Friday, August 20, 2010

A Rerun

Let me keep this short and sweet...I posted this before, but it's worth re-posting. First of all, many of you weren't reading back then and secondly the pictures I had were atrocious, and thirdly, well...just because it's delicious and I thought some of you might want to eek just a little bit more tomato out of your summer. (As you can tell from some of my recent posts, I've already gone into the "premature Fall food mode"; this happens to me every year). Anyways- here's one of the last summer recipes; I might have one more in me, as I've been working on a delicious tomato sorbet/granita type thing), but we'll see. We've still got plenty of tomatoes in the garden, but most of them are finding their way into my freezer where they will patiently wait until their day of tomato bisque, black bean chili, and clam chowder glory arrives.Ain't it purdy?

Tomato Tart

  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (out of a 17.3 oz. package)

  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil

  • 1 sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • 3 tbsp. dry white wine
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced

  • app. 5 oz. good parmesan cheese, grated

  • 6-8 large tomato slices (depending on the size)- these must be FRESH AND LOCAL!
  • 3 tbsp. fresh basil, julienned

Thaw your puff pastry sheet according the the package directions. Once thawed, place it on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and open it gently until it is flat and rectangular (or square, depending on brand) in shape. Take a knife and score the pastry. This involves taking a knife and just cutting slightly into the pastry (not through it) all the way around the perimeter of the pastry, about 1/2 inch from the edge. This just sort of creates a "border" which you can use as a guide to place your toppings within. The edge of the pastry will puff up around the middle part, which has your toppings on it.

After scoring, you will need to take a fork and prick the middle part of the pastry (inside the "border"). It is okay if your fork pierces all the way through the pastry.

Once you've scored and pricked your pastry, place it back in the refrigerator. Puff pastry needs to stay as cold as possible, so try to work quickly and handle it as little as you can.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, turn down heat and cook about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Once the onions are very tender and most of the moisture is gone from the skillet, you can add the following: wine, salt, pepper, and thyme. Continue cooking over low for about 5 more minutes, or until the onions are beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Put about 3/4 of the parmesan on the pastry (staying within the scored "border"). This parmesan creates a bit of a "barrier" on the bottom of the tart and protects it from becoming too soggy with tomato juice. Add the onion mixture over the cheese. Now it is time to place the tomatoes. I used 6 slices of tomato (2 each of 3 different varieties) and overlapped them on top of each other (like shingles) in 2 rows. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with a little more salt and pepper. Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan over the top.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the fresh basil. Let stand for a couple of minutes before slicing. Cut into 4 large squares. Can serve 2-4 people. It's hard to eat just one piece, but probably a wise decision considering the rich ingredients!

Friday, August 6, 2010

If I were a writer...

If I were a writer I could tell you how amazing this stew was. I could describe the silky richness that the egg yolk imparted to the gravy, the way that the light scent of cinnamon mingled with the fresh, bright lemon. I could tell you how the texture of tender lamb, hearty potatoes, and smooth gravy felt like they were just made for each other.

But...I'm clearly not a writer. If I could airmail a sample of this stew to Molly Wizenberg, I would; she'd know just what to say. She'd say it beautifully. Her description would, no doubt, make you want this stew even if you hate lamb and potatoes and yogurt and cinnamon.

Nope. I can't do it justice, for sure. But I can tell you this...after coming across this recipe on Cooking By the Seat of My Pants, I officially have a new dish in my "Top 10 favorite foods". This is so delicious, so interesting, so satisfying....well, I just can't even begin to tell you. The best I can do is show you the PROOF...see here- the gigantic pot being scraped clean by a hand that just looks HAPPY??? I realize it's not the most appetizing picture, but you needed to know the truth. If we could've licked the bottom of that pot, we would've. I cannot wait to make this all winter long. TRUE COMFORT FOOD AT ITS BEST!

Don't forget to make some chapati to go with this stew. I used some fresh chives from the garden in this batch. TOO good! Oh- and as always...I've added fresh cilantro to the stew. The original recipe didn't call for it, but it was truly perfect with it. The original recipe also removes the potatoes from the stew, but I left the chunks of potato in and would highly recommend it.

