Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Potato, cumin and cider vinegar soup

40 g ground cumin
1 litre stock
250 g desiree potatoes, peeled and chopped
250 g southern gold potatoes (pink eye), peeled and chopped
50 ml cider vinegar
200 ml thick cream
pepper and Maldon sea salt

Heat a frying pan, add cumin and dry fry over low heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic.

Heat stock in a large saucepan and add the cumin and potatoes, and simmer until the potato is tender. Process the mixture, in batches, in a food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the cider vinegar. (The soup can stand at this stage until ready to serve.)

Add the cream, reheat gently, then season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately with bread.

Note:the original recipe called for 100 ml of cider vinegar, but when I made it with that much the vinegar taste was far too strong. I'd start with 50 ml or even less, and then taste before adding more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leftover tacos

Skirt steak from a few days ago . . .sliced thin
1/4 onion sliced thin
1/4 tomato choppped
1/4 bell pepper chopped
1 clove of garlic
Whatever else I can find (today I found some mushrooms but leftover beans and rice would work too)

In a HOT pan with 1tsp of oil add the steak and garlic, and cook until crisp.
Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes and bell pepper, this will allow the peppers to remain crispy and the tomatoes do not get slimy.

Serve with avocado on a warm flour tortilla sprinkled with lime juice.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

From How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

This is the first recipe anyone hesitant about baking should try: it's fabulously easy and fills the kitchen with that aromatic fug which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess.

There are countless recipes for banana bread: this one is adapted from one of my favourite books, the one I read lying on the sofa to recover from yet another long, modern, stressed-out day, Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood. If you're thinking about giving this cake to children, don't worry, the alcohol doesn't pervade: you just end up with stickily, aromatically swollen fruit.

Makes 8-10 slices.

3/4 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
6 tablespoons or 3 ounces bourbon or dark rum
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

9 x 5 inch loaf tin, buttered and floured or with a paper insert

Put the golden raisins and rum or bourbon in a smallish saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and leave for an hour if you can, or until the raisins have absorbed most of the liquid, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF and get started on the rest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts, drained raisins and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 to 1 and a quarter hours. When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

Personal Note: My favorite banana bread recipe. Makes the house smell better than sex and comes out gorgeous.

Lime Basil Sorbet

Basil and Lime Sorbet

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup (approximately 6 limes) fresh lime juice
18 to 20 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Sprig of fresh basil for each serving as a garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

In a food processor or blender, puree lime juice, sugar syrup, and chopped basil leaves.

Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. When ready to serve, use a melon baller and place 3 scoops in a stemmed glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and serve.

Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.

Personal Note: Made this for the Mexican potluck and it was a hit. Soooo easy.

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

From The New York Times Jewish Cookbook edited by Linda Amster (2003).
From Sam Gugino.

Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups boneless chicken dark meat (about 4 large boneless thighs), cut/torn into 1/2-inch cubes/pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads crushed into 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup small pitted green olives, halved
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
4 pieces pocketless pita bread or similar flat bread, each about 5-7 inches in diameter
1/2 cilantro leaves

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with cumin and salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes, stirring so that it browns evenly.
2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onion softens and turns light brown. Add the saffron stock, olives, and lemon rind and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler.
4. Adjust the salt and pepper for the tagine if needed, stir in the almonds and reduce further so only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Remove from the heat.
5. Brush one side of the bread with the remaining olive oil. Broil for a few minutes until it is lightly browned and slightly crisp.
6. Put each pita, crisp side down, on a 12-by-12-inch sheet of foil. Divide the chicken tagine among the 4 pieces of bread and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Roll into a cone and secure the bottom by twisting the foil. Fold the top back to expose the top of the roll.

Personal Note: This is the first dish from this cookbook we've tried and we tried it tonight for dinner. Good sign! I think with this dish alone the book paid for itself in spades. This may well be the hands down most delicious thing I've ever made. No lie. Eat this and have a gastronomic orgasm. Seriously. It's extremely layered, with lots of subtle flowering on your palate of different undertones. And when you make it be prepared to have an incredible smelling kitchen; between the cumin-seasoned browning of the meat to the minced ginger to the lemon zest to the toasting of the almonds to the typical wonderful smell of that always-foundational step of cooking onions, your kitchen will smell better than anything you've ever known.

Like usual, the best way to get the most flavor out of the meat while browning it--a step that makes or breaks the flavor of most recipes that require it--is to get the cast iron really sizzling hot and then to cook the meat briefly (but at a very high temperature!). So take the recipe's first step with a grain of salt and brown the chicken the best way possible--hot (but not charred) and fast.

We used oval/rectangular sheets of naan and instead of broiling them we brushed them with oil as it says to and then put them two at a time on a flat cast iron griddle pan over moderately high heat to toast them. Then we each scooped some of what was in the deeper cast iron pan used to do the full dish onto our separate plates of naan and ate it with our hands (kind of scooping the contents up with the bread). If I was serving company then the recipe's directions for foil wrapping the rolls would make sense and I'd follow it faithfully.

It was SO GOOD. Yeah, likely the best thing I've ever made. So good I want to share it with everyone I meet, ha.

Labor intensively, we used the really good green olives from the market--the ones with pits in them. Only because they were what we had available leftover in the fridge. Yes, it was a huge pain to halve and pit each one, but I didn't really mind 'cause this recipe is tons o' prep work anyway and I'm the kind of person who loves that part of cooking (much more than the actual cooking, i.e., splatters and heat source step). Oh, and we omitted the cilantro 'cause yeah, I am not a fan. And used homemade stock (the recipe cites the guidelines for homemade stock elsewhere in the book) because yeah, we always have it on hand and it does make a big difference.

Yes saffron is expensive, but we are lucky and a downtown Indian grocery sells little bottles of it for surprisingly cheap (of course, it's likely not very high grade, and it comes from Spain. But we don't care, 'cause that's better than not having any at all :).

Caramelized Shallots

Caramelized Shallots

Courtesy Ina Garten from Barefoot in Paris

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh shallots, peeled, with roots intact
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan, add the shallots and sugar, and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss well.

Place the saute pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender. Season, to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot.

Personal Note: Um. Fucking delicious. That's all!

Bacon-Cheese Appetizers

Bacon-Cheese Appetizers

From Laurie Tarcinale (a childhood friend of Mom's)

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled crisp bacon (6-7 slices)
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tbsp. wine (Laurie recommends Sherry)

Mix ingredients. Spread on slices of party-rye bread. Broil until bubbly.

