In the mood for a Sweet Shortcut!

Here are three recipes for those times when you are entertaining but either don’t have time or aren’t in the mood to bake.  Now I admit I have been known to pop open a box of Dove Bars for company on occasion but in general, I prefer something a little more original.  I’ll order them by degree of difficulty and mess, starting with one so easy that it is not even a recipe, just an idea, and a tasty one at that.

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Yep, that’s it. Pieces of your favorite ice cream sandwich skewered with a juicy sweet raspberry on a cute bamboo toothpick.  Put your serving platter in the freezer for a bit so they won’t melt while they are being passed around.  Shouldn’t be a problem…they disappear quickly.

 

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Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

You might be surprised to taste the difference between these semi-homemade ice cream sandwiches and the store bought variety.  I like to use small cookies so the dessert becomes a 3-4 bite treat.  The softEntenmann’s cookies make good sandwiches as do the crispy, buttery mini cookies that many gourmet companies package for sale.  The Chips Ahoy cookies tend to get rock hard in the freezer so I avoid those.
     Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper and set your favorite gourmet ice cream out to soften a bit.  Use a table knife to generously mound ice cream onto one cookie and top with a second cookie.  Take care not to press the sandwich together too firmly, just a gentle touch so that it will hold together.  I like to quickly over-fill as many cookies as possible then put the whole sheet in the freezer to firm up for 15 minutes.  Then I quickly trim around the edges of each sandwich with a table knife to neaten them up.
     As an extra touch, I like to drizzle melted white chocolate and melted semi sweet chocolate over the tops of the ice cream sandwiches.  The quickest and easiest way to do this it to melt the chocolates separately in glass Pyrex cups in the microwave then stir and use a fork to drizzle.  After the sandwiches are frozen firmly, cover with plastic wrap or store in a zip lock freezer bag until ready to serve.
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Ice Cream Bonbons

 These little ice cream bonbons may be a little more work than the 2 previous desserts….but I think that these will be my go-to sweet shortcut for summer 2011.  If you like buttery caramel, covered in chocolate and dusted with flakes of sea salt just imagine how much you will love this same treat substituting caramel ice cream. Adapted from the June 2011 issue of Food and Wine in an article on Ice Cream Parlor Tricks,  these are just my style for summer entertaining.
10 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Wafers)
1 pint caramel ice cream (I used Haagen Dazs Dulche de Leche)
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the dark and white chocolate together.  Scrape into a smaller cowl and let cool slightly.
Put the crushed cookies on a small plate.  Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper and place one in the freezer.  Fill a cup wit ice water
Working very quickly, scoop a 1 tablespoon size scoop of ice cream, packing it tightly.  Transfer it to the melted chocolate.  Using a skewer, poke the rounded top of the ice cream and coat the ball int he chocolate.  Lift the bonbon, allowing the excess chocolate to drip into the bowl.  dip the bottom of the bonbon in the cookie crumbs and set on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle salt on tom.  Let stand for 10 seconds then transfer the bonbon to the baking sheet in the freezer.  Repeat to form the remaining bonbons; dip the ice cream scoop in the ice water between scoops.  Freeze the bonbons until firm 30 minutes. then serve.
(I found it helpful to use a mini scoop (the one I use for cookie dough) and make all of the the ice cream balls at one time and freeze them solid before I began the chocolate dipping process.)
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In which I make Asian Potstickers!

It seems to me that everyone loves Asian dumplings…especially pot stickers.  I don’t believe that I have ever managed to make too many.  I offer up the recipe all the time but rarely get any takers.  Most people say that they wouldn’t have the nerve to try to make something like this. But they are actually very easy and  quite fun to make!  So I have photo-documented the process for making two types of pot stickers just to prove my point.

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Crab Pot Stickers with Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce
This recipe from Gourmet Magazine is the easiest dumpling recipe I’ve ever tried.  It’s a great place to start if you’ve never worked with the wrappers before.  These wonderful little serving spoons are from CB2 .
For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
2 1/2 teaspoons water
For the filling:
1 scallion
6 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
12 gyoza wrappers, thawed
cornstarch for dusting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Make the dipping sauce.
In a small bowl, whisk together all dipping sauce ingredients.
Chop scallion and pick over crab meat to remove any bits of shell and cartilage.  Break up any larger pieces of crab.
In a dry small skillet toast sesame seeds with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring frequently until golden, about 2 minutes,  Transfer seeds to a medium bowl and cool slightly,  Add egg white and ginger root to seeds and lightly beat.  Gently stir in crab and scallion and season with salt and pepper.
These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don't dry out.
These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don’t dry out.