Turkish Lamb and Yogurt Stew (aka "make ya wanna slap somebody stew")
  • 1 1/4 lb lamb, on the bone (I used lamb steaks, but you could use chops, etc)
  • 9 cups vegetable stock (I had homemade stock in the freezer that was NOT salted)
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and diced in app. 1" pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • water- may need to add, see below
  • 1/3 cup whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on desired heat (I went with 1/4 tsp)
Add lamb steaks and vegetable stock to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover, and simmer for 2 hours or until lamb is nearly falling off the bone. Remove lamb from pot and "clean" (remove bone and fat). Tear lamb into pieces and set aside.

Add the diced potatoes to the stock, cover, and boil until potatoes are tender. You will need to watch this to make sure it doesn't dry up. I had to add 1 cup of water about halfway through. Once potatoes are tender, add the cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, and salt. Stir well, cover, and then keep over low heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and flour until smooth. Add egg yolk and lemon juice and whisk well. Temper egg mixture by ladeling a bit of the hot broth into egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once tempered, add egg mixture to stock pot and stir until well combined. Return the lamb pieces to the pot, cover, and allow to heat through (about 5 minutes).

In the meantime, melt the butter and red pepper flakes over low heat. Drizzle a bit of the pepper butter over each serving of stew and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with chapati or flatbread.

Servings- uh, well I guess it could serve 4 with a big salad or something. The two of us ate the whole thing. Don't judge us.

Chive Chapati
  • Check out this link for great instructions on making chapati and incorporating herbs into them. Her pictures are so helpful! She calls them "pancakes", but it's no different. Note that you might have to add a bit more water than her recipe calls for. Just add a little at a time until your dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Gyro Made At Home

That dang Kelsey at Williams Island Farm has done it again! After a trip to the Main Street Farmer's Market, my mom returned with some produce and Cumberland Lamb; a very welcome gift from Kelsey! You might remember what happened the last time he sent us some produce. Well this time was no different; my enthusiasm was more than it should have been and I became obsessed with looking for lamb recipes. I have an awesome one that uses a leg of lamb, but he'd sent some steaks, chops, and ground meat...As always, I wanted to find the *BEST* way to use it!
The ground lamb got me thinkin' about gyros, and after a surprisingly difficult search for gyro recipes, I realized a few things:
1. Apparently the gyro is a sly and mysterious creature; one that nobody can agree on in any aspect whatsoever. An almost magical creation that seems to somehow appear on the plates of diners across the world without any real knowledge of how it actually got there. A divisive and elusive little recipe that inspired in me the determination to figure this little bad boy out.
2. "Real" Greek gyros use pork, and sometimes chicken and veal. "Greek-American" style gyros utilize ground lamb and beef.
3. The way the meat, the sauce, and even the accompaniments are done vary from region to region, even in Greece.
4. Creating the "cone of meat" was not going to be possible at home. We were going to have to come as close as possible using another method.
5. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (author of the Food Lab article discussed below) is a genius.The genius, mentioned in item #5 above, wrote this article, which is a MUST-READ! This is a "Food Lab" article and was so helpful in understanding the science behind gyro meat. Okay- don't be scared by the word "science"...even I could understand it. Basically, they conducted experiments and posted the results. The conclusion was that 5 things were really important; salting the meat 2 hours in advance, incorporating enough fat, keeping the meat cold, avoiding over-cooking, and emulsifying the fat through mechanical mixing (i.e. a food processor). From their pictures I felt pretty confident that they knew what they were talking about, but there was still a little doubt in my mind. Like any sane person conducting a scary food experiment, I invited my parents over for dinner. If it was a nightmare, I was guaranteed that they would still love me afterwards.
One more problem with homemade gyros...flatbread. A lot of you will be able to pick it up at the market, but I couldn't find it anywhere here (I actually couldn't even find it in Atlanta). So, we had to eat my mom's homemade flatbread; as you can see, it's not very pretty be we made it work. (Okay- I'm's BEAUTIFUL and was soft, and pliable, and perfect)!

