Friday, August 31, 2007

Minimalist Cooking

I had a miserable cooking night last Friday! I somehow did succeed in making 2 complicated dishes beautifully. I made 2 great loaves of Cuban bread from the 3 Guys from Miami recipe found at Not as good as in Miami, but far better than anything I've found north of Tampa. I think the trick really is making it with lard, no substitutions. I've never had success with it before & I've never used lard before. I also made a quartet of gorgeous chocolate espresso soufflés. I can't figure out why those dishes turned out and I couldn't make rice for shit. I can always make good rice, have never screwed it up. J says I was distracted. I burned it the first time because I forgot the second cup of water. The second time, it came out all mushy and gross. The bistec empanizado I tried turned out crappy, too, again my fault.I didn't look carefully at the recipe and bought the steak too thick, so I couldn't pound it to the thinness it requires. We ended up with this very thick, very chewy breaded sirloin. Yuck! Especially disappointing after the fabulously tender filet with béarnaise J made Thursday night. The plantains for the maduros weren't ripe enough so I just scrapped that plan. Thank goodness I got pre-seasoned Cuban-style canned black beans. I make them all the time & have never bought them pre-seasoned, but I spotted them at Trader Joe's & decided to give them a try. They, along with the bread and dessert, were the saving grace of the meal. If I'd tried to season them, I definitely would have gotten it wrong somehow.

The rest of the week, aside from J's pork chops Tuesday, we've just had very simple meals. Tacos Saturday, Marie Callender's pot pies Sunday, Pizza Hut Monday (we always order whatever kind of pizza the kids want on the night before school starts...Pie requested sausage & mushroom pan pizza), chicken sandwiches Wednesday and sloppy joe pizza last night. I have only really cooked twice since Friday. Tuesday, J made fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, peas and pearl onions and applesauce (the Trader Joe's chunky is great). I made some cinnamon monkey bread and we all loved it. Last night, I made sloppy joe pizza. J and Pie both were skeptical since they both abhor sloppy joes. It turned out to be a hit, though. Next time, I will call it hamburger pizza. Geez.

Bistec Empanizado
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt & pepper
1/2 c. sour orange juice (or 1/4 c. each sweet orange juice and lime juice, if you can't get sour oranges where you live...I can't)
1 lb. sirloin or flank steak, cut 1/2" thick (and no thicker or you'll screw it up like I did!)
2 eggs
1 c. dry bread crumbs
2-3 tbsp. oil
4 lime wedges

Mash the garlic into a thick paste with the salt & pepper. Mix with the orange juice. Pound the steak to 1/4" thick and cut into 4 pieces. Marinate in the garlicky orange juice 20 minutes. Blot dry. Beat eggs with salt and place in a flat dish. Dip the steaks in the eggs, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Fry a few minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve with lime wedges. This is truly scrumptious if you have the meat the right thickness. It's not at all hard to do if you are paying attention! LOL.

Chocolate Espresso Soufflés
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. instant espresso powder (if you want to be very Cuban & can get instant Cafe Bustelo, use it instead)
2 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
10 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (2 1/2 oz. chopped, 8 oz. cut into 8 chunks)
2 egg yolks
5 egg whites
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter 8 3 oz. ramekins & dust lightly with the tablespoon of sugar. Chill in fridge on baking sheet. Heat cream on low until it's steaming. Add the coffee, stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat and add all the chopped chocolate, stirring until it melts. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, along with half of the 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the rest of the sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spoon into the ramekins, filling almost to the rims. Put a chunk of chocolate in the center of each. Bake 7-10 minutes. Sift powdered sugar on top and serve immediately.

Cinnamon Monkey Bread
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar (packed, of course)
3 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
2 (12 oz. size) tubes biscuits, cut in quarters

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter with the brown sugar and a tablespoon of the cinnamon. Cook it until it's bubbly. Mix the sugar with the rest of the cinnamon. Roll the biscuits in it & arrange in a greased bundt or tube pan. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the top. Bake 1/2 hour or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. This is at its best warm, so serve it that way. Of course, kids don't care and will happily eat any leftovers stone cold, as they stand at the counter (or over the sink once you harrass them about getting crumbs on the clean counters or floor).

