Friday, April 30, 2010

Ideas for Fresh Parsley

The herb garden is already boasting bumper crops. The basil is beautiful and the cilantro is doing better than it ever has. And of course, the old standbys of oregano, rosemary and thyme are ready for the clipping.

"Officially" we plant parsley for the butterflies. The big, beautiful swallowtails swoop in and lay their eggs on the fresh growth for their hungry caterpillars to devour. But in the meantime, I'm glad to put it to use in the kitchen. Here are just a few ideas:
  • Making a green salad? Grab a few leaves and rip them up and throw them in with the lettuce. They'll provide and unexpected burst of freshness. (While you're at it, throw some basil and/or dill in as well.)
  • Parsley butter: Combine a stick of softened butter with 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley leaves. Season with a bit of salt. Put back in the fridge and pull out when you need a pat to top steak, chicken or even a steak. (If you're feeling decadent, stir it into pasta.)
  • Here's another condiment. Combine 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, and a minced garlic clove. Add a generous pinch of kosher salt. It's a great accompaniment for lamb, veal or steak.
  • And don't scrimp when you're making an herb rub for your pork tenderloin or roasted chicken. Add finely chopped parsley for a nice "crisp" touch.

Any other ideas?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poached Eggs: Theme and Variations

I love me a good poached egg. And Eggs Benedict too. (Although the "traditional" version I usually reserve for a decadent hotel room service breakfast. Preferably on an expense account.) I've mentioned variations I've tried before using only the leftovers I could scrape up.

Here's a few more variations I've run across...
  • First off, no need to "scramble" if you don't have an English muffin. Any good toasted bread will do. Sourdough, whole grain or even rye would make excellent candidates.
  • Then the options for additional toppings are endless. Sliced tomato and cream cheese.
  • Spinach and a little grated Swiss. (Maybe even broiled a bit before the egg goes on.)
  • Cream cheese, salmon and capers.
  • Butter and a thin slice of ham or prosciutto.
  • Steamed asparagus and a shaving of Parmesan.
  • Pesto. (And nothing but pesto.)
  • Ricotta and basil leaves.
  • Roasted garlic and sauteed mushrooms.
  • Or anything else you can come up with. (Be a good egg and share your ideas in the comments below.)

Add that poached egg on top and you won't need the added fat (or hassle) of Hollandaise sauce.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tangy Mustard Marinade

So you've got just a tad (yes...that's a culinary term) of mustard left in the bottle. What to do, what to do?

How about you whip up a batch of this marinade for chicken or pork? (Tip: It's easy to shake it up in the mustard jar or bottle.)

Tangy Mustard Marinade
Enough for a couple of chicken breasts or a pork tenderloin.

Combine about 2 tablespoons mustard with the juice and zest of one lemon, 16 chopped sage leaves (or a generous pinch of dried sage), 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon honey. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a grind of black pepper. Shake well.

Coat chicken or pork and marinate for one hour. Roast, broil or gill away. (Be careful when you cook the meat...the honey has a tendency to darken when the heat is up too high.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Asian Pantry: Storing Ginger

I've encouraged you before to keep a few Asian ingredients in your pantry. The simple things like sesame oil, good-quality soy sauce and rice vinegar. I've taken my own advice and taken things a bit further, adding things like chile oil, hoisin sauce, and five-spice powder. It's been fun learning how to use them, both in prepared recipes and on the fly in sauces, salad dressings and stir frys.

And now, having discovered a Chinese grocery just blocks from my house in suburban Dallas, I've started keeping even fresher Asian ingredients, like produce, on hand. Just as I've sworn never to buy avocados, jalapenos or limes (or any other produce commonly used in Hispanic cooking) anywhere else but our neighborhood Fiesta, I will now head straight to Tian Tian for my mushrooms, bok choy and ginger. Fresh and cheap, cheap, cheap.

But then how best to store the stuff? I recently explained my newly-found miracle method for storing celery and scallions. I needed a similar fix for ginger. I seem to buy it every trip to the grocery store because the root bought last week is a shriveled mess on the counter. (We just planted some of those shriveled messes in pots outside. Maybe the result will be a plant of some sort this summer.)

