Monday, April 28, 2014

Parmesan Chicken with Pastina and Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

My wife loves chicken parmesan, that classic red-sauced dish from her childhood. I am not as much of a fan of chicken with red sauce, although hers, I must admit, is delicious. However, I tend to like my Italian-style chicken a little more light and lemony. This recipe for parmesan chicken is just such a dish. I experimented with a "nursery food" noodle dish on the side and wished I hadn't, although Jeannene loved it. This pastina recipe seems to me to be a variation on my cousin's garbage skillet, which is whatever leftovers are in the house mixed with eggs and scrambled. Great for breakfast, but not so much with a nice dinner. Perhaps I did it wrong? I can't remember where I got the recipe, but I include it here because the wife thought it was outstanding and some of you might agree. Me, next time I would just make the star pasta with some butter and lemon stirred in once it was cooked. For the salad, what I had on hand was radicchio and romaine and that was a great blend. I, personally, would probably skip the parmesan on the salad next time, but shaved parm seemed like a good idea at the time. The dressing is simply stellar on its own and the parmesan, to me, muddied the flavor. That's largely my personal bias against "translucent" foods mixed with "opaque" foods, though. I don't like my baked brie to touch my fruit, either. If you're trying to cut fat, another great dressing my mom always made when I was a kid is a simple blend of fresh lemon juice with a little bit of honey stirred in until it dissolves.

Parmesan Chicken
4 thin chicken cutlets                                           1/2 c. dry breadcrumbs with Italian herbs
1/2 c. flour                                                           1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt                                                             1 tbsp. butter
A good grinding of pepper                                  1 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Mix flour with salt and pepper. Mix bread crumbs with parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, then dip in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side. Serves 2-4. 

1/2 c. pastina (star-shaped pasta)                      2 tsp. butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten                                         2 tsp. grated parmesan
2 tsp. butter                                                        Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the pastina in salted, boiling water until cooked al dente, according to package directions. Remove from heat and add egg, allowing the hot pasta to cook it. Add the rest. Serves 2.

Lemon Vinaigrette
Juice of 1 lemon                                                 1/4 tsp. sea salt (Maldon flaked salt is nice)
1/4 c. really good olive oil                                 A good grinding of pepper

Whisk everything together well before tossing with greens. Makes enough for 3 or 4 salads. 

Jeannene had hinted very heavily that she would not object one tiny bit should I start using our bread machine more and she always likes to have good bread with her pasta, so I made a loaf of potato bread to accompany the dinner. I used to make it a lot when the boys were little, but have fallen out of the habit. It was delicious all hot and crisp-crusted from the bread machine. Here's the recipe:

Easy Machine Potato Bread
1 1/3 c. water                                                   3 tbsp. instant mashed potato flakes
3 tbsp. butter                                                   3 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 tbsp. sugar                                             2 tsp. bread machine yeast
1 tsp. salt

Put ingredients in bread machine in order, creating a little well in the flour for the yeast, and run machine on the setting for a large, sweet loaf. This makes excellent toast the next morning. 

Tarragon Chicken Salad with Walnuts

I love chicken salad! Even in winter, when it's not really "in-season," I find myself craving it. Now that spring has arrived, I am delighted to have a batch in the fridge at all times. I had it for breakfast this morning, left over from dinner the other night. I served it on store-bought croissants that night, but it's really good just by itself or on crackers or toast. With a beautiful green salad and some fruit, it makes a terrific supper for a busy night. The latest iteration I tried is this adaptation of a delicate version from the Gourmet Cookbook:

Tarragon Chicken Salad with Walnuts
1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts                                               1/4 c. sour cream (light is fine, as is yogurt)
1 tbsp. tarragon vinegar                                            1/2 tsp. tarragon (1/2 tbsp. if you have fresh)
1/2 c. chopped celery                                                 1/4 tsp. salt & a good grinding of pepper
1/4 c. mayonnaise (light is fine)                                2 oz. toasted walnuts, chopped

Poach chicken breasts 6 minutes in simmering, salted water. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand 10-15 minutes, until cooked through. Place on a cutting board and allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Cut into small cubes and toss with vinegar and celery. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, and tarragon well. Add to chicken, along with salt & pepper. Stir in nuts just before serving. Serves 4. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My Grandmommy's Shrimp in Beer

Very often, when my family came together for a celebratory meal when I was growing up, that meal would be shrimp in beer. My grandparents & their friends had been sharing this meal for years before I was even born, probably even before my mom was born. When she was a kid, she always loved the "potato chip dip" that went with the shrimp, a mixture of softened cream cheese, prepared horseradish, & chopped scallions. The kids were always delighted to get to have the special treat of chips dipped in the shrimp dip. Me, too. It also made waiting for the beer brew to cook long enough to be shrimp-ready easier. 

