. Here's a great one....

I have several spicy nut mixture recipes I use...usually involving brown sugar and a pinch or two each of cinnamon and cayenne. This one kicks things up by adding rosemary. They're addictive.

Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts

2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt (I used kosher salt with fine results.)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.