Personal Note: Strangely tasty. I put in like double the amount of horseradish 'cause it's the ingredient that seems to really make the appetizer pop. I also cut up the bacon into bits first and then crisp it up, but that's just 'cause it's more convenient to me. Also, I often use a dry white wine instead. Like most cases of broiled food, this takes almost no time in the oven; I had it in this time for 5 minutes and it was on the edge of burning. Yeah. I put the dolloped slices on a cookie sheet...I can usually get about 24 on a single sheet since I don't have to worry about expansion or edges sticking. We've had this appetizer in our repertoire for years; I remember eating it at holiday parties back when I was super young (you know, those parties that, as memories, have everything in a rosy, glassy hue and have fuzzy edges in your mind). It's on an old folded, stained yellow legal pad sheet along with a few other handwritten party appetizer recipes from Laurie. Mm.

Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart

Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart

From Gourmet (November 1997)

Makes 1 tart.

2 pounds firm-ripe Bosc pears (3 to 5)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pastry Dough

Accompaniment: sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Peel, halve, and core pears.

In a 9- to 10-inch ovenproof non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved). Arrange pears, cut sides up, in skillet, with side parts at rim of skillet. Sprinkle pears with cinnamon and cook without stirring until sugar mixture forms a deep golden caramel. (This can take as little as 10 minutes or as much as 25, depending on skillet and stove.) Cool pears completely in skillet.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough into an 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) and arrange over caramelized pears. Tuck edge around pears. Bake tart in middle of oven until pastry is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Have ready a rimmed serving plate slightly larger than skillet. As soon as tart has finished baking, invert plate over skillet and, wearing oven mitts and keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert tart onto plate. (This is a bit scary, but it works!)

Serve tart at room temperature or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream.

Personal Note: This is my go-to easy as anything but pretty and therefore impressive-for-a-dinner-party dessert. It's ridiculously easy, and if done right (pears soft and caramelized enough), absolutely quintessentially fall-style divine. Oh, and: don't use a cast iron; we use a large non-stick oven-safe saute pan. The cast iron is too heavy and potentially sticky (and too steadily hot really; it's more likely to burn the fruit) for the flipping step.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

4 chicken cutlet

Saute in:
2 T. vegetable oil

Deglaze with:
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 t. garlic minced

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. capers, the drained Sauteed cutlets

Finish with:
2 T butter and lemon slices

Garnish with:
Chopped fresh parsley

1. Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour. Spray a paute pan with nonstick spray, add vegetable oil and heat over medium-high.
2. Saute cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side and then turn and sauté for 1-2 minutes with pan covered. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.
3. Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is slightly brown and liquid is nearly gone--about 2 minutes.
4. Add broth, lemon juice and capers. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate.
5. Finish with butter and lemon slices. Once butter has melted pour sauce over cutlets.
6. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Personal Note: The same deal as the previous recipe for Pomodoro. Same easy-as-hell method and seemingly complex, impressive results. My mom sent me both. I think she said they came from a magazine; Cuisine At Home maybe.

Chicken Pomodoro

Chicken Pomodoro

4 chicken cutlets

Saute in:
2 T. vegetable oil

Deglaze with:
1/4 cup vodka

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
The sauteed cutlets

Finish with:
1/2 cup tomatoes chopped
2 T heavy cream

Garnish with:
1/3 cup scallions, minced

1. Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour.
2. Saute cutlets in oil. Transfer to a platter; pour off fat.
3. Deglaze pan with vodka away from the flame and cook until the vodka is nearly gone.
4. Add broth and lemon juice. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute. Transfer to a warm plate.
5. Finish the sauce with tomatoes and cream. Heat through, then pour over cutlets.
6. Garnish with scallions.

Personal Note: Whenever anyone on Ask Metafilter asks the standard "I'm a young hipster with my first real on-my-own-and-really-equipped kitchen and I'm ready to start really cooking so I need easy but impressive beginner recipes that'll impress my friends and hot date" etc question, people always bring up this sort of basic deglazing-to-make-sauce entry. And my mom just sent me this particular one 'cause our oven doesn't work so I'm desperately resorting to any stovetop-only recipes I can get my hands on. Actually, the challenge of this restriction has made for some rewarding and fun summer cooking. She said my dad and her love this recipe, and added that it was super easy, which is clear just from reading it. I'm a big fan of deglazing as the simple easy way to make things taste better than they should be, so I'll be trying this one tonight along with The Best Recipe for sauteed okra and tomatoes. Maybe if I'm feeling ambitious (we just got home last night at 1 a.m. from a week-long trip to Rochester and Toronto, and I always feel a bit wilted after traveling) I'll even make some Sylvia's Peach Cobbler for dessert. We'll see.

Cowboy Mashed Potatoes

Cowboy Mashed Potatoes

Submitted by Bruticus on
"Quick, easy and delicious mashed potatoes with corn and carrots."

Original recipe yield: 10 servings
Prep time: 20 Min
Cook time: 20 Min
Ready in: 40 Min

1 pound red potatoes
1 pound Yukon Gold (yellow) potatoes
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced
12 ounces baby carrots
4 cloves garlic
1 (10 ounce) package frozen white corn, thawed
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place red potatoes, yellow potatoes, jalapeno pepper, carrots, and garlic cloves in a large pot. Cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain water from pot.
2. Stir in corn and butter. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until butter is melted and potatoes have reached desired consistency. Mix in cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve hot.

Personal Note: My default mashed potato guidelines come from Mark Bittman in How To Cook Everything, and when I read this online recently I balked at how little time it required--mashed potatoes, from my experience, are ridiculously easy, but they take a long time (all that peeling, boiling, plus the gradual incorporation of the 3 forms or whatever of creamy fat, etc). It also made me a little uneasy, as adding shredded cheddar cheese just seemed so...trashy to me. And where's the liquid component? Boiled garlic?? etc. Ha. Well, it's certainly not the fluffy pure potoato side dish to go with elegant French entrees or to impress guests. But all of the reviewers went on and on at how they were skeptical too, and yet the results were tasty. I think this recipe was featured at one point, even. So about a week ago I tried it as a spur of the moment thing to go with the steak (or was it the grilled chicken? I forget) I was making for Robert and I for dinner. I didn't even have any red potatoes, so I just used my Yukon Golds, aaand I didn't have carrots, so I ditched that part too. Actually, I'm not familiar with adding crap to mashed potatoes; my mom was a purist, so we never even had so much as bacon or chives in ours growing up. Well. These potatoes are definitely different from normal mashed potatoes, but they are indeed delicious and satisfying, albeit in a totally distinct way. Give 'em a try if you're short on time and ingredients. Personally, I always preferred somewhat clumpy, authentically mashed (as opposed to whipped/electric mixer mashed) potatoes anyway. They're pretty good, really.

Vincent Price's Chicken Curry and Baked Saffron Rice

Chicken Curry
From A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (Grosset and Dunlap New York 1965, page 230)

Serves 6.

