Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

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When I was little my mom used to make this enchilada dish. Its totally not an authentic Mexican enchilada dish. If I remember correctly, she got the recipe out of an old Weight Watchers book. I can't tell you which one, because I haven't looked at it for years, its on my mother's shelf, and she isn't answering her phone. But I guess its not really important since I have changed a lot of the ingredients. Filled with vegetables and cheese, this dish has a great flavor, and isn't all that bad for you (ok, minus the piles of cheese).

**(I am trying out a new style here, incorporating my pictures into my recipe instead of all at the beginning. Which way do you like best?)**

Chicken Enchiladas, American Style

1 rotisserie chicken (or 3 chicken breasts), cooked and shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium white onion, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes - I like the ones with chilies in them
1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms
mexican seasoning
1 brick cheddar or colby jack cheese
10 tortillas
sour cream
cilantro
1 small jar tomato paste

Heat a large skillet and add a 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Add the onions to the pan and stir occasionally until they start to become translucent.
Add the garlic to the pan and let saute until it becomes fragrant.
Add the mushrooms, and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, the juice included, and let simmer until the liquid has reduced.
Take half of the tomato mixture from the pan and add to a bowl with the shredded chicken, mixing well to distribute everything evenly. Set this aside for a minute.
To the remaining half of the tomato mixture in the pan, add the can of tomato paste, stirring well, until fully incorporated. Reduce heat to low.
Fill each tortilla with a handful of the chicken mixture and some cheese, roll tightly, and then place into a 9x13 baking dish. I can usually fit about 10-12 tortilla shells in, but it depends on how much I fill them. While you fill them, if you can kind of squeeze out any juice from each handful this will help to keep your enchilada from being too soggy.
When you are done filling the tortilla shells, take the remaining juice and whatever is leftover from the chicken mixture and mix it into the remaining tomato mixture. Spoon this over the tortillas and spread evenly. Pile the remaining cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are hot.
Sprinkle with some chopped cilantro, if preferred, and serve with sour cream.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers Make A Dobos Torte

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Guess what time it is?! It's time for this month's Daring Baker's Challenge!!! The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Sooo...this probably wasn't my best baking experience ever. In fact, while I was baking, whipping, and frosting, all I could think was "This is going to be a fail. An epic fail."

I had some difficulty with creating the layers. As you can see... my first one didn't turn out so well. So then I got kinda nervous and decided instead of cooking a million super thin layers, I would cook it all together and then cut the cake into its layers. But then when it came time to actually cut the cake, I got even more nervous. I won't lie - I panicked. I am not the best at cutting multiple, thin, even layers, apparently. I only got three layers.
I wasn't pleased with the frosting, either. It refused to set. I mean, absolutely refused. I even put it in the freezer for a half hour and it was still more ganache-y than frosting-y. But my husband's entire family was at my house by this time, sitting at my kitchen table with forks in hand, waiting for a slice. So I had to just go with it. It wasn't hard to assemble, since it was only two layers, except for the fact that my frosting was oozing everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Overflowing the cake stand, down the sides, and onto the table. I know it doesn't look like it, but that is because I did some massive clean up for the photos (I know, I'm so tricky!) Also, I replaced the hazelnuts in the recipe with sliced almonds.

However, this cake or torte, or whatever you want to call it tasted awesome! It was great! I wish I hadn't had family over so I could have had more than 1/12 of the cake! The toffee layer was definitely sticky enough to almost glue my jaw together. But it had a nice lemoney flavor, so it was all ok. All in all, this was a yummy cake, even though I had some issues while making it. I want to try it again, and do a better job at it this time.

Dobos Torte



Equipment
  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Sponge cake layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt




Directions for the sponge layers:
The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)
Chocolate Buttercream 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.
1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.
Caramel topping Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Cut the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.
Finishing touches 20 minutes
  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts


1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BBQ Chicken Pizza

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Often on days when I don't feel like cooking anything we go for pizza. However, if you haven't noticed, pizza is expensive, and not really that healthy for you. So hubby and I have been endeavering to find some healthy, inexpensive, and most of all good tasting recipes to make pizza at home!



What makes this BBQ pizza is the tomato chutney that replaces the traditional BBQ sauce. Sometimes BBQ pizza's can taste really salty from all the bottled sauce that is dumped on it. But this chutney is really great - slightly sweet, slightly tangy, slightly perfect.




