August 27, 2010

Shu Mei Sliders with Hoisin Mayo

for the burgers:
5 oz water chestnuts, drained
.5 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1 lb peeled shrimp
1 lb ground pork
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons shaoxing
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

for the hoisin mayo:
2 1/2 tablespoons hoisin
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds

slider rolls
1 cucumber, thinly sliced

Place all of the mayo ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together. Refrigerate until ready to use. Place all of the burger ingredients in a food processor, pulse until well combined. Prep grill. Lightly oil your hands, a platter and the grill rack. Form into small burgers. Grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Place on buns, top with cucumber and mayo.

Yield: about 18 sliders

My thoughts:
This going to be a quick post because I am in Seattle at the International Food Bloggers Conference! These sliders are awesome, they are my favorite kind of dumpling in burger form. They stay amazingly juicy and really do taste like dumplings, except smokier and crisper. I think they would be perfect for a party, they are small so you can cook a ton at once and serve them quickly.

August 25, 2010

Hot Slice (of Pickle)

4 lb pickling cucumbers, sliced
3 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt
6 teaspoons peppercorns
6 dried pili pili peppers
3 teaspoons crushed red pepper
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots, minced

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Evenly divide all of the spices, shallot and garlic between 6 pint jars . Add the cucumber spears. Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit 2 weeks before eating.

Yield: about 6 pints

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:
Can you stand more canning? I have done so much canning this year, I barely have any non-canning recipes saved up to post. I am actually a little annoyed that it is suddenly so cool and I have nothing to can right now. I did a ton of canning during the long stretches of high heat and humidity we've had recently and it was pretty brutal, even though I was canning late at night so I could go to bed and escape the hot kitchen and downstairs. Anyway, these pickles are really good. I wanted to make a sandwich slice that was different than the spears I had made and came up with the idea of a hot and spicy pickle. They are so good on a hamburger and I can't wait to have them in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich. YUM!

Tip: It is a little harder to gauge how many slices fit in each jar since they are sliced and not always evenly so make sure you prep a couple of extra jars just in case.

August 23, 2010

Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomato Dip

4 cups broccoli florets
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz sour cream
1/3 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 minced shallot
2 cloves garlic
freshly ground black pepper

Steam the broccoli. Drain thoroughly. Finely chop or pulse briefly in a food processor. Saute the shallot and garlic in the olive oil. Allow it to cool slightly. Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, shallot, garlic, cream cheese, sour cream and spices to a large bowl. Use a mixer or spoon to combine. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
My thoughts:
When I tried these Terra Chips that had carrots, blue potatoes and kobocha in them, I knew I had to make a vegetable-y dip. We had an abundance of broccoli so I steamed some up until it was tender then gave it a whirl in the VitaMix. I had some some sun-dried tomatoes so I added that along with some reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream. I mixed it together in my stand mixer using the whisk attachment and it came out really light and creamy. I normally don't use a mixer for dips but I might always now, it really combined everything in just a few seconds.

The broccoli flavor in this dip is mild and contrasts nicely with the sharp sun-dried tomatoes. I like that is so packed with vegetables because then it doesn't seem like such an indulgence to have some dip and chips with my lunch!

August 22, 2010

Pears in Sweet Tea Syrup

10 Bartlett pears
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
3 Tazo Vanilla Rooibos tea bags

Prep 3 quart jars. Peel, core and halve the pears. If you'd like, float them in water mixed with Fruit Fresh or lemon juice, to help retain their color. Pack them into the jars. Meanwhile, bring the sugar, tea bags and water to a rolling boil. Do not let it reduce. Pour the hot syrup into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Run a knife or a jar scraper to dislodge any bubbles while turning the jar slightly. Seal. Process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.

Note: This recipe yields a bit more syrup than you will probably need. I scaled it this way because while my 10 pears fit into 3 quart jars, you might have some leftover. There should be enough syrup leftover to can a pint of extra pears if need be.

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:
This week's Tazo secret ingredient was pears. I was trying to think of something that wasn't too autumnal to make. Pears are just coming into season but I am more into peach-berry-tomato mode than pears and apples right now. So I was turning that around in my head for a while and decided I would pair them with the quintessential summer drink, sweet tea. I thought about making some sort of granita or some other frozen dessert but the sort of grainy texture of Bartlett pears made me think it might not be as smooth as I'd like. So I decided to can them in a light sweet tea syrup. Most recipes I found for canning pears use the hot pack method where you heat the pears through in the syrup but I think that makes the pears a little mushy. Instead I decided to process the pears more like peaches so they would hopefully retain the shape and texture better after the long processing time.