 

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Defrosted wrappers, ready to be filled.
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Place one wrapper on a flat surface.  Dip a finger in water and moisten the edges.
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Place 1 tablespoon of the crab filling in the center of the wrapper. Then, using both hands, bring up the sides of the wrapper and gently pinch them towards each other. Let the filling show through at the top creating a shape like a draw string purse.
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Place the filled pot stickers in a single layer on a baking tray dusted with corn starch. (If you are not going to cook them right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
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Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Place pot stickers in pan, giving them enough room so that they do not touch.  Let cook until bottoms are starting to turn golden (about one minute) then…
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add 1/4 cup water and cover the pan immediately to allow the pot stickers to steam until cooked through, about 2 minutes.
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Remove lid and cook until any remaining water is evaporated and the bottoms of the pot stickers are golden brown.
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Serve with dipping sauce.  Makes 12. Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.
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Family Favorite Pot Stickers

These are the dumplings that my kids have grown up on. Once you get the hang of the folding and pleating, they don’t take long at all to assemble.  And they freeze beautifully so go ahead and make a huge batch.  Then the next time you are in the mood for pot stickers, you can cook them straight from the freezer (just increase the steaming time by a minute or two).  Of course you can use almost any ground meat or chopped seafood in these.  We most often turn to the convenience and light healthy taste of freshly ground turkey breast meat and I often add other veggies such as minced water chestnuts or scallions.
For the dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1 teaspoon minced scallion
1 teaspoon minced red jalapeno, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons water
In a small bowl, whisk all dipping sauce ingredients together and set aside.
For the filling:
1/2 pound ground turkey breast
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry or sake
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup coarsely grated carrot
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
In a small bowl, mix all filling ingredients together, gently but thoroughly.
36 gyoza wrappers
a couple of tablespoon of vegetable oil
low sodium chicken broth for steaming
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To fill the dumplings, moisten the edge of a wrapper with water and put a scant tablespoon of filling in the center.  Fold wrapper in half to create a half moon shape and seal the dumpling by making little folds in the top edge.  The bottom of the pot sticker will be flat as seen below left.  And the top will be pleated as in photo below right.
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Place filled pot stickers on cornstarch dusted baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately. Or to freeze, place whole baking sheet in the freezer until the dumplings are frozen solid then transfer to a zip lock freezer bag.
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These pot stickers are cooked just like the crab pot stickers in the previous recipe but I like to use reduced sodium chicken broth for the steaming liquid instead of water.  So heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet and fry the dumplings (one layer, well spaced) until they begin to brown on the bottom.  Add about 1/4 cup chicken broth and cover immediately to steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and let any remaining broth evaporate.  The pot stickers are ready when they are well browned on the bottom and “stuck” to the pan. (not too stuck since you are using a non stick pan) Serve with dipping sauce.
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In the mood to Hold The Mayo!

 “Hold the mayo!” That’s one thing you will never hear me say.  I love the stuff.  Homemade or Hellman’s, I grew up on it.  But I married a man who can’t stand mayonnaise and it must be a genetic trait passed down through the male, because not one of my four children will tolerate even a dab of the glossy white condiment.  It used to drive me crazy.  No chicken salad, no potato salad, no deviled eggs!  How the heck do you get your BLT sandwich to stick together?  I used to eat mayonnaise sandwiches when the lunch options at my summer camp looked suspicious.  And I think that it was my sister who liked to mix mayonnaise and mustard together and dip potato chips in it.  But one day it occurred to me… Why am I trying to get my kids to eat mayonnaise??? With 90 calories and 10 grams of fat in just one single tablespoon, mayonnaise isn’t exactly health food.  Here are three wonderful recipes that will demonstrate how yummy it can be when you hold the mayo.

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Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita

I can’t say enough about this chicken salad…the cool yogurt and the combination of spices is really special.  You can layer it as I did in a beautiful glass for a nice luncheon presentation, layer it in a jar for a picnic, (as described in this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, August 2008) or just mix the whole thing up in a big bowl for a casual family style meal.
For curried chicken salad:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat coarsely shredded (3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved

For chickpeas:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 (19-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For raita and topping:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled, cored, and chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Make curried chicken salad: 
Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add curry, cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in yogurt, cilantro, and chicken. Cool to room temperature.
Make chickpeas: 
Heat oil in cleaned skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook chickpeas, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring to coat, until skillet is dry, about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Make raita:
Stir together yogurt, cucumber, mint, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Assemble jars: 
Divide grapes among jars and layer curried chicken, raita, chickpeas, and almonds on top.

