Monday, December 29, 2008

Dijon-Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast with Horseradish-Mustard Sauce and Pan Jus

I'd never made a standing rib roast before. My family has high expectations of this dish, and I was trying a new recipe, so I was more than a little scared. Especially when my oven's internal probe told me it was done cooking at 4pm.

But it turned out perfect - medium-rare in the middle, nice and crusty along the outside.

This is based off a recipe in The Wine Lover's Cookbook.

Dijon-Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast with Horseradish-Mustard Sauce and Pan Jus

3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp prepared Horseradish
3 tsp herbes de provence
4 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
15 lb standing rib roast, boned and tied

Horseradish-Mustard Sauce
3/4 cup prepared horseradish
1/2 cup stone-ground mustard
1/4 cup white vinegar

Pan Jus
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
3 cups beef stock
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine the Dijon mustard, horseradish and herbes in a small bowl. Place rib roast fat side up in a roasting pan. Liberally apply the mustard mix to the surface of the roast. Place roast in cold oven. If your oven has a temperature probe, use it, following manufacturer's instructions. Turn oven on and heat to 425ºF for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350ºF and cook until internal temperature reaches 130º (figure 15 minutes per lb). Turn oven off and leave door closed.

While roast cooks, mix together ingredients for the horseradish-mustard sauce. Refrigerate until it's time to serve.

30 minutes before serving, turn oven back on at 250º to bring roast to temp (about 150ºF internal temp). Remove roast from oven, cover with foil to keep warm.

Place pan on stovetop over medium heat. Add wine and beef stock, bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid reduced by half. Run jus thru fat separator to discard the fat and solids.

Carve roast, setting ribs aside (some people like to gnaw on them but they also make great bones for soup/stock). Serve with jus and horseradish-mustard sauce

Wine Pairing: Serve with a well-matured Cabernet Sauvignon. We had it with a 40-year-old bottle of Bordeaux.

Hot Mulled Cranberry-Apple Cider

This was incredibly easy to do and made a good drink for both the kids and adults.

Hot Mulled Cranberry-Apple Cider

1 lemon
1 orange
3 1/2 cups apple cider
2 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
6 whole cloves
1 (1/4-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced

Carefully remove the rind from lemon and orange using a vegetable peeler, making sure to avoid the white pith just beneath the rind. Cut citrus rind into 1- x 1/4-inch-thick strips. Combine the rind strips, cider, and remaining ingredients in a crock pot and set to low for 4 hours. Strain the mixture through a sieve over a bowl, discarding solids. You can keep the cider in the crockpot on low or warm throughout the party.

Cranberry Ginger Cake

I found this recipe originally and decided to modify it. A lot. It wasn't upside down, it was dairy free. I was a bit worried about the texture before folding in the egg whites but it turned out fabulous.

Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 cups fresh cranberries, finely chopped
fat-free whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 9" cake pan with cooking spray.

Heat a skillet over medium heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter to pan, stirring until melted. Stir in ginger; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add in chopped cranberries, stirring to coat. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine 1/4 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. Fold cranberries into batter; pour into a prepared cake pan. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Top each serving with whipped topping.

Balsamic-Butter-Glazed Baby Carrots

This recipe originally came from Southern Living but, like most recipes, I drastically reduced the amount of fat that went in and no one was the wiser.

Balsamic-Butter-Glazed Baby Carrots

5 lbs baby carrots
6 cups water
1 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
6 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
6 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine carrots and 6 cups water in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Drain and keep warm.

Cook vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar and butter until smooth.

Pour vinegar mixture over warm carrots, tossing to coat. Stir in thyme and next 3 ingredients. Serve immediately.

Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

Chipotle in Adobo Sauce

10 medium-sized dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and slit lengthwise
1/3 cup onion, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a pan with 3 cups of water. Cover and cook over very low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the chilies are very soft and the liquid has been reduced to 1 cup. This recipe will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

For chipotle puree, place the cooked chipotles and sauce in a blender and puree. Put through a fine sieve to remove seeds.

Bacon-Chipotle Twice-Baked Potatoes

I actually made 4 versions of this as I have a nephew with milk allergies. So about 1/3 of the mixture was dairy free (made with soy milk and soy cheese). Then, of each grouping, 1/2 had chipotle, 1/2 did not. As I was making these a few days in advance, I had masking tape on each of the tupperware containers reading "Dairy free, no Chipotle", "Dairy Free with Chiptole", "Regular, no Chipotle" and "The Full Monty".

I was also making enough to feed 23 people. Keep that in mind. Below is the regular, dairy-full recipe.

Bacon-Chipotle Twice-Baked Potatoes

14 medium baking potatoes
3 3/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
3 3/4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
6 tablespoons pureed chipotle chile in adobo sauce
3 teaspoon salt
12 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 450°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork. Bake potatoes at 450° for 50 minutes or until done; cool slightly. Cut each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Combine potato pulp, milk, 2 1/4 cup cheese and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Spoon potato mixture evenly into reserved shells. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cup cheese evenly over potatoes. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Homemade Chipotle Peppers

This year in the garden we had a ton - possibly quite literally - of jalapeños. More jalapeños than any two people could possibly eat.

At a recent family gathering, my brother suggested that I/we turn them into chipotles. I thought "What a fantastic idea!" Research resulted in finding a few things:
  1. It's supposed to work best with fresh jalapenos. Being that it's November, all I had was frozen. We decided to make due.
  2. You can smoke the whole pod, but most sites recommend slicing them in half and removing the stems. Removing the seeds is optional. We left them in.
  3. You can use a variety of types of wood, from oak to mesquite to apple. My brother chose hickory.
  4. You can either dehydrate them completely on the smoker or you can finish the process in the oven. We chose the latter because feeding the smoker with appropriate fuel gets expensive and time consuming (about 24 hours).
So I prepped the peppers, dropped them off with said brother, he smoked them and returned them last Friday, and I threw them in the oven to complete the dehydration (have I mentioned I love my convection oven? Yeeeeeeeeesss, my precious).

The result? About 100 chipotle peppers, ready for use.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lavender Chicken Chili - Crockpot Version

I few weeks ago I made this great recipe, Lavender Chicken Chili with White Beans, for the in-laws. I had planned to make it again this weekend but never got around to it.

So yesterday I modified it and made it in the crockpot. I think it actually turned out better this way.

Lavender Chicken Chili - Crockpot Version

1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked over
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb ground turkey
2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp lavender
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of chipotle powder
6 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken stock & 3 cups water)
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
3 cups grated White Cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water so they're covered by 3 inches. Let soak overnight.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add in ground chicken and brown, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno, sauteeing 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add contents of skillet to crockpot. Drain the beans and add to the crockpot as well. Add in cumin and spices thru chipotle powder and stir to combine. Add the broth, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Heat skillet over medium heat, add in olive oil. Add diced chicken breast to skillet and sautee about 5 minutes. Add cooked chicken to crockpot, turn heat to high, cover and cook another 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prior to serving, stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Ladle into bowls and serve with various garnishes (remaining cheese, cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, etc.).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pasta with Sausage, Porcini and Portobello Mushrooms

This is another recipe from The Wine Lover's Cookbook. It is also, easily, a recipe you could serve for company. The flavors are exquisite and rich. And, while it says it serve 4 as an entree, It could easily serve more.

I made a few changes to the recipe that, frankly, probably affected the overall richness of the recipe. Most notably, I did not discard all of the water from re-hydrating the porcini mushrooms but used it to enrich the sauce. I also only used one pan to cook the dinner (minus making the pasta), where the recipe suggested using two - I think that also impacted the overall flavor.

