Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Inadvertently Festive

In the weeks immediately preceding Christmas it is entirely possible that I consumed nothing of nutritional value. I did eat lots of cookies. And things containing vast quantities of butter. As enjoyable as that is, I always find myself desperately craving vegetables and fruits when I've had too much junk. Back in the day, I used to joke that I was coming down with scurvy and immediately run out and buy a Fresh Samantha to drink. I would lovingly refer to this as scurvy juice.


Sadly, Fresh Samantha is long gone, bought out as most good small companies are, so now I'm left to fend off scurvy on my own. So I ended up craving broccoli soup. Without cream. Broccoli has scads of scurvy-fighting Vitamin C. I found a recipe that is absolutely delicious, easy, and looks marvelously seasonal on my new Christmas tablecloth. The tablecloth, by the way, was hand-embroidered by my great-aunt. Pretty cool, no?


BROCCOLI SOUP (NOT CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP)
From Rosalynn Carter

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 T vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 pound green broccoli, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
2.5 C vegetable stock
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper
dollop of plain yogurt (optional)

Directions:
In a soup pot, add the oil, onion and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes until the onion and garlic are soft. Then add the bay, the potato, broccoli and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the broccoli is bright green and tender. Remove the bay leaf and let cool a bit. Puree using a blender or immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and reheat a bit if necessary. If you want, serve each bowl with a small dollop of plain yogurt.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Cookies Episode 2: Ginger Crinkles


I know, I know, you have certainly finished all your Christmas baking because you are on top of things. I on the other hand, have barely begun. In fact, the only cookies I have managed are these ginger crinkles. My mother and I had a serious discussion this year about cutting back after last year's Christmas overload. We agreed that for with only four people, we needed less of everything. Fewer appetizers on Christmas eve, fewer presents and fewer Christmas cookies. And so we began negotiating. I declared that gingerbread was essential. My mother felt my father might have a fit if we skipped our bird's nest cookies. Neither of us could fathom a year without bourbon balls. And so the cookie we agreed we could eliminate was the poor, unsuspecting ginger crinkle. Which is too bad really, because it's my grandmother's recipe, and I've always rather liked them. Then, I found out that my mother had decided we could decorate the Christmas tree just fine with no cookies. Clearly she doesn't understand motivation very well. So I whipped up a batch of the ginger crinkles, and good cheer was reestablished. They took almost no time at all, so if you're short on time or patience this year, give them a try. They are sweet, molassesy and somewhere between crisp and chewy.

NANA'S GINGER CRINKLES

Ingredients:
2/3 C vegetable or canola oil
1 C sugar
1 egg
4 T molasses
2 C sifted flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger

1/4 C sugar for dipping

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the oil and sugar thoroughly. Then add the egg beat well. Add the molasses and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring as you go to form a dough. Get a small bowl and fill it with the 1/4 C of sugar for dipping. Form cookies by making small ball of dough in your hand, then dropping it in the sugar and rolling it until coated. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Leave plenty of room between cookies because they spread flat while cooking. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Procrastination

I have a bad habit of putting things off. And then the more I put them off, the more I dread dealing with them. Case in point. A while ago I asked my husband to buy me some plain yogurt, so that I could have it for breakfast. He is not a procrastinator, so he went out and got some that very day. Then it sat in my fridge. Every time I made breakfast, I'd look at it and think "ooh, I should really use that yogurt." But I didn't do anything about it. So with the sell by date fast approaching, I went into full panic mode. I baked two cakes using yogurt as an ingredient. One was a chocolate cake, and the other was a delicious apple cake. I really meant to write up that apple cake recipe for you. I did. I swear. But I hadn't taken a picture of it, so I kept putting it off. The thing about procrastination is, if you wait long enough, decisions are made for you. In this case, we ate the whole cake, so there is no picture to take. But I will try to make it up to you, with a recipe.

APPLE CAKE
from epicurious
INGREDIENTS:
2 T butter
2 large baking apples (such as Macoun, Jonamac, Granny Smith, or the ultimate baking apple Northern Spy)
1 1/2 T apple juice or apple cider
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 C + 1 T sugar
2/3 C plain yogurt
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 C vegetable oil
3 eggs

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Peel, core and roughly dice the apples. Melt the butter in a saute pan, then add the apples and cook on medium for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Add the juice, 1 T sugar and cinnamon. Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and yogurt, whisking until very smooth. Then add the eggs and oil, again, mixing well. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking soda, and then add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until well blended. Finally, stir in the apple mixture. Put in a well-greased 8" round pan and cook for 45-50 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie


When I was a little girl, one of my absolute winter favorites was chicken pot pie. That's why it came as somewhat as a shock to me that I had no recipe for it in the cookbook my mother put together for me. It's been over ten years since I've lived at my parents' house and at least five years since I really mastered cooking, and I have never made a chicken pot pie. I don't know if it was fear of being unable to recreate it the way my mom made it, or my lazy nature, as chicken pot pie is rather work intensive. Either way, I never should have let this get to this point, because chicken pot pie is really damn good.

CHICKEN POT PIE
makes 2 pies in 1.4 L dishes

Ingredients:
1 recipe pie crust
3 chicken breasts
~ 1 cup cream (1/2 cup for poaching, 1/2 cup for adding liquid)
1/4 C white wine
4 carrots, peeled and coined
1/2 package Birdseye frozen peas (this is about 5 oz)
1/2 mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
1/2 large onion chopped
1 T flour
1 T olive oil
2 t tarragon
salt and pepper
1 egg or 1/4 c egg beaters for egg wash on crust

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Trim and rinse chicken, pat dry. Place in a ovenproof dish in a single layer and season breasts with salt and pepper. Then pour over the first 1/2 c of cream, add slightly more if needed. Poach in your oven for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes the chicken should be cooked, let it cool and then cut into bite sized pieces. Reserve the poaching liquids. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add your coined carrots. Let them cook for 2 minutes and then drain and set aside. In a large pan, sautee the onion in the olive oil. Add the tablespoon of flour. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the flour to cook. Then add the poaching liquid, stir well so that the flour mixture does not clump. Add the 1/4 C of white wine (or vermouth). Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cut up chicken, peas, carrots, mushroom. Add the tarragon. Give it a quick taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir mixture together. If it seems really dry, you can add the other 1/2 c cream. Remember the mixture will release more liquid in the oven, so it will become juicer as it cooks, you don't want it overly soupy. Split the pot pie mixture between two ovenproof dishes. Roll out your two pie crusts. They will be thicker than a normal pie crust. Mold them down over the top of your dishes as shown above. Slash three vents in the top and use a basting brush to apply the egg beaters or well stirred egg as a wash to get the nice brown crust. Bake for 25 minutes at 425.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hold the Mayo

My husband's fear of mayonnaise has been documented elsewhere on this blog, but for those who missed that post, let's recap. Ryan hates mayonnaise. In any form. Don't try to trick him by offering him any aioli, oh no. He'll eye it suspiciously, and if truly pressed, he'll taste it with all the suspicion of a picky toddler and finally state with conviction, "that's definitely some kind of mayonnaise." I am honestly shocked he can even place an order at a deli counter when he's faced with all those tubs of coleslaw and macaroni salad, foods rendered inedible by their thick pools of whitish goop.

