August 31, 2009

Zippy Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Pinenuts and Cranberries

4 broccoli crowns
3 slices (cooked) bacon, crumbled
1 bunch green onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced basil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon agave nectar

Quickly blanch the broccoli by plunging it into boiling water for one minute. Rinse off under cool water. Allow to cool. Thoroughly drain (a salad spinner works nicely) then chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing. Drizzle over the salad, toss to coat and evenly distribute.

My thoughts:
My family never made broccoli salad when I was growing but from what I've encountered at picnics and parties since, we were in the minority. I think I have had at least 10 variations of the salad. They all seem to have some things in common: something crunchy, something sweet and some sort of onion. When I went to make my own version, I didn't see any reason to leave any of that out. Raisins seem the most popular sweet ingredient but since I find them abhorrent and bug-like I went with sweet-tart dried cranberries. The need for bacon was clear and for crunch I added some toasty pinenuts. Often the dressing in broccoli salad is rather sweet which isn't terribly appealing to me so I made basil vinaigrette with just a drop of agave nectar for sweetness. Green onions and shallot provide the onion flavor without the sometimes harsh flavor of raw onion.

Quick note: While blanching the broccoli seems like an unnecessary step; it brightens the color of the broccoli and takes some of the raw edge off which really adds something to the salad.

August 29, 2009

Rachel's Italian Deli Panini

8 slices rosemary Italian bread
2 whole marinated artichokes, thinly sliced
4 slices sharp provolone
1/4 lb lean capicola
1/4 lb spicy sopressata
1/4 lb mortadella
1/4 lb prosciutto

olive oil

Create a single layer of each meat on one slice of bread. Top with single layer of marinaded artichokes. Top with a single layer of cheese. Top with a second piece of bread. Brush the exposed sides of the bread with a small amount of olive oil. Place on your panini press and press on medium heat, until the sandwich is warm and the cheese is melty. Repeat for the remaining bread and meat.


My thoughts:
I think this might be my favorite panini recipe so far. Of course, I've thought that after eating all of the panini I have posted this week so might want to take that with a grain of salt but if I opened up an Italian deli tomorrow, this would be the first thing I added to my menu. We used some great locally made rosemary Italian bread (you can use plain Italian bread instead) and some artichokes from the deli counter vs the ones in a jar. They are surprisingly pricey but they were also delicious. The the meats came from our favorite Italian deli but I did use the more reasonably priced grocery store deli sliced cheese for the provolone. While the meats we get at our Italian deli are far superior to what we can get at the local supermarket, when it comes to using just a bit of provolone on a sandwich, I don't think the difference is so great. Anyway, the flavors in this sandwich just melt together. I love it! It is also a delicious sandwich to serve even if you don't have a press. I made a similar sandwich "cold" with the leftovers the next day and it was nearly as good as it was all pressed and melty.

August 27, 2009

Peaches & Herb Panini

2 peaches, peeled and sliced
4 oz soft goat cheese
5 springs worth of thyme leaves
1/2 baguette

Cut the bread into sandwich sized portions. Slice each horizontally. Use a fork to mash the thyme into the cheese. If the cheese is very crumbly or cold, let it warm up slightly (closer to room temperature) and then mash. Spread on the top half of the crusty bread. Top the bottom half with a single layer of peaches.

Repeat for remaining ingredients. Close the sandwiches. Heat the panini press to medium and press until the cheese is soft and the sandwich is hot.

Yield: 2 big or 4 more modest sandwiches

My thoughts:

I like my panini press because it can make thin or thick sandwiches. As you can tell my tastes generally run towards the crusty bread, big flavored filling variety. I think it is because I am not really a sandwich person. If I am going to eat a sandwich, I want to eat a sandwich. As a child my mom would pack my lunch* and it rarely included a sandwich. I didn't like kiddy staples like peanut butter and jelly and loathed soggy bread so more often than not, it would be tuna salad and crackers (packed separately, natch) or pasta salad or vegetable crackers and cream cheese or a mixture of things like a deviled egg, raw celery (packed in water to keep it crisp!) and dip and some fruit. Rarely was it as something as plebeian as a sandwich and on the rare times it was, all of the ingredients were packed separately for assemble at lunch to insure no bread sogging. So it really wasn't until I was adult and quite possibly over the age of 25 I embraced the sandwich at all. Our local Italian deli has a wonderful sandwich that made me reconsider my no sandwich stance at least a bit. This sandwich is delicious because it makes the most of in season peaches by now overwhelming them with competing flavors. The goat cheese is mild and the thyme, while present, doesn't overpower, it just keeps the sandwich on the savory side rather than letting it drift into dessert territory.

*She loves packing lunches. I think she'd still pack mine today if I wasn't married and living in my own home. I am 99.9% sure she still packs my brother's lunch and he is 25 and in grad school.

August 25, 2009

Sesame-Ginger Pork Panini

14 thinly sliced pork loin slices (I used leftovers from this)
8 (thin) slices smoked Gouda
8 (thin) slices tomato
4 individual loaves of ciabatta bread or 1 full sized loaf cut into four pieces

1/4 cup sesame ginger dressing
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Whisk the spread ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Slice the bread horizontally. Spread both sides with sauce.

Place the pork on the bread then add a single layer of tomato and top with cheese.

Place the top half on top. Place on a panini grill heated to medium-high and press until the cheese melts and the bread is crusty. Repeat for each sandwich.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

My thoughts:
Panini week continues with this sesame and ginger kissed panino. It is so delicious! It works well with any leftover pork but was especially tasty when I made it with leftover grilled five spice pork. The sauce, made with a yummy sesame-ginger dressing, ties the whole sandwich together. The best part of panini sandwiches is that while they are hearty enough to have for dinner, they come together in just minutes.

August 23, 2009

Mondo Italiano Panino

1 Italian (sandwich) roll, sliced horizontally
2 slices tomato
2 large basil leaves
2 slices smoked provolone
4 slices very thinly sliced lean capicola
4 slices very thinly sliced prosciutto di parma


Place the cheese in a single layer on the bottom half of the roll. Top with tomato, basil and then the meats all in a single layer. Top with the roll. Place on a panini press preheated to "medium". Press until the cheese is melted and the roll is lightly toasted.

My thoughts:

I love the panini press I received for Hanukkah last year but I don't use it as much as I should. I realized that summer was a great time to use it, panini are perfect for a light dinner and it doesn't heat up the kitchen. So look for more panini recipes this week.

Who doesn't love a sandwich full of smoky flavors? I know I do. Lean capicola is a little closer to ham than regular capicola and adds some texture contrast with the tissue thin prosciutto. Tomatoes and basil are finally in season and add a lot of fresh flavor to the sandwich. One thing I love about making panini with Italian meats and cheeses is that it doesn't take more than a few slices to make a flavorful sandwich. It is fairly economical as well, even if the the prosciutto is $20 lb like the one I used, you only need an ounce or two for it to make a big flavor inpact on the sandwich.

This recipe only makes one sandwich but it is a big one, feel free to split it with someone.

August 21, 2009

Bacon-Chipotle Twice Grilled Potatoes

2 large russet potatoes
3 strips center cut bacon, crumbled
1 chipotle pepper in adobe, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh or freeze dried minced chives

olive oil for brushing

Prick the potatoes with a fork. Brush all sides with olive oil. Place mesquite chips in a foil packet, poke holes in the foil, and place on the coals. Cook the potatoes directly on the grill over hot coals for 30 minutes, then turn.

Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove from the grill. Slice in half. Scoop out the insides and gently mashed with the remaining ingredients. Scoop back into the skins. Place on the grill.

Grill until the cheese melts and they are hot all the way through, about 5-10 minutes.

Quick tips: Measure out the filling ingredients before you start to grill and refrigerate them until the potatoes are ready. Also, bacon crumbles easily after it has been refrigerated, make extra next time you cook bacon for breakfast or another recipe. If using freshly cooked bacon, cut it up with kitchen shears.

My thoughts:

my grill friday

This is a great side dish to make when you are grilling a main dish that takes a long time; the potatoes don't take up much room on the grill. I've made this when grilling a large piece of meat over indirect heat, I just put the potatoes around the edge of the grill over the coals. The potatoes take on a light, smoky, grilled flavor that is reflected in the chipotle and bacon. The skin gets wonderfully crispy-the perfect edible container.

August 19, 2009

Homemade Sno-balls


for the coconut:
5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
food dye

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups hot buttermilk
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, at room temperature
pinch salt

for the marshmallow:

1/4 oz. unflavored powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the cream filling:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the coconut:
This step can be done the day before you want to assemble and serve the cupcakes.
Place the coconut and a few drops of dye into a resealable plastic bag. Shake to evenly distribute the dye, adding more as needed to reach the desired color. Pour the coconut into a large bowl.

for the cake:
This step can be done the day before you want to assemble and serve the cupcakes.
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar cocoa, and instant espresso until smooth.

