Monday, January 31, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced thin
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Pepper
2 tablespoons Flour
1 sweet onion, chopped and caramelized
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, or so
2 tablespoons Butter
2 cups of Milk

Chop onion and saute in skillet in 2 tablespoons of olive oil till transparent, then add about a tablespoon of sugar.  Turn off heat and set aside.  In a shallow baking dish, spray some PAM in it to coat the inside of the pan.

Make a layer of potato slices on the bottom, overlapping as you go.  Then sprinkle ½ of the salt, garlic pepper and caramelized onions as evenly as you can.  And 1 tablespoon of butter, break it up with your hands and place on potatoes all around.   Then lightly add some grated cheese on top.  Follow it with another layer of potatoes, salt, garlic pepper, onion, butter and cheese. 

Using a whisk, place the milk and flour in a small bowl and mix together.  Pour over potatoes.  Make sure that the milk can be seen between the slices on the top, adding more if needed.  Cover with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees covered, and then remove the cover and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and top is browned.

You can make this ahead, pop it in the frig covered, and then reheat it for about 30 minutes in the oven covered.  Yummy delicious with your favorite protein.

Tweaked recipe from Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, 1942.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Grilled fruit: an unexpected (and delicious!) accompaniment to meat

I recently prepared dinner for several of my husband's business associates from Europe.  These guy love Tim's grilled beef tenderloin and we invite them to dinner every time they come over from France and Italy.
I failed to take a photograph of the plated meal, but here is the menu:

Grilled beef tenderloin, prepared with a light coating of emulsified grapeseed oil & balsamic vinegar, then rubbed with Reata Grill Mix (recipe below)
pan sauteed asparagus
roasted butternut squash cubes tossed with dry curry mix
slow-roasted onions
Reduced carb pannacotta with balsamic vinegar/molasses glaze
Grilled apricots with balsamic reduction

On this occasion I decided to pan roast the apricots, which works well.  If you have a grill feature on your stove, or (better) a gas grill, these would be the preferred method of preparation.  In any case, heating or grilling peaches or apricots will intensify the flavor, deepen the color, and bring forth the essence of the fruit.
Wash the fruit and cut in half, removing the pit.  Place on the grill for approximately 5-7 minutes.  Watch carefully:  you don't want to burn the fruit.  Rather, you want the fruit to be warmed-through and slightly softened.
In a pan pour about 2/3 cup of your favorite balsamic vinegar.  I adore blackberry balsamic and have two favorites:  Made in Napa Valley Blackberry balsamic with pear, and Bistro Blends blackberry balsamic.  Both of these companies have other vinegars of equal loveliness.  Slowly reduce the vinegar over a medium temperature until it becomes slightly thickened, usually this occurs when the volume is reduced by half.  Lower temperature to keep warm until serving.
To serve, either plate one or two peach or apricot halves with the protein with the pit side facing up and drizzled with several ribbons of the balsamic reduction cross-crossing the fruit, place all the fruit on a platter and drizzle them in the same manner just before serving.  Yum!
*This dish can be served as dessert with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or a cookie.
The grillmaster

My wonderful guests!
Make every meal special:  light some candles!

Reata Grill Blend

Yield:  About 1 cup

4 Tablespoons kosher salt
3 Tablespoons Pasilla Powder*
2 Tablespoons dried granulated garlic
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground thyme

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, blending well to evenly distribute all the spices.  Be sure to break up any chunks that appear.  Store the blend in an airtight container.  Shake or stir it again before each use.

This stuff is great on just about everything:  steaks, burgers, chicken, etc..  It is a go-to staple in my spice pantry.

*Pasilla Powder
You won't believe what a difference it makes to use your own fresh ground peppers instead of commercial chile powder.  Try it!  It is so easy.  Just be sure to clean out your coffee grinder really well when you are done ;-)

5 pasilla chiles

Prepare the pasilla chiles by removing the stem and seeds.  Toast the peppers in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, turning them frequently until they are dry and crisp, but not burned.  Puree the peppers in a coffee or spice grinder until they become a fine powder.  Store in an airtight container or use immediately in the Reata mix!

The Reata Grill mix and Pasilla Powder mix come from Grady Spear's cookbook, "A Cowboy In The Kitchen".  I took a cooking class years ago from Grady and have used recipes from his book many times.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tortilla Soup=Winter Comfort Food (Great for A Gathering of Artists!)

