Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecan Crumble


I didn't share this recipe from Saveur which we tried out for Thanksgiving in 2011? Shame on me. It is simply delicious, just sweet enough to enhance the sweet potato flavor without obscuring it. Until Rose, far from home and providing the basis of Thanksgiving dinner for her friends, asked me about it yesterday I didn't realize I'd not put it on the blog.

Note: I skipped the mini marshmallows, not being a marshmallow appreciator.

Also, I feel positive that I make this to the point of adding the crumble and then refrigerate it until the next day, Thanksgiving, when I let it come to room temperature and bake it while the turkey is resting. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecan Crumble

Step 1:
3 pounds sweet potatoes

Heat oven to 425°. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until soft, about 1-1/2 hours; let cool for 30 minutes, and then remove skins. Pass potatoes through a food mill into a large bowl.

Step 2:
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1-inch piece ginger, finely grated
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Stir in sugar, butter, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, eggs, ginger, and pepper. Pour mixture into a 1½-quart baking dish and smooth top; set aside.

Step 3:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 cup mini marshmallows

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Stir together flour, oats, sugar, pecans, and salt in a bowl; add butter and, using your fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until large crumbles form. Mound crumble mixture over filling, dot with marshmallows, and bake until filling is hot and crumble and marshmallows are browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sichuan-Style Orange Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

This is from the latest Cook's Country magazine. They always have a center section of 30-minute recipes printed on card stock, perforated so you get the photo on one side, the recipe on the other, and it makes a nice recipe card that I punch holes in and put in my kitchen binder. These have been consistently good and simple whenever I've tried them.

I think next time I'd use more sugar snap peas but since I also steamed some broccoli (dressed with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce) we had plenty of vegetables.

It was delicious with the beef tender, the snow peas crisp, and the flavor bright from the orange and red pepper flakes. Also, we had plenty left over for a second meal. In fact, I think the flavor was improved on the second night.

The obvious pairing is to serve this with steamed rice, although I could see it being a good match with pasta or rice noodles.

My only beef (ha!) with this recipe is that there weren't enough peas. A second time I made it with double the amount and that was just right. 

Sichuan-Style Orange Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

2 teaspoons grated orange zest plus 1/2 cup juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed, cut into thirds lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick pieces
8 ounces peas, sugar snap, strings removed (I double this)
2 scallions, sliced thin

Combine orange zest and juice, soy sauce, honey, garlic and pepper flakes in a bowl.

Combine beef and 1/3 cup orange juice mixture in a 12" non-stick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid has evaporated and beef is caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil.

Add the remaining orange juice mixture and the snap peas to now-empty skillet and cook, covered, over medium heat until the snap peas are bright green, about 2 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the snap peas are tender, about 1 minute. Return the beef to the skillet and toss with the snap peas to combine. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quick Asian-Style Dumpling Soup

This came from Cook's Country magazine, which I actually prefer quite a bit to Cook's Illustrated, though both tend to go on and on about how they got to their eventual recipe. C'est la vie. One can easily skim or skip and see what the darned recipe looks like.

An exception to this tendency is the eight recipes that are always on cardstock in the middle of the publication, perforated so one can easily detach them and have a ready made recipe card with picture on one side and recipe on the other.

I'm a sucker for Asian soups of all sorts and this one looked tempting with dumplings, green onions, and mushrooms poised in the bowl of broth. My one fear was that it wasn't hearty enough for a main dish.

This recipe delivered on both flavor and filling ability, especially when accompanied by a baguette and salad (dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette). I made a half recipe for the two of us which was a hearty meal. I think next time I'll make a full recipe up to the point of adding the dumplings, saving half the soup base for adding dumplings a second evening.

I'll be making this one again, definitely.

