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.

IMG_1729-2

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

IMG_1741-2
IMG_4608

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.
IMG_4586
IMG_4702

 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.
IMG_4709

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.

 

IMG_4465

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
IMG_4453
IMG_4526

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.
IMG_4523

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.
IMG_4506
IMG_4552

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)
IMG_4562

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. 

 

IMG_4206

 

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)

 

IMG_4135

 

IMG_4137

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.

 

IMG_4146

 

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.

 

IMG_4155

 

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.

 

IMG_4165

 

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.

 

IMG_4176

 

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.

 

IMG_4182

 

IMG_4186

 

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.

IMG_4212

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!
IMG_4105
 A southern style tea party needs iced sweet tea, of course!
IMG_4066

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.
IMG_4091

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.
IMG_4096

 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.

 

IMG_3915

 

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
IMG_3995
Don’t Peel!
On the other hand, if your potatoes look like this…
IMG_3997
Peel!
IMG_3878
IMG_3869
Put potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let boil one minute then…
IMG_3884
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.)
IMG_3890
IMG_3893
Potatoes should be no closer together than this in order to roast properly.
IMG_3894
IMG_3903
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
IMG_3909

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.

IMG_3104

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)
IMG_3443

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)

IMG_3739

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!
IMG_3729

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.
IMG_3422

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.
IMG_3432
IMG_3433
IMG_3517

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.

IMG_3522
IMG_3532

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
IMG_3535

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.
IMG_3507

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
IMG_3466

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.
IMG_3479

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
IMG_3473

In the mood for Holiday Food Gifts!

I grew up in a household that was absolutely showered with food gifts during the holidays.  My father’s career in the food business guaranteed almost daily UPS and FedEx deliveries, many packed in dry ice, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We received luscious desserts, most only available to restaurant clients, chocolates and fresh nuts, coffees and teas, huge beef rib roasts, breads and pastries, cured meats and cheeses, and our favorite, the Bryan Family Christmas Ham.

These days, the only corporate gift that comes to my door is a lone tin of ginger thins from a certain banking institution.  Unfortunately, it often sits undisturbed in the pantry, only to be replaced by an identical, albeit fresher tin exactly 12 months later.  No… the gifts that show up at my door during the holidays are of the warm and personal variety….homemade food gifts.  Wonderful pies to eat right away or freeze for later, flaky breakfast pastries, delicate cookies dusted with powdered sugar, glazed pecans and walnuts and homemade jams are just some of the treats that we have been blessed with in recent years.

Here are three food gifts that you might consider making this year.

IMG_2628

Toffee Sauce For Ice Cream

This is a great food gift for three reasons:
1.  You can multiply the recipe as needed to make big batches of sauce.
2.  The sauce will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and travels well.
3.  This is one of the best ice cream sauces you will ever taste.
Combine in a medium saucepan:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk (Pet or Carnation….not condensed milk!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
dash of salt
Bring to a boil over low heat.  Boil one minute the remove from the heat and stir in:
1/2 cup chopped chocolate covered toffee bars (Heath or Skor Bars)
Let cool then refrigerate.
At this point, I like to add another handful of chopped candy to the sauce to add a bit of crunch since the candy you added earlier will have melted to become part of the sauce.  Or you could wait and sprinkle the extra candy over the ice cream when serving as shown below.  This recipe fills one medium sized jar, as shown in the photo above, and will easily serve 6-8.
IMG_2649
IMG_2930

Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Toasted Pecan Filling

 
Possibly one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had and most definitely the best coffee cake that I have ever made.  A very special gift for someone during the holidays that will keep wrapped, at room temperature, for up to 5 days.  I’m copying and pasting the recipe straight from Fine Cooking because I didn’t change a thing and I don’t want to make a mistake in the precise baking measurements.  Note: If you don’t have superfine sugar, just make some by running sugar, before you measure of course, through the food processor until it is as fine as sand.
1 Tbs. softened unsalted butter
For the Streusel Topping
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 oz. (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
For the Filling
1 cup toasted pecans
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
3 Tbs. light brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. Dutch-processed or natural cocoa powder
For the Cake
11-1/4 oz. (3 cups) sifted cake flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. table salt
10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, slightly softened
11-1/2 oz. (1-2/3 cups) superfine sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
16 oz. (2 cups) sour cream
 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a dark nonstick pan). Generously butter a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
Make the topping: In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until almost melted. Remove from the heat and cool to tepid. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pecans, both sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and stir with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until evenly moistened and crumbly.
Make the filling: In a food processor, pulse the pecans, both sugars, cinnamon, and cocoa 4 to 6 times to combine and chop the pecans.
Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar slowly, beating until combined. Scrape the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending each one completely before adding the next. Scrape the bowl and blend in the vanilla. On low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream, adding the flour in four parts and the sour cream in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour, and scraping the bowl as needed.
Layer and marble the batter and filling: Spoon 2 generous cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth with the back of a soupspoonsoupspoon.
Top and bake the cake: Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze firmly to form a large mass. Break up the mass into smaller clumps, distributing the streusel evenly over the batter. Repeat with the remaining streusel. Press the streusel lightly into the surface of the cake. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 70 to 75 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan.

This cake keeps at room temperature, well wrapped or under a cake dome, for up to 5 days; you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

From Fine Cooking 96, pp. 70p
October 22, 2008
IMG_2979
IMG_2760

Peppermint Pretzels 

You won’t really need a recipe for these addictive treats….like peppermint bark but with a salty crunchy bite.  Just buy more white chocolate than you think that you will need if you want to coat the pretzels as thickly as I did. (For example, it took 3 Ghiradelli bars to cover 12 large pretzels.)
All you need:
white chocolate
 shortening
hard peppermint candies or candy canes, finely crushed (food processor make quick work of this)
pretzels
wax paper
Melt the white chocolate slowly in a double boiler or as I do, in a stainless steel bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water.  Stir in just enough shortening to make the consistency thin enough for dipping.  (Start with one tablespoon and add more by teaspoons if necessary) Dip pretzels (I use a wooden or metal skewer to make dipping easier) and set on wax paper.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermints and let dry at room temperature until firm.  Although chocolate will firm up quicker in the refrigerator, I find that it makes the crushed candy sticky, so I recommend taking the time to let it set at room temp before storing.
IMG_3001

In the mood for new everyday recipes!

The only thing that the three recipes below have in common is that they have been in my “everyday recipes” rotation for at least 15 years!  Most of us have a rotation, don’t we?  A set of recipes or meal ideas that we rotate through weekly or monthly.
As we are in the midst of the busy holiday season, I find myself returning to some of my old standbys…meals that I don’t have to put any thought into, meals that I have made so many times I can whip them up in short order.  It’s comforting too.  My daughter took one look in the old Le Creuset pot full of Baked Chicken and Orzo and exclaimed, “Oh, I remember this!”.  She should remember it…I must have made it once a week for a good while there when she was younger.  (hint for parents: I used to chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces so as not to terrify the children)
Dishes leave my rotation, as they should, when I tire of making them (or I sense a “not that again” attitude from my eaters, who are, for the record, much too polite to actually say “not that again”)
But I eventually return to them because they are really good and they bring back memories… just as the simple Madeleine cake does for Marcel Proust in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdue.  Sorry.  French major.  Don’t get to use it very often.
Anyway, these recipes are among the “keepers” in my collection.  Enjoy!
IMG_2684

Spicy Vegetable Couscous

This is my idea of the perfect meatless meal (although not vegetarian, of course, with the chicken broth) It is a simplified version of the wonderful Moroccan dish that usually includes lamb, chicken and/or veal.  I found this years ago in a book published by Glamour Magazine with recipes from their Gourmet on the Run feature.  If you ever see it in a used book store be sure and pick it up as it is full of great, quick and easy recipes.
Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small or 1 medium turnip, diced
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Couscous:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup couscous
fresh parsley or cilantro
sesame seeds
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender but not brown.  Add turnip, carrots, tomatoes, salt, cumin, crushed red pepper and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm when tested with a fork.  Add zucchini and garbanzo beans; cook until zucchini is just tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous.  Heat chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan with a lid.  When it starts to boil, add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to steam.  When couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the broth, use a fork to fluff it and serve with the vegetables and broth garnished with parsley or cilantro and sesame seeds.  Serves 4-5
IMG_2692
IMG_2712