I strongly believe that the BLT is one of life's great pleasures. But if you're anything like me, you figure that a BLT is really a BLTM. Mayonnaise is what makes the whole sandwich work! The nice creamy goodness pulls it all together.

Fortunately, I have a trick up my sleeve that will prevent this delicious sandwich from being banned from our house. Avocado. Sweet, ripe avocado. I hate to admit it, but it's really much better than mayonnaise.




BACON, LETTUCE, TOMATO AND AVOCADO SANDWICH
makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 avocado
4 slices good bread - I like french country
8 slices bacon (or turkey bacon)

1 ripe tomato
2 leaves of lettuce

Directions:
Put the bacon on to cook in a large pan. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. Bacon only takes a few minutes on each side, but how long exactly depends on whether you are a crispy or chewy person. We like ours pretty crispy. Stick your bread in the toaster. While you're waiting for it to toast up, you can take your cooked bacon out of the pan and put it on a paper towel covered plate. Blot the top of the bacon too to soak up some of that grease. Wash and dry your lettuce and tear into nice sandwich size pieces. Slice up the tomato. Halve the avocado, scoop out the insides and mash up with a pinch of salt. When the toasts pop up, spre
ad half the avocado on one slice of bread and then place the tomatoes on top. On the other side of the bread, put down one of the leaves of lettuce and four strips of bacon. Then place the bacon and lettuce side on top of the tomato and avocado side. Repeat to make another sandwich.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Long Distance Hug

Sometimes, everything is just completely and thoroughly, exasperatingly crappy and overwhelming. Right now is one of those times. And if I still lived in Boston, I would call my dearest friend and she would make it all better. She would give me a hug, and let me cry and then she'd bake me brownies. The crappy things would all still be crappy, but I'd feel less alone and more able to cope.

There are 300 miles between us, so I'll have make do. I'm starting with the brownies. It's the closest I can get to a hug, long distance.


J'S BROWNIES

Ingredients:
2 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 stick of butter plus a few spoonfuls to coat the pan
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
pinch of salt
spoon of vanilla

Directions:
Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl resting on top of a saucepan with boiling water in it, like this:

After it's all melted, take off the heat and let it cool for about five minutes. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each egg. Add the vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Mix well, scraping sides.

Preheat your oven to 375. Turn a 8x8 brownie pan upside-down and mold a sheet of tin foil to it. Take off the foil and flip the the pan. The molded foil should fit nicely inside the pan. Melt the extra butter and coat the foil in the pan. Pour the batter in and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending how done you want them. Try not to over bake, as they will become dry and icky.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Americana


Lately, the United States haven't seemed very United. In fifteen days, we will have an election, where we will either elect the first black president or the first woman vice president. And yet, instead all of the hope and joy that should come with having these historic candidates, there is hatred and fear.

For tonight, focus on easier times, simple pleasures. Think of America, the country of apple pie and baseball. Because tonight the Boston Red Sox will play the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Championship. And I will be eating apple turnovers to celebrate. If you don't have time to make them tonight, it's okay. The World Series starts Wednesday. Plenty of time to rekindle a warm and fuzzy feeling towards your country before you get out and vote.

APPLE TURNOVERS
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
makes 6 turnovers

Ingredients:
1 package frozen puff pastry (only one sheet of puff pastry needed)
1 T lemon juice
2 cooking apples - I used Jonagold and Stayman Winesap.
1.5 T sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
2 t flour
1 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1 egg (for egg wash)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow puff pastry to defrost according to package directions.
Prepare the apples. Peel, core and cut apples into a small dice. Mark Bittman who has considerably more free time than I do says to grate the apples, Ina favors a large dice. I split the difference. As you dice, toss the apples in a bowl where the lemon juice is already waiting. This will slow the process of the apples turning brown. Then add the sugar, flour and spices. When you've mixed it all well, check out the puff pastry. When it's thawed, cut into three pieces (if you buy Pepperidge Farm, it will likely be in three sections anyway). Then roll out each piece until it is about 3 or 4 inches wide, and cut in half to make squares. You should end up with 6 squares. Fill each square with between a 1/4 C and 1/3 C of the apple mixture. Fold each square into a triangle and use your finger, wet with water to seal by dampening the edge of the triangle before pressing the top layer of dough down. Then use a fork to crimp the edges. Mix the egg with a bit of water and then use a basting brush to apply the egg wash to the turnovers. The sprinkle each with sugar. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Dreams, Smashed

I have long loved pumpkin flavored baked goods and desserts. It's practically a holiday when Dunkin Donuts begins stocking their pumpkin muffins. I stopped eating my favorite dinner at our favorite restaurant once I learned they had pumpkin creme brulee for dessert. I made smitten kitchen's pumpkin bread pudding even though I don't like bread pudding because it was pumpkin and dessert.

Much to my dismay, I have been met with failure after failure when making pumpkin treats at home. I didn't love the pumpkin bread pudding, because of the whole not liking bread pudding bit. There were those "interesting" pumpkin pies I made last year. And now, I have failed at making pumpkin muffins. I found the recipe on a blog. It wasn't a food blog. That should have been a clue. I was taken in. Hoodwinked. I made the muffins. They contained whole wheat which made me somehow feel healthy and noble, like I was making the muffins as healthy snacks, and not treats to be scarfed down at every snack opportunity. But the muffins? Not so great. Everyone who has eaten one tells me they are good. And fresh out of the oven, they weren't so bad. But let me tell you, they don't improve. Day one, I was convinced that they were just another mediocre muffin. Day 2 I had a nightmare that my husband said they were gross and wanted to throw them all out. Day 3, I tried toasting it (for reasons to be explained later) and threw it out after 2 bites. I'm ready to toss the remaining 15. I'll wait to see if my husband eats anymore, but after that, they're going. Food waste is wrong, but so is having nightmares about having to keep eating something.

For your consideration, the problems with the muffins were as follows:
They were awfully whole wheat-y. It overwhelmed the taste of the pumpkin, the added spices and the extraordinary amount of brown sugar they used. They baked up small and sad. You could blame me for not filling my muffin tin enough, but I'll tell you, I only got two dozen and the recipe said it made three, so I will refuse culpability in that matter. The tops of them are mushy. Perhaps underbaked. I'm not sure how that happened. It was the second batch of muffins this happened to, and they baked as long as the first, in an oven that had been hot longer. All I can think is perhaps they are getting squishier upon storing, and I don't really want to think about that. Just ick.

