Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peach Jalapeño Jelly

I'll post my recipe for "regular" peach jam soon. (And by "regular" I mean peach pie in a jar....laced with nutmeg and aged rum.) In the meantime, here's a yummy recipe for peach jam with a spicy twist. It would make a great spread for a smoked turkey sandwich. And, of course, spread over cream cheese and served with crackers. (That's why I put this in 4 ounce jars...the perfect size for a bar of cream cheese.)

Peach Jalapeño Jelly
Makes 6 half pints or 12-4 ounce jars.

3 pounds fresh peaches
1-2 fresh jalapeños, stems removed (Use one or two, with as many or as few seeds as you'd like to control the spice level.)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 package regular dry pectin

Peel and de-pit peaches. Place peaches and jalapeños in food processor to puree. Add vinegar and lemon juice. Bring peach mixture to a boil. Be careful, it will splatter. Add the pectin and bring to a boil for one minute. Add the 3 cups of sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pancetta-Wrapped Peaches with Basil

We've all had melon and prosciutto. And hopefully you know the old trick of stuffing a date with blue cheese and an almond before you wrap it in bacon and bake for a deliciously retro appetizer. Well, in that vein of all fruits are better wrapped in pork fat, I give you this yummy recipe. Perfect for those farmers market peaches that I have become addicted to....

Pancetta-Wrapped Peaches with Basil
Makes 4 first-course servings
From Food & Wine.

16 thin slices of pancetta
2 medium peaches—, peeled, halved, pitted and cut into 8 wedges each
Salt and freshly ground pepper
16 basil leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Lay the pancetta slices out on a work surface. Set a peach wedge at the edge of each slice, season with salt and pepper and top with a basil leaf. Roll up the pancetta to enclose the peaches. (Note: You might want to use a toothpick to hold the bundles together.)

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add half of the wrapped peaches and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining peaches. (Make sure and remove the toothpicks if you used them.)

Lightly drizzle the peaches with aged balsamic vinegar and serve.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Asian Rice-Stick Noodle Salad

Here's a follow-up to the Asian noodles and tuna dish I posted a little bit ago. The other half was scared of this more adventurous dressing that uses fish sauce. (An ingredient that I like using...but God knows you don't want to take a sniff of the bottle. You'll swear off of it forever.)

Asian Rice-Stick Noodle Salad
Makes 4 servings.

1/2 pound rice-stick noodles (Substitute angel hair pasta if you'd like.)

Soak noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes to soften. While the noodles are soaking, bring 3 1/2 quarts salted water to a boil. Drain noodles in a colander and cook in boiling water 45 seconds or until just tender. Drain noodles and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles well.

For dressing:
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Stir together all dressing ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Chill dressing, covered, for at least one hour.

Cucumber, julienned
Green onions, thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves
Cooked chicken or shrimp if you'd like....
Toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts to garnish.

Toss noodles in dressing and divide among four bowls. Sprinkle with any or all of the ingredients suggested above and enjoy. Using chopsticks, but of course.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Cherry Pie

Yes, peaches and pickles are a theme in my kitchen this summer. (Hmmmm....pickled peaches. Now THERE's a thought.) Anyway...cherries have been as well. In delicious preserves spiked with Amaretto. And then soaked in simple syrup and various liquors to use as cocktail garnish and dessert toppings. I'm still hoping to get to the tea bread recipe and ice cream recipes I've been eyeing as well.

In the meantime, here's a delicious cherry pie recipe (slightly adapted) courtesy America's test Kitchen. Yum.

Sweet Cherry Pie

Crust for double-crust pie (As I confessed yesterday, I use Pillsbury refrigerated crusts with no regrets.)
2 red plums, halved and pitted
6 cups (about 2 pounds) pitted sweet sherries or 6 cups frozen cherries, halved
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Amaretto (or bourbon), optional
2 tablespoons instant tapioca
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Process plums and 1 cup halved cherries in food processor until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Strain puree through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids. Stir remaining halved cherries, sugar, salt, lemon juice, Amaretto or bourbon (if using), tapioca, and cinnamon into puree; let stand for 15 minutes.

Transfer cherry mixture, including all juices, to dough-lined plate. Scatter butter pieces over fruit. Roll second disk of dough on generously floured work surface (up to ¼ cup) to 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least ½-inch overhang. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges with egg mixture. With sharp knife, make 8 evenly spaced 1-inch-long vents in top crust. Freeze pie 20 minutes.

Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble around the edges and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Shield crust with foil as needed to prevent overbrowning.

Transfer pie to wire rack; let cool to room temperature so juices have time to thicken, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peachy Keen Brown Sugar Peach Pie

Peachy keen. It's a retro phrase that I am doing all I can to bring back. When asked how I am doing, I am likely to reply with a perky "peachy keen." Call it a catchphrase of sorts.

And it certainly applies to this summer. The peaches I have been buying weekly at the farmers market from Lemley's Farm are stunning. Sweet with just the right firmness, they are easy to peel and the pits come out cleanly. They are the definition of summer ripeness.

And I've been fixing them a million ways. Preserves...both with jalapeño peppers and without. Pureeing them into iced tea. And soon I'll post a recipe where they are wrapped bacon.

But first a pie. Sorry....THE pie.

Brown Sugar Peach Pie

Pie crust for a double-crust pie (Make your favorite...or cheat as I do and use the perfectly respectable Pillsbury crusts you can buy at your grocery store.)
8 large ripe peaches (about 4 pounds)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon
1 teaspoon almond extract (or Amaretto liqueur)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425º.

Peel peaches, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; cut slices in half. Stir together brown sugar and next 6 ingredients in a bowl. Add peaches and stir to coat. Immediately spoon peach mixture into piecrust in pie plate, and dot with 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter.

