Saturday, August 25, 2012

Upside-Down, Inside-Out Pizza

Last night, I was nervous about trying a new recipe, especially a one-dish one, after having the Mexican rice turn out so meh. But this one was a keeper. We had it with a green salad, burrata crostini with tomato & basil, and balsamic berries. Delish!

For the crostini, preheat the oven to 425 degrees & bake baguette slices crisp, 7-10 minutes. Rub them with garlic and tomato. Top with burrata, tomato slices, and basil leaves. Drizzle with good olive oil, then sprinkle with salt (I used Maldon sea salt) & freshly-ground pepper.

The berries are just cut-up strawberries drizzled with balsamic & sprinkled with sugar. Black pepper adds a nice counterpoint to the sweetness.

For the pizza:
1 lb. ground beef
5 scallions, sliced
14-oz. jar pizza sauce (I used locally produced Carfagna's)
1/2 green pepper, chopped (put the other half on your salad---or greedily chomp it down while cooking, if you love 'em like I do)
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
1 egg

In cast iron skillet, brown beef with scallions. Drain. Add pizza sauce & green pepper. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Top with half the cheese. Whisk the flour, milk, and egg together. Add remaining cheese. Spread evenly over the meat mixture. Bake 20 minutes in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meh Mexican One-Dish Dinner

Tonight called for something quick & easy, given Jeannene's 3:30 wake-up call tomorrow. This fit those criteria, but wasn't terribly delicious. The corn was the saving grace. However, I am posting it should you be tolerant of "serviceable" as an adjective describing your meal. I served it with a very tasty salad of romaine, baby spinach, basil, & mint and with the only commercially canned peaches I eat, Margaret Holmes O'Sage Raggedy Ripe Freestone Peaches.

12 oz. Mexican-style chorizo
2 c. corn kernels (I used frozen)
14 oz. diced tomatoes
2 c. uncooked Minute Rice
1 c. water
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
1 1/2 c. Mexican cheeses, shredded or crumbled (asadero, cotija, that sort of thing)

Brown & drain chorizo. Add corn, tomatoes with their liquid, rice, water, chili, & cumin to skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, & simmer 5 minutes (or until rice is tender). Add beans and heat through. Top evenly with cheese. Cover & let stand a few minutes until cheese has melted. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cowboy Steaks

Tonight, Jeannene had thawed some strip steaks, but was felled by a migraine & not up to grilling. Since I am a bit grill-phobic, I made cowboy steaks instead. Pat a couple of steaks that are just over an inch thick dry. I think ribeyes are perfect, but these strips came out nicely, too. Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet evenly with 1/2 c. coarse kosher salt. Heat on high for about 5 minutes---salt will begin to crackle & lightly smoke. Lay the steaks on the salt & cook 5 minutes. Flip & cook 4 minutes. Let rest on cutting board 5 minutes before peeling salt crust from steaks. Warning---if you use fine salt, it will be much harder to peel off the crust. I only had fine in-house this time & it was much harder. Previously, it has just kind of fallen off the steak as I lifted it from the pan. I had to work at it tonight. But this cooking method keeps the steak very juicy!

Playing Catch-Up: From Irish Stew to Homemade Marshmallows

This is an incredibly random collection of recipes cooked in the winter, which I am taking advantage of a rainy afternoon to blog.

This Irish stew, adapted from the great Darina Allen, is my standard St. Patrick's Day dinner.
2 lb. shoulder lamb chops, 1" thick
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. oil
12 oz. Guinness (or other dark beer)
1 lb. new potatoes
1 lb. baby carrots
1 pkg. frozen pearl onions, thawed
4 c. beef stock
2 tbsp. dark roux
2 tbsp. finely-chopped parsley

Salt & pepper the lamb. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. When hot, add chops & sear 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate. Add the beer to the pot. Cook 1 minute, stirring to deglaze bottom of pot. Add lamb chops. Toss the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cover with stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer about 2 hours, or until lamb falls off bone. Add roux, stirring well, and cook 10 minutes. Add parsley & serve. Serves 4.

Also good for St. Patrick's Day but traditional for Halloween is colcannon.
3 lb. cooked, peeled potatoes
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 c. hot milk
Salt & pepper
1 head cabbage, finely shredded
1 lb. bacon, cooked (ham is fine, if you prefer)
4 scallions, finely chopped

Mash the potatoes with a stick of butter. Gradually add the milk, stirring it in as you go. Salt & pepper. Boil cabbage in unsalted water until it turns a darker color. Drain & chop. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter. Mix everything gently together. Serve with more butter. I often make this without any meat and it is still delicious.

