Thursday, May 05, 2016

Jalapeño Margarita

What do you do when it's Cinco de Mayo, and you don't get off work until 7pm?  You rush home and make yourself a big 'ol margarita and drink it on your porch as the sun goes down, that's what.  Because let's be honest.  Any margarita made in the comfort of your own kitchen is going to be better than whatever dribbles out of the machine at your local Tex-Mex restaurant.  Warning: this puppy is strong.

Jalapeño Margarita

2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 ounces good tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
½ ounce jalapeño liqueur (or more, to taste)

Combine all ingredients and pour over ice into a margarita glass.  Drink and enjoy.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Guess what I found at the grocery store this weekend??  Squash blossoms!  I've wanted to play with these for the longest time, but it seems like I always miss the season.  Not this year!  And after playing around online looking up every squash blossom recipe known to man, I decided to just throw a bunch of yummy stuff together and see what happened.  What resulted was good, pretty tasty, but I just felt like the blossoms got lost.  The filling was good, and the batter was crispy, but it seemed a waste of such a fragile tidbit.  I think I may become a fan of raw stuffed squash blossoms.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

8 ounces whole milk ricotta
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg yolk
Grated rind of ½ lemon
2 cloves black garlic, mashed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 squash blossoms, rinsed and stamen removed
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 cup club soda
Canola oil, for frying
Pesto or tomato sauce, for serving

Combine ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolk, lemon rind, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Spoon into a quart-size Ziploc bag, and cut a corner off of the bag.  Squeeze the filling down towards the cut corner and pipe the filling down into each blossom, leaving about an inch of petals exposed at the top.  Twist the exposed petals to close the blossoms.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, salt, and paprika.  Whisk in the club soda until a smooth batter forms.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with about an inch of oil in the bottom.  When oil is hot, dip each stuffed blossom down into the batter until completed covered, then lightly tap off excess.  Lay in the hot oil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until light brown.  When the first side of the blossom has browned, flip it over to finish cooking on the other side, another 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the browned blossoms from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Serve with pesto or tomato sauce.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bon Appétit: Tapioca Pearl Pudding

I think the only time I've ever tried tapioca pudding is one time at a Chinese buffet.  I'm not sure why we never ate it when I was a child, although I seem to remember my mother making yuck faces when my dad would order it out.  I think I just assumed it was some weird thing my dad ate and left it at that.  But then I saw a pretty picture of it in a magazine, and I started wondering exactly why I hadn't experimented with this sugary delight.  I managed to find a pack of tapioca pearls at the grocery store, so I whipped up a batch.  Guess what?  Nothing weird.  It tastes just like rice pudding.  Almost the same consistency, too.  Not sure what the all the yuck faces were for.  This is going in the rotation.

Tapioca Pearl Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, February 2015

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup small pearl tapioca (not instant or quick-cooking)
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Freshly grated nutmeg (for serving)

Whisk milk, cream, milk powder, and salt in a medium saucepan; add tapioca and let sit 30 minutes to hydrate.

Add sugar to tapioca mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the consistency of a thick soup, 10 to 12 minutes. Whisk in egg yolk and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes (it will thicken slightly). Let cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Divide among small glasses. Chill pudding until cold (it will thicken), at least 2 hours.  Serve topped with nutmeg.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Country Living: Hot Cross Buns

I've never made hot cross buns, but it's never too late to remedy that, right?  I even did my research.  Versions of this bun have been around since at least Queen Elizabeth I's time, and possibly dating back to before Christianity.  That's pretty impressive.  The ones they make in the UK and Australia normally have a cross of flour and oil piped on the top before it's baked, but here in the US, we like our buns with actual frosting on top.  It's like a delicious little raisin bread bun, and my nephew snapped his up and cried for more, so I guess these pass muster.  Definitely try them toasted and buttered the next day.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Country Living, June 2007

1 cup half-and-half, warmed to between 105°F and 115°F
1 (¼-ounce) package dry active yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon barley malt syrup (or granulated sugar)
3 cups bread flour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup currants (or raisins)
2 tablespoons candied lemon peel
2 tablespoons candied orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground star anise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk

⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Make the dough:
Coat a large bowl with oil and set aside. Combine the half-and-half, yeast, and barley malt syrup in a small bowl and let stand until bubbly. Combine the flours, sugar, currants, candied peels, salt, and spices in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large mixing bowl) and mix on low speed. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla bean paste, and the yeast mixture, and continue to mix until a sticky dough forms, about 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, about 5 minutes. (If dough has been combined by hand, increase kneading time to 10 minutes.) Form the dough into a ball, place it in the prepared bowl, and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume -- about 1 hour.

