Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Wanted something easy, yet tasty last night. The rain-- which seems endless--- is keeping us from grilling. Plus, we've been away for the last three out of the four weekends doing family chores, so our own fridge is woefully empty. What could I pick up at the store and cook in a jiffy?

Then, I remembered that I have been wanting to try to re-create Chicken Wraps. My lips smack when I think about them. Luckily, I had already done the research for the blog. I just needed to buy the ingredients.

Looks like a lot of ingredients, but if you cook any Chinese, you'd most likely have them on hand. If not, they are all readily available in a typical grocery store, in the international aisle.

For my version, I combined two recipes --- one from A Little San Francisco Cookbook ---Chinatown in San Francisco is where I had this dish for the first time -- it's says that they are Cantonese in origin and were made with squab. And the other recipe came from Food & Wine, April, 2007.

3 T. chopped garlic
1.5 T. grated fresh ginger
1/2 t. red pepper flakes (optional - but we like heat)
1 T. canola oil

Stir fry Sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1.5 t. dry sherry
1.5 t. Chinese black bean sauce
1.5 t. sugar
3/4 t. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water

1 medium head butter lettuce, leaves separated
1 large carrot, cut into match sticks -- I used store bought

1 lb. chicken thighs, cleaned, dried, chopped into 1/2 inch dice (bite-size)
1 8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained -- be sure to buy diced
3 green onions, sliced thin, white and as much of the green parts as you can

oil for stir-frying
chicken broth, if needed, for stir-frying

1 t. sesame oil
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Finely chop chicken -- this takes the longest, so be sure to give yourself enough time. Mix together chicken, water chestnuts, green onions with marinade ingredients in a medium bowl; marinade for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, tear large leaves in half and prepare carrots and cilantro; set aside.

Make stir fry sauce with the soy sauce, sherry, black bean sauce, sugar and the dissolved cornstarch.

Heat 1 -2 T. canola oil in a large work or frying pan until extremely hot and swirling. Add chicken mixture; stir-fry until chicken is opaque, 6- 10 minutes, and starts to brown. Add a little chicken broth if you get too much sticking. Add stir fry sauce and reduce heat to medium for one more minute, until sauce thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in sesame oil. Mound chicken mixture in center of a serving dish. Surround chicken mixture with about 20 lettuce leaves.

To eat, place 2 T. chicken mixture in a lettuce leaf with some carrots and cilantro; foll up.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farmer's Market Flowers

June is a great month for flowers here. We've had lots of rain, so they are particularly nice this year. I stopped this woman to make a photograph -- her arms were overflowing with flowers. She was buying these bouquets to give as birthday presents. Lucky recipients!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PB&J in the Park

This was my treat for the week. An adult PB&J sandwich for lunch in the park.

I am avoiding peanut butter at home in an effort to lose weight, but I am letting myself have it once a week when I am out, so I don't feel deprived.

Got the PB&J sandwich from Ithaca Bakery --- which has been expanded and is better than ever if you haven't been recently --using their wonderful multi-grain bread. Had the bread toasted, which made the peanut butter melt a little. The apricot jam was perfect - not too sweet. Good ingredients can make even PB&J special!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lin's Sloppy Joes

Back when I started this food blog, Lin told me she made good sloppy joes, but these are melt-in-your-mouth sloppy joes! She served them for lunch today when I went over to paint with her. She is spoiling me. Thanks, Lin!

Lin uses her Grandmother's recipe and then cooks them in a crockpot for a 2-3 hours for extremely tender, rich sloppy joes.

Here's how she does it.

Lin's Sloppy Joes

2 lb. ground beef
1 c. catsup
1/2 c. water
2 T. sugar
2 T. mustard
2 T. cider vinegar
2 t. Worcestershire Sauce
2 T. butter
1 cup chopped onion

In a large skillet, melt the butter, add 1 cup chopped onions and cook until transparent. Add the meat to the onions and brown. Drain grease. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour over the meat. Mix together, and cook for 1/2 hour. Then, move the sloppy joe mix to a crock pot for 2-3 more hours.

Yum! Reminds me of my childhood.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grilled Portabella Sandwich

I'd never tried grilling portabella mushrooms before. It's much easier than I expected. Tom was away, and it was a hot day, and I didn't want to use the stove in the house.

I thought I'd experiment with the fixings, too. I think I was worried that just a mushroom would be boring, so I may have gone a little overboard: fresh thyme and sherry for the portabella, an onion to caramelize, a mousse terrine to smear on the Ciabatta roll, smoked provolone and roasted red pepper.

Caramelized an onion, low and slow for about 20 minutes, while I made everything else. I added a pinch of salt and sugar at the beginning.

Doused the mushrooms in sherry and sprinkled them with fresh thyme. FYI - I should have oiled them so they didn't stick to the grill. I cooked them on a preheated grill, on medium, covered for 10 minutes without moving them.

Here's how they came out. The sherry was a little too strong. Maybe sherry vinegar mixed with olive oil would be better next time. Still, they were very good.

While the mushrooms and onions were cooking, I smeared a little mousse on one side of the roll, and put shavings of the smoked provolone on the other side. Not too much. Wanted the mushroom to be the star.

The mousse I chose contained pork, chicken livers and truffles, but there are a variety of these in our store, even a vegan version, if you want your sandwich to be vegetarian. And I had never had smoked provolone before, but it was fantastic!