Makes 4 servings

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Mexican Potato and Black Bean Salad

It is super easy to make a potato salad without mayonnaise since potatoes work

with almost any vinaigrette, but this one is really special.  Sweet potatoes, corn, black bean, cilantro and one of the best dressings I have ever had.  This is from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle-Chile Dressing
1 chipotle chili (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato chunks with the oil to lightly coat them.  Sprinkle with coriander,cumin, chili powder and salt and toss again.  Spread that potatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until they are golden at the edges and just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, steam the corn for 3-5 minutes.  Drain excess water.  In a large serving bowl, combine the corn and black beans.
To make the dressing, in a blender or feed processor, place the chipotle chili, garlic and sweet chili sauce.  Process until mixture is smooth. Add the lime juice ad process again.  Add the canola oil and process until it is emulsified.
When the sweet potatoes are done, let coll slightly and add them to the corn and beans.  Add scallions and cilantro and toss gently.  Pour enough dressing over the salad to just moisten the ingredients and toss again.
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 Southwestern Deviled Eggs

This fun recipe is adapted from Taste of the South (April-May 2011).  The original calls for a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips so you can certainly do that if you want to simplify the recipe.  I wanted the shape and texture of these corn tortilla slivers and they only take a minute to fry.  If, like me, you don’t have one of those platters specially designed to serve deviled eggs, just use a sharp knife and take a tiny sliver off the bottom of each half egg.  That way, the eggs will stay stable on the plate and not roll about.

12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 corn tortillas, finely slivered
salt to taste
coarse ground pepper
fresh cilantro
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and mash the yolks with a fork.  Add sour cream, pepper jack cheese, green onion, chili powder and salt and mix well.  Spoon into the egg whites. Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until light brown, 45-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels.  Salt lightly. Garnish the eggs with the fried tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper.
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In the mood for a Champion’s Dinner…celebrating Masters week 2011

I recently learned that on Tuesday night of Masters week, the reining champion hosts a dinner for all previous tournament champions, an elite group indeed.  Not only does he get to choose the menu but he also is responsible for the check.  And, adding to the pressure (in my opinion) if the guests don’t fancy the menu that the host offers they are allowed to order something else off the regular clubhouse menu.  I can only imagine how busy the clubhouse kitchen was in 1989 when Sandy Lyle served Haggis and mashed turnips to his fellow golfers.

Tiger served cheeseburgers, french fries and milkshakes following his first Masters trophy in 1997 (perfect for the youngest Master Champion at 22) and since then he has served porterhouse steaks twice and then a Mexican style fajita dinner in 2006.  Understandably, players like to tout their own local cuisines…..  wiener schnitzel for Bernherd Langer, fish and chips for Nick Faldo and paella and tapas for Jose Maria Olazabal.  Check out VJ Singh’s menu:  seafood tom kah, chicken panang curry, baked sea scallops with garlic sauce, rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce, baked filet, Chilean sea bass with three flavor chili sauce, lychee sorbet.  YUM!

And so this week, Phil Michelson hosted his third Champions dinner.  After his first win in 2004, Phil served lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce, caesar salad and garlic bread and then moved on to more casual fare (barbecue ribs, chicken, sausage and pulled pork with cole slaw) for his second go round.   I understand that this week he hosted a spanish feast to honor his friend and Spain’s greatest golfer, Seve Ballesteros, who is unfortunately quite ill and could not attend.

What follows is my interpretation of this years menu from the Champions Dinner at Augusta National.

 

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Seafood Paella

 
Now I admit, this is not “authentic” paella.  But you should really make note of this brilliant recipe from Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  In it’s original form, it is Tequila Shrimp with Saffron Rice from their book,Cook What You Love.  I’ve made it many times and will give it to you verbatim so you can too.  For my spanish feast, I’ve substituted fresh clams for the black beans to give it a real paella look and taste.  If you choose to do that as well, add the clams when you stir in the rice as they take longer to cook than the shrimp.
1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound chorizo, thinly sliced (I tend to use about half that amount and I like the spicy chorizo)
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped (use one can chopped tomatoes if out of season)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large pinch saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large, shallow ovenproof casserole, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally,  Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and beans and sir well.  Increase the heat to high and add the tequila, chicken broth, rice, salt, saffron and turmeric and stir well again.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp, mix well, and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked and the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Serve right away.  Serves 6
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Arugula with Gazpacho Vinaigrette

During my quick research into the Champion’s Dinner menu for this year I found descriptions of two different salads. One a simple mesclun with sherry vinaigrette and olives and one a mixed salad with a gazpacho dressing.  I think that the latter sounds more interesting so here is my version.  I used spicy arugula, which really holds it own with the bold flavor of this vinaigrette.  You could make this in a blender to get a smooth dressing but I kind of like the colors and textures that hand chopping delivers.  This dressing comes from a recipe for a lovely new potato salad in a little book called Vegetable Sides, published by Rylan, Peters and Small.
Gazpacho Dressing
 