Pasta with Sausage, Porcini and Portobello Mushrooms

2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
12 oz sausage (italian or chorizo), cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups chopped portobello mushrooms
3/4 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes, drained
salt and pepper to taste (red pepper flakes optional if using a low-spice sausage)
1 lb dried penne or small dried pasta (we used rotini)

Soak porcini according to package direction. Drain. Reserve mushroom water.

Heat a large sautee pan over medium heat. Coat with spray oil and about 1 tbsp olive oil. Add sausage and sautee for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned. Remove and place on paper towels. Pat dry. Set aside.

Deglace pan with water. Add onions and garlic and sautee about 4 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add porcini, portobellos, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and continue sauteing for 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and about 1/2 cup of reserved mushroom water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to reduce by half. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Add reserved sausage and heat thru. Season to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully add pasta and cook according to package directions or until it is al dente. Drain.

You can either plate the pasta and spoon the sauce over it or combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl and serve.

Wine Pairing: The book recommends a syrah. DH and I had Sam Adams Oktoberfest. Sausage = Beer in our house.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sauteed Whitefish with Spiced Orzo with mixed vegetables

A few days ago - maybe a week - someone on one of the cooking boards I frequent asked "What is the purpose of your blog."

Well, mine is being embodied right now - turning out fantastic meals using off the cuff cooking.

Right now I'm in a condo in Daytona Beach on vacation. We're having a night in rather than eating out and taking advantage of all of the wonderful fresh seafood. However, I'm cooking in a kitchen with:
  • no real chopping blocks - there is one that's being used for decoration and to chop limes for drinks....
  • no knives
  • no measuring cups or spoons
  • no grill
  • non-stick cookware (not exactly the best for making pan sauces...which would be my pick after the "no grill" situation)
  • a highly limited spice collection (we ADDED basil, garlic, ginger and cumin to make things at least palatable)
The first two would probably be enough to send most cooks to the phone for delivery - no chopping block and no knives? Well screw that! The rest are inconveniences - to be worked around. I managed to find a steak knife in a drawer, so I'm using that to chop for now (I did tell The Spouse, however, that, if he wants mushroom risotto, we're buying a basic chef's knife and chopping block). And I determined that the plastic cups we've been using for wine (since their crystal still has stickers on them....a la "for display only") hold about 7 oz to the top by pouring a small sample bottle of wine into one (small bottle of wine is 187mL, which is 6 1/3 cup and it went to about 1/2 inch from the top).

And yet - and yet - dinner tonight, without any of the accouterments of proper cooking, was delicious. The fish was perfectly done, the orzo flavorful and tender yet not mushy. The Spouse gave it an unofficial rating of "This is delicious, babe."

THAT is what this blog is about - great food under duress.

Sauteed Whitefish with Spiced Orzo with mixed vegetables

1/2 lb whitefish (such as tilapia)
1/2 oz lime juice (or the juice of 1/2 lime)
salt, pepper, cumin

olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
chile powder

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup orzo
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
dash of red wine
1 pkg "southwestern" mixed vegetables (corn, red and green peppers)
salt, pepper, chile powder, cumin

For Fish: Place fish in a non-reactive container. Sprinkle both sides with lime juice, salt, pepper and cumin. Let marinade 2 hours, turning once. Heat skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, add 1 tsp olive oil. Add garlic and shallots and cook until soft. Add in fish, sprinkle with chile powder, and cook 3 minutes, flipping halfway thru. Plate and serve immediately.

For Orzo: Heat non-stick skillet. Add olive oil. Sautee garlic until lightly browned. Add orzo and sautee until orzo is lightly browned and fragrant. Add in chicken broth, water and red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover; cook until done (about 15-20 minutes). Add in vegetable and spices to taste, stirring until vegetables are warmed thru. Serve with fish.

Wine pairing: We had this with Domaine Laureau Savennieres Cuvee de Genets 2000, a wine we found at a shop down here. It was beautiful with the delicate flavor of the fish and the spices added in.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lavender Chicken Chili with White Beans

I made this last night for the in-laws. Delish! A great, hearty meal on a cold fall day.

Lavender Chicken Chili with White Beans

1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked over
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb ground turkey
2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp lavender
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of chipotle powder
6 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken stock & 3 cups water)
3 cups grated White Cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water so they're covered by 3 inches. Let soak overnight.

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm thru. Add onion and garlic, sauteeing 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in ground chicken and brown, about 5 minutes. Add diced chicken breasts and continue sauteeing, browning the chicken on all sides, about another 5 minutes. Add in jalapeno, cumin and spices thru chipotle powder and stir to combine. Sautee for another 2 minutes.

Drain the beans and add to the pot. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and simmer another hour or more, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender and the chili has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Prior to serving, stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Ladle into bowls and serve with various garnishes (remaining cheese, cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, etc.).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Daube de Boeuf

The Spouse wanted beef stew for dinner. We had initially planned on just crocking it but someone forgot to pick up the beef in time. So, rather than trot out the boring old recipe, I thought a fancier twist would be nice. I served this with Buttermilk Drop Biscuits, the better to soak up all the delicious broth

Daube de Boeuf

2 teaspoons olive oil
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup red wine
2 cups chopped carrot
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Dash of ground cloves
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf

Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Add garlic and sautee 5 minutes until gently browned and fragarant. Add beef, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp lavender salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Sautee another 5 minutes, browning on all sides.

Add wine, remaining salt and pepper, plus remaining ingredients (thru bay leaf). Stir to combine thoroughly and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: If you can find one without taking a second mortgage out on your house, pair with a nice burgundy. Otherwise, a rhone-style wine should pair well.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

I made these 2 years ago for Thanksgiving and they were quite a hit.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4-5 tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter until flour resembles crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, mix in buttermilk until combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto parchment. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are done (insert a toothpick to test).

Sukuma Wiki

This is a dish I "got" from my sister. At the beginning of the summer I gave her a bunch of collards and kale, which she said she'd turn into Sukuma Wiki. It's a staple in Kenya, where she and her husband served in the Peace Corps. Literally translated, sukuma wiki means "stretch the week".

I asked what all went in it and she said "Take a bunch of greens, a chile or two, some tomatoes, some other things and stew it all day long." Recipes aren't quite as accurate when you have to make due with what you've got.

I just finished harvesting the last of the collards today, so I've got this going in the crockpot.

Sukuma Wiki

12 large collard leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 green chile, seeded and minced
4-5 tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the stems from the collards. Chiffonade the greens.

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or stock pot. Turn heat to low and let stew several hours or until greens are tender.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Bean and Artichoke Burritos

Quick and easy vegetarian dinner.

Black Bean and Artichoke Burritos

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 pkg fajita seasoning
1/4 cup water

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add black beans to pan and sautee, stirring frequently, until beans begin to take on the texture of refried beans. Move beans to one side of the pan. Add olive oil to pan and heat thru. Add onions and garlic and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Combine onions with beans and add in artichoke hearts. Sautee 3 minutes until artichoke hearts become aromatic. Add fajita seasoning and water, stir to combine with veggies. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is boiled off. Serve immediately with cheese, salsa and other garnishes as desired.

Asian-Spiced Tilapia with Stir-Fry Veggies

Admittedly, the stir-fry veggies are a cheat - they're frozen ones in a bag. I know, I know. But it was still tasty.

Asian-Spiced Tilapia with Stir-Fry Veggies

4 tilapia filets
1/2 tsp chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup soy sauce
dash of mirin
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp wasabe powder
1 pkg frozen stir-fry veggies

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add 1/2 tbsp olive oil.