August 20, 2010

Grilled Cheesesteak Subs

16 slices provolone cheese
8-12 very thin steaks*
8 sub rolls
1 large onion, halved and sliced
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoon oregano
freshly ground black pepper

Prep grill according to manufactuers' instructions. Lightly oil the grates of your grill and a grilling pan. Arrange the onions and mushrooms on the grilling pan and cook, tossing occasionally, until soft. Towards the end of the cooking time, grill the rolls directly on the rack. Set aside. Push the onions and mushrooms to one side. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper and oregano on both sides. Arrange the steaks on the grill.

Cook until very nearly cooked through. Stack 2-3 steaks on the the grilling pan. Top with cheese and allow it to melt. Place on rolls and top with onions and mushrooms.

*1/8-1/4 inch thick. Our local store sells them 3-4 to a tray labeled as "rolling steaks".

My thoughts:
This is a fun and fairly easy recipe to help ease us towards the end of the summer grilling season. The only tricky part is that since the steaks are thin, they can go from delicious to overcooked pretty quickly. The same is true of the rolls so stick by the grill for this one! The whole meal takes on a lovely smokey flavor and who doesn't enjoy a cheesesteak now and again? I know in Philadelphia there is much debate about Cheez Wiz vs real cheese and what toppings are acceptable but at home you can be your own mini food truck and make them as you see fit. I am a fan of the onions, mushrooms and provolone combination and luckily mushrooms and onions grill very nicely. The onions caramelize quickly and with little effort. I do find that slices of steak are much easier to grill at home so resist the urge to do the shredding/chopped style that many cheesesteak shops sell, the meat cooks too quickly and tends to fall into the flames.

August 17, 2010

My Cookbook is Out!

I am taking a break from our normally scheduled recipe for an announcement. Today is the official publication date of my cookbook! I am so excited. It is hard to believe that something I spent an entire, hot summer developing and writing is available now on a library or book store shelf and of course, on Amazon. In the book you will find 300 slow cooker recipes, all with an eye towards using fresh ingredients and not a single one calls for condensed soup! I think you will enjoy it.

I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win. The comment must include your email address.

August 16, 2010

Tropical Fruit Ice Box Pie

2 3/4 diced fresh pineapple
2 cups diced kiwi
3/4 cup diced mango
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon butter

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of the mixed fruit, half of the juices and the sugar to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining juice, set aside. After the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining fruit and the butter. Pour into the prepared pie shell. Refrigerate for about 5 hours or until set. Best served the day it is made.
My thoughts:
I am all for eating locally grown fruits and vegetables but there is something about tropical fruits that just screams summer to me. Luckily the the fruit I can get are super fresh and lush. This pie is pretty lush itself. It is also on the juicy side, so it really is best the same day you make it. It is tasty the next day but the crust does get a little soggy overnight. Honestly, though, I don't think you will have any problem finishing this pie off in a single day! It is fresh and fruity and I love the slightly crunch the kiwi seeds provide. It just tastes like summer!

August 15, 2010

Red Quinoa Peach Porridge with White Tea Syrup

2 peaches, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup Tazo White Cucumber tea (white tea with cucumber)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red quinoa
1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

Place the quinoa, peaches and water in a small saucepan. Cook for 30 minutes then add the oatmeal and milk. Cook until the oats are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, bring the sugar and tea to a boil in a very small pan. Boil until it reduces to a syrup (about 30 minutes). Stir the quinoa mixture. Drizzle with syrup.

My thoughts:
Recently I was approached by Tazo to develop some new recipes using their tea. I received a big box of various teas to play around with and once a week for three weeks I will be sent a mystery ingredient to use in the recipe as well. Last week the ingredient was lavender and I made some yummy Oolong Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting. This week the ingredient is red quinoa. Might I admit something? I am not the biggest quinoa fan. I like the texture and the idea of quinoa but I don't love the flavor. Maybe I got burned out on it last year when I was developing recipes for the cookbook but I was a little disappointed that it was the mystery ingredient. But I rallied and decided to pair it with a seasonal ingredient: peaches. Cooked together the quinoa took on a pleasant peachy flavor and the oatmeal made it creamy. When topped with the tasty cucumber white tea syrup, it became a fresh tasting breakfast that had the texture benefits of quinoa but the flavor wasn't overpowering.

