Saturday, July 04, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens: Cantonese Baby Back Ribs

What do you make when you're too lazy or too hot to get the grill going, but you still want something grill-ish or barbecue-ish?  You make ribs.  In your oven.  They're tender and juicy.  And if you baste the right way, they have that caramelized bark that everyone loves.  And you're not covered in mosquito bites by the time you're through.

Cantonese Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 pounds baby back ribs
Cantonese Sauce (or bottled barbecue sauce, if you prefer)
Finely grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the ribs, meaty side down, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven; drain the excess fat from the ribs. Turn the ribs meaty side up. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F; continue roasting for 1 hour. Pour sauce over ribs; roast 30 minutes longer or until tender, basting ribs occasionally with the sauce. Sprinkle with orange zest before serving.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Cantonese Sauce
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lightly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients; blend well.  Cook over medium heat until mixture reduces slightly.  Set aside.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Two Potato Salads: Mom's Potato Salad and Loaded Baked Potato Salad

It's the fourth of July.  Also known unofficially as The-Day-You-Must-Grill-Or-You-Are-Un-American.  And if you're grilling, you need some fabulous sides.  Why should the burgers or ribs get all the glory?  It's time to go big or go home.  Luckily I know of two fabulous potato salads that would be beautiful next to your grilled glory. One even got me a marriage proposal.  True story.

Mom's Potato Salad
Loosely adapted from the 1963 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook

6 medium russet potatoes
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped pickles
¼ cup chopped yellow onion
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon celery seed

Boil potatoes in their jackets and eggs until the potatoes are soft but firm. Let potatoes and eggs cool; peel and set aside eggs to chill. Peel and cube potatoes. Throw potato cubes in a large bowl. Whisk together oil and vinegar and toss with the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate the potatoes until chilled.

Chop eggs roughly. Add the celery, pickles, onion, and eggs to the potato mixture. Separately, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and celery seed. Add the dressing to the potato mixture and toss lightly. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate before serving.

For a Spring potato salad, substitute 8 medium red potatoes for the russet potatoes, ¼ cup chopped green onion for the white onion, and Dijon mustard for the yellow mustard.

Makes 8 servings

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

6 medium russet potatoes
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
8 to 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
8 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt

Boil potatoes in their jackets until the potatoes are soft but firm. Let potatoes cool; peel and cube potatoes. Throw potato cubes in a large bowl and refrigerate.

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream.  Toss sour cream mixture and remaining ingredients with chilled potato cubes.  Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 8 servings

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Perfect Scoop: Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato

Whenever the temperature goes up, up, up, I start thinking about something that will bring it down, down, down.  Mainly ice cream.  Ice cream/gelato is the perfect frozen treat when the sun is beating down and the thermometer is telling you things you really don't want to hear.  Not sure anything is better than sitting on your porch in the summer, eating some homemade ice cream.  Okay, maybe a margarita.

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1½ cups hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
5 large egg yolks
⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Frangelico liquor

Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor or blender.

Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Put the bittersweet chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts. Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and Frangelico and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes 8 servings

Toasting Nuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in an even layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the nuts in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring them once or twice while baking so they toast evenly. To see if they're done, snap one in half: it should be lightly golden brown throughout. Let the nuts cool completely before using unless the recipe indicates otherwise.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Food and Style: Romano Beans with Shallots and Chives

My latest find at Central Market are those flat green beans called Romano beans.  So of course I needed to find a super delicious recipe.  I didn't want the same old green-beans-and-tomatoes.  Been there, done that.  So I figured shallots and chives were the way to go.  And bacon.  Always bacon.  And they were perfect.

Romano Beans with Shallots and Chives
Adapted from Food and Style

1¼ pounds Romano beans or green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal in 2-inch pieces
3 slices Applewood smoked bacon, cut into lardons
3 shallots, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch fresh chives, cut in ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the beans. Blanch the beans for 4 minutes until tender but still a little crunchy (if using green beans, blanch for 3 minutes only). Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water bath until cool. Drain on clean kitchen towel. Pat dry and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Cook’s note: The beans can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours ahead. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy.  If there is more than 2 tablespoons of bacon fat rendered, pour off excess.  Add shallots. Sauté for 2 minutes until the shallots have softened and begin to turn pale-golden. Add the beans, toss well, and sauté for 1 minute until the beans are warmed through. Add the butter, chives, salt and pepper and toss well until the butter has completely melted. Remove from heat. Transfer to a platter or large bowl and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Roasted Potato and Ramp Salad

I can't believe I was able to find ramps in the local grocery.  I honestly never thought I would see them again.  True, they were just the bulb end, with none of the glorious greenness at the top, but I'll take it.  And I cooked them up with some bacon, because, well, bacon.  And then I tossed them in a dill potato salad.  And all was right with the world.

Warm Potato Salad with Ramps

2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1- to 1½-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 slices Applewood smoked bacon, cut into lardons
¼ pound ramp bulbs, cleaned and thinly sliced
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
2 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and spread out on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast potatoes for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until tender when pricked with a fork, but not mushy.

While potatoes are cooking, warm a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. Add the ramps. Cook for about 5 more minutes, or until the ramps are tender. Combine the vinegar, honey, and mustard, and pour the mixture over the ramps and bacon. Cook for about a minute, then remove from the heat.

Dump the potatoes into a large bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Sprinkle with the dill and green onions. Mix well. Season with additional salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to allow the potatoes to absorb some of the sauce. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings

Note:  If you are able to get the ramps with the greens attached, slice them and add them at the same time as the bulbs.  You can then omit the green onions.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chicken Fried Morel Mushrooms

I was lucky enough to score some fresh morel mushrooms at the store, but then I was stumped.  Exactly what was I going to do with these little delicacies?  Nothing seemed good enough.  I mean, these things are about $60 a pound.  So I ended up just being very southern and frying them like chicken.  And they were fabulous.  I love it when these things just work out.

