Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Should Be Fishing For Blue Marlin

Having never tried blue marlin, and getting Alan Jackson stuck in my head every time I see it, I decided it was high time to try it, especially with the lack of mahi-mahi in the fish department. Man-o-live, is that fish good!!! I knew it had a similar mellow flavor, but with a touch less firmness than mahi-mahi. What I didn't know was that it would blow me away! And it was half the price of the gorgeous red snapper they had in, as well as being much less expensive than the grouper. The whole dinner tonight was easy, easy and with minimal dishes or mess.

Marlin with Butter & Lime
1/4 c. flour
4 marlin loin steaks/mahimahi fillets, about 1" thick
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Salt & pepper the fish & lightly dredge in flour. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in an ovenproof skillet (I used my trusty cast iron baby) over medium-high heat. Add fish and cook until very pale golden brown on one side, 2-3 minutes. Turn over, place skillet in oven and roast until butter is golden and fish is just cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Remove fish from pan and keep warm. Add lime juice and 1 tbsp. butter in same skillet. Heat through, scraping up all the little bits in the pan. Add salt & pepper to taste, then serve over fish. Serves 4. This is my adaptation of a recipe in the fabulous Gourmet Cookbook.

Our first course was Paula Deen's artichoke soup, which I served in beautiful little flowered porcelain cups. Here's how:
Cream of Artichoke Soup
2 (14 oz.) cans artichoke hearts, chopped
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 stick butter
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. heavy cream
Salt & pepper

Bring the artichokes & stock to a boil. Sauté onion in butter & add to mixture. Gradually add mushroom soup, just to desired thickness. Slowly add the cream, stirring. Heat through, taking care not to boil. Salt & pepper to taste & serve hot. Serves 6.

With our marlin, we had steamed broccoli and Georgia cracker salad, another Paula Deen recipe and unlike anything I've ever had before in my life. Dee-licious!

Georgia Cracker Salad
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1 lg. finely-chopped tomato
3 finely-chopped scallions
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 finely-chopped hard-boiled egg

Mix everything together and serve pronto! Paula says this is especially good with fish dishes. It sure was tonight! Serves 6.

My Beloved says that she is no longer going to cook for me because she can't hold a candle to me. I hope that's not true because she is an excellent cook...I had her wonderful pasta with marinara sauce and Italian sausage last night, with a superb antipasto & romaine salad, and I know for a fact that her candle burns brightly.

I am off to bed with some amaretto slush, to which I was introduced by a friend of ours who used to work for J. She is one of the girliest girls I know & this is certainly a girly-girl drink! Cheers to my Italian Margarita drinking buddy & cheers to you all, too!

Amaretto Slush
46 oz. pineapple juice
3 c. amaretto
18 oz. frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/3 c. lemon juice
3 liters 7-Up

Mix all but 7-Up and freeze for 8 hours, stirring twice during that time. To serve, combine equal parts amaretto mixture and 7-Up.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sundried Under A Full Moon

Now that the kidlets are with their father for the summer, the cuisine changes slightly. We spent the weekend traveling, eating out at places like Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden. Last night, we discovered a little Chinese place nearby with a kitschy old school Chinese restaurant sign. We were delighted to discover that the menu contained even more kitsch, with a funky cocktail menu offering drinks like Singapore Slings, Mai Tais, Zombies and Cocaine Ladies. Woohoo! We settled for hot tea & dinner, pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. The MSG ratio has got to be way high, though, because it tasted just like the Chinese food J ate as a kid in 1960s Erie, PA. We had cha siu & crab rangoon for our appetizers. Then, J had Moo Goo Gai Pan & I had Szechuan green beans with pork. These will be lunch later this week.