Barbeque Chicken Pizza (Cooking Light, December 2002)
1 (10 ounce) italian flavored pizza crust
2 chopped chopped cooked chicken breasts (about 2 breasts worth)
2 2/3 cup diced plum tomato
3/4 cup shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon Jamaican jerk seasoning
1 minced garlic clove
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Combine 2 cups chopped tomato, the brown sugar, cider vinegar, jamaican jerk seasoning and garlic in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium, cook 20 minutes or until thickened.

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees.
Place crust on a baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes.
Remove from oven and spread chutney over crust, leaving a 1/2 inch border.

Top chutney with chicken. Sprinkle on 2/3 cup diced tomato, cheese, and green onions evenly over chicken. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

Cut into 6 wedges and Enjoy!

** photos updated 3/4/14

Monday, August 24, 2009

Middle Eastern Chicken Breasts with Vegetables

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I love trying new flavors together, especially in ethnic foods. Something about unusual flavor combinations is just plain fun. This dish had fantastic flavor! The vegetables were cooked to perfection - not too soft or crisp. The spices added a great flavor. I'm at a loss of words for what else to say about this dish, other than it was great and my husband scarfed down his entire plate. In fact, he was just about to lick his plate clean when I had to give him the evil eye.
Once I started cooking this meal, which smells absolutely fabulous, by the way, I realized that I didn't have any curry powder. If there is one thing I hate, its having to stop cooking something for an emergency run to the grocery store. Thank goodness for the internet and google "substitute for" search terms. I found a fantastic substitute for curry, and I actually think it lent the meal a much better flavor than if I had actually had curry. From now on, I will definitely be using this flavor combination instead of curry! To replace the two teaspoons of curry, measure out the following ingredients so together they equal 2 teaspoons: coriander, saffron (or tumeric), fennel, ground cloves, cinnamon, a crushed bay leaf, and some black pepper. Also, if you happen to have some star anise and mustard seeds on hand, you can throw a bit of that in, too, but my spice pantry was lacking in those.

Middle Eastern Chicken Breasts

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar plus 1/2 cup for end of recipe
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
cooking spray
1.5 cups chopped baby red potatoes
1 cup chopped vidalia onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons mild chili powder
2 teaspoons curry powder (or see note for a substitute)
5 garlic cloves, minced
2.5 cups chopped tomato
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon oil in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag and place in fridge for 10 minutes to marinate. While the chicken is marinating, chop all the vegetables and measure out all the spices.
Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.
Place chicken on grill rack, cooking for 4 minutes on each side or until the chicken is done. Cut into 1/4 inch strips.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or sauce pan over medium heat.
Add potato and cook ten minutes or until tender.
Stir in onion, cumin, coriander, chili powder, curry powder, and minced garlic.
Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomato, peas, cilantro, salt and pepper.
Cook three minutes.
Remove from heat.

Place 1/2 cup vinegar in small saucepan.
Bring to boil.
Cook until reduced in half (about 3 minutes).

Spoon 1 cup cooked vegetables onto each of 4 plates.
Arrange 1 sliced chicken breast over vegetables.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon reduced vinegar over each serving.

For nutritional information, check out Cooking Light.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Country Style Scalloped Corn Casserole

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Potlucks are one of my favorite things - whether its a church activity, or just a bunch of friends meeting together for dinner one night. Nothing goes better with good friends and conversations than a plate full of casseroles and salads. This happens to be one of my favorites - its simple and easy to make, it tastes fantastic, and its good enough for any meal, whether its a weeknight, potluck or Thanksgiving. 
This is a great combination of cornbread and scalloped corn. The cornbread gives a slight sweetness to the dish, but doesn't retain the dry crumb of a regular cornbread. It has a kind of thick pudding like consistency. The recipe is also so simple that after a few times of making this you won't even have to look at the recipe any more! And please excuse my lack of a good photo of this. I took this to a potluck dinner, proceeded to wolf down my portion, and then realizing that I hadn't taken a photo raced to get a picture of what was left, and found a tiny piece left in an otherwise empty pan. 

Country Style Scalloped Corn Casserole

2 sticks (1 cup) melted butter
2 cans (32 ounces) whole style corn
2 cans (32 ounces) creamed style corn
2 boxes (9 ounces) corn bread muffin mix
2 cups (or about 16 ounces) sour cream
4 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325.
Drain whole corn.
Melt the butter.
Combine all ingredients, adding the corn muffin mix last.
Pour into greased 9x13 pan.
Bake for one hour. 

If you want a smaller portion, you can divide all the ingredients in half and cook for 30 minutes in an 8x8 pan. 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chicken Sausage Fake Bake

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Sometimes, I really really like Rachel Ray! There is just something about being curled up on the couch and watching her cook something. I could watch her all day long. I mean, she whips up some fantastic meals in 3o minutes! And its usually pretty healthy! Yeah! I saw her make this the other day, and I knew I desperately needed to try it. I'm a sucker for pasta bakes! And, in the words of Rachel Ray, this is definitely "Yum-O"!