So I searched for a solution on the Internet. (Google IS our friend.) One camp suggested peeling it and grating it and then freezing it. You could then take out as much as you need when you needed it. I worried a bit about texture and taste changes that the freezer might cause though, so I went with another popular method.

It's simple really. Put your unpeeled ginger in a Ziploc bag and store it in the fridge. Guess what? Works perfectly. I've kept pieces for almost a month this way. Who knew?

Now if I can just figure out what to do with this lemongrass.....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Goat Cheese Leek Tart

Another great one from Martha. Not much else to say...

Goat Cheese Leek Tart
Serves four.

1 bunch leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced into half-moons (about 2 cups), washed well and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
6 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon water
1 unbaked pie crust
All-purpose flour, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F, with rack on lowest shelf. In a bowl, toss leeks with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Whisk together goat cheese, cream cheese, milk, 2 egg yolks, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg yolk with the water, for egg wash.

Roll out dough to a 13-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Place on a baking sheet. Spread goat cheese mixture on crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle leeks evenly on top. Fold edges of dough over filling, pinching folds together to seal. Brush dough with egg wash.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until crust is golden brown and filling is browned in spots, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack. To serve, cut into wedges.

Food/Wine Pairing: This one screams out for your favorite juicy Sauvignon Blanc. One of my faves: Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Great Wine Values

It's always nice when another source validates your thinking...especially when it's my personal fave Food & Wine. They published this list of fail-safe wine values six months ago. But these are TRUE values...good choices year-in, year-out. A couple of them hold coveted spaces on my house wine list.

  • Bogle Vineyards California Petite Sirah: At $11 or so, this peppery red is a good one. Try some of Bogle's other varietals as well.
  • Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc: I admit I haven't tried this one, but F&W says it's crisp and peachy.
  • Marietta Vellars Old Vine Red: Another one I need to check out. Especially since the notes are "dusty, gamey and rich."
  • Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc: A favorite of mine. $13 or so and "light touch of oak...makes it more luscious and rounded than most Sauvignons." I agree and raise you the description...smoky.
  • Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee Zinfandel: Another goodie. Always remember the three r's when buying zin and you won't go wrong. Ravenswood. Ridge. Rosenblum.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Yes, Virginia, Quality Matters

It seems obvious, but bears repeating. You should use the highest-quality ingredients you can find and afford when cooking. I blogged not too long ago about my eye-opening experience with boutique tonic waters. But I was areminded about the importance of quality more recently when mixing up a little jar of balsamic vinaigrette.

Commonly, I'll use the balsamic vinegar that you can buy at the corner grocery store. It's affordable and works in cooked recipes as well as dressings. Right? Well...yeah, but....

This time I cracked open a bottle of more expensive (although not prohibitively so) balsamic that a fellow foodie had given me at our office gift exchange. And used some Texas olive oil that I had found at the farmer's market. I stuck a finger in to taste and was blown away. In a simple salad dressing where the oil and vinegar were the stars, the higher-quality ingredients made all the difference.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm using the good stuff when I need a splash in a pasta dish or olive oil to sear chicken. Just like I don't always use the expensive tonic water. And just like I use grocery store eggs when I'm baking.

But when I'm scrambling or poaching an egg and that's the spotlight ingredient, you bet I'll use the ones sourced from a local henhouse. And the balsamic...the good sitting there waiting for my next salad.

What high-quality ingredients do you insist on? Let us know in the Comments below.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: Ways You Can Make a Difference.

You realize that you truly ARE thinking more about the environment when you bring a banana peel home from work. Yes, I've done that. Often.

It only takes a little bit, folks. If all of us did just a few more things a week to save energy et al, we'd find ourselves in a much better place collectively.

Here are some ideas you might try. Come on...join the cool kids.