August 13, 2010

Grilled Land & Sea Salad with Grilled Croutons and Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled
1 lb top round or flank steak
8 oz large crimini mushroom tops
4 cups 2 inch cube bread (slightly stale)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic

10 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced
5 tomatoes, cut up
1 head romaine, chopped

1 bunch basil
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Please all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender, pulse until smooth. Set aside. Arrange salad ingredients on a plate. Set aside.

Rub freshly ground black pepper and sea salt into both sides of the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil and garlic cloves on the stove or microwave until just warm. Set aside. Thread the shrimp and bread cubes on bamboo skewers. Brush the shrimp, mushrooms and bread cubes with the garlic olive oil.

Meanwhile, prep grill according to manufacturer's instructions. Place the steak in the middle and the skewers around the edges. Grill until the steak is medium-rare, the shrimp is fully cooked and the bread is toasty. Allow the meat to sit five minutes. Slice thinly. Top the salads with steak, shrimp and grilled croutons. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

My thoughts:
I know, another salad recipe. But it has been an unusually hot summer and we have pretty much given up on making anything that isn't grilled, no-cook or made in the slow cooker (save the occasional late night jam or cupcake making). The bright green basil dressing and grilled steak, shrimp and croutons make this salad fancy enough for company but is super simple. Just take care that the croutons don't burn, not unlike the shrimp, they go from "raw" to crispy very quickly.

August 11, 2010

Raspberry-Avocado Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

for the dressing
8 raspberries
2 oz balsamic vinegar
2 oz avocado oil
1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

for the salad
2 heads of romaine, chopped
2 avocados, diced
3 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup raspberries

Muddle the raspberries in the bottom of a jar or dressing container. Add the remaining dressing ingredients. Cover and shake to thoroughly mix. Toss the salad ingredients together. Divide into four bowls. Drizzle with dressing.

My thoughts
As odd as it sounds, raspberries are a good substitute for tomatoes, which are just now coming into their true season, they are sweet-tart, flavorful enough to stand up to salad dressing and their soft texture contrasts nicely with the crisp lettuce. Raspberries are also delightfully mashable so it is possible to incorporate them into a salad dressing with minimal effort. I like how their texture contrasts with the avocado, I wasn't sure about the pairing at first, but it was so good, I had to share. An easy way to sneak fruit into dinner.

August 09, 2010

Triple Dill Pickles

4 lb pickling cucumbers, quartered length-wise
3 cups water
2 3/4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt
6 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
6 tablespoons dill seed
3 teaspoons dillweed
6 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup minced dill

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep wide-mouth pint lids/jars. Place 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, 1 tablespoon dill seed, and 1/2 teaspoon dillweed in each jar.

Add the cucumber spears and one clove garlic to each jar. Evenly divide the dill among the jars. Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit 2 weeks before eating.

Yield: about 6 pints

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:
Pickles! I sent my husband to buy pickling cucumbers the other day and he came back with 15 lbs. He helped cut up the cucumbers (thank goodness!) and I ended up canning 22 jars of pickles in three varieties. These are the first ones I've opened. To my delight they stayed pretty crisp and have wonderful but not overpowering dill flavor. I was a little worried that using dillweed, dill and dill seeds would end up being too much but it really wasn't. There was just a depth of flavor that one normally doesn't find in a pickle. I hope the other ones I canned turned out just as well! After a while, I felt like I was living in a pickle factory and I think I developed "pickle wrist" from trying to really pack the cucumbers in there. But it really wasn't difficult at all, just a little time consuming.

August 08, 2010

Oolong Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting

for the cupcake:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature
2 bags Tazo Ti Kwan Yin (oolong) tea

for the frosting:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons culinary grade lavender
pinch salt
food dye (optional)

For the cupcakes:
Bring the milk and tea to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Discard the tea bags after thoroughly squeezing out all the milk back into the pan. Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined. The batter will be rather thin, so don't be alarmed. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing.

For the frosting:
Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, lavender and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water) while continuing to stir occasionally. Whisk the mixture through a fine sieve into a heat safe measuring cup and discard the lavender. Keep the mixer running (to be safe use a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) and pour a continuous stream of molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cupcakes.

