Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Non-Souffle "Souffle"

This is part 2 of my favorite recipes that are easy to make, the most requested, and very easy to transport, perhaps to a Labor Day barbecue.  This recipe is for a delicious Corn Souffle, which technically, isn't a souffle because the egg whites are not whipped separately and then folded in.  The dish does slightly "puff up", so thus the name? All you do is combine the ingredients, bake it for an hour or so, and it's done! It's so versatile that I make it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, with Barbecue, and Mexican food. It really goes great with anything. Last Thanksgiving, I didn't make it because I thought my family might be sick of it; however, I regretted it when everyone was horrified not to see it on the table!  It's a side that everyone loves!  Keep checking my blog for the last recipe!  Hint: It's a Texas classic!  If you missed the first recipe, check it out: Salsa Mexicana.



Corn Souffle

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, melted
1 can of creamed corn
2 cans of regular corn, drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 box, 8.5 oz "Jiffy" corn muffin mix

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together all the ingredients.  Pour into an 11 cup, 2.6 L, or 8x9x3 baking dish and bake for an hour or so, until the center is set. Yum! 

**For a spicier version, add 2 thawed "cubes" of Green Chile Sauce!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Pullman Strike?

The Pullman Strike, led by the American Railway Union, began in Pullman, Illinois in 1894 over reductions in wages. It quickly spread across the country and disrupted railway traffic and the delivery of the U.S. Mail. The strike was broken up by U.S. Marshals and roughly 12,000 United States Army Troops killing 13 strikers and injuring 57. Six days later, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday to try and reconcile with the labor unions.

Today, most people associate Labor Day as the symbolic end of summer weekend.  It may be one of the last barbecues of the season.  So, if you're having a barbecue or going to one, this week I'm going to share 3 of my favorite recipes, that I make over and over because they are easy to make, the most requested, and very easy to transport.  I'm going to start with an appetizer or condiment, specifically, Salsa Mexicana from Mark Miller, aka. Godfather of Southwestern Cuisine. If you haven't made your own salsas before, this is a great way to start.  It tastes really fresh, summery, and you control the heat. Keep checking my blog for the other 2 dishes. Hint: one's a versatile side dish and the other is a classic Texas dessert! 


Salsa Mexicana:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons or so, diced white onion
8 Roma (plum) tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced, seeds and all
2 serrano chiles, finely diced, with seeds for HOT, some seeds for MEDIUM (I like it this way), or without for MILD (my kids like it this way)
2 tablespoons or so, fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (don't use the junk in the bottle)

Place the onion is a strainer, rinse with hot water, and drain.  Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Add a little more sugar if the tomatoes are acidic, but make sure the salsa does not taste of sugar. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to combine. 

This is great with chips, guacamole, tacos, or grilled meats. Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Feed Your Inner Carnivore!

In my opinion, the difference between a regular steak on the grill and a "steakhouse" steak is a nice thick cut and a charred crust.  Throw on a flavorful sauce and it's carnivore heaven!  This recipe for Porterhouse Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Giada's Kitchen.  The steaks are liberally coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  It makes a nice crusty steak with a delicate floral note.  The black olive vinaigrette is delicious but not very pretty.  So serve it on the side, or if spooned over the sliced steak, garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley to help it visually.  Serve this amazing steak with Boursin Creamed Spinach, boiled baby potatoes, and a crusty baguette.  A nice glass of red wine would really take this meal over the top!  It's really good!


Porterhouse Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette

Serves 4, make sure everyone gets some of the fillet side of these great steaks.

Ingredients:

For the steaks:
2 (1 1/2-inch thick) Porterhouse Steaks
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

Directions:

For the vinaigrette:
Combine the olives, red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until mixed.  In a small pitcher or measuring cup with a pour spout, add the olive oil and canola oil.  With the machine running, drizzle the oil into the blender through the small hole on the lid.  Transfer to a serving dish, stir in the parsley. This can be made ahead and refrigerated.  If so, put it in a canning jar so you can shake it up before placing in a serving dish.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

For the steaks:
Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat the beef with the olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Grill for 5-6 minutes per side, or until the meat is cooked to your preference.  A good piece like this should be pink inside!  Transfer to a cutting board, place a piece of foil over the top, and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

To serve:
Cut the steaks into thick slices and serve with the vinaigrette and garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Popeye was Gross!