So, you really do need to click on the link above and read that article. However, I'm still posting my recipe here, as I changed a couple of things just a tiny bit. Check out this meat! After baking it in a loaf, you slice it and then crisp it up under the broiler. It's almost like the real thing!
The meat actually held together like the article claimed it would! Don't ya love it when you're not lied to?!?!

MMM!! Served with tzatziki sauce (our own version- yall know we're some cilantro-lovin' fools), garden tomatoes, garden cucumbers, sliced onions, and hot sauce. A success!
Greek-American Gyros

For the meat:

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 lb. ground beef (about 75%-85% lean)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 4 slices bacon (thick-sliced)
For the Tzatziki:
  • a 6 oz. container plain Greek yogurt (I used low fat)
  • 2 tbsp. mayo (as always, Duke's)
  • 1 medium/ large clove garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. *Normally, tzatziki sauce has mint and parsley. We prefer cilantro. Do as you please.

To serve:
  • 6 pieces flatbread (NOT pita bread)
  • diced fresh tomato
  • thinly sliced onion
  • diced cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • hot sauce
Combine lamb, beef, salt, pepper, and oregano in a mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until well mixed, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. *This time is important!

After 2 hours, you can start with the rest of the process. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Pulse the onion, garlic, and bacon in a food processor until pureed. Add the beef/lamb mixture to food processor and puree, scraping sides down with spatula as necessary, until you have a smooth paste. (Note- this will look disgusting, as you might imagine any meat in "paste form" would). Place meat on a foil-lined baking sheet. Shape into a loaf, about 12" long x 6" wide x 2" high. Refrigerate for another 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, make the tzatziki sauce, cover, and refrigerate. After the loaf has chilled for 10 minutes or so, place on middle rack of oven and bake for about 1 hour (or until internal temp reads 155 degrees). Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. (*At this point, you can refrigerate loaf until ready to serve, at which time you simply slice and cook under the broiler until crispy on each side).

After meat has rested, slice into 1/2" (or thinner) slices. Lay slices in a single layer on a clean baking sheet and cook under broiler for about 2 minutes. Turn slices over and broil other side for another 2 minutes, or until meat is crispy and browned on the edges. Now you're ready to serve! Place 3-4 slices of meat on each piece of flatbread and allow everyone to dress their gyro as they like. Oh- and serve in foil wrappers if you wanna really feel like you're eating at a real gyro place!

Serves 6

Oh, and prepare yourselves for more lamb recipes to come. As I sit here the smell of lamb steaks stewing in broth is causing my stomach to growl. A Turkish lamb and yogurt stew is in the works and hopefully it will be worth posting!

******Per your requests, here's the flatbread recipe from my mom....

here is the flatbread as far as i can remember :

scald : 2 cups fat free milk (i reckon you could use whole milk, but this is what i had)...('scald' is when tiny bubbles appear around the edges and there's a bit of steam....don't boil)

add : 1/4 cup 'chobani' lowfat plain greek yogurt
mix well and pour into a kitchenaid mixer bowl
let cool till 'warm' to touch

add : instant yeast (probably 1 1/2 tbsp.) ; stir ; let sit for 5 - 10 minutes

add : 1 tbsp lite olive oil (or vegetable oil)

add : 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour and 2 cups 'king arthur'
bread flour, plus 3 tsp. real salt, and 1 tsp vital gluten flour
sprinkled over ; mix, using the
tips of your fingers just on top of the liquids, just to slightly blend in
the gluten and salt....

then turn on your mixer (using the bread hook) and begin to

(here's the 'tricky' part)'ll probably need to add about 2 more cups of flour (it could be could be will have to be the judge)......i just add about 1/4 cup at a time (alternating between bread flour and plain flour)....just keep incorporating flour until mixture comes away from the side of the bowl.....