Independent Study group at Art Cloth Studios, January 2011
I love love LOVE tortilla soup!  It is a great meal to serve for friends with a variety of food lifestyles because it can be served in such a way that vegetarians and carnivores can share it.
I like to make the soup base with most of the vegetables included and keep chicken and more fragile vegetables and embellishments separate until serving.

12 cups soup stock or broth (vegetable, chicken, or a combination)
1 jar Goya brand sofrito soup base (optional) (I used approximately 2/3 jar for this recipe)
1-2 pints of grape tomatoes, quartered, or 2-3 roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, sliced into big chunks
2 yellow squash, sliced into large chunks
1 or 2 zuchini, sliced into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ears fresh corn (kernels removed from cob) or 1 can corn kernels, well rinsed
fresh cilantro (optional)
several avocados cut into large chunks
salt and pepper
dried oregano 1-2 tsp
dashes of tumeric, smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 fresh jalepeno or 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (seeds removed and chopped) (or both if you like spicey!)
other seasoning herbs, to taste
olive oil
jack cheese (optional)
queso fresco (optional)
roasted chicken, shredded into bite-size pieces (optional)
sliced corn tortillas, fried until crispy and drained, or leftover restaurant tortilla chips or store-bought

In a large heated soup pot add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Once warm, add onion and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add carrots and continue sauteing for several minutes.  Add squashes and stir.
Allow several minutes to pass before adding soup stock or broth, sofrito, then herbs.  Bring to a slow boil.
Once liquid is boiling add corn and chilis, and remainder of seasonings.  Allow to cook at a gentle boil until carrots are soft (fork tender).
In the meantime, shred cheese, chop avocados into large chunks, rinse and pull cilantro leaves from stems and place in separate bowls.  Cover until just before serving.
Remove meat (both white and dark) from chicken.
*Note-sofrito is a concentrated mix of tomato, green pepper, onion, and spices.  It adds a lot of flavor to the soup base.  It is found in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores.  Don't worry if you can't find it because this soup is good with or without it.

 I like to serve this buffet-style for a group:  Left to right I put the bowls, chicken, soup, then all the add-ons.
Place chicken in soup bowl and ladle the soup broth and vegetables over the meat.  Add cheese, avocados, cilantro, and even a bit of pesto or chimichurri and sour cream.  Finally, top with either freshly fried corn tortilla strips or crunched tortilla chips from the store or a restaurant.  Yum!

This can be prepared in advance and reheated.  It is great with other casseroles, tossed salad, or all by itself on a chilly day.  It always tastes better with friends and loved ones.
This soup is so colorful and appealing

Here is our meal:  served with tossed salad and a wonderful rice salad prepared by Lisa Kerpoe,
and southwest style tortillas.  Delicious!

This recipe serves 8-10 hungry artists

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pork Chops with Cider and Apples

onions, garlic, cider and apples simmering

Pork chops added to cook through
Pork Chops with Cider and Apples
was in the OC Register on 1/6/11, and this is my modified version of their recipe
makes 4 servings
1 T olive oil
4 center-cut pork chops - 6-7 oz each
3/4 t kosher salt
ground pepper
½ of a sweet onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2C apple cider
2 apples, peeled and sliced
3 T half n’half
2 t Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; season chops with salt and pepper.  Cook chops in skillet, turning once, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
You might need to add more olive oil to the skillet, just a tad.  Add chopped sweet onion and cook over medium heat, adding the garlic in the last couple of minutes to blend flavors.  Add cider and apple slices and heat to simmer covered.  The cider should reduce to about half, in about 10 minutes.  Stir in cream, mustard and 1/4 t salt; cook until slightly thickened. Taste sauce for seasoning.  Return chops to skillet and heat till cooked through with the lid on the pan, about 10 minutes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Easy BBQ Chicken