In large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Alternate the chocolate mixture and the dry ingredients until well blended. Fill each well of the cupcake pan(s) 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the marshmallow:
In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/8 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 12 minutes. Quickly spread on three sides of the cupcakes (bottom/indented side up) and form to make a dome. Roll in coconut. Brush any coconut off the bottom. Place, plain side down on a try and allow the coconut to set up before filling.

for the cream filling:
In a small pan, mix flour with milk and boil until thick. Cool. Beat until fluffy and add other ingredients one at a time, beating well after each addition. Refrigerate 1 hour. The cream should be cold and rather stiff when you pipe it into the cake, the act of piping will soften it a bit so do not be tempted to let it warm up before filling. By this time, the marshmallow on the cupcakes should be firm enough that it is safe to fill them. Pipe cream into the center of the bottom of each cupcake.

Yield: about 10 cupcakes (depending on pan size)

Note: I used this dessert shell pan I found. It has a little indentation on the top. I just filled that tiny dent with marshmallow. It made perfect sized (and round!) cakes. If you don't have the pan, I would make regular cupcakes and coat the bottoms and sides liberally with marshmallow, leaving the "top" free of marshmallow and sort of shape it (after the coconut) into a dome manually.

My thoughts:
Today's my 30th birthday! I wanted to make something special after last year's success with homemade Chocodiles so I returned to the snack cake world and created a homemade Hostess Sno-ball! If you are not familiar, a sno-ball is a coconut and marshmallow-covered, cream filled chocolate cupcake. Traditionally they are white (like a snowball) but around holidays they have colored coconut.

For this recipe I wanted to keep the character of the packaged cake but of course, homemade is tastier! I created a dark chocolate sort of devil's food cake recipe because the original cakes are actually rather rich tasting for a commercial cupcake. My husband made the cakes last night so today there was less to do. The marshmallow on these cupcakes isn't just fluffy marshmallow-y frosting, it is actual marshmallow just like it is on the packaged cakes. That's why it is important to quickly roll them in the coconut and then have to wait for them to set up before you pipe in the creamy filling. Honestly they were very easy to make, there is just a number of steps (and again, making the cakes the day before is a great idea-no waiting for the cakes to cool enough to spread on the marshmallow on the assembly day) but they are all simple. It is rather messy but luckily marshmallow is just sugar so it washes right away.

They are so tasty! The cake is moist and the perfect texture and flavor. Best snack cake ever!

August 14, 2009

Parmesan-Caper Potato Salad

1 1/2 lb red skin potatoes, diced

for the dressing
1/3 cup Parmesan garlic marinade
1/3 cup diced green onion
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons nonpareil capers

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until fork-tender. Drain. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle dressing over still slightly warm potatoes, toss to coat.

My thoughts:
This is one of those recipes where it is almost insulting how good it is when it was made with so little effort. The Parmesan melts a bit and infuses each bite with cheesy flavor. Using the Parmesan-garlic marinade eliminates the need to make a complicated dressing and highlights the fresh Parmesan flavor. I love capers and would put them in anything but they are especially tasty in this salad, adding a salty note that goes great with the cheese and onion. Simple, easy and fresh tasting. What more could you ask from a summer salad?

August 12, 2009

Sour Cream Ice Cream

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until it looks smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate the mixture until thoroughly chilled (a few hours) or overnight. Pour into a ice cream maker and churn until frozen. Eat immediately or freeze until just solid and scoopable.

Yield: 1 pint

Note: I used 2% milk and reduced fat sour cream with great success.

My thoughts:
Oh my. This is some seriously delicious ice cream. I love sour cream and had always wondered if a sour cream ice cream would work. I've made frozen yogurt with great success and figured that sour cream wasn't that much different. Rather than just churning straight sour cream, I added some milk and cream to give it a smoother texture and mouthfeel. The brown sugar was a last minute substitution for regular sugar and I loved it. The brown sugar gives the ice cream a caramel note that pairs well with the tart creaminess of the ice cream. Since there are no eggs to temper, I saw no reason that the ice cream mixture needed to be cooked. The sugar dissolved quickly during the trip through the blender and the whole process took just seconds. I think this is the easiest ice cream I have ever made but you wouldn't know it from the lush, old fashioned taste.