These curry recipes come from Reaj Ali, the Moslem chef of the Pierre's East Indian kitchen. According to him a curry is not really a curry unless you use coconut milk in it. It does improve the flavor, and we have found that with an electric blender coconut milk is easy to come by--once you have your coconut, that is! You can make a meat curry of this recipe simply by substituting three pounds diced raw beef, lamb, or veal for the chicken.

cooking oil or butter
canned tomatoes
bay leaf
salt, pepper
curry powder
coconut milk
(see index)

Remove the meat from: 2 tender frying chickens, each about 2 1/2 pounds (or use 5 pounds of chicken parts). A boning knife is a big help in cutting the raw meat from the bones, and you might ask your butcher to order the proper kind for you. Remove the chicken skin and cut meat into bite-sized pieces. The skin, bones, necks, backs, and wings may be used to make chicken stock.

1. In a heavy saucepan heat: 1/2 cup cooking oil or butter.

2. Add: 4 cloves garlic, chopped, 4 medium onions, chopped, and saute for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are golden.

3. Add: 2 whole canned tomatoes, chopped, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 6 cloves. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the chicken meat and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, until most of the liquid in pan has steamed off. Reduce heat.

5. Add: 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1 tablespoon paprika. Stir to mix the spices with the chicken meat, being careful not to let the spices burn.

6. Add: 3 to 4 cups water, or enough to cover chicken meat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 35 minutes.

7. Before serving add: 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk and heat gently.

The best part of curry is its presentation. It is always served with a rice, and with an assortment of condiments, each in a separate bowl or dish. This curry is served with Baked Saffron Rice, the recipe for which follows, and this suggested selection of condiments.

Curry Condiments:
chopped peanuts
Bombay duck
grated coconut
grated orange rind
candied ginger
white raisins
chopped fresh parsley
chopped hard-cooked eggs

Baked Saffron Rice

Serves 6.

garlic (optional)

1. Soak: 1/2 teaspoon saffron in 1 cup cold water for about 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to hot (400 F).

3. In a heavy casserole melt: 1/2 cup butter.

4. Add: 1 onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional), and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion is soft.

5. Add: 2 cups raw rice and stir until rice is well coated with butter.

6. Add the saffron and water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and bake in hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir to mix thoroughly.

7. Add: 2 cups boiling water, cover, and continue to bake for 15 minutes.

8. Turn off heat, fluff rice with 2 forks, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Personal Note: How cool is it that Vincent Price was actually super-cultured and into "the finer things in life"? He collected art, traveled the world, and amassed ethnic recipes way before it was fashionable to do so. The cookbook this came from is one of the gems in my parents' library--my mom did some research online trying to find another copy for me when I moved out, and discovered it's worth like 60-1o0 dollars! Anyway, this was the standard curry recipe my mom always used while my sister and I were growing up. She's branched out since then--she found an awesome one while I was in college that involves steeping spices in a tea infuser!--but I'll always have fond memories of this one. It's kind of savory and hearty in a way most modern authentic curries aren't. In a "good ol' days of 1950s-1970s suburban America" sort of way, even. Ha. And baked saffron rice?! You better believe it.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

From: U.S.A. Cookbook by Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, 1997), pp. 517-518

A visit to the Florida Keys is synonymous with eating Key lime pie. It's so smooth and refreshing, and while everyone seems to have their own delicious version, sweetened condensed milk is a universal ingredient. Key limes are grown in southern Florida and have a very thin, greenish-yellow peel; the juice is tangier and more intense than a regular lime. If you cannot find fresh Key limes, the juice is available, sold in bottles, in specialty food stores and fine supermarkets. Regular lime juice just doesn't give the same pucker, and is not a good substitute. Be sure to chill the pie thoroughly before serving so that the fill sets up nicely.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about eleven 5 x 2 1/2-inch crackers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Key lime juice [I tend to put more like 3/4 cup because I like it tart, but watch it; don't want to go overboard)

1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Thin lime slices, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Prepare the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl and mix well. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in the center of the oven for 8 minutes, then cool completely on a rack.
3. Prepare the filling: Beat the egg yolks in a medium-size bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light. Add the sweetened condensed milk and the Key lime juice and beat until well blended. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake the pie in the center of the oven until the filling is set but still creamy, about 15 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a rack and then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
4. Prepare the topping: Before serving, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until it holds firm peaks. Use a rubber spatula to swirl it over the surface of the pie, or use a pastry bag to pipe it decoratively. Decorate the cream with the lime slices and return the pie to the refrigerator until serving time.

Personal Note: This recipe never steers me wrong, though it's ambiguous in many places. Since it is, I'll add some notes I've accumulated from making this multiple times. For one thing, I think this recipe downplays just how many machines are at work. The hands down best and (as counter-intuitive as it seems due to the hassle and mess of the parts) easiest way to crumble the graham crackers is with a standard food processor. Really mix the crust ingredients together thoroughly so the butter and sugar permeate the cracker crumbs evenly. You'll also need an electric mixer, which is mentioned in the recipe; I don't bother with the Kitchenaid and just use one of those cheapo hand-held batter beaters to beat the yolks (when they say "light," they likely mean both in color and texture--I always wait until the yolks turn pale and are almost airy, and it seems to work well) and blend the filling ingredients. For best results, you'll also need a hand-held immersion blender, like the standard Braun model, to whip the cream topping at the end. The hands down easiest mistake to make with this pie, and one severe enough to really ruin the visual and textural effect, is not letting it cool completely, both during the crust baking step and the filling step. Let it get REALLY cool on a rack (and in the case of the topping, wait indeed until the filling's been refrigerated for 4 hours), because if you don't, when you pour the filling or whipped topping on the hot baked surface, the filling or whipped topping will bubble, become watery, and run. And especially with the whipped topping, after this happens it will not right itself with chilling in the fridge, and you will have a permanently liquid, if edible, mess. The other trick to making sure the whipped topping really seems like whipped topping--not creamy water but thick and airy like Cool Whip only better--is to thoroughly use the immersion blender and be patient. Whip the hell out of it until it's thick and the immersion blender blades slow. If you can't handle the idea of messing around (fuss wise or calorie wise) with real whipped cream topping, Cool Whip is of course an option. But the real topping is out of this world, and licking the spatula is a bit of heaven.

Remember to be sanitary about raw egg--don't use the same spatula you used to scrape the raw filling from the mixing bowl to the pie crust to later scrape whipped cream, just basic reminder stuff like that.

When the pie's chilling in the fridge for the 4+ hours, I don't cover it with anything (plastic wrap or whatnot). But then, I chill it in the beverage fridge usually, so there's no risk of nasty or clashing food smells/flavors infiltrating the pie.

Key limes generally are way too expensive to waste making juice from; we buy a bottle of the juice from Wegman's in the baking aisle. A single bottle, about 2 bucks, has enough juice for about 3 or 4 pies.

