1.31.2011

Sophie's Mushy Peas with Seared Scallops


Ahem. Please take note: I am throwing a healthy dinner into the mix of  Super Bowl snacks and Valentine Day sweets. Have I mentioned I am still watching my diet after the indulgences of the holidays? And this certainly fits the bill. Scallops are my favorite seafood and I much prefer them simply prepared. Oh, I can do sauces and other garnishes
 for guests, but I like easy, lo-cal and fast for myself. So searing with a little prosciutto around them is my favorite way to serve them. Simplicity itself.

When I got Sophie Dahl's book last year I remember reading this particular recipe and thinking what a great idea it was. I love peas, but they are so unruly on a plate. In a salad? Fine. On a plate? No thanks. Here's the answer: Sophie's version of Mushy Peas, a British classic. You've got to try this.....and don't you just adore 
crème fraiche? Yum. I'm in love with these mushy peas! With any kind of seafood, it's delicious. I just happen to prefer scallops and this makes such a pretty presentation....even if it is just for me.


Char-grilled Scallops on Pea Purée
Adapted from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl





Ingredients:

The peas:
2 cups frozen peas

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon crème fraiche
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

The scallops:

Olive oil
4 ounces prosciutto, cut into 16 one inch strips
8 scallops
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)


Method:

Cook the peas in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and put in a food processor. Add the butter, mint and crème fraiche. Purée. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Wrap each scallop with a thin slice of prosciutto. Secure with a toothpick. 
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the scallops into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side until well browned. Season each side with salt and pepper as it is cooking. When nearly done, throw in the zest and chili flakes. Serve immediately over the puréed peas.  Serves 2-3.

1.27.2011

A Diet Breaker


OK, so you're going to be mad at me.  First I post two weeks of fattening Super Bowl snacks and then follow it up today with a chocolate cake. Don't remind me, I
 know. We're all watching our diets, trying to eat healthier in 2011. And to top it all off, I don't even like chocolate all that much...one of life's lucky little breaks. I'm not going to say I never eat chocolate, I do. But I don't crave it, unlike a cousin I had who was allergic to it; at Christmas and Easter when we were children, my mother used to hide a box of Sander's chocolate (the only kind to eat back in the old days if you lived in the Detroit area) under the lid of our baby grand piano thinking my cousin wouldn't find it (not the greatest hiding place, Mom), but Marci's nose knew right where to go and she ate it until she got sick, poor thing. Every. Single. Year. Talk about addictions; she was the worst chocolate fanatic I ever knew. Well, maybe one other, my friend Polly.

In the 70's my friend Nancy introduced me to See's. She wouldn't eat any other kind. Even my father used to keep one of those huge Hershey bars in the fridge and every evening he would break off a piece. 
How about you? Do you have some stashed? Do you sneak it? Eat it in bed? Hide it so your family doesn't find it? Fess up, people. Tell me your chocolate secrets!

Anyway, just about everyone I know loves chocolate anything and besides, Valentine's Day is around the corner and everyone knows about the connection between chocolate and romance. Did you know the
 celebrated Italian libertine Casanova took chocolate before bedding his conquests on account of chocolate's reputation as a subtle aphrodisiac? Hmmmmm. And then I found this little gem of information: in the United States, the typical person eats 11.5 pounds of chocolate annually. Somebody is eating my share! Could it be YOU?

So here's the first thing: if you're a chocoholic you probably already have Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts , but then you should also have  
Lisa Yockleson's book and thirdly, trust me when I say this cake is right up your alley. Dense, dark and divine. We should all have a great recipe for a flourless chocolate cake like this in our repertoire. I took it to a party over the holidays. It was gone in a flash. I should have made two...but I kept telling everyone: you only need a sliver, it's so rich. Nobody paid any attention to me.
(Dare I mention a dollop of whipped cream on each slice wouldn't go amiss?)


Flourless Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

From Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson




Ingredients:
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid (I used Callebaut bittersweet chocolate)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
5 large eggs, separated
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
cocoa powder and confectioners sugar for garnish

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Lightly butter the inside of a 9" springform pan
Sift the sugar, cocoa powder and salt onto a piece of wax paper
Whisk the melted butter and melted chocolate together until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs yolks and sugar mixture for a couple minutes until thickened. Add vanilla and then the chocolate/butter mixture.
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and beat until firm peaks (not stiff) form.
Stir 2 or 3 spoonfuls of the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in  the remaining whites lightly but thoroughly.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until set. The baked cake will form puffs and fissures here and there.
Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. It will sink and collapse at the cracks.
Release the cake from the pan, remove the sides and sift cocoa powder and confectioners sugar on top.


1.24.2011

Get Ready.......Super Bowl Snacks II


Well, there it is. It's going to be the Packers and the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.  And here are my last two 
football-watching snacks; both are scrumptious, but entirely different. One is an old favorite and the other I found in Donna Hay Magazine. You'll like them both. 