Mix together the five-spice powder, salt, pepper, and sprinke both sides of the tilapia filets with the mixture. Add to pan and sautee 1 minute each side. Remove fish from pan; keep warm.

Mix together soy sauce, mirin and chicken broth. Add to pan and whisk, loosening the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add spices and whisk more to combine. Add veggies and stir, coating them thoroughly in the sauce. Let cook about 5 minutes. Add fish on top of veggies and continue to cook, about 10 minutes, until fish is done. Plate and serve immediately.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce

It seems to me that so many people don't cook with champagne enough. Maybe it's the concept that champagne should only be uncorked to celebrate.

IMO, any day is a good day to have champagne. Why wait for New Years Eve or a wedding? Champagne is actually a wonderful wine to cook with and to pair food with. It's excellent with tapas, fried foods (think egg rolls), a variety of seafood and chicken dishes and sushi!

Which is why it really shines in this dish. A light sauce, chicken delicately seasoned and prepared, and mushrooms (mushrooms and champagne are classic pairing). It's based off of a recipe from The Lavender Cookbook, though I didn't quite follow all instructions. I paired it with Mushroom Risotto.

Lavender Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried lavender
sea salt
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 tbsp evoo
2 tbsp butter
1 cup thinly sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/4 cup Champagne
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tbsp chicken stock (not broth!)

Combine the herbs in a pestle and grind with mortar until aromatic. Combine with lemon juice in a bag, add chicken breasts and marinade for 20 minutes. Discard marinade.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add in olive oil and butter and heat until butter is melted. Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.

Add the mushrooms and shallot to skillet. Sautee for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Champagne, broth and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken is done.

Wine Pairing: Champagne, of course!

Mushroom Risotto

I don't make risotto as often as I'd like to since I don't like to do a lot of cooking that requires constant supervision. But, once in a while I get the itch.

Mushroom Risotto

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp saffron
4 cups hot chicken stock
8 oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and cook until butter is melted. Add in onion and sautee until onion is lightly browned. Add rice and sautee until translucent. Add wine to pan, stirring constantly until absorbed. Combine saffron and 1 cup chicken stock. Add stock mixture to pan, stirring constantly until absorbed.

Continue adding liquid in 1/2 cup intervals until rice is al dente. When rice is nearly done, add in mushrooms and stir until well integrated with the rice. Add in parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until completely incorporated to the rice. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Andouille Pizza

The combination of the roasted tomato and pepper sauce, spicy andouille and fontina cheese was exquisite! This would also be excellent grilled (it was pouring tonight).

Andouille Pizza

whole wheat pizza dough

1 cup roasted tomato and pepper sauce
1/4 lb fontina cheese, shredded
1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 oz andouille sausage, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400F.

Gently sautee andouille (about 1 minute each side) to lightly cook. Roll out pizza dough. Add sauce, cheese, andouille and sun-dried tomatoes.

Bake pizza at 400F for 20 minutes or until the sausage is done and the crust is crispy.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Sauce

Yet another use for the myriad of tomatoes and peppers from our garden. It could easily be used for a pizza or pasta sauce.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Sauce

4 tomatoes, cored
1 pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp dry white wine
kosher salt
2 cups tomato sauce

Heat oven to 450F and place rack on top position. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, spray with cooking spray. Place tomatoes and pepper on sheet, lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a small pot over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat until shimmery. Add onions and sautee for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in vinegar, wine and a pinch of both the salt and sugar. Continue sauteeing until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Add roasted tomatoes and pepper, plus sauce. Stir to combine and heat thru. Puree in pot or in blender. Taste and season as needed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Basic Bread

We woke up this morning, hungry for eggs and toast, only to realize that we were out of bread. So while I made split pea soup and gardened, I baked some basic loaf bread. Like usual, this recipe yields 2 loaves.

Basic Bread

1 tbsp dry active yeast
2 1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
6-7 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups whole-wheat and the remainder all-purpose)

In a large bowl, combine yeast and water, stirring until yeast is dissolved. Add in sugar and salt, let rest 5 minutes.

Gradually add in flour, stirring until dough forms a ball and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until dough is elastic. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Coat a large bowl with spray oil. Add dough, turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, dry place until dough is doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Coat 2 loaf pans in spray oil. Divide dough in half and add in pan. Let rest about 10 minutes, then place in cold oven and bake at 400F for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove loaf pans from oven and let cool.

Split Pea Soup

Growing up one of the few things my dad did in the kitchen was make soup. The two he made most often were Chicken Noodle - which is awesome! homemade noodles! - and Split Pea Soup. The latter made me gag. I'd have to vacate the house when he was making it because just the smell made me nauseous. I refused to eat it. When I met The Spouse, this was a food dislike we had in common, so it didn't cause any issues.

Fast forward to last winter. Strange events led us to being at my sister's house unexpectedly. She invited us to stay for dinner. When asked what they were having, she replied "Pea Soup."

The Spouse pulled a face as I looked at the non-stinky stock pot bubbling away on the stove. "Is that Dad's recipe? Cause I've never been a fan."

"God, no. Here, try it."

I took a tentative taste and my eyes widened. "Honey, try this!" The Spouse took a small mouthful and said "It doesn't suck! In fact, it tastes really good!"

The problem is, my sister is much like me - she cooks off the cuff and doesn't really write anything down. She gave me a vague idea of what had gone in the soup. I've been dying to try my hand at it since then and today I finally got a chance. I don't know if it's identical to what she did but it was still damn tasty!

Split Pea Soup

2 cups split peas, rinsed
1 quart beef broth
1 ham shank
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
dry vermouth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 bay leaf
a pinch of lavender

Place the rinsed split peas in a stock pot and cover them with about 1 1/2 quart of water. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, then let sit for 1 hour (or soak them overnight). Add in the 1 quart of beef broth and the ham shank. Turn heat on and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in about 1 tbsp olive oil and heat thru. Add in onion, celery and carrots and sautee about 1 minute. Add in dry vermouth (about 1/4 cup) and continue sauteeing until onion begins to soften (about 3 minutes). Add vegetable mix to stock pot and stir. Add in spices and a dash more vermouth. Let soup simmer another 15 minutes.

Remove ham shank from pot, remove meat from the bone. Butcher the meat (remove the skin, tendons, and chop up) and add back to pot. Simmer another 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eggplant Lasagna

The Spouse has been waiting for this meal all summer. Our eggplants were a little slow to get going but now they're ready for harvest. We planted "Hansel" eggplants, which are smaller than your average globe eggplant. The downside is it takes more of them to make a meal, the upside is the seeds are negligible to the point of being non-existent.

I used the convection setting on our oven to speed the baking time a bit.

Eggplant Lasagna

6 'Hansel' Eggplant, peeled and cut on the bias (you could also substitute 2 Japanese eggplant or 1 globe eggplant)
1 cup bread or corn crumbs
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (or use a mixture of oregano and basil)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

9 lasagna noodles (either no-boil or cook to package directions)
20 oz marinara sauce (I used my homemade red-wine marinara)
1 container cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (or mix oregano and basil)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat convection oven to 450ºF. Combine bread crumbs, seasoning, salt and pepper. Spray the eggplant slices with cooking spray and coat in the crumbs (set aside leftover crumbs). Layer on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 375ºF. Set eggplant aside to cool slightly.