As a random side note, damn do I love sweetened condensed milk. I always lick the can. It's one of my "weird/icky but oh so tasty" guilty pleasures, along with frozen bananas, unsalted pretzels, plain matzo, bisquick mix straight up, tuna fish sandwiches with potato chips crunched into them, special k flakes mixed into yoplait or crowley yogurt, coconut milk, dry breadsticks, cheap/minute rice with shredded cheese melted over it, banana slices with rice pudding, etc etc. Yes, I am kind of gross. :b I should get one of those t shirts that says "I heart CARBS" on it, har.

Scallion Lo Mein

Scallion Lo Mein

From Bon Appetit (June 1992) courtesy of Fred Mueller.

Yield: 4 Servings

7 ounces Chinese egg noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
16 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well. Rinse under cold water, and transfer to a bowl. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and toss. (Can be made up to two hours ahead. Cover, let stand at room temperature.)

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the onions; stir-fry two minutes. Add the noodles. Stir-fry to heat through and serve.

Personal Note: This is super good and we used to make it a lot but we tweaked it. It's been a long time since we did though, so I'm fuzzy on the turned into something similar to that masterwork dish in Big Night with the crispy noodle top. I think somehow we put the noodles in a big, hot, oiled cast iron pan after doing the recipe as listed and somehow toasted it so there was this layer of crispy hot browned noodle. Then we'd cut into it like slices of cake or pie or paella; it would be crispy and coherently edged (a clean slice) on the top and bottom, with a softer, moister scraggly loose noodle-and-scallion innard tumbling out between the two crisp outer layers. It was really good; once one of us remembered it after all of these years we were all hopping on it. It's a very vivid memory of a very distinct dinnertime dish.

Chuck Wagon Stew

Chuck Wagon Stew

From Better Homes and Gardens Famous Foods from Famous Places: Specialty-of-the-house recipes from America's leading restaurants cookbook (1964, Meredith Press). Recipe from the chapter on the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson.

2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fat
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 green pepper, cut in coarse pieces
1 cup beef stock, or 1 can condensed beef broth
1 cup water
6 small potatoes, pared and halved
6 small carrots, halved
6 small whole onions
3 or 4 stalks green celery, cut in large slices
1 cup fresh peas

Dust meat lightly with flour; thoroughly brown on all sides in hot fat, turning often. Add next 10 ingredients. Cover; simmer over low heat till meat is almost tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. Cover; cook 30 minutes longer. Add peas; cook 15 minutes more or till vegetables are done. Serves 6 to 8.

Personal Note: This, like the choucroute recipe, reminds me to wonder why I even bother posting exact recipes...we deviate so much from this it's funny. Timing is always approximate; you have to respond to your specific pot and how it's doing on any given day to get the stew's components cooked and the flavors blended to your liking. So yeah. Time's approximate like always. Just keep an eye out.

For the fat component, we use butter. We omit the flour coating step.

The most important thing about stew is browning the meat correctly; it's what gives stew its essential "stewy" flavor. You heat the butter and then turn up the burner way high (and also flip on the exhaust!). Don't add meat until the butter begins to really burn a bit--you want the bottom of the pan brown. For real. Then you add the meat in parts, making sure the pieces aren't overcrowded in the pot. Brown the hell out of one side of each piece 'til it's very dark--heat needs to be high so you achieve this quickly (instead of overcooking the meat at a lukewarm temperature, thus resulting in undesirable mushy grey chunks). Then do the same to the opposite side (I use long-handled tongs to flip meat, but a wooden scraper would do too). Do some of the other sides briefly and then scrape all of the pieces around a bit, to coat them in the developing dark fond collecting at the bottom. Quickly pluck out these pieces and set them aside on a platter and repeat the process with the next small batch.

This part is the most important, and it'll be crazy steamy and hot for a bit, and you need to watch what you're doing. But it doesn't take much time, and the stew meat will be gorgeous. The gravy too. Really, this makes all the difference.

Once the meat's all browned, keep the fond at the bottom of the pan!! Turn heat down or off, but right away before the fond cools add some red wine (no, this isn't listed in the original recipe, but it helps develop your gravy's strong base flavors). It should boil and you should be able to see the alcohol rise up in steam. Now add the liquid (the stock and the water). Let it cool to a simmer, then add the spices and things mentioned in the middle list of the ingredients.

When you add the third part of the ingredients list--the vegetables--make sure you have enough liquid in the pot to cover or nearly cover them. If you don't, add more stock and water (or water plus some good brand--Le Gout, for example--beef base if you've run out of fresh stock).

Check your stew every once in a while as it simmers and cooks. If at any time you notice a component--the potatoes and the onions in particular--is getting too soft/disintegrating into the stew, consider removing it and putting it aside as the rest cooks. You can then add it back to the pot when you're ready to eat. This of course is for if you're the kind of person who likes a stew with chunky discernible components. If you don't care if you get a recognizable whole albeit softened small onion in your bowl, by all means leave it in to let it fall apart; the flavor will be in there either way.

If towards the end you find the broth too watery for your tastes as a result of having to add liquid to cover the cooking vegetables, add a little corn starch to the pot and bring the stew back up to heat. The thickening agent will turn it to gravy quite quickly.

This time around, we didn't have green peppers so we used poblanos. I was worried it'd taste off, like it was stew trying to be chili, but it didn't--it lent a nice glow without overtaking the basic stew flavor.

I always seem to make way more than it calls for--I like a stew to have lots of potatoes and onions, so I usually throw in more than they ask. I also add more of the flavor components like the chili powder and bay leaves just out a knee jerk habit I have of doing so with everything (I like strong flavors).

Also, we never use fresh peas or celery, just because they're rarely in the house this time of year and we don't bother to obtain them for the stew. And obviously you could add other vegetables you like, especially other root veggies like rutabegas, parsnips, or turnips.

If you don't like the curled up skins from the tomatoes or peppers, peel the skins off before adding them.

This is one of the first cookbooks my parents acquired as a married couple, and it's still one of their trusty favorites. It's where a bunch of our tried-and-true recipes come from, including the grasshopper pie one. It even has a section on the Watergate Hotel I believe. Ha.

Melon Wrapped In Prosciutto

Melon Wrapped In Prosciutto

Ina Garten (2003)
Show: Barefoot Contessa
Episode: A Barefoot Contessa Holiday

Recipe Summary:
User Rating: No Rating
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 5 to 8 servings

1 gala melon
10 to 15 slices prosciutto

Peel and slice the gala melon into 1/2-inch semi-circle slices. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each wedge and arrange on a platter.

Personal Note: Don't you love luxurious fancy schmancy nonrecipes? Ha.

Rochester-Style Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

From The Democrat and Chronicle/Times-Union's Food/Living Section column "Ask-It Basket." Sorry, don't know the date; it isn't on the old clipping we've kept.