Shape the buns:
Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead for 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces, about 4 ounces each. Shape each piece into a ball and place the balls about 1 inch apart in three rows of four on the prepared pan. Cover and let rise until the buns double in volume and touch one another, about 1¼ hours.

Bake the buns:
Preheat oven to 500°F. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the mixture on the top of each bun. Place buns in the lower third of the oven and reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

Ice the buns:
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, remaining milk, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. When buns have cooled slightly, drizzle a horizontal line across each row of buns followed by a vertical line to form a cross on the crown of each bun.

Makes 12 buns

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Twisted Noodle: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms

Since I love-love-love Brussels sprouts, I'm always looking for a new way to cook them up and convert others to join the Brussels Sprouts Fan Club.  I've noticed that using bacon always helps, as most people would even eat cardboard as long as it was smeared with bacon grease.  But another personal favorite, mushrooms, also joins the party here, so I personally think this is pretty much the pinnacle of veggie side dishes.  Wait, what am I saying?  Side dish?  I ate this bad boy as my main dish, and it was delicious.

Note: I used cremini, oyster, and brown clamshell mushrooms, but go for anything that looks good at your store.  You can even use plain 'ol white mushrooms if you don't want to drop the extra cash for wild.  I used a 10 year old balsamic vinegar.  Try to use something halfway decent since you're pouring it all over your veggie.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms
Adapted from Twisted Noodle blog

¼ pound applewood smoked bacon, cut into batons
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced or separated
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Brown bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and let cook for about 60 seconds.  Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, and when melted, add the mushrooms.  Increase heat to medium high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add Brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until Brussels sprouts are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add remaining butter with the Brussels sprouts if the pan is too dry.

Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook another 2 to 4 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Remove from heat, and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bon Appétit: Colcannon

Normally I'm more excited about St. Patrick's Day, but for some reason I can't muster much energy for cooking lately.  I just want to eat out of to-go containers and skip the big mess in the kitchen.  But I've been eyeing this recipe for colcannon, and it's the perfect time of year to give it a whirl, so I really can't justify going for some more reheated Tex-Mex.  These potatoes are creamy and delicious, and it certainly doesn't hurt that there's a great leek-garlic thing going on in the background.

Note:  I found that dumping the potatoes into the milk/cream gives you ZERO leverage for adjusting the liquidity of the recipe, so I say that you should add the milk to the potatoes a little at a time, not the other way around.  Because once you add the milk, you can't un-add it.

From Bon Appétit magazine, March 2016

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
Sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups (packed) shredded savoy cabbage (from about ¼ large head), divided
1¼ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Cover potatoes with water in a small pot; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until a paring knife slides easily through the flesh, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly, and peel.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and leeks are just beginning to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes longer. Add 1 cup cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add milk and cream and bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes and remaining 1 cup cabbage, then coarsely mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer colcannon to a large serving bowl. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with scallion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Mar-a-Lago Club: Key Lime Pie

My sister is currently 8+ months pregnant, and it is nearing her birthday.  We asked what she wanted for her birthday meal, and she told us Alaskan king crab legs, deviled eggs, chocolate fudge, and key lime pie.  If that's not a stereotypical pregnant woman meal, I'm not sure what is.  I think all we're missing is some pickles.  But I made sure to fulfill her wishes (everyone gets what they want on their birthday), and I used this fabulous pie recipe to do it.

Note:  You really should take the advice and freeze the pie briefly before cutting.  It's really too creamy to get a good slice otherwise, and it has a tendency to try and collapse as you're pulling it out of the pie plate.  Lesson learned.

Key Lime Pie
From Chef Jeff O'Neill at Mar-a-Lago Club, Palm Beach, FL

¾ pound graham crackers
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 Persian lime
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
⅔ cup fresh key lime juice (from about 2 pounds key limes)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Break up the graham crackers, place them in a food processor, and process into crumbs.  Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, forming an even layer on the bottom, sides, and edge.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool.