If you have Ramen noodles & you want to kick them up a little, stir in some crushed red pepper and a little lime juice. It's not exactly hot & sour soup, but it does give it a boost. You could also toss in some cooked chicken or tofu, straw mushrooms, and sliced scallions.

Jeannene & I love cheese soup. This version is awesome but very rich. I like it with chewy sourdough rolls.
Cheese Soup
2 potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 c. chicken broth (or veggie broth or water)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 c. milk (I use 1% because that's what I like to have on hand for's still plenty rich!)
1 c. diced ham
8 oz. Velveeta, diced (I suspect reduced-fat would be just fine, if you're so inclined)

Cook vegetables in broth, covered, 10-12 minutes, until they are fork-tender. Don't drain. Melt the butter in a small pan. Stir the flour in until it forms a smooth paste. Add milk and stir well. Cook until bubbly. Add to vegetables & broth. Add ham & Velveeta. Stir until Velveeta melts. Heat through. Serves 4.

Another really great meal, especially on a stormy, chill night, is Amish-style beef & noodles. This is not also served on mashed potatoes, but it certainly could be, if you're the double-starch sort. It seems to be the done thing in most Amish restaurants. I believe the original recipe is from Marcia Adams, who does such a lovely, lovely job with all these plain, homey foods.
3 lb. beef chuck roast
1 lg. onion, quartered
8 whole cloves
1 small green pepper, quartered
2 lg. carrots, cut in thirds
3 ribs celery, cut in thirds
1 c. parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/4 c. instant beef bouillon granules
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 qt. hot water
1 lb. extra-wide egg noodles
1/2 c. parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put everything but noodles & 1/2 c. parsley in a roasting pan. Cover and bake 3 hours. Shred meat and chop carrots. Discard the other vegetables (by the way, studding a piece of the celery with the cloves is a handy way to remove them easily at this point). Put the meat & carrots back into the broth. Add the noodles. Cover and bake 75 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

On nights when you want something cozy, but don't have a lot of time, you can make this recipe from the September 2001 issue of "Working Mother" magazine.
Dog S'mores
4 large hot dogs
2 c. mashed potatoes (make some, use leftovers, or grab a tub of the Bob Evans ones from the refrigerator case)
4 sticks string cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Slit each hot dog open. Put on baking sheet & stuff each with 1/2 c. mashed potatoes. Put a cheese stick in the middle, securing with toothpicks, if necessary. Bake 10 minutes.

Last time it was my turn to bring a snack for my women's spirituality group, I took a crockpot of creamy sausage dip with a bag of Tostitos. I think some nice crusty bread would be tasty with it, too. It was great! Not something you'd want to eat too often, but perfect football game fare.
2 lb. sausage, browned
32 oz. cream cheese
28 oz. diced tomatoes with green chiles (I use Ro*Tel)

Toss everything together in a crockpot. Heat through, 1-2 hours on low. This recipe came from Rachael Ray magazine, February 2008, from Leigh Taylor, of China Grove, NC.

I am a big fan of chocolate malts and brownies are my favorite thing of all in the cookies & bars category, so when I saw this malted brownies recipe in the September/October 2005 issue of Weekend magazine, it was quickly pulled out & added to my recipe stash. This is my adaptation:
2 sticks butter + extra to grease pan
1 c. flour
1 c. malted milk powder (I used chocolate malted powder, because that's what I keep on hand)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. malted milk balls (I have used Whoppers & Malteasers)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Brush a 13x9 baking pan with melted butter. Line the bottom with parchment. Sift the dry ingredients together. Melt the chocolate with the butter. Put into a mixing bowl and add both kinds of sugar. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla & eggs. Add flour, stirring until just incorporated. Let cool 5 minutes. Add malted candy. Put in prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes. Turn pan and bake another 15 minutes. Let cool before cutting into 20.

While I have a particular favorite recipe for garlic shrimp in a great little Cuban cookbook, I am open to trying other garlic shrimp recipes. This one, whose provenance is unknown, turned out to be very, very good. I served it with great hunks of crusty bread and a beautiful salad of butter lettuce, onion, and avocado, drizzled with lime/Spanish olive oil vinaigrette. The bread, dipped in the sauce from the shrimp, is addictive. Fair warning.
Spicy Garlic Shrimp
2 1/2-3 lb. shrimp, tails on, shells removed
Tabasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c. cracker meal or fine dry breadcrumbs
1/2 c. light rum
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 stick butter
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin

Toss the shrimp with salt & Tabasco. Mix rum with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, & cumin. Toss in shrimp & marinate 1 hour. Preheat broiler. Heat butter & oil in small pan on low heat. When butter foams, add garlic & cook 1-2 minutes. Put shrimp in baking dish. Spoon sauce onto shrimp. Sprinkle with crumbs. Broil 4" from heat for 7 minutes, until golden.