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped fine
1/4 tsp. garlic salt or powder
1 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
1 qt. water

Brown beef. Saute onions and celery in small amount of butter or margarine. Add garlic and browned ground beef. Put all ingredients in kettle and simmer for two hours or until desired thickness.

Personal Note: This is my hometown's local specialty, the hot sauce that tops all of the small lakeside greasy-food establishments' Rochester-trademarked burgers and hot dogs and defines them as local chow (in Rochester, the burger is not defined by massive amounts of soft and thick ground beef; the patty is relatively small and more charred, and you heap hot sauce, cheese, caramelized ONIONS, extra hot sauce, relish, ketchup, and whatever the hell else over it and put it on a special bun and voila, local burger). It also goes on the infamous garbage plate (why the hell hasn't this caught on elsewhere? There's surely a market for it in trucker-friendly Memphis as well as Primanti-Brothers-and-greasy-diner-loving Pittsburgh). As I mentioned to Ryan over the summer, the secret is the cloves--my parents and my aunt and uncle tried for years to figure out how to replicate the sauce and then it leaked on this column somehow and they quickly realized the missing X component was cloves. However, don't use too many; a little goes a long way (I made the batch I brought to Joe's party too strong clove-wise and it suffered as a result). It's spicy and savory, and cinnamon-y. Mm, it's good and always makes me think of Bill Gray's and Vic n' Irv's, and Don's Original and Mark's Texas Hots and Nick Tahou's and Gitsi's and Sea Breeze and Tom's off the highway and the summer and mm.

Latkes or Jewish Potato Pancakes


Recipe courtesy of Marc Silverstein for Food Network Kitchens (December 1999).

2 pounds russet potatoes, grated fine
1 medium to large onion, grated fine
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sour cream and apple sauce, as accompaniments

Personal Note: The ingredients list is from Silverstein, but the rest of the recipe was for some reason never retrieved (read: printed fully out) and the online version is long gone. So the method below might be his, but might not be; it works well for us. The part salvaged from the incomplete recipe that is vital is the drying part. A relatively dry potato-onion "batter" makes all the difference (we've made latkes for years but they only really became joygasmic at our house once we found Silverstein's version).

Peel the potatoes and rough chop (into thirds or so) so they're in chunks large enough to feed through the food processor. Do the same for the onion. Grate both into the food processor using the rough-grate blade disc (not the fine one) and feeding the chunks into the processor (empty the processor bowl as needed and continue until everything is grated into rough short strings, kind of like homemade pasta). Using a kitchen towel, dry the grated potatoes and onions thoroughly (this is important). Put them in a large bowl (we use the largest widest mouthed one we have; a silver salad tossing bowl). Add the beaten eggs and matzo meal and mix with your hands until it's the correct consistency. Add the salt and pepper and mix a bit more. We then heat up just enough vegetable oil in the large fryer-sized cast iron skillet. Using a spatula and a spoon, we place a lump of the potato mixture onto the spatula, flatten it with the spoon, and slide it into the oil (we do 3 pancakes at a time). When the edges begin to get crispy and golden brown, check to flip sides. As each pancake finishes cooking (we like them golden brown, not too dark but crispy through the whole exterior) place them on a rack above an old cookie sheet. If you wish to keep them warm as you fry, place this rack/sheet in a semi-warm oven (we had ours at about 145 F) and keep taking it out and in as more pancakes finish and become ready to place on the rack.

I cooked all of dinner tonight kind of on a casual whim and I was surprised at how easy and good it turned out. I made some ad-libbed apple sauce with leftover empire apples (some of our older apples were too soft to be enticing as eating apples but fine for other purposes), freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar (I don't normally add this but tonight the apples seemed a bit too tart even for my taste) and a bit of lemon juice (spruces up apples always) and water. Just stuck it all in a deep saucepan and cooked it down at medium heat. Turned out well. As it was cooking I prepared the latke mixture (something I've done before). I'd say tonight I used 2 1/2 pounds of russets, 2 1/2 large onions (they were huge onions, and one was one of those that you find after peeling has a small side onion attached to it)--I always make ours a little more onion-y than called for--and the rest of the ingredients. I wasn't sure at first that there was enough binding agent, but the latkes came out just fine. And the applesauce was still tart and warm when we began eating. Yum.

Apple Crostata (Baked Apple Volcano)

Apple Crostata

Show: Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Episode: Cucina Simpatica
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Inspired by George Germon and Johanne Killeen.

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoon ice water

For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Personal Note: This is yummy; it's pretty much a more novel (and hence strangely impressive) and rustic version of apple pie, and it looks so cool. I don't know where Ina learned how to do baked crusts, but every recipe she writes with one always has an amazing crust that comes out perfectly no matter what (and this is saying a lot, coming from me who usually sucks at delicate baking components such as crusts from scratch). If you're interested in what it looks like in its pre-baked form, here's a picture from here. That was last Christmas I think... As you can see, it's basically like a tidy crispy little spiced apple volcano. Hee.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pasta with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

Pasta with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

If you eliminate the sage, kids will love this dish. (There are homes in Italy where pasta with butter and Parmesan is the equivalent of pabulum.) But most grown-ups prefer the sharper edge that sage provides. Like many others, this sauce can be prepared in the time it takes water to boil.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
20 or 30 fresh sage leaves or about 1 tablespoon dried whole sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound cut pasta, such as ziti or penne, or long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the sage,salt, and pepper. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until it is tender but firm. Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water into a warm serving bowl. Drain the pasta and toss in the serving bowl with the butter, more pepper, and half the Parmesan. Pass the remaining Parmesan at the table.

Personal Note: If you make this with the dried sage, either cut back on the amount or use more butter and let it cook slowly for a bit will be bitter otherwise. You can use less bitter herbs anyway, if you have fresh ones on hand to get rid of--I've used rosemary, thyme, and basil and they all worked fine for me. It's important to lightly brown the butter--it'll give the non-sauce some dimension, a sort of nutty almost "sausage-y" flavor and aroma. Robert walked in when I made it thinking I was cooking up breakfast sausage! Some days I just want a bowl of buttery pasta with no complicated other flavors. It's like comfort food.


I really want to keep things casual on the blog. Pleas when copying a recipe be sure that it is in << blockquote >>. This way we know the difference between a proper recipe and someones comments about the recipe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

Seen on Food Network Television
Show: Tamales World Tour
Episode: #WT1A28: Working Man's Supper

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup ale
10 ounces extrasharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 drops Tabasco pepper sauce
12 English muffin halves, toasted
6 slices bacon, cooked to crispy
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add the flour and whisk to make a roux. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the ale and boil the mixture for 3 minutes while whisking. Reduce heat to low, add the cheddar cheese, mustard, Worcestershire, and Tabasco pepper sauce, and cook, stirring, until hot but not boiling.