While the crust is resting, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, 5 or 6 minutes.  Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer.  Lower the mixing speed and slowly add the key lime juice until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set.  Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until nearly stiff.  Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the pie, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, March 04, 2016

Creole Contessa: Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice

It's a great time of year for citrus.  Every time I go to the grocery store lately, there are these big heaps of yellow and orange fruits.  Shiny nubbly skins just waiting to be peeled.  So of course I want to buy these beautiful ripe citrus, parading saucily before me.  But then you actually have to do something with them.  So I decided I would do a dinner with lemon.  Lemon juice in the rice, lemon slices on the fish, and lemon pepper seasoning all around.  It was fantastic and refreshing and just the right dinner for the beginning of spring.

Note:  The rice mixture is really more a result of digging up the odds and ends of the rice in my pantry than any sort of actual planning or intent.  However, the arborio added a really nice creaminess and the basmati stayed a little more firm, so the texture overall was the best of both worlds.

Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice
Adapted from Creole Contessa blog

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dried parsley
½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup basmati rice
¼ cup arborio rice
Sea salt

1 pound salmon fillets
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish Magic seasoning or other Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon, sliced

For rice: In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth, butter, parsley, lemon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice to a boil.  Add the two rices and stir well.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and leave the pot covered for another 5 to 10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the remaining liquid.  Season with salt to taste.

For fish: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and lay the salmon fillets on the pan.  Sprinkle evenly with the lemon pepper, blackening seasoning, and garlic powder.  Cut butter into ¼-inch pats, and lay them evenly over the fish fillets.  Place the lemon slices evenly over the butter.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fish is desired doneness and flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with the lemon rice.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Salt and Wind: Spiced Persimmon Pudding

So, apparently I have too much food in my freezer.  So sayeth my mother.  I thought that was actually a good thing, having food saved up, ready for when you need it.  But then again, she does have a point.  I have a habit of squirreling away food that looks interesting, and I fully intend on cooking it...someday.  So I'm attempting to clean out the full freezer (to of course make room for new interesting things).  And one of the first things I laid my eyes on was my final package of persimmon puree from back in the fall when I went wild persimmon picking.  And I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.  A soft-ish cake, full of delicious spices, best served with whipped cream.

Spiced Persimmon Pudding
From Salt and Wind blog

2 cups pureed persimmon pulp, from 6 to 7 very ripe Hachiya persimmons
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon packed orange zest
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and briefly cooled, plus more for coating the baking dish
¼ cup Calvados brandy
Ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt, for garnish (optional)
Roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange zest in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Combine the persimmon pulp, half-and-half, brown sugar, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Add the melted butter and brandy and whisk until just incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture in four parts, letting the flour incorporate before adding the next part and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary until the flour is totally incorporated.

Turn the batter into the prepared dish and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted hazelnuts and ice cream, yogurt, or whipped cream.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

Lately I have been having the absolutely worst cravings for seafood.  Apparently that means I might be deficient in fatty acids or protein.  Or I just want some seafood.  And it certainly didn't help that I started coming across pictures of tuna poke ("poh-kay") from Hawaii, which is becoming the "it" food of 2016 according to the internet.  And we know the internet is never wrong.  So here you are, the most up-to-date food trend.  Because I've always wanted to be trendy.  Okay, not really, but it fulfills my seafood craving and makes my tummy happy, and that's all that really matters.

Note: My furikake was ebi fumi (shrimp-flavored), but you can use whatever flavor makes you happy.  And honestly?  This is kind-of like making tuna salad.  Just add whatever you want in whatever amounts taste good to you.  The basic poke is ahi tuna-onion-soy sauce-sesame oil-candlenuts.  Explore from there.  Also feel free to explore sashimi-grade salmon instead of tuna.

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

1 pound sashimi-grade ahi tuna, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons chopped green onions
4 tablespoons furikake
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon minced roasted garlic
¼ teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
¼ teaspoon Hawaiian pink sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise (optional)
½ Hass avocado, cut into ½-inch cubes (optional)
Chopped candlenuts or macadamia nuts, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except avocado and nuts.  Refrigerate, covered, for two hours to let the flavors meld.  Mix in avocado and sprinkle with nuts before serving.

Makes 2 meal portions or 4 appetizer portions