December 29, 2010

Ham Salad


Ingredients:
3/4 lb ham, finely chopped
3 tablespoons-1/4 cup chopped jarred cornichons and the onions
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons very grainy mustard
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon allspice
freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Stir together all ingredients until a smooth mixture forms. Refrigerate.

My thoughts:
I brought back a jar of Maille cornichons from the Caribbean (I love buying European goods on the islands, they are so much cheaper than what they are here in the US. Of course, I also brought back a ton of Caribbean and East Indies ingredients as well). I like using them and the little pickled onions that are included in salads when I can. Normally I am more of a dill pickle girl but they go great with salt and savory ingredients like ham.

Honestly, I did not grow up eating ham salad, although I hear it is an East Coast thing. I had it for the first time from a local German deli and I noticed it changed from week to week or at least, visit to visit. It is an awesome way to use up leftover ham and makes a spread that can be dressed up or down as the occasion requires.


December 27, 2010

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Chili

Ingredients:
1 1/2-2 lbs lean ground beef
28 oz can crushed or coarse ground tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:
1 lb spaghetti
sour cream
chopped raw onions
dark red kidney beans (heated through)
shredded extra sharp cheddar
oyster crackers

Directions:
In a large skillet saute onion, garlic, ground beef, and chili powder until ground beef is just barely cooked. Take care to break the meat into small bits. Drain off any excess fat. Add to a four quart slow cooker. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Stir. It might look a little dry but that is okay. Cook for 8-10 hrs. Stir.

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

There are several ways to eat Cincinnati style chili:
3-way: Spaghetti topped with chili, covered with shredded cheddar cheese
4-way: Spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, onions
5-way: Spaghetti topped with beans, chili, cheese & onions

Serve the crackers on the side.


My thoughts:
It is cold and snowy (Snow! I didn't authorize snow!) and I am sorely missing the weather we had on our recent vacation. Luckily I have a recipe for Cincinnati Chili in my cookbook that I really love on a day like this. The ingredients are all things I (and most home cooks) would have on hand, which means no need to run to the store in bad weather but since it is a more unusual style of chili than most people are used to (outside of Ohio, of course) it doesn't seem like you are eating the same old thing.

This is a slightly different version than the recipe that appears in my book; I added a couple of extra spices and tweaked the proportions a bit to yield a bit more chili. The meat gets amazing tender and really impregnated with flavor since it cooks for so long, which is important in this style of chili. Cincinnati chili shouldn't be too saucy or on the other hand, too dry and I think the slow cooker makes achieving this balance easy and requires virtually no hands-on time. Ironically, I tend to use my slow cooker when I am doing a lot of other cooking (recipe development gigs, baking) but it is great to sit down to a meal hours after you did the work for it.


The leftovers are great on hot dogs.

December 22, 2010

Spicy Fried Oysters


Ingredients:
16 oz shucked, raw "frying size" oysters
2/3 cup Instant Blending Flour
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 tablespoons garlic-habanero hot sauce*
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle
salt
freshly ground black pepper

canola oil for frying

Directions:
Pour the oysters in a small bowl. Douse in hot sauce. Allow to soak for 10 minutes or up to one hour in the fridge. Meanwhile pour the egg, flour and breadcrumbs into separate shallow bowls. Stir the the spices to the breadcrumbs. Beat some hot sauce into the egg if desired. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a large, shallow skillet, enough to cover the oysters.

Dredge each oyster in the flour, then in the egg then the seasoned bread crumbs. Drop the oysters into the hot oil, taking care that they do not overlap or they will stick together. Cook until golden on all sides, just a minute or so. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

*I used the yummy Miss Anna's that I bought in St. Croix but any garlic-y habanero sauce would work.