Spoon the cheddar mixture over the toasted muffins, garnish with parsley, and serve with crispy bacon.

Personal Note: This I can take or leave, personally, but for some reason it's quite popular among friends (Justin loved it and asked for it whenever he visited, and Michelle's vegetarian friends had seconds and thirds when they came over for dinner once). We don't do the formal thing with the individual plating with English muffins and garnish. We also never do the bacon thing, mostly out of laziness. Believe me, it's still plenty rich (too rich for me!). Instead we toast up--either in the oven or in the toaster, depending--leftover homemade bread, leftover crusty bakery bread, Texas toast, or whatever other bread's available/desirable. We put the cheesy beer sauce in individual ramekins or bowls and heap a large plate with the toast and let people take the toasted bread as they like for dipping. It's a lot like fondue only richer and smoother in taste (to me, that reads as "fatty and bland tasting" :).

Cheese is a heroin-based recreational drug

There is too much cheese in the fridge, it must be used !!!

Please comment with suggested cheese ideas!

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 6.

2 pounds strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (depends how sweet you want your strawberry syrup)

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fruit:
Gently toss the strawberries with the 3-4 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl to macerate. Let stand at least 30 minutes.

For the biscuits:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475F. While fruit is macerating, whisk flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl; add melted butter and stir until butter forms small clumps.

Add buttermilk mixtture to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until dough comes together and no dry flour remains. Continue stirring vigorously for 30 seconds. Using greased 1/3 cup dry measure, scoop up mound of dough and drop onto parchment-lined baking sheet (if dough sticks to cup, use small spoon to pull it free). Repeat with remaining dough, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create 6 biscuits. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over top of biscuits. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire tack and let cool at least 15 minutes before assembling.

For the whipped cream:
Using hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until nearly doubled in volume and whipped cream forms soft peaks, 30 to 45 seconds longer.

To assemble:
Split each biscuit in half and place bottoms on individual serving plates. Spoon portion of crushed fruit mixture over each bottom, followed by any exuded juices. Top fruit with 2 tablespoons whipped cream, cap with biscuit top, and dollop each shortcake with some remaining whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Personal Note: Ganked from the summer issue of Cook's Illustrated, but altered. They were trying to make store bought crap peaches palatable and soft for peach shortcake by adding a step with peach schnapps boiled to soften the fruit up. I tried it as the peach shortcake but it was still crap; Robert bought seriously the worst, hardest, most flavorless peaches imaginable as a fluke (he said so himself; he tried to eat one over a week after we bought them when they should have been very ripe and they were so hard and tasteless he threw his out!). But in the process I discovered with wonder that this biscuit recipe rules; it's so much fun to make and foolproof (which CANNOT be said for pretty much any biscuit recipe I've ever tried...I have horrible luck making biscuits). When you do the step with the buttermilk, egg, and butter, it really does clump like magic, forming what almost looks and feels like homemade butter or curds or something. It's neat! And it painlessly forms a magic dough ball clean and neat and just sticky enough, not messy at all. I love it.

The whipped cream method is one I've never done before either, and I love it. It's less clean up for me than using the immersion blender, and though the results are solider and less pure tasting than the homemade whipped cream my parents make and hence I was making on my own, it holds up really well and is still miles better than anything from a tub. And it's so, so easy and foolproof, like most Test Kitchen methods, ha.


Pasta Puttanesca or Working Girl's Pasta

Pasta Puttanesca or Working Girl's Pasta

Jamie Oliver

This is a pasta dish that Gennaro Contaldo used to make for our staff dinners when we worked at the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden in London. In Italian this is called "pasta puttanesca," which basically translates as "whore's pasta"! I wanted to know why, as I'd never heard of this before. Maybe it's because the dish was cooked very quickly, with no effort involved, or maybe it's something the local prostitutes used to eat at home--who knows?!

But this is the way my darling Gennaro taught me to make it. He comes from the Amalfi coast, where fresh tuna would have been available. If you can get hold of some, it will make the dish much more luxurious and an event to eat. But if you can't, then canned will do.

4 servings

A handful of fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Two 8-ounce tuna steaks, chopped into bite-size chunks, or 2 cans of good-quality tuna, drained
14 ounces penne or spaghetti
8 anchovy fillets
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 handfuls of soaked capers
A handful of black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 to 3 small dried chiles, crumbled to your taste, or 1 fresh red chile, deseeded and finely sliced (Personal note: When I don't have any, I use a liberal dose of red pepper flakes)
2 handfuls of really ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
Optional: a swig of white wine
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Smash the basil to a pulp with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest and juice and 2 good lugs of extra virgin olive oil. Mix this up and either rub over your chopped-up fresh tuna or mix with your broken-up canned tuna and allow to marinate.

Get a large pan of salted boiling water on and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. As soon as you put the pasta on, put 3 or 4 good lugs of extra virgin olive oil into a large frying pan and put on the heat. As the pan starts to get warm, add your anchovy fillets and allow them to fry and melt. At this point add your garlic, capers, olives, and chile and stir around for a couple of minutes. If you have used fresh tuna, add it to the pan now with all of the marinating juices and sear it on both sides. When done, add the tomatoes and a little swig of white wine if you have some. If you have used canned tuna, add it to the pan at the same time as the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring regularly with a spoon, breaking the tuna up into smaller pieces. What you don't want to do is overcook the tuna so it goes tough. You want it to be soft and silky. Correct the seasoning carefully with salt and pepper.

The pasta should now be ready, so drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Toss the hot pasta with the hot tuna sauce, add the parsley, and mix well. You may need a few more lugs of olive oil and a spoonful of cooking water to make the sauce nice and loose.

Coconut Shrimp with Red Curry Sauce

Coconut Shrimp with Red Curry Sauce

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence
Difficulty: Easy
Yield: About 20 shrimp

Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 large egg whites
[1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper]
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups flaked coconut
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled with tails on
Red Curry Sauce, recipe follows
1 green onion, white and green part, chopped
1 handful fresh mint, hand-torn

Heat 3 inches of oil in a large deep skillet or heavy pot to 325 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, egg whites, [cayenne pepper, ]salt, and pepper until foamy. Spread the coconut out in a pie dish. Dredge the shrimp with the cornstarch/egg white mixture and shake off any excess. Press the shrimp into the coconut flakes; turn shrimp over and press into coconut again to coat both sides.

Deep-fry the shrimp in batches until the coconut is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp to paper towels to drain. [I put them on a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.] Arrange the shrimp on a platter, serve immediately with red curry sauce and garnish with green onion and mint.

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies

From Saveur (Issue #81, Jan./Feb. 2005).

Makes about 4 dozen.