I am very sorry to not be giving you another recipe, but honestly, if you knew, you'd thank me for not sharing it. I promise if I am every successful in my pumpkin quest, you'll be the first to know.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kitchen Things I Love: Desert Island Implement


Growing up, I had subscriptions to several teen magazines. They were always making lists of Desert Island Books or Desert Island Albums. They'd suggest which you should bring with you if you ever were on a desert island.

Oh yes, and there were quizzes where you'd choose your Desert Island Makeup, and learn some deep insight into your soul, based on your answer.

I have no idea what my desert island kitchen implement says about me, but you better believe if I could only take one thing with me, it would be my army fork.

My grandfather was in the U.S. Army and was stationed all over the U.S. as well as the U.K. and Japan. The original army fork was his, U.S. government issue, provided to him in his mess kit. My grandmother loved it. My mother loves it. I love it so much, that when I moved away from home, my uncle bought me my very own army fork, knife and spoon in order to preserve family relations.


You can use the army fork to mix salad dressing, scramble eggs, incorporate water into flour to create a dough. It has been the death of my whisk collection. I have more unused whisks than anyone wants to know about. I actually dragged some of them out of the corners of drawers and backs of cabinets just to show them to you. Need one? They're all practically in mint condition.


You can find your own army fork at an army-navy store. The set of 3 utensils is generally well under $10.

So what's your favorite kitchen tool, the one you can't live without, the one you would bring to a desert island with you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Honey Cakes




At the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, honey symbolizes the hope that the new year will be sweet. I think that there are a lot of us out there who need to believe that this new year will be a sweet one. And while you're waiting and hoping, maybe some honey cakes will help. These are delicate, light, and just the right kind of sweet without being cloying.

Honey Cakes
from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf

Ingredients:
2/3 C superfine sugar (you can make superfine sugar by putting regular sugar in a food processor and pulsing on high)
6 oz (a stick and a half) butter
3 T honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 t baking powder

Topping:
whipping cream (the recipe calls for double thick cream which I have yet to see in the US, you can make your own whipped cream using heavy cream, I didn't add sugar to mine, but you may want a tsp of sugar in yours)
honey

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325
Mix together the sugar, butter and honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to mix until creamy. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the eggs and sugar mixture. Mix well. Pour into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 15-20 min. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of chilled honey. DO NOT drizzle the honey until the last possible moment. As it warms it will squiggle down your cake. Still tasty, but not so pretty for company.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Little Things


I've been feeling overwhelmed, and when I'm overwhelmed, everything seems to suffer. My cooking, the cleanliness of my apartment, my patience with others, my ability to find a parking space.

Sometimes it's the little things that make everything okay. Having a freshly cleaned dog who smells like pina colada, having a husband who after 3 years of marriage now spontaneously makes the bed, having a homemade loaf of Portuguese sweet bread in the freezer, getting free dough when you have a mushroom pizza craving.

I was smiling before I even started cooking it, after all, who doesn't like free dough? I was even happier when it came out every bit as delicious as I'd hoped.

MUSHROOM PIZZA:
adapted from Rachael Ray's Mushroom Lovers' Pizza

INGREDIENTS:
1 8 oz package of white mushrooms cleaned and sliced
1 8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms cleaned and sliced
1/2 a small onion, sliced very thin
.5 to .75 lbs shredded gruyere cheese
dough (you can usually buy this from your local pizza place)
1/4 C dry white wine (you can sub vermouth)
1 bay leaf
1 T fresh thyme removed from stem and chopped
1 T Worcestershire sauce (this often contains anchovies, so would make the dish not vegetarian, you can omit it, or find a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, there are some on the market).
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
salt, pepper
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter
small amount of cornmeal for cooking the pizza.

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 450F.
In a medium pan, combine the onion and 1.5 T olive oil. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Check the heat carefully, you want to caramelize the onion, not make it crispy. It should slowly turn golden brown and the onion should taste sweet. Once that's started, in another medium pan, combine a T of olive oil, the butter, garlic, mushrooms and bay leaf. Cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits of stuck mushroom. Add salt and pepper, about 2 t salt should be good. Cook for another 5 minutes to cook off some of the liquid. Add the thyme.

Stretch or roll out your dough. On a large sheet pan, or pizza stone, sprinkle some cornmeal. Put the dough on the pan, and cook at 450 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350. Remove from oven for topping. Sprinkle gruyere over the whole pizza. Then add the mushrooms and onions. Cook for 5-10 more minutes until cheese is melty and toppings are warm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Back On-Air Soon


Shh...just watch the bars. The show will be on soon. (At least that's what my mother used to promise me.)

In the past few weeks the stars have not been smiling on my cooking fortunes. I have gotten home from work very late many a night; one or twice because I was actually working late, the other times due to unforeseen circumstances.

The unforeseen circumstances include:
1. A train fire which caused me to take a detour and subsequently spend 15-20 minutes lost in one of the country's top 10 most dangerous cities.
2. The closing of a major highway between my work and home due to a horrific tractor trailer accident
3. A night where I couldn't find my keys, finally found them in the ignition of my locked car, had my parents come with my spare key, discovered that the car wouldn't start, promptly went off to look for someone with jumper cables, carefully locking both the regular keys and the spare key in the car and having to call AAA.

None of these are very conducive to wanting to cook dinner. There has been much take-out. Any cooking has been done while whimpering softly.

I will return with food soon though, I promise. In fact, last night there was a pasta dish with eggplant, that I cooked and ate, which may come as a shock to those of you who know my feelings on eggplant.

I'm also planning a new once a month feature where I show you something from my kitchen that I love.

So stay tuned.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cantaloupe and Peach Soup

My first thought as I was pureeing the heck out of this was, wow, this is exactly what I would want to eat if my jaw were wired shut. Granted, I have never had my jaw wired shut, but I do know not one but two people who have suffered this fate. One had her jaw deliberately broken to treat recurring pain from TMJ and the other, a drunken hockey player, fell out of his bunk bed. If I recall correctly, neither could eat solid food for quite some time. This is so light and sweet and refreshing it would brighten up anyone's day (even those of us with fully functioning jaws). I can picture packing a thermos of it for a picnic of cheeses and baguettes, or serving it as a light appetizer before a summer dinner. We served up bowls of it with dollops of vanilla yogurt for dessert. The yogurt is so creamy and silky mixed in with the peach and cantaloupe.
CANTALOUPE AND PEACH SOUP
from Enchanted Broccoli Forest
Necessary equipment: food processor or blender, an immersion blender will not work (in my case this meant blending one cup at a time in my trusty mini-prep. I really thought I was going to burn out its little motor).

