Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Salmon Pie & Plum Spoon Bread

Tonight we made a recipe I have been wanting to try for a long time. We didn't really care for it, so I don't want to name the chef because I like really like her.  I know I didn't make it perfectly because there was some liquid on the parchment and it made the bottoms soggy.  The flavor was pretty good, but it was nowhere as good as the smell promised.  Also, while I didn't find it too labor intensive, it was more work than I wanted to do for the average results.  I also used sockeye salmon and for the money, I have much better recipes.  The best part of the meal is the dessert.  It is from an older issue of Food & Wine. (2008)  It is a spoon bread, and it came from the feature "Test Kitchen".  I love this feature.  This particular one was about a seasonal fruit dessert.  The same basic recipe can be used to create variations on the same dessert. (cobbler, crisp etc...)  I LOVE it made with plums!  It is so freakin' awesome!!  I haven't tried all the variations, but have tried all kinds of fruit.  (go with plum and a variety if you can)  The dessert is a keeper, but we won't be making the salmon pie again.

  Salmon Pie

  4 Servings

      4    (6-ounce) center cut salmon fillets,skin removed
      1    lemon,zested and juiced
           Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
      4 T  canola oil,divided
      1    medium Vidalia onion,chopped
      2 ea garlic,minced
      1 c  chopped shiitake mushrooms stems discarded
      2 t  chopped fresh thyme leaves
      4 c  SPINACH,dried, and loosely packed fresh baby
    1/4 c  sour cream
      2    frozen puff pastry sheets defrosted
           Chopped fresh parsley leaves,for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush both sides of the salmon with 1 teaspoon lemon juice and sprinkle
with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Warm 2 tablespoons oil in 2 separate skillets over medium-high heat.
Add half of the onion and half the garlic to each pan. Season with salt
and pepper, to taste, and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in
the mushrooms and thyme into 1 pan and the spinach, lemon zest and
remain lemon juice in the other pan. Stir the spinach until it wilts,
then transfer it to a bowl and set aside. Saute the mushrooms until
they are reduced and tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and
stir in the sour cream. Set aside.

Trim the thinner ends of the salmon fillet so you have 4 pieces of even
thickness. Unroll a pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Pass a
rolling pin lightly over 2 or 3 times to seal the seams and lengthen
slightly. Cut the pastry sheet into 3 equal strips, using the natural
seams as a guide. Roll out the second puff pastry sheet to get 1 more
strip. Save remaining puff pastry for another use. Lightly prick the 4
strips with a fork. Put 1 heaping spoonful of mushroom mixture on 1
half of each pastry, top with salmon, then layer with a heaping
spoonful of spinach mixture. Wet the edges of the pastry with water and
fold over the other half, pressing lightly and folding to seal the
edges. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling. Cut 2 vents on the top
of each pastry packet and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking
sheet.

Bake until the pastry is golden and fish is just opaque in the center,
about 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the pies from the oven to serving dishes and garnish with
chopped parsley.

Spoon Bread
      Yield: 10 Servings

          
Filling   
   4 pt Strawberries,Hulled And Quartered
      2 pt Blackberries
      2 pt Raspberries
    3/4 c  Sugar
      2 T  Cornstarch
          
Batter  1 1/2 c  Flour
      1 c  Sugar
      2 t  Lemopn Zest
  1 1/2 t  Baking Powder
      1 t  Kosher Salt
      2    Egg
    1/2 c  Milk
      1 t  Vanilla
  1 1/2    Butter,Unsalted And Melted

[Note: you can change the topping to: cobbler, crumble or pound cake
crisp.  you can sub the 8pints of fruit for 4 pounds of stone fruit.  I
love plums!!  slice or cube the stone fruit.  If you want to use
blueberries, use 6 pints and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.  ]
Make the filling by tossing the berries with the sugar and cornstarch
in a bowl.  Let stand 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and
salt.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs with the milk and the vanilla.  Whisk
the liquid into the dry ingredients until evenly moistned. then whisk
in the melted butter until smooth.
spread the filling into a 13x9" baking pan
spoon the batter over the top, leaving gaps
bake one hour until a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out
clean
let cool one hour



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Five-Spice Grilled Chicken With Hoisin-Maple Glaze


Tonight’s dinner was VERY much enjoyed by the boys. I liked it too, but chicken is not my favorite thing to eat; it kind of wigs me out. (No, I don’t know why, but poultry of all kinds just gives me the willies.) It was pretty good though. We didn’t cook it on the grill, we gave it grill marks in a cast iron grill pan on the stove over high heat, and finished it in a 350 degree oven for the time recommended over indirect heat. When the chicken came up to temp, we glazed one side and put it under the broiler for about 3 minutes then took it out and flipped it and glazed the other side and broiled again for another 3 minutes. I am also not a fan of savory and sweet mixed, but the dish was not particularly sweet despite the brown sugar, maple syrup, and honey. The glaze was really outstanding. Cleaning up the cast iron pan is a bit of a pain, so a grill, I think, will be preferable. If you are not familiar with 5 spice powder, it is an unusual taste. It is a blend of fennel seeds, star anise, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. This recipe was nice in that it showcased the 5 spice powder, but it was not really overwhelming. I served the chicken with rice with peppers and mushrooms. I’m pretty sure this recipe came from my daily recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine because I think it is the only one that offers nutritional information with the recipes.

Five-Spice Grilled Chicken With Hoisin-Maple Glaze
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tbs. minced fresh garlic -(about 3 -large cloves)
2 -1/2 tsp. Chinese -five-spice powder
1 t ground fennel seed
1 t dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly -ground black -pepper
3 lb bone-in chicken pieces (legs, thighs, breasts, and -wings)
1/4 c hoisin sauce
2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. honey
2 t Asian sesame oil
2 t minced fresh ginger
1/4 c peanut or canola oil

Tip: Indirect grilling is a must for chicken on the bone so the chicken can cook through before the outside burns. Don’t glaze the chicken until just before its done, or the glaze will burn; watch for
flare-ups after the glaze goes on.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, garlic, 2 tsp. of the five-spice, fennel, mustard, 1 Tbs. salt, and 2 tsp. pepper. Put the chicken pieces in a 9x13-inch baking dish and rub the spice mix all
over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and no more than 6 hours.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill fire for indirect cooking over medium heat (325F to 375F). In a small bowl, combine the hoisin, maple syrup, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, ginger, and the remaining 1/2 tsp. five-spice powder. Lightly brush the chicken pieces with the peanut oil and arrange skin side own over direct heat. Cover and cook until grill marks form, 3 to 5 minutes. If the chicken flares up, immediately move it to indirect heat. Flip the chicken and mark the other side, 2 minutes more. Move
the chicken to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking over indirect heat. Cover and cook, occasionally rearranging the pieces to ensure even cooking, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165F (breast pieces) to 170F (leg pieces), 30 to 45 minutes.
Generously brush the glaze on the chicken and flip glaze side down over to the hotter part of the grill. Cook until the glaze is bubbly and deep red, 30 to 60 seconds. Brush more glaze on the top of the chicken, flip, and cook for 30 to 60 seconds more. Serve immediately.
Serving Suggestions
Prepare a perfect summer meal by serving the grilled chicken with a Tomato, Feta, and Chickpea Salad and Triple Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches for dessert.
nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): 6; Protein (g): 35; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): 20; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 7; Sodium (mg): 1050; Cholesterol (mg) : 105; Fiber (g): 1;