Ben Moy’s Spicy Pork Tenderloin

I found this recipe from Ben Moy in the Chicago Tribune years ago.  It was published alongside an “Earthy Herb” chicken stir fry and these two dishes have been favorites ever since.  I’ll be sure and make the chicken version soon and share that as well.  I added “optional” to the Szechwan peppercorns because I made it without for years being unable to find them.  They are available at Williams Sonoma now and they add a unique flavor but the recipe is also good without them.
2 small pork tenderloins, trimmed and sliced on the bias against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cup into thin strips
1 small red onion, peeped and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon Szechwan red peppercorns, crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, crushed and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, cleaned and sliced for garnish
In a bowl, combine the red pepper strips and red onion and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine pork, garlic, jalapeno, red peppercorns, sesame oil, soy, sherry, cornstarch and chopped ginger,  Let sit 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or wok, until very hot.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry the vegetables until the are just beginning to soften. Remove vegetables to a colander and keep them close at hand.
Rinse skillet, wipe out and return to heat.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the salt.  Add pork and seasonings and spread single layer to let pork brown lightly on one side before you stir fry it a bit to cook through.  You should do this in two batches if your skillet is not large enough to cook the whole lot at once.  When pork is ready, return vegetables to the pan and toss until well mixed and heated through.  Correct seasonings as desired and garnish with the fresh green onion.  4-6 servings
IMG_2707
IMG_2791

Baked Chicken and Orzo

This is one of only 3 casseroles that have a place in my recipe binder.  Now, I love casseroles, I grew up on them in small town Mississippi.  But they just never went over very well with my eaters.  And if I did make a “casserole”, I was always careful to rename it.  For example, a chicken noodle casserole might become Roasted Chicken with Linguini.  This Baked Chicken with Orzo was a hit, I believe, because of the extra large pieces of chicken breast that become melt-in-your-mouth tender while baking in the silky buttered tomato sauce.  Recipe from Casseroles, Classic to Contempory, by Nina Graybill and Maxine Rapoport.
6 chicken breast halves, skinned and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
28-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons butter (original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter…go for it if you dare)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces orzo
2 cups chicken broth, heated to boiling
Brown the chicken pieces in the oil  While chicken is browning, simmer the tomatoes, butter, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper in an uncovered saucepan for about 20 minutes until somewhat thickened.
Place chicken in a 3-quart ovenproof casserole with a lid.  When tomato sauce has cooked down a bit, pour over chicken and place covered casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Add orzo and boiling broth to the casserole and mix gently.  Cover and return to oven for 30 more minutes.  The recipe notes that you can add more hot broth if the dish seems dry before the orzo is tender but I have never had to do that. Serves 6
IMG_2809
IMG_2827

In the mood for Baking with Apples!

images-2
“With an apple, I will astonish Paris!” Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) Still Life with Apples

 

images-5
“There’s small choice in rotten apples.” The Taming of the Shrew William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

IMG_2518
“Comfort me with Apples, for I am sick of love.” Song of Solomon 2:5

 

IMG_2533

Apple Crumb Nut Muffins

This recipe comes from The Muffin Lady, Muffins, Cupcakes, and Quick Breads for the Happy Soul, by Linda Fisher.
Linda has an interesting story… divorced and struggling to provide for her young son, she adapted her mothers pancake recipe into a muffin batter and began baking muffins and selling them out of her red Radio Flyer wagon on the sidewalks of Westminster, Maryland.  But soon the Health Department intervened, telling her that would have to stop as she did not have a department approved commercial kitchen.  Fortunately, the local community came together to support “The Muffin Lady” and the fire department offered her the use of their government approved kitchen.
Concerning baking with apples, she says, “Apples have a flavor, but they need some seasoning when they are baked.  Cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are key spices with apple, pumpkin, and other autumn fruits.  Summer fruits don’t need them because they tend to be pungent enough on their own.”
These muffins are a great example of this as the moist base is just softly flavored with the fresh apples and the sweet, spiced, crunchy topping provides the complimentary flavor and texture.
I think the flavor of these muffins improves with time so try to make them a bit ahead of time. They easily keep for several days.
 