Chicken Sausage Fake Bake

1 pound rigatoni
salt
1 pound cooked chicken sausages
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 green or red pepper, seeded and cubed 
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (more or less depending on the spice level you want)
1 large vidalia onion, thinly cubed
4 garlic cloves, minced
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
handful chopped flat leaf parsley
10 medium size basil leaves, torn or shredded
1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup parmiagino-reggiano 

Place a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. When the water boils, salt it and cook the pasta to al dente.

Prick sausages with a knife. Place chicken sausages in a large skillet and add 1 inch of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring water to boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow all the liquid to cook away then brown and crisp the casings, 5 to 6 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

While pasta and sausage cook, heat a deep skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the peppers, onions, garlic, and salt and pepper. 

When the sausages are cooked through, slice them on an angle and add them to the peppers and onions. Cook together until peppers and onions are tender and sliced sausages are crisp at edges, then de-glaze pan with white wine or chicken stock. Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring to a bubble, reduce heat to low.

Drain rigatoni and return to warm pot. Add ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and half of the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine everything. 

To assemble, place half the sausage mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Top with all of the pasta and then the remaining sausage mixture. Cover the dish with the rest of the parmesan cheese and place under the broiler for 2 minutes to brown the cheese and set the pasta. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grilled Pork with Blackberry Sage Sauce

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My all time favorite tea is Blackberry Sage from The Republic of Tea. I remember being introduced to this tea by one of my childhood best friends, and I still love it dearly to this day. So of course, when I saw this recipe in the ___  2009 issue of Cooking Light I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to try it!!

The recipe wasn't very hard to make, and the making of the sauce timed perfectly with the pork so everything finished at the same time. I LOVE when that happens! I was slightly disappointed with how the sauce came out, it seemed really thin and watery, not the thick sauce I had imagined in my mind. But I was still excited to try this dish! However when I took my first bite it was bland, blase', and utterly disappointing. All I could taste was the salt and pepper on the pork. It was like my highly anticipated blackberry sage sauce was nothing but purple colored water.

I think I figured out how to fix the problem, though, so hopefully when you try this dish it will be much better, with a rich berry and sultry sage taste! The recipe calls for straining out the blackberries, sage, and shallots. No, no, no no, no! Instead of straining out the best parts, it should be put through the food processor until a uniform consistency is reached. Also, the sage should be increased by 1/2 teaspoon. The rest of my dinner guests thought this made a big difference, but I thought it was still rather bland. Maybe it was just because I expected so much out of this recipe. I wasn't going to post this, but my husband convinced me that I should. So, here it is!


Grilled Pork with Blackberry Sage Sauce

cooking spray
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3 cups fresh blackberries (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 can fat-free less sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (1.5 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat

For Sauce:
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray.
Saute the shallots for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the blackberries, sage, and broth. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until blackberries break down.
Pulverize the mixture in a food processor until it reaches uniform consistency.
Return liquid to pan. 
Stir in vinegar and sugar.
Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 9 minutes. If the sauce needs to be thickened, add some cornstarch. 
Remove from heat.
Stir in butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring until butter melts. Keep warm.


For Pork:
Prepare a grill to medium heat.
Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper over pork. 
Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray. 
Cover and grill 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until a thermometer registers 155 degrees (slightly pink).
Let stand 10 minutes.
Cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Serve with blackberry sauce.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks Make Rice with Mushrooms, Chicken and Artichokes

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There isn't any doubt as to the "daring"ness of The Daring Kitchen. When they say they want you to learn new techniques, to stretch yourself, and to be a bit... daring.... well they mean it! There is no tiptoeing among the tulips here!

This month's challenge was picked by Olga of  Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes  . Olga is from Spain, and so she chose a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. This recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain.  


Since I am not really a big seafood person, I decided to replace the cuttlefish with some chicken and chorizo. This dish was fabulous! It was fun, and pretty easy to make, and it made my house smell amazing! The most complicated part of this dish was the time factor, because it did take about 2.5 hours to make in total. So its definitely not a week-night meal. But it is worthy of a nice dinner, someday special.