2 large ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced
2 ounces roasted red peppers (from a jar) diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
a bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over fresh arugula.
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Filet of Beef with Smoked Paprika and Garlic

Phil’s menu calls for prime beef tenderloin with manchego cheese and smoked paprika demiglace.  This reminded me of an excellent yet very simple recipe for a whole tenderloin that I cut out of Gourmet Magazine (July 2008) and have adapted here to create a quick and east way to impart warm, wonderful spanish flavors to the tender beef filets.
2 large garlic cloves, minced finely
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 beef tenderloin filets
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Mix garlic, paprika, cumin and olive oil together and rub this mixture into the filets.  Cover and let marinate several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.  Stir together the mayonnaise and the paprika and cumin and set aside.  Grill steaks until desired doneness and serve with the spiced mayo and lime wedges.
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Apple Empanadas with Vanilla Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 
The Champion’s menu called for an ice-cream topped apple empanada.  I’ve chosen to top the ice cream with dulce de leche and serve the pastries on the side.  Adapted from a recipe for Sweet Apple Cinnamon Empanadas by Marian Blazes in an article on South American Food (About.com), these melt in your mouth pastries can be dessert one night and breakfast the next morning.
 
For the pastry:
 
1 cup butter, chilled
8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
 
For the filling:
 
4-5 Granny Smith Apples
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
 
1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
coarse sugar for sprinkling
 
1.  For the pastry, put flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly.  Add the butter and the cream cheese and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together.   Add the vanilla and pulse twice more.  The mixture will look crumbly.  Turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and bring the dough together and pat it into a disk.  Wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hour, or overnight.
 
2.  For the filling, place the apple cubes in a saucepan with the butter, sugars, cinnamon and salt.  Stir over medium heat until the apples are tender then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool then chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
 
3. To shape empanadas:  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch.  Cut out 4 inch circles, gathering scraps and re-rolling as necessary.  Wet the edge of a dough circle slightly, all around the perimeter.  Place one scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough.  Fold the circle in half, enclosing the filling and press the edges together firmly, flattening and extending them slightly as you pinch them.  Fold and crimp the flattened edge over itself to seal.  Repeat with the remaining empanadas.
 
4.  Chill empanadas for about and hour for best results (or 15 minutes in the freezer).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix egg yolk with a little bit of water and brush over empanadas.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
 
5.  Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche, or your favorite caramel sauce. (pastries may be reheated in a low oven if you like)
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In which I make Lasagna…for the first time in 25 years!

     Once upon a time, there was a cute young co-ed who fell madly in love with a handsome and dashing quarterback and after a long courtship, which involved far too many cafeteria meals, they were more than excited to set up their own little apartment and create a home together.  Now, since this young co-ed had become a preschool teacher and got off work at 3:30, it fell upon her to make plans for the evening meals and this was a responsibility that she actually quite enjoyed, much to the relief of her quarterback (at this point an entry level marketing manager, but let’s stick with quarterback).  Each day after work, she would make a quick call to his office to discuss what they might have for dinner that evening.
     One evening, they decided that they were in the mood for lasagna and so the preschool teacher set about to accomplish this.  She happily toiled away in her tiny kitchen with no dishwasher, a mini fridge, two burners and a stacked washer/dryer set that took up way too much space.  Later that evening, after a mediocre meal, and spotting a sink piled high with dirty pots and pans, the young quarterback said, “I just don’t think that it is worth it to make lasagna from scratch since you really can’t beat the one made by Stouffer’s”. Now the young preschool teacher, being quite practical and not terribly thin-skinned despite her tender age, took this to heart and never made lasagna again.
     The years passed. Children were born (4). The preschool teacher became a full time mom. She long ago gave up asking anyone what they wanted for dinner (except birthdays and special occasions, of course) and cooked what (and when) she was in the mood to cook.  And the children grew up without lasagna.  To them, it was just that frozen dinner in the red box that dad sometimes ate when mom didn’t feel like cooking.
     Then one day (yesterday, actually) this hopefully still somewhat cute yet decidedly middle-aged mom, decided that she was in the mood to master lasagna.  Surely now, after 25 years of more successes than failures in the kitchen, she would be able to best that giant of frozen entrees, Stouffer’s. She turned toCooks Illustrated (September 2004) which she considers to be the master of well thought out and meticulously tested recipes and what follows is documentation of…


“Damn, that was good lasagna!” -the quarterback


…and they lived happily ever after. 

 

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INGREDIENTS

  • Meat Sauce
  • 1medium carrot , peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1medium rib celery , roughly chopped
  • 1/2small onion , roughly chopped
  • (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8ounces ground beef , preferably 90 percent lean
  • 8ounces ground pork
  • 8ounces ground veal
  • 1 1/2cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2cups dry white wine
  • 2tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Béchamel
  • 4tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4cups whole milk
  • 3/4teaspoon table salt
  • Noodles and Cheese
  • 15sheets no-boil lasagna noodles (9 ounces)
  • 4ounces Parmesan cheese , grated (2 cups)

 

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For the meat sauce: Process carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary; transfer mixture to small bowl. Wipe out food processor work bowl; process tomatoes and juice until finely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses.

 

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Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming; add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.

 

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Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, about 1 minute.  Add milk and stir, breaking meat into 1/2-inch bits; bring to simmer and cook, stirring to break meat into small pieces, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. Using potato masher or wooden spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat (no large pieces should remain). Add wine and bring to simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes.

 

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Stir in tomato paste until combined, about 1 minute; add chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. (You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Transfer meat sauce to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

2. For the béchamel: While meat sauce simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming; add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2 minutes; mixture should not brown. Gradually whisk in milk; increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan. (You should have about 3 1/3 cups.) Transfer béchamel to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

 

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3. To assemble and bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Place noodles in 13- by 9-inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water, place in single layer on kitchen towel, and pat dry. Wipe out baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Stir béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined.

 

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4. Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish. Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan. Spread 1 1/4 cups béchamel-enriched meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish (see illustration 1). Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce (illustration 2). Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan evenly over béchamel. Repeat layering of noodles, béchamel-enriched meat sauce, bechamel, and cheese 3 more times. Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining béchamel, spreading béchamel with rubber spatula and allowing it to spill over noodles (illustration 3). Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

5. Spray large sheet foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, increase heat to 450 degrees, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

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In the mood for a Tea Party, Southern Style!

  Although you never need an excuse to have a tea party, this one has a special purpose.  The folks atFoodbuzz have joined forces with Kelly Confidential  to raise money for The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and are donating $50 for every tea party posted today.  And on Friday, these tea parties will be the subject of a Foodbuzz “Top 9 Takeover”!  Fun stuff… and all for a very important cause.  You too can help raise money by going to Kelly Confidential and simply voting for an outfit for Kelly to wear to her “virtual tea party”.
So welcome to my tea party….southern style!
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 A southern style tea party needs iced sweet tea, of course!
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Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Finger Sandwiches

Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.
For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.
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Brown Sugar Shortbreads with Smashed Blackberries and Sweet Cream

Slightly sweet flaky biscuits slathered with smashed fresh blackberries and whipped cream…a southern take on the traditional British scones with jam and clotted cream.
For the shortbread:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing tops of biscuits
coarse brown sugar for sprinkling (such as Sugar in the Raw or Demerara Sugar)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder sugar and salt.  Cut cold butter into small pieces and toss into the flour.  Then, with a pastry knife, two table knives, or your fingers, blend butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Add the cream and stir quickly with a fork until flour is just moistened (do not over work the dough) then turn it onto a lightly floured surface and pat it gently to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out shortbreads and place them 1 inch apart onto baking sheet.  Brush with additional heavy cream and sprinkle generously with coarse brown sugar.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown.  Remove from oven and cool.
For the berries and cream:
1 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup heavy cream
sugar to taste
Wash the blackberries (don’t dry) then toss them with a tablespoon of sugar (or more, to taste).  Using a table fork, smash berries, leaving some whole until you get a nice chunky jam-like consistency.
Whip cream with a couple of teaspoons of sugar (once again, you can use more if you like).  With this amount of cream, I prefer to whip it by hand with a whisk.  It only takes a few minutes and is good exercise…at least for one arm!
Serve and shortbreads with the smashed berries and cream.
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 Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

 There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.

In which I make our favorite Butter-Roasted Potatoes!

Today I am adding a new feature to my little recipe blog.  I’ve decided that I will, from time to time, publish a post that I will call an “In which I…” post (as opposed to an “In the mood for….” post).  In these posts, I will highlight a recipe or a method with detailed instructions and photos.  Mostly this will just be a fun way for me to continue to cook and learn photography at the same time…but it also occurs to me that it might help my kids, grown and almost grown, in their kitchen adventures. So, I’m starting off with something that they love.  It’s very easy but it feels pretty special when you get it right…crispy, buttery, roasted potatoes.