Bacon pinwheels have been around forever. There are recipes using packaged croissant dough, pie pastry or puff pastry dough. Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, no cheese. Scallions or parsley or both. In fact, the only constant is bacon. I've made them all ways but if you want to make them dressy, I've found the puff pastry/bacon only version makes the prettiest presentation. 


Here's the basic recipe...it really adapts well to either puff  pastry or croissant dough. And you can stuff them with whatever takes your fancy. In these, I used bacon, scallions, 2 cheeses and croissant dough. You can even use lo-cal versions of some of the ingredients. This is such perfect football food and a snap to make. Is there anyone who doesn't love bacon? Hello out there? Anyone at all?

I didn't think so.

Bacon Pinwheels




Ingredients:


1 package of crescent roll dough 
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 
5 green onions, chopped 
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, room temperature
8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

Method:


Preheat oven to 375 F.
Unroll the crescent rolls and seal all the edges. Flatten slightly with a rolling pin.
Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and onions and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with the chopped bacon. Roll up like a jelly roll and refrigerate at least 1/2 an hour. Makes it easier to slice.
Slice in 1/4 inch slices, put on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake  12-15 minutes or until well browned.


Last but not least is a rather unusual football snack, but the group I made them for last year really liked them. Of course, they take a bit longer than some recipes because you have to cook and cool the polenta first. Do it the day before so you don't have to think about it; the rest is super simple. If you have time, make a garlic aioli...it's marvelous with these polenta sticks. I use a recipe I found in Gourmet magazine ages ago. (Which I didn't make for this photo. This is sour cream, not nearly as good.)

These crunch so nicely when you bite into them and the herbs are wonderful. You can't beat Donna Hay for recipes. Smartest thing I ever did was take a subscription.  It's worth every penny.


Enjoy the Super Bowl!




Herbed Polenta Chips

Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 51






Ingredients:
For the polenta:
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup instant polenta
1 ounce butter, chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chips:
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
olive oil

Method:
To make the polenta:
Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. While whisking, slowly add the polenta. Whisk until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the butter, Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon into a lightly greased baking pan and spread until aboutn 3/4 of an inch thick. Refrigerate until set.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut the polenta  into fingers and brush with the olive oil. Mix the herbs and roll the fingers in them. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with garlic aioli (recipe follows), sour cream or mayonnaise.

Garlic Aioli
Gourmet Magazine, February 2007


Ingredients:

2 medium heads garlic, left whole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Method:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. 
Cut off and discard tops of garlic heads to expose cloves, then brush each head with 1/2 tablespoon oil. Wrap heads together in foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool to warm. 
Squeeze garlic from skins into a food processor and purée with mayonnaise, vinegar, pepper, and salt. Transfer aioli to a bowl and stir in chives. 

1.20.2011

Super Bowl Snacks I


I thought I'd spend the next couple posts on game day snacks. I've found some gems on other blogs I've been wanting to tell you about (in case you missed them), another oldie but goodie and one I found in Donna Hay magazine. I think you'll like all of them. Let's start this week with the two I discovered on other blogs.


When you're asked to bring an appetizer to someone's house to watch the game or if you're hosting your own party, what could be better than pizza? Better yet, in mouthful size. No mess, no fuss. Easy to take on the road too. They sure aren't
 healthy veggie type appetizers, but this is a killer recipe and they're always a smash hit at my house. Cathy from Noble Pig posted them a while back. I tried them out on my son right after I read her post. He practically inhaled them. These will be gone in a flash so make plenty.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

From Noble Pig


 Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg.  Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 Tablespoon basil.  Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 Tablespoon basil.  Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping. Makes 24 mini puffs.
                                                    


For the second Super Bowl snack, I'll turn to Wanda from The Teacher Cooks. She posted these a few weeks ago. Wowza! I like that you can choose your own sausage: hot, sweet, spicy or mixed. And you can add even more heat by using some hot sauce.


Sausage and Cheese Balls

From The Teacher Cooks


Ingredients: 
1 lb. sausage, your choice  ( allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes)

12 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 cups Bisquick
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or hot sauce , optional

Method: 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix finely grated cheese, sausage, and 1/2 cup of the Bisquick with a wooden spoon. (I had much better luck using my hands.)  This takes patience.  As the Bisquick is worked in with the sausage and cheese, add the rest 1/2 cup at a time until it is finally all worked in.
Roll about a tablespoon or so in the palm of your hand.   
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for about 20 minutes. 
Makes about 3 dozen sausage and cheese balls.

1.16.2011

Nina Simonds' Scallion Pancakes


I've been hearing about scallion pancakes for ages, have enjoyed them countless times, read a while back about them on Dorie Greenspan's blog and have always wanted to make them at home. But this is one of those recipes I kept putting off as I knew it would take an entire afternoon after reading Dorie's comment about patience.