Sometimes you want a really nice steak.  Not the regular throw on the grill steak, but "steakhouse" kind of steak, such as Porterhouse Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette. One of the most traditional sides for any established steakhouse is creamed spinach.  Unfortunately, I can't help but think of Popeye.  Popeye was a pipe-toting, dirty old sailor, who ate spinach directly from a can.  They say that the spinach gave him super strength. However, if he needed the spinach for super strength, then how was he able to squeeze open the can?  Let's face it, canned spinach is gross.  This isn't.


Boursin Creamed Spinach

Serves 4 to 6, it's very rich.  Serve with an awesome steak, crusty baguette, and boiled baby potatoes.  You can also add chopped artichokes for an awesome dip. Sorry I can't give credit to whoever developed this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 package (5.2 oz) Boursin cheese, I used "Garlic & Fine Herb", but they have several choices you can choose.
1 1/2 packages (15 oz) thawed, frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry of moisture
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
Kosher salt
White Pepper
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat a shallow 3 cup baking dish with nonstick spray or lightly oil.

Saute the onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion.  Cook for a minute.  Gradually whisk the milk and cream into the onion mixture, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 minute.

Stir in the Boursin a little at a time until melted and smooth.  Remove saucepan from heat.  Add the spinach, Parmesan, lemon zest, and seasonings to taste (salt, white pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg).  Season liberally, this dish can take it.  Taste it, you don't want it to be bland.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.  Smooth with a spatula.

In a small bowl, combine the Panko, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Top the spinach with the breadcrumbs, pressing down gently to make them adhere.  (Can be made ahead, covered and chilled to be baked later.)

Place the dish on a baking sheet (in case it bubbles over) and bake until the crumbs are golden and sauce is bubbly, 20-25 minutes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Tart from my Heart

The last time I made this was for my dear friend, Trish, who passed away too young.  This one's for her.  Sniff, sniff.  I found this recipe for Goat Cheese Tart from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa.  I love it!  This tart consists of a buttery crust, tangy herbed goat cheese, basil, and savory shallots. Now pay close attention to how I tell you to make the tart shell.  It's brilliant, makes it easier, and dare I say... perfect? Serve this luscious tart with a cup of Summer Tomato Basil Soup and a simple green salad with Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette and you'll have a wonderful "Ladies Lunch"!  What to drink you ask?  Why Champagne, of course!



Goat Cheese Tart


Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt plus another 1/4 teaspoon
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon)
3 to 4 tablespoon ice water
3 cups dried beans to make the tart shell (e.g., pinto, etc.), I keep mine in a jar and reuse them.
1, 9" tart pan with removable bottom
3/4 cups sliced shallots (4 or so)
10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese (Montrachet, if possible)
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add the ice water and process until the dough becomes crumbly.  Don't over-process. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and gather loosely into a ball, cover with the plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap the plastic wrap leaving the dough in the center.  Place a second piece of plastic wrap over the dough and roll out to about a 12" circle.  Remove the top piece of plastic. Slide your hands under the dough and bottom piece of plastic. Gently place evenly in the tart pan, plastic side on top, smoothing into the corners of the pan.  Run a rolling pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Carefully pull the plastic off.  Butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan.  Fill the foil with the beans to the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Carefully slide the tart shell onto a baking sheet to remove it from the oven.  Remove the beans and foil (by lifting the corners of foil) from the tart shell. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork and bake another 10 minutes (using the baking sheet to slide it back in the oven).  Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Season with a pinch of salt. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly.  Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended.

Scatter the shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (there may be leftover filling).  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Got Tomatoes?

I do!  About 5 pounds in fact!  In addition, my herb garden is overrun with basil and is trying to flower.  I've heard that once basil flowers, it becomes bitter.  Is that true?  Either way, I keep cutting and cutting and telling my friends to please help themselves.  In honor of my summer bounty, I've made a Summer Tomato Basil Soup with Basil Cream, adapted from Joanne Weir's recipe in Weir Cooking In The City.  I love this soup because it has a fresh, clean, and pure taste.  The basil cream dresses it up a bit, but melts like mad, looks  messy, and in my opinion, ruins it.  Note:  The cream will spread rapidly once dolloped on the soup, so dollop right before serving. The soup can be made ahead and reheated.  To me, without the basil cream, it's beautiful and like summer in a bowl!  


Summer Tomato Basil Soup with Basil Cream

Serves 6, with a nice grilled cheese or goat cheese tart (that's how I like it).  In addition, you can make it over the weekend and have a healthy soup for lunch each day.

