Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honey Glazed Carrots...Don't Postpone the Inevitable!

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There was no way I would eat carrots when I was a little girl.  They would have to coax me into believing my hair would turn blonder if I ate them, and always being the ham,  I would reluctantly oblige.  As I grew older and the carrot scheme didn't seem to do the trick, I would sit stoically at the table and push them to one side of the plate or hide them in the napkin.  My Mother, being the old world kind of mother who wouldn't let you get up from the table until the vegetables were all gone, would have everyone march out of the dining room and would leave me there until I ate those horrid little things.  Well, it worked, for come 10 o'clock it would get awfully dark and scary in that old dining room and even though you could skate on those carrots they were so cold, eating them beat sitting there scared to death.  Little did she know she was teaching me a very valuable life lesson, having nothing to do with carrots.  When there's stuff on your plate that you don't like to deal with, do it first and get it over with.  Then you can enjoy the rest! OR, better yet,  Don't postpone the inevitable!

These won't make your hair blond, but they sure are awfully good!



Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Salt

1 pound baby carrots

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon orange  juice

dash of nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt and then carrots and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the carrots and add back to pan with butter, honey, nutmeg and orange juice. Cook until a glaze coats the carrots, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

April Food Day is Tomorrow!

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My fellow bloggers Meg from Pigtown Design and Chris from Easy And Elegant Life asked me to share this important message with you:

Do you know that:

  •  Feeding America is annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children.This is an increase of 46 percent over 2006, when we were feeding 25 million Americans, including 9 million children, each year.

  • That means one in eight Americans now rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.

  • Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than we did in 2006.

  • Thirty-six percent of the households served have at least one person working.

  • More than one-third of client households report having to choose between food and other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.

  • The number of children the Feeding America network serves has increased by 50 percent since 2006.

  • Feeding America food banks provide food and groceries to 33,500 food pantries, 4,500 soup kitchens and 3,600 emergency shelters.

  • 68 percent of pantries, 42 percent of soup kitchens, and 15 percent of emergency shelters rely solely on volunteers and have no paid staff.

  • 55 percent, are faith-based agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious organizations; 33 percent are other types of non-profit organizations.

 It is so critical that those of us who are not in this position help those who are. So many people who never thought they would need food assistance are now asking for help from their local food bank. They have lost their jobs through the massive down-sizings and layoffs. They have exhausted all of their resources. Elderly people on fixed incomes are finding that costs are out-pacing their incomes.

First-time requests at food banks are at an all-time high, but the shelves are bare. Corporations and foundations have decreased their donations and individuals are so uncertain about their own finances, that their giving has slowed.

We are asking that you make a donation, even if it's just a dollar or two. It will help someone who may be less fortunate than you are.

Here's the link to Feeding America, an affiliation of more than 200 food banks across the country. Chances are that your local food bank is a part of this network.

The link to their April Food Day donation page: http://help.feedingamerica.org/aprilfoodday

The April Food Day blog: http://aprilfoodday.blogspot.com/


We're all in this together, and that's the way we will come through it... together.

Please help today. The need is great and the time is now.

Thank you so very much.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Potato & Leek Gratin

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If you want to prepare the gratin a day ahead, reheat it covered in a 300°F oven until bubbling around the edges and warmed through.  It would be wonderful with a Smithfield or country ham but, in that case, I would definitely use pancetta instead of the ham.  On the other hand, if you are not making this for Easter, but are making a ham, save some of it and freeze it to make this casserole later on.  Always think leftovers!

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 large leeks (1 lb. total), trimmed, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4 inch thick crosswise, swished and soaked in enough cold water to cover

2 Tbs. unsalted butter; more for the pan

2 Tbs. olive oil

6 oz. pancetta or country ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup minced garlic

2 cups heavy cream

3 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 medium sweet potatoes (1 lb. total), peeled (see Sweet potatoes vs. yams)

