Saturday, November 22, 2014

Carrot and Leek Soup

Carrot and Leek Soup with Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

A delicious lunch for a cold day --- and it is pretty too.  

Carrot and Leek Soup

Serves 4

2 shallots, chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, rinsed well and sliced thinly
1/4 cup of stalks of mushrooms, about 5-6
Fresh thyme, about 3 stems
Olive oil
4-5 carrots, sliced into small chunks
Chicken stock, approx. 2 1/3 cups
2/3 cup light cream
Parmesan cheese, grated
Toasted pine nuts

Sauté shallots and leeks in olive until they are golden, about 10-12 minutes on medium low heat. Add a pinch of salt. Add the mushrooms and sauté a couple of more minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chopped carrots and raise the heat and coat them well with the onion leek mixture. Drop in the thyme stems. Add the chicken stock. If there isn't enough liquid to cover the carrots, add some water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 1/2 hour or until the carrots are soft. Remove from the heat. Remove the thyme stems.  Use a hand blender and thoroughly purée the mixture until completely smooth. Add the cream. Return to the heat on low and gently warm the soup until hot all the way through. Ladle into bowls.  Sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan. Add a few toasted pine nuts.

B

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Mom's Biscotti Recipe by Jeanne

I finally found a Saturday when the kids and I could go to my mother’s house for a lesson on how she makes biscotti.  

Hers are a very simple anise flavored biscotti.  Simple, but delicious, and even my finicky eater Jack likes them!  

They do take a bit of time, but the recipe makes a lot and they can be frozen and taken out a few at a time.  

Just perfect with a latte on weekend mornings!

   --Jeanne

Mom’s Biscotti Recipe

2 sticks butter softened
2 scant cups white sugar
7 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3-4 tsp. anise extract
4-41/2 cups unsifted flour
2 well rounded tablespoons baking powder

Beat butter and sugar together in large mixing bowl until creamy. In a separate bowl beat eggs until thick and creamy and ~ doubled in volume and have turned almost lemon in color. Add egg mixture into creamed butter and sugar mixture. Stir in vanilla and anise extract.
Mix flour and baking powder together and add a 1/3 at a time to creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture until stiff and well mixed.
On a lightly greased cookie sheet drop tablespoons of dough to form a strip and shape into a rectangle about 2 inches wide and 3/4 to 1 inch high. Smooth out to a log. Bake at 350 for about 20-22 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove and let cool. Repeat until dough is gone.

When cooked log is cool to the touch. Slice into biscotti on a diagonal about 3/4 to 1" wide.
Return sliced biscotti to cookie sheet and toast until they just start to turn golden brown about 10-15 minutes. Turnover and repeat to toast on other side.
Mom says don't toast too much. They turn golden brown on the bottom side after you've turned them!

                    ---Jeanne

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil

Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, and Basil

Sometimes the simpler the better.  Like these bruschetta that I made for us for lunch this past week.

Only a few ingredients:  toasted bread, mozzarella, tomatoes, salt, basil and olive oil.  

For an even more traditional bruschetta, the toasted bread would be rubbed with garlic, too.  

Bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy and various toppings are used -- like beans, vegetables, cured meats and cheeses, but the most popular version outside of Italy is the mozzarella, tomato, basil version, per Wikipedia.  

In Italy they say BRROO-SKATE-TA.  

B



Monday, November 10, 2014

Blueberry Loaf from Colleen


We had a lot of blueberries around the house and I didn't want them to go bad.  So I found this recipe and changed it a bit.  I was making it for kids, but if I was doing it again, I might add lemon zest to the batter to give it a little zing.  But it was very easy and the kids at school hoovered it right up.

    ---Colleen

Blueberry Loaf

 Yield: 1 loaf

             1/2 cup butter, softened
             1 cup sugar  *
             2 eggs
             1/2 cup milk
             1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
             1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
             pinch of salt
             1 teaspoon baking powder
             1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries**

    TOPPING:
             4 teaspoons sugar
             2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Use 1/2 cup brown and 1/2 cup white sugar to add depth of flavor
**If using frozen blueberries, use without thawing to avoid discoloring the batter.

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture just until combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

2. Spray Pam inside loaf pan and sprinkle cinnamon sugar inside pan. Pour into a greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pan. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over top. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. 

One more thing.  Toss blueberries in a little flour before adding to batter to help keep them from sinking. They still do, but you get a few fighters that stay on top. 