Combine cottage cheese (or ricotta) with egg, seasoning, 1 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

In a 9x13 dish, add 1 cup of sauce to bottom of the dish. Layer 3 noodles along the bottom. Add half of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Layer the eggplant on top. Add a 1/3 cup of the remaining mozzarella in a think layer. Top with 1 cup sauce. Repeat layers - noodles, cottage cheese, eggplant, cheese, sauce. Top with the last 3 noodles, remaining sauce, and remaining 1/3 cup of cheese. Sprinkle top with the leftover breadcrumbs, if desired. Bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes or until cheese golden brown and lasagna is bubbly. Let set 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Italian Turkey Burgers

We have had a package of italian-spiced ground turkey in the freezer for a while. The Spouse wanted to use it for eggplant lasagna, but then decided that he'd rather that be vegetarian. So I suggested turning it into burgers instead. We used english muffin bread instead of buns, which provided a nice crunch. And I had some tomato-basil cheese on hand to add a nice zing.

Italian Turkey Burgers

1 lb italian-spiced ground turkey
1/4 cup kalamata olives
garlic powder
balsamic vinegar
1 red onion, sliced

Finely diced kalamata olives in a food processor. Fold into ground turkey, along with garlic powder and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Form into paties.

Grill paties and onions over medium-high heat until done (about 10 minutes). Add cheese if desired and let melt. Toast buns/bread during the last half of cooking. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Calzones

I've blogged this one before but this is a slightly different rendition. The whole wheat pizza dough was a godsend find from Amber's Delectable Delights. I had just planned on picking up a pillsbury dough thing at the store but couldn't find any. This wonderful whole-wheat dough is ready in 30 minutes (mixing and resting time combined) and is going to be a staple in my kitchen. I only used half the dough from the 1 lb version and made one big calzone. I served this with Braised Swiss Chard fresh from the garden.

Buffalo Chicken Calzones

2 packages Tyson diced chicken breasts
leftover blue cheese & bacon mix from Cheesy Chicken Breasts
Frank's Hot Sauce
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
whole-wheat pizza dough

Prep the pizza dough. While dough is resting, place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 400F. Place chicken breast bits in a large bowl and add enough Frank's Hot sauce to coat (maybe 1/4 cup). Stir in blue cheese & bacon mixture. Set aside.

Divide dough in half and set half aside (freeze or refrigerate for later use). Roll out the remaining half into a 13" dough. Place chicken mixture on half of the dough. Top with cheddar & mozarella cheese. Carefully fold the remaining half of dough over, rolling the bottom over to seal the seam. Place on pizza stone and bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until done. Remove stone from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Cut calzone into servings and serve immediately.

Braised Swiss Chard

We have two massive chard plants in our garden that have been a delight to eat all summer long. Here's one great way to prep it.

Braised Swiss Chard

1 tbsp EVOO
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 bunch swiss chard
salt and pepper

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat. Sautee shallot and garlic until lightly browned. Add chard to pan, stir, and cover. Stir occasionally until chard is done, about 5 minutes. Lightly season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oven Fried Cheesy Chicken Breasts with a Pecan Crust

I'm not sure why but the other day we were watching Emeril Live and he was doing a show on chicken. This was one of the recipes on there. I made a few tweaks to the recipe based on what I had on hand...and stuff I missed in the recipe!

Oven Fried Cheesy Chicken Breasts with a Pecan Crust

4 slices turkey bacon
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
Emeril's Essence
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 cups corn crumbs
2/3 cups finely chopped pecans
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray foil with cooking spray.

Cut a deep pocket into the middle of each chicken breast half. Divide the cheese and crumbled bacon evenly among the caveties. Season the chicken evenly on both sides with the Essence. In a small bowl, combine the honey and mustard and whisk together. In a shallow dish combine the corn crumbs and pecans and stir well. Brush both sides of each piece of chicken with the honey mixture, then dredge in the cornflake mixture. Place the chicken breasts on the prepared baking sheet and bake 18 to 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately

Wine pairing: We paired this with a RED wine! Just because it's chicken doesn't mean you should have white - the blue cheese pushes the balance to a deliciously juicy Zinfandel. We had one from one we get from our private wine retailer but a good "grocery store" wine would be Gnarly Head.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Caesar Salad with Croutons

This is a first for me, making caesar salad dressing and croutons from scratch. But it was easier than I thought - and tasty! The recipe came from my Wine Lover's Cookbook, though, per usual, I didn't exactly follow directions (see asterisked notes). We paired it with some leftover Tomato Basil Soup and a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay.

Sid's Caesar Salad

7 anchovy fillets
1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tbsp roasted garlic
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices sourdough or other hearty French or Italian bread 2
1 egg
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp minced lemon zest 3
1/8 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 3/4 lbs romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a food processor, combine anchovies, pepper, roasted garlic, and olive oil and process for 1 minute until smooth. Add grated Parmesan and process for 30 seconds. Remove 3 tbsp of dressing. 4

Using a brush, spread mixture evenly on both sides of sliced bread. Bake for 20 minutes or until a nice crust develops. Do not burn. Break or cut toast into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan filled more than halfway with water, bring water to a boil. Place a refrigerated egg into water and boil for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool.

Place anchovy-olive oil mixture in a large, nonreactive bowl and add remaining ingredients. Spoon entire egg carefully out of shell and add to the mixture. Whisk thoroughly and refrigerate until ready to toss salad.

To serve, place cold romaine in a large salad bowl. Whisk dressing thoroughly and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add to salad and toss vigorously. Add croutons and continue tossing to coat croutons. Serve on well-chilled salad plates.

Wine Pairing: The book actually recommends a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio for this meal. We didn't have either on hand, but we did have an unoaked Chardonnay, which paired brilliantly

1. I measured out 1/3 cup and then added olive oil as needed to make a loose paste. I think, overall, I used maybe 1/2 cup.
2. I used homemade English Muffin bread. Just as tasty.
3. I didn't add lemon zest
4. I actually didn't separate the 3 tbsp. Instead I liberally brushed the mixture onto the bread and used the remainder, which may or may not have been 3 tbsp.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup & Grilled Cheese Paninis

I saw this recipe on another blog and thought "I have fresh tomatoes! I have fresh basil! I even have fresh onions!" and decided it would make a good early fall dinner.

I did change a few things. For starters, I didn't use 4 cups of basil. My poor basil plant got kind of shocked by a rather cold night on Monday (I've been bringing it in at night now), so I only picked as much as I dared. Maybe 2 cups. I also don't have a kitchen scale, so I estimated at what 3 lbs of tomatoes were (I figured each tomato was 1/4 lb, some smaller, so used about 16 tomatoes).

This recipe has convinced me, though, I need a hand blender before I make any other fall soups. Screw putting it into the food processor in batches. What a mess.

I would do one thing differently - I would seed the tomatoes, either before roasting or before adding them to the pot.

Now for the Grilled Cheese Panini, I used Kerrygold Blarney Castle Cheese. It's a mild, gouda-style cheese, which was delicious with the tangyness of the tomato soup. Then I just grilled them up on the George Foreman grill, pressing the lid down 1/2 of the way thru the cooking time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

Welcome to football season! And Fall! Well, at least here in Wisconsin it is.

Tonight we had my chili for dinner and we all know the best companion to chili is cornbread. Wanting to try something different, I decided to add in some fresh jalapeños and some shredded cheddar. It's based off this recipe from Cooking Light.

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons Splenda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup fat-free milk
4 medium minced seeded jalapeño peppers
3 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through cheese) in a bowl. Combine the milk and remaining ingredients in a bowl; add to the cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moist. Coat a 8" square baking pan with cooking spray. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 425° for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

It's a good thing we'd planned on a crockpot dinner yesterday anyway cause I was in no shape to stand at the stove cooking after getting no sleep. I even managed to ruin soup yesterday.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

2 tsp olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can tomato sauce
3 tbsp red wine
Italian seasoning
celery salt
1/2 cup mozzarella (I used reduced-fat italian-blend cheese)
3 tbsp Parmesan

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat thru. Add chicken to pan, browning on each side, about 10 minutes.

