February 28, 2011

Mussels with Smoky Ham and Vidalia Onions

4 lb mussels
1 1/2 cup stock*
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 bunch Vidalia onions (with greens aka Vidalia Salad Onions), chopped
1 head fennel, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced smoked ham

Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid. Saute the onions, fennel, garlic and ham until the fennel is almost tender. Add the liquid ingredients. Add the mussels, cover and shake until they are all opened. Serve immediately.

*ham, lobster, chicken or turkey stock would all work.

My thoughts:
My in-laws recently visited and brought some some almost mouth-puckeringly smoky ham/slab Canadian bacon. We ate it at an alarmly rapid rate but my favorite use for it was in this dish. The smoky porky flavor made for a savory, easy broth for the juicy mussels. I love buying mussels; especially on sale, these were only about $2 lb so I gluttonously bought 4 lbs and that was all we had for dinner. It is the perfect one dish meal if you actually eat the vegetables included as we do.

February 25, 2011

Anchovy & Italian Parsley Deviled Eggs

6 hard boiled eggs, cut in half lengthwise
2 anchovy filets (packed in oil and blotted dry)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

capote capers for garnish

Place the yolks, anchovies, spices and condiments in a blender (I used my Vita-Mix)or food proccessor. Pulse until smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly among the halves. Garnish with a a caper.

My thoughts:
Ah, yes, deviled eggs again. I made this particular batch to serve along side Caesar Salad. I got the idea from a restaurant I visited a while back that had served their salads with an unexpected deviled egg garnish. It was a cute touch that honestly bumped up my enjoyment of the whole meal. Their version was a bit more traditional, I decided to spike mine with anchovies to better tie in with the salad. I normally just fork-mash my yolks but I didn't any random fishy bits or pokey bones in my final product so I Vita-Mixed them, which worked well, but as always, I found it a bit difficult to scrape out all of the thick mixture out from under the blades. Perhaps I am too impatient. Anyway! The texture was smooth and creamy and while they were perhaps the most savory deviled eggs I have every made, they did not taste overwhelmingly anchovy-y.

February 23, 2011

Creamy Oyster Parmesan-Spinach Sauce

2 cups shucked oysters in their liquor
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice and zest of ½ lemon
¾ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup defrosted chopped frozen spinach
1/4 cup Parmigiana Reggiano

To serve: hot, cooked 8 oz mafaldine or linguine

Stir the lemon juice and the zest into the oysters. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the garlic in the oil until fragrant. Add the cream, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and cook for just a minute or so, until the cream starts to thicken. Add the oysters and spinach to the pan and reduce the heat. Continue to cook just until the oysters are warmed through and look set. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmigiana Reggiano. Toss with the hot pasta and serve.

My thoughts:
When we think about buying food in season fruits and vegetables are the first things that come to mind. However, there is another favorite food that many people consider to have a season: Chesapeake Bay oysters. Many people still follow the rule that states that oysters should only be consumed during months that contain the letter “R”.

The reasoning behind the rule was simple. Before modern refrigeration, it was risky to ship oysters any distance during the steamy Summer months. On very hot days, oysters often spoiled during transit. By restricting the season from Autumn to early Spring, diners were less likely to get food poisoning from improperly refrigerated oysters.

While oysters are now safe to eat and available for purchase all year, many people still stick to the traditional season. Because of this, fresh, local oysters are often easier to find during the colder months than they are the rest of the year. Luckily I was able to find these lovely examples and turn them in to a wonderful, creamy but not too heavy sauce.

February 18, 2011

Anchovy-Parmesan Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 anchovies packed in olive oil, drained and mashed

coarse-grain cornmeal for dusting
olive oil for greasing the bowl


Pour warm water into the bottom of a stand mixer. Add sugar and yeast. Stir the mixture until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in the anchovies, olive oil and salt. Add the flour and cheese.

Using the dough hook and mix until the dough becomes a smooth, elastic ball. At this point you can fold the dough onto itself a couple of times if you'd like. Coat the inside of a large bowl with additional olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl, smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Remove plastic wrap, and use your fist to push down on the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half four or five times. Turn dough over, folded-side down, cover with plastic wrap, and return to the warm spot to rise again. Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500. Place 16-inch (or larger) pizza stone on lowest shelf position, for 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough in half, and knead each half four or five times into a ball. Place one of the dough balls back in the oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Lightly flour a clean surface, place the dough ball on top, pat into a flattened circle, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes*. Begin to flatten and push the dough evenly out from the center until it measures about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Leave a 1/2 inch border of unflatted dough around the edges of the circle. Lift the dough off the surface, and center it on top of your fists. Rotate and stretch the dough, moving your fists until they are 6 to 8 inches apart and the dough is several inches larger. Then place your fists under the inside of the outer edge, and continue to stretch the dough until it reaches about 12 inches in diameter. The dough will drape down over your forearms. Start over if the dough tears or gets to thin. Do this carefully, preserving the raised edge. Sprinkle cornmeal all over the surface of a pizza peel or parchment paper.