3 medium Idaho potatoes (1-1/4 lb. total), peeled

Procedure

Lift the leeks gently from their soaking water so that any grit stays behind. Drain them in a colander. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the pancetta or ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 9 min. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Sweat the leeks and garlic, cooking slowly and stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, about 5 min. (Don't let the leeks or garlic brown.) Add the cream, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 min. Stir in the pancetta or ham, the thyme, and the salt; add pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 2-qt. casserole dish. Slice the sweet potatoes between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Repeat with the Idaho potatoes. Arrange one overlapping layer of Idaho slices on the bottom of the casserole. Season lightly with salt and pepper; spoon 2 Tbs. of the leek cream evenly over the potatoes. Add a layer of sweet potato slices, season lightly with salt and pepper, and spoon on another 2 Tbs. of the leek cream. Repeat with the remaining potatoes until all are used. With your hands or a rubber spatula, press down firmly on the potatoes and drizzle the remaining leek cream over them. Bake until the gratin is golden on top, 50 to 60 min. Let rest in a warm place for 15 min. Cut into squares and serve.








by Karen Barker, Ben Barker
Fine Dining

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter Lunch Menu...The Best Virginia Ham!

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If you happen to be in Virginia, don't miss buying a Virginia Ham, or at least order one from your butcher. This is a beloved American tradition that has spread across both state and international borders. Smithfield Ham is unquestionably one of the best names. Considered by many to be the premier country-cured ham, the Smithfield is said to have been so loved by Queen Victoria, that she had six sent to her household every week. Although these special hams were once produced from hogs raised on a privileged diet of acorns, hickory nuts and peanuts, today's Smithfield hams come from grain-fed hogs.

To be accorded the appellation of "Smithfield," the hams must be cured and processed in the area of Smithfield, Virginia. They are first dry salt cured, spiced, and slowly smoked to perfection using oak, hickory and apple wood and then aged for 6 to 12 months, sometimes up to 2 years. The result is a lean, dark-colored ham with a flavor that's rich, salty and dry. It may be served raw like prosciutto, but it's usually baked or boiled. Before being cooked, Smithfields must be soaked for 12 to 24 hours to remove excess saltiness.

Country Hams


Aged, smoked and dry salt-cured the same as the Genuine Smithfield Ham, but for a shorter time. The result is a more subtle, slightly milder flavor that still retains that distinctive country-cure taste. The shorter shanked Country Ham is often referred to as a second cousin to a Genuine Smithfield Ham.



You don't need to guild the lily when you have a Smithfield ham.  I usually bake mine like this:

Mrs. Adam's Baked Ham

For the complete Easter Lunch Menu, including wines, go here

From Worldwide Gourmet

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Orleans Bread Pudding With A Whiskey Sauce

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I know, all of us got sucked in with the nice weather we got last weekend.  I for one went shopping for t-shirts and flip flops for the lake and started thinking asparagus and spring pea soup.  We spent the weekend starting tomato plants from seeds and I even swept the deck  and put out some cushions so we could sit out and enjoy the weather.  And then...snow on Monday! It happens every year, and every year we get fooled into thinking Spring is in the air.. Wrong. We all know there's usually one more cold spell towards the end of March before we see Spring, the real Spring. If I were you, I would hurry up and make this... I had forgotten all about it!


Servings: 8

For the Bread Pudding:

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 stk butter, softened

5  eggs, beaten

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 tbl vanilla extract

1/4 cup raisins

12 slc French bread, 1 inch thick


Directions :

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together sugar and butter in a large bowl.

Add eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and raisins.

Mix well. Pour into a glass 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Arrange bread slices flat in the egg mixture.

Let stand 5 minutes.

Turn bread over. Let stand 10 minutes more.

Set pan in larger pan.

Fill larger, outside pan with water to within 1 inch from the top.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, uncovering the last 10 minutes.

Top with Whiskey Sauce (recipe follows).

Serve hot.


Whiskey Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

2 tsp Cornstarch

2 Tbsp Water

a few drop of Vanilla extract

1/3 Cup Bourbon

1/3 Cup Sugar


Directions

Mix together the water and cornstarch. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. While boiling slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry, when the sauce is thickened remove from the heat and add the vanilla, bourbon and sugar. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Edna Lewis Meets Thomas Keller in the Best Southern Fried Chicken!

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What do you get when you cross Edna Lewis' southern fried chicken with Thomas Keller's? Last night's best fried chicken EVER.  Now, I know you can buy it ready made at your grocery store, or at KFC, but they are not even close to the fried chicken you make at home. 