We love to turn other folks on to this delicious dinner, so when my mom's dear friend from college was given a big bunch of fresh-caught shrimp while we were visiting her in St. Pete, we quickly chimed in with our suggestion of what to do with it all! Laura ran with it, getting enthused about the recipe and inviting a bunch of her wonderful artist friends to an impromptu supper party! We had a ball! Of course, we had to call my grandmom for the recipe, as we'd not yet learned it by heart. 

I don't remember, besides potato chips, what we used to have with the shrimp. However, when we had it last night, I paired it with another childhood favorite, parmesan rice. My mom made this Frances Moore Lappé recipe often and, once I was a teenager, I began making it, too. It's tart and cheesy and I could cheerfully eat an entire pan of it. My BFF, Lesley, came over just about every weekend to spend the night. We usually cooked & a lot of the time, it was this rice and artichoke hearts cold from the can. In fact, when I recently offered to make Les a birthday dinner, that was her request. I still owe her that one. I can't imagine that you won't love it, too.

I usually just throw together a green salad, but you could also serve it with the ramen salad I just made for a potluck being held tomorrow at Jeannene's workplace. It's very easy and people always really like it. I first had it at a volunteer recognition luncheon potluck when my boys were in elementary school. Another dish I had for the first time that day was strawberry pretzel salad. It's that kind of Middle America dish that is terrible in concept and delicious in execution.

Shrimp in Beer
6 cans/bottles beer (12 oz. each---don't use light beer or any speciality beers. My grandmama usually used Budweiser.)
1 heaping tsp. salt
2 heaping tbsp. onion powder
2 heaping tbsp. garlic powder
2 heaping tbsp. celery seed
2 heaping tbsp. mustard seed
2 heaping tbsp. dry mustard
2-4 allspice berries
2-4 peppercorns
4-5 lb. raw shrimp (shells & tails on, deveined)

Bring beer and spices to a boil in a big pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer until they all turn pink, then remove from hot liquid immediately. Serve piping hot with "potato chip dip." Serves 8-10.

Parmesan Rice
2/3 c. long grain rice (brown or white), cooked as usual
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. grated parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
Pepper, to taste

Mix the butter into the rice. Mix the other ingredients together. Blend with the rice and cook 5-7 minutes to cook egg and heat through. Serve hot! Serves 2.

Ramen Salad
8 oz. coleslaw mix
1 package ramen noodles, crushed
1/2 c. sunflower seeds or slivered almonds (or both!)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/8 c. sugar

Mix together the coleslaw mix, noodles, and sunflower seeds/almonds. Mix the ramen flavor packet (or use your own seasonings, for a less sodium-laden and no-MSG option---maybe a little ginger, some Chinese 5-spice, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper), oil, vinegar, and sugar. Add to salad and mix well. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 4-6.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Mashed Potato Soup & Beer Bread

My sweetie has been felled by a migraine all weekend, so comfort food seemed perfect. This meal is so easy that even if you're the one who's sick, you can pull it together for yourself. Throw in some fruit for dessert & call it done.

Mashed Potato Soup
2 1/2 c. mashed potatoes (leftover, store-bought, whatever)
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
14 oz. chicken stock (I used low sodium canned)
1/2 c. sour cream (I used reduced-fat)
Shredded cheese & sliced scallions for garnish, if desired (bacon crumbles would be good, too)

Sauté the onion in the oil until softened. Add mashed potatoes & broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring and pressing out any lumps with a wooden spoon. Add sour cream and gently heat through. Serves 4-6.

Beer Bread
12 oz. beer (our 21 y.o. left some PBR behind after his last visit & that worked fine. I would not use light beer.)
2 2/3 c. self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix beer & flour well, but not overmuch. Put into a greased loaf pan and bake 50-55 minutes, until loaf begins to pull away from pan. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing. This is great with honey, for a special treat.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Southwest Ribeyes, Green Beans with Pepitas, and Squash & Casserole

The other night, I had planned to make a squash & corn casserole from a recipe that included Stouffer's corn soufflé. It sounded yummy and I knew Jeannene would love it. However, in all the stores I went to in search of this item, not one had it. I used to get it, not that long ago, but it was nowhere. Therefore, I had to make up the recipe. I am not 100% sure I remember what I did, but I am going to try to approximate what I did here for you. Anyway, it was good with our steaks and green beans. The green bean recipe comes from the November 2011 issue of Rachael Ray magazine, a bit modified, as usual. I suspect that the butter would also be good on baked tofu or, for a vegan option, the spices could be used on the tofu before baking. The same treatment would be excellent on a cauliflower steak.

Southwest Ribeyes
Mix a cup of softened butter with 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cayenne, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. onion powder. Form into a log and chill several hours. Broil steaks to your preferred level of doneness. Serve with a pat of chilled butter, which will melt onto the hot steak and make it delicious. Alternately, you could pan-fry the steaks in a little of the butter. 