---Colleen


Friday, November 7, 2014

Dahlia Bakery Eclairs by Chris


Vanilla Bean Eclairs by Chris

Chris is the master baker among our friends, and always delights us with one of her cakes or confections.

She brought these beauties to our Tom Douglas-inspired dinner.  The recipe for them is The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, pages 315 -322.

Chris says their pastry cream is the best because it uses a real vanilla bean for flavor.  And she recommends that you buy them in the organic section of Wegman's where they are cheaper.

The cookbook would be a great addition for a baker.  It came out in 2012.

Here's link to short 4 minute video where you can see the bakery and Tom Douglas talks about coconut pie, English muffins, eclairs, Nora Ephron's peanut butter cookie, the cookbook and two tools he recommends to make you a better baker.  Tom Douglas Interview outside Dahlia Bakery


B

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lobster and Shitake Potstickers by Jeanne

Lobster, Shrimp and Shitake Potstickers by Jeanne

I was so impressed when Jeanne brought these delicious pot stickers to stir-fry for us at our Tom Douglas inspired dinner party.   I would have been intimidated by the complexity of this recipe.

But then I remembered that Jeanne is Italian so filling and boiling pasta is natural to her.  Plus, she has also spent many years living in Japan and Taiwan, so Asian flavors are also part of her repertoire.

Thanks, Jeanne!  They were sooooo delicious!  The dipping sauce is great, too.

Lobster, Shrimp and Shitake Potstickers
(a Tom Douglas recipe)

Makes 24 potstickers

1/2 pound shelled raw lobster, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound peeled raw shrimp
1 t. peanut oil
1.5 cups thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/3 cup diced carrots
2 T. finely chopped green onions or scallions, white and green parts
2 T. finely chopped cilantro
1 T. sesame seeds, toasted
2 t. peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 T. Chinese chili paste with garlic
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. kosher salt (or 1/2 t. regular salt)
2 dozen wonton or gyoza wrappers
cornstarch for dusting
2 T. peanut oil for panfrying, or more as needed

Sake Dipping Sauce

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 small serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 t. minced garlic
1 T. finely chopped green onions or scallions, white part only

To make filling:
Puree the lobster and shrimp until coarsely pureed.
Cook the shiitake mushrooms and carrots in peanut oil over medium heat until soft, stirring, about 10 minutes, then allow to cool.
In a large bowl combine, pureed lobster and shrimp, sauteed shiitakes and carrots, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, ginger, chili paste, garlic and salt.  Mix thoroughly.
To make potstickers:
Lay a wrapper on your work surface.  Wet the edges with your fingers.  Place 1 slightly rounded tablespoon of filling in the center.  Then bring opposing corners together to form a triangle.  Press the edges together to seal.  Lightly wet the surface of the two straight edges, making a series of small creases.
Place the potstickers on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, lightly dusted with cornstarch.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add the potstickers in batches (do not overcrowd them) and cook until they float to the surface, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or small sieve gently scoop them out of the water.  Put them on baking sheet as they are cooked.  Oil if needed to prevent sticking.
Before you fry them, be sure to remove any excess water.
 
Heat the oil in a nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat.  Panfry the potstickers in batches, using more oil if needed, until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.
Keep warm on baking sheet in a 200 degree oven until all are finished.

You can find the complete recipe on Google Books if you click here.

The Tom Douglas cookbook we used for the party is called Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen.

B

Monday, November 3, 2014

Etta's Cornbread Pudding from Tom Douglas

Etta's Cornbread Pudding
a Tom Douglas recipe

Yum, yum, double yum.  Think of a savory quiche with a cornbread base, caramelized onions and Jack cheese,

The cornbread is delicious on its own, too.

Two great recipes.

Etta's Cornbread Pudding
(Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen cookbook)

Makes 6 Servings

1 T. butter plus a little more for buttering the pan
1 cup thinly sliced onions (about 1/2 large onion)
3/4 cup grated dry Jack cheese (or sharp Cheddar)
2 t. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 t. kosher salt (or 1/2 t. regular salt)
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 2/3 cups 1-inch cubed cornbread (see recipe below)

First, make the cornbread. let it cool, cut into 1 inch cubes. Keep 2 2/3 cups for this recipe and freeze the rest for future use.

To make the pudding, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or lower the oven if you have just made the cornbread).
Butter your baking pan, then put the cubed cornbread on the bottom.  Set aside.
Heat 1 T. of butter in a saute pan over low heat and cook the onions very slowly until soft and golden brown, at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat.