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream (optional)
3 fresh basil sprigs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, quartered, and seeded (the seeds can make it bitter), Click here to find out how to peel a tomato.
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:

For the cream (don't do it!):
In a small saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edges.  Add one sprig of basil.  Remove from the heat and cover for 1 hour.  Then refrigerate.

For the soup (do this!):
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. When the oil looks shimmery, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, remaining 2 sprigs of basil, chicken stock, and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by one-quarter, about 20 minutes or so.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Using tongs, remove the basil.

In a blender, puree the soup in several batches on high speed until smooth.  Do not use a food processor, a blender is really best for this.  Strain into a clean soup pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the sugar and season with the salt and pepper.

Optional: Remove the basil from the cream.  Whip the cream until soft peaks just begin to form.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

To serve:
Reheat the soup (if necessary) over medium heat until warm/hot.  Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the chopped basil.  Optional: dollop with the cream.  Serve immediately.  Delicious!

Monday, August 15, 2011

When the Cat's Away, the Mice Eat Risotto!

My husband can't fathom a meal without meat.  But guess what?  He's out of town!  My mind starts spinning and my heart instantly flutters at the thought of my Truffle-Scented Mushroom Risotto!  I have studied tons of recipes for risotto and none of them are consistent. Some use an enormous amount of liquid to rice, some add mascarpone cheese, and some add heavy cream, etc. However, remember that risotto is just rice...rice that has to be lovingly tended to with a little commonsense.  This recipe is relatively simple (for a risotto) and utilizes fresh mushrooms and white truffle oil.  Remember, the rice should be slightly firm (al dente) and creamy, never mushy. The amount of stock called for may not be necessary if the rice is done (taste it) or more may be needed (taste it).  It should ooze on the plate and never "stand up".  This recipe is such a luxury, I've even served it at Christmas!  Cielo!


Truffle-Scented Mushroom Risotto


Serves 4-6 as main course with salad and bread, or 6-8 as a side dish to beef or chicken

Ingredients:

5 cups chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock (warmed in a pot on the stove and held there)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 pound assorted mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups Carnaroli rice or Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc), dry vermouth, or in a pinch, dry sherry
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, for garnish
White truffle oil, for garnish

Directions:

In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms release their juices, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Keep stirring until the rice smells "nutty" and looks opaque, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine has been absorbed, stirring frequently.

Now, using a ladle, ladle about 1 cup of warm stock at a time, stirring frequently until almost absorbed.  Keep doing this until the stock is almost gone.  Start tasting the rice to see if it is slightly firm and creamy, NOT MUSHY.  When the rice is perfect (about 20 minutes after adding to the  pan), remove from the heat, and stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano and remaining tablespoon of butter until melted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan for 2 minutes.

To serve:

Ladle into warm shallow bowls.  Drizzle with the white truffle oil.  Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley.  Smell it, it smells amazing!  Now enjoy!

Back to School Basics

It's that time of year again, back to school.  Are you ready? With all the rush, having a plan for dinner can be tough to come by. I love to cook, but even I am tempted by frozen dinners. But somehow, I feel awful giving these to my kids. The answer for me is frozen ingredients I usually have in my freezer, like tilapia fillets and peas. The result is a spin on the classic English dish, fish and mushy peas. Check out my recipe for Panko breaded tilapia fillets with homemade tartar sauce and minted peas. This Panko breading can be used for chicken cutlets and pork chops (boneless), too. It's easy and crispy goodness. My family loves it!


Panko Breaded Tilapia Fillets with Homemade Tartar Sauce and Minted Peas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the fish:
4 thawed tilapia fillets, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or more
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten 
1 cup or more Panko bread crumbs
grape seed oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving

For the tartar sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons capers, chopped
10 tablespoons sweet gherkins, chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley
1/2 lemon, juiced
dash of hot sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the peas:
2 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients for the tartar sauce in a bowl, cover and chill.

Prepare the Panko breading by setting up a breading station. Place flour on a plate, beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, and Panko on another plate. Dry the fish with paper towels and season each side with salt and pepper. Now dredge each piece of fish first in the flour, then the egg, and then the Panko, shaking off any excess after each step. Place the breaded fish on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least 10 to 20 minutes. This ensures that the breading will not fall off when cooking.