Monday, August 29, 2011

Orecchiette With Greens, Mozzarella And Chickpea

Well tonight my darling was home.  We cooked together:).  I enjoy that because (but not only because) he always does the things I dislike: like frying and  messing with raw meat.  He prepped the chicken for tomorrow and did the cooking, while I mostly got the mise en place ready. I offered to do more but he is like me, in that he likes to cook and that he is AWESOME;).  ( He really is!)  I could tell that he wasn't really jazzed about a meatless Monday, but, as always, he handled it with good grace. He also isn't a fan of tomato chunks, which this recipe has a full cup of.  Well, to make a long story short, he loved it!  I loved it, and the boy only thought it was alright.  What would I do different next time?  Well, for starters, I would chop the chard much smaller.  When we added the cheese, all the chard clumped up.  While tasty, we would have liked to have the chard spread out over the dish rather than in a giant tasty clump.  The other oddity was the chickpeas; they were tasty, but their texture was reminiscent of stale popcorn.  I don't know if that is the way they were supposed to be, or if we didn't cook them long enough or hot enough.  The textural oddity wasn't enough to turn us off the dish though.  It was so tasty, my daughter stuffed herself to the point of purging! (ewww) My husband jokingly said he was considering eating what was left on her plate.   (no, not really) This is something we will be making again.

 Orecchiette With Greens, Mozzarella And Chickpea

  4 Servings
    1/2 lb orecchiette
           Vegetable oil,for frying
      1 c  drained canned chickpeas
           -patted dry
    1/8 t  ground cumin
    1/8 t  ground coriander
           Kosher salt and ground
           -black pepper
    1/4 c  extra-virgin olive oil
      4    garlic cloves,thinly sliced
    1/2 t  crushed red pepper
      1 c  grape tomatoes,halved
    1/2 lb Swiss chard,stemmed and
           -leaves coarsely chopped
      4    ounces fresh mozzarella,cut
           -into 1/2-inch cubes
      8    large basil leaves,torn
[Note: Fruit-forward Pinot Gris.  (from Food & Wine)  ]
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until
al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable
oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until
crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate, sprinkle
with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper.
Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet.
Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the
tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the chard and cook,
stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
4. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook
over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated. Add the mozzarella and
basil and toss. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas
and serve.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chorizo Tacos

Well tonight was I guess you could call a "pantry raid".  I had chorizo leftover after the clam recipe and tortillas from the fish tacos.  I decided to wing it and try to re-create something we had at Maria Bonita's.  So, as I am preparing to cook this without any plan, my husband calls and asks about dinner.  Regardless of his intention (honey, that means you are not the bad guy, I'm just neurotic ;*), his comments made me feel the need to now look up a recipe.  (Despite the fact I wasn't going to the store before I cooked, and knew full well that I wouldn't have all the ingredients to any recipe I found, I was still going to look a recipe up.) While I knew wouldn't be able to make any recipe I found, I thought I might at least find some "hypotheses" for the experiment I was about to embark on. Well of course, I found an amazing sounding recipe from Rick Bayless for chorizo tacos.  I had most of the things needed, but the main thing I was missing, that I also found in the several recipes I looked at, was potato.  I can see that.  Chorizo is pretty heavy and it would be good to cut that a bit with something like a potato.  One snafu, no potatoes in the house. Well I knew I was flying by the seat of my pants anyways but thought I might be able to take that info to heart and have a more successful dinner.  I looked in the pantry, toyed with the idea of grits, rice and couscous, then opened the freezer.  There, staring at me, was a half used bag of frozen french fries that I had for after school snacks.  (picture here a.... lets call it a 40 watt bulb flickering above my head).  I wasn't sure it was a good idea, but figured what the heck and decided to cook them while I was preparing everything else.  I also found a half used green pepper (from the steak salad I think) so I sauteed that quickly to keep it crisp but not raw for the tacos.  (Tacos that are now becoming fajita-like my husband pointed out)  I had two different onion halves in the fridge too.  OK one raw and one sauteed.   (don't mention the fajita thing again OK;) We sat down and build our tacos (including the french fries). Well, at the end of the day, they weren't too bad. (for an experiment particularly)  Next time I will make the Rick Bayless recipe, if my half-a$$ed hodgepodge tasted this good, imagine what someone who really knows what they are doing and come up with.

Wing & a Prayer Chorizo Tacos
3     links of raw Mexican Chorizo
1/2  white onion sliced in to half moons
1/2  sweet yellow onion diced
1/2  green pepper sliced in to thin strips
1/2  bag of thin frozen french fries, cooked
cilantro
hot sauce
tortillas

Saute the green peppers over medium heat in a little butter until crisp but tender, remove peppers and set aside.
In the same skillet saute the chorizo until browned and cooked through.  Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Saute the white onion in the chorizo drippings until very soft and they have released most of their liquid.
Put all the above items on the table along with fresh cilantro sprigs, cooked french fries, hot sauce and the tortillas and let everyone assemble their tacos.  (I added diced tomatoes to mine, the boys had cheddar cheese, but they weren't strictly necessary.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scarpetta's Spaghetti With Tomato And Basil

I have wanted to try this ever since I saw it was Ted Allen's "best thing I ever ate."  (I think "sauced" but not sure)  I love pasta and tomato sauce; to me it is the ultimate comfort food.  This is the best recipe for it.  I have made this once before.  I used only canned  San Marzano tomatoes then.  This time I used the 8 fresh and 1/4 can of the San Marzano tomatoes.  I am not going to kid you; the sauce does require a bit of work, but it isn't a daunting as it first appears.  Seeding the tomatoes sucks! The recipe was a little confusing, since it is for one, but sauce for 4? I think.  I tried to rewrite it so it was less confusing, but I made it worse.  All I did was add the per person notes.  It is wort trying I promise you! It is so worth it!  This is coming from someone who refers to Ragu as "my mamma's sauce." (meaning I am ok with the simple jarred sauce)  Growing up, my family LOVED spaghetti.  My dad even had a spaghetti eating shirt that was red so he wouldn't get stains on it.  In college, it was my go to hungover breakfast.  And while jarred sauce is by no means fine cuisine, it has a nostalgia element that makes it still something I enjoy.  That being said, this recipe kicks the crap out out of my childhood spaghetti and takes names. It is totally divine!  We had our obligatory salad with it but it was nothing compared to the star.  Oh and totally off subject, but I so need to share, I opened my words with friends game with the hubby tonight with a 75 pointer, biznaga!!!!  It is a cactus.  LOL!  he may win in the end but I had my moment;)
 Scarpetta's Spaghetti With Tomato And Basil
3    ounces spaghetti  high-quality dried or fresh (per person)
Salt
6    ounces tomato sauce (recipe follows)(per person)

