July 31, 2006

Guacamole


Ingredients:
4 avocados
4 long Asian chili peppers (or 6 Serrano peppers), chopped
1 medium tomato, cubed with excess liquid squeezed out
1 small vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
juice of 1 lime
salt
pepper

Directions:

In non-reactive bowl, us a spoon or a potato masher to mash the avocados to desired constancy. Add lime juice and stir to combine. Add all other ingredients, stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it slightly in to the guacamole to prevent oxidation and chill for at least 1 hour. For best results, serve the same day you make it.
My thoughts:

Who doesn't like guacamole? We invited a couple of friends over and devoured the whole lot of it in about 20 minutes. It is a little spicier than a lot of guacamole I have had in the past but that's what makes it special.

July 30, 2006

Pesto



Ingredients:
2 cups fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup Romano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse until a thick paste forms. Toss with approx. 1 lb cooked pasta and serve.
My thoughts:
When it is about 100 degrees even I have to start looking for ways to avoid heating up the house. This is a simple, simple dish that tastes amazing. Like all simple recipes it's really in your best interest to use high quality ingredients, the flavor really shines though. If you want to make it a hardier meal, you can add some grilled meat on top. I served it with grilled garlic rubbed steak and it was phenomenal.

July 29, 2006

Kiwi Sorbet




Ingredients:*

8-10 kiwi, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions.

In a small pan, heat water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool the syrup. In a blender or food processor, pulse syrup, juice and kiwi until almost smooth. Pour the mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze about 30 minutes. Eat as is, or freeze until it acquires a firmer texture.


*This yields about four modest servings. It can easily be doubled or even tripled to feed a crowd.


My thoughts:
This is one the quickest and healthiest ways to keep cool this summer. It is fat free, vegan and yields maximum reward for minimal effort. The only drawback that I can see is that often, in Maryland at any rate, kiwi (or kiwifruit for you non-North Americans) can be rather expensive. I was lucky to find a box of about 15 kiwi for under $2 at a local Korean market. Generally, kiwi run about two kiwi for $1 and I rarely get a chance to base a whole recipe around them. I was so excited about my bargain, I rushed home and made this recipe. It really lets the sweet tartness of the kiwi shine through.

July 28, 2006

Egg Cream



Ingredients:
2 oz chocolate syrup*
4 oz milk
6 oz seltzer

Directions:

Pour syrup into a tall glass. Add milk. Stir to combine**. Tilt the glass slightly and carefully pour the seltzer down the side of the glass, to avoid losing the bubbles. Drink immediately.


*Fox's U-bet syrup is traditional but I normally substitute the easier to find Hershey's Special Dark syrup or even just regular Hershey's Syrup. Purists, of course, sneer at anything less than Fox's U-bet, some even waiting until Passover to get the "kosher for Passover" syrup made with the original cane sugar instead of corn syrup.
**I always stir the chocolate and the milk together first so I don't have to stir the seltzer and lose the fizz. Some egg cream fanatics don't stir until after all of the ingredients are in the glass.
My thoughts:
Egg creams are one of those quintessential New York tastes that has a legion of devoted fans. It has long been a staple at delis around the city. According to popular legend, in 1890 Louis Auster, a Brooklyn candy shop owner, invented the drink which contains neither egg nor cream. The flavor is similar to that of an ice cream soda (not to be confused with an ice cream float, ice cream sodas are made with seltzer, ice cream and chocolate syrup) there are many theories floating about how the egg cream got its name but there is no definative answer. One such theory says the name came about to capitalize on other egg named soda fountain treats that were popular at the time (that actually used eggs), another popular theory suggests that it comes from various Yiddish phrases meaning anything from "good cream" to "pure sweetness" and a third states that it got the name from the fluffy white "head" which is reminiscent of whipped egg whites . One final theory is that the chocolate syrup was originally made with eggs. No matter how it got its name, it is a refreshing, chocolate-y drink that is perfect for a hot summer day.

July 24, 2006

Butterscotch Blondies



Ingredients:
2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
2 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt




Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or spray with cooking spray with flour one 8 inch square baking pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, throughly combine the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just blended. Pour batter in pan. Bake 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out almost clean. It may seema little gooey in the middle but it will set up as it cools. Cool in pan on wire rack then cut and serve.

My thoughts:
A great dessert for those crazy people who prefer their sweets devoid of chocolate. These blondies are butterscotch-y and slightly chewy.