Sautéed Green Beans with Pepitas
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 c. pepitas (I like the soy-roasted kind)
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Cook green beans 5 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain well & pat dry. Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant & tender. Do not overcook or it will become bitter and burn. Add coriander and pepitas and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted. Add green beans and toss to coat with oil and seasonings and to heat through. Serves 2-4. 

Squash & Corn Casserole
2 medium yellow summer squash (or 1 yellow & 1 zucchini)
1 can creamed corn
1 can corn, well-drained
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper, to taste
1-1 1/2 c. shredded cheese (I used Cheddar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything but the cheese. Pour into greased 2-qt. casserole. Top with cheese and bake 1/2 hour. Serves 6.

White Wine & Lemon Pork Roast

Being Cuban, pork is one of my favorite meats. I often marinate it in a classic citrus & garlic mojo, but sometimes I want to change it up a bit. This dish is a terrific, elegant way to serve pork tenderloin. I served it with mashed potatoes and a bright, beautiful salad based on a Giada DiLaurentiis recipe. I couldn't find wax beans in the store, but she recommends those. The pork is nice on a sandwich the next day for lunch and the salad keeps beautifully.

White Wine & Lemon Pork Roast
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. thyme
Salt & pepper
1/2 lb. pork tenderloin 

Mix everything but the pork. I like to use a gallon ziploc for this because I can squish it anywhere in the fridge, as opposed to using a dish, which is less malleable. If you have room in your fridge, which we never do, a dish is friendlier on the environment and your budget. Add pork to marinade & chill at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast pork 20-30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing to serve. Serves 4.

Vegetable Salad
2 c. frozen, shelled edamame
16 oz. haricots verts (or sub half wax beans)
1/3 c. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tsp. chopped basil or tarragon
2 tsp. chopped thyme

Cook edamame in salted, boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Plunge into a prepared ice bath to stop cooking, then pat dry. Repeat this process with the beans. Whisk vinegar with salt & pepper in a serving bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add vegetables and herbs, tossing gently to coat. Adjust seasonings. Serves 4-6. 

Broiled Tilapia with Garlicky Greens

As it begins to feel more like spring, lighter dishes featuring fish become more and more appealing. This simple preparation of tilapia would be delicious made with any other mild, firm-fleshed fish such as grouper or red snapper. I paired it with baked potato and sautéed kale. Any other dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, for example) are also yummy prepped this way.

Broiled Tilapia
3 lb. tilapia
1/2 c. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced

Season the fish with salt & pepper. Mix the lemon juice, oregano, and all but 1 tbsp. of the olive oil. Pour over fish. Broil on a greased broiler pan until cooked through & flaky, 3-4 minutes per side. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic about a minute in the oil and serve the fish topped with the garlic & oil. Serves 6. 

Garlicky Greens
2 tbsp. olive oil
7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 lb. dark, leafy greens
Hot sauce (I like Louisiana Hot Sauce)
Lemon wedges
Salt & pepper

Rinse the greens well and de-stem. Tear into bite-size pieces. Heat oil and add garlic, cooking about 1 minute. Add greens, tossing to coat with oil. Cook, stirring, 4-5 minutes, over medium-high heat. Season with a little hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 6. 

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

While my dearest is not usually big on anything Asian & I tend not to dig sweet with meat, we both thought this dish was stellar. With rice and fresh pineapple, this recipe from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit made a great dinner!

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry
1 1/2 c. jasmine rice, cooked
3/4 c. orange juice 
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. orange zest
2 tbsp. oil
1 small red onion, cut in half, then thinly sliced
Large pinch crushed red pepper
1 1/2 lb. chicken cutlets, cut into 1/2" wide strips
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas

Whisk orange juice with soy sauce & cornstarch to dissolve the starch. Add orange zest. Heat the oil on high heat. Stir-fry the onion and crushed pepper about 30 seconds. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Add to skillet/wok and stir-fry until just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add sugar snaps and orange juice mixture. Cook,              tossing, until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serves 6. 


I love street food of all kinds and especially things that act on me like the J. Peterman catalog does, transporting me in my imagination to other lands. I also love lentils. Poor Jeannene is not at all fond of them, so this traditional Egyptian street food was not a hit with her, but I thought it was wonderful! It makes a good breakfast the next morning, too. I served this with a plain green salad and oranges, but I think it would be great with cucumber slices and tzatziki or with fattoush, too.

3 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 onions, chopped
1 c. brown lentils
3/4 c. long-grain white rice (I like jasmine rice for just about everything. Brown rice would probably be fantastic, as well)
1 tbsp. cumin
Salt, to taste
2 1/2 c. chicken stock (sub veggie stock & use non-dairy margarine or additional oil in place of butter for a great vegan dish)
1 c. ditalini or other small pasta
1-2 tbsp. harissa
1 bunch parsley, chopped

Heat oil and butter on medium-high heat. Cook onions until they start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add lentils and rice. Cook, stirring, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and 1 tbsp. salt. Cook a minute or two, then add stock. Turn down heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is absorbed and mixture is starting to crackle & toast on the bottom, about 1/2 hour. Cook pasta & drain. Heat olive oil. Add pasta & cook until it starts to crisp & brown, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in harissa and a pinch of salt. Mix into lentil/rice mixture. Add parsley & serve hot. Serves 6-8.