Sloppy Joe Pizza
3/4 lb. burger (I used 90% lean to good effect)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic & onion
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. white vinegar
12" pizza shell
8 oz. cheddar cheese (the recipe called for "taco cheese" but I had cheddar & think it goes better with sloppy joes anyway...I used 2% cheddar but I think the regular kind melts better)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook burger with onion until burger is browned. Add tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Cook & stir until sugar melts. If it is too runny, like mine was, stir a little cornstarch into a smidge of cold water and stir it in to thicken the sauce. Spread on the pizza shell and bake 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hoisin Scallion Pork

I served this with jasmine rice and steamed snow peas...very good, just a little time-consuming. If you have projects around the house, though, it's great because you just throw it in and forget about it aside from an occasional check to see that there is enough liquid.

Hoisin Scallion Pork
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 lb. boneless pork shoulder
3/4 c. hoisin sauce
3 small bunches scallions, white and light green parts only, cut in 1" pieces
1 tsp. peppercorns
1/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides in the oil, starting with the fatty side down. Remove from heat and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with scallions and peppercorns. Cover and bake 2 and a half hours, or until pork is cooked through. If the liquid level gets too low, add water, starting with 1/4 cup. When done, place on a cutting board, tented with foil, and let stand 15 minutes. Add wine and water. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. If it doesn't cooperate, you can mix a couple teaspoons of cornstarch with a little cold water, then stir it into the hot liquid. Slice the pork and serve with sauce. You can use the dark green scallion parts as garnish, if you like. Serves 6.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rainy Afternoon, My Wife Had A Bad Day Meal

One of my wife's ultimate comfort foods is cocoa and toast. The other is mashed potatoes mixed with corn. Tonight, I made Swiss steak, mashed potatoes and corn just so she could mash hers all together.

Swiss Steak
1 lb. beef round steak, cut 3/4" thick
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 tbsp. oil
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 tsp. thyme

Trim the steak and cut it in 4 pieces. Mix the flour, salt and pepper. Pound the flour into the steak. Heat oil in skillet. Brown steak in hot oil. Add tomatoes, onion, celery, carrot and thyme. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half. It's good with noodles, too, but I like mashed potatoes best. You could also do rice.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The High Muckety-Muck of Pimiento Cheese

A few years ago, J and I had out of this world pimiento cheese sandwiches at The Winds. I have been a fan of pimiento cheese ever since I stayed with my godmother for a week in St. Pete the summer I turned 21. She had a tub of Price's in her fridge and packet of Wasa or Ryvita crackers in the cupboard. I was hooked, although up until then, I had eschewed the stuff. I had been terribly afraid of pimientos as a child (talk about your weird childhood fears) and thought it looked nasty and processed once I was grown. The pimiento cheese I made last night for our dinner in bed resembled the pimiento cheese at The Winds much more than it did Price's. I'd never done it homemade before, but wanted to try it, using Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar because The Winds had. J asked me today to make more. It's so easy and tastes so yummy! We had it on flax and fiber bread, with kettle chips and big fat pickles. By the way, did y'all know that people soak pickles in Kool Aid and actually eat them??? Sounds utterly revolting to me! But then, so did pimiento cheese. Anybody ever tried it? I don't think I'm brave enough but Alton Brown's show was the second time in the last 2 weeks I've heard about this odd food twist, so I am curious. Not curious enough, though, to ruin a jar of perfectly good pickles.

Tillamook Pimiento Cheese
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar, grated (You can, of course, use other brands than Tillamook. If you are determined to do that, at least make it good. Perhaps Cabot's?)
7 oz. diced pimientos
2 tbsp. grated Vidalia onion (I imagine something like Walla Walla or Bermuda would also work)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash cayenne
2/3 c. mayo (I like Hellman's best of the storeboughts)

Mash everything together with a fork, to the consistency that pleases you most. I like mine fairly chunky. Let sit in fridge at least 2 hours, if you can bear it. It tastes good before you let it sit, but nothing to what it will taste if you exercise patience.

Coq au Vin Trés Bien

For some reason, coq au vin has always intimidated me. I decided to make it anyway, adapting a Gourmet recipe, and found it easy, if a little time-consuming. The family loved it and so did I. I boiled some gorgeous little fingerling potatoes from the farmer's market and rolled them around in chive butter, also from there. I also steamed some fresh green beans with a few sprigs of thyme.