oil the sides of the bowl and let dough rise (covered with a kitchen towel) for 30 minutes)....

in the meantime, preheat oven to 500*....

when dough is risen, turn it out onto an oiled surface, and cut into 6 pieces ; let rest about 5 minutes, while you prepare 3 large insulated cookie sheets with cooking spray ; working quickly, shape the pieces of dough into oblong, flat 'pizza-like' forms ,oh, probably about 8-9 inches long, by 6-7 inches wide... (you can do this by alternately turning and 'dangling' each piece...then plop it on the pan to finish shaping if needed...there should be a few nice bubbles which you don't need to flatten out)....

at this point, i placed the cookie sheets in plastic garbage bags and set them in the fridge for about an hour (i wanted to cook them at the time when they'd be fresh for dinner)....but i think you could bake them right away if you so desired.....however, if you only have one oven, you may want to slow down the rising a little by putting 2 pans in the fridge while you bake the third.....

or not!.........even with 3 ovens, i prefer the one-pan-at-a time method, because you have to watch them closely or you'll cremate them!'s the fun part!....baking!.....your oven should be nice and hot (preheated at 500)....but NOW you turn it on 'BROIL'.....pop a pan under the broiler (about 5 or 6 inches from the element) and 'broil' your bread until it's golden with spots of dark closely!...this will probably take only 3-5 minutes!....then, slide the pan out, flip the breads over and place on the BOTTOM rack of the oven and continue 'broiling' about 5 more minutes or until lightly golden.......

remove from oven and run a stick of cold unsalted butter over the hot surfaces of the bread....stack on (and between) kitchen towels to cool (make sure the towels are clean and dry and drape over the sides of the bread)....this will help insure a soft, 'bendable' flatbread....

we reheated these in foil at dinnertime and were 'swahz-a-lahz'!....they didn't seem to be as good the next day as they were fresh (although we didn't reheat them).....AND....we didn't have any more of carli's awesome 'gyro lamb' to go on them, so that possibly could have been the difference! :>)

hope these turn out okay for you as i'm writing from memory

Friday, July 30, 2010

It figures.

I am a bona fide rain-loving chick. I can sense how obnoxious I am when people say "Ahh, this is an awful day...what a mess", and I respond with a sheepish, "Actually, I like it". I mean seriously, don't ya just hate those you've-obviously-been-in-therapy-and-I-can-tell-what-your-latest-sessions-have-been-dealing-with-responses?? I feel like the Pavlov's dog of positivity who's been trained to respond in such a manner... Encounter a grumpy person who's clearly already suffering from seasonal affective disorder?? Smile, and give them your most annoying answer. (And try not to get your face punched in).

But the thing is, I really love it. Like, alot. I'm sorta the opposite of most people; I get sick of days upon days of sunshine. Dad-gum blue sky after blue sky. There's nothing like a dark gray storm front to turn my mood around! This being said, we've had a pretty dry month around here. I've longed for rain (not just for my mood, but for the garden too). I've never been much into checking the weather; I figure if it rains, it rains and if it's doesn't, it doesn't. But this dry spell's got me checking the weather 3 times a day. It's as if I can will it to rain by doing so. Every day last week had about a 30% chance for scattered thunderstorms, but each day they were scattered away from us.
I'd seen this recipe for soy glazed salmon burgers on Foodbuzz and was waiting for the perfect night to try it. Monday night I was out of ginger, Tuesday night I had to do drawings, Wednesday and Thursday I was working, but by Friday the planets had aligned and it was time to give it a go. The girl and I had spent the day at the pool with family; it was hot as blazes and not a cloud in sight (one of those spf unrealistic number days). Around 2:00 a thunderhead started rolling in and by the time we were driving home, it was actually hailing. SO exciting! This seemed like a perfect way to transition from a fun day to a great Friday night with a salmon burger on the menu!

I'd had a feeling that this "burger" was gonna' be blog-worthy, and I knew that this afternoon thunderstorm would move out just in time to take some photos before dinner. When we got home the rain was still coming down. The house started getting darker, and darker, and within minutes I had to turn lights on; it was literally as dark as nighttime. It was cool, but almost a little apocalyptic and creepy...I mean, it was pitch black at 3 in the afternoon. 4:00 came and went. Still dark. crew was starting to get irritable. I had no choice. The food was ready and we were hungry. And it was still crazy dark. No photos for me.So, I was right about one thing...this was definitely blog-worthy. (Actually, I'm afraid you won't believe me if I say it so soon after the last time, but this actually receives the "If I had a restaurant I'd put it on the menu" accolade). Really. We loved it! What I was wrong about, was my thinking that it wasn't the end of the world and this storm would move on out. There was not one ounce of natural light to photograph these burgers by, which is such a shame because they were so pretty! I found myself being frustrated by this and then had to just let it I was, having the most awesome weather, the weather that I'd been longing for, the weather that really did make a perfect ending to a great day, and I was complaining because of stupid food blog pictures. So, I got a grip, I took pictures under the bright kitchen lights, I sat down to dinner with my family, and had a DELICIOUS meal on a stormy, dark Friday night. And it was perfect.

Soy Glazed Salmon Burgers with Ginger-Lime Aioli
(I tweaked the original recipe a bit; they used salmon filets and though I'm sure it would be delicious, I wanted to try a more economical route. Also, I added the cabbage because I felt like it needed some crunch and some color. Good move). *This would also be awesome with crab cakes!

First, make aioli:

Ginger-Lime Aioli
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. mayo (I use Duke's)
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp. ginger (fresh, finely minced or ginger paste)
  • pinch kosher salt
Combine all, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Next, make soy glaze:

Soy Glaze
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 tbsp. orange juice
Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, watching carefully and whisking often, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

Salmon Burgers
  • 24 oz. canned "chunk-style" boneless, skinless pink salmon (well drained)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (or a good handful of chopped fresh chives)
Gently stir all ingredients together. Shape into 4 large "burgers". Add 3 tbsp. oil to a non-stick skillet (I use my large electric skillet for this) and heat over med/high heat until nice and hot. Add burgers and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. When burgers are done, brush the top of each burger with the soy glaze until well-coated. (*Note- you will have some glaze leftover; some will be used for the cabbage, but you will still have a bit left). Turn heat down to low, just to keep burgers warm while you prepare cabbage (don't cover with a lid; they'll get soggy).

Wilted Red Cabbage
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced (NOT grated)
  • 1 tsp. soy glaze (recipe above)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add cabbage and cook, tossing often for about 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Remove from heat and toss with 1 tsp. soy glaze and fresh cilantro. Serve on burgers immediately.

To assemble burgers:
Place burger on a large bun, top with wilted cabbage, drizzle with aioli, and top with bun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thank you Mexico.