4    large leaves of basil
1/2 T  butter,unsalted (per person)
2 T  freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano(per person)
1 T  extra virgin olive oil
8    ripe plum tomatoes
1/4    of a can San Marzano tomatoes
2 T  extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of red chili flakes
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 c  extra virgin olive oil
6 ea garlic,whole
2    stems of basil,leaves on
Pinch of red chili flakes
1.. Place a large pot of water on the stove. Heavily season with salt,
until it tastes as salty as a broth would. Bring to a boil.
2. Roll basil leaves into a cylinder and thinly cut lengthwise into a
chiffonade. Set aside.
3. Cook the spaghetti in the water and remove when it is just shy of al
dente depending on the pasta, 3 minutes for fresh, 10 minutes for dried.
4. While the pasta is cooking, place the sauce into a saute pan and heat
slowly. Allow the sauce to reduce slightly. Add the pasta to the saute
pan along with a bit of pasta water, to add starch and seasoning.
5. Add the pasta to the sauce, and allow to finish cooking, over medium
high heat. The sauce should coat the pasta and look cohesive. When you
shake the pan, the sauce and pasta should move together.
6. Remove from the heat and add the basil, cheese, butter, and extra
virgin olive oil. Toss until well incorporated.
7. Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.
Tomato Sauce: yields 2 cups
10. Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Prepare an
ice bath by placing ice in a bowl and filling with cold water. Core
tomatoes with a paring knife, and discard cores. Score the bottom of
each tomato with an "X." When water has come to a boil, place tomatoes
in water and leave for 15 seconds, until skin begins to split away.
Transfer to ice bath. When cool, peel with paring knife.
11. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Remove seeds with your thumb, and
set seeded tomatoes aside. Reserve seeds and excess juices. If using
canned tomatoes, seed in the same way.
12. In a new pot, place 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over
medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully transfer tomatoes to the
pot.   Add a pinch of salt and chili flakes.
13. Allow the tomatoes to cook for a few minutes until they begin to
soften, then smash them with a potato masher. If the consistency is
particularly thick, strain excess tomato juices for seeds and add to
pot.   Allow tomatoes to cook 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat,
smashing and stirring occasionally.
14. While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare the basil-garlic oil. Take
a small saucepan and place the remaining 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive
oil in the pan. Add garlic cloves, basil, and chili flakes. Slowly heat
to allow the flavors to transfer to the oil. When the garlic is lightly
browned, remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Strain the
oil and combine with the tomato mixture.
15. Remove the sauce from the heat and adjust the seasoning with
additional salt, as needed.
There were several places I found the recipe online but I got it from:  http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2009/10/scarpettas-
spaghetti-with-tomato-and-basil-scott-conant.html

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pizza & Salad

Well tonight I am thankful that I am doing this blog. (and a little pissed too;)  I am exhausted, and I have been all day.  My husband will be having a late night so I really only needed to feed the kids.  I could have had anything in the house and wouldn't have cared as long as I didn't have to do much work.  That meant that on the way home from gymnastics, I was going to go (hanging my head in shame) through a drive thru for dinner!  (yes temporary insanity, but I am really tired!)  Well I didn't want to lie in the blog but I REALLY didn't want to cook.  Well I came up with the next best thing, I would make pizza.  I could have ordered it, but I am trying to be good.  I did do some short cuts.  I bought the fresh pizza dough from the bakery at Publix.  I bought organic tomato puree for the sauce too.  The boy asked for sausage as the topping. :/  I don't care for it, but it will make him and my husband happy.  The girl and I had oven roasted tomatoes and onions on ours.  I have been making all my own salad dressings too, but tonight I went with a quick cheat recipe for the dressing.  So YAWN, here it is and it's not as quick as I would have liked it to be but it wasn't that long either.

Pizza
2 balls of pizza dough
1 small can of organic tomato puree
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 large sprig of basil
lots of shredded mozzarella cheese
3 small tomatoes sliced thinly
1/2 mild Italian sausage link (removed from case and crumbled into small pieces)

1. let the dough come to room temp (about an hour on the counter)
2 Heat oven to 350 (go ahead an put the pizza stone in now) and place the tomato slices on a baking
   sheet with a little salt and pepper
3 After about 20 minutes the tomatoes should be well cooked and lost most of their liquid, remove and
    crank the oven to 500
4 meanwhile, put the oil with the garlic and basil over medium low heat. ( I tilted the pan so the small
    amount of oil would be deeper and cover the ingredients) until the oil is tinged green and you smell
    the garlic
5 remove the stone and put the rolled out dough on it, top with the sauce and toppings. Bake 5-10
   minutes until it looks good and done.
(I did one at a time)

For the salad I used an organic "power mix" and my just slapped together dressing of 2 parts chimmichuri to 3 parts sour cream. Only a little dressing, it is pretty powerful.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Linguine With Clams And Chorizo