 

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In the photos below, I am making butter roasted potatoes to serve 6-8 people.
3 1/2 pounds red potatoes
5 tablespoons melted butter
salt
coarse ground black pepper
12×17 inch heavy rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

 

To peel or not to peel?  That’s easy.  If your potatoes look like this
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Don’t Peel!
On the other hand, if your potatoes look like this…
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Peel!
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Put potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let boil one minute then…
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Use a slotted spoon to transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to make sure potatoes are evenly coated then arrange them in a single layer with the largest flat side down.  (if the potatoes are unpeeled, make sure that they are arranged cut side down.)
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Potatoes should be no closer together than this in order to roast properly.
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Let potatoes roast undisturbed for 40 minutes or until dark golden brown on the bottom.  (If you try to  toss them around before this bottom crust is formed, they will stick to the pan) Remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes then toss them around with a spatula.  At this point, you can either taste for seasonings and serve right away or put them back in the oven for a few minutes.  In any case, they are at their best piping hot out of the oven.
Variations:   Before roasting….season with fresh rosemary and or garlic
                    After roasting….toss with fresh either fresh parsley, chives, or slivered basil
                                             toss with freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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In the mood for Orange!

Orange is the subtle citrus…sweet and delicate compared to the power of lemon or lime.  Oranges and their juice and zest are a surefire way to bring a little sunshine to all types of dishes.

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Tomato Soup with Orange and Cumin

 

I’ve been making this all winter and see no reason to stop now.  It is like a light tomato cream soup with no cream in sight, just a hint of orange juice and the warmth of cumin. If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it as it makes this soup a breeze to puree.  This recipe is from Food and Wine Magazine.
 
1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 bay leaves
2 cans (28 0z each) peeled whole tomatoes with their juices (I like San Marzano)
1 tablespoon packed finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper 
snipped fresh chives for garnish
 
Put the onion, orange juice, potato, butter, cumin, bay leaves, and 3 cups of water in a large saucepan.  Cover, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a summer.  Cook  until a skewer easily pierces the potato, 15-20 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juices and the orange zest.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady low simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the potato chunks are falling apart, another 20 minutes  Discard that bay leaves; puree the soup with an immersion blender,  hand blender, stand blender, or food processor.  Strain through a medium/large sieve; discard the contents of the sieve. Season immediately, let cool completely if refrigerating or freezing.  Heat gently, adjust the salt and pepper as needed garnish with the chives and serve. (makes about 10 cups)
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Scampi Al Dragoncello

This bright and beautiful shrimp recipe is from Christina’s Tuscan Table by Cristina Ceccatelli Cook.  The only change I made was to segment the oranges instead of slicing them.  It’s super easy if you have a small, sharp knife.  Just cut a bit off of both ends of the orange so that you can set it flat on a cutting board then,  slicing from top to bottom, remove all of the peel and pith from the orange.  When it is completely clean, you will be able to quickly slice between the membranes to remove the orange segments.

24 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails left on
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for cooking
juice and zest of 2 oranges
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
a few sprigs fresh tarragon, for garnish
orange slices for garnish
salt to taste

Combine shrimp, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice and zest of oranges and lemon, tarragon, garlic, red pepper flakes, and parsley in a bowl.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the shrimp on high heat for 3-5 minutes,  adding a splash of marinade as you cook to keep them moist.

Season to taste and serve hot, garnished with fresh tarragon sprigs and orange slices. (serves 4-5)

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Berries with Orange Sabayon

I could live without a microwave.  For the most part, I use ours to melt chocolate for baking and to warm a tepid cup of coffee.  When I prepared to try this recipe, I almost pulled out the double boiler to cook the eggs then decided that if Chef Laurent Tourondel suggests the microwave, I should at least give it a try.   It came together like a dream and I am thrilled to have such a quick and easy make ahead dessert recipe for entertaining this spring and summer. (And the flavoring possibilities are endless!) This recipe is based on one in his book, Bistro Laurent Tourondel, New American Bistro Cooking. 
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
scant 1/4 teaspoon pure orange extract
fresh berries, like raspberries, blueberries or strawberries (about 5 cups to serve 6)
Make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool.
In a microwave safe bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the cooled simple syrup (the rest will keep in the refrigerator for another use, if you like) and the orange juice until frothy.  Cook 8-10 seconds on high heat in the microwave.  Remove from the oven and whisk until smooth.  Repeat 9-10 times, until the sabayon is cooked and thick.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes. (I cooked it 8 times for 10 seconds and then 2 times for 8 seconds, whisking between each and it turned out perfectly)
In a large chilled bowl, whip the cream with the honey and orange extract until soft peaks form.
Fold the whipped cream, gently but thoroughly, into the egg mixture and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Serve the sabayon over fresh berries and garnished with orange zest if desired.
Mint would be nice as well, of course, but I just couldn’t spend money on fresh mint when it will be popping up all over the place around here in just a few weeks!  The daffodil below is the first to bloom in my woods this year…Spring is here!
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In the mood for Chicken Soup!

