Thursday, January 31, 2008

CD's Chili

There are very few times in my life that my oldest brother has deigned to compliment me. He's just not that sort of guy.

However, for our housewarming party 3 years ago, I made my particular version of chili. It's not soupy like Cincinnati chili, it's not made with chunks of meat like Texas-style chili. It's sort of in-between. My brother took a spoonful, looking dubious. His eyes widened, and he helped himself to a bowl, saying "This is excellent. Really great chili!" He liked my BBQ Beef Sandwiches better, but, as he said "If those were at the house, this is on the right street."

CD's Chili

1 lb ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
2 tbs. ancho chili powder*
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2-3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook ground turkey in 12" skillet over med. heat, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain. While turkey cooks, add onion, tomatoes and spices to the crockpot and mix well. Mix turkey and remaining ingredients in with the tomatoes. Cover and cook on LOW 6 to 8 hrs. (or HIGH 3 to 4 hrs.) or until onion is tender. Add in can of black beans. Cover and cook on HIGH for 15-20 min. or until slightly thickened.

* This is not the chili powder you find in the grocery store, which is actually a blend of spices. This is pure, ground ancho peppers. Follow the link to The Spice House for my source. If you can't get it in time and have to use regular store-bought "chili powder", reduce the amount of cumin, salt and pepper to compensate.

Traditional French Bread

This recipe comes straight out of The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Brother Rick Curry. I highly recommend picking up a copy. I've had this book for years now and the recipes have never failed to produce fantastic bread. When we were first married, I would come home on Friday around 3pm and spend the afternoon making bread for the next week. Nothing is better for relieving stress than kneading dough and by the time The Spouse got home from work the whole condo smelled of freshly baked bread. It was a great way to start off the weekend.

Serving Suggestion: Toast up slices of this bread and spread with warmed brie for a delicious breakfast.

Traditional French Bread

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast and 1/2 cup of the water in a large mixing bowl, stirring until dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 3/4 cup of water, salt, and 2 cups of the flour and beat vigorously for 3 minutes. Beat for another 5 minutes, continuing to add the remaining flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours or overnight.

Let dough come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Turn out again. Divide into thirds, shape into baguettes, and place in trays.

Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk - about 20 minutes. Spray with vinegar. I sometimes throw poppy seeds on the baguettes at this point.

Make the seven traditional slashes in each baguette. (I don't know why there are seven, but authentic French baguettes all have that many.)

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, spraying again with vinegar after 10 minutes of baking. Transfer to wire racks to cool for at least an hour.

Sauteed Shrimp in a Feta-Tomato Sauce over Orzo

This was a "use up leftovers in the fridge" recipe. We had a ton of orzo, half a can of tomato sauce, and most of a can of tomato paste that needed to be used up. Turned out pretty good! I'll write the recipe if I was making it from scratch though.

Sauteed Shrimp in a Feta-Tomato Sauce over Orzo

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can tomato sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup uncooked orzo
spices (garlic, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, red pepper flakes)
feta crumbles

Make orzo according to package directions.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat through. Sautee garlic until lightly brown. Add in shrimp, season to taste with salt and pepper, and sautee until done.

In a bowl, mix together tomato sauce, tomato paste, season with spices to taste. Add sauce to skillet and heat until sauce is warm and bubbly.

At this point you can either add the feta crumbles to the warm sauce and stir until melted in, or plate the shrimp and sauce over orzo and sprinkle the crumbles on top.

Wine pairing: Casa Silva Reserva 2005 Merlot

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pizza with Peppered Shrimp, Canadian Bacon, Mushrooms and Feta Cheese

Yet another recipe from the wine lovers cookbook. I adore this thing. The cookbook has a very yummy sounding pizza dough recipe, but I didn't have the time last night to make it. Maybe next time.

