Thursday, December 31, 2009

Golden Trout by AJP

Golden Trout

Looking back on 2009, this is one of my favorite things from the year.  It is a mini-painting I received from my art buddy on the other side of the country, Anne Jennings Paris. It's only 2.5" x 3" and I keep it on a little easel in the kitchen near my prep area.  Sometimes it sits on my windowsill near the stove.  Every day it makes me smile and feel happy. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve in the Kitchen with Us

On Christmas Eve, we enjoy baking and cooking together.  It's one of our traditions.  Our neighbors make things for each other and then deliver them.  I think Masako, our next door neighbor, started it.  Usually one of her sons, whomever was home for the holidays, would bring over one of her Japanese treats. We chat and catch up when deliveries are made. The Severs used to specialize in mini-banana breads, but they have moved South.  And Kirsten across the street does a ultra-sweet version of Chex mix along with cookies.  The Philhobers, who have also since moved away, used to send over an apple pie, which was John's specialty.  New neighbors replace the old ones.  We change it up from year to year.   Last year it was cut-out cookies.  This year we are doing the pecan butter balls with King Leo peppermint sticks.  Very festive.  (I forgot to take a photo of what we delivered tonight. :)

Another tradition is for me to bake for Tom a treat that he has only once a year.  This year it is date nut bread.  That's probably his most requested item.  I also do a Scottish marmalade pudding which he loves.

Had some problems this year.  No worries.  It still tastes good.  I think I didn't grease the pan well enough. Tom thinks that it is Bessie"s Pastry Flour that I used, which is a change. (I bought it at Birkett Mills as part of my buckwheat adventure last month.)  Anyway, I am not going to post the date nut bread recipe until I make sure it is sure-fire.

For the last couple of years, Tom has worked hard at making Monkey Bread from scratch, yeast and all ---putting it over the heating grate to get it to rise, etc. ---he received the Monkey Bread kit as a gift from the P.A. Halls ---but this year we are going with bakery coffee cake.

Instead, we are baking the pies for Christmas Day --- this year it is pecan -- Texas pecan  --- and I am still debating which recipe to use --- do I go with the one in the Silver Palette that we use often, or my grandmother's recipe which is fairly standard, or do we try a new one?  Maybe a chocolate pecan pie.  Hmmm.....

That's what we did  --- a chocolate pecan pie from the Texas Pecan Grower's website. Tom put a Christmas tree in pecans on top as his special touch.  ( I thought it was a sailboat but I was quickly corrected.)

Chocolate Pecan Pie
from the Texas Pecan Growers Association

1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 refrigerated homemade pie crust
2 T. butter
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, or large pieces, toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 inch pie plate with pie crust as directed on package. (I put ours in the freezer at this point.) Melt the butter and 4 ounces of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave until the butter melts, between 1 and 2 minutes.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted.  Brush bottom of pie crust with small amount of beaten egg. Stir sugar, corn syrup, eggs, and vanilla into chocolate mixture until well blended.  Stir in pecans and the rest of the chocolate chips. Pour into pie crust.  Bake 55 minutes or until a knife inserted 2 inches from edge comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.

Merry Christmas everyone!
      ----Barbara & Tom

Christmas Eve in the Kitchen from Steve

My brother, Steve, is in the kitchen this Christmas Eve making Gallets, a Belgian waffle cookie, that you cook in an iron on the stovetop.  It's one of our family traditions that goes way back. Our Aunt Niece is the source.  But our Dad was the "king" of the gallet iron. Dad would make oodles of them.  The recipe is in pounds!

from Aunt Niece

2# butter
3# L. brown sugar
12 eggs
About 4# flour (4 c. to a lb.)
2 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
2 T. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
Mix like cake --- add flour 'til it doesn't stick to hands.  Then roll like little fingers and bake in iron. 
Makes about 30 doz.

Our kitchens are almost 3000 miles apart, so Steve sent me photos from his iPhone so we could see what he was doing.  The hot heat made it tough to hold the camera steady, but it is fun to see what he was making.   

He says that that Colleen made the dough for him and then he rolls it out into fingers. 

He places them in a very hot iron (which has been seasoned through use so they don't stick)

and counts 25 seconds, then turns.

And cooks another 25 seconds or so, depending on the thickness of the finger.

Voila!  A perfectly cooked gallet.

The beer keeps him cool. :)

Thanks for contributing, Steve!!

