Monday, August 30, 2010

Eggplant Roll-ups with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil

Eggplant Roll-ups with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil

Over the weekend, I attempted to re-create a dish that we had earlier this summer at a great party at the Hennessey's.  Kevyn made a delicious roll-up with eggplant.  She served hers with dinner, but I thought it might make a good hors d'oeuvres, too, if I made them smaller.  I am always looking something easy and somewhat healthy to serve with drinks.  Here's how I made mine.

You will need a medium-sized eggplant (they are great right now!), sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh basil, plus toothpicks.

An hour in advance, slice the eggplant and heavily salt it to draw out any bitterness and excess moisture, then place the slices in a colander to drain. Spread them out as much as you can.

Oil the slices then grill them.  Tom said he grilled them for a two or three minutes on each side.  You want the eggplant cooked, but not limp and mushy.

Cut the eggplant slices into two long strips.  Place a little goat cheese, then a well-drained sun-dried tomato and a basil leaf on the eggplant.

Roll it up from the fat end to the thin end and poke a toothpick all the way through so it won't come apart.

Our first taste test told us that the skin was too chewy and wasn't adding anything.  So, I cut the skin off the remaining eggplant.

Then I made an assembly line.

It was a very messy endeavor.  But fun!

And it yielded good results.

These little roll-ups are packed with flavor.

I made them a day in advance, stored them (covered with plastic wrap) in the refrigerator, then brought them up to room temperature, to take to a BBQ party.  They were well-received, even by people who don't like eggplant!

One medium eggplant made 16 roll-ups.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hummingbird Food

Male Ruby Throat Hummingbird

One of our favorite aspects of living at the lake during the summer is the hummingbird activity.  In our section of the lake, we and our neighbors feed the hummingbirds so there are groups that come and live among us every summer, raising families.  They make tiny nests in the tall red oaks above our decks.

Guarding the feed above
They buzz around like Jetsons, doing amazing up and down maneuvers, at very rapid speeds.  The young males like this one are protective of the food.  He sits below the feeder and will attack anyone trying to eat at the feeder located above on the deck.

Guests frequently ask us what we feed them and how to make hummingbird food, so I thought I'd post how we do it.  There is some controversy as to whether or not to dye the food red.  Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, that's why it is done.  In fact, if you are wearing red clothing, especially a red hat, our hummingbirds will come right up to your face, thinking you are an extra large feeder or flower.

After doing research for this post, we will stop putting the food coloring in their food.  It doesn't seem necessary.  Our feeders are red, and there is a possibility that red dye may be harmful to the birds over time. 

There is no need to buy commercially made food.  Here's the basic formula:
4 parts water
1 part sugar
red food coloring (not necessary)

For our 3 feeders, we make a batch with 4 cups of water, and 1 cup of sugar.

In a saucepan, place the water and turn up the heat to high.  Stir in the cup of sugar until it dissolves.

Heat until the sugar water solution comes to a boil.  Let it boil for at least one minute.  Watch and don't let it boil over.  Turn down the heat to medium or low.

Take the saucepan off the heat, then add 5 drops of red food coloring (optional).

Place the pan in the freezer on a hot pad until it cools down completely.  Set the timer if you are forgetful, so that your solution does not freeze.  Then, fill the feeders.

Keep your feeders clean to keep the birds healthy.  Be sure to wash them at the beginning of the season and in between if you see any development of bacteria. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Corn Chowder with Shrimp by Tom

Corn Chowder with Shrimp by Tom
In an earlier blog entry about salsa verde and salsa fresca that I had made for guests from Syracuse, I talked about the jalapeno and garden salsa pepper plants that we have growing at our lake house.  Well, doing what pepper plants do, they churned out a bunch more peppers.  So now what do with more hot peppers!

Looking through the new The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites that Barbara brought home recently, I found the perfect recipe that uses a lot of peppers.  Also given the time of summer that we are in, there is an abundance of fresh corn and tomatoes.  Plus I have always liked corn chowder, but had never made one myself.  So why not try it.  Being that I was making it as our main dish, I decided to modify the recipe and added uncooked shrimp.  If you have followed any of my entries to this blog, you know by now that I never follow a recipe to the "T", but usually modify it for the better.  Adding shrimp was a definite enhancement to this recipe.

A word of warning about this recipe:  it is muy caliente!!!  Very spicy.  If I make this again, which I probably will, I would cut the number of peppers in half.