Meanwhile, cook peas according to package instructions and then toss with the butter and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 inch or so of the oil to about 350 degrees over medium to medium/high heat until the oil looks shimmery. I actually don't check the temperature. Instead, I drop a small piece of bread (usually taken from the end of a loaf) to see if it starts to bubble around the bread. Cook the fish for about 3 minutes a side until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, tray, or cookie sheet and season with salt and pepper. Continue with the remaining fish.

To serve:

Place two pieces of the fish on each plate. Place a dollop of the tartar sauce on each plate. Place a large spoonful of the peas on each plate. Garnish each with a lemon wedge and serve. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Most Important Thing When Dressing!

Sometimes it feels like there are few things you can depend on, like spam, solicitors, and bills.  Oh well, they can't all be winners.  Learn this chic vinaigrette and you'll be able to weather those days when nothing goes right. It turns a simple green salad into something special. Add bacon, shallots, and goat cheese, and you'll have something spectacular.  It's easy to remember and very dependable.


Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette


Makes enough for 1 large salad


2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (preferable Grey Poupon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredient's in a blender, food processor, or my favorite, shaken in an 8 oz wide mouth jar.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Dare You to use Real Napkins!


I've never seen people more uncomfortable than seeing cloth napkins next to their place settings!  In fact, I secretly find it funny to see them squirm and under-use their napkins in discomfort.  Why?  Have these people only seen these relics at Thanksgiving and Christmas?  That brings up paper plates...I'll deal with that another time.  My point is, if someone creates a thoughtful meal, do you expect them to place a paper napkin dispenser next to the plate?  No way and neither should you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Chocolate Pot that Just Won't Stop

My lovely niece just turned 11!  Happy Birthday, Sage!!!  She, like a lot of kids I know, categorize chocolate as it's own food group.  For these children (and adults alike) this classic Chocolate Pots de Creme is a pure indulgence.  This recipe couldn't be easier.  There are only two ingredients: good quality chocolate and cream.  It can be made ahead and pulled out at the last minute.  Top it with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche and serve.  The beauty of this versatile dessert is that you can personalize it with additions such as a teaspoon of brandy, Amaretto, or Kahlua.  You could add finely grated orange zest, or even a dash of cayenne with a dollop of cinnamon scented whipped cream.  Chocolate curls would be nice, and edible gold  even nicer.  In under ten minutes, you can have an elegant dessert ready on hand.



Chocolate Pots de Creme

Serves 6-8 depending on size of  "pots"

Ingredients:

9 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), I've used Ghirardelli 60%  Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
3 cups heavy cream

Directions:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces (unless using chocolate chips) and melt in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or a double boiler if you own one - I don't).  Heat the cream in a separate saucepan until just simmering.  When the chocolate is completely melted, pour into the simmering cream.  Whisk constantly until fully incorporated and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Pour into small ramekins, small glasses, or even tea cups and refrigerate until firm or overnight.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Banh Mi, Banh You!

Many years ago, on a trip to Chicago, my husband and I stumbled across a fabulous restaurant called Le Colonial. The setting was candlelit and orchid strewn, very romantic. I was instantly charmed by the vibrant flavors of French-Vietnamese cuisine. I especially loved the combinations of fragrant herbs like basil, cilantro, and mint.  Le Colonial has restaurants in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. If you get a chance, you should go. However, until then, try this recipe for Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwiches by Jeanne Thiel Kelley from the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. I've replaced the daikon with some cucumber slices and the fish sauce with soy sauce. The result is an amazing sandwich that is great for a summer dinner. I've even made these into burgers before (grilling them and with kaiser rolls). The result was great. Maybe at my next neighborhood block party, I'll bring these as burgers; or, maybe I'll just save them for me! Serve with salt and vinegar chips and a cold beer. There won't be any leftovers! Believe me, this picture doesn't do it justice.


Pork Meatball Banh Mi

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Hot Chili Mayo:
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce or chili garlic sauce (e.g., sriracha)

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce or chili garlic sauce (e.g., sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Sandwiches:
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4, 10-inch individual baguettes or 4, 10-inch pieces french baguette (cut from 2 baguettes), or Vietnamese Baguettes
Thinly sliced cucumber
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
Thinly sliced jalapeno (optional, depends how hot you like it)

Directions:

For the Hot Chili Mayo:
Stir all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Cover and chill.  Can be made a day before.

For the Meatballs:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap.  Gently mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Roll the meatballs into 1 inch balls and arrange on the baking sheet.  Cover and chill.  Can be made a day before.