Coq au Vin
10 oz. pearl onions, peeled if you don't get the jarred kind that are already peeled, as I did)
10 slices bacon, chopped (I might try using some diced pancetta next time)
1 4" piece of celery
6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
8 pieces of chicken (I used 2 breasts and 6 drumsticks)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 c. Burgundy
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 lb. small mushrooms, halved
1/4 c. Cognac
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, softened

Cook bacon in boiling water 4 minutes. Put in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Drain and dry. Cook in skillet until browned but not crisp. Drain on paper towels. Wrap celery, parsley, thyme & bay leaf into a bouquet garni (or, you can just toss it in, but getting it out is more of a pain in the neck). Salt and pepper the chicken. Brown in the hot bacon grease, in 2 batches. Remove to plate. Brown the onions, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Put in a big pot with the bacon, wine and stock. Add the bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Cook the mushrooms in the hot bacon grease until they release their liquid, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cognac and cook until thoroughly absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add to chicken in pot and simmer, covered, until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Set the chicken, bacon and veggies aside on a plate, discarding bouquet garni & keeping chicken warm. Mash the butter and flour into a paste with a fork (beurre manié). Bring the braising liquid to a simmer and whisk in a little beurre manié at a time. Simmer and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve over chicken. Oh, man, is this good!

Make Mine Fried

The other night, I decided to try the Weight Watchers recipe I had for fried catfish to see if it compared favorably with my usual. It did. I tipped the balance way out of favor with the WW program with the accompaniments, however. I made fried okra, fried green tomatoes and spoonbread to go with it. It was all good and I really didn't use much was olive oil, at that. I should say it was all good except for the spoonbread because I don't think very highly of that dish at all. But my darling wife, who was raised on it, whose mother claimed it as one of her specialties, proclaimed it "perfect!" So, if you like that sort of thing, I guess this is a pretty good recipe for it. To make the okra & tomatoes, you just slice them (pretty thick for the okra, real thin for the maters), dip them in egg wash, dredge them in well-seasoned cornmeal and fry golden.

Fried Catfish
1/4 c. cornmeal (some people use white, I'm partial to yellow)
2 tbsp. plain dried breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne (I tend to dash a little more in)
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1 lb. catfish, cut in 4 pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
Lemon wedges, if desired

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg with the water. Dip the catmeal in the egg, then dredge in meal, shaking off the excess. Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Add oil and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Add fish and cook 3 minutes. Flip and cook until opaque and nicely-browned on both sides, another 3-4 minutes. Serve with lemon. Serves 4, 6 Points each.

Spoonbread Like Lucy's
1 1/4 c. light cream (or half & half...I used the fat-free kind)
1/2 c. cornmeal (again, you can use white, but J's mama always used yellow)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
3 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the cream in a deep pan. When hot, slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly. Cook on very low heat, stirring, until very smooth. Do not boil. Add salt and butter and mix well. Remove from heat. Add the yolk of each egg, separately, beating well after each addition. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Slowly and gently fold whites into meal mixture. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Smooth the top. Bake 30 minutes or until golden. Serve hot, slathered with a ton of butter, says my wife. She also says it's good for breakfast with butter, milk and white sugar. I'd rather have Cream of Wheat at breakfast and soft parmesan polenta at dinner. But, that's just me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Holy Cayenne, Batman,These Cookies Are Amazing!

I am a big fan of chocolate and cayenne together. One of my favorite ice creams in the world is from Jeni's in Columbus (, Queen City Cayenne. Lucky for me, she ships her ice cream so I don't have to wait until I'm in Columbus to eat it. Gravel Road, salty caramel with roasted almonds thrown in, is another favorite. But, I digress. I was copying down some recipes I've torn out of magazines over the years and discovered an intriguing recipe for chocolate spice cookies, containing a decent amount of cayenne, cut out of an old copy (Nov. '04) of Real Simple, one of my favorite magazines. Pie and I made them today for baking day at Camp Daria and they are spectacular! My current favorite cookie of all cookies! And I keep everything to make them on hand. Woohoo!!! Pie loves them, too, and he usually hates anything spicy. When he was eating the dough, he said, "Okay, for some reason, the back of my throat is starting to burn a little." But, he kept eating. I can't wait to try them on Boot, who puts hot sauce on everything.

