January 30, 2013

Green Chile Pineapple Chicken Chili

2 lb ground chicken
2 cups diced fire-roasted Hatch Green Chiles
30 oz canned black beans, drained
15 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
20 oz canned pineapple chunks in 100% juice, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cook the ground chicken in a nonstick skillet, breaking up any large chunks, until fully cooked. Add all ingredients into a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Stir prior to serving.

My thoughts:
I don't know if pineapple chili is a thing, I've never heard of it but for all I know there are pineapple chili cook-offs up a down the Eastern Seaboard but I made one and want to share. I'm actually surprised I didn't make a chili with pineapple back when I was developing all of those chili recipes for my cookbook.

Anyway! I was thinking about how tasty Hatch chiles would be with something sweet and just went for it. I actually made this back during the tail end of Hurricane Sandy when all was dreary and there was a mandatory driving ban in the city. Pineapple and chiles seemed like good way to cheer up the day and I had all of the ingredients on hand.

I had the chiles already prepped, chopped and frozen so there was little prep involved, which I love for an early morning dinner making session. I wasn't sure what else to add to the chili but I had some ground chicken I had frozen after purchasing it for a meal I ended up not making and a ton of black beans in the basement from a Costco run so in they went. I'm glad I had the chicken because ground chicken really absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked with so the fruity-hotness of the chiles and pineapple were present in every bite. The pineapple doesn't make it sweet, it just adds a bit of tangy and depth to the chili while the chiles bring a pleasant heat. A fun twist on the typical chili.

January 28, 2013

Tiny Burgers with Pickles and Onions

1 lb 94% lean ground beef
1/4 cup minced white onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
minced white onion
soft dinner rolls, cut in half horizontally
dill pickle slices (sometimes labeled "hamburger pickles")

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Roll the meat into 12 spheres. Heat oil in a skillet. Add the spheres and press flat using a spatula. Fry each burger until cooked to your liking. Place the burgers on the bottom half of each roll. Top with onion and pickle slice. Add the top roll. Serve immediately with homemade French fries.
My thoughts:
These tiny burgers were all the rage in the 1920s. White Castle and their similarly named competitor, White Tower as well as other small, early fast food restaurants like the Cozy Inn in Salina, KS were selling burgers six to a sack. The idea was to get them out to hungry customers as soon as possible so the topping were simple; often just onion and pickle. Cheese would only slow the cook down as they waited for it to melt. Slightly smaller than the sliders that are so popular today, these burgers fit perfectly on small dinner roll. These are simple but delicious!

Homemade French Fries

3-4 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch wide, 3 inch long pieces
peanut oil

Soak the cut up potato in cold water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Meanwhile, bring a heavy, tall sided pan* of oil up to 300. Add the fries in a fry basket if possible) and cook for about 6 minutes. They should look pale but when broken in half, they should look nearly cooked inside.

Drain and allow to cool completely. Heat the oil again, this time to 350. Cook fries about 3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drain and serve immediately.

*I used this Swiss Diamond saute pan and it worked well, we were able to make all of the fries in only two batches and they browned evenly.
My thoughts:
Doughboys brought back a love of French fries from WWI and by the 1920s they were found on menus all across the US. A favorite at early fast food restaurants employing comely carhops, they have only increased in popularity over the years. Who can imagine an America without French fries?

Double frying is a bit tiresome but honestly, I haven't found a better way to make a crisper fry at home. Don't be tempted to skip this step!

Note: I sliced my potatoes using a vegetable cutter/French fry slicer. It produces more uniform slices than I can do by hand. I just cut the potatoes to fit and then sliced.

January 25, 2013

Mushroom Barley & Beef Soup

1 3/4 lb cubed sirloin
2 stalks celery, diced
1 big carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
3.5 oz (fresh) oyster mushrooms, diced
3.5 oz (fresh)shiitake mushrooms, diced
8 oz (fresh) crimini mushrooms, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large Russet potato, diced
6 cups beef stock
1/2 cup (loose) dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the cubes of beef for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining fresh ingredients and saute until the beef is lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked. Meanwhile, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in boiling water for as long as it takes to brown the meat. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat and vegetable mixture into a 6-quart slow cooker. Drain the dried mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the slow cooker and discard the mushroom liquid. Add the spices, barley and stock. Stir. Cook on low for 8-10 hrs. Add additional stock to thin out the soup if desired.
My thoughts:
Mushroom barley soup is a big favorite of ours. My husband, who grew up in NYC has fond memories of it served at restaurants like the 2nd Avenue Deli. Years ago (2006!!) I posted a recipe for the mushroom barley soup we'd made ourselves and I included a recipe for a slightly updated version in my second cookbook which came out last spring. So, I've made mushroom barley soup a few times. Last night when we were doing some late night grocery shopping after a dinner out with friends and after wandering around aimlessly forever trying to think of something easy to make for dinner, I spied a bag of barley and mentioned that I'd been sort of craving our old friend, mushroom barley soup. Matt leapt at the idea and said he'd always wanted to make a beef and mushroom barley soup. He'd had mushroom barley soup, he'd had beef and barley soup but never the two together in one "ultimate" barley soup. Well, I could easily remedy that!