  • Sure you turn off the lights when you leave the house, but do you unplug your cell phone and computer chargers? If you don't, they keep consuming energy even though nothing is plugged into them.
  • Bring your own coffee cup to work. Don't use those plastic things by the pot. And if you're a water drinker, do what I do. Bring your thermal mug from home and refill it throughout the day. No bottles for me....
  • Turn you computer off when you leave the office. It won't take that long to power up the next day...the e-mails can wait a minute.
  • Bring your lunch from home in a reusable container. Not only do you save gas since you don't have to drive anywhere, you also save all the to-go packaging you'd drag back to the office.
  • Best tip of all...your carbon footprint is smaller when you turn everything off and go to sleep. Nighty nite.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asparagus Pesto

It's almost the summer squash quandary. What to do with too much? Only this time of year it's asparagus. And not stuff you've grown, but the incredibly inexpensive stalks you've bought at your local market.

I bought a couple of big bunches for Easter dinner...and then promptly forgot to cook them. So, faced with an overabundance of the stuff, I pulled this recipe out of that hat. (Or, to be more precise, Southern Living.)

I whipped up a batch and promptly put it to use in a homemade pizza with refrigerated crust, mozzarella cheese and slow-roasted tomatoes. Perfection.

But you could also spread it on (or stuff it in) chicken breasts. On toasted baguettes slices. Stirred into pasta. Even whisked into a vinaigrette. Whatever...just make it.

Asparagus Pesto
From Southern Living.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt

Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cook asparagus in boiling water to cover 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

Plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Coarsely chop asparagus.

Process asparagus, cheese, and remaining ingredients in a food processor 30 seconds to 1 minute or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Salmon with Hoisin, Orange and Bok Choy

Here's another simple, but flavorful, salmon recipe. Make a couple of extra packets and take the leftovers to work for lunch...

Salmon with Hoisin, Orange and Bok Choy
From Bon Appetit.
Makes 2 servings.

2 heads of baby bok choy, each cut lengthwise into 6 wedges
2 5-to 6-ounce salmon fillets
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
3/4 teaspoon cracked coriander seeds
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Form bed of bok choy in center of each of two 12-inch square pieces of foil. Top bok choy with fish.

Mix orange juice, green onion, hoisin, ginger, and orange peel in small bowl. Spoon mixture over fish, dividing equally. Sprinkle with salt and coriander. Top with cilantro.

Fold up foil sides and pinch tightly to seal above fish and at both ends of packets, enclosing contents completely. Place packets on baking sheet. Bake until fish is just opaque in center, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer packets to plates and serve.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Braised Chile Garlic Chicken

I have a new favorite "theme and variations." Braised dark meat chicken.

This particular cut of poultry is rather affordable. And its slightly higher fat content means it sucks up the flavor and remains succulently moist.

This recipe is a hybrid barbecue/Asian sauce. I'm trying to figure out how to adapt it for short ribs...

Braised Chile Garlic Chicken
From Everyday Food.
Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 chicken legs (2 1/2 pounds total), drumsticks and thighs separated
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup sugar

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in vinegar, soy sauce, red-pepper flakes, and sugar. Return chicken to pan, skin side up. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low; cook 15 minutes (liquid should be gently simmering; adjust heat if necessary). Uncover, raise heat to medium, and cook until sauce is reduced by half, 10 minutes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pistachio Vinaigrette

This recipe was on a page of asparagus recipes in a recent issue of Southern Living. And it's indeed delicious drizzled over the green stalks that are so wonderful at this time of year. But it's just as good on a green salad. Especially when you throw some pistachios on top instead of croutons.

Pistachio Vinaigrette
From Southern Living.
Makes 1 cup.

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pistachios

Process lemon juice, chopped shallot, chopped fresh tarragon, red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With blender running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, processing until smooth. Turn off blender; add pistachios, and pulse until pistachios are finely chopped.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare

I love ceviche and tartare (yes, even beef). Interesting bracing (but well-balanced) flavors do it for me everytime.

This recipe is not a true tartare since the salmon is smoked and therefore cooked. It has a great pedigree though (Dean Fearing, don't you know?) and was delicious with good-quality torCheck Spellingtilla chips at this year's Oscars Party.

Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes 12 servings.