July 23, 2006

Warm Potato Salad with Bacon and Spinach


Ingredients:

2 1/2 lb Russet potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, sliced
2 cups fresh baby spinach
4 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste


Directions:
Begin by making the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, mustard, 2 tablespoons vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper, set aside. In a large pot, bring potatoes and enough water to cover them to a boil. Continue to boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add spinach to last minute of boiling. Meanwhile, brown bacon in a large pan. Remove bacon and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of bacon fat. Return the fat to the pan and add the onion. Saute for about 8-10 minutes or until the onion is soft but not quite brown. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to the onions, stir and cook about 30 seconds. Drain potato and spinach when the potato is tender. Pour the potato/spinach into the large bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. Pour the onion mixture over the potatoes and gently fold in. Serve warm.
My thoughts:
I have seen similar potato salads referred to as "German Potato Salad" but they never seem to call for anything green. I like to add spinach to potato salads because one, it is tasty and two, I can trick myself into thinking I'm eating a serving of vegetables. Actually even though this recipe calls for bacon, it is not quite as unhealthy as it could be as long as you use lean bacon and only one tablespoon of the fat. Divided among 8 or so servings that's not much at all. The addition of lime to the dressing also helps keep it light and fresh tasting.

July 20, 2006

Summer Fruit Salad with Ginger Lime Syrup



Ingredients:

syrup:

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 inch knob fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
zest of one lime
juice of one lime


salad:
1 mango, cubed
3 peaches, sliced
3 kiwi, cubed
¾ cup blackberries
¾ cup blueberries*



Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat water, zest, juice, ginger and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then boil, uncovered for about 20 minutes. It should reduce slightly and look “thick”. Strain out any large pieces of ginger or zest. Allow to cool completely then pour over fruit. Toss and serve.

*other fruit suggestions: strawberries, pineapple, papaya


My thoughts:
This is the perfect way to end a meal during the hottest weeks of the summer. The ginger-lime syrup is rather thin so it adds a spicy flavor to the fruit without leaving it weighted down or gloppy. A great improvement over the overly sweet fruit salads I have suffered in the past.
If you have leftover syrup, you could drizzle some over pound cake or even better, add it to bubbly water to make homemade ginger ale.

July 19, 2006

Fried Chicken




Ingredients:

for the spice rub
*warning-this needs to be prepared and used the day before you plan to make the chicken

4 tablespoon Old Bay
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime


1 approx. 6 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces

for the next day:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
cooking oil


Directions:

The day before you fry the chicken: Combine spices in a small bowl then spread it out over a plate. Dredge the chicken pieces in the spices. Sprinkle the garlic and lime juice over chicken and refrigerate the whole thing in a ziplock bag overnight.

The day of:
Pour oil in to a large pot until it is about 2 inches height. Heat the oil to 450 degrees*. Mix flour and seasoning in a bowl, then spread it out over a plate. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and fry until each piece is a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

*tip: if you don't have a thermometer, put the oil on a medium high heat and heat for 30 minutes.
My thoughts:
For as long as I have known my husband he has been relentless in his pursuit of the perfect fried chicken. Every time he has tried something has gone wrong: the chicken is raw in the middle, it's not flavorful, it's dry, it's too dark. This weekend however, was a giant success. Flavorful, juicy chicken with a brittle golden crust. Honestly the best fried chicken either of us have ever had, any where.

July 17, 2006

Blueberry Buckle



Ingredients:
for the cake:

2 cups flour
2 cups blueberries*
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

for the streusel:
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter and flour or spray with cooking spray with flour a 9-inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour until a thick dough forms Carefully fold in blueberries. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together all of the streusel ingredients until a rough crumb forms. You can achieve this by using a fork, pulsing a food processor or briefly mixing with an electric mixer. Sprinkle streusel evenly over the raw cake. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove to a wire tack to cool. After about 15 minutes, release the buckle from the pan and serve.

* if you are using frozen blueberries, do NOT thaw them before use.

My thoughts:
Is there a dessert name more fun to say than "blueberry buckle"? I think not, especially during blueberry season. It is fun to say, fun to serve and you can amaze your guests by informing them of the difference between a buckle and just a coffee cake. A buckle is a coffee cake with berries and streusel topping, don't you know? Anyway, my husband said this is the best blueberry buckle he's ever tasted and this includes ones he mistakenly called coffee cakes. And I don't think he is just saying that to make me feel better about baking while it's literally 100 degrees out. It really is just that good.

July 14, 2006

Accordion Potatoes



Ingredients:
4-6 medium potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon rosemary
pepper to taste


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Spread half of the olive oil over the bottom of an oven-safe dish. With a sharp knife, slice each potato into approximately 1/8 inch slices WITHOUT cutting all the way through the potato*, leave about a 1/8-1/4 inch thick bit of intact potato along the bottom. Arrange on the dish, sliced side up. Brush with remaining oil and sprinkle with rosemary, pepper and salt. Bake 45-50 minutes or until cooked through and the sections are starting to separate. Remove from pan and serve.