While chicken cooks, combine tomatoes, sauce, wine and spices in crockpot. Add chicken. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Combine cheeses in a small bowl. Sprinkle over chicken. Do not stir. Cook until cheese is melted. Serve.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

100 Foods

Found this on someone else's blog. Thought it'd be a fun break from the recipes. Plus, last night's dinner was a disaster. Anyway, items in bold are one's that I've had. Items with a strike are one's I wouldn't try if you paid me. Oddly, there's very few things on this list that I wouldn't eat.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros
4. steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (also known as blood pudding)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB & J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. rice and beans
25. Brawn , or head cheese - yeah and never again
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - not raw but I've used them in cooking
27. Dulce de Leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna Cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. salted lassi
34. sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cognac? yes. cigar? no)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. phall
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. fugu (Pufferfish) - sorry but for all the silly machismo items on here, this one takes the cake. I can deal with uber-hot. Not with potentially deadly.
47. chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. prickly pear (do margaritas count? :D)
52. umeboshi
53. abalone
54. paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. poutine
60. carob chips
61. s'mores
62. sweetbreads - had them. not a fan
63. kaolin
64. currywurst
65. durian - I withhold judgment on this one since I've heard it can be sublime or horrific, depending on how you react to the smell.
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of them)
68. haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. chitterlings , or andouillette
71. gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. lapsang souchong
80. bellini
81. tom yum
82. eggs benedict
83. pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-michelin-star restaurant.
85. kobe beef
86. Hare
87. goulash
88. flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. soft shelled crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. lobster thermidor
98. polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
100. Snake

54 that I've had, 7 that I never would. That leaves 39 to go.

Oven-Fried Bloomin' Onion

I usually make a grilled version of the Bloomin' Onion (slice, drizzle with olive oil, season as desired, wrap in tinfoil, grill until delicious) but I had some leftover panko and flour from the Jalapeño Poppers, so I decided to do a spicy baked version instead.

Oven-Fried Bloomin' Onion
1 large onion
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
3 tsp Essence
1 cup panko mixed with 6 tsp Essence
1/2 cup flour mixed with 3 tsp Essence

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Beat together eggs, milk and Essence.

Remove top and bottom of onion and papery skins. Carefully slice onion into 8 wedges, leaving 1/4" towards the bottom un-sliced. Gently separate the layers of the onion so that it is slightly opened. Coat onion in flour mixture. Add egg mixture to onion, using a pastry brush to get between the layers. Coat onion in panko.

Line baking sheet with foil, coat foil with spray oil. Place onion on tray and bake at 350º until done, about 30-40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Jalapeño Poppers

This is a recipe courtesy of Emeril. I made a few substitutions to lighten them up more. I also added quite a bit more of the "essence" than called for. The jalapeños were fresh from the garden and oh-so-tasty.

Baked Jalapeño Poppers

16 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or less, to taste
1 large egg, 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
12 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a bowl, cream together the cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, cumin, and cayenne.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and 3 teaspoons of the Essence. In a shallow dish, combine the panko crumbs and remaining 6 teaspoons of Essence. In a third dish, combine the flour and remaining 3 teaspoons of Essence. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each jalapeno half. One at a time, dredge in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko crumbs, pressing to coat. If necessary, repeat the process. Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the filling is runny and the crust is golden, about 30 minutes.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pan-Seared Tuna with Mediterranean Wine Sauce

This is courtesy of a Cooking Light recipe. I omitted the orange juice.

Pan-Seared Tuna with Mediterranean Wine Sauce

1 cup dry white wine, divided
8 sun-dried tomato halves, packed without oil
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons chopped pitted Greek olives
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups hot cooked angel hair (about 4 ounces uncooked pasta)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine 1/2 cup wine and tomato halves in a 1-cup glass measure. Cover with plastic wrap, and vent. Microwave at high 1 1/2 minutes or until mixture boils; let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Strain tomatoes through a sieve into a bowl, reserving liquid; chop tomatoes. Add chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup wine, and orange juice to the reserved tomato liquid; set aside.

Place fennel seeds and peppercorns in a spice or coffee grinder; process until finely ground. Pour into a small bowl; stir in 1 teaspoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, orange rind, and garlic. Spread spice mixture evenly over 1 side of each tuna steak. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat; add steaks, crust sides down, to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes on each side or until fish is medium-rare or desired degree of doneness. Remove from heat; keep warm. Add wine mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, olives, and black pepper to skillet; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Combine pasta, 1 teaspoon oil, and cheese in a bowl; toss well. Serve tuna over pasta; drizzle with wine sauce.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Homegrown Red-Wine Marinara Sauce

One of the most brilliant things of having a garden is being able to make all sorts of lovely vegetable bases, like marinara sauce, veggie stock, etc., on top of having fresh vegetables for dinner every night.

This is due to a glut of tomatoes, onions and basil. The only ingredients in here that are not from our garden is the garlic, wine and the tomato paste.

Red-Wine Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 head garlic (6-8 cloves), crushed and chopped
1 1/2 onion, diced
12 medium sized tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
12 basil leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare another large bowl with ice water. Core the tomatoes and score the bottom with an 'X'. Add tomatoes in batches to boiling water. Boil for 20-30 seconds, until the skin starts to peel away. Transfer to ice bath. Remove skin, halve tomatoes and remove seeds.

Heat large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, swirl pot to coat. Add onion, garlic salt and pepper and sautee 5-10 minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened. About 45 minutes in, shred and basil leaves into the sauce. Taste sauce, adjust spices as needed.

If you prefer a less chunky sauce, add to food processor or blender (let cool first if using a blender). Pulse a few times until sauce reaches desired consistency.

You can serve immediately or spoon into containers and freeze for later use.

Shrimp Quesadillas with pico de gallo

You could go quick and easy with this recipe. However, The Spouse made his famous homemade pico de gallo. However, I don't know how he makes it, so I can't post his recipe. My best guess at it would be 4 tomatoes, cored, de-seeded and diced, 2 bell peppers, cored and diced, 1 large onion, diced, 1-2 jalapeños, diced, salt and lime juice to taste.

Shrimp Quesadillas with pico de gallo

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup lime juice
chile powder
pico de gallo

Combine shrimp, lime juice, salt, cumin and chile powder in a bag. Marinade 30-60 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Empty contents of bag into skillet and sautee until shrimp are cooked thru.

Place tortillas on a baking sheet. Layer on half: cheese, mushrooms, shrimp and pico de gallo. Fold over and broil for 5 minutes, turning halfway thru, until cheese is melted and tortilla lightly browned. Serve with more pico de gallo and chips.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pork Chops with Guinness Mushroom Gravy

This weekend in Milwaukee is Irish Fest! Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals for all the ethnic and music festivals that run all summer long at the Henry Maier Festival Grounds at the lakefront (bit of history: The festival grounds used to be a Nike missile base). Several festivals are the nation's largest ethnic festivals, including Festa Italiana, Polish Fest, Mexican Fiesta and, of course, the world's largest music festival - Summerfest.

But my absolute favorite is Irish Fest. It's not nearly the drunken debauchery that Summerfest has turned into and the music, food and beer is much better, IMO.