It shouldn't have taken me this long to post this (I actually think that I'd assumed I'd posted it until a friend recently asked for the recipe). This is one of those life-changing recipes; one that enlightened me, opened my eyes to the possibilities with food, and increased my desire to be imaginative in the kitchen. It sounded like an unusual combination of ingredients to a young, Southern gal such as myself and piqued my interest immediately. It's simple, it's scrumptious, and like many good things, a little bit messy. "Oaxaca Corn" is what we've come to call it and since discovering it, I haven't eaten corn on the cob any other way. Not once.Oaxaca Mexico is known as the "Land of 7 moles". Yes. Book my plane ticket now. You know I'm a mole-lovin' fool. But they might even be more famous for this corn. Grilled over a fire, brushed with a creamy sour cream mixture, dusted with chili powder and cheese, and served with fresh lime. Mmm- sweet, salty, spicy, and tart. Could it get any better? This is a summertime treat that has become a tradition 'round these parts. With corn, fresh from the Main Street Farmer's Market, and a hankering for some homemade limeade with fresh mint, Oaxaca corn was definitely in order.Now, as I'm sure you can see from the pictures, I don't grill the corn. I know, it's not authentic, but I really feel like it gets a bit dry on the grill, and I just prefer it boiled; it's perfectly tender, sweet, and juicy. Do what you please. When I'm making this for dinner, I usually go ahead and make the corn first, as it is fine to sit on a platter at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Then I'll throw together something real quick and dinner is served. Last night, we had it with some pan-seared shrimp with chimichurri sauce, and a fresh salad with creamy cucumber dill dressing. Add to that the homemade "mojito" and you've pretty much got heaven on earth. The girl agreed.
I guess I shouldn't fail to mention a "thanks" to Argentina as well...It is to them that we owe our appreciation for chimichurri. Argentina, you did it. Now, like so many things, you can find lots of variations in recipes for chimichurri; most of them call for a few basic things such as parley, bay leaf, oil, red wine vinegar, cumin, and garlic. Some add cilantro, some add oregano...I've even seen a few that included tomatoes. I left out the parsley because Michael's not wild about it. We just went with all cilantro. We luuuuv cilantro. You can make the chimichurri early in the day and let it start getting all yummified. Then, it's ready at dinner; all you have to do is make the corn, sear the shrimp, and throw a simple green salad on the plate. (And make sure to add Sungold tomatoes to the salad- they are the all time best). Perfect summer food, I'm tellin' ya.
Oaxaca Corn
(I don't know how authentic this recipe is. I'm guessing that they might use some cheese other than parmesan...I've tried to find an authentic recipe but haven't had much luck. Until then, this is good enough).
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. mayo (I always use Duke's)
  • 2 heaping tbsp. finely grated parmesan cheese (I use what I call the "ghetto" kind in the green can- you know what I mean. This is one application in which it works really well).
  • 1 heaping tbsp. good chili powder
  • 4 ears of fresh corn
Start a large pot of water boiling (should be as tall as your corn cob is). Pull husks back and tie them together with some twine. Remove silks. When water is rapidly boiling, place corn in water, trying to keep husks out of the water, and boil for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, mix sour cream and mayo together in one bowl, and parmesan and chili powder together in another. When corn is done, remove from water and pat dry on a clean kitchen towel. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Then, using a pastry brush, coat one ear of corn with the sour cream mixture (pretty generously) and then coat with chili powder mixture (again, pretty generously). Place on a platter and repeat process for remaining ears of corn. Serve with fresh lime slices.

Chimichurri Sauce
  • 1 1/2-2 cups fresh cilantro (loosely packed)
  • a good handful of fresh parsley, if you want
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika (can sub. regular if that's all you have)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes, to your liking
  • 1-2 shallots, depending on size
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Puree all together. Cover and let marinate for at least 2 hours. Can leave at room temp. during this time. Then store leftover sauce in refrigerator or freezer.

You only need a tiny amount if serving as a sauce over seafood, poultry, skirt steak, etc. Also makes a great marinade.

Pan-Seared Shrimp
This is awesome any way you eat it. I like throwing it in gnocchi with pesto and cherry tomatoes, putting it in shrimp tacos...anything. The key is drying the shrimp well so they get good and caramelized on the outside.
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (fresh is best, but if using frozen, soak the thawed shrimp in 1 cup buttermilk for about an hour, then drain, and pat dry. This will help take away any "fishy" taste).
  • scant tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • oil for cooking
Pat raw shrimp dry on paper towels (see note above about soaking in buttermilk first if not using fresh shrimp). Transfer to a clean, dry bowl, and toss with salt, pepper, and sugar to coat. Heat just a bit of oil, maybe 1-2 tbsp, in a skillet until almost smoking hot. Add shrimp to skillet, making sure each one has its own "space" in the pan and is in contact with the surface of the pan. Don't mess with them; just allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes (you may need to turn down the heat just slightly). After about 2-3 minutes, shrimp will be nicely seared and caramelized and will release from the pan easily. If you're having to tug at them, they're not ready to turn. When they release easily, turn them over (working quickly) and allow to cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or so. Serve immediately.
(If serving with chimichurri, you can drizzle a small amount (maybe a tbsp. or so) over each serving, or toss it all together in a bowl before serving. Just be only need a little bit)!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fish are jumpin' and the grass is high

It's hard to blog in the summertime. The cook in me has been on hiatus; there's always outside work to be done, fun to be had, and we're just flat tired. And hot. And sometimes irritable. Cooking has been more about using whatever we can out of the garden and avoiding the grocery store like the plague. Our refrigerator has never been so bare; for weeks on end now it's been empty with the exception of a few daily squash, zuchinni, cucumbers, swiss chard, kale, and the last few stubborn lettuces that simply refuse to give in to this oppressive heat. You go lettuce.

I never buy ice cream at the grocery store. Or any sweets for that matter. I figure that if I want something bad enough to make it, then I really want it. Ready-made treats just sitting around, waiting to be consumed without any effort on my part...well, that's just dangerous.

Last night we had a little "family date night"; all 3 of us went out on the town. It was meant to be; perfect from start to finish. The girl did beautifully at the restaurant, ate a great dinner, didn't make a bit of a mess...our food was fantastic...we walked around downtown for hours with my FAVORITE kind of weather (gray skies that threaten rain and wind that means a storm's coming in, but it's not yet raining). Perfect. Perfect enough for ice cream!
After walking by 4 different ice cream places and having some type of "criticism" for each one, Michael advised that I just pick something up at the store and take it home; he reminded me that I'm always disappointed whenever I buy from any of these shops. He was right. After considering the value for the money, we decided to make a stop at the grocery on the way home.

Kudos to whoever branded Talenti gelato and sorbet; their packaging caught my attention right away and I knew they had me. Sitting beside "Chunky Monkey" and "Half Baked", the Blood Orange Sorbet looked so clean, so fresh, so special. Yep. I woulda' paid anything for this stuff. Blood Orange Sorbet for me and Double Dark Chocolate for my orange-hatin' husband. (Well, and for me too...let me not mislead).
Yum. This was exactly what I wanted. The sorbet was refreshing, the gelato rich and creamy. Though I've gotta say...I wanted Talenti to win my heart, but it still didn't come close to the orange sorbet that Haagen Dazs used to make. Bring it back Haagen Dazs. Bring it back.

But it's good...and it inspired me to get back in the kitchen and whip something up. I had a watermelon sitting on the counter, just staring at me, and I figured I'd better try to make good use of it. For years I've been trying watermelon salads of every type; you know they kind of became the trendy thing a few years ago and one or two recipes still pops up each summer. They always sound great on paper, but have thus far, been a disappointment. I've tried them with olives and red onions, goat cheese and cilantro, mint and lime. All just...."eh".
Tonight, as I faced an empty fridge, I knew I'd need to make use of what was in the garden; lots of basil and some fresh cucumbers. I had a bit of feta cheese and THE SORBET. I made a quick vinaigrette with a balsamic reduction and blood orange sorbet...It worked. So much that Michael ate three servings. This really does scream "SUMMER"; it's so fresh and light, full of flavor, cool, fruity, and easy to make. We have a winner!
I made a quick corn chowder to go along with it, using some more fresh stuff out of the garden. Mmmm!!! Now, I know alot of people think that soup in the summertime is like some type of sin, but I'm a fan. I don't really understand why soup is supposed to make us hotter than other hot things we eat. I mean, nobody's eatin' cold lasagna or chilled hamburgers. That's another thing (while I'm on the subject)...what's up with summertime grilling? That is hot. You stand outside. Over fire. But that's supposed to be more appropriate than slow roasting something in your air conditioned house. I dunno. I think it's all backwards. I want to grill in the Fall and make the most of summertime corn while it's fresh! (Which means, a pot of soup is in order).
I don't really have an exact recipe for this, but I can give you the basics. Every time I make corn chowder it's different; it always just depends what I have on hand; sometimes with bacon, sometimes with orange zest, sometimes with cayenne, and sometimes without. I've used leeks and shallots, caramelized onions and chives. You get the picture. This one was excellent and was really set apart by the Roasted Red Pepper/Tomato garnish! I would recommend trying this with any corn chowder's the perfect accompaniment! So here's what I did with the soup, and the watermelon salad recipe is below. If you can handle soup in the summer you should give this a go. (Serve it with the refreshing watermelon salad all works)!