My thoughts:

I love oysters very much. Growing up, once a year my mom and grandpop would pick up a huge order of fried oysters from a local seafood shop and we'd have a feast of oysters just barely garnished with coleslaw and cocktail sauce. It was the culinary high light of my year even when I was quite young, even under age five or so. Despite our love of oysters, I don't think it ever occurred to my family to fry our our own. It wasn't until I was off on my own that I realized how easily (and cheaply!) it was to find local frying oysters. Normally I just fry them dredged in matzo meal or bread crumbs but these time I decided to branch out and make a spicier version that had no need of a sauce. I was worried the oysters' flavor would be overpowered by the spices but it really wasn't. Each bite was crispy then spicy then very oyster-y. Fried seafood perfection! We had these for dinner straight but I think they'd be great in po boys or even as an appetizer.

.



December 20, 2010

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
12 oz whole cranberries
1 small apple, peeled and diced (I used Stayman Winesap)
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rye or bourbon

Directions:
Bring the cranberries, water, apple, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat then simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in rye. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:

I think I must make cranberry sauce more often than anyone on the planet. My husband really likes it and we make it many times over the whole year. I stock up on cranberries when they are cheap and then freeze them. Anyway, I make cranberry sauce so often, it is some times a challenge to keep it interesting. Sometimes it is easy when I have a flavor theme for the meal in mind but let's face it, more often I am serving it with a plain old roasted chicken or turkey. In this case, I added one of my favorite apples to the mix and enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd post it. The apple got soft but held its shape well. I really liked the contrast between the flavors and textures, cranberry sauce can be a bit one dimensional.

December 17, 2010

Spiced Black Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup coarsely chopped black walnuts
2 egg, at room temperature
4 tablespoons blackstrap rum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and rum and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Distribute them evenly in the batter. Form cookies by dropping 1 teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Remove (using a flat turner or spatula) to a wire rack to cool.


Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Note: This is a really easy recipe to double or even halve.

My thoughts:
Black walnuts are native to Maryland but as the saying goes, they are a tough nut to crack. They have very hard shells and prepping the nuts for use is pretty time consuming. Luckily, they are pretty easy to find, especially during the holiday season, in grocery stores. I found some at Costco that were very fresh and affordable. They are a bit more robust flavored than regular walnuts and well worth seeking out. I love this cookie because it doesn't stray too far from the traditional chocolate chip cookie but the spices and walnuts make it more festive. The best of both worlds!


December 15, 2010

Eggnog Saigon Cinnamon Swirl Bread



Ingredients:

swirl:
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Saigon cinnamon

batter:
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups eggnog
2/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease or spray one standard loaf pan or mini loaf pan that makes 4 one cup loaves. In a small bowl, whisk together swirl ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together baking powder, nutmeg, flour, sugar and salt. In a medium sized bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, vanilla and oil. Add to flour mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into pan, filling about 1/3 of the way. Sprinkle with swirl mixture. Add more batter, top with more of the swirl mixture. Bake 45- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes then carefully remove to wire racks. Cool completely before slicing.
My thoughts:

I love making and giving quick breads for the holidays and am always trying to think of a new variation. Last year when faced with a ton of leftover nog I realized that I could use eggnog in pretty much the same way I would use milk. Saigon cinnamon is very fragrant with a spicy-sweet flavor that I think makes it the perfect foil to the rich eggnog. Think of this as a traditional cinnamon bread taken to the next level.

December 13, 2010

Jammy Oatmeal Streusel Muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup white peach & fresh ginger jam
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

streusel:
1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon roasted ginger powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. Use a fork to mix together the streusel topping in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, egg, oil, buttermilk, and sugar. After it is thoroughly mixed, add in the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir to combine. Fill each well in the muffin tin 1/2 of the way. Add a tablespoon of peach jam to the middle of each muffin. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, serve.

My thoughts:
The best part about canning is knowing that you will have a the chance to have a taste of summer during the long, cold winter. Let me tell you, a bite of peach was exactly what I needed when I came back from our two week Caribbean foray and was faced with Baltimore winter. These muffins are a bit more tedious to make than most (the streusel) but it is well worth it. The streusel is crisp and crumbly and makes the muffins a lot more festive than they'd be without it. The jam adds a fruity punch but take care to center it in the batter or it will run and possibly scorch or cause the muffin to break in half when you try and eat it.