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons roasted garlic paste (see Note)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
One 1/2-pound piece of skinless smoked salmon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro, plus 4 dozen cilantro leaves, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 dozen sturdy corn tortilla chips

In a medium bowl, using the back of a fork, mash the anchovies with the roasted garlic paste, cumin and extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in the sour cream and lime juice. Fold in the smoked salmon, jalapeño, red onion, capers and chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tortilla chips on a platter. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the smoked salmon tartare onto each chip, top with a cilantro leaf and serve.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Zucchini with Lemon and Thyme

OK...a usual late-afternoon snack for me is a big hunk of cheese. With some flatbread.

And a martini.

So I was quite proud of my healthy self the other Saturday when I whipped this nutritous snack up to combat the before-dinner munchies. It's in the Rolodex now....both as a potential dinner side item and a light lunch.

Zucchini with Lemon and Thyme
From Everyday Food.
Makes 4 servings.

Cut 1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium) into large pieces. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-heat. Add half the zucchini and toss to coat in oil. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper and cook until golden brown in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer zucchini to a serving bowl. Repeat with 2 more teaspoons oil and remaining zucchini. Stir batches together and add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies

What to do, what to do? I had an almost full bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Chips leftover from the yummy candies I made around Valentine's Day. Consulting the back of the bag, I hit upon this decadent recipe. The office loved me.

Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies
Makes about 3 dozen.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips
1/2 cup chocolate syrup

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl. Add sugar and brown sugar; beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; mix into peanut butter mixture, blending well. Stir in peanut butter chips. Spread half of batter into prepared pan; spoon syrup over top. Carefully top with remaining batter; swirl with metal spatula or knife for marbled effect.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Storing Celery and Green Onions

OK. I share great recipes with you. Encourage you to keep a pantry and fridge full of healthy ingredients. And I strive to do the same.

But I have, for years, failed at my own game. Let me explain.

Celery is a regular item in my shopping cart. And it goes in the refrigerator to standby for salads, stir-fries, or an easy snack. Alas, all too often, it emerges only days later a limp and unrecognizable mess.

Same for green onions. The other half loves them, but they commonly meet the same headed-to-the-compost-bin fate.

But those days are over. (Does this sound like an infomercial yet? Don't worry-I'm not prepping to sell you my new storage bags or anything.)

Aluminum foil. Yes, I said aluminum foil. It's as simple as that.

Wrap celery and/or green onions in a piece of foil and they stay crisp and at-the-ready for a week or more.

A simple idea that makes life easier. I. Love. It.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash

Growing up, my dinner plate was always a tripartite affair: meat, starch and veggie. That's a hard habit for me to break when I'm planning a meal. As I've gotten older, the ubiquitous starch has become an obstacle to keeping the pounds off.

So a "substitute" like this is a welcome addition to my recipe arsenal. Texturally, it's like a baked potato. And, flavor-wise, it's a knock-out. Think about it the next time you want to dress up roast or grilled chicken or pork. Or maybe even a Southwestern spice-rubbed steak.

Chili-Roasted Acorn Squash
From Everyday Food.
Makes 4 servings. (This is an easy one to divide or multiply as needed.)

2 acorn squash (1 1/2 pounds each), halved lengthwise, seeds removed (Leave the skin on; it's delicious once it's cooked.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut each squash half into several wedges, then halve wedges crosswise.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with oil and chili powder; season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Roast until tender and starting to brown, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fried Onion Strings

While not healthy (at all), these crunchy goodies are the perfect topping for a green bean casserole (Hello, Thanksgiving!), a juicy hamburger, or just as a guilty snack.

Fried Onion Strings
Makes 8 servings.

1 red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 cup buttermilk (preferably, although milk can be substituted)
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and garlic pepper
1 cup vegetable oil

Separate the onion into rings and place in a shallow bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the onion rings and let soak for 30 minutes or so. Place the seasoned flour in a Ziploc or paper bag.

Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron), heat the oil to 375° over medium heat.

Drain the milk-soaked onion rings on paper towels and dip them into the seasoned flour. Shake gently. Remove the onions from the flour and shake off the excess. Slide the rings into the hot oil.

Being careful not to crowd the onions, cook the onions in batches, frying them until golden brown.