There were three main parts to this challenge. The first part was making a sofregit, which is a very fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and often times mushrooms, onions, and peppers. While it was simmering away on my stovetop all afternoon long, it definitely reminded me of homemade spaghetti sauce (I think it would be good for that, too!)
The second part of the recipe was to make an allioli. When I first read this I thought it was an aoli. Then I thought that maybe allioli and aioli were different. But nope, they aren't, it just depends where you are from as to how you say it. Just like tomatoes and potatoes, I guess. :)
The third and final part is to make the finished product. It is supposed to be made in a paella pan, but I don't have one. I started with a nice sized large sautee pan, but then halfway through adding ingredients I realized I definitely needed more pot. So I had to switch to a large stock pot. And almost dropped the pan on the floor and lost it all. Luckily, though, my wrists did not give out, and I saved the day!

I really only had two problems with this recipe. The first problem came with finding saffron. Who would have thought finding saffron would be a problem? All the normal grocery stores in the area (Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, etc) didn't carry it. So I went to the city market, which houses a lot of ethnic merchants, and bags upon bags of spices. But, amazingly, wonder of wonders, they were OUT of saffron! They had like 10 pound bags of terragon and curry and things I couldn't even pronounce, but no saffron. Eventually I gave in and drove 30 minutes to the Whole Foods store, where I spend a whopping $10 on this tiny jar of saffron threads.

The second problem I had was with the allioli sauce. Well, I should clarify. I didn't have the problem with it. The problem came into play when my dear husband and the husband of my best friend decided to "help" me cook dinner, and I needed to give them a task to get them from breathing down my neck and asking me 20 questions while I cooked. So I gave them the job of making the allioli, and I think they got a little exuberant with the "slow, circular movements" that are spelled out in the direction. We didn't get the creamy sauce we were supposed to, and olive oil ended up all over my kitchen table. But it did taste yummy! Especially when slathered on some nice rustic bread.

Rice with Mushrooms, Chicken and Artichokes

Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times
different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)-

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour
Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Touch of ground cumin
  • Touch of dried oregano
Directions:
Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft. Salt if necessary. Easy !!!

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokesCooking time: 45 minutesEquipment:

  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves
  • 125 ml of white wine
  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
  • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
  • Water, Fish, or Chicken Stock, depending on the meat you are using (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
  • Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)

Directions:
Cut the cuttlefish/chicken in little strips.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
If you use fresh artichokes, clean them and cut in eights.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish/chicken and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
Add a couple or three heaping serving spoonfulls of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit. (I used about a cup, and then everyone added more to their individual plates). 
Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat. This is not like a risotto where you have to stir it constantly. Stir once or twice the whole rest of the time this cooks. 
Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Drizzle individual servings with a small amount of allioli.

Allioli (Traditional recipe)Cooking time: 20 min aprox.
Ingredients:

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)
Directions:
Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce. It takes forever, but is totally worth it in the end!
Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)Cooking time: 3-4 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
  • Salt to taste
Directions:
Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
Add salt to taste.

If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don't throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted. 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grilled Apple Pie

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My in-laws have the cutest apple trees in their yards. They are crooked and twisted, the perfect climbing trees for small children. Or, as it happens, my dog Peanut. He LOVES to climb the trees and pick his own little green apples, and then carries them around all day, snacking on them whenever he feels the need. 

Sadly, we had a storm a few days ago and one of the trees didn't make it. All the apples were picked off the tree, bagged up and deposited on my kitchen counter. There were way too many to eat by themselves, and they were a little tart anyway. I wanted to make a really simple, rustic apple tart with them. My parents were visiting this weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do some baking. I planned on making a tart I found on Smitten Kitchen's blog, but during the baking process my parents and I started having way too much fun throwing in handfuls of this and that, and we ended up with a totally unique creation. It went from an apple tart to an apple pie, something to be put into the oven to something we grilled, and we even made a complementary sauce for on top of ice cream!! Haha, yeah, we had fun! We had to sit down and seriously contemplate what it was we put into it. We think we have it all down, even if there are no specific quantities of anything. But hey, what's rustic baking without directions like "a handful of this and a handful of that" anyway? 

Grilled Apple Pie the Wright Way!

Dough:
2 cups flour
12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the ingredients with two forks until it resembles cornmeal. 
With your hands, form into a ball. 
Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so, or for however long it takes you to get the apples ready. 

Filling:
1 bag of little green apples (how's that for an exact quantity, huh?!) 
3 or 4 handfuls of brown sugar
1 lemon
4 teaspoons cinnamon, or more or less, whatever you want
2 Tablespoons sugar
Bourbon. We aren't exactly sure how much we put in here, we just kinda glubbed it in. Maybe 1/4 a cup?
2 tablespoons melted butter

Peel, de-core and slice the apples into thin slices. 
Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the apple slices as you go to keep the apples from browning.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients. 