Well I over salted the water tonight, and it made the dish a bit too salty.  I knew I had so I didn't add the salt when the recipe called for it, but it was still too salty.  That being said, it wasn't bad.  If the salt had been correct I think it would have been outstanding.  I've been wanting to make this dish for a while.  We love fresh chorizo and I can only ever find the dried.  One of my neighbors told me they had the fresh at Publix; I didn't believe her since I had been looking for it there forever. Turns out I was wrong. (shhhh, don't let my husband hear that I said that;)  Tonight I started soaking the clams when I brought them home from the store at about 12:30.  (I put down a bed of cornmeal and placed the clams on top of it then covered it with water)  I soaked them for an hour on the counter and then put them in the refrigerator.  I had looked up ways of purging the grit from clams for the last clam recipe, but the half hour soaking didn't cut it. So since I can't leave well enough alone, (and because I kept thinking that the instructions say only a 20 minute soak and the recommendation is to keep the clams in an open bowl in the fridge so they can breathe) I had to go looking for more information on what to do with these little.... darlings on the web once they got in the fridge.  Now I am convinced that I am drowning the clams.   (yes boys and girls your heard right, I became worried I was drowning an aquatic creature!)  Look when you have a plan for dinner and have some beautiful (3 dozen) clams in the fridge, you want to be doing right by them.  I mean after all this is a meal they are going to die for.  So, after a couple of hours under fresh water in the fridge, I drain them and put them into a colander in a bowl in the fridge. (to breathe!)  I am totally convinced that both options are wrong, but as any logical person would do, I do both!  Well then it is time to cook. (7:00ish)  What do I do, decide it is time for another soak while I am doing some last minute prep.  (remember BOTH are wrong in my mind)  Well after all that insanity, the clams were fine, there was almost no grit, and every one of those bad boys opened up! (yay!)
   Linguine With Clams And Chorizo 
 36  manila or littleneck clams
           -(about 1-1/2 pounds)
      1 lb linguine
      2 T  olive oil
      8    to 10 ounces good-quality Mexican chorizo,casing removed
      2    medium shallots,finely chopped
      4    medium garlic cloves,finely chopped
           Salt
           Freshly ground black pepper
    3/4 c  vodka
    1/4 c  finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fill a large bowl with cold water and place the clams in the water
(they should be covered). Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain. Scrub
the clams under cold water and set aside.
Fill a large pot with heavily salted water and bring to a boil. Cook
the pasta according to the package directions.
While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large, straight-sided
pan with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. When the oil
shimmers, add the chorizo and break it up with the back of a spoon.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 6 minutes. Add the
shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring
occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the
pasta to the pot and set aside.
Remove the straight-sided pan from heat, carefully add the vodka, and
stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the
reserved clams, cover, and steam until the clams open, about 3 to 5
minutes. (Discard any that don't open.)
Add the clams, chorizo, reserved pasta water, and parsley to the pot
with the pasta and stir to combine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cheese Tortellini With Walnut Pesto

This is one of those dishes I think everyone should have in their repertoire.  It is fast, easy, yummy, inexpensive and can be made with ingredients that you can always have on  hand.  (the parsley too if you have an herb garden)  The frozen tortellini I use takes about 4 minutes to cook and the sauce is not cooked so it is done before the water even begins to boil. I think it could be a little prettier but of course, my husband disagrees with me.  It is one of his favorites, but we all like it a lot. As always, a salad will complete the meal and prevent you from making it to a high calorie meal. I believe it was another recipe I got from a Food & Wine magazine.
Cheese Tortellini With Walnut Pesto
 
   1 c  walnuts
    1/3 c  lightly packed flat-leaf
           -parsley with
           -thick stems removed
      2 ea garlic,smashed
      3 T  grated Parmesan cheese,plus
           -more for serving
    1/2 c  olive oil
    1/2 t  salt
    1/4 t  fresh-ground black pepper
      1 lb fresh or frozen cheese
           -tortellini
      1 T  butter
In a food processor or blender, pulse the walnuts, parsley, garlic,
Parmesan, oil, salt, and pepper to a coarse puree.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just
done, about 4 minutes for fresh and 12 minutes for frozen. Reserve 1/2
cup of the pasta water. Drain the tortellini. Toss with 1/4 cup of the
reserved pasta water, the walnut pesto, and the butter. If the pasta
seems dry, add more of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with
additional Parmesan and pass more at the table.

Notes
Fresh, Frozen, and Dried Tortellini We recommend fresh tortellini,
which are sold in the refrigerator section of most supermarkets. Frozen
are a close second and great to have on hand. Both of these are better
than dried.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fish Tacos

Well the fish tacos were originally on the menu for the night of too many dishes, but since one of my "A-list" guests was unable to attend (and they wanted to try them) and we had too many dishes, the tacos were postponed to tonight.  There will be no recipe for the tacos, (sorry) because I don't usually give it out.  It is, in many ways, your typical fish taco with the fried fish and slaw in the flour tortilla, but there are a few extras that make it ours. (Not to mention I think the recipes for the fish and slaw are pretty tasty) I won't put it out there just in the off chance I ever get to open a restaurant because it will most likely be our signature dish. :p  If you have it, feel lucky! It is one of those dishes we feel real ownership over.  Yes, we did research on the recipes for the elements, but each one was tweaked by one of us to fit and it is one of those dishes we love so much we need to parcel out the times we eat it so we don't start to take them for granted.  Every member of the house is a super fan, and almost every one who has tried them is a big fan.  At worst the tacos are only received as really good.  Well now that I have built them up, enjoy the picture because that's all I'm giving up.  Sorry!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bahn Mi (My Way)

Well tonight's dinner is a repeat of one of the dishes we had last night, the Bahn Mi. (see yesterday's entry for the recipe)  We needed to repeat; there was so much left from last night and I hate to waste. If you don't know,  Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich, and  it is one of the tastiest things on the planet!  It is super easy to make too if you don't roast the pork specifically for the sandwich or buy deli meat like I do.  I know it isn't the real way but still very tasty.  Not to put you off the sandwich, but I have kind of a funny story I will relate in lieu of the recipe.  Well if you have read the recipe from yesterday, you will note that the sandwich has a a quick pickle of daikon radish and carrots.  Well that step had been completed earlier I had just uncovered it to use it. It was then that the  friend we had over for dinner walked into the kitchen and informed me that he believed that our daughter had pooped in her diaper, to which I responded without thinking, "no, that is just dinner." :o  Just as broccoli can create an unpleasant "aroma" when cooking, this radish can create a very pungent smell that is NOT appetizing.  It is made worse by the fact that I had covered it during the pickling process to prevent dust or what not falling in.  Well when removing the cover, the scent, which until now was contained under the plastic wrap, returned to the space it was denied previously with a vengeance. ;)  Still delicious though....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The party with too many dishes (oops:)

Ok well tonight we had our friends over.  You know those great friends that are more family than friends, these were those people.  It is the last night of summer.  Tomorrow starts school (ominous music plays) so, we planned on an early night  Everyone was responsible and left by seven (much to my sadness but thankful for the the good night's sleep I hope I will still get;).  We wanted to do appetizers mostly with some drinks, but the angel (or demon) of overkill swept in and led us down the path of madness that began with too many things we wanted to serve, peaked with the grocery full of people shopping for tomorrow's first day of school lunches, and waned with us cooking while chatting with our friends when we should have been done.  The menu: Israeli Hummus With Paprika And Whole Chickpeas Recipe, Bahn Mi (My way, so called because I combined a couple of recipes I found when looking for one and because I use the Publix Spanish roasted pork rather than making my own roast), Halloumi With Chilli, Zucchini “meatballs” , and last nights dinner, Summer Squash Pizza With Goat Cheese And Walnuts, was made again.* All of it really seemed like more when we were making it.  The wrench in the monkey works was the Zucchini "Meatballs".  They were tasty but, as a new recipe, they really threw off our timing:/, oh and because I didn't thoroughly read the recipe beforehand, I didn't see that page one could have been made hours in advance.  A fact my husband loves to point out!  Grrrr.) I believe all were well received.  Everyone seemed to enjoy everything.  (I know if I served these awesome people shoes in tar they would be polite but I believe them none the less)  I took no pictures because I had no time and because the people were more important. The recipes will follow though, and then I will retire to dream about my alarm NOT going off at 6AM, only to be sad when it does.
 Bahn Mi 
   1/2 c  Water
    1/4 c  White Vinegar
    1/4 c  Sugar
    1/2 c  Carrot,Shredded
    1/2 c  Daikon Radish,Shredded
      2    Baguette,Small
    1/2 lb Pork,Thinly Sliced And
           -Warmed (up To 3/4lb)
      1    Jalapeno,Thinly Sliced
      1 bn Cilantro,Washed
           Mayonnaise
           Salt
Bring the water, vinegar and sugar to a boil.  Let liquid cool.
Season shredded veggies with salt, mix in the liquid and let sit at
room temp. for 30 minutes.  Refrigerate up to over night.
Make the sandwiches: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the baguettes
open lengthwise, and slather the insides with mayonnaise. Arrange the
baguettes on a baking sheet and bake until hot and crusty about 5
minutes.  Put the sliced pork on the bread. top with the slaw, sliced
jalapeno and many sprigs of the cilantro.