Pizza with Peppered Shrimp, Canadian Bacon, Mushrooms and Feta Cheese

3/4 cup tomato sauce
2 cloves chopped roasted garlic
4 tsp chopped fresh dill (2 tsp dried)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup diced Canadian bacon
3/4 cup sliced crimini or shiitake mushrooms
1/4 chopped roasted red peppers
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
10 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Red pepper flakes, crushed

In a small mixing bowl, whist together tomato sauce, roasted garlic, dill, salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and lemon juice. Spread evenly on pizza crust. Top pizza with Canadian bacon, mushrooms, peppers and feta cheese. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp black pepper on to shrimp and space them evenly on pizza. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Bake pizza on the top rack of the oven for 16 to 18 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into pieces and serve.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spicy Oven-Baked Fries

I've made oven-baked fries before, but this one is my own particular invention. I've been wanting to try these forever. The secret is in the spices - I used harissa, which a dear friend brought back for me from Morocco. It gives it a completely different flavor than plain cayenne. You generally see harissa as a paste or sauce - this is the hot chile powder mixture that is used to make that. I have no idea where you can find it in the dry form, but there are various recipes online for the paste that one could use as a starting point.

Spicy Oven-Baked Fries

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
spray oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

Preheat oven to 500ºF. Dice the potatoes into wedges. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with oil, place potato wedges on the foil, spray the wedges. Liberally sprinkle with the spices. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are done.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chicken Piccata with Spicy Mustard Lime Sauce

Another recipe from the Wine Lover's Cookbook, only this one went thru serious modifications. The primary one being that the original recipe called for turkey. The second one being that it called for "hot-sweet mustard". I had neither on hand, was not about to run out and just buy some. So some improvising had to take place.

Also, I misread the amount of wine needed and added much more than necessary. I also added some tarragon white-wine vinegar as the original recipe called for straight tarragon but, again, I didn't have any on-hand. And, uhm, I think that's all for modifications. So the recipe that follows is mine, though based on the one in the book.

Also, I separated the original call for the fat from 2 tbsp olive oil to 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. The reason being that butter is a better emulsifier than oil, which leads to thicker, tastier sauces.

I served this with my own Spicy Oven-Baked Fries.

Chicken Piccata with Spicy Mustard Lime Sauce

1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary
1/4 kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp flour
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp butter (or substitute like Smart Balance)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped shallots
2 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp white wine vinegar with tarragon
2 tsp garlic honey mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire
6 drops Tobasco
1 1/2 tbsp capers

In a small mixing bowl, combine the spices and flour and mix thoroughly. Pound chicken breasts to 1/4" thickness, dredge thru flour/spice mixture.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butter and cook until melted and slightly browned; add in oil and heat. Add shallots and chicken slices and sautee for 2 minutes on each side.

While chicken is cooking, combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Remove turkey from pan, deglace the pan with some of the liquid mixture, lightly scraping the bottom of the pan to remove browned bits. Add chicken back in and simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken, turn the heat to high, and reduce the sauce until slightly thickened. Serve immediately

Grilled Salmon with Mushrooms, Sweet Onions and Pinot Noir Sauce

Another recipe from my Wine Lover's Cookbook. Though this one suffered possibly significant changes. The recipe called for sweet onions, but I forgot to buy them. So I just used yellow onions instead. Also, the pinot noir used was not, perhaps, the best of wines. But it did ok. Also, the salmon marinated for just about 36 hours, much longer than called for. However, despite naysayers, the fish turned out just fine - not mushy at all. However I did turn the fish to marinate skin-side down for about half that time.

A few notes - I used mustard seeds for the dry mustard, merely grinding them in a mortar. I also accidentally doubled the amount of thyme in the sauce, but it didn't seem to affect the ratio much.

Grilled Salmon with Mushrooms, Sweet Onions and Pinot Noir Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions
1/2 tbsp dry mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (1/2 tbsp dried)
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tbsp olive oil

3 lbs fresh salmon filets
3 cups sliced portobello mushrooms, inner gills removed
3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
3 cups sliced sweet onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp mustard seed
4 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped shallots
2 cups pinot noir
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tsp cold water
2 tbsp unsalted butter

To make marinade, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Marinate salmon for 2 hours. Remove salmon from marinade and pat dry.