Playwright's Melt

I really love Gwyneth Paltrow's first cookbook, My Father's Daughter, and am looking forward to getting my hands on her new one, as well. The first one is full of all kinds of yummy recipes and beautiful photos and stories. This sandwich, a creation by Leonard Gershe, who wrote Butterflies Are Free, is stupid good. This is my version of the open-faced deliciousness, which we had with veggies & dip and Cara Cara oranges.

Playwright's Melt
1/4 c. chopped black olives (the better the olive, the better the sandwich)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 c. shredded cheddar (Cabot or Tillamook, if you can)
1 tsp. curry powder
A few dashes of worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
4 English muffins, toasted

Mix everything but the muffins. Spread the mixture on the muffins. Broil until well-browned & bubbling. Serves 4. 

Asparagus Tart

Spring is here & it's time for lighter foods! (Or, it is on the days Ma Nature doesn't forget winter is over) I think Jeannene and I could cheerfully eat asparagus every day all spring and Pixie, our oldest cat, is always thrilled when we do because he loves it beyond reason. In fact, you have to be careful with asparagus around Pixie because it's one of the few foods he will steal (chicken and turkey being the other two). I very often simply steam or roast my asparagus, but this year, I decided a tart would be lovely. This is very easy and simply delicious! Pair it with a nice salad and some fresh fruit. I think I might have to make this for Easter brunch this year!

Asparagus Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
10 oz. log goat cheese
1 1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp. olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Press a 1" border into the pastry all along the edges with a fork and prick a number of times in the center (or place pie weights, on a sheet of foil, in the center of the pastry). Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden. Spread with the goat cheese in an even layer. Cover with an even layer of asparagus. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with lemon zest, salt, & pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as puff pastry burns easily. You can see in this pic that it got a little dark! Allow to cool before serving. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Spicy Chicken Soup

We do alphabet dates, my love and I, and last Sunday, I had a very lazy L date planned, one which would last us most of the day. Jeannene loves Lord of the Rings (well, who doesn't?), so I decided we'd park ourselves on the couch and have ourselves a marathon. If we were going to finish before bedtime, though, we had to get started right away and not dilly dally having brunch out somewhere. So, I made us a pot of chicken soup and called it good. It was pretty dang spicy, but very yummy. One issue I always have with noodle soups is that the noodles always sop up all the broth so I have leftover casserole instead of leftover soup. I've heard that you can cook pasta separately & then just portion it into the bowls instead of into the whole pot. This makes good sense, but I have not yet tried it. However, I did have a pretty great garbage skillet (eggs scrambled with whatever leftovers you have on hand) the next morning and the eggs mellowed the spiciness.

Spicy Chicken Soup
3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
2 tbsp. oil
2 onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ginger
Pinch Chinese 5-spice
8 c. chicken broth
Salt & pepper
12 oz. egg noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. parsley, minced

Heat oil in stock pot on medium high heat. Cook chicken about 5 minutes. Add onion & garlic. When it starts to brown, add spices & cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook 8 minutes. Add scallions and serve garnished with parsley. 

Serves 8. 

Crockpot Roast

When it's vile outside & all you want to do is hibernate (something we saw entirely too much of this winter), this roast, my adaptation of a recipe from Paula Deen, is perfect. It makes the house smell cozy and, boy, is it good! Easy, too. I serve it with mashed potatoes and corn. It would be great for busy clergy types to throw on before worship on a Sunday that includes a congregational meeting, serving at a soup kitchen, and youth group. Even when you work all day Sunday, you can have a proper Sunday dinner.

Crockpot Roast
3 lb. boneless chuck roast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. oil
1 thinly-sliced onion
3 bay leaves
3-4 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. chardonnay
1/2 c. water

Rub roast with seasonings. Heat oil in a large skillet and brown all sides of the roast. Place the roast in your crockpot. Put onions, bay leaves, crushed bouillon, garlic, and condensed soup on top. Mix wine and water and pour over roast. Cook 8 hours on low. Serves 6. 

Asian Flank Steak

This meal was one I found quite delicious and which my wife hated. As in, would not eat. I'd knocked it out of the park with 3 meals in a row, then hit upon two in a row which she simply refused to eat. She is not a big fan of anything Asian, for the most part, and she has definite (negative) opinions of hoisin sauce and anything to which it has been applied. I had mistakenly thought this had changed when she used hoisin sauce on our Cornish game hens for Super Bowl Sunday. So, beware if you have a picky eater. This may not be the dinner for them. If, however, you enjoy those flavors, dig in! It comes together really quickly, too, if you throw everything into its marinade ahead of time and need to get dinner on in a hurry.