Quick Asian-Style Dumpling Soup

Serves 4

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 scallions, white and green parts separated, sliced thin on bias
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin (I used regular mushrooms, so sue me)
6 cups chicken broth
16 ounces frozen Asian-style dumplings or potstickers
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice

Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan and return pan to medium heat. (Conversely, if you don't have 2 tablespoons of fat, then add vegetable oil to achieve that measurement.)

Add scallion whites, ginger, and pepper flakes and cook until scallion whites have softened, about 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and bring to boil.

Add dumplings and simmer over medium-low heat until dumplings are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in fish sauce and lime juice.

Serve, sprinkled with scallion greens and bacon.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz

A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family & Faith Throughout the Christian YearA Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family & Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Birge Vitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At Pentecost a few years ago the usefulness of food for teaching religious ideas really became apparent to me. I was trying to explain to my children what Pentecost was, and their eyes were getting that glassy look that mothers know so well. I was losing them fast. Then (providential inspiration?) I declared, "We are going to bake a cake to eat on the great feast of Pentecost. How shall we decorate it?" Now, as it happens, my children love to decorate cakes and cookies. Their eyes brightened and their ears pricked up. We made a pretty wild-looking bakery item, with flames and doves and rays of light, but we all had a wonderful time, and they certainly knew what Pentecost was by the time we were through.
Evelyn Vitz goes on to give a recipe for making and decorating the Pentecost Cake, but as we can see, this is much more than a cookbook. As the subtitle says, it is: "A cookbook to celebrate the joys of family and faith throughout the Christian year." This book is perfect for the family who wants to reflect the joy of their faith in every part of their lives, including the kitchen and dining room.

The first half of the book focuses on "All the days of our lives" with meals for celebrations, daily dining, and hospitality. This is also where the section on fasting and meat-free meals is included. As Vitz points out, abstinence from meat is still required of American Catholics unless they replace it with some other form of penance or good work. And that puts it squarely in the regular part of our meal planning lives.

"The Christian Year" is the focus of the second half which is organized according to the liturgical calendar. Vitz gives good explanations of the evolution and meanings of different customs and rites. She includes sections on days of fasting and abstinence and saints days, which I know is something that families often struggle to incorporate into their busy lives. Aimed primarily at Catholic and Orthodox families there is still a lot of information for exploration by Protestant families interested in tradition. The recipes in this section include a big section for saints days and special feast days, organized by season.

Lovely drawings and food-faith quotes are scattered throughout the book in pertinent spots. Some of the recipes are simple, some complex, and they are drawn from countries around the world. All were obviously chosen a lot of care and I was impressed with the range. Most of all, though, Evelyn Vitz's warm personality and love of faith come through in every headnote for each recipe.

Here's a sample recipe that caught my eye since autumn is upon us, which means All Souls Day looms ever nearer (November 2). I want to try these.
Beans of the dead
Fave Dei Morti

Here is a recipe for Italian "soul" cookies called Fave dei Morti, "Beans of the Dead." The theme of beans suggests, among other things, the idea of burial in the ground and rebirth. Sometimes "soul" cookies are called Ossi de Morti--"Bones of the Dead"--and are made in the shape of bones. In fact, the central ingredient in all the forms of this cookis is ground or crushed nuts, which are understood to suggest bones. (This theme is also common in bakery items for this day in other countries, such as Mexico.) These perhaps morbid considerations notwithstanding, Fave (and Ossi) dei Morti are delicious.

2/3 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon

Place the almonds on a baking sheet and dry them out for 10 minutes or so in a slow oven: 200°. Reset the oven for 350‚.

Grind the almonds very fine. Place them in a large bowl. Add the sugar, and blend the mixture well with a fork. Add the flour and the cinnamon, then the butter, and finally the egg, the vanilla, and the grated lemon rind, mixing well with each addition. With a fork or floured hands, work the mixture to a smooth paste.

Break off large-bean-sized pieces of paste (about 1 inch long), and place them about 2 inches apart on a greased, floured baking sheet. [My comment ... I would use parchment paper here.] Squash each bean slightly to produce an oval shape like a lima or fava bean.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are a golden color.