Prepare the herbs --- measuring and chopping them --- measure out the milk and collect the needed eggs.
Scatter the onions, cheese, and herbs over the cornbread cubes.

Whisk together the heavy cream and eggs with the salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and pour over the cornbread cubes.  Let sit for 10 minutes so the cornbread absorbs some of the custard.
Bake until set and golden, about 40 minutes.  Serve hot.

Can be made and baked a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.  Before serving, reheat the cornbread pudding, covered with aluminum foil, in a preheated 375 degrees oven until warmed through, 35 to 40 minutes.



Cornbread
(from Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen cookbook)

Makes an 8-in square pan of cornbread

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup grated pepper Jack cheese
red pepper flakes (optional, my addition)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 T. honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
plus a little more for buttering the pan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
Combine flour, cornmeal, cheese, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Add the red pepper flakes, or skip this step if you don't want any heat.

Melt the butter and let it cool.  (I used the microwave for this. About 20 seconds.)
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and honey.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.
Add the melted butter and stir into the mixture.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.  (Mine was done at 15.)

When cool enough to handle, invert onto a cutting board and cut into 1 inch cubes.  There will be about 8 cups.  Reserve 2 2/3 cups for the pudding and freeze the rest for future use.

B

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Parmesan Chicken

Parmesan Chicken with Peas

On TV right now there is a commercial featuring mayonnaise as a way to keep chicken moist.

I know it works for protecting a rack of lamb when broiling -- see my post Lamb with Mayo  --- but I hadn't tried it on chicken.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised.  What a yummy easy chicken dinner.

Parmesan Chicken

1 chicken breast per person
salt and pepper

For each chicken breast,
1 T. mustard (Creole mustard works really well)
1 T. mayonnaise (Hellman's Light)
1 - 1.5 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pat dry the chicken breast, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Place them in a roasting dish, leaving plenty of space around all of the sides to maximize browning.

Combine the mustard and mayo and spread over the tops of the chicken, thickly.

Sprinkle a generous amount of Parmesan cheese over the tops.

Bake until 165 degrees internally about 35 minutes.

The tops will become a golden brown.  And the insides will be moist and juicy.

B

Friday, October 31, 2014

How to make Meringues, thanks to Colleen

Crispy Meringues 

After our dinner party, I had leftover egg whites, so I thought I would try making meringues.

Earlier in the summer, I asked Colleen about making meringues for making Eton Mess (which I never got around to doing...)

Colleen says:  

"Meringues are pretty easy to make. You can find a recipe on the Internet  - but generally speaking about 6 egg whites (3/4) cup to 1 1/2 cups sugar.  You beat the eggs until frothy and then slowly add in the sugar.  If you want to add ground nuts or cocoa powder, then fold that in at the end.  Then you can pipe or spoon onto parchment covered sheet pan.  And bake for 1-2 hours in a slow oven.  Not sure, but probably around 250.  Then turn off the oven and just leave them overnight.  Although some people like a little chewiness.  It all sort of depends on the size of the meringue.  They keep forever due to the large amount of sugar in an airtight container.  It is a good way to use up egg whites left over from baking.  Although some people would just make an egg white omelette and call it done. --- Colleen "

So, I made my first batch of meringues, and they came out just fine.  

I checked in the King Arthur baking book for the temperature and they said 200 degrees so that's what temperature I used.  


And I remembered reading somewhere that a cold bowl works best.  


Vanilla Meringues


Makes 30-36 large meringues


3/4 cup of egg whites (about 6 eggs, whites only)

a pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1.5 cups sugar, preferably superfine
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  


In a very clean, cold bowl, add the egg whites.


A pinch of cream of tartar can be added if you want to ensure stable meringues, but I didn't do this and mine came out fine.  
Beat on high until soft peaks form --- it happens faster than you might think.  
Start adding the caster sugar --- a little at a time --- about 1.5 teaspoons at a time --- 
while beating the egg whites --- until stiff, glossy peaks occur.  
Remove the beater(s).  Fold in the flavorings gently with a large spatula.  

I used only vanilla but nuts or chocolate can be added. 
Drop in dollops on to the parchment paper.

For half of them, I sprinkled a little sugar on top to see if that would brown them a little.


Mine were XL.  

So I baked them for 2.5 hours (instead of 1.5 to 2) at 200 degrees.  Then left them in the oven overnight.

And stored them in plastic bags with the air removed.  


And then froze them for future use.  I still want to make Eton Mess.
Well, I also ate one.  Just to be sure they were as good as they looked. :)

I don't know why it took me so long to make meringues.  