December 10, 2010

Green Bean Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette


Ingredients:
2 lb "French" green beans (the skinny kind, AKA haricot verts), steamed
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries or a mixture of the two
2-3 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

dressing:
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pepper sherry
1 tablespoon tangerine zest
2 tablespoons tangerine juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt
pepper

Directions:
Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients or shake it in a dressing shaker until smooth and emulsified. Set aside. Toss together the other ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Toss again. Serve hot, warm or cold.

My thoughts:
Green beans are one of the few vegetables I don't mind buying or eaten after being frozen. I also don't mind peas, spinach and home-frozen corn. Like the other, green beans, if frozen properly, retain much if not all of their texture and flavor. Squash is wonderful of course but they about this time of year, I am already hoping for something different. I created this dish to bring to dinner because it is equally good hot, cold or warm. I hate having to go to someone's house and have to cook a dish from the beginning and in the winter, it is tricky to keep a vegetable dish warm for a trip over a few minute drive. Frankly, I prefer to bring a potato dish or dessert or even rolls/bread but it was my mother doing the asking and I was tasked with vegetables. And rolls, but that was easy. My family is full of pickier eaters than I am so I wanted to make something that was a little different that what they might not normally eat but not anything intimidating. Yet another reason the humble green bean was a perfect choice. Pretty much anyone will eat a green bean. They rest of the ingredients weren't anything to be scared of either but come together in such away that it is anything but boring.

December 08, 2010

Roasted Pork with Kohlrabi



Ingredients:
1.75 lb boneless pork roast
1 large bunch kohlrabi, peeled and cubed
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large carrot, cut into coins
3 1/2 oz beech mushrooms (Buna shimeji)
2 1/2 lb boneless pork roast
1/2 lb pearl onions*

sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
smoked paprika
olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the pork on all sides with the spices. Heat oil in a stovetop and oven safe dutch oven. Add the vegetables and saute until the onions start to brown. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the pork. Cook to slightly brown each side. Place in the over and roast for 40 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Slice and serve.


*I get bored too easily to peel tiny onions so I just use (undefrosted) frozen. They can be tricky to find but most stores seem to carry them during the holiday season. Stock up!




My thoughts:
I love cooking in a dutch oven. It is almost as easy as slow cooking because I can start the meal off on the stove and then pop it in the oven and pretty much ignore it until it is fully cooked. How can you beat a one pot meal?

Kohlrabi, if you are unfamiliar with it, is similar in texture to a potato or celeriac. Try to buy a bunch with largest bulbs possible, there is a fair amount of loss when it peeled. I ended up with a a few cups of cubed kohlrabi. It is a little tricky to peel, cut the tentacles off then use the knife to cut off the thick skin. The leaves are edible so save them for another dish.


December 06, 2010

Pear & Yogurt Bundt Cake


Ingredients:
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 quart canned pears, drained and diced
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup pear cider
16 oz full fat Greek or Mediterranean style yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla/rye/bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour one bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the wet ingredients, stir to combine. In separate bowl, Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until a uniform batter forms. Fold in pear. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from the pan. Cool completely.


My thoughts:
I've been on a quest to give you guys some recipes that use all of the stuff I've been canning. Of course, I benefit too! My canning cabinet is seriously full and while I am the kind of person who likes to hoard good ingredients, I know I have to use it up. If only to make room for the next stuff. Anyway, I canned these pears back in the beginning of their season and while pears are still pretty available, they are not as good as they were back then. When I was invited to a Southern themed party, I knew I had to use my sweet tea syrupy pears (although I am sure if would be just fine with any old good quality canned pear). I based the recipe off of an old fashioned sour cream cake my Aunt A used to make when I was little. It is a bit rich but a great way to use up eggs! The yogurt gives it some tang and the pear cider really drives home the pear flavor, which I find can be tricky to maintain in baked goods. It also makes for a very moist cake. It was a huge hit at the party, pretty much every slice was gone in just a few minutes!