We'd found the trick to really good mushroom barley soup is using a mixture of different types of fresh mushrooms and this is the key: at least one variety of dried mushrooms. The dried mushrooms really give it a woodsy depth of flavor that is wonderful in mushroom barley soup. The market had fresh oyster and shiitake mushrooms and we had fresh crimini and dried shiitake at home so we went with that. My previous versions of mushroom barley soup were made on the stove top, and this one could as well but it takes a couple of hours for it to cook on the stove and we were waiting for a delivery and didn't want to be distracted from the stove and end up with no dinner. So a slow cooker recipe it would be! Matt chopped up the vegetables the night before (at like 2 am, I was very tired browning that meat early in the morning) so they were ready to go. Browning the beef gives it a more appetizing color in the finished soup and I think a better flavor. Dumping the vegetables on top and cooking them a bit isn't quite as necessary but allows all of those mushrooms to release a bit of the water that otherwise would have diluted your soup. Anything for extra concentrated flavor in the ultimate soup!

January 23, 2013

Persimmon Blood Orange Jam

4 cups peeled, cubed fuyu persimmons
3 tablespoons powdered pectin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
juice and zest of 2 Moro blood oranges
1/2 cup brandy (optional)
2 1/3 cups sugar


Prep jars/lids for canning. Place the plums into a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the sugar, liquids and zest. Bring to a boil, stirring until it begins to reduce and thicken. Stir in the pectin. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 2-3 minutes or until it looks thick and jammy. Use an immersion blender if necessary to eliminate any large chunks. Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: about 3 8-oz jars.

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

My thoughts:
I think it is a little late in the year for persimmons but I saw them in the store and they looked (and later, tasted) great so I picked them up. Maybe the unusually mild weather a lot of areas have been having this year prolonged the growing season. I'm not complaining, I had just been thinking about how I had missed persimmon season and suddenly there they were. Score! I brought home few pounds but without an idea of what to make. I was thinking cake but then I thought it might be fun to preserve them so I can have a burst of persimmon when they really are out of season. I decided to pair them with another cold weather favorite of mine, blood oranges. The floral flavor of the persimmon was brightened and deepened by the oranges.

January 21, 2013

Green Goddess Dip

16 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon dried chervil
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Tip: Cut up chives using kitchen shears. So much easier than using a knife and they don't get bruised.
My thoughts:
Named after the 1920s play The Green Goddess, Green Goddess Dressing was the dressing until ranch came to dominate the salad dressing market after its invention in the 1950s (I made ranch dressing back in 2010 when I had my '50s themed meal) .

Full of herbs, Green Goddess dressing is lovely on salads but for our 1920s themed meal(s), I re-imagined it as a dip for raw vegetables and chips. The original dressing called for sour cream, so turning it into a dip doesn't alter the flavors as much as one might think. I stuck mainly to fresh herbs but snuck in some dried chervil (I've never even seen that fresh) as it was an important addition in the dressing.

January 18, 2013

Chicken Salad with Tarragon and Almonds

4 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
2 stalks celery, diced

for the dressing:
6 cornichons, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2/3 cup mayonnaise

In large bowl, toss together the chicken, almonds and celery. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the chicken mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

My thoughts:
For our 1920s festivities, I decided to make one of them a "ladies' luncheon" type meal. Seemingly popular during the 1920s and beyond, I noticed chicken salad on nearly every sample menu. In looking at old   cookbooks, it seems chicken salad with nuts was en vogue so I devised this salad to complement the flavors in other dishes I was making and added almonds, which give the salad a fun and somewhat unexpected (as they are nearly camouflaged among the chicken) crunch. I shredded the chicken (using the oft pinned shred-in-a-stand mixer method which shredded warm chicken to quite a fine texture) because many of the chicken salad recipes of the day called for cooked breasts that were nearly ground to a paste. Chicken paste salad didn't sound terribly appetizing so I struck a balance with my shredded chicken salad. I'm glad I did. The texture was different than what I was used to but the small pieces of chicken really held all of the ingredients together so the flavors melded really well. I served it on buttery crackers alongside  pimento cheese,  tomato aspic, carrot and celery sticks for a lady-like meal.