INGREDIENTS:
1 cantaloupe (about 5 inches diameter)
4-6 peaches, very ripe
6 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T honey
1 C freshly squeezed orange juice
dash of nutmeg
1/4 t cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Peel and slice all the peaches, removing the pits. Place them in a pot with the lemon juice, honey and spices. Bring it to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.Remove the rind and cut the cantaloupe into 1 inch pieces. Add the cantaloupe and orange juice to the peach mixture and then use your blender or food processor to puree the mixture until very smooth. Refrigerate until very cool and serve.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Farewell Summer


For most people, Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. For me, it has the added bonus of marking the end of relaxing, reading, cooking and traveling, and the start of work and drudgery. But it's not September 2nd yet, and yesterday Ryan and I walked through the lovely farmer's market tents that line the square. I get giddy looking at all of the beautiful colors of vegetables. Maybe even a little light headed, because I start suggesting that we bring home eggplants and peppers (neither of which I particularly like or eat) just because they are so pretty. But my husband is amazingly immune to the temptations of organic farm fresh produce. At least he was until yesterday when some little tomatoes turned his head. One stand had an array of red, purple and yellow tomatoes and he became positively entranced. He even managed to sweet talk the seller into letting us mix all three colors in one little pint container so he could try all three kinds together. Of course, I had to find a recipe that showcased the tomatoes, and this is it. The perfect farewell summer salad. For the record, my favorites were the purples and Ryan's were the yellow.

GREEN BEAN AND TOMATO SALAD
from the SmittenKitchen

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups multicolored gorgeous cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups green beans, trimmed washed and cut into edible size pieces
1/2 a large shallot minced
1 T red wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Add enough water in a small pot to cook the green beans in. Allow to come to a boil, add the beans and cook for about 4 minutes. While the green beans are cooking, assemble the rest. Halve the cherry tomatoes and put in a large bowl. Mix the dressing by combining the shallot, red wine vinegar and streaming in the olive oil while whisking, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes. When ready to serve add the cooked, drained green beans. You can allow the tomatoes and dressing to sit together in advance of serving, but don't add the green beans too early or they will discolor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tasty Toasts


These blue cheese and pear on wheat bread toasts are a bit decadent, but they require very little effort and no cooking skills. If you have a knife, a toaster oven and access to a decent bakery, you're all set. They can be served as an appetizer or an hors d'oeuvre at a party or as a dessert. I like a little flexibility in my food don't you?

BLUE CHEESE, PEAR AND HONEY TOASTS

INGREDIENTS:
1 bosc pear (you can tell if it's ripe, it will be all wrinkly around the stem)
a mild, creamy blue cheese
honey
wheat bread or multigrain from a good bakery

DIRECTIONS:
Slice the pears thinly and arrange across the bread. Crumble the blue cheese over the top. If you are feeling decadent (and I always am), drizzle with a small amount of honey. Then put in the toaster oven. I use the toast button, and it goes for 4 minutes, which is exactly the right amount of time to melt the blue cheese and make the bread able to support the toppings. To use as a passed hors d'oeuvre, I would recommend using the tiny square bread you can get at most grocery stores and dicing the pears instead of slicing, and popping in your conventional oven on a tray for a few minutes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lemon Chicken Salad with Caramelized Shallots


When I graduated from college and went off to live as a grown-up, my parents surveyed their extensive cookbook collection and gave me the simplest one they owned. Granted, I graduated from college well before Rachael Ray and her 30 minute meals, so what they handed me was Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It's not an incredibly complicated book, but it can be overwhelming. I learned to master exactly one dish: Sauteed Fillets of Breast of Chicken with Lemon and Parsley. It is this recipe that provided the inspiration for this light summery salad.

LEMON CHICKEN SALAD WITH CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS
INGREDIENTS:
2 chicken breasts
2 shallots
3 T butter
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
juice of one lemon (approx. 4 T) plus 1T additional

DIRECTIONS:
Slice the shallots into thin strips, lengthwise. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a small pan, add the shallots and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Shallots should be golden brown but not crispy.

Once the shallots are well started, begin the chicken. Pound the chicken a bit with either a rolling pin or the bottom of a cast iron pan. You want the chicken to be thinner so it will cook faster, but you don't need it terribly thin. Make sure it is uniform thickness. In a large pan, put a tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Turn the heat to medium high. When the butter is completely melted (it will probably foam a bit, that's okay), add the chicken breasts. Cook for less than a minute total, just enough on each side for the breast to become pale white rather than pinky. Slide onto a plate, and season well with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the lemon juice to the pan. Let it simmer for about 20 seconds and scrape up any chicken bits stuck to the pan. Then add another tablespoon of butter, stir until the butter is melted and return the chicken to the pan as well as any chicken juices that were on your plate. Cook about 2 more minutes on each side, and then if needed (depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts), cook an additional minute or so on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan, and slice into strips and place on a bed of romaine lettuce. Top with the carmelized shallots. Using a spatula, get all of the lemony, buttery liquid out of the chicken pan and put into a bowl. Add any oil that might be left in your shallot pan. Decide if this is enough to dress your salad with. Mine wasn't quite, so I added an additional tablespoon of lemon juice and an additional tablespoon of oil. Then drizzle the dressing over the top of the salads.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Airplane Picnic


I can recall exactly two times when I was actually pleased with the food offered on an airplane. Once, when I was eight, we flew to London on the 4th of July and they served hot dogs and hamburgers in honor of the holiday. Two years ago, I flew Swiss Air and they had actual hot croissants at breakfast. I mean, they weren't bakery quality or anything, more like Pillsbury Crescent rolls, but still, hot croissants! On an airplane! Other than that, I pretty much don't have anything nice to say. The food is crap, and nowadays, they even want you to pay for it. Or else someone has a peanut allergy on the flight and they won't even let you have the tablespoon's worth of peanuts they probably should have replaced with pretzels years ago, back when they found out what a big deal peanut allergies are.

So for our flight to Florida, I decided to pack us a picnic. There used to be a little shop in Boston where we would get these. They were great sandwiches, but for whatever reason the store was always out of a least one ingredient. Fortunately when you make them yourself you can avoid that.

FANCY TURKEY SANDWICHES

INGREDIENTS:
Deli turkey slices
cucumber
hummus
dijon mustard
bread (wheat or multigrain works great)
lettuce
havarti cheese

DIRECTIONS:

To make a sandwich, take two pieces of bread. I like wheat or multigrain regular sandwich bread for this. The texture is right, it's not supposed to be a chewy type sandwich and the flavor is more complex than white. Smear one side with a thick layer of hummus. It shouldn't be too thin. On the other side, spread a thin layer of dijon. I use about a teaspoon for a regular size sandwich. Then on the hummus side, add a layer of thin cucumber slices. I slice little rounds, and about 6 slices cover a regular sandwich. On top of the cucumber, add slices of havarti. Then add the turkey. I use 3 slices for my sandwiches, and four if I'm making it for Ryan. Finally add lettuce. Top with the dijon coated bread and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peach and Raspberry Tart




I'm not so sure this qualifies as a tart, but Donna Hay says it's a tart and who am I to disagree with a professional on that score (I'm going to disagree with her about other things, later, never fear). Ryan says it's dessert, and I say it's breakfast, so it's multipurpose whatever else it is. Also, it's *cross your fingers* the last thing I've had to photograph using the computer, since I got a shiny new camera!!