So, in honor of Irish Fest, I decided to make a Guinness gravy to go with the pork chops last night. The Spouse kept going back for more gravy - and he's not a huge sauce/gravy fan, so that's a pretty big compliment.

Pork Chops with Guinness Mushroom Gravy

1 tbsp olive oil
4 thick-cut pork chops
grill seasoning (such as the Spice House Back of the Yards Butcher's Rub)
beef broth
1 12-oz bottle Guinness Draught
8 oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp flour
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Heat large pan over medium heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Lightly season chops and brown in pan, about 3-5 minutes each side. Set aside.

Deglace pan with a bit of beef broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Add mushrooms to pan and sautee until fragarant, about 5 minutes. Add in guinness, milk, flour and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, finish the pork chops on the grill until done.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rosemary and Peppercorn Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

I used a my mortar & pestle to crush the spices.

Rosemary and Peppercorn Encrusted Pork Tenderloin

2 tsp peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed
½ tsp celery seeds, crushed
½ tsp mustard seeds, crushed
1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine first 6 ingredients; rub over pork. Place pork in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 (slightly pink). Let stand 5 minutes; cut into thin slices.

Chicken & Barley Stew

1 cup quick-cooking barley
3 (14 oz) cans chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped up into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 (10 oz) package frozen mixed vegetables
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp black pepper

Bring barley and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.

While barley cooks, heat skillet over medium heat. Add oil heat thru. Add chicken and onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add mixed vegetables; sauté 2 minutes.

Add vegetable mixture, chicken, salt, thyme, and pepper to barley mixture; simmer 4 minutes.

Margarita Chicken

Margarita Chicken

1 lb chicken breasts
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp tequilla
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp lime zest

Mix marinade together and add chicken breasts. Marinade in fridge at least 1 hour.

Remove chicken breasts from marinade, reserving the mix. Boil marniade for 1 minute.

Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat until done (about 12 minutes), basting occasionally with the boiled marinade.

Wine Pairing: Margaritas, baby!

Lime Glazed Scallops on Creamy Wasabi Fettuccine

The nice thing about this recipe is you can make almost any substitution you want for some of the more basic items. Just use whatever you have in your pantry.

12 oz dry fettuccini or tagliatelle
1/3 cup pickled ginger
2 lbs large sea scallops
1 tbsp freshly grated lime peel
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp wasabi powder
1 ¼ cups skim milk (thickened it with corn starch)
¼ cup butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
chives, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well. Chop ¼ cup of the ginger and reserve.

Remove connective muscle (it looks like a little knob on the side of the scallop) from each scallop and discard. Pat dry. Toss scallops with lime peel, garlic and a little salt and pepper.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Add about one-third of the scallops to the pan and cook, without disturbing, for 2 minutes or until deep golden. They may stick at first but will then release as they become brown. Turn and cook 2 minutes longer or until cooked through and deeply golden on the other side. Remove from pan and repeat as necessary to cook all of the remaining scallops.

Blend wasabi with 2 tbsp of milk to make a paste. Pour remaining cream into skillet used to cook the scallops. Add butter and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and whisk in wasabi paste, chopped ginger and Parmesan. Add noodles and cooked scallops.

Toss to coat in sauce. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to pasta bowls and garnish with rosettes made from the remaining pickled ginger.

Crockpot Coq au Vin

This was inspired by Chef Sandy D'Amato's Coq au Vin at Coquette Cafe. The secret? Let the chicken marinade overnight. Mine's not nearly as good, but I'm not a world-renowned chef. :D

Crockpot Coq au Vin

1 pkg frozen pearl onions - thawed
1 pkg mushrooms - sliced
1 clove garlic
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cups dry red wine
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour

Mix thyme, salt and pepper together. Trim chicken. Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the following order. onions, mushrooms, garlic, spices, chicken, wine and broth. Let sit overnight in the fridge.

Remove crock from fridge and let warm. Cover and cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours. Remove chicken and vegetables; cover and keep warm. Ladle cup cooking liquid into small bowl; allow to cool slightly. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; cover. Mix reserved liquid, tomato paste and flour until smooth. Return mixture to slow cooker; cover and cook 25 minutes or until thickened.

Creamed Spinach Gratin

I made this the first time for Thanksgiving 2005 for my ILs. Huge hit!

Creamed Spinach Gratin

1 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
1 clove garlic, halved
5 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise
5 10-ounce boxes frozen spinach, thawed
8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cup skim milk
1 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375° F. Rub the sides and bottom of a buttered 8-inch baking dish with the garlic; discard garlic.

In a skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Squeeze the spinach to remove any excess liquid. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cream cheese, milk, cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and shallots. Transfer to dish. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling and lightly golden, about 25 minutes.

Chai Tea

This recipe comes from my sister. She and her husband spent 2 years in Kenya with the Peace Corps and introduced me to it well before it became a trendy drink to have. It's...pretty flexible. Below are the basic ingredients, you mix them to your taste. I put what I usually do in parentheses. Also, I make a large batch of just the tea and just store it in the fridge mix in the milk & sugar when I want a cup.

Chai Tea

Black tea leaves (I usually do enough to fill a tea diffuser)
Cinnamon sticks (2-3 sticks)
Cardamom, whole (4 or 5 pods, crack them open)
Ginger (about...1 tsp, diced)
Sugar, to taste

Steep tea and spices in proper amount of water to brew strong tea. Strain out spices and tea leaves (if you don't use a diffuser). Serve half and half with milk or cream. Add sugar to taste.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

I made this one summer when The Spouse was on a chickpea kick (yet the man hates hummus. go figure). This could easily be made vegetarian/vegan by removing the chicken and subbing vegetable stock instead.

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

fennel seeds
1 lb chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
1 thinly sliced onion
1/4 cup vegetable stock (or more)
3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 dash kosher salt
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
kosher salt

Add olive oil and a few fennel seeds to pan. When fennel seeds start popping, add chicken. Brown chicken on all sides for 10 minutes, turning halfway. Remove chicken from pan, set aside.

Add onions to pan and sautee. Add stock, cabbage, sprinkle with salt; saute for another 5 minutes (add more stock if needed).

Add spices; saute another minute. Stir in tomatoes and chickpeas. Add chicken and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes till vegetables are tender.

Serve over couscous (or rice, or another grain).

Chicken Stroganoff

Ever since I was a kid, I'd never really enjoyed stroganoff. I didn't like onions or peppers, the beef was always tough, and it was really kinda bland.

Then I discovered a recipe in Real Simple that changed my mind. I've made a few changes to it over the years though.

Chicken Stroganoff

1 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and the mushrooms. Continue cooking until the mushrooms give up their liquid, about 6 minutes, and are tender.

Place the vegetables in a colander, reserving both vegetables and liquid. You should have about 1/2 cup of liquid.

Return pan to heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Season the chicken with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add it to the vegetables.

Pour the wine, broth, and vegetable liquid into the pan and bring to a boil. With a wooden spoon, loosen any brown bits stuck to the pan and let cook in the sauce. Add the barbecue sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, and hot sauce. Whisk until smooth. Boil until the liquid has reduced by half, to about 11/4 cups. The liquid should thicken slightly.

Reduce heat and whisk in the sour cream. Do not let the sauce boil. Return the vegetables and chicken to pan and simmer until heated through. Serve over egg noodles or rice.

Shrimp Curry

This isn't exactly authentic, but it's incredibly tasty.

Shrimp Curry

2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic
3 stalks celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 tbsp flour
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
~1 cup water or maybe vegetable broth (I used 1/2 the can)
2 tsp curry
1 tsp soy sauce
1 lb cooked shrimp (DH picked up tiger prawns instead. mmmmm)
Kosher Salt to taste
White rice

Melt butter in the skillet. Add onion, garlic and celery. Cook until soft (you may want to add the celery first as it takes longer than the onion).