Spicy Chocolate Cookies
1 & 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne (I used 1/4 and highly recommend doing likewise)
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add egg & vanilla and beat until fluffy. Gradually add flour until just incorporated. On wax paper, roll dough into 10" by 1 & 1/2" to 2" cylinder. Wrap tightly and chill at least 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4" slices. Place 1" apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 dozen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2-Cup Casserole

Food snobs, beware! This post is not for you! However, it is for busy moms & comfort food aficionados. Tonight, I made a hamburger casserole I call 2-Cup Casserole (for reasons which will be apparent as soon as you read the recipe), with corn on the cob and garlic basil sautéed zucchini. The whole family, even Boot who asked me today, "Why do we have so many casseroles?" loved this. The boys ate theirs on buns...Casserolewiches, I guess.

2-Cup Casserole
1 lb. 80% lean ground beef
1 tsp. butter
2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped celery
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 can 98% fat-free cream of celery soup
2 c. fine egg noodles, cooked
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the burger in the butter. Sauté onions & celery until tender. Add the rest and put into casserole dish. Bake 1 hour, removing lid for the last few 5 minutes so that it can brown.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

When Unable to Go to the Loveless...

...attempt fried chicken at home. Some of the best homestyle fried chicken I've ever had is at The Loveless Café, right near the Nashville terminus of the Natchez Trace. Not only is the chicken great, but the ham with redeye gravy & the biscuits are superb. Since Nashville is a bit of a fur piece for us these days, I decided to make real fried chicken for the first time in my life. It's one of those foods I've always been intimidated by the idea of cooking, for some reason. It turned out just great, though. The gravy, not so much, but the chicken had a gorgeous golden crust and a fabulously juicy interior. I served it with skin-on mashed potatoes and organic sweet corn.

Real Fried Chicken
8 pieces bone-in chicken (whatever your family likes...I made 3 breasts & 5 drumsticks)
Cold salt water (about 1 tbsp salt)
1 c. flour
1 & 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 &1/2 tsp. salt
A good shake of cayenne
Oil for frying (you'll need enough for about 1 & 1/2 inches of oil in each of 2 12" skillets. To be
honest, I ran out of oil and tossed in lard to make up for the rest. Never said it was

In large bowl, cover chicken with salt water and soak overnight. If you forget to soak it overnight, though, you can do what I did and start soaking it in the morning for cooking around 7. Drain. Mix flour and seasonings in a pie plate. Coat the chicken thoroughly in the flour. Pour about 1 & 1/2 inches oil into each of 2 12" cast iron skillets. If you haven't got cast iron, go get a couple! Seriously, you should have at least one cast iron skillet in your kitchen. But, if you have very good non-stick skillets, they will work, too. Heat on medium-high until very hot. Add chicken (tongs are helpful here), being very careful not to spatter yourself! Make sure the chicken isn't crowded in the pan. Cover and turn heat to medium. Make sure the chicken keeps sizzling. If you can't hear it sizzling, you'll want to turn up the heat a bit. Check after 15 or 20 minutes to see if the chicken has browned. If so, turn it over and continue cooking with the lid on until all of it is nicely browned, probably another 15-20 minutes but perhaps not as long for the breasts. After checking carefully to make sure the chicken is cooked through, drain on paper towels and then serve.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Memphis + Italy = Yum

You'd think that barbecue sauce and spaghetti sauce shouldn't appear in the same dish. My Beloved sure did. But, the pasta dish I made tonight had both and it was good! Served with steamed broccoli and berries Romanoff (the Romanoff sauce being from J's plant), it was a dinner liked by all. Boot didn't even add any hot sauce to his.

BBQ Chicken Pasta
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped red onion
1 minced clove garlic
1 & 1/2 lb. chicken, cubed
1 c. chopped green pepper
2 c. spaghetti sauce (we had some leftover homemade sauce from J's cooking night last week)
2/3 c. BBQ sauce (I am partial to Sweet Baby Ray's)
8 oz. rigatoni, cooked
Plenty of grated Jack cheese

Heat oil on medium-high in skillet. Cook onions & garlic in oil 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and cook through. Add green pepper and cook 4-5 minutes. Add sauces, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes. Toss with pasta and sprinkle each serving with cheese. Serves 4-6.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

It's Got Everything Breakfast Pizza

My youngest child loves breakfast food. He loves breakfast casserole, specifically. This breakfast pizza contained everything he needed to make him happy, even at dinner-time. He exclaimed, "It's got everything!" as he happily munched on his second slice. We had it with honeydew melon purchased from Amish folks at the farmer's market this morning, not as sweet as their sample, but still not bad. I wish, though, it had been as superb as the sample melon!