*I have heard of placing the potato on the indent of a wooden spoon and then slicing until you hit wood but a steady hand works just as well.
My thoughts:
Another easy, classic potato dish. I used red skin potatoes because that is what I had on hand but Yukon Gold or Russet would work just as well. You could add other spices to heat it up a bit but we were having a spicy main course so I went the simple route with the rosemary. I have heard of a variation of this dish called "hasselback potatoes" but I like "accordion potatoes" better-more descriptive and free of any reminders of David Hasselhoff. I also left the skins on which is a departure from the traditional Swedish recipe which calls for the skins to be completely removed.

July 10, 2006

Deep Dish Double Chocolate Toffee Brownies



Ingredients:
2 eggs
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour or spray (using cooking spray with flour) 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium sized bowl, throughly mix together butter, sugars and vanilla extract. Add eggs, mix until well combined. In small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely then cut into squares and serve.


My thoughts:
I really like how these brownies came out, I like a thick brownie and I also like the the yield is a little less than it would be using a more traditional 9x13 baking pan. The chocolate/toffee combo is classic. I swear, the bag of Heath toffee bits I bought is never ending. I have made 2 batches of toffee chocolate chip cookies and these moist, chocolately brownies and still have half a bag of toffee bits left. I guess I will just have to come up with more recipes in which to use them up. Of course, you could make this recipe without the toffee bits (I know they can be tricky to find) and they would be just as good.

July 09, 2006

Chicken Masala with Black Mustard Seed



Ingredients:
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thigh*, 1 inch dice
2 cups onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
½ cup yogurt, whisked
3 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon madras curry powder
¼ teaspoon asafoetida powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, and asafoetida powder. Cook until fragrant**, about 8 minutes. Add onions and garlic, sauté until golden, about 20 minutes. Then add turmeric, garam masala, madras curry powder and cook 1 minute. Add yogurt, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Continue to mix until most of the liquid evaporates. Add chicken and brown on each side. Add tomatoes, cayenne, cinnamon, and jalapenos. Cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot, with white rice.




*We like using boneless, skinless thighs instead of breast meat because it tends to be more flavorful, but you could use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts if you'd prefer.

**The mustard seeds will most likely be popping at this point, don't be alarmed!
My thoughts:
We have a hard time finding consistently good Indian food here in Baltimore so more often than not, we make our own. My clever husband came up with this slight twist on chicken masala which uses a fair amount of black mustard seeds. Many chicken masala recipes call for yellow mustard seeds or none at all but we are especially fond of the black variety so we used them.

Chickpeas in Tamarind Sauce (Khatte Channe)



Ingredients:
12 oz canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
16 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg-sized ball tamarind pulp
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground, roasted cumin seeds
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon red pepper

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and sauté until just golden, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in 1 cup of hot water. When it is cool enough to touch, squeeze out the tamarind over the cup and discard. Strain the remaining liquid into a cup and discard the seeds and pulp left behind. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add turmeric and red pepper. Stir. Add tomato and reduce heat. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add tamarind juice and the reserved liquid from the chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chickpeas, garam masala, and cumin. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.

My thoughts:
It's been a while since we've had Indian food so who am I to say no when my husband offers to cook me up a feast? This is traditionally served with bhatoora or poori (two types of bread) but we had it as a side dish.

July 05, 2006

Mashed Red Skin Potatoes



Ingredients:
2 1/2 -3 lbs cooked and drained red skin potatoes, skin on*
1 bunch green onion, 1/4 inch dice, green parts only
1/3 cup sour cream**
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Mash, mash, mash. Serve as a side dish.


*if the potatoes are very large, you may want to roughly chop them before boiling.
**low fat sour cream is okay to use in this recipe.
My thoughts:
I know this is the simplest recipe ever but there are some of the best mashed potatoes I've had in ages so it works out. We made this to serve along side hot dogs from the grill instead of potato salad (couldn't decide on a good recipe) and the results were so good we were fighting over the leftovers the next day. Very quick, very homey. I like to mash this sort of potatoes especially vigorously because they form a thick, uniform texture with few chunks that is great with the bits of green onion.

July 03, 2006

Cranberry-Blueberry Bread




Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cranberries*
3/4 cup blueberries*
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs, at room temperature
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or use cooking spray with flour one loaf pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and sour cream, combine thoroughly. Add the flour and baking powder, mix thoroughly. Slowly fold in both berries. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out basically clean. Place on a wire rack to cool, removing the bread from the pan after about 10 minutes. After removing the bread, continue to cool about 15 additional minutes.




*If the berries are frozen and not fresh, be sure not to defrost them. The colors will run in the batter if they are defrosted.
My thoughts:
I wanted to make something patriotic this year for the fourth of July and what is more American than quick bread? The cranberries and blueberries provide the red and the blue and the simple batter the white. Luckily, it was so hot today, I didn't even notice the heat from the oven.