At brunch at the Liberty Bar in San Antonio, a plate of these spicy-sweet cookies is set down on the table at the beginning of the meal--gratis.

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup quality dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2-3/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Whisk flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl and set aside. Put sugar, vanilla, and egg into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add butter and continue to beat on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes more. Using your fingers, work flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is just combined.

2. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 9" log. Wrap each log in parchment paper, twisting ends tightly to make a uniform cylinder. Freeze dough logs for at least 8 hours and as long as overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough and slice each log into rounds about 1/3" thick. Place rounds 1/2" apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake cookies until slightly puffed and tiny cracks appear on surface, about 8 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to let cool.

Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp

Lee Wan Ching's Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp

From Saveur Number 78 (October 2004)
Serves 4

This recipe was inspired by a dish that Grace Young had at the Yee Hen Restaurant on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, where Lee Wan Ching is the chef. A moderately hot chile, such as an anaheim, is what Lee prefers to use.

1 lb. large shrimp
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. chile powder
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh chile
2 scallions, chopped

1. Remove the shrimp legs, leaving the shells and tails on. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a small bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and chile powder.

2. Heat a 14" flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1-2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tbsp. of the oil, add the garlic and sliced chile, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and 1 tbsp. of the oil and stir-fry for 1 minute or until the shrimp just begin to turn pink. Swirl in the remaining 1 tbsp. oil, add the salt mixture, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until the shrimp are just cooked. Stir in the scallions.

Personal Note: Man I love scallions. This is really easy to make (it suits me; I like some prep work, a little here and there sort of business, and then rapid cooking that makes use of the efficiency of having that prep work in place) and pretty tasty.

(Sweet) Cornbread

(Sweet) Cornbread

From Southern Living: 1987 Annual Recipes, compendium cookbook of the magazine (1987, Oxmoor House). Recipe from the September issue, submitted by Beverly Verdery, Waco, Texas.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
5 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cornmeal, and sugar in a large bowl. Combine eggs, milk, and 1/3 cup oil in a small bowl; add to cornmeal mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet coated with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and preheated. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 8 servings.

Personal Note: My dad likes his with a single jalapeno from our garden minced. It's okay, but to me, cornbread should be slightly sweet and taste more of corn than anything else; as a compromise, I make a full batch with the regular recipe as well as two tiny cast-iron skillets' worth with half of everything called for in the recipe, the single homegrown jalapeno, and 15 minutes of oven time. The cast-iron and the preheating are the essential pieces to this recipe. Also important if you really want the best result (though this is still tasty without it) is whole-grain cornmeal. I cringe to say this but you can usually get a bag of this stuff at "Nature's Market" type sections of your grocery store or at natural foods shops.

I originally posted this to prove to J that cornbread can be fantastically delicious; he claims most southern-style cornbread is dense, burnt, generally disgusting, flavorless, greasy, and dry. Ugh. I believe him, but he ought to try this sometime to be soothed, ha. Using the proper old-fashioned cast-iron skillet (something that will likely outlive you, that you can pass down through generations!) and the preheating step, you should find this cornbread slightly sweet, fluffy, and wonderful. It's as good as cake really but heartier and less refined-product tasting. Yum. Especially good with fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. My mother's big addition to the sugar component may seem over the top, but I promise her alteration yields cornbread that's still just barely sweet enough, really.



Recipe courtesy Alton Brown (2003 Television Food Network)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 9 fluid ounces

1 egg yolk*
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil, safflower or corn

In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit (which means you've got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.

Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Raw egg warning: The American Egg Board states: "There have been warnings against consuming raw or lightly cooked eggs on the grounds that the egg may be contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria responsible for a type of food poisoning...Healthy people need to remember that there is a very small risk and treat eggs and other raw animal foods accordingly. Use only properly refrigerated, clean, sound-shelled, fresh, grade AA or A eggs. Avoid mixing yolks and whites with the shell."

Personal Note: Once you have real homemade mayonnaise you will never go back. Once you get the hang of it, it's incredibly easy, and it makes a HUGE difference. I refused to use the stuff on anything when I still thought store bought was all there was; I found it really gross. But seriously. This mayonnaise makes anything a zillion times better. And you don't use much because it's already got a lot of flavor; a little goes a long way.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

Show: Taste (1996 TV Food Network)
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 pound piece of pancetta
4 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
a liberal grinding of pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 pound cooked spaghetti, drained and hot

Cut a 1/2 pound piece of pancetta. Crush and peel the garlic up. Put the garlic in a small saute pan with the extra virgin olive oil and saute until it turns deep gold. Remove the garlic from the pan and put in the strips of pancetta. Cook them until they begin to crisp on the edges. Add the wine. Cook the wine down for 2 minutes.

Break the eggs into a pasta serving bowl, Beat them lightly with a fork. Then add the Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pepper and parsley. Mix thoroughly.

Add drained, hot pasta to the bowl and toss rapidly to coat the strands well. Add the pancetta and wine. Toss again and serve immediately.

Personal Note: I also like this pasta dish a lot. I don't know that the following food folklore is true, but I've been told this dish originated during World War II when GIs were in Italy with their rations of eggs and bacon. They asked locals what they should do with it to make it tasty and apparently the answer was Pasta Carbonara. It's like breakfast pasta. Yum. And don't be afraid of the raw egg thing--as long as you've got the pasta you're adding to it very hot as well as the hot pancetta cooked in oil, and the egg has been beat sufficiently, the heat is enough to cook the egg just right. Again, yum.

Quick n' Half Assed Curry

Quick n' Half Assed Curry

4 tsp (or more...I used more) curry powder
1 or 2 onions, chopped
2 or so tomatoes, chopped
1 can of chick peas, drained
Frozen veggies; the amount at your discretion
1 can coconut milk
Hot Thai curry paste (optional)
Pieces of chicken (optional)

Fry the curry powder in hot oil for a bit to release some flavor and aroma. Then throw the rest in, bring to a boil, and let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve on top of rice.

Personal Note: I know I know, this is a travesty and real curry is all about simmering for hours to subtly blend spices to sublime effect, etc etc. I know. But sometimes you just want curry at like, 10 pm after work, dammit, and lack the foresight for all of that and need a quick fix. This will do. I don't pretend for a second it's anything nearing the real deal, but yeah. It can hit the spot nicely. I found this on mefi searching for stuff to put on top of white rice--I got an actually decent rice cooker (I've had such bad luck with them in the past; them's complicated gadgets!) for Christmas from my aunt and uncle, and that combined with celebrating Robert's ability to still eat the stuff (he had a diabetes scare earlier this month) means tons of rice. I want to purchase some furikake next.