The bottom is a little sweet, not too sweet and definitely more like a shortcake than a tart shell or pastry crust, it's really very rustic despite my fancy peach and raspberry arranging (which I should point out is entirely unnecessary).


PEACH AND RASPBERRY "TART"
adapted from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf, Cooking from the Pantry

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick of butter softened (125 g)
1 C superfine sugar (remember my make your own tip: Pour 1 C regular sugar in your food processor and give it a few buzzes)
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
1.5 C flour
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 peaches halved and cut into thin wedges (I peel mine, my mother has a terrible allergy to fruit skins, so I've made this both ways, a prefer it with the skins off)
5 oz raspberries

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 F (160 C). Line a 9" (22cm) cake pan with parchment paper. It is highly desirable to have a cake pan with a removable bottom. I honestly cannot imagine trying to do without. Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs and beat well . In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients. The batter will be much stiffer than cake batter, almost like a biscuit dough. Spoon into the cake pan and smoosh down to create an even layer. This can be tricky as the dough is sticky and the parchment wants to move with it. Top with the peaches and raspberries, pretty designs are not necessary. A tip though, keep the fruits in a bit from the edges, because they will burn if they're directly up against the metal pan. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 and then another 45 at 325*. I haven't found a way to make it cook quicker yet, but I'm working on it. It should come clean when poked with a skewer, but don't hold your breath for a clean knife. Remove from cake pan and serve.

*if you live in Australia (and I only bring this up, because I've been noticing Australians googling for this recipe), Donna Hay claims you can do this at 160 C for an hour. In the US, an hour at the equivalent (350 F) is not long enough. So you this might take a smidge longer than she says.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mayonnaise Free Potato Salad


On our very first date, Ryan informed me that he did not eat red meat or pork. If memory serves, he did not mention his life-long loathing of mayonnaise. Now, if I haven't mentioned it before, my mother was born in Georgia, and in the South, they like their mayonnaise. She'll even put the stuff on a burger. (If you've ever watched Paula Deen on the Food Network, you'll know mayonnaise on a burger is the least of it, there's not a whole lot Southerners can't find a way to get mayonnaise in.) So you can imagine, growing up I learned some of the very best things in life involve mayonnaise, like deviled eggs and chicken salad and BLTs. I'm not saying it would be a deal-breaker or anything if he'd brought it up right away, but maybe it's for the best that I did not learn this until I was already attached to him. The real problem with mayonnaise, is that it's nearly impossible to substitute for, unless you're using something which might as well be mayonnaise. But potato salad? That I can make without mayonnaise. It's not my mother's delicious stuff, but it will go nicely with those turkey burgers.

MAYONNAISE FREE POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds small red potatoes (about golf ball size?) scrubbed, unpeeled and cut into quarters
1 c green beens cleaned and chopped into 1" to 1.5" pieces.
1 garlic clove
1.5 T red wine vinegar
2 t Dijon mustard (check labeling to ensure gf)
1/4 C olive oil
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 T)
3 t salt
pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Set a large pot of water on to boil. When the water reaches a boil, lower the garlic clove in. You can do this by putting it in a spider, or holding it on a spoon, or threading it on a skewer. Let it blanch for abou 45 seconds. Pull it out and rinse with cold water and set aside. Add 2 t salt to the water. Add the potatoes and cook for about 8 minutes. Check them after about 5-6 though. They should be soft enough to eat, but remember you're not making mashed potatoes, so they should not be mushy. In a small pan, add green beans and enough water to cover. Cook 4-5 minutes or until green beans are tender. Drain the beans and set aside. When the potatoes are done, reserve a 1/4 c of the cooking water and drain.
For the dressing, mince the garlic, and whisk together with the reserved potato cooking water, mustard, vinegar, remaining teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the olive oil.
In a large bowl, mix together the potatoes and the green beans. Pour the dressing over, and gently toss to cover. Add the shallot and mix again. Allow the dressing to be absorbed by the potatoes, about 3-5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tyler Florence's Sesame Noodles


Do you remember that old show on the Food Network, Food 911? This was back when they still had chefs for most of the programs, and not "personalities" who give you tips on how to take a store bought cheesecake and smush it into muffin cups so you could pretend you baked it yourself. For those of you who are too young to remember, the premise of the show was, you wrote in to Tyler Florence with a food dilemma, like "My fabulously wealthy great-aunt from Scotland is visiting and she said she'd disown me if I couldn't produce a tasty haggis by age 25!!" or "I finally met a nice Jewish boy, but I can't make matzo ball soup OR kugel. Please help me before my future mother-in-law calls off wedding!" Then Tyler would come over and show you how to make a marvelous version of your dish so that you could prevent any family disasters. My current letter would be "The Chinese restaurant around the corner, that we order from at least once a week, is closed for renovations, with no sign as to when they'll open again. Help us get our Chinese food fix without walking the 20 blocks to Chinatown!" Although Tyler didn't come over and personally save me, this is his recipe for sesame noodles, and will help you with your cravings, whether they're due to a closed restaurant or living in a Chinese food impaired part of the country.
TYLER'S SESAME NOODLES
adapted very slightly from Tyler Florence, Food Network

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lb spaghetti
3 T sesame oil
2 T peanut oil
3 T soy sauce
3 T rice vinegar
1/2 C smooth peanut butter (I'm usually an organic kind of girl, but sadly, Jif, Peter Pan and the like work better in this recipe, if you do go the wholesome route, get the smoothest kind you can, serve immediately if you need it to look pretty, since refrigeration will make the sauce clump)
6 T hot water
1 T ginger peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T brown sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 t sambal (this is a red chili paste), or I use 2 of the small dried chilies you can buy at any Asian food market, just pull them out at the end if you don't want to shock your guests. Break them open first if you want it spicier.

Optional: 1 T toasted sesame seeds, cucumber slices, shredded carrot

DIRECTIONS:
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, drain, toss with the sesame oil and set aside.
Put the peanut oil in a pot and heat to medium-low. Add the garlic, scallion, ginger and chili and cook for a minute or two. Then add the brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut butter and hot water. Mix well (I use a ball tip whisk), until smooth. Then pour over noodles and toss to coat. If desired top with toasted sesame seeds, cucumber slices or shredded carrot.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta


This should have been it. The one. The post that started it all, where I explained to you why I, neither chef nor writer, decided that I would write a food blog. Because this recipe is really where it all began. Someone introduced me to Words to Eat By. Previously, my internet food experience had been limited to FoodNetwork.com and Epicurious. This was something entirely new. Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta is the first recipe of hers I tried, and it is delicious. And if the weather where you live is anything like the weather where I live, you probably need this right about now - quick, ovenless, light and fresh.