Chicken Fried Morel Mushrooms

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon roasted garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ pound fresh morel mushrooms
Olive oil
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Combine flour and all seasonings except fleur de sel.  Set aside.

Place morels in warm salt water to soak (this cleans them and removes any bugs and dirt). Slice off the bottom of the stem and cut morels in half lengthwise.

While still wet, toss mushrooms with the flour mixture. Shake off excess and drop into a frying pan with a thin layer of olive oil, over medium heat.  Cook on first side until browned, about 3 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for about 1 minute more. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired, while still hot.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Watergate Salad

There is an odd proliferation of this salad on the internet.  Especially for a 70's relic.  Not sure why that would be.  As Americans, do we have an affinity for strange green fluff?  I'm also still trying to figure out why you would put pecans in a PISTACHIO salad, but I have a feeling that mystery will remain one.  And just to note, this is as much a "salad" as a bowl of ice cream.  But oddly, I kinda like it.  I can see the charms of a quivering green mass on a hot day.  Especially if I was 10 years old.  Or 30-something going on 10.

Watergate Salad

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, NOT drained
1 (3.4-ounce) package pistachio flavored instant pudding mix
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 cups freshly whipped cream or whipped topping

Mix together the pineapple, including the juice, and pudding mix until it starts to thicken.  Add in the pecans and marshmallows and stir well.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 8 servings

Monday, June 08, 2015

Nutty Granola

I'm that weird kid that didn't particularly like cereal.  Yes, there were kids like that.  I did not grab a bowl and settle down to watch Saturday morning cartoons.  If it was cereal or nothing, I chose nothing.  Finally my eyes were somewhat opened on a trip to Maine.  At the bed and breakfast at which we were staying. the lady made her own granola.  And it was pretty darn good.  And since granola is incredibly adaptable, this is my version.  No cinnamon since I'm not a huge fan.  Lots of nuts because I like the crunch.  Feel free to sub out wheat flakes if you're gluten intolerant.  Use pecans instead of almonds if that floats your boat.  This is the ultimate DIY cereal.

Nutty Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup rolled barley flakes
½ cup rolled wheat flakes
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup salted cashew halves and pieces
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup clover honey
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup dried cranberries, blueberries, or cherries

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a large open roasting pan, combine the oats, cereals, and brown sugar, breaking up the brown sugar as you mix. Mix in the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, and shredded coconut.

In a small saucepan, mix the oil, honey, and maple syrup. Heat until it begins to bubble. Add the vanilla extract and nutmeg and pour the mixture over the granola in the roasting pan and stir very well, making sure the honey mixture has been evenly distributed.

Bake the granola for 30 minutes, stirring well every ten minutes. Remove the granola mixture from the oven and let stand, stirring frequently until completely cool.  Add the dried cranberries and enjoy.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Saveur: Currywurst

How have I been eating German food for this long and NOT have discovered currywurst?  No, really.  I didn't take it seriously, but this is...amazing.  I completely understand how the whole city of Berlin could be smitten.  It's like spicy ketchup with all these amazing things going on in the background.  I can only imagine how awesome this must be with a good beer.  You need this for your cookout.  NEED IT.  Feel free to serve it with fries or a good roll if you want to be super traditional.

Adapted from Saveur magazine website

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon hot paprika
1 (14½-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 bratwurst, cooked

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add curry powder and paprika; cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, with their juice, sugar, and vinegar; stir to combine. Season, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 25 minutes). Purée sauce in a blender until smooth. Serve hot over sliced sausage.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grandma's Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole

I love my paternal grandmother.  Love her.  But to be perfectly honest, from what I remember she wasn't much of a cook.  For Thanksgiving we got Publix pumpkin pies.  A dinner at her house generally involved just putting a steak on the grill.  Cooking did not happen.  So imagine my surprise when my mother told me that when my grandmother was young, she would give lavish dinner parties.  She even had some recipes printed as part of a feature in the local paper.  Shock is not a strong enough word for my reaction.  And imagine my reaction when I actually try one of these recipes, and it's good.  Not sure what alternate universe this all came from, but I'm certainly happy it did.

Grandma's Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 small eggplant (about 1 pound), several strips peeled from the skin and flesh cubed
½ cup chopped yellow onion
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, cored and chopped
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stem removed, and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), thinly sliced
4 ripe tomatoes (about 1¼ pounds), chopped
8 ounces Emmentaler cheese, shredded
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan, heat the broth to boiling, then add 1 teaspoon salt, and the thyme, basil, and rice. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed.

In a large sauté pan, melt three tablespoons of the butter. Sauté the celery, eggplant, onions, garlic, and green pepper until tender.  Set aside in a large bowl.  In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and sauté the mushrooms until they release their juices and the liquid cooks off. Add the mushrooms to the vegetables in the bowl.  Mix the rice with the sautéed vegetables in the bowl.  Add the remaining salt and some pepper and mix well.

Grease a large casserole dish. Scoop half of the vegetable-rice mixture into the bottom of the dish and smooth slightly. Sprinkle with half of the chopped tomatoes and half of the sliced zucchini.  Top with half of the Emmentaler and Monterey Jack cheeses. Scoop the remainder of the vegetable-rice mixture on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining tomatoes and zucchini slices.  Top with the remaining cheeses.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil and bake for another ½ hour so that the cheese browns.

Makes 10 servings