I love making marshmallows! It had never really occurred to me that it was possible to make them from scratch until I happened on this Martha Stewart recipe for them. I've been making them to enjoy in cocoa and to give as gifts ever since. Martha, of course, cuts them into fancy shapes with a cookie cutter. I love the idea, but usually just cut them into large squares. I did try the shapes last winter, but they morphed into blobs. I shall have to try again. These are utterly delicious and will make a marshmallow lover of even people who have previously actively disliked marshmallows, like my darling spouse, who cannot stop eating them when I make them. They make for a terribly decadent cup of cocoa. Here's my version, only very slightly modified from Martha's:
4 envelopes of plain gelatin
1 1/2 c. water
3 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. light Karo syrup (or other corn syrup)
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Oil a 13x9 baking dish. Put gelatin in 3/4 c. water & allow to soften about 5 minutes. Put sugar, Karo, 3/4 c. water, & salt into a pan and bring to boil. Boil until it reaches soft ball stage when checked with a candy thermometer. Beat slowly with an electric mixer into the gelatin until the mixture is very stiff, about 15 minutes. Pour into prepared baking dish and smooth with a well-oiled spatula. Allow to stand, uncovered, at room temperature 10-12 hours. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto a cutting board, using a fine sieve. Turn the marshmallow mixture out onto the cutting board. Cut into squares or shapes and dip cut edges in powdered sugar. So scrumptious!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fried Rice Goodness

I always try to remember to marinate things for the next night's dinner as I am cooking. Yesterday morning, though, I realized I had neglected to toss my pork chops in the Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki. I almost decided just to marinate them for half an hour when I got home, but asked myself, "Really, how long will it take to do it now?" Two minutes, it turns out, and that includes prepping the bottle for recycling. So I baked them when I got home & served them with mandarin oranges & this adaptation of a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe:

Fried Rice with Kale & Scallions

1/2 lb. kale
1 1/2 tbsp. oil
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 minced cloves garlic
3 lg. scallions, sliced on the diagonal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 c. cooked basmati rice with cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp. tamari

Cut kale leaves in half lengthwise, removing center rib. Cut in chiffonade. Steam 7 minutes. Heat oils in pre-heated skillet over medium-low heat. Stir-fry garlic 2 minutes. Add kale & scallions. Stir-fry 2 minutes. Add egg & stir-fry 2 minutes. Add rice and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add tamari & stir-fry half a minute. Serves 4. I think leftovers would make a great omelet!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Tonight's another dinner alone, perfect for a supper salad! Jeff's in his room jabbering away on his headset, occasionally cracking me up with the pure silliness of his conversation. The crows have gone to bed, but the night is alive with the sounds of insects and frogs. I had a delicious supper and am about to crawl under the covers to watch my first episode of "The Vicar of Dibley." Everyone says I remind them of her. Anyway, I got this wonderful salad recipe from "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper," one of my favorite cookbooks. I had an orange with it & some sparkling water with a shot of grapefruit syrup. Good stuff. This is my adaptation of the recipe:

1 clove garlic
2 cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 c. Cherub tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives
3 heaping tbsp. capers
1 shallot, chopped
A handful of torn basil
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
Salt & pepper
Orange zest

Rub a salad or serving bowl with garlic. Gently mix chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, capers, shallot, and basil. Mix rest, add to salad, & toss so everything is coated with the dressing. Serves 4.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brie sandwich, asparagus salad

When eating on my own, I enjoy very much having simple but lush meals like tonight's. I made myself a beef & Brie sandwich with walnuts & an asparagus & goat cheese salad with pine nuts & basil. I also had a cocktail, not something I usually do at home much. It's a Trader Vic's recipe, but I made it a great deal milder than the original recipe. It's called a Rangoon Ruby. The original calls for a highball filled with ice cubes to start. You add 2 oz. vodka, 1.5 oz. cranberry juice, 1/4 oz. lime juice. Then, you top it off with sparkling water & stir gently. Well, wimp that I am, I used about 3 times as much cranberry juice. I also used Stoli Vanil instead of plain vodka, which added some nice depth.

To make the beef & Brie sandwich, just toast some bread. I used oatmeal bread because I didn't want to stop at the store for crusty French bread. But I think that would be better. Then, put a couple thin slices of roast beef on top, along with a layer of Brie. Broil until the cheese is melty. Meanwhile, toast some walnuts. Scatter them across the cheese before serving. This might be really good done with granny smith apple slices & cheddar, too.