I found this recipe quite by accident, when Sue Tincher Maib left a comment on my Twisted Sister blog.  She had created a piece for the blog They Draw They Cook .  It only has 3 ingredients; 1 can of Diet Dr. Pepper, 1 cup of Catsup and 4 boneless chicken breasts.  Put everything in a covered skillet and simmer for 45 minutes.  It is amazing - great flavor and tender chicken. Yummy delicious and easy!  Pair it with some baked beans and a green veggie and you have dinner!  Variation on the theme; saute a chopped sweet onion in the skillet first with a smidge of olive oil, add chicken, Dr. Pepper and Catsup, half way through cooking add your favorite pre-cooked veggie, like peas and then some pre-cooked rice.  Let it simmer till all of the flavors mix together.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fresh, sweet & savory coleslaw with tortilla-crusted fish tacos on corn tortillas

I have a lot of unusual items in my refrigerator and freezer this post-holiday evening.  One small, lonely head of cabbage and a package of unused corn tortillas, among them.
I decided to make fish tacos with coleslaw.  It might sound weird, but it is delicious.  I'm not even a big coleslaw fan; to be honest, I used to HATE coleslaw because the only experience I had with it was that stuff that is drowning in some nasty sort of sweet sauce:  ick!  There is a better coleslaw.  I'm about to show you how to make it!

Ingredients for tasty coleslaw:
one small to medium-sized cabbage, sliced in half and washed thoroughly
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 radishes (if you have them) thinly sliced
1/4 cup (or to personal taste) mayonnaise, add more if needed
1 tablespoon dried curry mix
1 teaspoon creole rub (or more curry mix, or a combo of spices that appeals to you!)
salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the cabbage halves crosswise, then slice these sections into thirds.  Don't fuss about it too much, but don't chop it to death.  You want the strands to be at least 1-2 inches long for the nice crunch.
Place chopped cabbage in a mixing bowl.  Add celery and radish.  Toss the craisins and sliced almonds and mix gently.  Now, add the mayonnaise and spices and toss so that there is just enough mayonnaise to lightly coat the mixture.  Better to error on the light side of adding mayonnaise than to add too much!  You can always add more until you get a little moisture on the mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

I use the tortilla-crusted tilapia that I buy frozen from Costco for my fish tacos.  These are great, easy to prepare, and I always keep some in the freezer for evenings when I can't think of what else to cook.
Bake the fish in the oven according to package directions.

While baking, heat the corn tortillas in pan, flipping back and forth in a hot pan until some "puffing" of the taco begins to occur.  Place on a plate and cover.  Keep warm until ready to serve.
cabbage, sliced in half.  Remove base "core" before thinly slicing

add cabbage, sliced almonds, and craisins to bowl and toss slightly

Add mayonnaise and spices (see how accurately I measure?!)

Add celery and radishes (I didn't have any radishes on hand, but I encourage you to try them if you can in this dish because they rock)

heat tortillas in a medium-high nonstick pan, turning frequently to prevent scorching

Serve fish in tortilla topped with a generous portion of coleslaw.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

How To Make a Decent Cup of Tea

Ignore Yoko Ono and John Lennon, and heed George Orwell's tea-making advice.