In a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat, sautee mushrooms, onions, 1 tbsp thyme and mustard seed in 3 tbsp oil for 7 to 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Season and keep warm.

In a medium sauce pan or skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add shallots and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. add wine and reduce by half. Add stock, 1 tbsp thyme, mustard and cornstarch mixture and reduce until sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. remove from heat and stir in butter. Season to taste. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire and grill salmon for 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, making sure not to overcook it. Alternatively, salmon can be broiled for about 6 to 7 minutes on a broiler pan.

To serve, divide mushroom-onion mixture on warm plates. Place salmon filets on top. Spoon sauce over the salmon.

Roasted Lavender Chicken

This recipe comes from "The Lavender Cookbook", which I discovered on a recent trip to San Antonio. We were there with friends of ours and were doing a tour of Hill Country wineries, and towards the end of the afternoon we were at Becker Vineyards (who have provided wines for several state dinners at the White House) when I saw this cookbook. I picked up a copy for my sister, who was dog-sitting for us, plus some organic lavender for us both. Later that evening, while flipping thru the book, I lamented that I hadn't picked up a copy for myself. So Gin, bless her, ordered a copy for me. She's also the person responsible for the Wine Lover's Cookbook, while Beth got me several more Riedel Vinum glasses. I think they conspired together. ;)

Either way, this was a recipe from The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley. I made a few changes, and am printing the recipe as I cooked it (with notations where the cookbook differed drastically). Cooking with lavender is complicated and, when overdone, can result in a dish tasting soapy or perfume-y, neither of which are desired. So I err on the side of caution when using lavender in my cooking.

Roasted Lavender Chicken with Roasted Shallots and Carrots
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup honey (cookbook says you can use lavender honey)
1/4 cup grated lemon zest (skipped)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried culinary lavender buds, finely ground
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (recipe calls for breasts with skin)

sea salt
2 lbs baby carrots
1/2 lbs shallots, peeled and cut in half
2 garlic heads, separated into cloves and peeled
1 tbsp fresh thyme leacves
1 tsp honey (recipe calls for lavender honey)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp Glace de Poulet Gold (optional)
Fresh lavender sprigs (optional)

To make the chicken: In a large bowl, mix the wine, lemon zest, honey, mustard, oil, pepper, lemon juice, salt and lavender. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

To make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 350*F.

Bring about a half bot of water to boil in a large saucepan. Season with salt and add the carrots. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool; drain.

In a large bowl, mix the carrots, shallots, garlic, thyme, and honey. Transfer to a large roasting pan. Remove chicken from the marinade and place on top of the vegetables; discard the remaining marinade.

Mix the broth and glace de poulet (if using). Pour half into the roasting pan. Roast, basting frequently, for 45 minugtes, or until the chicken is no longer pink when tested with a sharp knife and the skin is nicely browned. Add extra stock as necessary while basting. Transfer the chicken to the center of a platter and surround with the vegetables. Garnish with lavender sprigs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Chinese Five-Spice Stir Fry

Last night was definitely back to "normal" around our house. Inspiration started with the purchase of The Spice House's wonderful 5-spice blend and not having used it. Couldn't tell you how much of anything went into the sauce, but it was damn good. The napa cabbages at the store were HUGE, so I resorted to buying a bag of "stir fry" veggies that were conveniently placed next to these mammoth things. I think it's a scam.