Tonight, I was in the kitchen. I made:

Chicken with Sundried Tomato Cream
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sprinkled w/salt & pepper
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 minced cloves garlic
1/4 c. oil-packed sundried tomatoes, patted dry and chopped (or snipped w/kitchen shears)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. thinly-sliced basil

Heat oil and brown the chicken in it. Drain on paper towels, then set aside. Add garlic, tomatoes, pepper flakes to same skillet. Sauté 1 minute. Add wine & bring to a boil, scraping pan to deglaze. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cook through. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm until sauce is ready. Stir cream and 2 tsp. of the basil into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then purée until almost smooth. Serve over chicken, garnished with the rest of the basil. Serves 4. (This recipe is my adaptation of one found in the October 2002 issue of Gourmet)

Parsley Potato Pancakes
1 onion, diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 c. mashed potatoes
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. flour
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 c. minced fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. cayenne (or, if like me you find you are out, a dash of hot sauce works okay, too)

Cook onion in 1 tsp. hot oil until tender. Mix with mashed potatoes, lemon juice, flour and eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients. Put 1 tsp. oil in a skillet & heat. Drop rounded teaspoons of the batter into the skillet & flatten slightly. Cook 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel. Makes about 14. I always have trouble with mashed potato pancakes sticking, but this recipe didn't give me that problem. If you have the same problem, give this a try.

Green Beans with Toasted Pecans and Goat Cheese
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. finely-chopped onion
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. pecans
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. fresh green beans
1 1/2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (or blue cheese, like Maytag...I used what I had on hand)

Whisk mustard, 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, vinegar and onions together to make the dressing. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a skillet. Add pecans, salt and pepper. Sauté 1 minute and drain on paper towels. Chop, when cool. Or, use a 1/2 c. bag of pecan chips & save yourself the work. Blanch the green beans, leaving them in the boiling water 3 minutes. Drain. Plunge into an ice bath very briefly. Drain. Toss with dressing. Add cheese and half of the nuts, tossing to blend. Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with rest of nuts before serving. Serves 2-3. (This is my adaptation of a recipe from the Dayton Junior League Cookbook)

Our favorite component of the meal was the green beans, but it was all good and went well together. Now, off to bed, where we'll drink our nicely chilled smoothies. This recipe is my adaptation of one I found on the Weight Watchers website,

Raspberry-Peach Smoothie
12 oz. fat-free plain yogurt
2 peaches, cut in chunks (or 1 cup frozen peaches)
1 c. raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
A smidge of sugar or honey

Purée everything together in a blender. Chill before serving.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summery Burgers by the Pool

Pie chose cheeseburgers for his Wednesday dinner this week, so we decided to have them by the pool. Boot is not eating beef this week, in the wake of his uncle's death of a heart attack in June, at the age of 58. The men on his dad's side of the family are all very large & don't take care of their health much, so this came as no surprise to me. However, it has been a very sad thing for the kids and attending his funeral and hearing details of the heart attack has given Boot some new thoughts on what he eats. This has not extended to other heart-unfriendly foods like bacon, sausage, and such, but he is thinking about his health. So, I picked up a turkey burger for him. I got Pie a pre-made bacon cheddar burger & blue cheese burgers for us grown folks. I gussied up the blue cheese burgers with a spread made by mixing mayonnaise with chiffonaded fresh basil & minced garlic. We added plum tomato slices to our burgers, too, for a very fresh and summery taste.

I made a light potato salad, as well, which we older people loved.

Spring Potato Salad
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sour cream (I am sure reduced-fat would be fine...we just didn't have it on hand)
2 tbsp. 1% milk (again, skim or whole would be fine)
1/2 tsp. dill
A dash of freshly-ground pepper
3/4 c. frozen peas, partially thawed
2 c. diced new potatoes, cooked
1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, dill, pepper. Add rest of ingredients & stir to combine well. Cover and chill for at least 1/2 hour.

To accompany this, we had salad & mandarin oranges. Then, when we returned to the apartment, we enjoyed the cookies I'd baked before going to the pool. J thinks they're perfect, especially with a little organic milk. They are very delicate and subtle, perfect for afternoon tea or a gentle accompaniment to homemade vanilla ice cream.