LEMONY BROCCOLI AND CHICKPEA PASTA
from Words to Eat By

My recipe is almost identical to the original, with the exception that I've added the tomatoes officially.
You'll notice that my amounts are smaller, since I'm cooking for 2.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lb penne, rigatoni or similar pasta
1 C cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large head of broccoli cut into florets
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
juice of one lemon (about 1/3 C) - note I like things lemony, so I didn't reduce this
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 C grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS:
Start a large pot of water to boil and add a sprinkling of salt. While waiting for it to boil, put the chickpeas, lemon juice and 1/4 C of the olive oil in a bowl and toss. Add salt and pepper and set aside. When it boils add the broccoli and cook for 4 minutes. Remove and rinse with cool water and set aside. Then add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. In a large pan, add the remaining olive oil, the garlic, the red pepper flakes and the tomatoes. Cook on low heat for 3 minutes taking care to make sure the garlic does not burn. Then add the broccoli and cook for 4 more minutes. Then add the chickpea mixture and cook for one more minute. When you drain the pasta, reserve about a 1/4 C (or 1/8 C) of the pasta water and add to the broccoli, tomato and chickpeas. Add the pasta and toss gently. Off heat, add the Parmesan and mix again.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick Caprese

Unsurprisingly, one of my best friends happens to be an amazing cook and an even more impressive baker. One year she typed of this fabulous cookbook as a gift for her cousin, and as a result, I got a copy. What is surprising, is that I don't think I've given you a single one of her recipes. This is her caprese salad, absolute heaven in summer, but with my measurements, since she is very much a "you know, do it to taste" kind of person. It wasn't until I had an audience that I worried about measurements much myself. So on this, please feel free to experiement with the dressing. If you find a tastier way to mix the dressing, post it in the comments.

QUICK CAPRESE
INGREDIENTS:
2 avocados
a little less than a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
8 oz fresh mozzarella
1T plus 1 t balsamic vinegar
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t dijon mustard (check label to ensure gf)
1T extra virgin olive oil
pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Cut the avocados, mozzarella and tomatoes into bite size chunks, maybe 1/2 inch blocks? I halve the tomatoes, unless they are really big. Put into a large bowl and mix very gently, so as not to mush up the avocado. In a separate small bowl mix the balsamic, salt, pepper, sugar and dijon. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste the dressing. Adjust as needed, write down your adaptations to tell me later! Add to the other ingredients and again mix gently, to coat with dressing. The salad becomes less pretty, but more tasty as time passes.
In other news, my camera has died. While my computer has a camera, it is not exactly user friendly to aim the top of your laptop at a bowl of food. Please bear with me until things return to normal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Asparagus Bread Salad



I've been recently obsessed with the idea of making an asparagus bread salad. My childhood self shudders at that. I never did like asparagus growing up, and when I first made bread salad I was terrified that the bread would come out mushy. Ew. Mushy is not something I do very well. But last year I braved the panzanella and made a tomato bread salad that was absolutely heavenly. The bread was not mushy, it was just like eating giant croutons. Why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner? A salad with just the best part and no boring lettuce? This is something I can get behind. Anyway, for the past 24 hours I have been searching the Food Network and Epicurious in hopes of uncovering inspiration for my dream. I had nearly given up, when I turned to SmittenKitchen and discovered Spring Panzanella. I do not have nearly half the ingredients for that recipe, so below find a merged version, part Smitten, part Gourmet and all yummy goodness.

SPRING BREAD SALAD
adapted from SmittenKitchen and Gourmet

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium bunch of asparagus, small stalks if possible
1 cup chopped tomato
2 cloves garlic, minced and separated
6 C cubed good quality bread, stale is preferred
6 T parmigiano reggiano grated
1/2 red onion diced (or minced, I like mine fine)
1/4 c olive oil for bread
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil for dressing
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice (approximately half a lemon)
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 T capers (optional)
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Bread - Preheat the oven to 400F. Cube the bread into large chunks. Mix together the olive oil, parm, one of the garlic cloves and salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove.
Vegetables - Fill a shallow pot with water and allow to boil. Trim asparagus, chop off the bottom 1/3 of the stalk and discard, if your stalks are very thick, you can use a veggie peeler to peel them a bit. Then cut the rest of the spears into about 1 inch long segments. When water is boiling, toss in asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, then drain and set aside. In a medium pan, add a splash of olive oil and the remaining minced clove of garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is golden. Add the tomatoes and cook for just a minute or two until warm but not mushy. Dressing - Mix together the lemon juice, vinegar and the diced red onion. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then add the 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil and the dijon. Mix well.

Combine the bread, vegetables, capers and dressing in a large bowl and mix well. Allow some time for the dressing to soak into the bread salad, maybe about 5 minutes. Then serve and enjoy!

Boston Baked Scrod



Boston Baked Scrod is an old-school Boston favorite, like Parker House Rolls or Jordan's Blueberry Muffins. There are many recipes, but this one is my Nana's and is one of my family's top requested dishes when we go to visit her.

Scrod itself is a bit of a mystery. Google it, and you'll find all sorts of dissenting opinions on what kind of fish it really is. If you're willing to take my word for it, it's probably young cod, but might be young haddock. You can ask your fishmonger. But if you're outside of New England, he might look at you like you have two heads for even suggesting that scrod be something other than cod.
As far as this recipe goes, it doesn't matter what the devil scrod is. And yes, you can use haddock.

BOSTON BAKED SCROD

Ingredients:
1 lb scrod or haddock
2-3 T butter
1 T dried thyme
1 T dried oregano
2 t garlic powder
1 T lemon juice
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers.

Directions:

Crush Ritz crackers in a bowl to create crumbs. Combine cracker crumbs, with thyme, oregano and garlic powder. Line a baking dish with foil. Butter the bottom a bit so the fish doesn't stick. Add the fish. Drizzle the fish with the lemon juice and the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture down on top of the fish. Preheat the toaster oven to 400F. Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Seedy Business, with Heavenly Results



My husband has high cholesterol. He hasn't done anything to deserve it, like shovel cheeseburgers and supersized fries down his gullet and plop down in front of the television for hours on end. In fact, he stopped eating red meat in high school, works out a minimum of 4 days a week and checks labels conscientiously to avoid transfats. And you know what's just chock full of tranfats? Store bought baked goods. No dessert for him. It's really very sad. So I try to help out by baking for him from time to time. This is the ultimate low-cholesterol recipe. Angel food cake with blackberry coulis. And if you make the angel food cake instead of buy it, you'll not only avoid transfats, but have something that you might want actually want to eat.

Make the cake first, and then while it's baking you can take care of the coulis. Also, you can reuse some of the equipment if you do the cake first. Everyone likes fewer dishes, right?

LEMON ANGEL FOOD CAKE
from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

INGREDIENTS
2 cups sifted superfine sugar (1 1/2 C in one place, 1/2 C in another) - also, I don't have superfine sugar. So I make it by sticking regular sugar in my food processor. I think I got that tip from Alton Brown, who knows, I watch a lot of Food TV.
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising) - I have no cake flour. I use all-purpose. The world has yet to end.
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10-12 eggs) - Use the eggbeaters AllWhites product. So much easier. And less wasteful.
3/4 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t cream of tartar
3/4 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 t lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Pay attention, separate the sugar. Combine 1/2 C of sugar with the flour and sift together 4 times. No idea why four. I use a metal mesh strainer. Set aside.