Streusel Topping
 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup flour
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Mix all of the dry ingredients except the nuts.  Cut the butter into the mix using your hands to break into large chunks.  Mix by hand until small balls form,  Toss the nuts lightly into the mix.
For the muffins:
2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and small diced (about 3 cups)
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the dry ingredients,  Make a well in the center.  Blend in the eggs, milk, butter, vanilla and oil.  Fold in the apples.  Spoon the batter into a wax paper lined muffin pan, filling cups almost to the top.  Top with streusel and bake until light golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.   Baking time will be 25-40 minutes depending on size of muffin tin.  Makes 12 (4-ounce muffins) or 6 (8-ounce muffins.)
IMG_2524
IMG_2321

All American Apple Turnovers

I love making these turnovers.  It is best to use a combination of apples in your filling to create the best texture and flavor.  Try a combo of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, Rome or Jonathans.  Just make sure they are of the firm, cooking apple variety.  These are amazing fresh out of the oven so for entertaining, get them all ready and keep them in the refrigerator, ready to bake.  They are still good the day after baking but you will find the pasty to be softer and less flaky.  The recipe comes from Gourmet Magazine.
 
First, make the dough and chill:
 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices
4 ounces cold cream cheese, pinched into small pieces
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine the 2 flours, sugar, and salt and process until blended.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse 10-12 times until the butter is coated with the flour and is the size of small peas.
Combine the egg yolk with 3 tablespoons of the ice water.  Pour this mixture through the feed tube and continue pulsing several times, until the dough just begins to clump together, but before it forms a ball on the blade.  (Use the remaining 1 tablespoon ice water if the dough seems too dry)
Using floured hands, pat the dough into a ball, then press it into a 4×6 inch rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Dust the dough lightly with flour and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the turnovers:
 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/4 inch dice (3 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider, or unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple butter
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground allspice
cream cheese dough
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 cups of the diced apples and cook, stirring frequently, until the begin to color, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cider, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the liquid is reduced and the apples appear almost dry but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes longer.  Remove the skillet from the heat and sir in the apple butter, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, along with the remaining cup of raw apples. Transfer the apple mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate, uncovered, until cooled completely.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the cream cheese dough to an 18-20 inch rectangle, 1/16 inch thick.  Using a 6 inch plate or bowl as a guide, cut out eight rounds as close together as possible.  Gather and re-roll the dough then cut out 2 additional rounds.
Spoon the cooled apple filling on the lower half of each of the rounds.  Lightly moisten the edges of the rounds with water and fold the dough over the filling to form semicircular turnovers.  Press down on the edges to seal, first with your fingers and then with the times of a fork.  Using the back of a small knife, press into the sealed edges a 1/2 inch intervals to create a scalloped effect.   Transfer the turnovers to a heavy, parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the turnovers in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.  Move them to the upper rack and bake for 8-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown and he filling begins to bubble.  Let cool on a rack.
Drizzle with a confectioner’s sugar glaze if desired:
 
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanille
2 or more teaspoons water
Whisk together until glaze is a nice drizzling consistency  Transfer to a zip lock sandwich bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner and use this to pipe the glaze onto the turnovers.
IMG_2319
IMG_2348
IMG_2405

Ina’s French Apple Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream


Ina says that this just might be her favorite dessert and I just might agree.  I’ve made this a number of times and it is simply a perfect recipe.  You will find it in Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics. The only addition I made was to use a baking sheet with sides and wrap it in foil because the sugar and butter do burn on the pan , and sometimes in the oven, and create a bit of a mess to clean up.  I like to have this all ready and bake it during dinner because it is to die for warm out of the oven.  Amazing, it stays crisp and if there are leftovers, they usually disappear around breakfast time the next morning. (Wish I had gotten a photo of the whole tart but sometimes enjoyment cannot wait for photography!)


For the pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water
For the apples
4 Granny Smith Apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or sieved apricot jam

2 tablespoons water

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse for a few seconds to combine,  Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas.  With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.  Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the open to 400 degrees.  Wrap a jelly roll pan with foil then line with parchment paper. (this will help with the cleanup)

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10×14 inches.  Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges.  Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem.  Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller.  Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices.  Lay overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices.  Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking.  If the pastry puffs us in one area,cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out.  Don’t worry!  The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!  When that tart is done, heat the apricot jelly together with the water and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.  Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so tit doesn’t stick to the paper.  Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serve with cinnamon ice cream or gelato, or vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

IMG_2409

In the mood for Cheese Straws!