Place the pizza dough into a circle on top of the cornmeal-dusted peel. Distribute pizza sauce on the dough, leaving the 1/2 inch of raised dough bare. Sprinkle with cheese and toppings.

 Slightly tilt the peel (or a parchment paper covered upside down baking sheet), and place the front tip of peel on the back side of the stone. Slide the pizza off the peel (or slide the pizza with the parchment paper off of the baking sheet), centering it on the stone as best you can. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Repeat with remaining dough.

My thoughts:
I made this dough to go with a fennel-red onion-caper-rapini topped pizza I made for dinner the other day. It was so good, I thought I'd share. It had a wonderful savory flavor that made it stand out from other pizza doughs I've made without being overpowering or fishy. It was very elastic and easy to work with as well. My husband liked that it was sturdy and flexible enough to fold a slice in half to eat it. He's from NY where that is apparently very important.

February 16, 2011

Red Rice with Habanero Sausage and Red Beans

4 cups cooked white rice*
30 oz canned fire roasted tomatoes
15 oz dark red kidney beans, drained
12 oz habanero and green chile sausages**
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme
freshly ground black pepper

Saute the onion, celery, garlic and peppers until just starting to soften. Add the sausage and saute until browned. Add the tomatoes, beans and spices and heat through. Stir in the rice. Cook for 1-2 additional minutes.

*I cooked it in chicken stock with 2 bay leaves
**I used Aidell's sausage (they were chicken sausages)
My thoughts:
Last night was one of those nights when I had only the vaguest notion of what to make for dinner. I had a pack of sausages my husband had picked up that we had never had before that I wanted to use. He briefly suggested making some sort of Southwest inspired pasta dish the night before but when I followed up we realized we weren't sure what that would entail exactly. Since we had other things to do (namely put together a dresser that will hopefully make our near closet-less house able to say, attractively store sheets and towels) I went with an old favorite, red rice. I don't think I've posted a red rice recipe before but it is a familiar standby for us. When I am feeling especially lazy I've made it with rice and canned stewed tomatoes which totally eliminates the need for chopping onions and garlic. I don't always add beans but they are always welcome. This is the first time I made it using any sort of meat but it worked well and turned into much more of a meal. Yummy and easy, especially if you have a rice cooker and can make the rice ahead of time with zero hands-on time needed.

February 14, 2011

Salmon & Pea Risotto

5 cups chicken or fish stock
3 cups chopped cooked salmon
1 cup frozen peas
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest one lemon

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan Saute the garlic and shallot until lightly caramelized. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before each addition. When you only have about 1/2 cup broth left, add it, the salmon, zest and frozen peas to the pan and continue to stir. When the risotto is creamy and the rice is al dente remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan.

My thoughts:
Can you tell I am done with winter? I have been trying to slip in bits of springtime into my meals as much as possible. I've been accomplishing this with varying success by using frozen vegetables and fruit. Actually, I think frozen peas are better than fresh because they are frozen right after being picked instead of sitting around waiting for me to go to the store, pick them up and peel them myself. This is also a great meal to use up leftover salmon. I used fresh this time but flaked smoked salmon (the kind that looks like a whole chunk of fish, not lox) works equally well.

February 11, 2011

Cara Cara Orange Cupcakes

3/4 cup Greek yogurt, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup cara cara orange juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
zest of 2 Cara Cara oranges

orange frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix together the oil, zest, yogurt, juice and eggs. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Fill 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before icing.

My thoughts:
I love Cara Cara oranges because they are 1. navel (no pips!) 2. I've never had a bad one 3. they are sort of pink inside. The batter came out sort of a pretty baby asprin* pinky peach and with a great, strong sweet orange flavor. Regular navels or blood oranges would work well, but the Cara Caras are especially good this time of year. Normally the Cara Caras I get are huge but this year they were more normal sized and I ended up using 1 1/2 for the cupcakes and 2 for the icing, even though they were very juicy.

*I always liked the flavor of baby asprin. I sort of miss it. Darn unflavored adult medicines!

Cara Cara Vanilla Frosting

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cara cara orange juice
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch salt
zest of two cara cara oranges
food coloring, if desired

In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, vanilla, zest and juice 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. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks. Keep the mixer running (you need a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) while you strain a continuous stream of the molten syrup into the egg whites. Add the food dye. Beat for about 5 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cake/cupcakes.

My thoughts:
An creamsicle meets marshmallow fluff frosting.