Sausage Potato Pizza
2 c. Bisquick (the heart healthy kind works fine)
1/2 c. water
1 lb. sausage, cooked
1-1 & 1/2 c. frozen hash browns, thawed (I think the Southern-style, in chunks, gives a nicer consistency than the shredded sort, but it all depends on what you like)
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar
3 large eggs, well beaten
2 tbsp. milk
A few grinds of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix Bisquick & water. Knead 4-5 times and pat into a circle on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with a layer of sausage, then of potatoes, then of cheese. Whisk the milk and pepper into the eggs and pour over cheese. Bake 30 minutes.

It would be really easy to turn this into a Mexican breakfast pizza by using chorizo and pepper jack and adding a little cumin and chile powder to the eggs. Mmm. Throw some salsa on that bad boy and eat up!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Terrific Beer Cheese Soup

Seems kind of weird to make soup in August, but it sounded good...and man, was it! I love the Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster, so I tried to approximate them. These weren't exactly like them, but pretty close. Pretty good, too!

Beer Cheese Soup
1/4 c. onions, finely chopped
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1/2 c. carrots, finely chopped
1 stick butter
32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used fat-free, like that matters with all that butter!)
1 c. Bisquick
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar (I'd like to try this with Tillamook or Cabot extra-sharp, but I just used Kraft 2%)
12 oz. beer (I used some of J's Bud Select)
1 pint half & half (I used fat-free)
Pinch of oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
A dash or three of hot sauce

Sauté the vegetables in the butter, in a large stock pot, until translucent (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add spices and Bisquick, stirring until smooth. Over low heat, slowly add broth, stirring all the time. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat and add beer, cheese and half and half, stirring until cheese melts. This is easier if you add the cheese a little at a time.

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
1 & 1/4 c. Bisquick (I used the heart-smart variety & it was just fine)
1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar (I'd be interested to see what Manchego would be like)
1/3 c. water
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix Bisquick & cheese. Add water and mix ust until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Combine the rest of the ingredients and brush on cooked biscuits. Makes 8. I probably should have made twice as many, judging by how these were received...voraciously! I might use a smidgy bit of cayenne next time.

Anniversary Dinner In

Since we ate out so much over the mid-weeks of July (on which more later), I decided to make steak in for our anniversary. We found some beautiful Delmonicos at a good price and J broiled them. I added a caramelized onion sauce that needed something else. It was too sweet for me on its own, but I think some good blue cheese would have improved the effect. I think, though, that if you like sweet flavors with your meat, you'll love this sauce. I baked some potatoes and did a salad of baby greens with warm goat cheese rounds.

Caramelized Onion Sauce
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, halved and thinly-sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. plus 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. brown sugar (I may omit this next time & see what happens)
Salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in skillet. Cook onions until they are light brown, about half an hour. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the rest and cook 2 minutes. Makes enough for 6 steaks. This recipe is from Susan Branch's wonderful Autumn cookbook, in which she suggests serving this with roasted veggies, which might be considerably better than with steaks. If you have not seen Susan Branch's cookbooks, they are absolutely charming, with delightful illustrations, wonderful little stories and musings and great recipes. They're the sort of cookbook you feel you must own, and buy for all your foodie friends, once you have seen them.

Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese Rounds
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
1/2 c. panko
4 oz. log goat cheese, sliced (I used one with garlic & herbs)
4 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
7 tbsp. olive oil
Mixed baby greens

Whisk egg white with water. Dip cheese slices in egg, then dredge in panko. Stick in freezer 20 minutes or so. whisk vinegar, salt, sugar, Dijon and pepper together. Add 1/4 c. oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Heat the other 3 tbsp. oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook cheese in oil until lightly browned on each side, about 1 minute per side. Toss the greens with the dressing. Divide between 2 salad plates and top with warm cheese. This recipe is my recreation of one I had several years ago, perhaps at The Winds, perhaps not. Can't remember for sure. Maybe in Monterey?