Christmas Eve in the Kitchen from Emily

Made your pecan cookies today. They are very tasty. I also made snickerdoodles. Yum.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Poached BBQ Salmon by Tom

Sunday night, and it is my turn to cook dinner.  As luck would have it, the proverbial cupboard was virtually bare.  But I did find some frozen salmon filets in the freezer, and with my trusty Dinosaur BBQ cookbook in hand, I was able to find a recipe that looked appealing to me.  Start to finish took about an hour, which included cooking Kasmati rice and a mixed vegetable of cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.

Poached BBQ Salmon
from the Dinosaur BBQ cookbook
Here are the ingredients:

For the poaching process:
2 - small salmon filets (mine did not have the skin on them)
Salt and pepper to season the salmon before cooking
2 tablespoons of butter
3 large cloves of garlic, minced - I used garlic form the jar
1 teaspoon dried ginger - use fresh if you have it
1 1/2 cups white wine - I used LMR sauvignon blanc
1 cup water
1/2 cup BBQ sauce - use sweet barbeque sauce versus hot, spicy or smoked
1 teaspoon dried dill
6 leaves of some spice that I thought was sage, but turned out to be more like licorice (use sage)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds

Sauce to enhance the poaching liquid after poaching:
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce you used in the poaching process

Time to start cooking!

First step is to season both sides of the salmon liberally with salt and pepper.

Next put the 2 tablespoons of butter into a pan that you can cover with a lid later in the process.  I used a wok as it works well and has a cover!  Melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the garlic and the ginger, and cook for about two minutes.  This step is to infuse the butter with the garlic and ginger taste rather than to brown the garlic, so you may need to turn down the heat as I did.

Next add the water, wine, BBQ sauce, dill, sage, peppercorns, and mustard seeds.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then add the salmon filets.  Bring the mixture back to a boil for another 30 seconds or so to start the poaching process.

Loosely cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, reducing the heat to a simmer. The salmon should still be firm, but just starting to flake.  That is when you know it is done.

Remove the salmon from the poaching liquid, and put into a warm oven to keep your filets hot.

Using a strainer, pour the poaching liquid through the strainer into a bowl or large measuring cup.  This removes the peppercorns, the mustard seeds, and the sage leaves, and most of the garlic. 
Pour the liquid back into the pan and add the Dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce.  Bring back to a boil and reduce the liquid for about two minutes, which intensifies the flavor of the sauce.

Using a large soup bowl, put a couple of spoonfuls of the cooked Kasmati rice into the bottom of the bowl.  Remove the salmon from the warm oven, and place over the rice.  Add a few heaping spoonfuls of the reduced poaching sauce over the salmon filet.


Friday, December 18, 2009

If I Were a Nut, I'd be a Pecan

If I were a nut, I would definitely be a pecan. And probably a Texas pecan because that's what I grew up eating.

The pecan is the state tree of Texas.

There was a pecan grove, i.e., a small pecan farm, near where we lived. I would always admire the trees on the way to Pasadena. The trees are tall and slender and create large canopies. I imagined many magical things going on inside that grove.

My sister, Jane, who still lives in Texas, just sent me a big batch. Woohoo! Thanks, Jane!

I did a little research and learned that the pecan tree is part of the hickory family and is native to the U.S. The trees grow predominately in the South, but as far north as Illinois. Zones 6 - 9.

I also learned that pecans are not popular outside the U.S. because they need a warm climate and lots of water and because they closely resemble walnuts which have long been established.  

Since Jane so generously sent me such a big batch of both shelled and unshelled pecans, I also looked up the proper way to store them.   On the Texas Pecan Growers website, they said:

When stored at 0 degrees in the freezer, either shelled meats or in-shell pecans will maintain quality for two years. Under refrigeration, pecans should maintain their quality for several months. Storing pecans at room temperature is not recommended.

Pecans will oxidize or turn rancid more rapidly in light and out of their shell, so nuts will store longer when they are in their shell. 

I am excited to use the pecans in many recipes for the blog.  And I will definitely be making a pecan pie for Christmas day.

Found this simple recipe on the Pecan Growers website.  It is great way to use pecans for a cookie. This cookie goes by many names, but basically it's a butter nut ball.   We tested the recipe last night. 

Holiday Pecan Cookies
Beat until soft ½ cup butter.
Blend in two tablespoons sugar.

Add one teaspoon vanilla, one cup ground pecan meats (be sure to toast your pecans first), and one cup cake flour or regular flour sifted several times.

