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!


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.


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.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thai Chicken with Basil

"Chopped" Thai Chicken with Basil

You can tell by the photos that we are now cooking and eating after it is dark outside.  The sun has been going down earlier and earlier every day.

But, there is still a lot of fresh basil around this time of year, so I thought I'd try this Thai-style chicken dish I found in our new, favorite recipe source:  Best Ever Cooking for Two.  

Make this dish when you have access to a lot of fresh basil.  It is the key ingredient -- the recipe requires a full cup.

The first time I made this recipe it seemed complicated, but the second time it seemed easy.

The flavors are well worth the effort to get out the Cuisinart to "chop" the chicken.

This recipe uses just one chicken breast but makes very generous portions for two people.

Thai Chicken with Basil
(from Best-Ever Cooking for Two)

Serves 2

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 green or red Thai chilies, stemmed (or use what you can find)
1 garlic clove, peeled
2.5 t. fish sauce
1.5 t. oyster sauce
1.5 t. sugar
1/2 t. distilled white wine vinegar
1 (8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 T. vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes

You will need a large non-stick skillet, a mini-food processor, and a small bowl, and a medium bowl.

Get out the mini- Cuisinart/food processor.  Pulse 1/2 cup basil, chilies, and garlic until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down, as needed.

Transfer 1.5 t. of basil mixture to a small bowl, then stir in 1.5 t. fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and vinegar, and then set aside.

Place the rest of the mixture a skillet large enough for stir-frying everything.

Dry off the chicken well with paper towels --- it makes a difference, I learned.  Pulse chicken and remaining 1 t. fish sauce in now empty food processor until coarsely chopped, 6 to 8 pulses.  Transfer chicken to medium bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

(Start your rice now.)

Add shallot and oil to skillet with basil mixture and stir to combine.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic and shallot are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.  (Mixture should start to sizzle after about 1.5 minutes; if it doesn't, adjust burner, i.e., turn up the heat.  I had to.)

Add chicken to skillet and increase heat to medium, at least.  I had to go to high.  Cook, breaking up chicken with a wooden spoon, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes.

Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute.

Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds.

Serve immediately.

Serve with rice.

Serve with red pepper flakes for those who like more spice.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Proof that Green Tomatoes Will Ripen

More Proof Green Tomatoes Will Ripen

I bought these green tomatoes to paint, not eat, because I liked their spidery-looking leaves and their glossy green skins.  
But I had to go away on a trip, and left them sitting in my studio.  
A week later, when I returned, they were no longer green!  I was wishing I had painted them before I left.
And here they are a week later.  Almost completely red and ripe.

They should be ready to eat soon!

So, I'd say, don't compost all of your green tomatoes, bring some inside and let them ripen slowly.

It takes about 3 weeks.

To read what I wrote about ripening green tomatoes before:


Monday, October 6, 2014

New Orleans Inspired Shrimp & Andouille Stew by Tom

New Orleans Inspired Shrimp & Andouille Stew by Tom

Barbara gave me the challenge of finding a way to use a package of Andouille sausage that we had purchased on impulse a while back.  Going to the internet, all I could find for the most part were gumbo recipes.  But...I did find this Andouille stew recipe at that looked intriguing.  It certainly had the look of a gumbo recipe, but without the Cajun spices and some of the other typical ingredients.  Worth a try and only took about 30 minutes to make start to finish.

A word of warning about this recipe.  It calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.  That is what I used, and it was spicy hot.  I think if I make this again, I will cut that back to no more than a single teaspoon.  A little cayenne pepper goes a long way.


Andouille Stew

Serves 4-6

12 ounce package of Andouille sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried, ground cayenne pepper (note warning above!)
1 medium sweet potato cubed into 1/2" size pieces
1 package frozen okra
1 package frozen corn kernels
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
16 ounces uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chop up the onion and the sweet potato.  Put the sweet potato into a microwave safe bowl.  Add 1/8 cup of water and cover with plastic wrap.  You will microwave these shortly.
Cut up the Andouille sausage into bite size pieces and set aside.
While you are sautéing the onion and garlic, microwave the sweet potatoes for 3-4 minutes until they are soft.  The bowl will get hot, so put a plate under the bowl to ease removal from the microwave oven. 
In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, sauté the onion and garlic together for about 3-4 minutes.
Next stir in the thyme and cayenne and continue sautéing for another couple of minutes.  The onions should be soft and slightly golden in color.
Next add the frozen corn and okra.  Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or so.  You will need to continuously stir the mixture to insure the onions and garlic do not burn.
Now add the Andouille sausage and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and the microwaved sweet potatoes.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Finally add the frozen shrimp.  Cook just until the shrimp are cooked, which will only take 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and serve.
To add some additional texture to the stew, I served it over Texmati rice.  I cooked the rice per the container directions and put a scoop of rice into the bottom of the bowl.  I spooned the stew over the rice and then stirred it up at the table.

We both enjoyed the stew that night, and the next night as well as a leftover.  But do monitor the amount of cayenne pepper you add.  Our dish was quite spicy hot even for me! 

But if you do find yourself with a package of Andouille sausage in your refrigerator or freezer, this is a good recipe for it.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins -- again!

Mini Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Made them again this week --

So, thought I'd share a couple of tips I've learned since I have made them so many times:
  • 1) dark chocolate chips work the best 
  • 2) 2 cups of chips come in one bag, so you can make a double batch with one bag
  • 3) but there isn't quite enough pumpkin in one can for a double batch, so I use applesauce to make up the difference and they taste just as good if not better
  • 4) make one batch as mini-muffins and the other as regular muffins, and bake them at the same time
You can be done making two batches of muffins in less than 45 minutes.
  • Measure and mix the ingredients while the oven heats up,  
  • 12 - 25 minutes for the muffins, depending on the size
  • and another 10 to let them cool before popping them out of the pan.

This is a stir by hand recipe.  No mixer necessary.  Easy but very tasty.

Pumpkin flavored drinks like beer and lattes seem to be all the rage this fall.

Why not add a muffin to the mix?

Here's the link to the original recipe:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins