February 28, 2007

Purim: Carnivals, Cookies and Candy

I am not sure how many of you read NPR's weekly Kitchen Window column, but if you do, you might have already seen a familiar name. I wrote this week's column and it just went up today. If you are interested, you can check it out here.

It is about Purim and includes two recipes: one for fig and ginger hamantaschen and another for poppy seed ginger candy. It was pretty fun waking up this morning and seeing one of my cookies on the homepage for NPR!

February 27, 2007

Blueberry Key Lime Sherbet

2 1/4 cups blueberries
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup sugar (if berries are overly tart, add more to taste)
2 tablespoons key lime juice
1 tablespoon key lime zest

Place sugar and blueberries in a medium sized bowl. Mash with a potato masher until until the blueberries are completely mashed, the mixture is thick and the blueberry skins are empty. Drain through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing with a spoon to get all of the juice/fruit out. Discard leftover skins. Stir in the buttermilk, lime juice and zest. Pour into a ice cream maker and churn until thick and frozen, about 20-30 minutes. Pour into a freezer safe container and freezer overnight. Serve.

My thoughts:

Blueberries were on sale recently and I wanted to do something with them that didn't involve baking. I love blueberry muffins and buckles, but I wanted to do something totally different. Something frozen seemed to be an easy answer. I had never made a sherbet* before before but thought I'd give it a try. Sherbets are generally made with milk, but we had some buttermilk on hand so I thought I'd use that instead and see if it worked. I wasn't sure how buttermilk would freeze, but it actually froze really quickly and didn't separate at all. The results were marvelous, the buttermilk really gives it a tangy richness that really compliments the blueberries. Buttermilk (despite the connotations of the name) is very low in fat so this is actually a quite healthy dessert. I used key limes, and I loved the flavor they brought to the sherbet, but regular (Persian) limes would be a logical substitution.

*I just looked up sherbet to confirm what makes it different from a sorbet (sorbets are made with water and do not contain any sort of dairy product) and it turns out that in the UK, a sherbet is something very different- a sort of fizzy powdered candy. In the US, it is sort of like low fat fruit flavored ice cream that is made with milk instead of cream.

February 26, 2007

Buffalo Chicken Katsu

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast* cut into 1 1/3 inch wide strips
1 cup panko
1/3 cup corn starch
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

to serve:
blue cheese dressing
buffalo wing sauce (we like Anchor Bar)
celery sticks


Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large saucepan until very hot. Meanwhile, salt and pepper both sides of each chicken strip. Arrange the corn starch and the panko on separate plates. Dip each chicken strip into the corn starch, coating both sides. Dip in egg. Dredge in panko. Fry in oil, flipping when the bottom is golden brown, until the chicken is cooked through about 5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel lined plates. Serve with sauces and celery sticks.

*boneless, skinless thighs are good in this recipe too.

My thoughts:
My husband had a craving for buffalo wings and wanted to make them for tonight's dinner. I am not a gnaw on a tiny bone kind of girl so he made a sort of Japanese-American fusion version of the classic bar food for me to eat instead. Similar to tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), katsu is Japanese style fried chicken. Katsu is made with light and flaky panko instead of flour so you get a very crispy, crunchy crust with little effort. I love panko. It makes it so easy to make the perfect crisp chicken tender. I am a dipper not a douser so I like to serve it with the buffalo sauce on the side but you could certainly toss it with the (cooked) chicken fingers if you so desired.

February 25, 2007

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Chicken, Zucchini and Spinach

4 large, fresh poblano (sometimes labeled as pasilla) peppers
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 dried chipotle peppers
28 canned whole tomatoes in juice, pureed
2 medium sized onions
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup cooked spinach*
1 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
juice from 1 lime
shredded cheddar cheese (for sprinkling)

In a medium saucepan, add the chicken breast, broth, garlic, lime juice, cumin, salt, ground pepper, one onion (quartered) and the dried chipolte peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and is easily shredded with a fork. Remove the breast from the broth and set aside. Strain the broth, and puree the solids. Reserve the broth. Shred the chicken and mix it with the onion/pepper puree. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoon olive oil, add the remaining onion (diced) and cook until golden brown. Add the tomato puree, 1/4 cup reserved broth** salt, ground pepper and cinnamon. Cook until the sauce has reduced to form a thick sauce, about 20-25 minutes. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add the zucchini and cook over high heat until the zucchini starts to brown. Add half of the tomato sauce, corn and reduce heat to medium. Cook an additional 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the chicken mixture, spinach and salt to taste. Place the poblano chiles in a heat safe dish and broil 5 minutes on each side. Remove to a towel and allow to cool, five minutes. Gently use the towel to remove the skins from the chiles, using a circular motion. Preheat oven to 375. Cut a slit down one side of each chile (or in the middle, if a split formed while removing the skin) and remove the seeds with as spoon. Discard the seeds. In a shallow baking pan, spread 1/2 of the remaining sauce along the bottom. Place the chiles slit side up and carefully fill with the chicken mixture.Do not over fill, the chile should be able to "close" when filled. Repeat for each chile and reposition them so the slit side is directly on the bottom of the pan. Distribute the remaining sauce over the peppers and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

*if frozen, defrost and drain thoroughly.
**use any leftover broth instead of regular chicken broth in another recipe.

My thoughts:
This is a colorful dish that is sort of a reinvention of the dish chile rellano (which literally means "stuffed chile" but generally refers to poblano peppers that have been stuffed with cheese and then deep fried) but is much healthier and in my opinion, tastes even better. Poblano peppers are on the mild side and surprisingly sturdy which makes them great candidates for stuffing despite their long and sort of pinched shape. Rather than just filling them with cheese, we combined chicken, zucchini, corn and spinach for a really fresh tasting and light filling. The poaching with the chile and onion adds great flavor the chicken, but if you were short on time, you could just shred leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken and use that instead. Rather than add the cheese to the filling, we sprinkled it on top for a little extra flavor. These were great for a meal, and any leftover filling you have makes yummy tacos or burritos.

February 24, 2007

Shrimp & Salmon Cakes with a Spicy Dipping Sauce


6 oz salmon fillet, boned and skinned
6 oz raw shrimp, shelled
7 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 eggs
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup cabbage shredded
1/4 cup green onions, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
cornstarch for dredging


In a small bowl, soak shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes and slice thinly. Meanwhile, roughly chop raw shrimp and salmon together. In a large bowl, mix the salmon and shrimp with the shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, cabbage, green onions, salt, white and black pepper, ginger, bacon, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Separate one of the eggs, reserve the egg yolk, and stir the egg whites into the fish mixture. Stir well and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a large (nonstick, if possible) saute pan. Put some corn starch on a plate and some panko on another plate. Beat the egg yolk with the remaining egg in a small wide bowl. Form the shrimp mixture into about five 3 to 4 oz flattened patties. Dredge each patty in the cornstarch on both sides, dip into the beaten egg, and then pat into the panko. Fry each patty for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towel lines plates and serve with the optional dipping sauce, recipe below:

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish

Mix well and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to let flavors mingle.

My thoughts:
The photograph doesn't do these wonderful little cakes justice. Eating one is like having the best eggroll filling imaginable in a crispy, crunchy, grease-less pocket. My husband made these and for a second we held our breath, worrying that they would fall apart in the pan, the mixture is a bit floppy, but they held together perfectly and they taste divine.

February 23, 2007

Triple Citrus Cranberry Cake

3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup tangerine juice
1/3 cup lime juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
zest of one lime
zest of one tangerine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour one bundt pan. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, 5 spice powder and salt in a large bowl. Beat in the juices, oil, zests, vanilla and eggs until well combined. Fold in cranberries. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from the pan. Cool completely.

Spring this recipe!

My thoughts:
I hadn't baked anything in a while, so I decided to make a quick cake. A real benefit of using oil is that you don't have to wait for butter to soften. I got the idea and with in 15 minutes, including juicing all of the fruit, it was in the oven. I used leftover cranberries that I froze myself back near Thanksgiving, some tangerines that were on the verge of spoiling and a few lemon and lime halves I had in the fridge leftover from other recipes. It is moist, slightly dense and subtly citrus-y. The tangerine juice keeps it from being too tart and cranberries are like little jewels when you cut it. One odd thing about the cake-even though there is no butter in the batter, when it baked it gave off the most buttery aroma imaginable. I can't quite figure that out.

February 21, 2007

Swiss Chard, Beef, Shrimp and Tofu Summer Rolls



3/4 pound thinly sliced beef, cut into 3-4 inch strips
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons oil

Beef Marinade:

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili paste
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (Sriracha or other red hot sauce)


1 pound Swiss chard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup water


1/2 pound firm or extra firm tofu


12 shrimp, boiled peeled and butterflied (sliced open lengthwise)
6 rice paper wrappers*
1/2 pound rice stick noodles
Thai or Vietnamese basil (optional)


First, mix marinade ingredients in a small bowl and marinate beef in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Saute mushrooms in oil over high heat. Add beef and stir fry until beef is cooked and sauce has thickened (about 5 - 10 minutes). Cover and remove from heat. Set aside. While the beef is marinating, you can prepare the tofu by cutting it into 1/2 inch slices. Create a stack of them sprinkling salt on each slice. Wrap the stack of tofu slices in a towel and rest a heavy pan on top of the stack for 15 minutes to remove extra water. Remove tofu from towel and cut lengthwise into thin strips.Then, boil rice stick noodles for 5 minutes and blanch in cold water. Cut noodles into bite-sized pieces. Then the greens, tear the Swiss chard into strips. In a large pot with a cover, boil the water and add chard. Cook about 3-5 minutes until chard is tender. Pour out the water and add soy sauce and vinegar

Fill a wide bowl or pot with warm water. Each rice paper wrapper must be soaked individually. For each roll, soak a wrapper until pliable and soft. Remove the wrapper and spread out on a clean surface. Add a 1/4 cup noodles towards the middle of the wrapper. Add a portion of the greens, a portion of the meat, 2 pieces of tofu, 2 shrimp, and basil (if using). Fold the rice paper from both sides in towards the middle, then lift the end closest to you and roll away from you, grabbing all of the filling, and roll until the spring roll is closed. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve at room temperature.

*Sometimes labeled spring roll wrappers. Not to be confused with refrigerated egg roll wrappers, these are not refrigerated and are round, brittle and translucent.

Yield: 6 rolls
My thoughts:
These are some of my favorite things to order at a Vietnamese restaurant. Not exactly the same thing as spring rolls, which are fried, summer rolls are served at room temperature and are not cooked at all once assembled. Lots of times you see these as an appetizer, but my husband made them for us for dinner. They are complete meal unto themselves although you might need to eat more than one to fill up. They are really light tasting and rather healthy.

February 20, 2007


sheets of dried seaweed (laver) or nori
sushi rice (made w/out vinegar)
sesame seeds
sesame oil

1 pound of thinly sliced beef

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Korean chili paste (kochujang)

Spinach -
1/2 pound frozen spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

2 eggs
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, then sliced.
2 tablespoons green onions


For the meat:
Marinate the meat in the marinade about 1-2 hours or overnight. I would use this time to make the sushi rice. Afterward the meat is done marinating, saute the meat in a large pan until cooked through.

For the omelet:
In a small bowl eat all omelet ingredients* together. Heat a non-stick skillet over a medium-high flame. Add egg mixture and tilt in a circular motion to coat the surface of the skillet. When the egg is almost set, but still a bit runny on top, use a spatula and chopsticks to roll the omelet into a tight cylinder. Remove from pan and slice thinly.

For the spinach:
Microwave frozen spinach, sesame seeds, and salt until the spinach is defrosted. Squeeze out liquid. Add sesame oil, stir and set aside.

Follow the fotomaki instuctions placing the beef, egg, spinach and sesame seeds in the middle of the roll. Brush the outside of the roll with sesame oil and slice. Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds and serve.

*We added the mushrooms and green onions for extra color and flavor, but you can leave them out make it a plain omelet.

My thoughts:

I have heard kimbap described as "Korean sushi" but this is not exactly an accurate description. Like Japanese maki, they are rolls with a filling in the middle, surrounded by rice and wrapped in seaweed but what goes in them is often very different. For example kimbap is made with cooked ingredients instead of raw fish, unlike many varieties of maki. The most common fillings include beef or tuna, spinach, egg, carrot and some times strips of yellow pickled radish, or burdock root and the outside is brushed with sesame oil. Another difference is that you don't dip it in soy sauce like you do with Japanese sushi. The amount of rice vinegar in kimbap rice is often less than what you could use in sushi rice, especially if you are using pickled ingredients and some recipes leave it out all together, and just season the rice with sesame oil and salt. Since kimbap is cooked, it makes a very filling snack or make ahead lunch and if you wrap it tightly, leftovers can be eaten the next day.

February 18, 2007

Pork & Seafood Fried Rice

3 cups cooked cold rice
1 1/2 cup roast pork
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup frozen assorted seafood
1/2 cup green beans. cut into small pieces
1/2 cup green onions, minced
4 dried mushrooms
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 small chili peppers, minced
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons broth
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 onion sliced
2 eggs

Cover dried mushrooms with hot water for 20 minutes, then squeeze the liquid out and cut into thin strips. In a small bowl, beat eggs with a teaspoon of the sesame oil and a teaspoon of the green onions. Cook like an omelet in a large hot skillet, tilting to spread the egg mixture across the surface of the pan, about 2 minutes. When the top of the omelet is almost set, flip the omelet and cook for 1 minute on the other side. Remove to a plate and cut into thin strips. In a large wok or deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushroom, onion, garlic, ginger, and the rest of the green onion. Cook for 2 minutes over high heat, stirring until the onions have started to soften. Add the cabbage and green beans. Toss and cook for 2 minutes. Add the seafood, the pork, the broth and soy sauce. Toss and cover the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes until vegetables are tender but still a bit crunchy. Uncover and add rice, stir frying until the rice is hot and the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the egg strips and remove from heat.

My thoughts:
Today is lunar new year. This year is the year of the pig, actually the year of the golden pig, which happens only once every 600 years. This is a quick and easy fried rice which can serve as a whole meal. We bought premixed seafood (squid, octopus, mussels etc) but you can subsitute whatever you have on hand.

February 17, 2007

Cream Cheese & Jam Stuffed French Toast

3 eggs
4 slices good quality bread
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
cream cheese
kiwi jam

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, ginger and milk. Set aside. Take 2 slices of bread, spread with cream cheese*. Spread the remaining slices with jam. Form cream cheese/kiwi sandwiches. Set aside. Heat a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan. Tilt the pan so the evenly coats the pan. Meanwhile, dip both sides of the sandwich into the egg mixture. Place in frying pan. Cook about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and brown the other side. Repeat. Serve immediately.

*Tip: If you are using block cream cheese instead of the spreadable kind in a tub, you might need to whip it with a fork first so it spreads easily and does not tear the bread.

My thoughts:
I do not like french toast. I always think I will like it but I never do. Three years ago, just a couple of months after my husband and I started dating we stayed in a bed and breakfast near Chincoteague Island, Virginia for his birthday. One morning I had a choice between "Caribbean Stuffed French Toast" and something completely unappealing so I ordered the french toast. On this trip we had learned that in restaurants on the coast of Virginia, "Caribbean" was shorthand for "with pineapple" and I was not disappointed. It was stuffed with pineapple and had some sort of rum based sauce drizzled over top. I had an epiphany. I don't hate french toast, I hate unstuffed french toast. Made on good bread, stuffed french toast is crisp and has yummy fillings. Much better than the soggy eggy stuff of diners but just as easy.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled and you can use any sort of jam. I'd keep the cream cheese, though, it is a good "glue" so the sandwich doesn't slide apart when you flip it.

February 16, 2007

Kiwi (Freezer) Jam

1 1/4 cups sugar
2 lb kiwi, peeled
45g packet of freezer jam pectin*

In a medium bowl, use a potato masher (or a spoon) to mash the kiwifruit. Add the sugar and pectin. Stir (or whisk if it is liquid enough) for 3 minutes. Pour into 4-5 clean 8 oz jars, leave 1/2 inch of space at the top. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then serve, refrigerate (up to 3 weeks), or freeze (up to one year).

*You cannot substitute regular pectin for this. Look for freezer jam pectin in the canning or baking isle at your local store. May only be available during the canning season, ask for it.

My thoughts:
If you've been reading this for a while, you know I am a little leery about canning. I made some lovely refrigerator pickles last August (a jar of which is still crisp and edible in my fridge by the way!) that didn't require any scary canning methods. I've been dying to make jam but was still a little scared about attempting traditional canning. What if I made a mistake and ruined the jam or worse-what if I made a 12 jars and didn't like it? So you can imagine my excitement when I was offered a set of Ball freezer jam jars and pectin. I loved it! In less than 15 minutes we made yummy kiwi jam. We had so many kiwi in the fridge that I wanted to use them up before they went bad. I couldn't find directions for a kiwi freezer jam so I just used all the kiwi we had, guessed how much sugar, used a whole packet of the pectin and it came out wonderfully. I am now a freezer jam devotee. Freezer jam is great because it uses about a 1/3 of the sugar as "regular" homemade jam or jelly. Traditional jam recipes often call for more cups of sugar than fruit! I also love that you don't have to cook it (or freeze it for that matter, despite the name), and you can eat it within 30 minutes of canning. Ball makes a set of reusable plastic freezer jam jars (perfect if you are actually going to freeze the jam-safer than glass if the jam expands more than you expect) that comes with directions and a sample of the pectin. And to head off some future emails: freezer jam pectin is vegan, as is regular fruit pectin.

February 14, 2007

Raspberry-Rhubarb Tart


4 oz cold block cream cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoons salt

2 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 egg yolk

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 400F. Place all of the crust ingredients in the food processor. Pulse until dough just comes together. It will be sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Press into tart pan. Set aside.

For the filling:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, the egg yolk, sugar, vanilla, salt and cream. Arrange the rhubarb and the raspberries on the pie crust. Pour the egg/cream mixture over the fruit.

Cover the very edge of the pan with foil all the way around and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the the custard is set. Remove to a wire rack and cool. Serve at room temperature.

My thoughts:
My very sweet husband made this for me for Valentine's Day. It was very pretty and sweet-tart. I think next time we make it with fresh berries we will beat a few into the cream mixture to make it pink throughout. I think using frozen raspberries (which tend to leech their color more readily) would have the same effect.

February 12, 2007

Kiwi Kumquat Salad with Key Lime Syrup

6 kiwi, sliced
6 kumquats, sliced or halved
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon key lime zest


In a saucepan, bring water, sugar, juice and zest to a boil. Stir until completely dissolved and syrup has thickened. Meanwhile, arrange fruit in a bowl. Cool the syrup completely then pour over fruit. Pour any leftover syrup into a clean jar and cap tightly. Store leftover syrup in the refrigerator.

My thoughts:
I made this little fruit salad for breakfast this morning. It couldn't be simpler. I enjoyed the simple kiwi-kumquat combo but I bet it would be divine with some added chunks of citrus. Maybe blood oranges?

February 11, 2007

Kumquat Liqueur

1 pint vodka
6 kumquats, thinly sliced horizontally

In a glass jar, pour in the vodka. Add the kumquats*. Cover and allow to sit for at least 2 weeks in a dark cupboard to infuse.

*Taste a kumquat and if it is unusually sour, add some sugar to taste and shake until it is dissolved. You could also use just the peels and discard the fruit all together.
My thoughts:
Infused vodka is easy to make: just add some fruit to some vodka and let it sit. The hardest thing is waiting to try it! Kumquat liqueur can be used in place of any other citrus flavored liqueur in your favorite cocktail or you can drink it straight. Just remember in kumquats, it is the skin that is sweet (in addition to being edible) and the juice is sour so you need to use the whole fruit. You can adjust the number of kumquats you use to suit your personal tastes and can easily flavor as much alcohol as you would like.

February 10, 2007

Tuna Salad

6 oz canned albacore tuna, thoroughly drained
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 carrots minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Goddess Dressing
juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients in a large bowl, mix to combine. Serve on long, crusty rolls with tomato and lettuce or as a melt with cheddar cheese.

My thoughts:

Tuna salad seems to have earned the reputation as a déclassé stinky, soggy, and tasteless last choice lunch. Once the staple of ladies luncheons and drugstore lunch counters is it is now passed over for panini and other trendy fare. I say, embrace the tuna sandwich. It is easy, economical and with a thorough draining, fresh ingredients, and a deft hand it can once again be a tasty lunch time favorite.

February 07, 2007

Spicy Cheddar Muffins

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease 10 wells in a muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until a thick batter forms. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the middle muffin comes out basically clean. Cool on a wire rack. Best served at room temperature or slightly warm.
My thoughts:
Late this afternoon I got the sudden urge to make muffins and 30 minutes later, I was eating one of these. So often muffins are relegated to breakfast but there is really no reason for that. These would be great along side a salad or some fried catfish. They are nicely spicy and the half a cup of cornmeal adds a great texture but doesn't make them taste overwhelmingly like cornbread.

February 06, 2007

Steak Subs

1 lb very thin london broil or flank steak

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
fresh ground pepper

hot peppers


Combine all of ingredients for the marninade in a ziplock bag. Add the meat, seal and marinate for 2 hours. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms and set aside. To caramelize onions: heat about 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions and saute about 20 minutes or until they are brown and translucent. Add mushrooms to the mushrooms towards the end if desired. Remove the onions/mushrooms to a bowl and fry the steak in the same pan you cooked the onions in, until no longer pink, adding a bit of olive oil if needed. Assemble your cold toppings on the homemade rolls. I like to create a barrier for the meat by lining one side with tomato, and a thin layer of mayo on the other, which keeps the sandwich from getting soggy*.

and top with the steak and then the onions/mushrooms. Serve very hot and with lots of napkins.

*I like to be very scientific when it comes to my sandwich making. You should see my BLTs.

My thoughts:
Growing up in Baltimore, I called these types of sandwiches subs. My husband, growing up in NYC called them heroes. In New England, they call them grinders. New Orleans natives call similar sandwiches po' boys. Some old fashioned terms for the sandwich are submarine (where my term, sub comes from), torpedo, wedge, cosmos and zep (as in zeppelin). My favorite kind of sub is the cheesesteak but I don't use the icky Cheez Whiz that is required for a truly authentic Philly-style cheesesteak. The rare times we get get takeout subs, I generally get provolone, but at home I use very thin slices of extra sharp cheddar. My favorite toppings are caramelized onions, mushrooms and thinly sliced tomatoes but no lettuce. Lettuce gets a bit wilted and soggy from the heat of the steak and if you are eating out, it is generally just shredded iceberg anyway. While I enjoy the occasional takeout sub, the ones you make at home are so much better, less greasy, much better steak and crispier rolls.

February 04, 2007

Sub Rolls

1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (often labeled as rapid rise or bread machine yeast)
1/2 cup water
a spray battle with water or some ice cubes

Either by hand, in a food processor or an electric mixer, mix flour salt and yeast together. Add water slowly and mix until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface. The dough should feel smooth and be very easy to work with. If it feels stiff, sprinkle some water over it while you continue to kneed. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm draft-free place (a "cold" oven is s good place) until it is doubled in size (about an hour).

After the dough has doubled, gently collapse it and cut it in half, form each half into a ball, and let rest covered in the bowl for 20 minutes. The bread can be baked on a cookie sheet or on a bread or pizza stone. If you are using a bread or pizza stone, sprinkle 2 pieces or parchment paper with corn meal. If using a cookie sheet, sprinkle some corn meal directly on the sheet. Carefully, so as not to push the bubbles out of the dough, roll each of the dough balls into an oblong shape (about 8 inches long) by gently rolling with your fingers from the middle out. Place each oblong onto the parchment paper (or cookie sheet if using) cover with the towel, and let rise for another hour. During this time, preheat the oven to 450.