Mix in flour until incorporated. Add tomatoes, water/broth, curry and soy sauce. Stir well until bubbly. Taste, add other spices as needed/wanted (I added a bit of salt since I used low-sodium everything). Add shrimp. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Chap Chee Noodles

In an effort to beef up my blog, here are some recipes that I made ages ago and posted elsewhere

Original recipe here. Below are my modifications.

Chap Chee Noodles

3 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoon sesame oil
6 green onions, finely chopped
3 1 clove garlic, minced
3 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
dash of chili sauce

1 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 cup napa cabbage, sliced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
3 ounces cellophane noodles, soaked in warm water
soy sauce, salt & pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Stir in sliced chicken, and marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, then drizzle with oil. Cook chicken & marinade until evenly brown. Stir in carrots, bamboo shoots, and napa cabbage. Sautee until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Add spinach and cellophane noodles, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until heated through.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Is there anything more beautiful than an organized spice cabinet? I think not.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Muffins

Growing up this was one of my favorite recipes of my mom's. A year ago, when we bought our house and had room for a garden, I had a couple huge zucchini that were only good for bread. So I emailed mom for the recipe. In her response, she swore me to secrecy - seriously or not, I'm not sure.

So, what follows is actually a re-interpretation of the recipe she sent me.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Muffins

3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2 cup Splenda
3 sq melted and cooled baking chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups zucchini, grated
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
skim milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Beat the eggs until lemon-coloured. Beat in sugar and oil. Stir in chocolate, along with zucchini & vanilla. Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder together. Assess the mix and add in skim milk to achieve proper consistency. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes at 375. Let stand 10 minutes before removing from tins. Cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Grilled Fish Tacos

The Spouse said that these were the best version I've made so far.

Too bad I didn't really measure a damn thing. ::sigh::

Grilled Fish Tacos

1 lb tilapia fillets
2 limes
cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper
1 jalapeno
2 small onions (I used baby onions from our garden. slightly more sweet than normal)
1 medium green pepper

Add tilapia fillets to a plastic bag. Juice the two limes into the bag, adding both the juice and the limes. Add spices to taste. Dice jalapeno and 1 onion and add to bag. Seal bag, removing air as best you can. Place in fridge and let marinade for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat grill. De-seed and slice pepper into quarters. Slice onion into rounds. Remove tilapia from marinade. Add peppers, onions and tilapia to grill pan. Grill briefly until fish flakes easily (about 5 minutes) - remove fish from heat but keep warm. Continue cooking veggies until done (about another 5 minutes).

Shred tilapia into bite-sized pieces. Slice peppers into strips, cut onion rounds in half. Serve with various other garnishes (salsa, cheese, cilantro, etc.).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Best Grilled Chicken

The rub for this smells AMAZING when you mix it together.

This can be served either plain or diced up on a salad or as a sandwich.

Best Grilled Chicken

3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Mix rub ingredients together. Coat both sides of the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours.

Heat grill to medium-high. Add chicken breasts. Grill until done, about 5 minutes each side.

Pane Rustica

I think it's been about 3 months since we bought a loaf of bread. Instead I've been baking it all myself.

This recipe is just the most basic version of bread there could be - yeast, water, sugar, salt, flour. If you've ever been afraid of tackling yeast bread, it can't get more simple than this.

Pane Rustica

1 tbsp dry active yeast
2 1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
5-6 cups flour plus extra for kneading

Combine yeast and water in a bowl, stir until dissolved. Add salt and sugar, stir to combine. Let rest 5 minutes.

Stir vigorously while adding in flour until the dough starts to pull away from the wall of the bowl. Turn flour out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Lightly oil bowl and place dough in it, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough out and divide into 2 equal loaves. Reshape into desired shape (generally either round or oval). Lightly oil a baking sheet, dust with cornmeal if desired. Place loaves on sheet and into a cold oven. Bake at 400 until done and the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

Quick note: You may use more flour than recommended. I add flour by touch to the bread. Some recipes I end up adding less than recommended, sometimes more. Use your judgment.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why befriend your local butcher

The Spouse and I are lucky to live less than a mile from a really fantastic butcher. We shop there all the time. Their quality of meat is ten times better than anything at the grocery store. And they're less expensive to boot.

Yesterday I was running late to pick up meat for a party we're having tomorrow. They close at 6pm and I think I sprinted in the door at 5:50. Behind the counter was my usual guy - 9 times out of 10, he's the one who helps me.

So, promising to get out of their hair as soon as I could, I started rattling off the things I needed - 4lb boneless chuck roast, 3 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, a bone for the dog, and then I had a coupon for "Spend $30 get 1lb brats free".

The boneless chuck rang up at $8.89 (so, $2.23/lb). The chicken breasts at about the same (so about $3/lb). Total cost, including Lucky's bone, was $28.84. I start glancing around to find something else we could need to go over the $30 mark when he said "Don't worry about it. You're in here all the time." and packaged up my pound of brats.

So I basically got 8 lbs of meat, plus a bone, for $29. I.Love.Our.Butcher.

Mexican Chicken Stew

I'm actually really not sure what to call this. It was definitely a "pantry dinner" idea - meaning "Well, I've got chicken. What do I have in can form that would go with it?"

Tasty! And spicy! And tasty!

Mexican Chicken Stew

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
chicken broth
1 can mexican-style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can diced green chiles, undrained
1 can sliced black olives, drained
~1 cup cooked leftover rice
salt and pepper

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, brown each side for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.

Deglaze pan with chicken broth. Add in tomatoes, beans, chiles, olives and broth to bring mixture to desired consistancy. Bring to a boil. Add chicken back to pan, reduce heat. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

With 5 minutes left, add in the cooked rice. Heat thru. Spoon stew into bowl. Gently shred or chop chicken. Place one breast on top of each bowl of stew. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Five-Spice White-Chocolate Scones

I could have sworn I'd put this recipe in my blog ages ago. But when I went to look for it on Sunday, I realized I hadn't. Good thing I remembered it (more or less).

I'm sure people may have noticed by now but I don't do a whole lot of baking. For a few reasons.

A) The Spouse and I don't eat a lot of junk food. And, in our opinion, muffins, brownies, cookies, etc. fall into that category. So the idea of baking cookies really just doesn't occur to us since we don't eat them.

B) I hate fruit*. So blueberry muffins or cherry tarts will never appear here. Ever. ::shudder::

But every once in a while I like making a nice breakfast. And my scones are an easy default. There's something to be said for sitting on the porch, sipping coffee, listening to jazz, reading the paper and nibbling on a scone hot from the oven.

So, this is my basic scone recipe with a few twists.

Five-Spice White-Chocolate Scones

2 cups all purpose unbleached organic flour
1/4 cup Splenda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp Five-Spice Powder
4 tbsp Smart Balance, cold and cut into pieces
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup buttermilk substitute
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat oven temperature to 400º F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and five-spice powder. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture until the mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the white chocolate chips and walnuts. In a small measuring cup combine the buttermilk with the maple syrup and then add to the flour mixture, stirring just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 3 pie-shaped wedges. You will have 6 scones altogether. Place the scones on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 16 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

* The exception to the fruit-hating rule are lemons and limes. That's it.

Grilled Mustard Pork Chops

Simple and oh-so-tasty. I served this with the Green Beans with Pesto Vinaigrette.