For the Sandwiches:
Toss the carrots, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Allow to sit for 1 hour or so, tossing occasionally.

Using a large, wide skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs.  (If they don't fit, you may have to do 2 batches and keep warm in the oven.)  Saute until brown and cooked through, turning often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Cut each baguette horizontally in half, but not all the way through one edge.  Pull out enough bread from each half to leave a 1/2 inch thick shell.  Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell.  Arrange cucumbers on bottom half.  Arrange jalapenos on top half (if using).  Sprinkle evenly with the cilantro.  Fill each with 1/4 of the meatballs.  Drain the carrots and sprinkle over the meatballs.  Squash the sandwich down a little and enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations "El Bulli"

Don't miss this!  DVR it!  El Bulli was a Michelin 3-star restaurant located near Roses, Catalonia, Spain.  This is the last look at the history and magic of El Bulli.  Truly inspiring!


Chef Ferran AdriĆ 


For a taste of Spain, try my fabulous rendition of Braised Paprika Chicken. 

Braised Paprika Chicken

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6-8 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large or 2 small russet potatoes, small dice
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup sherry (not cooking sherry, the real stuff)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh italian parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Combine the salt, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl.  Pat the chicken dry and rub all over with the mixture.  Heat the oil over medium heat in a 3-4 quart dutch oven or saucepan.  When the oil looks shimmery, add the chicken (skin side down first) and cook until well browned.  Turn the chicken and brown that side.  Approximately 3 minutes a side.  Transfer chicken to a plate and drain off all but about 1 tablespoon drippings.

Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add the onions.  Season the onions with salt and pepper and cook until soft and golden.  Throw in the garlic for one minute.  Now, add the potatoes and broth.  Use a wooden spoon to deglaze (scrape all the sticky stuff off the pan into the broth/potato mix).  Add the chicken thighs and sherry.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and cover.  Cook until the chicken is done, about 20-30 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes or so.  Taste to see if it needs salt and pepper.  It usually does not need any additional salt.  Add the chicken back to the pan to coat in the sauce.

To plate:

In a wide shallow bowl, place 1-2 chicken thighs.  Ladle some of the potatoes, onions, and sauce over the chicken.  Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.  Serve with a crusty baguette to mop up the juices.

For a picture, click here.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pack your bags, Avocado, we're going to Italy!

Believe it or not, I've already received a request for a summer pasta recipe!  This person also loves avocados.  So what do you do?  You give your avocado a one-way ticket to Italy!  This recipe is unusual, delicious, and so darn pretty.  It has slightly roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic, fresh basil, ripe avocado, and even bacon!  What's not to love?  Serve this with a green salad and a crusty baguette.  Ti amo avocado!




Fettuccine with Cherry Tomatoes, Avocado and Bacon
Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/3 cup olive oil
12 oz cherry tomatoes
6 oz good quality bacon
12 oz fresh fettuccine (most stores carry fresh pasta)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
1 large ripe avocado
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional:

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like a little heat, you can add it to the tomatoes and garlic before baking)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°.  Toss the garlic and cherry tomatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the garlic.  Return the tomatoes to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until soft.


Chop the bacon into bite size pieces and fry it in a sautepan until until crisp and golden.  Drain on paper towels and reserve. 
Remove the skins from the garlic and smash it with the side of your knife and chop lightly.  Place the garlic in a screw-top jar with the vinegar, chopped basil and remaining olive oil.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Shake well.
Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Don't overcook it!  While the pasta cooks, dice the avocado.  When the pasta is done, drain well and place in a large bowl.  Add the tomatoes (and juices), the bacon, the avocado, and the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Garnish with basil leaves and admire.  Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Loco for Coconut Ice Cream

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things was going to our local Baskin Robbins with my brother and sister. Two things were for sure: I would order coconut ice cream, and, my brother's would end up on the ground... Those days are gone, and sadly, I can't find coconut ice cream anymore. However, this recipe from Bruce Weinstein's The Ultimate Ice Cream Book is so rich, so creamy, and absolutely delicious. Try it, and you'll go loco, too!




Coconut Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light brown.  This should only take 3-5 minutes.  Be careful not to let it burn.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the cornstarch and salt.  Set aside.

Combine the half-and-half with the coconut milk in a heavy medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and slowly beat the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar.  I use ladle fulls.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  If this happens, you can't fix it...throw it out and start again.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the toasted coconut, cream, and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours. 

Click here to check out an awesome ice cream scoop!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You say poblano, I say Green Chile Cheeseburger!