Added a drained, dried a roasted red pepper from a jar. A big portion of caramelized onions and then the mushroom.

To make a dressing for a side salad, I added olive oil and a dab of mustard to some of the sherry and thyme. Salt and pepper, too. Then I mixed it together and coated the lettuce.

My mouth was watering as I assembled it. It turned out to be a little messy to eat, but oh-soo-good!

I chopped up the leftover veggies and made sort of a cold ratatouille for lunch the next day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's So Hard about Making a Hard Boiled Egg?

That's what Tom said when I mentioned I was going to write this. He said, "Just put some eggs in water in a pan, boil them, then rinse them in cold water in the sink. That's what my mother taught me. " I said, " For how long?" He said, " 2o minutes for hard, 3-4 minutes for soft."

Whoa! Hold your horses, I thought. You haven't eaten an egg cooked like that in years and years. Not in our house. They are rubbery, with greenish yolks, if cooked that way.

I, too, used to just throw them in boiling water and let them bounce away for too long. Then, somewhere along the way, I learned a better way.

Just to make sure I wasn't off the wall, I checked my recently-acquired- from- the-used- bookstore cookbook by Julia Child, The Way to Cook (which is great -- I highly recommend it.)

She does a similar, but more involved method, so I am know I am in good company.

This technique produces tender, well-cooked eggs. You bring them to boil for only one minute, remove from the heat, cover for 12 minutes, then rinse and chill immediately. The hardest part is to let them boil for only one minute. I tend to get distracted. Use a timer.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Place eggs in a saucepan that has a well-fitting lid because you'll need the lid later.

Cover them with cold water, plus at least an inch more of water, so they will have lots of room when boiling.

Turn stove on high and bring to a boil.

When it they start to boil, time them for one minute. That's all. Only one minute.

Turn off the heat. (Remove from burner if you have an electric stove.)

Cover. Put timer on for 12 minutes.


Rinse in cold water until the eggs are completely cool. Where I live, the water is very cold, but you could use water with ice cubes and plunge them immediately.

Place rinsed, cooled eggs in cold water in the refrigerator. Uncovered.

This time of year I am overly enthusiastic at the Farmer's Markets and buy too many eggs for our needs.

So, I end up making hard boiled eggs for egg salad lunches, serving deviled eggs as hors d'oeuvres, and taking along a single egg on painting or photography expeditions.

It's often recommended that you never photograph in the field on an empty stomach, so packing an egg in your gear bag is a photo tradition. Brain food. ( However, most people nowadays would opt for a power bar instead.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baby Strawberries

I can't tell you how excited I am about sharing this experience. I was gardening today. You know -- if you are a gardener --- it was a day when you are stressed about getting what you bought into the ground, so you are going around digging and placing things, and then digging them up again, and re-placing them. And along the way you start pulling the weeds that you saw that are bugging you. Then, all of the sudden, I smelled strawberries.

This was confusing. I couldn't believe that the strawberries that I had let go wild as a ground cover could create an aroma. But, I smelled the most amazing, intense strawberry fragrance. It was early evening, so the sun was low and the day had been warm. I am kind of gullible, so anything was possible.

So, I searched along the edges of this patch of strawberry ground cover and found the cutest, most beautiful, baby strawberries, I have ever seen.

What I love about this experience is the back story. My mother-in-law swore that these were weeds when I was helping her at her cottage along the St. Lawrence. But, I knew better, and took the strawberry "weeds" home and planted them in our garden so that the birds could enjoy them.

Now, I am thrilled that I got to eat these tart little gems today. This is truly my definition of feast everyday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And the Winner Is ---

The cookie naming prize goes to Colleen:

"I would call the cookies Nilla Berets. They look like they are wearing a little beret and it would remind you of the baguettes and travel and France."

She will receive a surprise gift in the mail for her contribution, in response to my post on May 26.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Painting, Pork and Pie

Lin invited me over to paint with her today and served a terrific lunch of pulled pork sandwiches and apple pie. Yum!

Lin's Apple Pie

5-6 cups peeled and sliced apples (4 Granny Smith and 3 MacIntosh are Lin's preference)
1 cup sugar (or only 2/3 c. for a tarter pie)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. butter in bits
Toss the apples with sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Pour into pie shell. Dot with butter. Cover with second pie crust. Cut a vent in top. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 50 minutes longer until brown.

For the crust, she uses her grandmother's recipe and technique:

Makes pastry for 1 pie crust, so double it for an apple pie.
1 cup flour
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup shortening

Cut shortening into the flour and salt using a fork, not your hands, or your dough will be tough, until you have particles the size of peas.

Sprinkle 3 T. cold water over it and toss lightly until it comes together.

Roll out into an 11 inch circle for a 9 inch pie plate.

The pie was beautiful, especially in its red Fiestaware dish, from Lin's collection.

The crust was flaky and apples were just right.

But back to the pulled pork sandwich. The way she made it was so simple.

She bought pre-marinaded Teriyaki pork loins at Wegman's. Browned them and then put them with a cup of water in a crock pot to cook all Sunday afternoon. She turns it up on high to get it going, then reduces it to low for about six hours. She lightly coated the shredded meat with her favorite BBQ sauce until moist, but not swimming. She served the pork on a potato hamburger roll. Excellent!