Chinese Five-Spice Stir Fry
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1" strips
1 baby bok choy, diced
1 bag "stir fry" veggies
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
bean sprouts (about a handful)

Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and coat the pan. Add onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until lightly browned. Add in chicken, stirring occasionally until cooked thru. Add in the bok choy and stir fry veggies and cover. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts, cover again and sautee another 5 minutes. In a separate pan, sautee up mushrooms and add to stir fry. Add sauce (see below) and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Stirfry Sauce
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
lemon juice (just a dash)
hot chili sauce
chinese 5-spice
crushed red pepper flakes

Mix ingredients together to taste. I made about a cup of sauce, all told.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New York Steaks with Gorgonzola-Walnut "Butter" and Minted Tabbouleh

This is from my new book, the Wine Lover's Cookbook. And when I read this recipe, I knew it had to be one of the first ones I tried. It had me at "Gorgonzola Butter". Yum.

The Gorgonzola "butter" would also make a great dip/spread on its own. I couldn't find white-wine Worcestershire, so I used regular that I had on-hand. Tasted fine to me. And I absolutely cheated on the tabbouleh and just went with a box. Lame? Maybe. But it's off-season for tomatoes and mint, so I wasn't about to go drop the money for sub-par ingredients. I'll try the full recipe again in the summer.

We paired this with a young - 2005 - medium-bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Then we did a tasting. We sipped the wine solo first to get initial tasting notes. Like most cabs, it was tannic, brash, fruit landing like a sledgehammer on your palette to the point where you can't discern which fruit you're tasting. Not an easy sipping wine by any stretch of the imagination!

The instant we took a bite of steak with the "butter" and then a sip of wine? It was a completely different beast. Softer, rounder, tannins much less pronounced. You could taste less of the fruit, more of the earthier aspects like oak, tobacco. A wonderful wine.

And just when you think you've got the number on this little beauty, you have some of the tabbouleh with the wine. Suddenly you have a mouthful of juicy, sweet cherries, blackberries! The tannins are almost completely gone, simply contributing to the fresh, crisp finish full of mint and eucalyptus.

New York Steaks with Gorgonzola-Walnut "Butter" with Minted Tabbouleh

4 New York steaks (2 - 2-1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (1/2 tbsp dried)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

8 oz Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small chunks
1 tsp white-wine Worcestershire
2 tsp green peppercorns
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnut halves
1 1/2 tbsp minced chives
6 drops Tobasco

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup seeded, diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
3/4 tbsp chopped roasted garlic
3 tbsp minced green onions
1 tsp sweet paprika
kosher salt and ground black pepper

Place steaks in a glass dish. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. Remove steaks from marinade when ready to grill.

To make the "butter", combine all ingredients in a food processor
or blender and process for about a minute until mixed thoroughly. Can be refrigerated but be prepared to serve at room temperature.

To make the tabbouleh, place bulgur wheat in a large, nonreactive bowl. Bring stock to a boil. Pour hot stock over bulgur wheat. Cover with foil and let stand about 30 minutes or until stock is absorbed into bulgur. Mix in tomatoes, mint, chives, garlic, green onions, paprika, and oil. Season to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the grill. Grill steaks for 5-6 minutes per side or until cooked to desired doneness. Shortly after turning, sprinkle a mound of Gorgonzola butter on steaks and allow it to melt slightly while the steaks finish cooking. Serve with tabbouleh and additional Gorgonzola butter on the side.

Back in the kitchen!

After nearly a month of not cooking. God that was awful. I missed it. I blame my husband. He went to India for 2 weeks, making it rather ridiculous for me to cook nice meals just for myself. Then he was back for a week but we were finishing up leftovers because we went on a week-long cruise. So, a month later, here we are.

For Christmas I got two new cookbooks that I'm quite thrilled with. One is The Wine Lover's Cookbook, and it will be featuring quite frequently here. The other is The Lavender Cookbook, which I'm also enjoying cooking from, though one can overdose on lavender pretty quickly.

The thing I love the most about the Wine cookbook is the way it's structured. It's divided by variety, and under each type it gives a brief introduction and then a list of Base and Bridge ingredients that one can work from to create their own fabulous wine pairings. I'm very excited about this book.