Remove them when done and place on fresh towels to drain.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Asian Shrimp, Pineapple, and Peanut Salad

I love recipes like this one. It takes simple ingredients and combines them in a way that results in a tornado of taste and texture. It hits all the bases: Sweet. Tangy. Crunchy. Funky. With a nice afterburn of spice.

(The "funky" I mention is the depth that fish sauce brings to this dish. Don't be afraid of it, but for your own sake, don't take a direct whiff from the bottle. You'll never think of using it again. And it's used never want to actually "taste" it.)

Asian Shrimp, Pineapple, and Peanut Salad
From Bon Appetit magazine.
Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large)
1 small jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons (packed) fresh mint leaves

Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Stir in shallots, chile, and mint.

16 peeled deveined cooked large shrimp with tails intact
6 ounces fresh pineapple, peeled, cut into 2x1/4-inch spears (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons salted peanuts
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges (for garnish)

Toss shrimp with salt and pepper in bowl. Add pineapple, avocado, and dressing; toss to coat. Divide among plates, top with nuts, and garnish with lime wedges.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle: Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I'm more and more of a recessionista chef these days. Keeping track of leftovers and taking them for lunch. Or recycling them into something for dinner. That was my self-set challenge not too long ago after a small party we had.

In trying to figure out what to fix for dinner, I pondered the things in the fridge from a couple of nights before. Green salsa. Slices of cheese from the cheese tray. And some artichoke spread/dip.


I defrosted a couple of skinless boneless chicken breasts from the freezer (always keep those on hand), and pounded them out between plastic wrap until they were uniformly thin.

On one, I slathered a bit of the salsa and laid a couple of slices of Monterrey Jack cheese over. Rolled it up and secured with toothpicks.

On the other, artichoke spread and a couple of crumbles of cooked bacon. After it was rolled up and secured like its companion, it was ready for coating.

Dipped both in a little beaten egg and then coated. SalsaCheese in crushed tortilla chips and a bit of cumin mixed in. ArtichokeBacon in breadcrumbs (always keep these in the freezer also) spiked with a pinch of dried thyme.

Both went into a 400° oven for about 25 minutes.

They were both dee-lish. And you can certainly come up with your own favorite combinations. Sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. Pesto and prosciutto. Swiss and ham. (Oh, wait, somebody's already done that one.)

Anyway, have fun with it. Get creative with what you have on hand and make yourself a recycled dinner.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Roasted Orange-Ginger Asparagus

Asparagus is so plentiful in the spring that it is a constant sale item at your grocery store. As a result, it goes in my grocery basket almost weekly. And while I'm a fan of steamed asparagus, if I'm going to have it a couple of times a week, it needs a little something...more.

Now that might be as simple as throwing it on the grill, as I did last night. (Nuked it for a minute and a half first to get the cooking process started, then doused it in balsamic, olive oil and garlic pepper. Grilled it over high heat to get some nice flavor and then dug in.)

Or it could be a great recipe like this one...

Roasted Orange-Ginger Asparagus
From Southern Living.
Serves 6-8.

2 pounds fresh asparagus
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus; place asparagus on a lightly greased baking sheet. Whisk together orange juice, olive oil, and next 4 ingredients; drizzle mixture over asparagus, tossing to coat.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or to desired degree of tenderness, turning once after 8 minutes. Garnish, if desired.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Pimiento Cheese and Bacon Crostini

I will confess that I am not a fan of the Food Network's Neelys. Too much BBQ and flirting in that kitchen for my taste, but these little nibbles are delicious.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Crostini
Makes 3 cups of pimiento cheese or 40 crostini

2 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp orange cheddar cheese
One 7-ounce jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
40 slices baguette, toasted
4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

In a mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the white and orange cheddar cheeses. Add the chopped pimentos, mayonnaise, black pepper and garlic powder; blend at low speed. Season the pimento cheese with cayenne pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400° Spread the pimento cheese on the toasts, top with the bacon and bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 2 minutes. Serve.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Beets: A Literary Tribute

And now for a literary aside...

I recently ran across this quote from Tom Robbins' book Jitterbug Perfume about the humble beet. Makes me want to fix this for dinner.

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. Slavic People get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. . ."