My thoughts:
Recently I was approached by Tazo to develop some new recipes using their tea. It is actually quite fun, I got a big box of various teas to play around with and once a week for three weeks I will be sent a mystery ingredient to use in the recipe as well. I was excited for the challenge, after 6 plus years and nearly 1,100 original recipes, sometimes a culinary puzzle is welcome. This week it was culinary lavender. I haven't made anything with lavender before so that was an interesting twist.

I had lots of ideas but I decided to go classic and make some cupcakes. Who doesn't love cupcakes? No one I would like to know. These cupcakes are more for grown ups than the little ones I think, they are subtly flavored and not overly sweet. The cupcakes themselves taste like milky tea and are quite light textured. I love how the fluffy lavender frosting turned out, that is one of my favorite types of frosting to make and as I hoped, the lavender flavor was strong but not overpowering. I did add a little dye to the icing, something I don't always do but I was worried the icing might look grey or a little "off" left unadulterated. I also made a bit too much frosting so if you double the cupcake recipe, I think you could use this same frosting recipe without alteration and have enough to frost all of the cupcakes, it is just a tricky recipe to scale down any further than I did.

August 06, 2010

Smoked Pineapple Pork

6 lb boneless pork roast (if it is held together by string, leave it on)
9 pineapple slices

for the dry rub:
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup Hawaiian guava wood smoked sea salt*
1 tablespoon seven spice powder (shichimi togarashi)
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

mesquite grilling wood chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Rub into the pork. Attach the pineapple slices to all sides with toothpicks. Arrange the coals around a rectangular foil pan filled with water. Place the pork over the pan on the grill. Place a foil packet of wood chips on the coals.

Vent/leave the lid askew until it really starts smoking. Then cover. Cook, adding loose coals and wood chips every 30 minutes, until fully cooked. If it looks like it is cooking unevenly, turn it when you add the chips and charcoal.

To keep the smoke/low heat going, occasionally vent until it gets smoky then fully cover again. Refill the pan with water as needed. After the pork has nearly reached a safe internal temperature, remove the cover and briefly cook on each side on direct heat (ie. not over the pan of water but to the side). Allow to sit on a platter under a foil tent for 5 minutes before slicing. Take care to remove all of the toothpicks prior to serving.

*easily found online or just use all plain sea salt

My thoughts:
OMG this pork was so good. Insanely juicy, smoky and flavorful. It does take a while (about 2 hours, depending on the thickness of the roast) but it is well worth it. The indirect heating method is great because the meat cooks slowly and has time to take on the smoky flavor. There is also little risk of flare-ups because the roast is over the water the whole time. We made this (and the spam & beans and broccoli slaw and an not-as-yet posted ice box pie--the perfect hands free meal) when we had guests over (a delightful fellow food blogger and her husband) and it was easy to sit outside and talk and occasionally check the grill. It was pretty hands off. So don't be daunted by the adding of charcoal and wood chips part of the recipe, it truly is dead simple.

August 04, 2010

Kiwi-Lemon-Galangal Ice Pops

4 cups peeled, halved kiwi
juice and zest of 1 (large) lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh or ground galangal root or ginger

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth and well combined. Pour into ice pop molds. Freeze until solid.

Yield: about 12 ice pops, depending on the size of your molds

My thoughts:
I sometimes hesitate about posting such simple recipes but the combination was so surprisingly good, I didn't want to keep it to myself. Ice pops are great for using up fruit, I recently had a ton of kiwi on my hands, enough that I made jam and a pie and these ice pops and still had some leftover. That is a lot of kiwi! Kiwi has a high water content so you don't need to add any juice (I just added the lemon juice for flavor) or water or anything to make it the right consistency for a superior ice pop. The lemon added just a bit of tartness to my very sweet kiwi and the galangal added a background note of spice that kept it from being just another boring ice pop.

August 02, 2010

Seven Spice Broccoli Slaw

12 oz packaged broccoli slaw mix*

for the dressing:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon Japanese seven spice powder (shichimi togarashi)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss with shredded vegetables.

*or an equivalent amount of home shredded broccoli stems & carrots

My thoughts:
Broccoli slaw is a fun alternative to regular coleslaw. It it is generally a little crisper and the flavor is milder then you'd expect. I also like it because it can be made nearly 24 hours in advance to serving and little to no ill effect which makes it the perfect side dish when having company. Just refrigerate it until you need and give it another toss.

The flavors in this are Japanese inspired but in no way do I think this is a traditional Japanese salad! The flavors are a perfect blend of tart and spicy and there is just enough to mayo to bind the dressing together.