Soup goes something like... saute a diced large sweet onion in a couple tablespoons of light olive oil until starting to brown. Deglaze pan with a good bit of sherry (maybe 3/4 cup) and cook until it evaporates. Add a couple tablespoons unsalted butter. When melted, stir in a good bit of flour (maybe a heavy 1/4 cup). Cook a minute and then add milk (3 cups or so?). Whisk until smooth, over low heat until thickened to desired consistency. Add fresh corn, cut off the cob (2-3 cups?). Add kosher salt and pepper to taste, a few shakes of cayenne, a cup or so of grated sharp cheddar cheese, and a big handful of chopped fresh chives. Finish with another splash of sherry. Serve with a garnish of red pepper/tomato puree. (I just pureed half of a small can of tomato paste with a couple of roasted red peppers from a jar until it was smooth. You may need to use a bit of the oil from the jar or a bit of water to get desired consistency. Oh, and add a pinch of salt). Top with more fresh chives.

Watermelon Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
  • 3 cups watermelon cubes, cut into small cubes- about 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup diced cucumber, cut even smaller than watermelon
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Drizzle of Blood Orange Vinaigrette on each serving, recipe below
  • Feta cheese, sprinkled on each serving
Gently toss watermelon with cucumber and basil. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. When serving, you will need to plate salad on 4 individual salad plates. Just before serving, drizzle each salad with a bit of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. Talenti blood orange sorbet
  • scant 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. coarse black pepper
Pour balsamic into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced by half. Allow to cool slightly. Whisk in remaining ingredients and set aside until ready to use.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A year's worth

This week marks the first anniversary of this lil' ol' blog. I was telling a friend that it's sort of like having a don't really remember what life was like before it. Were there really years that I could just cook with abandon, throwing things in a pot without measuring and sitting down to eat without a full-blown photo shoot first? (My husband might wish we could go back to those ways). I've gotten used to these pesky little "nuisances" that come along with food blogging; in fact I've learned to appreciate them.

I'm building quite a collection of recipes; not only the ones that end up getting posted, but others that may never see the likes of Blogger. Each recipe has a bit of "life" in it. As I look back through many of them, I remember. The chaotic handwriting and wild scribbling reminds me of when I was frantically trying to get a meal together for unexpected guests; a reunion of friends. The oil spots on the paper make me giggle as I picture myself fuming, spatula in hand, mixing bowl empty, and its former contents dripping out of my hair and down the kitchen walls. Many recipes often contain notes that I've written to myself after we've eaten; "not so great- try again with something acidic"..."Michael thinks the onion texture was funky- he's right- try slicing next time"..."this was a nightmare"..."disgusting". As I came across some of the "disgusting" ones, I wondered why I'd kept them. I guess it has something to do with learning from your mistakes... I don't ever want to forget that eating a cup of edamame puree was a BAD idea.

Life. That is what's represented in these recipes. We've gotta take the good with the bad, the successes with the failures, and try to be humbled by them both. On the days that I'm frustrated, overwhelmed, and wondering why I'm doing this, I think of my daughter. My mom has given me such a rich history of recipes; such an archive of living through the pages that fill her cookbooks. Even though I get onto her about getting them organized so that I'll be able to sort through them one day, I am grateful for their existence and want to pass along this heritage. In my family, FOOD is our "love language" (admittedly sometimes to a fault). Thanks for coming here and letting me share a little bit of love. Thanks for reading.
To sort of commemorate the event I thought it'd be fun to go back and see what recipes YOU liked the most this year. Here they are, your Top12 (ew, I felt like Ryan Seacrest saying that). I gotta say, you surprised me with some of these...never thought beet custard would get such a response! (Oh- click the links to see the post and the recipes).

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