Let’s talk soup.  Remember that TV show, Talk Soup?  Greg Kinnear was the adorable, sarcastic host who showed clips of daytime TV’s oddest moments and then just reacted to them…that was the whole show…but it was very funny.  I think that it is still on the air, renamed The Soup,  but I haven’t watched it since Greg Kinnear left in the mid 90’s to become a movie star.
Soup, namely chicken soup, is the ultimate comfort food and although there are many to choose from in the soup aisle of the grocery store, none will compare with what you can create at home. Try these and you will see for yourself.  Sorry Progresso.
Beethoven famously once said, “Anyone who tells a lie, has not a pure heart and cannot make great soup.”  He was reportedly dismissing an otherwise decent housekeeper for being untruthful.  Here are three really great chicken soups for the pure of heart among you.
Note: While you can serve each of these soups right after making them, their flavors will really develop if they have at least a few hours to sit, either cooling, covered on the stove top (or refrigerated) and reheated. If you are in a hurry, the Asian Chicken Soup is the one who’s flavors seem to come together the quickest.  And, of course, they are all most excellent on day 2 as well.
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

None of these soups are difficult to make but this one is probably the easiest because I use the meat from a rotisserie chicken.  I’ve been making it for years and just finally wrote down the ingredients and amounts for the first time so that I could post it here.  For entertaining, it is fun to set out lots of toppings…cheese, sour cream, fresh diced tomatoes, green onions, and fried tortilla strips.  But even on a busy weeknight, I take the time to make the tortilla strips because my whole family would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz)
2 cups Spicy V-8 juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and cut into bite sized pieces
4 cups lower sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson’s or College Inn)
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper, if necessary
fresh corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
vegetable oil for frying
Optional toppings:
shredded cheese for garnish (I like Colby/Jack)
chopped fresh green onions
sour cream
chopped fresh cherry tomatoes
For the soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot and saute for several minutes, until onion softens and just start to color.  Add the next 9 ingredients (everything but the black beans) and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes then add the rinsed black beans and simmer 5 more minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serves 6.
For the tortilla strips:
Prepare several layers of paper towels for draining the strips.  Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or sauce pan over high heat.  Test to see if the oil is ready by frying one tortilla strip.  It should sizzle immediately and turn golden brown in just a matter of seconds.  Depending on the size of you pan and the amount of strips you are planning to fry, you may have to do this in several batches.  Toss the tortilla strips constantly while frying to brown them evenly and don’t walk away for even a minute as they can quickly burn.  Remove to paper towels to drain, sprinkle lightly with salt while they are hot, then let them cool completely.  Most importantly, make more than you think you will need because while they are excellent on the soup, they are also just a yummy nibble.  They keep well in a zip lock baggie.
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Asian Grilled Sesame Chicken  Soup

I’m not sure how to describe how great this soup is…you just have to try it.  I wanted to re-do the photographs with a slightly higher noodle to broth ratio but the whole batch was gone before I got a chance.  My guy actually made a special trip home for lunch saying that he had been thinking about this soup all morning! This recipe was inspired by one from Bon Appetit (Feb. 2002)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (divided)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 package bean thread noodles (3.75 oz.)
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage (from 1 head)
6 green onions, white and light green parts chopped, dark green parts slivered
8 cups canned lower sodium chicken broth
1 small carrot, shredded
salt if necessary

Mix together soy sauce, dry sherry and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and pour over chicken breast.  Marinate chicken for 15 minutes in refrigerator. (note:  I like to pound the chicken breasts to create thin, even cutlets that will grill quickly)

Stir together garlic, peanut butter, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce in a small bowl.

Soak the bean thread noodles in very hot water for 10 minutes.  Drain, squeeze out excess moisture, and with a large knife, cut noodles into 2-3 inch sections. Set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add cabbage and chopped green onions and saute until cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add broth and the peanut butter mixture and stir well to combine.  Reduce heat and let simmer gently.

Meanwhile, prepare a grill pan over medium high heat.  Remove the chicken from  the marinade and then pour the marinade into the simmering soup.  Grill the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, or until just cooked throughout.  Slice the chicken thinly across the grain into bite sized pieces and add it to the soup.  Add the cut bean thread noodles, carrot slivers and green pepper slivers and simmer just until everything is heated through and the noodles are tender.  This will only take a few minutes. Remove from heat and taste and adjust seasonings.  Serves 6.