August 10, 2009

Tamarind Shrimp with Chinese Celery

1- 1 1/2 lb shrimp
1 large bunch Chinese celery, chopped with woody stems removed
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil

for the sauce
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon tamarind liquid*
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoon Sriracha
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a wok. Add the shallots and garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Chinese celery and stir fry until slightly wilted and cooked down. Add the shrimp and stir fry 1 minute. Add the sauce. Stir fry until the shrimp is fully cooked. Serve over hot rice.

*Soak about a 2x2 inch square of dried 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.

My thoughts:
Chinese celery is sort of like a ramped up version of "regular" celery. It tastes like celery only more so. The stems are hollow unlike the celery you are mostly likely used to and can be woody. The trick is to focus on the leaves and the stems directly connected, it is the most tender and flavorful part of the plant. In this dish, the celery-riffic taste contrasts with the sweet-sour flavor of the tamarind sauce and the sweet shrimp to make for a dish that tastes complex yet comforting at the same time. Added bonus? The whole dish takes under 15 minutes to make.

August 07, 2009

Sichuan Peppercorn & 5 Spice Encrusted Pork Loin

2 lb pork loin

spice mixture
2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons smashed Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon five spice powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

steam flavoring
1/4 cup whole star anise
1/4 cup white tea leaves

mesquite chips

Whisk together the spices. Rub on all sides of the pork. Store any leftover spice mixture in an air tight container.

Place a 8x8 square disposable heavy duty baking pan on the bottom of your charcoal grill and arrange the coals on either side. Pour water in the pan to the halfway point and the tea and star anise. Place mesquite chips in a foil packet, poke holes in the foil, and place on the coals. Place the pork on the center of the grate, over the disposable tin.

This will allow the pork to cook evenly on indirect heat. Keep the lid ajar until you start to see smoke.

Cover, leaving the top vents open and cook, turning the pork occasionally, until fully cooked, about 2 hours.

Note: If you notice that the smoke stops smelling like mesquite, replace the packet. Also, if the temperature seems to dip, add a couple of (cold) coals and uncover for a few minutes.

Tip: Crush the Sichuan peppercorns in a molcajete (like my husband is demonstrating below) or just crush them with your fingers.

My thoughts:

my grill friday

This is some seriously juicy, flavorful pork. The "slow and low" method keeps the loin from drying out and the spices seal in the juices. It really is my favorite way to cook pork loin, which as a fairly lean cut of meat is easy to over cook. Not using this method. It is incredibly easy but yields tender, juicy meat every time. In this version the Chinese spices permeate the pork, infusing it with a spicy, sweet flavor that pairs well with everything. Leftovers are great in sandwiches.

August 05, 2009

Farm Stand Salad

1 ear of corn's worth of kernels
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
4 baby pattypan squash, diced
2 cucumbers, diced
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 small shallot, minced
1 handful basil, minced
3 oz red wine vinegar

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Drizzle with the dressing and toss again.

My thoughts:
While there is nothing fancy about this salad-no cheese, no meat, no exotic ingredients, not even a drop of oil this is one of the best salads I've made this year. I diced up a bunch of vegetables at their absolute peak, made a simple dressing and nothing else was needed. It is fresh tasting, crisp and has enough variety that each bite seems slightly different. It would be a welcome addition to any meal or picnic, just use the freshest vegetables possible. One note-make sure you use the smallest pattypan squash, the larger ones are a little dense to eat raw while the small ones have thin skins and tender flesh.

August 02, 2009

Mango Pork Tacos

2 1/2 lbs pork loin cut into 1/2 " to 3/4" cubes
3 mangos cut into small cubes
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato-based salsa*
1/4 cup superfine flour (AKA Wondra or gravy flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground chipotle pepper
1/2 tablespoon New Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
juice of a lime
juice of an orange
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper,ground chipotle pepper, chili powder and oregano. Add the pork loin cubes and toss until the pork is evenly coated with the flour and spices. Heat the oil in a wide, tall sided pot. Brown the pork on all sides in a single layer; working in batches if needed. Remove the pork from the pan and saute the garlic and jalapenos for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the pork back to the pan along with the mango, lime and orange juice and the salsa. Stir the ingredients briefly and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally until the pork is fork tender and the mixture has thickened.

*Our favorite? Mrs. Renfro's Habanero

My thoughts:
I was having a fit of food ennui so after some back and forth emails about technique my husband thankfully made this for dinner. It was so good! It is sort of riff on carnitas; cubed, browned pork with crispy edges but braised in a spicy fruity mango sauce instead of its own fat. It is so good and though thoroughly porky, not heavy or greasy. The best tacos I've had in ages, just the perfect match of fruity, spicy and meaty.