January 16, 2013

Tomato Aspic


3 cups bottled tomato juice
1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin (1 little packets)
1/2 tablespoon sea salt salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1 1/2 teaspoons spicy Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 black peppercorns
1 stalk celery, cut up
1 small onion, quartered


In a large, heat safe bowl or measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup of the tomato juice with the gelatin and let stand for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the remaining tomato juice with remaining ingredients and simmer 10 minutes. Pour through a sieve (use a whisk to extract any last drops of liquid) over the gelatin mixture. Pour into 6-8 lightly greased ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

My thoughts:
When I was reading dozens of 1920s menus for fancy and simple luncheons and dinners, I came across a fair share of things suspended in or made into an aspic. I can't say aspic is a terribly popular menu item anymore (although the Supersizers sure ate a lot of it during their journeys back in time) but I have had it, many times. Baltimore's most genteel lunch spot, The Woman's Industrial Exchange, had tomato aspic on the menu along with a regionally famous chicken salad and classics like deviled eggs. Somewhat blighted in more recent years (closing, reopening, repeat) it had been a fixture in Baltimore since the 1890s serving meals in the back Tea Room and sweets and handmade items by local women in the front. I had lunch there dozens of times over the years and saw more aspic being downed there than anywhere else. After the closing some other restaurants would feature a gussied up tomato aspic and other Industrial Exchange classics as part of a themed "Maryland" or "Baltimore" menu but it just wasn't the same.

Due to my fondness for retro foods and the Exchange I've wanted to make my own tomato aspic for years now but never had an excuse. Enter the 1920s luncheon. I ended up loosely basing the menu to the meals I've had at Picnic in Nashville and the Woman's Industrial Exchange here in Baltimore because they were so similar to what I found on the menus I read during my research. Another reason aspic was a perfect choice for the 1920s because that decade was the first to see wide spread ownership of refrigerators, making recipes like aspics, ice box pies, ice box cakes and gelatin-based desserts possible and very popular to make at home. What better way to show off your new electric refrigerator than with a dish that requires lengthy chilling to set?

The Industrial Exchange aspic did not have any chunks (of celery, pickles, carrots, etc) suspended in it unlike many recipes I came across so I knew I had to create my own recipe. Luckily, it wasn't too difficult, although I admit to holding my breath until it firmly set up. Aspic is basically savory Jell-O made with plain gelatin and tomato juice. You could keep it completely unflavored beyond that but I found that adding some aromatics and then straining them out made for a much more flavorful aspic. It is amazing what a difference a short simmer withe the other ingredients did to the final product. Slightly pickle-y and with just a hint of heat, this aspic was a delight. Zippy and light, even aspic-skeptics will like this one.

January 14, 2013

Creamy Pimento Cheese

8 oz shredded aged sharp cheddar
4 oz jarred diced pimentos, drained
2/3-3/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

My thoughts:
When making our 1920s "ladies luncheon" themed menu, I knew I had to include pimento cheese, mostly because of my experience having a "salad plate" at Picnic in Nashville, TN which consisted of pimento cheese, chicken salad and a muffin. Imagine my delight when after a bit of digging I realized that the 1920s was the heyday of pimento cheese. It was the perfect spread for both ladies who lunch and mill workers who needed to eat their lunches in a hurry in the deep South. I've made pimento cheese before but I tweaked it a bit to make it a bit creamer and to make better use of that must have gadget, the refrigerator.

I made this using an extra sharp English cheddar by Westminster. If you'd like a milder pimento cheese, use mild or plain old sharp cheddar. I like the extra sharp stuff myself.

January 11, 2013

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon black rum
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

20 oz canned pineapple rings in 100% pineapple juice, drain and reserve juice for batter
maraschino cherries*

1 1/2 cups flour**
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons black rum
1/2 cup pineapple juice (from canned pineapple rings)
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Butter or spray (with cooking spray with flour) a 9-10 inch springform pan***. Arrange pineapple rings on the bottom of the pan. Add a maraschino cherry to the center of each ring. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar, rum and corn syrup. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour over the pineapple rings. Set aside.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla paste and beat until flour. Whisk together the spices, baking powder and flour in a medium bowl. Whisk together the pineapple juice and rum. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the pineapple juice mixture beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour into the pineapple and caramel laden cake pan and bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes then invert onto a plate. Cool completely, on the plate, over a wire rack.

*If you can find them, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries are well worth the extra price. They are miles away from the syrupy, garishly red cherries found in the supermarket for $1.50.

**I used White Lily flour which, while not quite cake flour, is slightly lighter than all-purpose.

***Traditionally, pineapple upside-down cakes are made in cast iron skillets. I don't have have a 10-inch skillet (and my 12- and 14-inch skillets seemed too big) so I used a springform pan, which I think works just as well.

My thoughts:
Another recipe I created for our annual "decade" themed meal(s). This year it was the 1920s!

Pineapple upside down cakes exploded in popularity during the 1920s. Thanks to Dole, canned pineapple was readily available. Upside down cakes made in cast iron skillets had already been popular for many years so it made sense that when the average person had access to pineapple, they'd incorporate them. Upside down cakes are wonderful to serve because despite being relatively simple, they are impressive and cheerful looking when presented. They can also be made a day ahead of time (stored unrefrigerated) and need no icing, which is great for any last minute dessert needs. I'd think most people have all of the ingredients in their cabinets at all times. I know I do.

For this cake, I made a dark rum caramel sauce for the "topping" and used fancy maraschino cherries which taste amazing, and actually like cherries. I added a bit of cardamom to the cake as so many '20s recipes did but much less than some recipes I've seen that call for 2-3 and even 4 teaspoons of cardamom. That seemed a bit much. One teaspoon is just enough, I think. If it really was the Prohibition era 1920s, I might not be able to get my hands on actual rum so feel free to sub in some good quality rum flavoring instead. The 1920s was when the use of vanilla and other extracts rose and became common place. I also used some yummy vanilla paste by Heilala Vanilla instead of extract and the cake was flecked with tiny vanilla seeds. The cake itself is simultaneously dense and light, substantial enough to hold up the topping without getting soggy (even after a number of days) but with a light crumb and flavor. I think this is because I used a lot of baking powder and it sort of rose high then gently fell during the baking process.

I have to say, this is quite possible my husband's favorite cake of all that I've made over the years. He could not stop raving about it and has requested that a version of it to make an appearance at his birthday in May. It really was a pleasure to eat. I can see why they were so popular!

January 09, 2013

Homemade Orange Julius

12 oz frozen pulp-free orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup very cold water
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 cup standard sized ice cubes

Add the frozen concentrate, milk, water, sugar and vanilla paste to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes one at a time, pulsing at each new addition. Serve immediately.
Yield: about 4 servings.

My thoughts:
Every year we have a themed meal from a different decade. This year it was the 1920s and I made a ton of food that was popular or invented during that time.

Orange Julius first made it on the scene in the late 1920s. Julius Freed had opened a orange juice stand in 1926 but it wasn't until 1929 when he and a business partner wanted to make a lower acid orange juice that the Orange Julius was born and the business took off. Legend has it that the drink got its name from customers going to the stand and demanding "Give me an Orange, Julius!". At any rate, it is a tasty drink with a cute name that went on to become the official drink of the 1964 World's Fair and is still found in malls all over the country.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret but with a little experimentation, I came up with this homemade version. The powdered sugar helps give it the signature frothy texture and dissolves quickly. Nobody likes a gritty drink!

January 07, 2013

Winter Cobb Salad with Shrimp, Pomegranate and Beets

1 lb medium shrimp, steamed and peeled
3 small to medium beets, boiled, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/4-1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1/4 cup slivered almonds
12 oz arugula

1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2-3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss with the arugula in a large bowl. Divide among 4 plates. Top with remaining ingredients.

My thoughts:
We recently spent a weekend in Alexandria, Va where we actually ended up going to the same restaurant twice in two days for lunch. The Hangtown fry I had the first day was so good, we returned so I could try their seafood Cobb, which was also excellent. This salad is really nothing like that one but I have to say their salad inspired me to make it. I normally avoid salads during the winter because they are often boring and lack tomatoes, which I love. However, the seafood Cobb was so good, I realized I could make a green salad in the winter that I'd actually enjoy as more than just a place holder for summer. The trick is picking strongly flavored ingredients (Gorgonzola, arugula, anchovy spiked dressing) and a few ingredients that actually are in season: beets and pomegranate.

January 02, 2013

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey Sausage

16 oz dried split peas
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cubed rutabega
6 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
14 oz smoked turkey sausage, cubed
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 1/2 cup (loose) coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Place the split peas, stock, vegetables, herbs and spices in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low 10-12 hours. 15-30 minutes prior to serving, brown the sausage on both sides in a nonstick skillet. Stir the sausage and parsley into the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 15-30 additional minutes.

My thoughts:
I didn't eat split pea soup growing up but as an adult, I've developed a certain fondness. It is dead simple to make in the slow cooker which, I admit, is a bit of the appeal. It cooks for a long period of time, making it perfect for long work days and split peas don't need to be soaked or parboiled which pleases me. It is also an extremely thrifty meal. The split peas were under $2 and the sausage was snagged during a 2 for $5 sale. The vegetables are cheap and ones I happened to have to hand so the price was negligible there too. The trick is varying the soup so one doesn't become deadly bored with it and decide never to eat it again. This time I used some yummy smoked turkey sausage and some fresh thyme I had leftover from another recipe and the results were lovely. The parsley at the end really gave it a boost of fresh flavor. I know browning the sausage is a bit of a bother but I think the flavor is better and you could brown it the night before and cool then refrigerate it if you'd like. It is just such a wholesome, warming meal on a January evening.