Asian Flank Steak
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
4 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Asian chili sauce
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. dry sherry
2 tsp. minced ginger
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lb. flank steak

Mix together everything but the steak. Add the steak and turn to coat completely. Marinate at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Broil steak 5 minutes or so per side. Allow to rest 15 minutes, then slice for serving. Serves 4. 

Sesame Noodles
1 lb. egg noodles
3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
4 scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
3 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook & drain noodles. Heat 2 tbsp. oil on high & stir fry scallions until soft, about a minute. Add Chinese 5-spice and cooked noodles. Stir fry 1-2 minutes. Add 1 tbsp. sesame oil & sesame seeds & stir to incorporate. Season with salt & pepper. Serve piping hot. Serves 4-6.

Sesame Green Beans
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Steam green beans just until crisp-tender and mix with everything else. Marinate 2 hours. Serve cold, drizzled with marinade, or toss in skillet for a few minutes to heat through, if you want it warm. Serves 2-4. 

Meatloaf Burgers & Meatloaf

When I was making these burgers, I wasn't thinking of them as meatloaf burgers. But when Jeannene tasted hers, she said, "Meatloaf burgers!" It's a much quicker way to get the flavor of meatloaf than making a traditional one, that's for sure. They did fall apart like mad, so I suggest adding a handful of cracker crumbs or breadcrumbs when you're mixing them together. We had crinkle fries and lima beans with these.

Meatloaf Burgers
1 1/2 lb. ground beef (I used 90% lean, although they say you should never use super lean meat for burgers---these were not dry)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chili sauce
1 tbsp. mustard (the condiment, not the spice)
1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper
Hamburger buns (I like the sesame seed ones)

Mix everything together and shape into 6 patties. Broil 5-7 minutes per side. Serve on buns with your favorite condiments (I like ketchup & mustard, Jeannene does mayo & ketchup). Serves 6. Or 3 teenage boys. 

I also made an actual meatloaf this month, using a recipe for the first time in a very long time. I have come to like my own meatloaf quite well and it's usually a result of just kind of noodling around. I will say that I definitely prefer ketchup meatloaf to brown gravy meatloaf. When my beautiful bride makes it, she likes to douse it in brown gravy, in addition to adding all kinds of veggies like peppers and carrots when forming the loaf. The boys would never eat it because of the veggies, but they wished I used brown gravy for mine! When I made this meatloaf, my adaptation of the one they serve at Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta, Jeannene really loved it. I still prefer ketchup to this version, with tomato sauce over top, as the tomato sauce was a little too sweet for me, but it was good stuff and made a fine sandwich the following day. We had it with mashed potatoes & corn, so that Jeannene could have the great pleasure of mixing them together. I always avert my eyes when this happens, but it gives me a little giggle, too, to see her so happy with her supper.

Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce
2 lb. ground beef (I used 90% lean)
1 1/2 c. diced onion (this was a little much for my taste)
1 c. diced green pepper
1 c. uncooked oatmeal
1/2 c. ketchup
2 tbsp. plus a splash of worcestershire sauce (the splash to replace the Heinz 57 sauce I could not find at any grocery around here)
1/2 tsp. pepper (I would reduce this to 1/4)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. tomato sauce
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Mix all the ingredients through the eggs. Place in the loaf pan and bake 55 minutes. Pour off drippings, very carefully, and bake another 10 minutes to brown. Make tomato sauce: melt butter in small pan on medium-low heat. Add tomato sauce, sugar, and worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over the meatloaf. Serves 4-6. 

Love Potion Chicken

This is another recipe based on a Bon Appetit recipe. I have re-dubbed it "Love Potion Chicken" because the herbs used in it, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, are traditional love potion herbs of legend (thus the reference in "Scarborough Fair"), but also because it's so good that you could probably hook just about anyone you want if you made it for them. Jeannene certainly loved it. I added a package of frozen, diced butternut squash to the potatoes & shallots for cooking, just because I had it on hand & it sounded good. It turned a little mushy, but tasted great. You could always add it later or dice fresh squash to add. We had a green salad and some good bread on the side.

Love Potion Chicken
1 4 1/2 lb. roasting chicken
2 tsp. rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, halved
5 tbsp. olive oil
4 small russet potatoes, quartered
8 lg. shallots, peeled
14 oz. can chicken broth
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp. butter, cut into 6 pieces
Minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub chicken with salt. Mix rosemary, sage, and thyme with some freshly ground pepper. Rub some of the mixture on the inside of the chicken. Place 1 bay leaf inside the chicken. Rub chicken with olive oil and  sprinkle with some of the lemon juice. Sprinkle with half the remaining herb mixture. Place the lemon halves inside the chicken. Put in metal roasting pan, surrounded by potatoes, shallots, and any other veggies you'd like to add. Sprinkle veggies with the rest of the olive oil and the rest of the herb mixture. Top with the other bay leaf. Roast about an hour and 15 minutes. Place on platter and tent with foil. Place juices from roasting pan in 2 cup measure and skim off fat. Add enough broth to equal 2 cups. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners, add balsamic vinegar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Scrape bottom to deglaze. Cook until reduced to a glaze across the surface of the pan, about 4 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Over low heat, whisk in butter, a piece at a time, stirring to incorporate after each addition. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in parsley. Serve over chicken sliced from the bones. Serves 4. (If you don't want all the fat of the sauce, the chicken is really good even without it) 