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Salad:

This is my adaptation for 1 of a Southern Living recipe from March 2006. Tear some Boston lettuce into bite-size pieces & put in a bowl. Steam some asparagus until it's crisp-tender. Drop several cherub tomatoes on top of the lettuce. Arrange asparagus on top. Scatter some crumbled goat cheese across the salad. I used Blue Jacket Dairy Silver Lake Chevre. Toast some pine nuts & scatter them over everything. Whisk 2 tbsp. chopped basil, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 scant tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, & 1/2 tsp. pepper together well. Whisk in 1/2 c. olive oil & drizzle over salad. If you are lazy & just chiffonade the basil, like I did, it will taste just fine.

Curry-Inflected Dinner

I love Indian food, but can only get Jeannene to go out for it if I catch her in the right mood. Madhur Jaffrey's skill as a writer & cooking instructor aside, I just don't have oodles of confidence in being able to produce delicious, authentic Indian food at home. I'm sure if I really tried, I could do okay. It's one of my mom's favorite cuisines to cook and she does a lovely job of it. But, Sunday night, I was tired from a longer than anticipated work day & was trying to think of a good excuse to go out. When Jeannene made it clear she was too piled up with work to leave the house, I relented and made this tandoori-inspired chicken. Of course it was nothing like the real thing, but it was amazingly tender and delicious! It made the whole house smell fabulous, too! I served it with basmati rice to which I added whole cumin seeds and with green beans I tossed with olive oil, salt, & pepper before blasting them in a 500 degree oven for about 5 minutes. That's my favorite way to do green beans! Works beautifully with asparagus, too. Dessert was quartered strawberries brought to room temperature and tossed with a tbsp. of melted butter, a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar, a good grinding of black pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar.

Tandoori-ish Chicken:
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. paprika
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tsp. oil

Mix everything but the chicken & the oil. Rub on the chicken. Cook in oil until cooked through. Serves 3.

Steak Night

When we have steak, Jeannene is generally the one who initiates it and cooks it. She usually makes filet. Now, I have nothing against filet, but my personal favorite is ribeye. Every once in awhile, I get a notion to make steak. This usually happens when I know we're going to be too busy to have a meal together for awhile & I want to go out with a bang. Steak is one of Jeannene's favorite foods. So, with a busy weekend and then a week of business travel for Jeannene this week, Friday night was steak night. I made Steak Diane with spicy potato wedges and Georgia cracker salad. The steak is a classic dish. The potatoes are Nigella's & the cracker salad is, as you might expect, a Paula Deen specialty.

Steak Diane:
6 tbsp. butter
1chopped shallot
2 ribeyes, pounded thin (I think sirloin is more commonly used)
2 tbsp. brandy
A big dash Worcestershire sauce
Minced parsley
Salt & pepper

In a heavy skillet (I love my Lodge cast iron), melt 4 tbsp. butter and sauté the shallots until they are golden. Turn heat up to medium-high and add the steaks, giving them a good, quick sear on each side. Add the brandy (it should flame up, so be prepared). After the alcohol burns off and the flame dies down, add the Worcestershire sauce and a few pinches of parsley. Add 2 tbsp. butter and allow to melt. Season as needed and sauté another minute or so. Serves 2 hungry people or allows for steak salad the next day.

Spicy Potato Wedges:
2 potatoes (about 1 lb)
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the potatoes into wedges. Put oil & spices in a baking dish. Add potatoes & toss to coat. Bake 20 minutes in a single layer. Turn and bake another 10 minutes. Salt to taste. Serves 2.

Georgia Cracker Salad:
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1 large tomato, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped

Crush the crackers coarsely. Mix everything together well and serve promptly. Serves 6. It sounds completely weird, but I promise you, it is truly scrumptious!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bacon Avocado Burritos

Knowing that I'd be leaving work a little late after finishing my sermon and also stopping at the grocery to do the weekly shop, I planned a quick & easy dinner for last night. I scrambled some eggs in a little butter with cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, and crumbled bacon. Then, I heated flour tortillas on the burners, filled them with the egg mixture and some chopped avocado, wrapped them up, and there was dinner! They were delicious! I made some guacamole (I simply mash an avocado or two with key lime juice, garlic salt, & pepper to taste) to have with chips on the side because Jeannene loves my guacamole more than most things. A side of diced oranges & pink grapefruit tossed with a little honey goes perfectly, but you could always do a green salad instead. I forgot to take a picture!