 Halloumi With Chilli
       2 T  Fresh Red Chillies,Chopped
      2 T  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
     18 oz Halloumi,Sliced 1/4" Thick
    1/4    Lemon,Juiced
mix the chopped chilli with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and
garlic powder
let sit while grilling the cheese
heat a non stick pan over medium low heat
grill cheese on each side until brown (about 2 minutes)  no oil
place cheese slices on a plate and drizzle the oil and chillies over
the top
sprinkle with the lemon juice

 Israeli Hummus With Paprika And Whole Chickpeas Recipe    
1/2 lb dried chickpeas
      1 T  baking soda
      7    large garlic cloves,unpeeled
    1/2 c  extra-virgin olive oil
    1/4 t  ground cumin,plus more for
           -garnish
    1/2 c  tahini,at room temperature
           -(see Note)
    1/4 c  plus 1 tablespoon fresh
           -lemon juice
           Salt
           Paprika,for garnish
    1/4 c  chopped parsley
           Pita bread,for serving
[Note: Tahini has a tendency to separate, so be sure to stir the
sesame paste thoroughly before measuring. . Notes  The ungarnished
hummus and cooked   chickpeas can be refrigerated separately for up to
2 days.  Make Ahead    ]
1.In a medium bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water
and stir in the baking soda. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight. Drain
the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.
2.In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh
water.   Add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Simmer over
moderately low heat until the chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes.
Drain, reserving 10 tablespoons of the cooking water and 2 tablespoons
of the chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Peel the garlic
cloves.
3.In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of the reserved
cooking water, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 6 of the garlic cloves. Add
the cumin along with 1/4 cup each of the tahini and lemon juice and
process until creamy. Season the hummus with salt and transfer to a
serving bowl.
4.Wipe out the food processor. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of tahini, 1/4
cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon
of lemon juice and garlic clove and puree.
5.Using a ladle, make an indent in the center of the hummus. Spoon in
the tahini-lemon mixture. Sprinkle the hummus with the cumin and
paprika.   Garnish with the reserved whole chickpeas and the parsley,
and serve with pita bread.

 Zucchini “meatballs”
            For the "meatballs""
      3    medium-sized zucchini
           -(about 1 to 1¼
           -pounds)
    1/2 t  salt
           About 1 fresh hot green
           -chili,minced
      3 T  finely minced onion
    1/2 t  peeled and very finely
           -grated fresh
           -ginger
      2 T  finely minced Chinese
           -parsley
    1/3 c  chickpea flour
           Vegetable oil for deep
           -frying
           For the sauce
      5 T  vegetable oil from deep
           -frying
      2    medium-sized onions,peeled
           -and very finely minced
    1/4 t  ground turmeric
   1/16 t  cayenne pepper
      1 t  ground cumin seeds
      2 t  ground coriander seeds
    1/2 lb tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes)
           -peeled and finely minced
      1 c  heavy cream
    1/2 t  garam masala
    1/2 t  ground roasted cumin seeds
    1/4    to 1/3 teaspoon salt
[Note: An exquisitely elegant dish, it consists of tender  ]
Wash, trim, and grate the zucchini. Put it into a bowl and sprinkle it
with the ½ teaspoon salt. Set it aside for half an hour.
Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the zucchini by pressing
handfuls of it between your two palms. Save this zucchini liquid for
the sauce.
Dry off the bowl and put the zucchini back in it.
Add the minced chili (you may want to use more than 1 chili, depending
on your taste), the 3 tablespoons minced onion, the grated ginger, and
the Chinese parsley.
Sift the chickpea flour over this vegetable mixture. Mix well and form
16 neat balls.
In a skillet, wok, or other utensil for deep frying, heat about 1½
inches of oil over a medium flame (a wok should have 1½ inches at its
center).
When hot, put in 5 to 6 of the balls, or as many as the utensil will
hold easily in one layer.
Fry for about l½ minutes, or until the balls turn a rich, reddish-brown
color. Turn the balls every now and then as they fry.
Remove them with a slotted spoon when they are done and leave to drain
on a plate lined with paper towels. Do all the meatballs this way.
To make the sauce, remove 5 tablespoons of the oil used in deep frying
and put this in a 10-inch skillet or saute pan. Heat the oil over a
medium flame. When hot, put in the minced onions. Stir and fry for 7 to
8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn brown at the edges.
Take the pan off the fire for a couple of seconds and add the turmeric,
cayenne, ground cumin, and ground coriander. Stir once and put the pan
back on the fire.
Stir for another 5 seconds and then add the minced tomatoes. Stir and
fry on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini juice. (You need 1
cup; if you have less, add some water.) Bring to a boil.
Cover, lower heat and let the sauce simmer gently for 15 minutes. (This
much of the recipe may be prepared several hours ahead of time.)
Add the cream, garam masala, ground roasted cumin, and the ¼ to 1/3
teaspoon salt. Mix well, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.
Now put in the meatballs. Spoon the sauce over them. Cover, and simmer
very gently for 6 to 7 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs a
few times during this cooking period.
These meatballs turn very soft when cooked in the sauce, so handle them
gently and serve immediately.
1981 Madhur Jaffrey
(*not including last night's recipe since its already in here.)
In addition to what we served, we had an amazing orzo pasta salad with toasted hazelnuts, squash, herbs and lemon zest, and a Brie bruchetta with a peach salsa. We had two more dishes planned for tonight that we never got to.  (We could  have had like 20 more people with those dishes and still have had leftovers.  I am too full of food and wine to bitch about my husband giving me grief for planning on too much.  Good night all and think of me in my misery at 6:00 AM tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Squash Pizza With Goat Cheese And Walnuts

Tonight's dinner is another first time we made it.  I did a lot of eyeballing the amounts of toppings rather than measure what I did.  I also doubled everything because the fresh dough I got from the grocery came in a 16 ounce portion. (Yes I know that 16 is not 6 doubled but there are three kinds of people in the world, those who are good a math and those who aren't, and in the immortal words of Gerald Ford as portrayed by Chevy Chase, "It was my understanding that there would be no math.")  As it wasn't the dough I was messing with, I figured all would be well, and all was delicious.   My only complaint was that I didn't roll the dough out thin enough.  I think a really thin crust pizza would be preferable. I can't remember where the recipe came from.  I have all my recipes on the computer with a program called accuchef.  It is great.  I have a cookbook i use for all the recipes I want to try as I see them.  There they wait until it comes time to plan the weekly dinners (which I have a cookbook folder for too) and just copy and paste the ones I want that weekly meals folder.  I think (if you forced me to guess) that it was food and wine from Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef but I could be totally wrong so forgive me.