A few years ago, I was absolutely convinced that I would win the HGTV Dream Home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I loved that place. I was so convinced, that after hearing someone talk on Splendid Table on NPR about the New Mexican staple, the Green Chile Cheeseburger, I spent quite a while trying to figure out a recipe. This is what I came up with. A wonderfully juicy, spicy, cheesy version of the original! Although I didn't win my dream home in the mountains, I won't stop making this delicious burger!


Green Chile Cheeseburgers 


Makes 4 burgers:


Ingredients:

4 "Hatch" green chiles (if available) or 2 large poblano peppers
1 smallish yellow or red onion, thickly sliced but do not separate into rings
garlic powder
1 pound ground chuck
Kraft cheese slices (I'm normally a stickler about processed food, but here it just works!)
lettuce
1 tomato
mayo
ketchup, optional (a real "no-no" in New Mexico!)
onion sandwich rolls
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Directions:

First you need to roast the poblano peppers. Click here to find out how. Next, drizzle the onion slices with olive oil, salt, and pepper on each side. Grill (I use a grill pan) the slices until soft and no longer opaque.  Now chop up the peppers and onions into the same size pieces. (I do it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch size.) Mix them together and plop back into a bowl. Heat up a saute pan and cook the poblano/onion mixture for a few minutes. Throw in a good dash of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and stir. This step is important. If you don't heat the mixture up the flavor is just not there. When done, drop into the same bowl and cover until ready to make burgers.

Divide the meat into 4 balls. Flatten with the back of a plate. Make them bigger than the rolls so they will fit after cooking, as they will shrink. Season liberally with salt and pepper on each side.

On a grill (but I have cooked them in a skillet) cook the burgers. I do about 5 minutes the first side. After flipping the first time, top each burger with as much poblano/onion mix that will stay on top. Continue to cook about 3 to 5 minutes on the second side. Now, a couple of minutes before done, I top each burger with 2 slices of Kraft cheese slices (don't judge me). Once the burgers look good and the cheese has melted smooth, remove.

Cover each side of the buns with some mayo. Put burgers on the buns. I top with some lettuce and a slice of tomato. I don't put the ketchup on the buns, just on the side to dip the burger in bite by bite. If you put it on the burger, the green chili flavor gets lost.

I think these are best served with roasted potato wedges (seasoned with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper) and a nice cold Shiner Bock from my childhood state of Texas. Prosit!

Monday, August 1, 2011

What I want to eat when it's freakin hot outside!

Today, it's 97°, with a heat index of 106°!!!! Ick!  I'm so sick of the heat and the dreaded question of "What's for dinner?"  At times like this, I immediately think of the ultimate, quick, hot weather food from Rick Bayless's Mexico One Plate at a Time. Black bean-chicken tostadas with salsa and tangy romaine makes a perfect dinner that no one in my family will turn down. My version, simplifies things by buying packaged tostada shells, a rotisserie chicken, using my favorite salsa, and a couple more tweaks. In fact, this is so fast, that I pull this out when I'm in a pinch for time.


Black Bean-Chicken Tostadas with Salsa and Tangy Romaine

One package tostada shells (I like Charros brand)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1, 15oz can black beans or frijoles negros, drained
Kosher salt
2 cups shredded chicken (use a store bought rotisserie)
3/4 cup mexican crema or sour cream (I can find crema at my local mexican market. It's awesome and worth looking for!)
1 cup or so of your favorite salsa (I like a tomato/jalapeno type for this recipe)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, cotija, or even shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups loosely packed, thinly sliced romaine
chopped tomatoes and cilantro for garnish

For the beans:
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, add the onion and cook until golden, approximately 7 minutes.  Add the garlic until you can smell it (about a minute, no more).   Then add the beans.  Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they are soft and creamy.  Add a little water, if necessary.  Don't worry about lumps.  It should be lumpy but still smooth.

For the tangy romaine:
Toss the romaine with the vinegar and olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon salt.

To serve family style (or you can plate to make it more special):
Put out the tostada shells, bowl of shredded chicken, bowl of beans, the tangy romaine, crema, salsa, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, and cheese. 

To assemble:
Take a tostada shell and spread the bottom with the delicious black beans.  Top with some chicken, romaine, salsa, crema or sour cream, and cheese.  Garnish with the tomatoes and cilantro.  Enjoy and don't forget to tell your kids to lean over their plate!!!