In your mixing bowl, combine the eggs, salt and cream of tarter and whip on high until the whites form medium-firm peaks. Reduce speed to medium and add the 1 1/2 C of sugar (NOT the flour/sugar combo) by sprinkling it around. Try not to get it all over the counter. Whisk until thick and shiny. Then add the vanilla and lemon zest. Whip for about a minute more. Then sift a quarter of the flour mixture over the top and fold in. I am utter crap at folding. Maybe this explanation from Apartment Therapy will help you if you are similarly handicapped. I promise however that my inability to fold well has not had bad results. Okay, so after the first quarter of the flour mixture is folded in, do the next quarter and so on, until it's all in. Then pour the batter into a ungreased angel food cake pan and cook for 35-40 minutes or until it springs back to the touch. Invert pan on cooling rack until cool. Use a knife and run it around the edges to help remove from the pan.

See that wasn't so
bad. Now the blackberry coulis? That's a different story. Wear something you are okay with ruining completely. Not your go-to basic pink shirt. That would probably end badly.

The great thing about coulis is that once you can make blackberry coulis, you can probably make any kind of berry coulis your little heart desires. Blackberries are wicked cheap around here right now, so I went with them. Coulis is also terribly forgiving (because of the added sugar) so if your berries aren't at their ripest, you can give them a boost.




BLACKBERRY COULIS
adapted from Sara Moulton

INGREDIENTS
1 C blackberries
1/8 C sugar

1 t lemon juice

DIRECTIONS
Put the blackberries, sugar and lemon juice together in your food processor (see, if you've just made the superfine sugar, you don't even need to rinse!) Blend. Then things get interesting. Grow several extra arms if possible. You'll need the mesh strainer, a bowl for the coulis to drip into and then you'll need to pour the coulis from the food processor into the strainer. Then you press the mixture down into the strainer to try to get all of the juice to drip down and the seeds to stay. You will need to smush and smash many times. You'll get to a point where it looks like very seedy jam.
This is not done. You should have almost exclusively seeds left to be done. Check out the bottom of the strainer, there will be lots of coulis waiting to drip into the bowl. Resist the urge to use the same spatula as you were using to push the seedy part through. You'll just get seeds in the bowl. Get another spoon or spatula. When you are sick and tired of smooshing, quit. If possible, con someone else into cleaning the mesh strainer.

Serve the coulis over the angel food cake and top with a few blackberries.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spring Fever

For most, spring fever is a restless feeling, the anticipation of good weather and later evenings and spring blooms. Others of us have a more literal interpretation that involves a sore throat, sinus pain and a crazy tickling cough. Here is a fresh soup that will help quell either type. The sweet corn flavor holds the promise of summer, but it's warm and soothing in case your merry month of May includes 40 degree weather and a fistful of tissues.

CORN CHOWDER
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

INGREDIENTS:
1 T olive oil
1 large onion (approximately 2 C)
1.5 T butter
2 T flour (use brown rice powder to make gf)
3 C potatoes diced
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 package frozen corn
1 C milk
1 C grated cheddar cheese (shred your own or carefully check labeling to make gluten-free, not all shredded cheeses are).

DIRECTIONS:
Pour the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the butter and the flour stir together. Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the flour is cooked. Add the broth and the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the frozen corn and the milk and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the cheese as a topping. If you want to get creative, you can add bacon as a topper or even crab.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If You Can't Take the Heat......Make Pasta Salad


This is really one of my favorite summer dinners, but seeing as it was nearly 80 all last week I gave in and made it even though it's still spring. It's delicious, healthy and can be made almost entirely from things in your pantry. Best of all, it's something you can make even when it's insanely hot outside. I speak from experience. My kitchen is the only room in my apartment that has absolutely no air conditioning, so I am well familiar with perils of adding more heat to already hot.

PASTA SALAD

INGREDIENTS
(for 2 hungry people)
1/2 lb to 3/4 lb of pasta (I usually use rotini, but used penne this time)
1 C of chopped tomatoes (I like cherry/grape tomatoes cut in quarters)
3/4 C chopped kalamata olives
3 oz feta cheese
1-2 cloves garlic
1 C chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
2 T plus 1 t lemon juice (this was the juice of 1 lemon for me)
1 T red wine vinegar
6 T extra virgin olive oil + a bit for cooking the garlic
1 t oregano
salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS
Boil the water for the pasta. While waiting for the water to boil, chop the tomatoes and garlic and set aside. Chop the kalamata olives. When the water is boiling, lightly salt the water and add the past and cook according to the directions on the box. Add a small amount of olive oil to a small pan and cook the garlic on low heat until golden. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes over low heat, just enough to bring out the flavor in the tomatoes. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the olives, tomato and garlic mixture and the chickpeas. Crumble the feta into the pasta. Mix just enough to evenly distribute the ingredients. Then make the dressing. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Then stream in the 6 T of olive oil mixing all the while. Add your seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano) but go really easy on the salt because both the olive and the feta are salt. Pour the dressing over the pasta, mix to coat and then let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve lukewarm.

BONUS INFO: If you are cooking for someone who refuses to consider something a main dish unless it has meat, you could add some cooked chicken to this. I made it that way before I discovered that I really much prefer it without the chicken and it's much less work without the chicken. But I understand some people won't eat vegetarian, and that's no reason to skip this recipe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

This year we finally broke down and ordered the MLB Extra Innings package through our cable provider. This means we can watch the Red Sox almost every night. We are very happy people. It also means that I need to extend my "game food" repetoire beyond hot dogs and baked beans.

Here is my very first hot dog alternative.


BUFFALO CHICKEN SANDWICHES
adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe
(serves about 2)

INGREDIENTS:
2 chicken breasts (I usually cut them into large chunks to speed cooking time)
salt & pepper
2 T butter
3 T hot sauce
rolls
1/4 C sour cream
.08 lb blue cheese (so I had a .25 block and used about a third does that work out right?)
lettuce

DIRECTIONS:
Chop chicken into managable chunks and salt and pepper. Cook in a small amount of butter or olive oil. While they are cooking, melt 2 T butter in a large microwavable container. Add the 3 T of hot sauce to the butter and mix well. When the chicken is done, use a fork to shred it. Toss the shredded chicken in the butter and hot sauce mixture. Mix the blue cheese with the sour cream until blended. Spread the blue cheese mixture on rolls, and then add the chicken and lettuce.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chocolate-Covered Carmelized Matzoh Crunch


Frankly, I feel like a bit of a poser posting a recipe for a Passover dessert, what with not being Jewish and all, but I've been going to seders for off and on for a good 7 years now, and this year, for the first time, I was responsible for dessert. For those unfamiliar, Passover desserts are notoriously not great (since they must be flourless), especially when you consider the selection available at a regular supermarket in Rhode Island, so I volunteered (completely selfishly) to try out this recipe I'd been eyeing jealously for nearly a year. It is insanely easy. It is delicious.
And you still have time to make it for the seder tonight!