Summer Squash Pizza With Goat Cheese And Walnuts

     1 T  extra-virgin olive oil,plus
           -more for drizzling
      1    garlic clove,minced
           All-purpose flour,for
           -dusting
      6    ounces pizza dough
           Pinch of crushed red pepper
           Salt and freshly ground
           -black pepper
    1/2    small onion,thinly sliced
    1/4 c  shredded part-skim-milk
           -mozzarella
      1 t  chopped summer savory
    1/4 lb summer squash,thinly sliced
           -on a mandoline
      2    ounces fresh goat cheese
           -crumbled
      2 T  chopped toasted walnuts
[Note: Zucchini and yellow squash can both be mild in flavor, but
nothing about this tangy, herby pizza is bland. The summer squash is
sliced into   slender coins, then roasted in a hot oven until it's
lightly caramelized, bringing out its sweetness.   Our Pairing
Suggestion Goat cheese and  summer squash go well with Sauvignon
Blanc's herbal citrus character  ]
1.Preheat the oven to 500. Preheat a pizza stone. In a small bowl,
combine the 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the minced garlic and let
stand. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to form a
12-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the round to a lightly floured
pizza peel.
2.Leaving a 1/2-inch border of dough, brush the round with the garlic
oil and sprinkle with crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.
Scatter the onion slices over the round; top with the mozzarella and
savory. Arrange the squash slices on top in a single layer, overlapping
them slightly. Dot with the crumbled goat cheese.
3.Slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake for about 5 minutes,
until the bottom is crisp and the squash is slightly browned. Transfer
the pizza to a work surface. Sprinkle with the walnuts and drizzle with
olive oil. Cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Grilled Steak Salad

Ok, I'm apologizing now for the at best vague recipe for this dinner.  It is based on something I ordered at a local restaurant called The Dish.  I liked the salad, and tried to recreate it at home, so my measurements aren't what one could call "precise".  It is important to note that it is NOT a steak with a salad; it is a salad with steak being a small component of it, much like a tomato or an onion would be in a salad.  If you will allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment, I would like to say a brief word about the place meat has in our average American diet.  I do eat meat, but do so in moderation.  It is not sustainable for our planet, our health, or our waist lines to have meat be the main component in every meal.  This meal is made with 1/2- to 1 lb steak for four.  I usually make it with about a 3/4 lb for four and it still seems like a lot. My salad you see in the picture has 3 thin slices of steak on it. It is even better that way than piled high with beef.  Ok, sorry I'm getting off now but I put that in because it really does apply to the appropriate portions of the dish and figured, hey why not share my opinion. This is a super favorite of the family.  Tonight my 10 year old licked his plate. LICKED HIS PLATE for salad.  I love it.  If you wish to add carbs in the form of a baguette and possibly butter, go crazy.  We adults don't need it and I just give the kids dessert;)

Grilled Steak Salad                       
1 One inch thick steak (NY strip is my choice) 1/2 to 1 pound (aged a few days if you can*)
6-8 cups of mixed salad greens (arugula is a must and should be well represented)
1/2 cucumber:  peeled and seeded. Diced in to 1/4" cubes
1/2 green pepper: seeded and diced in to 1/4" cubes
1 extra large scallion: thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes: sliced and cut in half
1/4 cup bleu cheese: crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic reduction*

(*recipe follows)

Put steak out to come to room temperature (if it's not at room temp the inside will be underdone)
Preheat you oven to 500
Salt both sides of the steak with kosher salt
Put the steak on a pan on top of a wire rack 3-4" from the heating element and broil for about 4
     minutes a side for medium rare.  To keep the broiler on, I prop it open an inch with a wooden
     utensil.  Metal utensils will get HOT and burn you!!!
When the steak is done, take it out and let it rest while you assemble the rest of the ingredients in a      large bowl.
Toss the salad with enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat and salt and pepper to taste.
Place salad mixture on plate, top with bleu cheese, sliced steak and balsamic reduction.
Serves, 4

Aging your steaks at home:
I got this from food guru Alton Brown off his great show Good Eats.  You take your steaks and wrap them in paper towels. Place them in the fridge on a wire wrack set on a baking pan that will prevent drippings to escape.  Change the paper towels after 24 hours and continue to do so over the next three days, changing the paper towels when they get bloody.  It isn't strictly necessary, but we did notice an intensifying of the beef flavor. (do I dare say umami? lol)

Balsamic Reduction:
1 bottle of inexpensive balsamic vinegar (I use Publix brand)
1 Tbsp of brown sugar

Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Add the sugar. Simmer until reduced by 2/3 stirring frequently.  I measure this by putting my wooden spoon's handle in the vinegar when I first put it into the pan.  It makes a stain on the wood that I can judge how much the liquid has reduced.






Thursday, August 18, 2011

Penne With Tuna And Capers

So this was the first time I made this recipe.  The boy loved it right away.  Even the baby girl liked it.  I wasn't blown away at first, (which surprised me because I love capers and tuna) but the flavor grew on me as I ate it. I believe I got the recipe from one of the several emailed recipes of the day.  (Chow, Fine Cooking, allrecpies etc...)  I made it tonight because the Husband was working and not a fan of canned tuna.  I didn't take a picture because I was told my last pictures weren't good enough to show how it really looked (ahem I'm talking to you my most excellent husband:P), and it wasn't the prettiest dish.  I used whole wheat penne too which didn't add to the eye appeal.  All in all, I liked it because it felt light, it was something I can make out of ingredients I always have on hand, and it was fast.  All making it for a good weeknight meal.
   Penne With Tuna And Capers