Roll into 32 ½ inch balls, one teaspoon full at a time.

Place on greased baking sheet. Bake in 300 degree oven for 45 minutes or 375 for 25 minutes. While cookies are still hot, roll in confectioner's sugar. Roll again after cookies cool.

Stored in air-tight tins, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pecan Corn Bread Loaf

Ran across this Pecan Corn Bread Loaf recipe from the Texas Pecan Growers Association while I was researching why Texas pecans are so great, and decided to try it on impulse.  I was intriqued because it is baked as a loaf and not in a square pan or skillet.  And it doesn't have any white flour, just cornmeal. 

Upfront, I will warn you this is not a sweet cornbread.  Most Southern recipes aren't.  But this one doesn't have any sugar.  It is chock full of other interesting textures and bits of colors and flavors.  It went well with the Mulligatawny Soup.  And later, it was good as a treat when toasted then drizzled with honey.

Pecan Corn Bread Loaf
from the Texas Pecan Growers Association website

Makes one 9x5 loaf

2 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces cream style corn
1.5 cups yellow cornmeal
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1.5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Texas pecans, chopped

I didn't have jalapeno peppers, so I substituted a spicy cheese for the cheddar cheese.

I started by toasting the pecans, even though the recipe didn't say to.  Nuts are SO much better in recipes after toasting them.  Then I let them cool off.

And chopped them using my favorite little tool that Christine and Howard gave us years ago when they lived in Alaska.  Chopping can be fun if you have an Alaskan tool.

You start by beating two eggs until very light and foamy.  This was when I realized I didn't have the next ingredient called for --- the can of cream style corn.

Luckily I had frozen corn on hand, so I quickly defrosted it.

Back to the recipe --- the next step is to add the sour cream, oil and corn to the eggs and mix them together.

Separately, I combined all of the dry ingredients --- the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cheese and pecans and mixed thoroughly. 

Then added them to the creamed mixture --- I switched to using a large spatula to fold the ingredients in --- you don't want to overmix a quick bread like this.

Blend until well combined, and all the ingredients are well distributed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into a 9 x 5 loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes until tested done---using the toothpick test.

Be sure to let it cool before trying to cut into the loaf, even though you will be tempted.  It's a cheesy, nutty, spicy, corny, savory bread.  It is definitely not sweet, but not everything needs to be sweet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny soup is a new soup for us. And we've decided we really like it!

Made it yesterday for a late lunch and served it with a delicious pecan corn bread. It was a welcome change from the heavy holiday party food we'd been having.

This spiced soup dates from the days of the British Raj and was introduced to the West by nabobs returning from India in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name comes from a Tamil word, milakutanni, which means "pepper water."

There are numerous variations of it. Most seem to have chicken, but this one has veggies only. And yogurt instead of coconut milk. Some have lentils and lamb.  Others add cashews and/or pistachios. Some serve it over rice. I hear that the Australians even put bacon and tomatoes in theirs.  And the famous NYC "Seinfeld" soup nazi has a popular version.

This soup has a real kick to it, so watch out. (Or substitute sweet curry to make it mild.)

Mulligatawny Soup
from Classic Home Cooking by Mary Berry & Marlena Spieler, page 28
Serves 4 - 6

3 T. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small apple (I used 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce)
1 small carrot, diced
1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and diced
3 - 5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 T. flour
2 -3 t. curry powder (I used hot)
1/4 t. each ground ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric
5 cups (1.25 liters) chicken or vegetable stock
13 oz.(400g)canned garbanzo beans, drained and lightly mashed
13 oz.(400g) canned diced or chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 T. chopped parsley
1 T. lemon juice
3/4 c. (175g) plain yogurt
chopped parsley for garnish

Melt the butter in a pan, add the chopped onion, and cook gently on medium for a few minutes until soft but not browned.

Add the celery (I used the leaves, too), apple (I waited to add the applesauce all the other veggies were soft so it wouldn't burn but would add the key apple flavor), carrot, green pepper, and garlic.

Cook stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.

Add the flour, curry powder, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock, smashed garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Add the chopped parsley and lemon juice to the pan.

Combine a little of the soup with the yogurt, then stir it back into the hot soup.

Serve the soup immediately, garnishing if you feel like it. (I didn't.)

If you have a favorite version of Mulligatawny Soup you'd like to share, please do.  Or tell us where you first discovered it.  I wish we had learned about it sooner!