Woman making tea. Now that "the holidays"—at their new-style Ramadan length, with the addition of Hanukkah plus the spur and lash of commerce—are safely over, I can bear to confront the moment at their very beginning when my heart took its first dip. It was Dec. 8, and Yoko Ono had written a tribute to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of her husband. In her New York Times op-ed, she recalled how the two of them would sometimes make tea together. He used to correct her method of doing so, saying, "Yoko, Yoko, you're supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water." (This she represented as his Englishness speaking, in two senses, though I am sure he would actually have varied the word order and said "put the tea bags in first.") This was fine, indeed excellent, and I was nodding appreciatively, but then the blow fell. One evening, he told her that an aunt had corrected him. The water should indeed precede the bags. "So all this time, we were doing it wrong?" she inquired. "Yeah," replied our hero, becoming in that moment a turncoat to more than a century of sturdy Liverpool tradition.
I simply hate to think of the harm that might result from this. It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to. It's quite common to be served a cup or a pot of water, well off the boil, with the tea bags lying on an adjacent cold plate. Then comes the ridiculous business of pouring the tepid water, dunking the bag until some change in color occurs, and eventually finding some way of disposing of the resulting and dispiriting tampon surrogate. The drink itself is then best thrown away, though if swallowed, it will have about the same effect on morale as a reading of the memoirs of President James Earl Carter.
Now, imagine that tea, like coffee, came without a bag (as it used to do—and still does if you buy a proper tin of it). Would you consider, in either case, pouring the hot water, letting it sit for a bit, and then throwing the grounds or the leaves on top? I thought not. Try it once, and you will never repeat the experience, even if you have a good strainer to hand. In the case of coffee, it might just work if you are quick enough, though where would be the point? But ground beans are heavier and denser, and in any case many good coffees require water that is just fractionally off the boil. Whereas tea is a herb (or an herb if you insist) that has been thoroughly dried. In order for it to release its innate qualities, it requires to be infused. And an infusion, by definition, needs the water to be boiling when it hits the tea. Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.
Just after World War II, during a period of acute food rationing in England, George Orwell wrote an article on the making of a decent cup of tea that insisted on the observing of 11 different "golden" rules. Some of these (always use Indian or Ceylonese—i.e., Sri Lankan—tea; make tea only in small quantities; avoid silverware pots) may be considered optional or outmoded. But the essential ones are easily committed to memory, and they are simple to put into practice.
If you use a pot at all, make sure it is pre-warmed. (I would add that you should do the same thing even if you are only using a cup or a mug.) Stir the tea before letting it steep. But this above all: "[O]ne should take the teapot to the kettle, and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours." This isn't hard to do, even if you are using electricity rather than gas, once you have brought all the makings to the same scene of operations right next to the kettle.
It's not quite over yet. If you use milk, use the least creamy type or the tea will acquire a sickly taste. And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much. Add it later, and be very careful when you pour. Finally, a decent cylindrical mug will preserve the needful heat and flavor for longer than will a shallow and wide-mouthed—how often those attributes seem to go together—teacup. Orwell thought that sugar overwhelmed the taste, but brown sugar or honey are, I believe, permissible and sometimes necessary.
Until relatively few years ago, practically anything hot and blackish or brackish could be sold in America under the name of coffee. It managed both to be extremely weak and extremely bitter, and it was frequently at boiling point, though it had no call to be. (I use the past tense, though there are many places where this is still true, and it explains why free refills can be offered without compunction.) At least in major cities, consumers now have a better idea how to stick up for themselves, often to an irksome degree, as we know from standing behind people who are too precise about their latte, or whatever it's called.
Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea, don't be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It's not what you asked for. Insist on seeing the tea put in first, and on making sure that the water is boiling. If there are murmurs or sighs from behind you, take the opportunity to spread the word. And try it at home, with loose tea and a strainer if you have the patience. Don't trouble to thank me. Happy New Year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Delicious Low-Carb Pannacotta

Low-Carb Pannacotta                       

Serves 6

3 sheets gelatin (9x2.5 inch sheets)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar substitute*
6 teaspoons molasses
6 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (blackberry preferred)
assorted seasonal berries, for serving

Place the gelatin sheets in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Soak for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened.  Drain and squeeze any excess water from the sheets.

In a large saucepan or double boiler over medium heat, combine the milk and heavy cream, stirring continuously.  Add gelatin and gradually add sugar substitute.  Bring to a gentle boil.  Stir mixture, making sure that the gelatin is well-dissolved, and remove from heat.

In 6 small glass custard bowls, put 1 teaspoon of molasses and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.  Carefully ladle equal portions of the heated mixture into each bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Unmold onto individual serving plates.  If pannacotta does not unmold easily, use a knife to loosen the edges and this will usually do it.  I find that inserting a knife all the way to the base of the bowl, placing the plate over the bowl and inverting usually unmolds the pannacotta.  Dress with miscellaneous berries and serve.

*I use a combination of Splenda and Wholesome Organic Zero for this dish.
add 1 tsp each of these to bottom of custard dishes

here are the 2 sweeteners I used is place of sugar, in equal parts

gelatin sheets

hydrate them in cool water until soft, then squeeze excess water before adding to double boiler

double boiler

bring to a gentle boil after adding ingredients.
Stir continuously, making sure that the gelatin is completely dissolved

ladle equal portions into prepared custard dishes.
Cover with saran wrap

Place in refrigerator and chill for between 8-24 hours prior to serving

gently turn pannacotta onto plate.
You may run a knife around the edge prior to plating.

Happy New Year, from my family to yours!

I wish you and those you love the very best in the coming year.
May we all have many opportunities to gather those we love together
frequently, and celebrate the joy of preparing wonderful food together.

Jamie and I are so happy to share our love of cooking with you.
Please let us hear from you!