Grilled Mustard Pork Chops

3 thick-cut bone-in pork chops
grill seasoning (such as the Spice House Back of the Yards Butcher's Rub)
brown or dijon mustard

Pre-heat grill.

Lightly sprinkle pork chops with seasoning on both sides. On one side, spread with a light coat of mustard. Place on grill, mustard side up. Grill until done, about 30 minutes (15 minutes each side).

Green Beans with Pesto Vinaigrette

So, having made the pesto sauce for a pizza, we had some sitting leftover in the fridge. On Friday I went out to our garden and harvested a bunch of beans. While cooking dinner on Sunday, I thought that it would be relatively simple to take the leftover pesto, add some white-wine vinegar and turn it into a vinaigrette to toss the beans in.

Green Beans with Pesto Vinaigrette

1 lb green beans
2 tbsp leftover pesto
white-wine vinegar

Blanch the green beans in water for 2-3 minutes.

While beans are in the water, whisk together the pesto and vinegar until you've reached your desired consistency. Add blanched beans to pesto, toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Homegrown Pesto

The Spouse and I have a huge garden this year and we've been harvesting veggies and herbs from it for a while now. The pesto I made - originally for a pizza sauce - was made from home-grown basil. Delish!

4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups packed basil leaves (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil

Place garlic, basil and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in processor; process 10 seconds. Combine water and oil in a measuring cup. With processor on, slowly pour oil mixture through food chute, processing just until blended. You may have extra left over, depending on the consistancy you want.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Paella with Peppered Chicken, Spicy Sausage and Scallops

My first attempt at paella about 4 or so years ago was an unmitigated disaster. This one turned out perfect. Perhaps because it remained on the stove top instead of going in the oven. But I was a novice cook and the failure put me off paella for years.

This is based off a recipe I found in my Wine Lover's Cookbook. That recipe called for escargot and mussels, but neither The Spouse nor I like them, so I substituted scallops instead. Suffice to say, I'm much more confident in my cooking skills to make ad hoc substitutions without fear. Not to mention feeling confident enough to make this, essentially, a 1-pot dish.

The only bummer was I got caught up in the steps and forgot about the pepper roasting in the oven. So we didn't have that. But everything else was fantastic. Things I found were that subbing turkey Italian sausage for chorizo wasn't bad in terms of taste - if anything, the dish wasn't nearly as oily as I expected. However, next time, regardless of the type of sausage I use, I am removing the casing before sauteeing. If you have enough oil, it should hold together fine.

Paella with Peppered Chicken, Spicy Sausage and Scallops

4 large chicken thighs, skin on (I used boneless/skinless)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb sea scallops
2 spicy sausages (spicy Italian, andouille, or chorizo), cut in 1/2-inch slices
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 cup chopped yellow onions
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 cup white wine
1 3/4 cups chicken stopck
1 large roasted pepper, diced
3 tbsp chopped italian parsley
3/4 cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas

Rince chicken thighs in cold water and pat dry. Rub thoroughly with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper and let rest for a few minutes before cooking.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2/3 tbsp olive oil. Add chicken and cook on both sides until browned. Remove from pan.

Deglace pan with water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Discard. Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and heat. Add in scallops and cook in oil, 1 minute each side. Remove and place with chicken. Add sausages and saute 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and onions and continue sauteing for 3 minutes. Add rice, reamining 1/4 tsp salt, saffron, paprika, and tumeric and stir to coat thoroughly. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add wine and reduce until liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. add chicken stock, raise heat slightly, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and place reserved chicken and scallops evenly throughout the pot on top of the rice. Cover the pot and cook for 17 to 18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is al dente. Sprinkle roasted peppers, parsley and peas evernly over the tip of the paella. Cover and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes just to warm through without allowing the peas to lose their bright green color. Season to taste.

Garnish with additional sprinkling of Italian parsley. Serve at table in paella pan or divide servings in kitchen with one thight per person plus evenly divided scallops.

Wine Pairing: The Spouse and I uncorked a fantastic bottle of 2004 Ridge Lytton Springs, which was a blend of 79% zinfandel, 18% petite sirah, 3% carignane. Fantastic wine for a fabulous meal.

Braised Greens with Chipotle Vinaigrette

I found this recipe while searching for something to do with the remaining can of chipotle peppers I had in the fridge. I used a mix of collard greens, swiss chard and kale from our garden instead of mustard and turnip greens, but the same principle applies. I also just used white wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar.

I think the vinaigrette would also make a fantastic marinade. So if you make more than you need, it would probably re-use really well.

Braised Greens with Chipotle Vinaigrette

2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
3 pounds mustard greens
3 pounds turnip greens
6 garlic cloves, minced

Combine 1/4 cup broth, vinegar, and next 4 ingredients (vinegar through chile) in a blender; process until smooth.

Remove stems from greens. Wash and pat dry; coarsely chop to measure 20 cups. Bring 1 cup broth to a boil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup broth and greens; cover and cook 20 minutes or until wilted. Drain well. Serve with vinaigrette.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stuffed Peppers with Lavender Couscous

Last December, The Spouse spent 2 weeks in India for off-shore work. About a month ago, one of the guys he met and trained in India came here to the US for more work and training. So, tonight, we extended an invitation for dinner.

The big pre-requisite for dinner was that it had to be meatless. My pre-requisite was that I was not going to make Indian food because, quite frankly, that would be silly.

We had initially thought about making my famous Vegetarian Lasagna but thought "Hey, I can cook a brand-new meal for company. Why not? If it sucks, we can always get a pizza." But it turned out great! The recipe originally called for prosciutto, but I just left it out completely.

Stuffed Peppers with Lavender Couscous

1 cup uncooked couscous
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp lavender, finely ground
3 tbsp olive oil
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
2 shallots, chopped
1/2 cup olives (such as nicoise or kalamata), cut in half and pitted
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into slices

Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and top with butter. Bring the broth and lavender to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the couscous. Stir, cover the bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the artichokes and shallots. Sautee 10 minutes for until the artichokes are soft and slightly browned. Stir into the couscous and let cool slightly. Add the olives, pine nuts, and parmesan. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes. Brush the outside of the peppers with the remaining 1 tsp olive oil. Evenly divide the couscous mixture among the peppers. Place in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, evenly distribute the mozzarella over the peppers.

Pour about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the baking dish and cover the dish loosely with foil. Bake for 40 minutes or until the peppers are very tender. Cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Risotto with Lemon Shrimp, Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese

Last Friday we wanted just a nice, quiet meal. This suited the bill quite nicely

Risotto with Lemon Shrimp, Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped lemon zest
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine

12 oz medium shrimped, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter (1 tbsp optional)
1/2 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cups hot chicken stock
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tbsp roasted garlic
1 tsp minced lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped green onions

12 cherry tomatoes, optional

To make the marinade, combine all ingredients in a medium, nonreactive bowl and whisk thoroughly. Add shrimp and marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 1 to 2 hours.

Just prior to cooking the risotto, pour contents of marinade with shrimp into a medium sauce pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Remove shrimp from pan with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

To make risotto, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add mushrooms and shallots and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously to coat rice with oil-butter mixture.

Carefully add the wine and lemon juice and simmer until it is nearly evaporated. Start adding the heated stock in 1/2 cup increments and slowly stir until each addition of stock is absorbed into the rice. After 2 cups have been added, taste the rice to see if it is cooked al dente. If not, continue adding small amounts of stock until rice is al dente. Add the goat cheese, roasted garlic, lemon zest, green onion, warm shrimp and 1 tbsp butter and stir thoroughly while still on heat. Serve immediately, topped with halved cherry tomatoes if desired.