Ravioli with Herbed Walnut Sauce

This dish, based on a Bon Appetit recipe, makes a nice, light, vegetarian supper with a green salad and some Pugliese bread. I have added lemon to the original recipe, as I thought it needed a bit of brightening.

Ravioli with Herbed Walnut Sauce

1 lb. cheese ravioli (I suspect this would be good with other varieties, as well, maybe artichoke)
1/2 stick butter
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. dry white wine
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Melt butter. Sauté walnuts in butter until golden. Add garlic and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add wine and simmer until slightly reduced. Add lemon juice & herbs & simmer another minute. Toss with pasta. Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry. 

Cheater's Chicken Tagine

In fact, my version probably shouldn't be called "Chicken Tagine." "Chicken with a Moroccan Inflection," perhaps. This is a stovetop dish for chicken wusses who are afraid of bones. You can use chicken pieces on the bone, if you prefer. I know, Anthony Bourdain would look upon me with scorn. But, it is what it is and this was pretty tasty. I served it with couscous and a salad. It's based on a recipe from Bon Appetit. They would probably also be appalled by my version.  The salad is based on one from Cooking Light.

Cheater's Chicken Tagine
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 onions, chopped
4 tsp. paprika (I like Spanish-style smoked paprika for this)
2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 c. chicken broth
3 lemons, cut in wedges
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives
1/2 c. pitted castelvetrano olives

Heat oil in a big pot on high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in the oil. Set aside and wipe out the pot, leaving only a thin sheen of oil. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add spices and stir until the spices are fragrant, about half a minute. Return chicken to the pot and add broth, lemons, and olives. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low to cook chicken through, 15-20 minutes. Serves 4.

Herb Salad with Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts, & Berries
8 c. herb salad mix
2 c. berries (I used blackberries, but use whatever you like)
1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (I am partial to Maytag, Point Reyes, & Valdeon)
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. apple cider
3 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. finely-chopped shallots
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste

In a small skillet on med-low, cook the 3 tbsp. sugar, stirring, until it dissolves. Add walnuts and cook, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Allow to cool, then break up before using in salad. (You can also make extra to use later---or on sundaes or yogurt for dessert---just keep the proportions the same) Bring the cider to boil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes, or until reduced to about 2 tbsp. Mix cornstarch with water until it is dissolved. Add to cider. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and add shallots, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Don't get too close or breathe too deeply, as the vinegar could make you cough uncontrollably and weep salt into the dressing. Cool completely. Drizzle over salad greens, then top salad with nuts, berries, & blue cheese. Serves 4. 

Spaghetti Pie

It's still plenty cold in Michigan in March for comfort food to be really appealing. The day I made this spaghetti pie, it was especially blustery and unpleasant, so we were happy to have a good bellywarmer! I added a bagged Caesar salad and garlic bread from the freezer. I've learned the trick to frozen garlic bread is not to bake it quite as long as they instruct. Of course, it's just as easy to get a beautiful loaf of bread at the bakery and serve it with an olive oil dipping sauce. But with something as Middle America as this dish, frozen Texas toast seemed appropriate.

Spaghetti Pie
1 1/2 lb. ground beef (I used 90% lean), browned & drained
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14-16 oz.) diced tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. basil
Salt & pepper, to taste
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. grated parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. cottage cheese (low fat is fine)
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella (low fat is fine)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic with meat until they are tender. Add tomatoes & tomato paste, as well as seasonings. Cover & simmer 20 minutes. Mix spaghetti with melted butter, parmesan, & eggs. Grease a 10" pie plate and press spaghetti mixture into it, across bottom and up sides, like a pie crust. Add sauce, then cheeses. Place on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes. Serves 6.

Lenore's Thick Veggie Soup

My cousin, Lenore, is a fabulous cook and is always very generous with her recipes. This soup recipe is one she shared with me for a family cookbook years ago. The cookbook was never put together (one of the projects on my plate for the coming year) & I didn't try the recipe until February of this year. I needed something good, simple, and easy to keep warm for long periods of time, as we were busy packing for our wedding trip. I have been missing out on deliciousness! This with some crusty bread or rolls and a piece of fruit makes a fine winter supper. I have made some small changes, but the credit must go to Lenore!