Yield: about 100 one-inch beans.

Form pieces of dough into the shape of bones, 1 or 2 inches long.
Please Note:
I received this review copy of A Continual Feast from the good folks at Catholic Family Gifts. They've got a lot of great items there, including this cookbook and several others.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Curried Cream of Chicken Soup

This is from The Silver Palate Cookbook. It is simple, delicious, and a touch out of the ordinary, both because of the curry flavor and the "cream" method which calls for half-and-half but is just as good with regular milk!

Step 1:
6 tablespoons butter (I use 2 tablespoons)
2 cups minced onions
2 carrots, peeled and chopped

Cook over low heat, covered, until tender.

Step 2:
2 tablespoons curry powder
5 cups chicken stock
6 parsley sprigs
1 chicken, quartered
½ cup rice
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until chicken is done. Cool chicken in stock. Remove meat from bones and dice it.

Step 3:
1 cup half and half (I use milk, either whole or 2%, depending on what I've got around)
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted

Remove fat from broth. Strain soup through strainer.

Put solids and 1 cup stock in food processor and puree. Return to pot and add milk. Stir in reserved stock until soup reaches desired consistency. Add chicken and peas and simmer for 15 minutes or until peas are done. Season to taste.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Foodie Art Friday

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Woman Cleaning Turnips, ca. 1738
via Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson

The Oxford Companion to FoodThe Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book for some time and have had a lot of fun randomly dipping into it now and than. Being the sort of family that we are, we have also spent a lot of time looking up answers to food-related questions in it.

In search of breakfast reading (and possibly inspired by the fellow who read the OED in a year), I recently began flipping through the alphabet. Reading whatever caught my eye on the next letter's page has been amusing, educational and surprisingly literary given the sometimes wide-ranging references.

I have no time limit but am going to see how long it takes me at this leisurely pace to read the whole thing. I'll update when I've finished a letter of the alphabet (Q or U will surely be one of the first, won't they?).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cuisine Approximate: Asian BBQ Chicken

June 4

Arriving home tired and ravenous, I mix half a cup of hoisin sauce with a tablespoon each of Vietnamese chilli sauce, grated ginger, light soy sauce and lime juice, plus a teaspoon of five-spice powder and a crushed clove of garlic. I toss four chicken thighs in it, then tip the lot into a roasting tin and bake for half an hour. What emerges is 'cuisine approximate'--a rough copy of something I remember eating long ago, sticky and dark, not quite Chinese, not quite Vietnamese, but nevertheless utterly delicious. I haven't the energy to cook rice, so I wipe my plate with bread.
Nigel Slater, Kitchen Diaries II
Versatile, simple, easy, quick.

Utterly fantastic!

This hit my taste buds where they live and I have made it several times.

Sometimes I had fresh ginger. Sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I had garlic. Once, to my eternal shame, I didn't. (I know. A house without garlic is an abomination before the Lord. Let us never speak of this again.)

And honestly I somehow completely missed his mention of five-spice powder until I was typing this out.

This recipe also highlighted just how different various brands of hoisin sauce can be. I maintain there is no such thing as a bad hoisin sauce. However, there are some that are definitely more to my taste than others. Part of the interest has been experimenting to see which I like best.

I'll be honest though. Most of the interest has been in the eating.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cable Car Cocktail

Again from our trusty Old Mr. Boston book. I first tasted this at my daughter's home and then had to go buy some spiced rum so I could make it for myself.

Cable Car

2 ounces spiced rum
3/4 ounce triple sec (I use Cointreau)
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Combine all in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Pour into a cocktail glass.

(You are supposed to run a lemon wedge round the rim of your glass and dip it in cinnamon sugar before pouring the cocktail in ... but that's not how I roll ... too sweet.)