I completely stole the recipe from David Lebowitz. I did not alter it in any way, and it turned out perfectly.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED CARMELIZED MATZOH CRUNCH
recipe from David Lebowitz

INGREDIENTS:
4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
1 C butter (sliced) - you can use margarine if needed
1 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 bag (160 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375. Find a baking sheet with a lip, and line it with foil, making sure to cover up and over the sides. Lay the sheets of matzoh in a single layer over the baking sheet, breaking it as necessary to fill in all gaps. Heat the butter and brown sugar together on the stovetop stirring frequently until boiling. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and pour mixture over the matzoh, smoothing to cover all the matzoh. Reduce oven temperature to 350. Cook matzoh for 15 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn't burn. It will bubble, but if it starts to burn lower temp to 325. Remove from oven, and pour chocolate chips over the surface. Let sit for 5 minutes, then use an offset spatula to smear chocolate all over the top. Let harden, preferably in the fridge, and then break into pieces. Bring as a gift, share with your guests, or shut yourself in the bathroom and gobble it all down yourself.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The 15 Day Disabled List


I won't lecture you on the inadvisability of engaging in Newcomb volleyball wearing high heels on a highly polished floor. I'll simply mention that I've tried it and allow you to draw your own conclusions from the above photo. In another 2 weeks I go back to the nice orthopedic wrist specialist, and if all my bones are properly healed, then I'll be back to cooking as usual. In the mean time, I'll be trying my best to come up with recipes that can be done one handed, and staying far away from inappropriate footwear at sporting events.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eileen's Irish Soda Bread


There's nothing that makes me homesick for Boston like St. Patrick's Day. Okay, that's not entirely true, there's also the Red Sox, snow, and anyone speaking without using the letter R, but St. Patrick's Day is easily top 5. I mean, how can the rest of the country compete with a city that made up a holiday in order to get St. Patrick's Day off. I'm not kidding. It's called Evacuation Day and it is a recognized government holiday, schools are closed, all that. Now, while I honestly believe that the best way to honor the holiday, particularly if homesick for Boston, is to get as drunk as possible (preferably off Guinness), I can acknowledge that for those of us who a)could not start drinking at 9am today or b)have to work tomorrow, this may not be a practical choice. I suggest instead that you drown your sorrows in Eileen's Irish Soda Bread. It's just about the best soda bread I've ever tasted and so easy you could probably manage it even if you were lucky enough to start drinking this morning.

EILEEN'S IRISH SODA BREAD
courtesy of Eileen (who I'm guessing is considerably more Irish than I am, and has no end of talent when it comes to the soda bread)

INGREDIENTS:
3 C unsifted flour
1/3 C sugar
3 tsp baking soda
1/4 C butter
1 1/4 C milk
1 C raisins (optional if you are anti-raisin)

DIRECTIONS:
Mix dry ingredients well. Cut in the butter. Mix in the raisins and add milk. With a fork, mix into a ball shape. With well floured hands knead 8-10 times. I often find the dough wet, so feel free to sprinkle a bit more flour while you're kneading. Put on a well greased cookie sheet, cut an x in the top, and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lentil Dilemma

Generally, I am not afraid to try new recipes. Trying new ingredients however, can be a bit more tricky. Let's take lentils. Now, I'm just trying to cook more healthy, vegetarian meals and I think, "Hey, I should make lentils!" And just like that, we have several different colors of lentils in the cupboard, and I've searched and bookmarked several promising lentil recipes, and tonight I am ready to make Red-Lentil Soup. There's just this one tiny thing. I had no idea that lentils behave exactly like clumping cat litter. So I'm going about my business, and following the directions, and reading my little lentil bag, which advises looking for pebbles amid my lentils, and rinsing them for a wholesome meal. And I rinse the amount of lentils I need. But some liquid escapes (honestly, this is a theme tonight, something escaping, you'd understand if you could see the mountain of cumin lurking under my right front burner, but I digress), and makes it's way into the section of dry lentils. Instant cat litter. So in order to salvage these lentils, I do what anyone who's had a completely horrible day at work and has just made dinner and has an immobilizing wrist splint on their dominant hand would do...I start a second pot of Red Lentil Soup. And it comes to me in a flash. I am Martha. And I should probably watch Ryan carefully to make sure we don't arrive at the point where he is pouring lentil soup into his loafers. And the kicker? I'm not even sure that I like red lentil soup.
Kitchen Stadium: Battle Lentil


Oh yeah. Also? Red lentils? Totally not red once you cook them.

RED-LENTIL SOUP as shown above. Not to be confused with Red Lentil Soup
adapted from epicurious

Ingredients:
1 C lentils
1/2 C carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 1/2 C vegetable broth
lemon wedges
olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large stockpot. Add the onions and carrots and saute until soft about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, bay leaf and thyme and cook for 1 more minute. Add the lentils and broth, 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. Simmer stirring occasionally until lentils are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until soup is smoother, but still has some texture. Serve and squeeze a lemon wedge over each bowl.


P.S. Turns out we both like red lentil soup. Also, I bet you're still wondering about that second pot of red lentil soup. Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Portobellos Stuffed with Sausage

I went through a phase about two summers ago when I became inordinately fond of stuffing portobello mushrooms. I just couldn't help myself. Turn one of those babies over, and it's just like a little dish. How can you NOT want to stuff it? And then, flightly creature that I am, I moved on. I honestly hadn't made this in over a year, but last week I found myself bringing back the stuff.

It's a better dish when tomatoes are in season, but plenty hearty to stand up to the chill of winter.


PORTBELLOS STUFFED WITH SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Portabello Mushroom Caps (I got pretty big ones, maybe 2" diameter?)
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used cherries because that's what's we can get that tastes good)
2 links turkey sausage (hot italian) - check labeling to ensure gf
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (grate your own or check labels, some pre-shredded cheese contains gluten)
parmiggiano regiano
salt and pepper
thyme

DIRECTIONS:
Mix together first three ingredients, along with salt and pepper, and marinate mushroom caps while preparing the rest of the dinner. Chop tomatoes, shred mozzarella, grate some parm. Slice through sausage casing and put sausage insides in a pan, cook until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and toss in chopped tomatoes and a bit of thyme (or whatever herb appeals to you).

In a cast-iron or on a grill, cook the mushroom caps turning over from time to time. About 4-6 minutes on each side.

If using a cast iron - transfer mushrooms cap side down to tin foil and add tomato/sausage mixture. Top with mozzarella and parm. Put under the broiler (I use the toaster oven) for 1-3 minutes.

If using a grill/grill pan - put mushrooms cap side down and add tomato/sausage mixture. Top with cheeses and either close grill lid, or cover with a tent of foil for 1-3 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread to absorb the yummy juices.

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