December 03, 2010

Slow Cooked Beef Stew (with Mushrooms & Vegetables)

Ingredients:
group #1
2 lb beef top round or sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 carrots cut into coins
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 portobello mushroom caps, cubed

group #2
1 cup red wine
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2-1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

group #3
1 cup frozen or fresh green beans
1/3 cup frozen or fresh corn kernals

Directions:
Saute the ingredients from group #1 in a bit of canola oil until the vegetables are softened and the meat is lightly browned. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. If the meat and vegetables gave off a lot of liquid and it isn't too oily, I add a little less than 1/4 cup of it into the slow cooker. Add the ingredients from group #2. Stir. Cover and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir in the ingredients from group #3. Cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hr. Stir and serve.





My thoughts:
This recipe is inspired by a stew my grandpop made when I was growing up. I don't think he ever even heard of a portobello mushroom but his stews always had a lot of vegetables. He would make them and use up whatever vegetables he had on hand and no two stews were the same. Some times they'd have tomatoes, some times green beans, some times corn. My favorites had green beans for some reason. He would cook it for hours on the stove top but when I was working on my cookbook last summer I realized how easy it was to make stew in the slow cooker. I don't have to keep an eye on it like Grandpop did and the results are just as good. I know browning meat in the morning is the last thing I feel like doing but it does make for a richer final product. What I do is cut up all the vegetables the night before and put them in a ziplock or Tupperware. I try to buy pre-cubed meat if it looks good but if I don't, I cube it and pack it in a separate container. That way in the morning all I have to do is shake the ingredients into the pan, brown them for a few minutes and then pop everything in the slow cooker.

December 01, 2010

Grapefruit Segments in Vanilla Bean & Star Anise Syrup

Ingredients:
5 Texas Rio Star (red) grapefruits
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, sliced along the seam
water
4-6 whole star anise


Directions:
Sterilize your jars. Keep them warm until ready to use. Supreme the grapefruit. As you work, place the segments in a large measuring cup. Squeeze the membranes and peels into the measuring cup. Discard the peels and membranes. Carefully remove the segments to a heavy sauce pan using a slotted spoon or mini strainer. Add water to the juice in the measuring cup to equal 2 cups (I only needed to add one cup). Add to the sauce pan. Add the vanilla beans and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally but very gently. Remove the vanilla beans and star anise. Ladle the mixture into prepared jars. Cut the vanilla beans to fit and add them and the star anise to the jars if desired. Seal. Process for 5 minutes in a hot water bath.

Yield: 4-5 8 oz jars

Note: It is important to sterilize the jars prior to filling for this recipe due to the very short processing time. Do not over process the filled jars.


Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
I recently was lucky enough to come in possession of a bunch of truly fragrant Texas grapefruit. I had high hopes of finally tackling marmalade making but when I cut into them, about half, while delicious, had very, very thick skin (lots of pith) and I wasn't eager to spend all that time prepping the fruit and making marmalade only to yield a couple of 1/2 pints. We were getting ready to go on vacation so I knew I didn't have time just to eat them one by one and I am not a terribly big grapefruit eater anyway. I looked up tons of grapefruit recipes and none really seemed appealing until I came across a recipe for a poached grapefruit made with lots of fresh mint. It sounded tasty but again, my short deadline and amount of grapefruit I had didn't make this a practical solution. So I took the idea of poaching the grapefruit one further and canned the segments in a very light syrup. In the future I will use it just as I would poached grapefruit: over ice cream, yogurt or panna cotta or even in drinks. The vanilla bean and star anise add interest (and spice of course) to the syrup and keep the grapefruit from being puckeringly overpowering.