Friday, April 05, 2013

100 Grilling Recipes You Can't Live Without by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

100 Grilling Recipes You Can't Live Without: A Lifelong Companion100 Grilling Recipes You Can't Live Without: A Lifelong Companion by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I have several of the Jamison's cookbooks and have always enjoyed using them. This one, however, is disappointing in several ways.

Many of the recipes are repeated from other cookbooks. Although I suppose the fine print in the book description says "best of" somehow that isn't what I expected.

However, let's say it is fair for a "lifelong companion" to have the Jamison's favorite recipes in it. What makes this a "lifelong companion?" Who knows? Because their own commentary is extremely brief. Extremely. Brief.

My other main problem is that there are a lot of very exotic recipes for being a basic "100 you can't live without" or "a lifelong companion." Somehow Elk Backstrap Medallions with Purple Onions and Plum Sauce seems an odd choice to make the cut, as do Grilled Duck Breasts with Armagnac and Lavender Honey Glaze or Blue Corn and Green Chile Pizza.

Skip this and get one of their more complete cookbooks instead such as Born to Grill, Smoke & Spice or The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining.

Note: This was received from the Amazon Vine program.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

No More Brown Cut Fruit!

I read about this in Cook's Illustrated a while ago. If you don't want cut fruit to brown, toss the pieces into honey water. It works better than acidulated water (water with lemon juice in it).

They used 2 tablespoons of honey to one cup of water, dunked the fruit for 30 seconds, and it didn't brown for 8 hours.

I have been using a more casual approach since I'm not a cooking magazine.

I just squeeze some honey into a bowlful of water (no measuring) and toss in the apples while I'm cutting. I drained them later and put the extra slices into a plastic bag in the fridge. They were perfectly good for lunch the next day.

I also used this on potatoes I was cutting up for a gratin.

And I never noticed any extra sweetness, probably because there is relatively little honey to water with my method.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Creamy Italian Dressing

I've never cared one way or the other about Italian Dressing which probably only goes to show that we didn't have it when I was growing up. My husband, however, did and when I tried out this Cook's Country recipe he was delighted. I, too, was delighted despite lack of previous experience. It is a delicious salad dressing.

I pass it along to you in case you are similarly delighted.

Note: I didn't care about a smooth texture and did care about not having to wash my food processor (have I mentioned lately how long it's been since my dishwasher has worked?). So I skipped that part and just whisked instead. Whatever you choose will be just fine.

Also, don't worry if you've let the dressing sit more than 4 days. Magazines have to put those warnings. Be realistic. Take a sniff, stir it up ... if it looks ok, it most probably is.

Creamy Italian Dressing

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk vinegar, Parmesan, shallot, garlic, oregano and pepper flakes in small bowl. Microwave until cheese is melted (vinegar will look cloudy) and mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Let cool.

Process mayo, sour cream, basil, and vinegar mixture in food processor until smooth. With motor running, slowly add oil until incorporated, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Dressing can be refrigerated in airtight container for 4 days.)

Monday, March 04, 2013

Now That's Tasty ...

A quick heads-up for two products that we've been enjoying a lot.

Blue Plate Mayonnaise
I never heard of Blue Plate before until Cook's Illustrated did a tasting that placed Hellman's, our household standard, in third place. Frankly, I'd been unhappy lately about the change in Hellman's texture which has become less like real homemade mayonnaise (yes, I used to make it all myself, folks) and more goopy.

I'd seen their #2 pick, Duke's, praised and tried it out some time ago but was unimpressed. There was some odd aftertaste, or was it an odor, that bothered me.

I kept an eye out for Blue Plate and was both surprised and gratified to find it at Krogers of all places.

I was also very gratified to find it was more like the homemade mayonnaise I'd always loved, with a faint tang of lemon underlying the main flavor.

HEB Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
Like Matt, I feel like a mega-jerk for reviewing an ice cream that is not available everywhere, but I just had to tell you about HEB's limited edition Mexican Chocolate. We don't have an HEB around here, more's the pity, but we do have their high end grocery, Central Market.