    3/4 lb penne rigate
    1/4 c  extra-virgin olive oil
      3    garlic cloves,smashed
           One 6 1/2-ounce can or jar
           -of olive
           -oil-packed tuna,drained
           -and flaked
    1/4 c  dry white wine
    1/4 c  drained capers
      2 T  finely chopped flat-leaf
           -parsley
           Salt and freshly ground
           -pepper
1.Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the
pasta,   reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
2.Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until golden, about 2
minutes. Add the drained tuna; cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, capers
and 1 tablespoon of the parsley; season with salt and pepper. Cook the
sauce until the wine has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes longer. Add
the penne and the reserved pasta water and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Season with pepper, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of
parsley and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Crispy Skin and Pepperoni Sauce

Tonight's dinner is a tasty one.  The pepperoni sauce I got off the web.  It is from Top Chef Contestant Mike Isabella. I was intrigued by it when I saw it on the show and it was no disappointment.  I am not a really big fan of pepperoni but OH MY is it tasty.  It is a powerful sauce so expect a little to go a long way.  We like it on chicken and using it as a pizza sauce the best.  The roasted chicken was adapted from a F&W recipe that was for boneless skin-on chicken breasts with an anchovy and basil pan sauce, but there were no boneless skin-on chicken breasts to be had at my local Publix, so we made it with the whole cut up chicken.  We LOVED the chicken, the first time we tried it but the anchovy pan sauce I think I messed up.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't a remake unless I figure out what I did wrong, SO instead we made the chicken this way but used the pepperoni sauce. (tonight it was pepperoni sauce, but I will enjoy experimenting with the pan sauce in the future)  I personally don't like the skin, but everyone else loves it.   We served the chicken and the sauce with a baguette and a mixed green salad with a bit of Gorgonzola and dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a balsamic reduction.  Tomorrow for lunch, french bread pizzas with pepperoni sauce.  NO, tonight was not a light meal, just fill up on salad, if you can... Oh and my husband has informed me I need to improve my photography skills, get better lighting and serve the sauce with a bigger spoon.  Should I take it as the compliment he meant to be, that all was tasty or get annoyed that I am being given "constructive" criticism?  You guess;)


Pepperoni Sauce                                                      
Makes 4 1/2 cups to 4 3/4 cups
Ingredients:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into small dice
5 medium cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices
1 pound pepperoni, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 to 12 ounces canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 fresh bay leaf*
Directions:

(*I couldn't find fresh so I used 3 dried and took them out before pureeing)
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and garlic; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant.

Stir in the pepperoni; cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and evenly coated, then add the toasted fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Add the tomatoes and their juices (to taste), the broth and the bay leaf; stir to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pepperoni slices will be soft, with a deeper color. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches as needed, transfer to a food processor or a high-powered blender (including the bay leaf). Puree until smooth.

The sauce is ready to use. Or cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

NOTE: Toast the fennel seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often to keep the seeds from burning. They will become fragrant and slightly darker in color

Because it is boldly flavored, a little sauce goes a long way. The chef recommends serving it alongside roasted or grilled chicken.

MAKE AHEAD: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months


Roasted Chicken with Crispy Skin

1 Chicken cut into 8 parts

1 T Olive Oil

Salt And Pepper

[Note: This base can be used to create a variety of pan sauces ]

1.Preheat the oven to 400. Season the chicken with salt and

black pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the

chicken breasts, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat

until they are richly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the other pieces, skin side down, and cook until all pieces are browned. If some are done early, you can pull them and add them back in when its time for the oven. Turn the chicken pieces over and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for about 20 minutes. Check the temp on the smallest pieces. (wings and legs) Continue cooking this way, checking pieces with a thermometer until all the pieces are at least 165° and are just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to warmed plates.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dinner Ice Breakers

One of the obstacles to a great family dinner these days, is breaking the ice.  We all have such independent lives, it seems that when we sit down together, there is precious  little to say to each other and it can be awkward.  This goes away eventually, but can be a stumbling block to future dinners together.  We made the decision to sit down together for the family time and because I had seen a study showing how much more is ingested when eating and watching TV.  At first it was a lot of small talk about the day and questions  with our much enthusiasm predominated the conversation.  I decided to find ways to break the ice and get us talking.  One of our favorites was to read an Encyclopedia Brown mystery.  My husband or I will read a case (they are short and quick) while my son is setting the table or just after we sit down to eat.  After the case is read, we ask questions of each other and discuss the possible solutions.  When the meal is almost over we read the solution and see who was right. We like puzzles and mysteries, so this was a great fit.  You can tailor this to your family's interests easily. Anything short that can be read and provoke a discussion will work great.  My personal favorite is the ingredient guessing game.  As I am the one who has made the food, and if it is a new recipe, I ask my son and husband to guess what is in the dish.  We always start with the boy, and they take turns guessing what is in the dish.  Every right answer is a point and the one with the most points wins.  (it is almost always the boy:)  It is fun and helps develop the sense of taste and trains us to think about what is going in to our mouths instead of shoveling it in.  Anyone can play.  Soon conversation became easier.  We have also added an occasional after dinner board game.  Discussion of what to play also helps get the talking started.  Now we don't need the gimmicks to get us talking.  We have things in common that we had lost through our busy schedules.  It had made our mealtimes great and helped us come together as a family.  I can't imagine not doing in now.

Spicy Tonnarelli with Clams

I got this recipe from Food and Wine Magazine.  I love Food & Wine.  While not every recipe is a family favorite, none have really disappointed.  This is a almost there recipe for us.  We all liked it but to tailor it to our tastes we have some suggestions and some tips if you are thinking of changing it yourself.  First of all it is spicy.  Ok for our tastes, but be forewarned that the heat does build as you are eating it.  The herbs are critical!  I am not a big fan of mint (in sweet but especially in savory), but it is very refreshing in this and a needed cooling element.  The black pepper, didn't taste it at all so next time I would leave it out.  The coppa, it wasn't well represented in every bite and sank to the bottom of the cooking pan; this made it difficult to portion it in to the dishes easily.  Everyone (but myself) added a pat of butter to their portion with great results.  (I abstained solely for the calories.)  It isn't in the recipe but you MUST soak your clams. (TIP: always soak and scrub your clams) We went with a quick 30 minute soaking with cornmeal, but it was not enough for all of them.  I saw suggestions from anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours.  I would opt for an hour next time. The only salt added to this dish comes from the pasta water.  I have always salted my pasta water but until recently, I had no idea how much to add to the water.  (TIP: In my large pasta pot I add about a HALF of a shaker to the water.) I started doing this because of a Scott Conant recipe I tried, and he  said the water should be as salty as broth.  THANK YOU Scott!!!  Not just for the information but some of my family's favorite recipes.

Spicy Tonnarelli with Clams

Pairing Suggestion
Crisp Verdicchio.