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Brunswick Stoup

This is actually a Brunswick Stew.  I stopped short of thickening it to the consistency of stew, because I prefer it as a soup.  Brunswick Stew apparently originated in the southeast United States and I found many variations in the combinations of proteins that can be used in it.  My boring little version features all white chicken breast because I was plum out of squirrel!  I’ve simplified this family recipe, based on the one in American Family Style, by Mary Randolph Carter, in order to make it a tidy one pot affair.  Thanks to Marinda for inspiring me to make this excellent dish…it’s a keeper!
6 small chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (14.5 oz.) chopped tomatoes with their juice
4 cups lower salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
cups frozen corn kernels
2 cups frozen baby lima beans
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Wondra flour (quick dissolving)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco and additional Worcestershire sauce to taste, optional
Trim the chicken breasts of any visible fat and cut in half crosswise.  Sprinkle chicken with the paprika and the salt. In a heavy soup pot, melt  1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil over med-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides and remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and cook until transparent.  Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 tablespoon of the Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and when the broth is just simmering, return the chicken to the pot, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  (Be careful to maintain a simmer and don’t let the mixture boil…this will keep the chicken tender as it cooks in the broth)  When the chicken is nice and tender but before it starts to fall apart, remove it from the pot and let cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite sized pieces.
Raise the heat under the pot a bit and add the potatoes, corn and lima beans and boil gently until vegetables are tender then return the shredded chicken to the soup.
 In a small bowl, melt the 3 tablespoons butter with the lemon juice, then stir in the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, and the parsley.  Gently stir this mixture into the soup to flavor and thicken the broth.  Remove from heat and taste for seasonings.  Serves 6
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In the mood for Winter Salads!

The good news is that I’ve just seen some bulbs peeking out of the ground and the forsythia is already starting to bloom. The bad news is that our forecast is calling for snow tonight.  This is February in North Carolina. But you won’t hear me complaining…. I’ve spent enough years in the north to appreciate the fact that, around here, spring arrives in March rather than May.
However, for the time being, step away from those tasteless tomatoes you see in the grocery store and enjoy the wonderful possibilities of winter-time salads.  Here are just a few of my favorites.
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Beet Salad with Grilled Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Kalamata Vinaigrette

 
This hearty salad is adapted from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook and is attributed to Chef Jim Botsacos.  He suggests Manouri Cheese but any goat’s milk cheese will do.  I used goat gouda.
Salad
4 medium red beets, trimmed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
salt and pepper
6 cups mixed field greens
6 ounces goat’s cheese
Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive brine (from a jar of kalamata olives)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut the beets into bite sized pieces, toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on the lined baking sheet until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan and brush the onion slices with remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat until evenly charred and tender, 2-3 minutes per side.
To make vinaigrette:  In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, brine, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.  Gradually add oil, whisking in a thin steady stream until blended.
Toss the greens and cheese together and dress lightly with the vinaigrette.  Top salad with the roasted beets and the grilled onion slices.  Drizzle with additional vinaigrette. Serves 6
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Frisee Salad with Egg and Bacon

This is a Bistro classic in France (Frisee aux Lardons) but this particular recipe is from Tyler Florence’s new book, Tyler Florence Family Meal.
 
1small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large heads or 5 small heads frisee lettuce, washed and dried
10 thick cut bacon slices, diced
6 eggs
Make the vinaigrette:
Combine first 8 ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake until emulsified.
Over medium low heat, cook the diced bacon until it is crisp, 12-15 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.
Place the eggs in a saucepan with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove from the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs stand in the hot water for exactly 14 minutes.  Drain the eggs and cover with cold water,  Once cool, peel the eggs and halve lengthwise (or slice).
Place the frisee in a big salad bowl and add the bacon.  Add the vinaigrette and toss.  Arrange the hard boiled eggs on top and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
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Arugula with Manchego, Roasted Almonds and Quince Dressing

This wonderful little salad, with the flavors of Spain, is from Big City Cooking, by Matthew Kinney.  Quince paste is a firm jelly-like combination of quince fruit and sugar and can be found in the cheese department of many markets.  I bought mine from Fresh Market but have seen it at Whole Foods as well. And of course, it is also available by mail order sources.  Manchego cheese has become much easier to find in the markets lately… and it is one of my favorites.  But if it is unavailable in your area, big shavings of Parmesan will work as well.
Quince dressing
1/4 cup quince paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches fresh arugula, tough stems removed
4 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
To make the dressing:
Put the quince paste and 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar in a small bowl.  Use a whisk to break up the quince paste, then whisk the mixture to a smooth consistency.  Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, the oil, and the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  The dressing can also be made in a blender but it will emulsify, making it thicker and opaque.  It will taste the same but you may want to thin it with a bit more red wine vinegar.
For the salad:
Just before serving,  toss the arugula with the dressing and most of the shaved cheese and chopped almonds.  If you are using the thicker, emulsified dressing, toss gently so that the leaves do not get weighed down.  Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and shaved cheese and serve.  Serves 4
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