Corn Chowder with Shrimp
adapted from The Best Of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites

The Ingredients

6 jalapeno peppers  -- I used two ripe jalapeno peppers and four hot garden salsa peppers
1 lb cubed and peeled Yukon gold potato  -- this should be about 3 cups
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium sweet onion chopped
1 yellow pepper chopped
3 tablespoons of celery
~3 cups of fresh corn kernels, which is about 6 ears of corn  -- I think you could cheat a little here  and use frozen corn to simplify the preparation
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup Half-and-Half
2 cups of seeded tomatoes  -- I used grape tomatoes and chopped them in half and then in half again.  Grape tomatoes have virtually no seeds in them
~12 frozen and then partially thawed large uncooked shrimp cut into bite size pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack cheese as a garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro as a garnish

I used a mix of very ripe jalapeno peppers and hot garden salsa peppers.

Preheat the broiler and place the hot peppers on a foil lined baking sheet.  Broil for about 10 minutes until the skin is well blackened.  You will need to turn them at least once about half way through.  Pull the peppers from the oven and immediately transfer to a zip lock plastic bag.  Close the bag and let them sit for 15 minutes. 

Peel the skin off the peppers, cut them in half, and pull out the stem, seeds and membranes. Then finely chop up the peppers and set aside.

Peel and dice the potatoes.  Fill a medium size sauce pan with water and throw the diced potatoes into it.  Boil the potatoes at simmer for about 15 minutes or until they are tender.  Drain the water.
With a potato masher, partially mash the potatoes. You want some chunks to be in the chowder when finished. The mashed part helps give the chowder some thickness and texture.

Chop the sweet onion.  Do the same to the yellow pepper after removing the seeds and membrane.  Chop the celery as well.

Throw the butter, chopped yellow pepper, the chopped onion, and the chopped celery into a large stock pot.  Over medium heat, saute the vegetables for about 10 minutes after the butter has melted.
Next chop up the tomatoes.

Now a fun part!  Slice the kernels off the ear of corn.  My first slice had corn flying everywhere!  So I decided to try slicing the kernels into a plastic container.  A little unwieldy, but it worked.  I had much less of a mess to clean up afterwards.

Throw the mashed potatoes into the stock pot.

Now toss into the stock pot the tomatoes, corn, hot peppers, skim milk, Half-and-Half, salt and white pepper.  Cook the mixture for a minimum of 30 minutes so that it thickens up stirring frequently.  I cooked it longer because we were just not quite ready to eat it yet.  I turned the heat way down so that it was not boiling anymore, but still hot.

But wait, there is still one more ingredient to add - the shrimp!  Remove the tails from the shrimp and cut into thirds.  Toss this into the chowder mixture about 3-5 minutes before you are going to serve it.  You do not need to have the mixture boiling to cook the shrimp.  It just needs to be hot.  The shrimp are done when they turn pinkish and are firm.

Garnish with the cheese and cilantro.

We ate this chowder two days in a row.  It was just as good, if not better, the second day.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Stuffed Acorn Squash by Christine

Stuffed Acorn Squash by Christine

Hi Barb,
I made this recipe with the acorn squashes from my garden.  It was a hit with the kids.  I used brown rice and canned crab meat.  This recipe is from a very old Fitness Magazine- probably 1989.

Baked Acorn Squash with Crab Meat Filling
from Fitness Magazine, recipe by Eugenie Vasser
3 acorn squashes, about 1 pound each
3/4 pound of lump crab meat
1 T. chopped fresh tomato
1 1/2 T. chopped onion
1 t. minced garlic
1 T. butter
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
3/4 cup unsalted chicken broth
1 1/2 t. chopped parsley
1/2 t. dried thyme
pinch salt
pinch pepper
pinch cayenne pepper

Remove tops and cut acorn squashes in half.

Place the squash halves, cut-side down, in a jelly-roll pan or roasting pan large enough to hold them in one layer.  Add 1/2 inch water; cover with foil.  Bake the squash halves in a preheated hot oven (400 degrees) 25 minutes, or until soft.  Turn, cut-side up; remove seed;cut off a thin piece from the bottom, so the squash halves don't wobble when filled.  Reduce oven temperature to moderate (350 degrees).

Meanwhile, saute the crab meat, tomato, onion and garlic in the butter in a large saute pan. 

Stir in the rice, broth, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Fill the squash halves with the crab meat mixture.  Bake 10 minutes longer, or until bubbly.