  1. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 ounce hot coppa or soppressata, cut into 1/4-inch dice ( 1/4 cup)
  3. 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  4. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  5. 6 tablespoons dry white wine
  6. 32 Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
  7. 3/4 pound tonnarelli or linguine
  8. Freshly ground black pepper
  9. 2 tablespoons each of thinly sliced mint and basil
  1. In a deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the coppa, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat until the garlic is golden, 1 1/2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the clams, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes; as the clams open, transfer them to a covered bowl.
  2. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until almost al dente. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir in the cooking water over low heat, tossing until the pasta is al dente, 1 minute. Season with black pepper. Add the clams to the pasta, garnish with the herbs and serve.

Spanish Tortilla

I got this recipe from The Food Network Magazine.   While it wasn't bad, it was very plain and the addition of some parm and hot sauce make it better but I don't see us making it again.  We deleted the recipe from our database.

Spanish Tortilla

Prep Time: 16 min, Cook Time: 24 min Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pure olive oil
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced inch thick
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced jarred piquillo or roasted red peppers
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the potatoes, onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl until foamy.

Set a colander in another large bowl and transfer the cooked potatoes, onion and cooking oil to the colander. Toss gently to drain as much oil as possible; reserve the oil in the bowl. Add the potatoes and onion to the eggs, making sure they are submerged.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potato-egg mixture and press evenly into the pan with a rubber spatula. Cook until the underside is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake until set, about 8 more minutes. Loosen the edge of the tortilla with the spatula, then invert onto a plate. Season with salt. Cut into wedges.

Toss the parsley with the piquillo peppers, 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking oil, the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the tortilla.

Per serving: Calories 441; Fat 24 g (Saturated 4 g); Cholesterol 215 mg; Sodium 876 mg; Carbohydrate 48 g; Fiber 4 g; Protein 12 g

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips

I figured I would make my first entry a list of any tips or hints to make cooking easier and just add to it as I think of them or as I use them in a recipe. They may be common sense but they were things that made cooking easier that I had to learn and/or they were thought to be by my friends and family

1)  General


  • Keeping Fresh Herbs:  Keep your freshly cut herbs longer in the fridge by treating them like cut flowers.  Place them in a tall glass with water.  (I have my old POM  tea containers that are the perfect tall cylinder for it.  The ones in the produce section.) They will last at least twice as long (if not more) than just keeping them in the hydrator.
  •  Tomato Paste:  I almost never had a recipe that called for the entire can of paste.  It is usually just a tablespoon or two.  I portion out tablespoons worth on to a plate and freeze them, then, once they are hard, pop them into a ziploc bag.  Now whenever you need some, they are already portioned and ready to go.


  • When cutting any hot pepper, USE A GLOVE.  Even if you are sure you aren't going to accidentally  rub your eyes, if you have kids, please do so.  You never know if they are going to need to be attended to, picked up, etc...  You want the insurance, trust me!

  • 2) Prepping
    • If you are chopping something that is in many recipes (i.e. an onion), and it calls for only half, go ahead and chop the whole thing.  It will keep you from having to chop onions tomorrow night.  Do this only if it is something you use a lot; otherwise, you run the risk of  shortening its shelf life.
    3) Leftovers:
    •  I have a magnetic white board on the fridge. I write down anything in the fridge that needs to be used or eaten. For example I write the leftovers I an storing in there, and the order they are listed lets us know which are oldest. (you could even date them if you like) Also I list ingredients that I have extra left after they have been used for their initial recipe. Tonight I am making the Lime Chicken Tacos because I have leftover sour cream I can substitute for the crema. This is particularly useful if you have some more "recipe specific" ingredients such as fresh ginger or miso paste.
    • Many of all our most loved dishes started out as a way not to waste.  Today we cook everything from scratch for a lasagna (for example) when it is a way to turn Sunday night's roast into something different.  Another added bonus to this is that it will cut down on your cook time.  I had my husband roast a chicken for me.  The chicken will be in tonight's dish as well as one in a day or two.  This is better on your time and your pocketbook.  The whole chicken, which was called for in the recipe, is more meat than the four of us will need for dinner.  I now have a quick meal on deck for a busy day of the week later on.  If you are a larger family, (or have larger appetites) you can cook two.
    4) Economical:
    • See leftovers;)
    • Any bread you have, can be put into a food processor and made into fresh bread crumbs.  They store great in the freezer.  I always have a large chunk of baguette that doesn't get eaten, but the next day it is too hard to be edible.  It will save you on the waste and on buying the package bread crumbs which are inferior in quality to these.  You can season them when you use them.  The one exception to this is Panko. These are Japanese breadcrumbs and cannot be made at home. They offer a texture that no other breadcrumb can emulate.
    • Save your fat drippings.  (stay with me here, don't freak out over the calories)  For example, your bacon fat, I cook home fries in the bacon drippings from previous meals.  You can get the flavor of bacon without actually having the bacon.  You are using something you were going to throw out, and you are feeling like you are having something you didn't buy.  Any time I have accumulated fat that I am removing, I put into a little freezer safe container and keep it for a future saute.  My favorite use for the bacon fat it to saute scallops.  I always hate the flabby bacon that comes around the scallop but like the flavor combination.  If you are using a little of the fat rather than a lot of the ingredient, I don't think you are getting an obscene amount of calories, and you aren't wasting.
    • Make your own Balsamic Reduction by taking a bottle of inexpensive balsamic, add a heaping table spoon of brown sugar and reduce to one third it's original volume.
    • Fresh ginger can be peeled and stored in the freezer wrapped in in plastic wrap.  When you need it, just grate it frozen.  It makes it easier to grate and keeps for a long time.
    5)  Ideas
    • I love my accuchef program for sorting and planning my meals.  I have a friend that loves her paprika program. (I only know about mine, but it is an AMAZING tool!)  I'm sure there are many out there.  Look around and find what works best for you.  I got the program originally to print cookbooks for my friends and family, bu it has become something I use every day.  I have cookbook folders for: the recipes I want to try, recipes we have made and liked, each family member's favorite meals, and the meals I will be making this week.  It can filter your recipes by ingredient, main ingredient, or course/type.  It will make grocery lists.  I  © it. It makes getting recipes off the web a simple cut and paste that takes seconds.  (no I don't work for them, I just really like it:)
    • Compound butters:  Compound butters are a great way to make an ordinary piece of meat new and different.  They are easy to make and store easily in the freezer, so they can always be on hand  The ingredients in the butter can change, but the way you make them are the same.  Start with softened butter.  Add the ingredients you are using.  Then place the butter on a piece of wax paper, fold over the wax paper, use something with a flat edge to push, firmly, the butter into a tube shape, wrap in the wax paper and return to the fridge.



    6) Time Savers

    • We use those stainless steel water bottles. I have always thought that they were a pain in the butt to store and fill with ice.  I have started (after washing them) filling them about 1/3 with water and storing them in the freezer.  They have ice and are ready to be filled and they are stored somewhere out of sight!