Lenore's Thick Veggie Soup
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. chopped tomato (I subbed a can of diced tomatoes, it being winter)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. sliced zucchini
1/2 tsp. basil (in summer, I would toss in some fresh, chopped basil)
4 c. chicken stock (you can easily sub veggie stock for a vegetarian/vegan soup)
1 c. sliced carrots
2 tsp. chopped parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook onion & garlic in oil until translucent. Add the other ingredients, except the broth, cover, & cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add broth & bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove a cup of the veggies, using a slotted spoon, and blend the rest with an immersion blender or, very carefully & in batches or you can make a huge mess and burn yourself, in a regular blender. Return the reserved veggies to the rest of the soup & heat through.  

Making Candy for Team Building

My wife decided to have a team building exercise at the local art studio, you know, the sort of place where you can paint your own pottery or be instructed in how to create a canvas with a reasonable facsimile of a giraffe or dandelions or what have you. It was pretty amusing watching all those business guys trying to figure out what on earth to paint. Jeannene got the main dinner foods from a local restaurant, but asked me to pitch in and make some desserts. I have several go-to candy recipes, treats I've been making at Christmas for years, so I decided to make a few of those. I am also rather vain about my key lime pie, which I learned to make after discovering that it's near-impossible to find proper key lime pie in Ohio. It's one of my favorite desserts and nothing disappoints me more than ordering it in a restaurant and being served a bright green monstrosity that was clearly made with Jello included or a frozen, white, frothy thing that features Cool Whip and is scarcely tart at all. A proper key lime pie will be custardy, buttery yellow, and quite tart. I like mine with no topping at all, unless perhaps a little bit of unsweetened, real whipped cream to cut the sweet of it. I'm not opposed at all to a lime meringue pie. Just don't call it key lime pie. Rant over.

Key Lime Pie
4 egg yolks (I like to use the whites for pavlova or meringues)
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
3-4 oz. key lime juice (bottled is acceptable---I like Nellie & Joe's)
1 graham crust (I seldom make mine, although I do think homemade is better)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix egg yolks with sweetened condensed milk until it turns a beautiful light yellow. Gradually add a little juice at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. If you dump it all in at once, it becomes a real pain in the neck to get incorporated. Why, yes, I did learn this the hard way. Pour it all into the crust. Place it on a baking sheet (in case it slops over) and bake 10 minutes, checking in after about 8 minutes to make sure the edges aren't burning. Allow to cool completely, then cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving. 

Until my almost-grandma, Mary,  couldn't physically do it any longer, she used to set about baking for Christmas like nobody's business. I would arrive at her sweet little blue house in the holler and there would be planning sessions for what we would bake that year. One of her favorites from her younger years was chocolate rum balls and they became a favorite of mine, as well. My second-grandma, Gen, loved these so much that she submitted the recipe for the Dayton Women's Club cookbook and gave me a copy as a surprise for Christmas that year. My grandmom took some I had made along to Vermont one Christmas. They were destined for ham radio buddies at a stop along the way, in Fredonia, NY, where my grandies always overnighted on their way to spend the holiday with my auntie. Jean ate so many that Christmas that she made herself sick, but asked for more the following year. You have been warned.

Chocolate Rum Balls
1 c. chopped pecans (a mini food processor does this perfectly; you can also buy pecan chips)
1 c. Oreo crumbs (I used to be able to find these boxed, but they have vanished from the shelves in recent years. You can buy the more expensive cookies like the Bremner chocolate wafers, but it's not that hard to empty Oreos and pulverize the chocolate part in a food processor or with a rolling pin. I have recently begun to wonder if perhaps the insides might not be interesting in truffles or something else.)
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. light Karo syrup (use any brand you like---I use the term generically to mean corn syrup, much like Southerners use "Coke.")
1/4 c. light rum (or any liqueur you fancy, really. Cinnamon whiskey might be interesting.)
Granulated sugar for rolling

Mix everything but the rolling sugar. Shape into small balls (walnut-sized). Roll in sugar. makes 2-3 dozen. 

I'm a big fan of truffles and the cappuccino truffles are some of the yummiest I've ever had. They're not much to look at, as they are seldom perfectly round and tend to be a bit misshapen, but they are amazingly rich and wonderful. I make them a bit on the smaller side, not nearly as big as, say, a Godiva truffle, because they are so very sweet. If you want bigger truffles, by all means, make them bigger! These are a little time consuming because they have to chill and be rolled. They are also terribly messy. Make them anyway. They are worth it.

Cappuccino Truffles
12 oz. milk chocolate chips (you can make espresso truffles by using bittersweet chips)
6 tbsp. butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp. instant espresso powder (I might try Cafe Bustelo sometime for cortadito truffles, but I usually use Medaglia d'Oro)
Cocoa powder for rolling

Melt the ingredients together in a microwave safe bowl on high/full power for about a minute, until the chocolate & butter are almost melted. Stir until smooth. Freeze for 1 hour. Shape into small balls, rounding them in the palms of your hands and wiping/washing hands frequently to maintain traction. Roll in cocoa & keep refrigerated until you're ready to serve them.