Serves 6.  Nutrient value per serving:  206 calories, 3 g fat, 191 mg sodium, 14 g protein, 31 g carbs


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Green Beans with Sweet Onion and Bacon

Green Beans with Sweet Onion and Bacon

I saw this idea in a cookbook and it reminded me of a summer dish that my mother-in-law makes at her cottage, which I know Tom enjoys.  So,  I adapted it for the way we like to cook here.  She cooks hers in a big pot of water, bacon and beans together, for a long time, in advance of the meal.  I like to saute and serve. 

Green beans and bacon go well together. The addition of finely chopped sweet onion and a honey-mustard vinegar dressing makes green beans even better. 
Tom says this recipe is a keeper.

Here's what you will need:

1 quart fresh green beans
2 slices of low fat, low salt bacon
1/2 of a large sweet onion, like Vidalia, finely chopped
1 t. mustard
1 t. honey
splash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Snap the green beans into bite sizes.  Wash them and place in boiling water.  They will need about 12 minutes to cook completely.  At the same time, in a skillet, large enough to hold all of the green beans, cook two slices of bacon until very crispy.  Remove the bacon, and an extra bacon fat.  Leave only a tablespoon or so in the pan.

While the bacon and beans are cooking, finely dice the sweet onion.

Then add the onion into the skillet with the bacon drippings, while the green beans finish cooking.

Taste the green beans and drain them when they are just getting done.  Don't let them overcook and get mushy. Put them in the pan with the diced sweet onion.

Directly to the hot pan, add a teaspoon of good Dijon mustard, a teaspoon of honey and a big splash of red wine vinegar.  Stir to coat well, and season with salt and pepper.

Turn the beans out into a serving bowl and top with the crispy bacon, broken into bite-size pieces. 

Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops by Tom

Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops by Tom

Last summer, after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I discovered the interesting taste and characteristics of brining boneless pork chops.  Since last summer I have made that recipe about five times, each time with very good results.  But recently I found another brining recipe in a new cookbook that Barbara bought for the house The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites.  So having enjoyed my first brining experiment, I thought I would try another brining approach.  I like this one even better!  The ingredients are more evident after cooking in this one, and it actually tastes a little lighter, perhaps from the lemon zest.  This is an easy recipe to make and I highly recommend it.
Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops
adapted from The Best of Cooking Light

4 servings, one chop per person

2 cups buttermilk
2 T. salt
2 T. sugar
1 T. grated lemon rind
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. chopped fresh sage
4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick
2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; shake well to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Add the pork to the brining solution, seal well, shake up the bag some more to make sure all of the surfaces of the pork are coated with the brine mixture, and then pop it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, or even overnight, turning the bag occasionally.

When you are ready to cook, remove the pork from the bag, and discard the buttermilk mixture.  Pat the pork dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle the pork with fresh ground pepper.

I grilled these chops for about 15 minutes.  You will have to judge based on the thickness of your pork chop.  But in any case, the internal temperature should be about 160 degrees.  This will make for a juicy pork chop.

We served this dish with green beans and a sweet potato that I also roasted on the grill for about 45 minutes.  It was very tender and flavorful.  Enjoy this new brining recipe!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

White Peaches

White Peach

Have you ever tasted a white peach?  If not, you must.  They have all the peachiness of a regular peach without the acidity, so they are sweeter and more floral, and dripping with delicious-ness!

I wasn't aware of white peaches until about 10 years ago when I started selling my jewelry at the farmer's market in Elmira, and one of my fellow vendors was an apple and peach grower from northern Pennsylanvia.  I couldn't wait until her white peaches were ripe.  They were amazing. They are one of the things I miss about selling jewelry at Wisner market.

Now I have found a Mennonite farm along Pre-Emption road on the way to Geneva to get my annual fix.  It was raining last week when I stopped, so the peaches were protected with plastic.

The first year I found them, I didn't make it very far down the road before I had to pull over and bite into one.  And of course, it dripped down the front of me.  They are impossible to eat without making a mess because they are so juicy!

Now I wait until I get home to cut one up in slices like an apple. They are large, about the size of my fist, and have whiter flesh than a traditional peach. They are also firmer than a regular peach, yet ultra juicy. They bruise easily and the season is short, which is why I hear they don't appear in the grocery stores very much.  But if you are lucky enough to see them in your market, buy some!