Sigh. If only I could find language like that to use in this blog. Bravo, Mr. Robbins.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Quick Sausage Appetizers

These simple little appetizers will never take the place of these little darlings...the apple of my other half's stomach. But even he had to grudgingly admit they were quite yummy.

Quick Sausage Appetizers
Makes 40 appetizer squares.

1/2 pound roll sausage (preferably Italian seasoning)
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
10 slices white bread

Preheat broiler.

Crumble and cook sausage in medium skillet until browned. Drain on paper towels. Transfer sausage to small bowl; stir in cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, green onion and Worcestershire sauce.

Cut crusts from bread. Cut each slice into 4 squares; spread about 1 teaspoon sausage mixture onto each square. Arrange squares on ungreased baking sheet; place under hot broiler just until cheese melts and topping bubbles. (Be careful not to burn corners and edges.) Serve hot.

Make Ahead Tip: You can make the appetizers ahead and refrigerate overnight or freeze up to 1 month before broiling.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Recycling Odds and Ends

Hopefully, you're recycling your paper, aluminum, plastic and mixed metal. And you have a compost bin. And you even take the time to drop your accumulated plastic bags off at a nearby grocery for recycling. (If not, get with the program...can't really enjoy a beautiful life if we pollute the planet beyond recognition, can we?)

But what about that other stuff? The faucet you just replaced in the bathroom sink. Those wine corks..of which you end up with far more than you want to admit.

Well, The Dallas Morning News had a great article several weeks ago on just what to do with this detritus. Here's a summary of websites you should visit and what they do with what you send them.

Home salvage connects you with salvage firms or restoration projects.

Eyeglasses gives used eyeglasses to people locally and around the world. (You can also take them to a nearby Pearle Vision Center or Lenscrafters.

Trophies reuses trophies and sends them to causes like the Speical Olympics.

Visit for information on its recycling programs.

Bridesmaid dresses
Donate your formal dresses to They'll pass them along to local girls who can't afford to buy dresses for their prom.

Do you know of other unusual recycling programs? If so, post them in the Comments section below.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

This one is simple to whip up and hits all the right notes: sweet, spicy, salty and sour. It's great accompanied by nothing but some simple steamed spinach. And chilled, the leftovers would be a great topper for a spinach salad. Maybe a few almonds and scallions on top? Delicious.

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
From Cooking Light.
Makes 4 servings.

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place fish on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler.

Brush sugar mixture evenly over salmon; broil 3 inches from heat 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Jalapeno Twice-Baked Potatoes

Why hadn't I thought of this before? My other half is the twice-baked potato chef in our house. He is a master at blending baked potato, sour cream, cheese, butter and bacon then stuffing it back into the potato shell for a final heating. Even he admits, though, the addition of a bit of diced jalapeno pepper (especially if you take the time to roast them) is a fabulous idea.

The recipe posted below (from Texas chef extraordinaire Jon Bonnell) takes things one step further. The potatoes du jour are new potatoes, making the final result perfect party finger food.

Jalapeno Twice-Baked Potatoes
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

3 pounds small new potatoes
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, plus very thin slices for garnish
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
3 strips bacon, cooked
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, chopped (green parts only)

Boil the potatoes until they become slightly soft. (The amount of time will completely depend on what type of potatoes you decide to buy. I like the baby reds for this dish, which generally can be boiled in approximately 15 minutes.)

Remove the potatoes from the boiling water and chill. Cut into halves and scoop out as much of the inner potato as possible, while still leaving enough of the skin to stay together.

In a small saucepan, warm the butter, sour cream salt and pepper, then pour the contents over the potato. Roast the jalapenos until black on all sides, then place in a Ziploc bag and allow to sweat for 10 minutes. Scrape off the black skins with the back edge of a knife blade and remove the seeds and stem. Chop the roasted jalapenos and combine with the potatoes, and add the scallions. Mix well, then stuff the mixture back into the potato skins.

Top each one with grated cheese, pieces of the bacon and bake in the oven at 325° degrees until warmed through (8-10 minutes). For an extra garnish, top with thinly shaved slices of fresh jalapeno. (The amount of jalapeno can be altered, depending on the tolerance of your crowd.)