Chicken for Scamps

Okay, so it's chicken scampi. Sort of. This isn't the best dish I've ever made, but J & the boys seemed to like it & it's filling. I would probably use more chicken next time and double the sauce recipe. I served it with olive oil bread, dipping oil and a strawberry spring mix salad with poppyseed dressing that was fab.

Scampish Chicken
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1 tsp. olive oil
1 each red, yellow & green peppers (I subbed orange for yellow), sliced
1 red onion, slivered
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 & 1/4 c. Alfredo sauce
1/2 c. chopped parsley

Cook spaghetti, reserving 2/3 c. cooking water (1 & 1/3 if doubling sauce recipe). Shake chicken and flour together in a large Ziploc bag until chicken is thoroughly coated. Heat 2 tsp. oil in large skillet. Shake excess flour off chicken. Sauté chicken in oil until golden & cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat 1 tsp. oil in same skillet. Sauté peppers, onion and garlic about 3 minutes. Cover and simmer 3 more minutes. Add Alfredo sauce, cover and heat 1-2 minutes. Mix reserved pasta cooking water, sauce, chicken and pasta. Sprinkle with parsley to serve. Feeds 6-8, I think.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
1 bag prewashed baby spinach (I used spring mix because Giant Eagle only had crappy spinach)
1 pint strawberries, halved (quartered if very large)
1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds
1/4 c. oil
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped onion (I would use red next time)
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix spinach, berries and almonds. Put the other ingredients in a blender and mix well. Toss with salad and serve right away. Alternately, you could serve the dressing on the side and the salad would stay fresh longer. Not only that, but if you have picky eaters like I do, they can drench the whole damn thing in ranch on their OWN plates.

The Return of the Boys

I made a boy-friendly welcome home dinner last Friday when the boys returned from their father's for a two-week visit with us: cheeseburgers, tater tots, salad and plum-nectarine cobbler. The boys had their burgers plain, but I smushed up some guacamole for ours and we topped them with that, salsa and crunched up tortilla chips. Pie loved the cobbler so much that it was gone promptly. I had worried that we wouldn't finish it, but when I removed the lid a couple of days later, I found that he had been stealth-snacking on it. It's well worth stealth-snacking, too!

Plum Nectarine Cobbler
3/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. sugar
1 & 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
10 peeled, sliced nectarines (peaches, if they look better)
2 peeled, sliced plums
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 stick cold butter, cut in pieces
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 3/4 c. sugar and 2 tbsp. flour. Add fruit, then lemon juice. Gently stir. Pour into a casserole dish and bake 10 minutes. Mix 1 & 1/2 c. flour, brown sugar, baking powder & soda, salt together. Cut in butter. Add milk. Stir just until a very soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto top of hot fruit. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of dough. Bake 45 minutes or until topping is cooked through and browned on top. Serves 6 (or one 12 year old sweet tooth).

Old Clothes for Dinner

My beloved likes to tell people that I hooked her with my Cuban cooking. Personally, I think she was hooked well before I ever cooked for her, but that's her story. Last week, I took the time to make Ropa Vieja, the classic Latin shredded beef dish named for its appearance, like old clothes. Of course, we also had black beans and rice and fried plantains (I tried the frozen Goya ones and they are quite, they aren't nearly as much work) as we usually do when I am cooking Cuban. Since I had a gorgeous avocado ripe and ready that day, I also made a Cuban classic, avocado salad.

Ropa Vieja
1 lb. flank steak
2 qts. water, at least
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 & 1/2 c. sofrito (found jarred in Hispanic section of most groceries...I like Goya brand)
1/2 c. water reserved from cooking steak
1 tbsp. dry white wine
1/4 c. cooked peas
2 oz. pimiento, in strips or chopped
Salt to taste

Boil meat in large pot with about 2 quarts of water, carrot, onion, garlic and green pepper, for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 2 hours, until meat is tender and well-done. Remove meat from pot and allow to cool, reserving 1/2 c. water. Pound the meat, shredding into thread-like strands. Put in pan with sofrito, broth, cooked carrot, wine and peas. Salt and cook about 5 minutes. Add pimiento juice and pieces. Mix well and heat through. Serves 4.

Avocado Salad
Lettuce, as desired (I used butter lettuce)
4 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, sliced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 c. Spanish olive oil
3 tbsp. white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Line 4 salad plates with lettuce. Arrange avocado and onion slices on top. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Whisk together the oil and vinegar, drizzling over salad. Serves 4-8.