Oh, by the way, I added some heat to the recipe by tossing in a bit of the green curry paste I have lying around you get at asian and indian food shops. I think without some heat it would have been a lot blander. I also had to deal with the pain in the ass of not being able to find my stash of coconut milk (I know I always have some on hand...grrr...) at the last minute and having to improvise by soaking coconut flakes in hot water and pressing out the "milk." Haha.

Thai Pork Green Curry

Thai Pork Green Curry

Serves 4

It's so easy!

1 tablespoon oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1 kg (2 lbs.) shoulder pork, diced or pork pieces
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 red chillies, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce/soy sauce
1/2 tablesp. sugar
2 lime leaves or 2 teaspoon lime zest
Handful basil leaves, chopped
Salt to taste

To cook:
Heat the oil in a large pan. Sauté the onions until well browned.

Stir in the curry paste and cook for a moment or two. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then add all remaining ingredients including the meat.

Stir well, cover and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Black Bean Salad

Black Bean Salad

3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly but gently
1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly but gently
1 can yellow corn, drained
A few scallions (both the white and green), sliced
1 medium to large yellow/cooking onion, chopped
1 or 2 chiles (jalapenos), minced
2 small cucumbers, cubed
A bit of oil (so the astringent juice "binds" to the ingredients. I use canola/vegetable, but olive oil etc. might work)
1/2 lime's juice or to taste
Vinegar (your choice; I like red wine/sherry vinegar or rice wine vinegar) to taste

Put all ingredients in a nonreactive container and mix, adjust flavors. Cover and chill.

Personal Note: Cribbed from my dad and basically ad-libbed. This is great for really scalding days when you can't comprehend cooking or even eating hot dishes. All it takes is opening cans, chopping stuff up, dousing the whole thing in some juice and vinegar, tossing, and throwing in the fridge to chill. It gets better over time too. Also, it's got tons of protein and fiber, but doesn't lack flavor. I find it can be tasty with tomatoes, but they get mushy quickly so it's best to chop some up at the last minute per meal (this makes enough to last for days as a snack, side, and/or main meal component). Oh, and obviously other stuff can go in here! It's a very "whatever you want, and the kitchen sink"-type "recipe." Yum.

Vodka Lemonade

Vodka Lemonade

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water, plus 8 cups
4 lemons, juiced
Ice cubes

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook the sugar until dissolved but the syrup is still clear. Do not cook the sugar until it starts to turn color. Remove from heat and cool.

In a pitcher, combine the syrup, 8 cups water, the lemon juice, vodka and ice and stir to combine. Pour into tall glasses and enjoy!

Personal Note: I don't make this with the vodka, but Tyler is right on about the simple syrup. I keep some on hand in the fridge even, so that mixed drinks and fresh squeezed summer juices are just a fruit squeeze away. Yum. Then I just keep refilling and stirring the contents of the pitcher in the fridge as it dwindles. Sometimes i add a bit of vodka to an individual serving, and it is indeed a refreshing way to have it in the summertime. I also use filtered water when I make this, but that's more just so that it's cold right away. I don't add ice, but a sprig of mint is nice now and then. I add the zest from the lemons in long solid peels to the pitcher, but I don't know if it actually helps any...I just can't bear to throw away perfectly good skins.

Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

3 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
Pinch (1/8 teaspoon or less) salt

Cut butter into a cast iron skillet. Heat the skillet in a 400F oven until it melts. While it's melting, mix the rest of the ingredients until combined. Pull the skillet out of the oven, pour the batter in evenly, and return to the oven. Bake until puffy and browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For extra super deliciousness, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still hot and top with some fresh raspberries or blackberries. Strawberries would be good too! Goes great for a sunny lazy Sunday breakfast with fresh squeezed juice.

Personal Note: My parents used to make Yorkshire pudding every Christmas because they always made a huge roast beef, so the drippings were handy, and because my otherwise Spartan and health-conscious maternal grandmother inhaled the stuff. I'd never heard of Dutch Baby until very recently, but now that I have I smile in recognition (it's basically Yorkshire pudding except the fat component isn't beef drippings, it's butter). It's a cute little piece of culinary alchemy--so simple yet never-fail delicious in its transformation. It's a great homage to the power of cast iron.

Here's some photos of someone else's. Oh, here's another; that looks more like my recipe, and the results look more like mine too. And another! And another. I can't help it! It's fun to watch it puff up. :)

Sauteed Okra with Quick Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes and okra are a classic combination. This juicy side dish, served with rice or pasta, makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken or fish, such as halibut or catfish.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound small okra (no more than 3 inches long), stems removed
Salt and ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the okra and cook, stirring occasionally, until the okra is bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the okra to a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the empty pan. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the okra and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Personal Note: This is from The Best Recipe cookbook series from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated. It's in the Perfect Vegetables volume. My mom gave me a zillion of them when I went away on my own to college. Robert loves okra, being all Southern and whatnot (he also likes grape soda and white gravy, ee), and I admitted when I first visited Memphis that it was palatable fried. However, I'd only ever seen it fried or in that snotty monstrosity people who hate okra are familiar with, boiled or whatever in a slimy pile. This is great though--it's ridiculous how easy and quick it is, and now that I've made it a few times I know it's totally foolproof. The okra has this snap or "bite" to it that is just ! It's my favorite way to eat okra now, even more than goes so well with the tomato and the spice of the red pepper. Yum.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hungarian pork

I did something like this last year

Porkchops (most any pork will do) marinated in sour cream I think? Cooked with more sour cream, onion, garlic,and paprika?It was suppose to have some whitewine also. It was make into a gravy or sauce of some sort and served like that.
I think that some sauerkraut could be mixed in. There are some frozen perogis in the freezer that need to be used and would well with this.

Easy Paella


1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
2. 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3. 1 (12 ounce) package chicken sausage, sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
4. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
6. 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
7. 1/4 teaspoon paprika
8. 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
9. 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
10. 2 (14.5 ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
11. Coarse salt and ground pepper
12. 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

((I dont see any saffron! Damn you martha!))

1. In a heavy 12-inch saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until just pink on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes (do not overcook). Transfer to a plate.
2. Add remaining tablespoon oil and sausage to pan; cook over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and rice; cook, stirring to coat, until rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Stir in paprika, turmeric, tomatoes, and broth, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed almost all liquid, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Stir in cooked shrimp; serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shredded Pork Taquitos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Corn and Goat Cheese Queso

This recipe is a bit over the top, but I loved the taquitos that we had with the smoked pork. I would love to do that again, but the smoking is quite a chore! I am sure that we can roast the pork in the oven.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 head garlic, with the top 1/4 removed
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper >>REMOVE
1/2 cup minced onions
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and minced
4 avocados, pitted and diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
18 corn tortillas

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Im sure that pork, marinade(wickers!), garlic, onions, and some barbecue(dry rub or sauce?) would be great roasted in the oven for a few hours. . . serve with guacamole!