My granddaddy, Clyde, loved peanut brittle, so from the time I was a tiny girl, he got a box of peanut brittle from me for Christmas. When I was in my 30s, I started toying with the idea of making it from scratch for him instead of buying it. I was intimidated by making it, though. I wish I'd known then how easy it is. I didn't, though, so I waited and waited and kept buying him peanut brittle. The last Christmas he was alive (although I didn't know it was his last at the time), I finally worked up my nerve and made a batch for him. He loved it and I have now started making it for my stepdad at Christmas and for his birthday. Jeannene loves it, too. This year, I tried just a smidge more baking soda than usual and it really made it fantastic. 

Peanut Brittle
2 c. sugar
A little baking soda on the end of a spoon (the more you use, the fluffier your brittle will be)
1 c. peanuts

Grease a baking sheet well and have it by the stove. Have everything, in fact, measured and ready by the stove. Get a tall saucepan with a heavy bottom nice & hot (but not too hot or you'll scorch your sugar) over medium-high heat. Pour in the sugar and stir constantly, stirring out all the lumps, until the sugar has just gone completely to syrup. If you're not used to this process, it can be worrisome, as the sugar gets all clumpy and hard before going liquid. It will look kind of like the ice is breaking up in spring for awhile there. Keep stirring. While you are stirring, you should also be brushing down the sides of the pan with a basting brush. If you don't, it won't ruin everything, though. It will, however, ruin everything if you allow your sugar to scorch. If it starts looking really dark or smelling burned, you could be in trouble, so keep a very close eye on it and act quickly in everything. Also, be very, very careful. Molten sugar hurts like mad when it touches your skin and it can bubble up unexpectedly. The second the sugar has gone to syrup, dump in the soda and the nuts & stir very, very quickly to incorporate before pouring onto the prepared baking sheet and spreading, working very quickly, into an even layer. Then, you just have to let it cool before breaking it into whatever size slabs you like. 

Annual Spring Equinox Dinner

I've been making the same first day of spring dinner since I was in my late teens or early 20s. I make salmon patties, boiled new potatoes with butter and fresh dill, and asparagus. I usually steam the asparagus, but this year, I roasted it. I make a lime or lemon butter sauce for dipping. The salmon patties, I learned from my grandmom, Janet. When I was about that age, I aspired to become as good a cook as her and as my almost-grandma, Mary. They both affirmed that I made it! Yay! If my darling liked tart sweets, we would also have lemon icebox pie, but alas, that will have to wait for company.

Salmon Patties for Spring
14 oz. can salmon, drained & flaked (I also pick out as much bone and skin as I can because they give me the heebie-jeebies, but they are perfectly edible)
25 saltine crackers, pulverized (I do this in my food processor, but you can also put them in a gallon ziploc & bash them with a rolling pin---this is especially satisfying if it's snowing 6" on the first day of spring)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Oil for frying
Tartar sauce or mayonnaise for serving, if you like (ketchup appeals to some people, as well)

Mix everything together and form into patties, using about 1/2 c. of the mixture for each. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high. Brown the patties on each side, then drain on paper towels before serving. Makes about 4. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

What I'm Cooking in April

Or, at least, what I plan to cook (the best-laid plans & all that)...

-Tilapia Dijon, gremolata rice, roasted asparagus 
-Lemon farfalle with chicken, asparagus, & pine nuts, green salad, garlic bread
-Mashed potato soup, beer bread, fruit
-Shrimp in beer, Persian rice with dill & pistachios, salad with warm goat cheese, marinated olives
-Salmagundi bake, feta & olive salad, crusty bread, fruit
-Gingerbread waffles, bacon, fruit
-Herb-crusted halibut, rice, snap pea salad with burrata, cheesy herbed popovers
-Brisket, kugel, matzo ball soup, green salad, roasted asparagus, charoset, matzos, flourless chocolate cake
-Veggie chili, corn fritters, fruit
-Artichoke-rice salad with chicken, broccoli, rolls, fruit
-Cheese soufflé, green salad, roasted green beans, orange muffins 
-Cream of curry potage, avocado & goat cheese salad, fruit
-Ham, au gratin potatoes, roasted asparagus, bunny rolls, lamb cake
-Parmesan chicken, pastina, salad greens with lemon vinaigrette
-Tarragon chicken salad with walnuts, croissants, green salad, fruit
-Gnocchi with alfredo sauce, Caesar salad, fruit
- Pan-seared chicken with tarragon butter, baked potatoes, green beans
 -Lebanese Veggie Soup 
-Peanut brittle (give-away)
-Raspberry brownies (give-away) 
-Chocolate chip meringues (give-away)
-Chocolate damnation
-Dirt cups
-Coconut macaroons

I also want to start a new Friday tradition of having cocktails together when Jeannene gets home from work. Here are the ones I have planned for April:
-Buck’s Fizz 
-Turquoise Blue 
-Mango Margaritas