Cocoa Lace Cookies

1/4 c. tub margarine ( I suspect that using real butter will affect the results)
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. light Karo syrup (or other brand corn syrup)
1/3 c. flour
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 c. finely-chopped pecans (I used the bagged pecan chips)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with baking spray. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and Karo. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls (I mean bigger!) onto the cookie sheet, no less than 3 inches apart (I really mean this!) and place in oven. Bake 9 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes (no more!) on the cookie sheets. Working very quickly (!) with a spatula, move the cookies gently to wire racks to complete cooling process.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cooking From Gourmet...Plus a Fun Cake and a Funky Good Pizza

After dinner at an Irish-style pub called Claddagh Friday night (okay Irish stew, but mine is better. However, J's steak with blue cheese butter was fab & they make a pretty decent key lime pie martini...reminded me of the vodka gimlets I used to drink) & hot dogs at the pool Saturday, I was ready for some cooking last night. I had planned to make meatloaf, but my Beloved begged me not to, saying she would love to have something like you see in Gourmet.

I had been eyeing this month's produce issue, so it was a perfect opportunity. The cover features a beautiful pasta dish, which turned out to be only part of a whole menu. I picked up the groceries for it & made it. Much of it is grilled, but we did everything in the oven instead. We had angelhair pasta with fresh tomato sauce, broiled salmon (for J & Pie) & tilapia (me & Boot...although he was only willing to have one bite before turning to a turkey sandwich because "I don't believe in fish") with lime butter sauce, green beans (with no arugula because there was none at the nearest grocery & I am just not that committed) and corn with chives and basil. The issue, July 2006, is still on the shelves & the dishes are very good. I urge you to pick it up...or at least pop into the library with a notebook & try the recipes.

I also made a fun cake I saw on Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade show. It was a beach cake, supposed to be made using a pre-made angel food cake. However, in addition to arugula, Giant Eagle had none of those. So, J made one from a mix. We went to the pool while it cooled, then I iced it. I used canned vanilla frosting to cover the whole thing, including the marshmallows I stuffed in the center hole. Then, I made a very comical attempt to use a gallon Ziploc bag & a star pastry tip to make waves on the sides with icing I had tinted blue. After getting dollops of icing all over the floor and my hands, I gave up & spread it on in wave-like swirls with a butter knife. It looked just fine. I topped the cake with gummi octopuses I found at the B.A. Sweetie candy store (what a cool, cool place that is! We bought all kinds of cool candies there, from seafoam to barrel of monkeys candies) & cocktail umbrellas. It looked really cute & the kids were both delighted with it, especially Pie. We were all pretty happy about the taste, too. My Beloved was very, very pleased with her dinner and it was one of the first things she talked about this morning when she awoke. I love making her happy with food.

I was able to do that this afternoon, too. She had a migraine and was ensconced on the couch watching the Van Damme marathon on Spike t.v. through her eyelids. I managed to find her some of the delicious and hard-to-get Jarlsberg spread from Giant Eagle that we both love. I also took her a vanilla latté, brevé, for a little sickie spoiling. Our lunch was mini asparagus quiches from the freezer, along with nibs of Jarlsberg spread with olive oil bread & some cashews for J.

Tonight's dinner, which J was not thrilled I was making & tried to talk me out of and which I now will admit to being very skeptical about myself, turned out to be great, too. It wasn't swanky at all, but was quite yum. We had BLT pizza, salad (romaine, radicchio and endive) and chunks of fresh pineapple. The kids, especially Pie, hated the pizza. J & I liked it quite a bit, though.

BLT Pizza
1 pre-baked pizza crust
1 tbsp. cornmeal
3/4 lb. cooked bacon, crumbled (I am fond of John Morrell when I'm not indulging in Nueske)
2 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
4-5 diced plum tomatoes
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 c. shredded lettuce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease pizza pan (I used cooking spray) & dust with cornmeal. Top crust with cheese and bacon. Bake 8-10 minutes. Let cool. Mix tomatoes with mayonnnaise, salt, pepper. Spread on pizza and top with lettuce.

I know it sounds weird, but trust me. If you like BLTs at all, you will like this pizza, too.