Assembling:

3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white

Butter sides and bottom of a 10" cast iron skillet.
Press half the dough into the bottom of the pan, and as far up the sides as you can get them (don't be exact here, whatever the dough wants to do is fine, remember, this is rustic!!)
With your hands, scoop out the apples and put them on top of the dough in the cast iron. Leave the juices in the bowl, but don't discard them. 
Take the other half of the dough and place it on the apples. You can either roll it out or tear off small chunks with your hands and pat them on top. Cut some slits into the top of the pie crust.
Brush an egg white over the top dough.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons sugar over the top of the pie. 
Grill until its bubbly and golden!

Apple Ice Cream Topper Sauce Stuff: (hehe)
Take the peelings from the apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, and the juices from the pie filling and place them in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes or so, stirring occasionally,  until the sugars have caramelized and the apples peels are soft and cooked down. Strain the peels out and allow to cool to room temperature, or just not boiling any more. Dribble on top of ice cream, or however else you want to use it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Smoked Spare Ribs of Awesomeness

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MMMM, nothing says summer better than spending the day at the grill, slow smoking some ribs. Ribs are great for channeling your inner caveman as you use your teeth to rip meat off the bones.



This is definitely not a recipe for a weeknight. Unless, however, you lovely significant other happens to be doing nothing else during the day - then, its perfect!


Spare Ribs

2 racks ribs

Brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar

Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 3/4 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Create the brine by dissolving the sugar and salt in 4 quarts cold water , either in a large stock pot or a large plastic container. 
2. Remove the pleura from the ribs. This is a firm slippery membrane that covers the ribs that would be on the side of the ribs where the lungs would have been. It isn't necessary to remove this, but your ribs will be a more tender if you do. 




3. Submerge ribs in the brine and regrigerate for one hour. 
4. Cover wood chips with water in a medium bowl. Allow to soak for an hour.
5. Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry.
6. Rub the spice mixture over the ribs evenly and allow to sit with the spices for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge. 




7. Prepare the grill. 
For a Charcoal grill: open the bottom vents on the grill. Fill a chimney 3/4 fuill of briquettes (about 65 briquettes) and burn until covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, about 20 minutes. Empty coals onto one half of the grill bottom opposite the side with the vents, piling them 2-3 briquettes high. Place soaked wood chunks on top of the coals. Position cooking grate over the coals, cover the grill, open lid vents 2/3 of the way and heat grate for 5 minutes. 

8. Arrange ribs on the cool side of the grill, parallel to the fire. Position the lid so that the vents are opposite the wood chunks to draw the smoke through the grill. 

9. Cook 2 hours, flipping and rotating rib racks every 30 minutes. 

10. Add 10 new briquettes to the pile of coals, and add more soaked wood chips, if needed. Continue to cook for an additional 1.5 to 2 hours long, flipping, switching, and rotating ribs every 30 minutes. 

11. Transfer ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones to separate ribs, and then serve!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Did You Know....

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The Scenario:

It's a beautiful evening. Your best friends have come over and enjoyed a fabulous dinner with you, a great bottle of wine, and wonderful conversation. Not wanting the evening to draw to a close quite yet, you decide its time for dessert. You had been so excited about spending the evening with your friends and making a wonderful dinner, you plum forgot to do something for dessert! Don't let the panic overtake you, though, because you happen to have a package of refrigerator cookie dough on hand!  You turn the oven on to preheat, and rejoin the conversation. After ten minutes or so, you return to the kitchen to bake the cookies. But when you open the oven door, it hits you. The shock of it startles you. The oven is cold. You double check, 'Did I turn it on?'. Sadly, yes, the oven is on. With a not-so quiet reverence, and probably a few choice words, you close the oven door. What are you going to do?!?!

The Solution:

Don't panic, dear friends! Pan fry those cookies! 

What? Pan fry them?! That sounds absurd! 

Yes, I will admit it does, but it works! While they don't turn out quite so beautifully, they taste good, and will do in a pinch! 

Get out a skillet (cast iron or non-stick would definitely be best for this). You are going to cook these very similarly to how you would cook a pancake. I found it best to split the little pre-made cubes of cookie dough in half, warm them up a bit in my hand and then flatten them out a little. They are going to be really ooey and gooey at first, so let them sit as long as you can before flipping them. And don't worry if you burn the first few. It will take some getting used to. Look at my first attempt:

Horrid, I know! But just like pancakes, you always ruin the first couple of ones. Eventually you will get the hang of how it works, and can end up with some acceptable looking cookies!

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