When I think of Chinese cooking, breads don't usually come to mind. But of course, they do make breads...for one, think of steamed pork buns.....and another, these scallion pancakes. They are a unique flatbread in that they are pan-fried, but made from a dough that's kneaded and shaped rather than  poured. You don't use a wok, you use a non-stick skillet for frying. 


Beause I have a copy of A Spoonful of Ginger, I went to the original recipe and finally spent a rainy afternoon making them. If you're going to give them a try (and oh so worth it) read through the recipe carefully; it's not that they're hard, they're not. Easy as pie actually, using simple ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now. It's just 
there's a lot of resting between steps and you want to allow time. And once you have your little patties, you can refrigerate or freeze them for future use.

Flaky Scallion Pancakes
From A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds


Ingredients:

3 cups cake flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup or more all-purpose flour, if necessary, for kneading
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
3/4 cup minced scallion greens
3/4 cup canola or corn oil

Method:


Stir the flours and salt in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.  Add the corn oil and the boiling water, and stir until a rough dough forms.  If the dough is too soft, knead in about 1/4 cup more flour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth, kneading in more all-purpose flour as necessary.  Cover with a cloth or wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes, or longer if possible.

On a very lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a long snakelike roll about 1 inch in diameter.  Cut the roll into 24 pieces.  Keep the unused dough covered with a damp towel as you work.

With a rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough, cut side down on the work surface, into a 5-inch circle.  Brush the top with a little sesame oil and sprinkle with some of the minced scallion greens.




Roll up the circle like a jelly roll and pinch the ends to seal.  Flatten the roll slightly with the rolling pin, and coil it into a snail shape, with the seam on the inside.  Pinch the end to secure it and set aside on a lightly floured surface.  Prepare the remaining pancakes, and let them rest for 30 minutes uncovered.



Reflour the work surface and roll each coiled pancake out to a 4-inch circle.  Place them on a lightly floured tray.  Let them rest for 30 minutes uncovered, or longer if possible.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat a large, heavy skillet, add the oil, and heat to 350 degrees F.  Put a few of the pancakes in the pan, not touching, and fry over medium heat, turning once, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove with a spatula and drain briefly in a colander, then transfer to absorbent paper.  Arrange the cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the remaining pancakes, reheating the oil between batches.  Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven.
Makes 24 pancakes.

Serve with dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil:

General Dipping Sauce for Japanese Gyoza, Scallion Pancakes (or just about anything)

Ingredients:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part rice wine vinegar
½ part sesame oil or chili sesame oil
1 part sugar (optional)

Method:
Combine ingredients and serve. 

1.12.2011

Cold Weather Dinner: Lamb Shanks in Red Wine


My family loves lamb. Lamb chops, rack of lamb, lamb kabobs, leg of lamb, lamb shanks and even lamb kidneys. (I must post my recipe for the kidneys soon...my kids used to love them over toast for breakfast.) And my herbed leg of lamb made it into our Junior League Cookbook, Savor the Moment.

But our favorite winter lamb dish has always been Lamb Shanks in Red Wine. I found the recipe years ago in one of the 1959 Gourmet cookbooks...there are two volumes. My mother gave them to me as a gift and I use recipes from each frequently, still. Sadly, Volume II doesn't seem to be available on Amazon any longer. I remember one of the volumes had the first recipe for quiche Lorraine I ever saw....and made. And their photo of croquembouche was so gorgeous that I made it immediately and haven't made one since. Have you noticed how few of the really old cookbooks have photos? We are so into photos and presentation these days.


Anyway, we had some really cold weather in Florida over the holidays (well, cold for us) so one night my kids asked me to make the lamb shank dish. I'd forgotten the marvelous fragrance while cooking and my mouth was watering by the time it was done. I added some fennel to the dish and left the carrots and celery in bigger chunks so I didn't have to make a separate veggie. Then served some noodles with it. It's a lovely rich and filling dish and the meat just falls off the bone. And be sure to use a good red wine...one that you would be happy drinking with your dinner. 

Lamb Shanks in Red Wine
Adapted From The Gourmet Cookbook


Ingredients:

6 lamb shanks
flour
salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, split
2 Tablespoons warm brandy
3 cups red wine
3 cups water
1/2 cup diced carrots ( I cut the carrots in 3 inch pieces)
1 fennel bulb, quartered
1/2 cup diced celery  (I cut the celery in 3 inch chunks)
1 cup chopped onion
1 bay leaf
pinch thyme

Method:

Roll the shanks in flour and sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Melt the butter in the olive oil and brown the garlic along with the shanks in a large oven proof casserole. Remove from stove and add the warm brandy. Ignite. Be careful! When flame is out add the other ingredients and bake in a 350 oven for 2 hours. Correct seasonings. You can make a little gravy if you like....just mix flour and butter together and add to the sauce to thicken, then top off with a squeeze of lemon juice.