February 09, 2011

Rapini + Leek + Rice Soup

3 leeks, sliced (white parts only!)
1 bunch rapini, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup (uncooked) jasmine rice
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 bay leaves
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a wide-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the garlic, rapini, parsley, rice and leeks. Saute until the leeks start to soften and the rapini starts to wilt. Pour in the broth, vermouth, juice, zest and spices. Cover and cook until the rice is fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

My thoughts:
A local grocery store chain often has some somewhat surprising fruits and vegetables. Cactus pears, Seckel pears, rapini, many varieties of apples, Vidalia onions still with their greens, broccolini, the list goes on. I guess none of those items is terribly exotic but a lot of that are things that until fairly recently, we could only buy at a specialty store or the farmers market. We only have one year-round farmers market since nothing is in season here during the winter so any store that has fresh, varied produce gets our vote. Lately it has been an embarrassment of riches when it comes to rapini (aka broccoli rabe), leeks and other dark greens. This recipe came about because I have a ton of stock in my freezer (anyone want to point me in the direction of a good, affordable pressure canner? I have ham, lobster, chicken and turkey stock taking valuable space.), lovely rapini and some leeks that looked shifty. Luckily, it was one of those happy accidents when everything came together in a delightful manner. I am not even a soup fan and I loved it.

February 07, 2011

Apple Butter Barbecue Sauce

12 ounces apple butter
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup rye
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon hot mustard (I used Löwensenf extra)
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon mesquite liquid smoke
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and simmer on the lowest setting until heated through and it reduces slightly, about 15 minutes or so. Allow to cool. Keeps in the fridge about a week.

Yield: about 2 cups

My thoughts:
Recently I came across a article that poked fun at people who make their own barbecue sauces when there were so many available at the supermarket. Of course, I found this sort of silly. Barbecue sauce couldn't be easier to make at home and you can customize it to your taste. I think most store bought bottles are way too sweet and one note. This sauce uses apple butter instead of the more traditional tomato based. Apple butter has a similar consistency to tomato paste so it is an easy substitution. The resulting sauce has the same thick, rich quality that a tomato based sauce would.

I also like using apple butter in BBQ sauces because it adds a natural, fruity sweetness without having to use a lot of sugar or honey. Now, I did add a tiny bit of sugar to the sauce because my homemade apple butter isn't terribly sweet so you might want to eliminate the the sugar if your apple butter is more on the sweet side. The spices and other flavorings making this sauce simultaneously sweet, tart and savory. I thought this sauce was perfect on pork but I think it would work in pretty much any recipe or occasion that called for barbecue sauce.

February 04, 2011

Peach Glazed Meatballs

1 1/2 lb mini meatballs*
8 oz peach jam
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup bourbon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground galangal
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
freshly ground black pepper

The easiest way: Dump all of the ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Then cook on low for 4-6 hrs or high for 2-3. Stir again.

The slightly less easy way: Saute the shallots and garlic in a bit of oil. Add the meatballs and warm through. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the meatballs and heat through.

*Make your own or cheat and use some from Ikea's frozen section. Both work just fine.

My thoughts:
Who doesn't like a meatball? No one I'd care to know. Especially tiny sized ones, the huge meatballs I occasionally encounter can be a bit off putting with their heft. But mini meatballs are a delight and can easily work at dinner time (along side some vegetables and rice) or as an appetizer. For this recipe I used a whole jar of my yummy homemade peach-ginger jam but I think a good quality store bought brand would work just as well. I don't like sweet-sweet foods so the remaining ingredients were savory for the most part.

February 02, 2011

Brisket Tacos with Green Sauce

3-4 lb brisket
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb tomatillos , quartered
6 cloves garlic
4 jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley

juice and zest of one lime
1-2 tablespoons ground ancho chile pepper
1-2 tablespoons hot Mexican-style chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground chipolte chile pepper

1-2 tablespoons ground cayenne
1-2 tablespoons hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Liberally sprinkle both sides of the brisket with the spices. Place the brisket in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker. Top the brisket with the remaining ingredients.

Cook for 8-10 hrs on low or until the meat is easily pulled apart with a fork. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked vegetables from the top of the brisket. Place in a blender. Add the parsley and pulse until fairly smooth.  Remove the brisket from the slow cooker. Drain and discard the juices from the bottom of the slow cooker. Scrape off any remaining fat off the brisket (as desired) and shred.

Return to the slow cooker and drizzle with sauce.

My thoughts:
Honestly, I like using my slow cooker more in the summer than the winter. I know I am in the minority here because one there is the faintest hint of the chill in the air, I get inundated by requests for slow cooker recipes. Which is fine, but let me tell you, I was grateful I developed all those recipes for my cookbook over one summer. Baltimore is hot!

Anyway, I came up with this recipe late last week when I was trapped here during a snow storm (Baltimore is also ill-equipped to deal with snow) and couldn't get to the store. I found a brisket I had frozen a while back and thought I'd turn it into...something. Actually, I was tempted to make corned beef again but we were hungry and trapped now! I didn't have over a week to wait for a sandwich. We had tortilla and some other modest taco fixings so, I made brisket tacos instead. And I am glad we did. They were so good! Now brisket is sort of fatty and I didn't want my meat to be super greasy so I did trim off some of the really, really thick chunks. Leave them on if you are more adventurous than I.

I love how the vegetables flavor the meat but can be lifted out to make a green sauce. And the meat is totally tender and non-greasy. My #1 slow cooker brisket triumph to date!