Ten years ago I moved to the land of cheese straws.  Actually, it is the land of chicken pot pie, sugar cake, pulled pork barbecue, country ham biscuits, caramel cake, AND cheese straws.  Every person I know has either a favorite recipe or a favorite source for each of these wonderful foods.

The arrival of November got me thinking about entertaining so I thought that I would share some ideas for pre-dinner party nibbles.  I like to save the heavy hors-d’oeuvres for cocktail parties and simply serve a couple of light savory bites before a sit-down party.  We call that having “just a little something” before dinner.

IMG_2190

 

White Cheddar Cheese Straws

  On top of being light, crispy, and spicy, these are also extremely quick and easy to make.  This recipe is based on one published in Southern Living in 2007.
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper ( I use 1/2 tsp. for spicy straws)
1 tablespoon half and half
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add red pepper flakes and half and half and process until dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a well floured surface, roll into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza wheel or a big knife, trim the edges a bit to even them up and then cut the dough into straws about 1/4 inch wide.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until ends are just slightly browned.  Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 dozen

IMG_2178

 

IMG_2228

 

Olive Straws

Just realized that these don’t really fit the category of Cheese Straws as they contain no cheese… just olives and puff pastry.  But, I’ll call it culinary license and carry on.  I tried the recipe on a whim just because it looked fun…and I happen to love olives.   If you are an olive lover too, what could be better than wrapping them up in a crispy shell?  This is adapted from Michel Roux Pastry, Savory and Sweet.  The “adaptation” is that I use Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry instead of making it from scratch!
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry, defrosted
about 15 large green olives, stuffed with pimentos
egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk)
ruler or tape measure
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry sheet to measure 9 1/2 x 13 inches.  Cut this rectangle into two pieces, one measuring 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 and the other measuring 7 1/2 by 9 1/2.  Don’t stress over the exact measurements…these are the ones that worked for me.  The idea is that you need two pieces of puff pastry, both the same length but with one a couple on inches wider than the other so that you can have extra room to cover and go between the olives.  Now place these two sheets of pastry on a baking sheet in the frig. for 10 minutes to chill.
Take the smaller piece of pastry and starting about 1/2 inch from the short side, lay olives end to end.  Create three rows like this, with about 1/2 inch in between.  (see photos below…kind of blurry but maybe helpful)  Now brush all of the exposed pastry between the olives with the egg wash.  Cover with the larger piece of pastry and press the whole surface of the pastry between the olives firmly with your fingertips.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  With a very sharp knife, trim and neaten the edges of the pastry and cut it crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.  The olives may slip around a bit but you can trim and reposition them on the baking tray.  Lay the straws flat on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve.
IMG_2180
IMG_2181
IMG_2239

Pepperoni Pinwheels

Another easy nibble using frozen puff pastry.  I like to get these all ready to pop in the oven and keep them in the frig until the guests start to arrive.  They are quite irresistible when hot out of the oven and still awfully decent at room temp.  ( From Cocktail Food, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford)
1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 ounces packaged sliced pepperoni (I like to use the extra thin sliced pepperoni)
1 egg, slightly beaten
     Mix the Gruyere, sage, oregano, and pepper together in a small bowl.  Lay the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface with a short side closest to you.  Cut in half crosswise.  Now with a long side facing you, spread half of the honey mustard onto each half, leaving a 1 inch border at the tops.  Divide the pepperoni and arrange in a single layer over the mustard.  Top each with 1/2 of the Gruyere mixture.  Brush the farthest edges with the egg.  Roll each puff pastry piece tightly from the closest edge to the egg coated edge to make 2 logs.  Lay them seam side down on a baking sheet and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare 2  parchment lined (or foil lined) baking sheets.
note:  The puff pastry can be filled and rolled up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated, or frozen up to 2 weeks in advance,  Thaw, cut, and bake as directed

IMG_2300

 

IMG_2287