P.S. I have a guest post up over at Lazaro Cooks! Be sure to check it out.

1.08.2011

Jack Bishop's Savoy Cabbage


It's always fun to keep you posted about new cookbooks from time to time, but here's one cookbook that isn't new, has no photos to drool over, hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the press and isn't going to win any awards. It should though. It's just about the most complete and knowledgeable book on veggies I've seen. Vegetables Every Day. A virtual encyclopedia of vegetables. Everyone should have a copy in their kitchen library. You'll love it- the author doesn't miss a trick, or a vegetable. The basics. You name it, it's in there. Along with some really excellent recipes.

Jack Bishop is the editorial director of America's Test Kitchen. He joined the staff of Cook's Magazine in 1988 and helped with the launch of Cook's Illustrated in 1993. He established the tasting protocols used in America's Test Kitchen and has authored dozens of articles for the magazine and is a prolific book author.



I've had the cookbook for quite a while, bookmarked lots of recipes and have been trying one after another. I posted one of his recipes quite a while back- crispy fried artichoke hearts. Fabulous. But labor-intensive, as all artichoke dishes are because everyone wants to get to the lovely center. The recipe is HERE


Always keeping Bishop's book in mind when I'm in the vegetable section, I spied a gorgeous head of savoy cabbage at Whole Foods, grabbed it, took out Bishop's book for inspiration and made this wonderful side dish.



Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta and Onions
From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop



Ingredients:


1 head Savoy cabbage (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter the cabbage through the stem end and cut out the core in each quarter. Slice the cabbage crosswise into thin strips. You should have 12 cups. Add the cabbage and salt to taste to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set the cabbage aside.

Heat the oil, pancetta and onions in a large Dutch oven or casserole over medium heat. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and the onion begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and browned, about 12 minutes. (Make certain to brown the cabbage well. It's fine if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit. When the stock is added, it will deglaze the pan.) 


Add the stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook just until the liquid in the pot evaporates, 3-5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 6 as a side dish.

1.02.2011

Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup


I'm not the soup-maker my sister is, but every once in a while I like to make a big batch of soup and portion it out for freezing...what's left anyway, after enjoying it for a couple days. I'm thinking healthy is where I want to be right now after all the rich food since Thanksgiving and this soup fits the bill perfectly.


Luisa at
The Wednesday Chef posted this a few years back and I copied it. I forgot all about it until I read something recently about cranberry beans. So I dug it out, ordered some cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo and made it for my daughter on a cold Florida day. First, I discovered cranberry beans taste marvelous all by themselves. (Testing them for doneness was a treat.) Then, knowing kale is one of Tracy's favorite veggies made it a perfect match and I had both leeks and 
orecchiette pasta in the house. 
Luisa suggests cooking a fresh portion of pasta each time you serve the soup but I didn't and I froze some portions as well. She's right of course, and it makes for a better soup, but it's rather time consuming when you're in a hurry.

You'll see after reading the recipe there is a divine spiced bean purée
 to dollop on top and then mix into the soup. Wow. The flavors! This puree MAKES the soup. The first photo shows the bean puree before mixing it in. I think it makes a nice presentation; then you can serve the Parmesan on the side. The last photo was taken after we mixed in the purée. 
You're going to love this one!

Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup
From The Wednesday Chef


Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 1/2 tablespoons, divided
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced, about 2 cups
2 medium carrots, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1 onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
3 cups dried cranberry beans or Good Mother Stallards, if you're lucky enough to have some hanging around the house
Kosher salt
2 bunches lacinato kale, cleaned, stemmed and coarsely chopped, about 10 cups
3 cups dried orecchiette pasta (about 9 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh minced sage
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Method:

In a 4-quart soup pot or cast iron casserole (with a lid that fits), heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and cook the leeks, carrots and onions over medium-low heat until just softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the dried beans and 12 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid, stirring occasionally. 


After about 45 minutes, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Continue to cook, covered, and again stirring occasionally, just until the beans are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour or more (this may vary according to the beans you use).

With a slotted spoon, remove 1 cup of the beans and, separately, 2 tablespoons of bean liquor and set both aside. Add the kale to the soup, stirring in a few cups at a time as the greens wilt. Cover, and continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes more until the greens are tender, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve.

In a food processor, combine the reserved beans and bean liquor, sage, parsley, paprikas and lemon juice, the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, then check for seasoning, adding more salt if desired, or bean liquor to aid in blending.

Just before serving, stir the cooked pasta into the soup. 



Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with about 2 tablespoons of spiced bean purée. Grate Parmesan over the top of each bowl to taste and serve immediately. Serves 8-10.

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