Baking: Slide each dough oblong onto your pizza stone (or put the cookie sheet into the oven) and quickly spray the inside of the oven with water (or throw some ice cubes into the oven). The steam that this creates will improve the texture of the crust. After 5 minutes, turn the oven down to 400, give it a quick spritz and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Yields 2 sub rolls.

My thoughts:
It doesn't matter if you call them sub, hoagie, hero, or grinder rolls, it is always best to make your own. Since we are a family of two (well, four if you count the dogs but they don't get rolls) this recipe yields only 2 fairly long rolls. If you want smaller rolls, you could probably make 4 short rolls. If you want more, you could easily double the recipe.

February 03, 2007

Beet Greens Soufflé

6 eggs, separated
1 bunch beets, greens attached
1 shallot, minced
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons butter
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

Preheat oven to 375. Grease or spray an 8 cup souffle or baking dish. Sprinkle the bottom with 3 tablespoons grated cheese. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water and the beets, reserving greens to boil. In a small pot, scald the milk and stir in the salt and cornstarch, cook over medium heat until thickened and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, chop the beet greens and discard the stems. In a large pan, heat the butter and quickly saute shallot until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped greens and saute together, 1 additional minute. Remove the greens from the pan and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the yolks and pulse until minced. Add the scalded milk mixture, nutmeg and remaining cheese. Stir to combine. The beets should be tender by now. Remove from the water, remove the skins and chop the beets coarsely. Arrange in the bottom of the dish. Beat egg whites until frothy and then add the cream of tarter. Beet until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a quarter of egg whites into the greens and then fold the rest of the greens into the large bowl of egg whites. Pour on top of the beets in the dish and then smooth out the top. Bake 30-35 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.


My thoughts:
I have had the idea of a beet greens soufflé in the back of my mind for some time now and when I saw all of the soufflés that have been posted recently and found the most beautiful beets in the store, it felt like kismet. I have to admit, I had never made or even eaten a soufflé before today. Or beets for that matter. I think I had pickled beets once as a child and was too traumatized to try the fresh variety. So I was extra excited when it came out so well. There are a lot of little steps since you use both the greens and the beets and what with all the egg beating and sauteing, this recipe goes much faster if you have a helper. My husband did all of the chopping of the greens and sauteing and I did the eggs, cheese, pouring and beet work. The fun part of this soufflé is that it looks like a typical spinach or chard soufflé until you cut into it and see the beets on the bottom. They dye a bit of the bottom a pretty pinky purple and make a some what ethereal dish more substantial.

February 02, 2007

Soda Chanh

freshly squeezed lime juice
simple syrup
club soda


Per glass:

Pour roughly a 1/4 inch of simple syrup into the bottom of a large glass. Add the juice of half a lime (or more to taste) and stir to combine. Top with 12 oz club soda.

My thoughts:

Soda chanh is my favorite drink to order at Vietnamese restaurants. Normally it comes to the table all mixed up but I've even had it served in a "make your own" version -a can of club soda, a cup with sugar in it and a lime. It is basically a tart limeade made with some sort of sparkling water (generally seltzer or club soda) instead of still water. It is really fresh tasting and easy (and often cheaper!) alternative to regular soda. I have also seen it made with lemon instead of lime and with a sprinkle of salt. I like to make it using simple syrup instead of just stirring in sugar for a few reasons: you don't get even a hint of gritty sugar, it dissolves nearly instantly so you aren't left with undissolved sugar at the bottom of your glass and you don't lose the bubbles in the soda by stirring it. Simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for months so you can make a batch and have it ready to make fresh lime soda any time. The recipe is simple and can be adapted to serve as many or as few as you want. I do recommend make each serving separately rather than making a whole pitcher at once for maximum bubbles. If you pour the soda into the pitcher and then pour it into glasses, it loses most of the fizz and you might have well just made limeade.