Carefully place remaining piecrust over filling; press edges of crusts together to seal. Cut off excess crust, and reserve. Crimp edges of pie. Brush top of pie with beaten egg; top with leaves. Brush leaves with egg; sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cut 4 to 5 slits in top of pie for steam to escape.

Freeze pie 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a jelly-roll pan in oven 10 minutes. Place pie on hot jelly-roll pan.

Bake at 425° on lower oven rack 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°; bake 40 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, and bake 25 more minutes or until juices are thick and bubbly (juices will bubble through top). Transfer to a wire rack; cool 2 hours before serving.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Love Julia Child.

She always said the right thing...

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces--just good food from fresh ingredients."

Amen, Julia. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sesame Broccoli

Here's a simple way to jazz up steamed broccoli.

In a mini food processor, pulse a 1-inch piece of peeled ginger, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons each water and sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, and a pinch each of sugar and salt. Drizzle it over steamed broccoli and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds over the top.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mini Chores...Quick Successes

Sometimes we don't have the time or energy to deal with the big things on our chore list. Like cleaning out the fridge. Or reorganizing the file drawer. Or getting rid of things in that little-used closet.

But if you have five minutes, you can still accomplish something. These mini chores are perfect when you just have a little time. Resolve to do three or four of them a week and you'll start to peck away at the big things.
  • Move random files on your computer desktop to the right folders.
  • Water a plant or two and wipe dusty leaves with a damp paper towel.
  • Pick up five things and put them where they belong.
  • Wash your pet's water bowl.
  • Clear off (and clean) the top of the refrigerator.
  • You know that coffee mug filled with pens and markers by the phone? Yest each one and throw out the ones that are dried up.
  • Get rid of three old items in your freezer.
  • Audit your medicine cabinet. Dispose of expired prescriptions, sunscreens and OTC medicines.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Rules of Summer Eating...

We are in the hellish throes of summer here in Texas. But I refuse to let it get me down. This is a great time of year for eating...fresh ingredients prepared simply. It's really the quintessential example of the Life Should Be Beautiful philosophy. Inspired by a recent article in Bon Appetit, here are the rules of summertime eating that we'll be following from now until mid-September.
  • Be lazy. Summertime ingredients don't need much manipulation to be delicious. A ripe tomato slice needs just a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to be sublime.
    And don't cook that corn. Cut it off the cob and toss with cherry tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with a little queso fresco. And dig in. Sounds like dinner to me.
  • If you planted it and harvested it, it's going to taste better than if you'd bought it. Maybe it's a tomato, a pepper or some herbs. And if YOU didn't grow it, go buy it at a farmers market and get to know the farmer/family who did.
  • Here are some classic summer combinations to celebrate: melon with a little salt (or prosciutto or feta...), ginger in lemonade, minced jalapeno and the juice of a lime on coleslaw or roasted corn.
  • And when in doubt, eat a tomato sandwich. Toasted bread, a dollop of mayo, a few slices of tomato, salt and pepper. Open-faced. Now THAT'S summer.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Peanutty Asian Noodle Salad

The other night we decided we wanted a simple dinner...and one that kept cooking to a minimum. We've had over a month of 100 degree days here in Dallas, and lighting a burner on the stove makes the house a bit too toasty for our liking.

So I seared a piece of tuna and put it in the fridge to chill. Soaked some rice stick noodles in some hot water. Tossed them together with scallions and cucumber and this yummy dressing. Laid the tuna on top and we were off to the races.

Asian Peanut-Ginger Dressing
Makes about 2/3 cup dressing.

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water

Whisk all ingredients together until peanut butter is completely incorporated.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

You Need This...The Best Cherry Pitter Ever.

If you're like me, you've been buying bags of cherries. They're plentiful and cheap in grocery stores here in Texas right now. I've eaten them out of hand, made the best cherry pie ever, jars and jars of delicious cherry-Amaretto jam, and macerated them in jars with sugar and booze as dessert topping and cocktail garnish. (Don't worry...recipes are on their way.)

But the first night, armed with recipes, I discovered that a paring knife is not the best implement for pitting cherries. Happenstance, I had just seen a comparison of pitters on TV, so, armed with that, I headed to Bed Bath and Beyond. Brought the Progressive Cherry-It Pitter home and the angels sang.

It loads four cherries at a time and pops those pits out with a guillotine-type movement. It made short order of the cherries I needed to prep.

Go get one tomorrow...and then get ready to make some of the recipes you'll see me post over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Spicy Ginger Spritzer

I've decided to eliminate some calories by declaring several nights a week cocktail-free. But I still need something yummy to drink when I get home from work. Sure, something like Pom and soda works, but I ran a cross a series of fizzy recipes in a recent issue of Bon Appetit.

This one is like a spicy ginger ale. You can mix the syrup up and store for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Then, mix up a soda at your leisure.

(And, yes, I'm betting they'd be good with vodka too.)

Spicy Ginger Spritzer

1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (3 inch) pieces fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups water
Lime juice
Soda water

Combine the sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, ginger and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes.

Strain ginger syrup into a jar and chill.

Fill a collins glass with ice cubes. Add 2 tablespoons ginger syrup and a splash of lime juice. Top with soda water and stir to combine.

Monday, August 01, 2011

What's Your Eco Cred?

I ran across the website Practicallygreen.com in a magazine the other day. Went over and took their little quiz and scored a quite respectable 6 out of 10. Also learned a few other things I might try to be more environmentally responsible. For example, I could have earned 50 more points if we had an on-demand water heater or had a no-shoes policy here at home. Do you compost? Bike to work? Those are big-point items.

Take the quiz yourself and let me know how you did in the comments below.