They were easy and fun to make!


B

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fish en Papillote

Fish en Papillote

Once a year we host a fancy dinner party to celebrate Tom's and our friend Cindy's birthdays.  But this year we also cooked the meal.

The theme was Sea and Salt.  From caviar and smoked salmon on toast points--to mini-lobster rolls---to a beautiful seafood terrine which Tom made--- to finishing with a salted caramel pudding.

Our pièce de résistance was fish en papillote.

The fish is cooked in parchment paper in the oven, where it steams gently.
At the table, each packet is opened and the aromas are a delight.

Since we'd never done this dish before, I reviewed a lot of videos and looked in a lot of cookbooks.

Most suggested making a heart shaped packet of parchment but I decided to make ours into "twists" and tie them with sea kelp, which when softened in warm water becomes workable.

You can pretty much pick any fish and add your choice of veggies and flavorings.  Tom chose cod based on what was fresh at the grocery store.  And I decided on making a Meyer lemon and herb topping over Israeli couscous and asparagus.



Cod with Meyer Lemons and Herbs, Asparagus over Couscous

4 ounce portion of cod per person
12 x 18 piece of parchment per serving
dried sea kelp, softened and cut in 1/2 inch "strings"
1 Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced and more to squeeze
tips of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
good quality olive oil
1 cup pre-cooked Israeli couscous, al dente (see below)
sauteed shallots
slightly-cooked very thin asparagus, about 4 inches long, 5 pieces per serving

For the asparagus, use the top 3-5 inches of very thin stalks.  Lay them flat on a plate and microwave them for 2 minutes to pre-cook them but keep them bright green.  Can be done well ahead of time.

For the couscous, saute a large shallot in oil or butter, add 1 cup Israeli couscous and stir until toasted but not brown, then add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth, and a pinch of salt.  Stir, bring to a boil, and cook gently for 9-10 minutes.  It should be al dente and not mushy.  Set aside.  Can be made ahead.

To make each packet, place about 1/3 cup of couscous in the center of the parchment paper.  Lay out 5 pieces of asparagus in one layer.  Salt and pepper the fish well --- on both sides --- then place it on the asparagus.  Splash the fish generously with olive oil, squeeze a little lemon juice on top.  Then place two very thinly sliced pieces of lemon on top.  Add the tips of a sprig of rosemary.

Hold one corner up of the parchment and then gather the paper, accordion style, in one direction, overlapping the paper to seal in the flavors.  When you are finished enclosing the fish, give it a twist to be sure the packet is completely sealed, then tie it with the wet sea kelp "string."

Place on a heavy cookie sheet, and refrigerate.  Can be made 2 hours ahead of time.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place in center of oven, and bake until the fish feels firm to touch from the outside, about 20 minutes.

This is a very forgiving way to cook fish but looks impressive at the table.

B


Monday, October 27, 2014

Broccoli Stir-Fry


Stir-Fried Broccoli with Chili-Garlic Sauce

We all know broccoli is good for you.  If you believe everything said about it, it is the wonder vegetable.

It's high in levels of fiber, rich in vitamin-C.  Also rich in vitamin-A, iron, vitamin-K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and phyto-nutrients.    It is touted to help prevent osteoarthritis, protect your skin against the effects of UV light, reverse diabetes heart damage, reduce cancer risk, and detoxify air pollutants in the body.  Impressive!

We try to eat it regularly, but I get tired of plain old, steamed broccoli.

This is a good recipe for adding some zip to an everyday basic.


Stir-Fried Broccoli with Chili-Garlic Sauce
(from Best Ever Cooking for Two)

Serves 2

2 T. chicken broth
2 t. soy sauce
1.5 t. dry sherry
1 t. Asian chili-garlic sauce
1/2 t. toasted sesame oil
1/2 t. cornstarch
1 garlic clove, minced
3.5 t. vegetable oil, i.e., 1/2 t. for sauce, 3 t. for stir-frying
pinch red pepper flakes
12 ounces broccoli florets, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/8 t. sugar

Whisk together broth, soy sauce, sherry, chili-garlic sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch together in a small bowl until well combined.

In a second small bowl, combine garlic, 1/2 t. vegetable oil, and pepper flakes.

Heat remaining 1 T. vegetable oil in 1 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add broccoli and sprinkle with the sugar then cook, stirring frequently, until broccoli is well browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add garlic-oil mixture and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Add broth mixture and toss until broccoli is evenly coated.

Serve.

B