I love their HEB brand ice cream and have always wished they carried more than four or five flavors. Saturday I noticed a few Limited Edition brands and tried the Mexican Chocolate. It is a creamy milk chocolate with a swirl of thick cinnamon syrup (that is the consistency of a frozen chocolate syrup swirl). It packs a cinnamony punch that blends perfectly with the mild, sweet chocolate. If you can get your hands on this, try it out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Linguine with Broccoli

I originally posted this in 2010. However, it deserves another look, especially for those looking for meat-free meals during Lent.

This originally came from one of Craig Claiborne's series of cookbooks which were compilations of his NY Times columns. It was Ed Giobbi's creation. Somehow I misplaced the recipe and was pleased to find it again in the library's copy of Eat Right, Eat Well, The Italian Way. The recipe is brilliantly and simply conceived. In brief, one cooks the pasta and the broccoli at the same time ... without having to use a big pot of water.

Linguine with Broccoli
STEP 1   
1    bunch fresh broccoli

Cut off flowerets and peel stems. Cut flowerets into 2-inch lengths, slicing large ones in halves or quarters. Wash and set aside.

4    tablespoons olive oil
2    tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
      Hot pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Put oils, garlic, and hot pepper in a large pot. Turn up heat and add broccoli.

2-1/2    cups water (approximately. I sometimes use almost twice as much, depending on the pasta)
1/2    pound linguine or spaghettini, broken into 2” lengths
        Salt and pepper to taste

When oil is hot, 1 cup of water and pasta. Stir thoroughly. If pasta is not well mixed at the beginning, it will stick together.

Add salt and pepper, stir, and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring very often, taking care that pasta doesn’t stick together or to pan. Add water gradually as needed.

Cook pasta to al dente. Takes about 10 minutes.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Lent and Fasting from Meat on Fridays

From American Catholic:
Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.

Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.
I was looking for this for another reason, actually, but it applied to the question our retreat group was asking about providing a Friday lunch including Tomato Basil Soup made with chicken broth.

I think the main reason, though I now have lost the place I originally read this, is that the original intent of fasting from meat is that we are fasting from ... flesh.

It is because Christ put on flesh to become man that we fast from it in penance for what He went through on our behalf.

A lovely connection isn't it?

At least it is to me.

And to have to dig into each ingredient turns it into an exercise in scrupulosity for me. I like that they make it easy for us that way.

I've always cooked with those sorts of guidelines for Friday fast days (heck, every Friday is a fast from meat at our house). So it's nice to see it spelled out ... no need for any vestiges of guilt when I put a bit of lard in our refried beans for those nachos!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Julianne

Here's how it works, guys. Your wife has gotten creative, combining a few standard cocktail ingredients in a new way ... and she asks you what would be a good name for her creation.

Name it after her.

It's hard to go wrong after that.

And now you know how our Sunday afternoon worked out. Just fine, thank you.

I present my creation, which is not that original but is surely delicious.

The Julianne

2 ounces brandy
1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
1/4 ounce Orgeat Syrup (use simple syrup if you don't have any)

Combine all in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Pour into a cocktail glass.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cafe Maria Theresia

This was in Saveur's January/February edition. When the girls were home for Christmas and we were having regular afternoon coffee ... one day I tried this. It truly deserves the praise they gave it.

I must admit that I didn't go to the trouble of whipping cream, especially since I already felt that the drink was rather lavish for an afternoon cuppa joe (though I did show you how it should look, although my Thinkstock photo has no zest). Half-and-half smoothed it out nicely anyway, believe me.
Cafe Maria Theresia
3 tbsp. orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
1 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. brewed coffee
Whipped cream, for serving
Grated orange zest, for garnish

Fill a coffee cup with boiling water. Set aside for 3 minutes; pour out water. Pour liqueur and sugar into cup; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in the coffee. Top with whipped cream, and garnish with zest.