Ever since I moved to Georgia I have had a yen for southern fried chicken, the real stuff.  There's nothing like home made fried chicken just out of the frying pan.  Most recipes recommend  buying a whole chicken and cutting it up. This way, the pieces are smaller and this makes for an optimal ratio of meat to crust.  But I was too lazy to do that so I went ahead and bought some individual packages of thighs, wings, legs and small breasts (bone in with skin!) used half and froze the other half. 

Edna Lewis and Thomas Keller brine their chickens first overnight in water and a salt solution and then pass it through buttermilk just before dredging in flour. I skipped the brining and instead soaked the chicken overnight in the buttermilk.  Ms. Lewis does a combination of lard and butter for frying and adds smoked ham strips to the fat while Keller uses peanut or canola.  I used 3 strips of bacon fat to flavor the vegetable oil.  As to dredging, Lewis adds cornstarch to the flour and does not add any spices.  Keller only uses flour but spices it.  I took the best of both worlds by adding cornstarch and spices to the flour. The result, the crispiest juiciest, tastiest chicken you could ever have!

For dinner last night I accompanied it with Bobby Flay's Cole Slaw and served Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart for dessert...I was almost canonized!


Ingredients

One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 quart buttermilk

3 strips of bacon

 vegetable oil for frying

3 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons cayenne

3 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

250 degree oven for keeping fried pieces warm

Method

Place the chicken  in a large bowl and add the buttermilk so that it covers all the pieces.  Place in the refrigerator covered, overnight

1. To prepare the chicken for frying:  Place the chicken on a wire rack so it discards some of the buttermilk .

2.  Prepare the dredge by blending together the flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or on wax paper.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the fat for frying by putting the bacon slices into a heavy skillet or frying pan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes to render the fat and cool until pieces brown..  Add a little oil if needed.Remove the bacon to a paper towel but keep the fat in the pan. Add enough vegetable oil to the pan to measure 3 inches. and just before frying, increase the temperature to medium-high and heat the fat to 335°F (170°C).

Dredge the drained chicken pieces thoroughly in the flour mixture, then pat well to remove all excess flour.

4. Slip some of the chicken pieces, skin side down, into the heated fat. (Do not overcrowd the pan, and fry in batches if necessary.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Drain thoroughly on a wire rack or on crumpled paper towels, and place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm while you fry the rest of the chicken.  Make sure you do not keep pieces in the oven for more than 10-15 minutes or chicken will dry out.  Serve hot or at room temperature
 


Photo: Thomas Keller Ad Hoc

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Joe's Stone Crabs... Key Lime Pie

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Joe's Stone Crabs is a Miami Beach institution and the biggest tourist trap I have ever eaten at.  Don't get me wrong, the stone crabs are delicious and so are the hash browns, cole slaw and their key lime pie.  Their rolls are to die for, particularly the black ones with onions, and their wine list pretty extensive.  What is terrible, is the service, the 2 hour wait if you are not willing to "grease" the maitre'd  so you can get ahead of those in line, the rush to get you out, and the loudness of the place.  By the time you are finished, not only are you boiling at the outrageous cost of the meal, you can't wait to get the hell out of the place, always swearing you'll never come back, not even on a bet.  What most tourists don't know is that Joe's has a takeout next door, where you can get the same crabs and everything else, including the rolls. Same price, but at least you avoid the wait and the frustration.



When I lived in Miami, this is what I did initially when I craved stone crabs: Have someone pick them up at Joe's takeout, come back to my place where the view was outstanding, open one of my bottles of Puligny Montrachet and enjoy them on my terrace without the hustle and bustle.  Believe me, there were a lot of takers for this proposition! As time passed, I discovered other places where you could buy the stone crabs much cheaper and sometimes even fresher.  The recipe for their pie I had and my hash browns would give Joe's a run for his money.  The black rolls with onions was something I could never duplicate and driving down to Joe's was not an option, definitely not for rolls!

As with everything in life, you never know what you have until you loose it and now I'm sitting here with a tremendous craving for stone crabs and key lime pie;.but I refuse to fork out the exorbitant price I will have to pay to have Joe's send them FedEx.  What I can do, though, is bake their key lime pie which, I'm sure, will only enhance my craving for stone crabs even more, but I'm looking for other suppliers and who knows, maybe an excuse to have them shipped and celebrate.  What, I have yet to determine...maybe the first day of Spring!

Don't worry if you can't find key limes, this pie is just as good with regular limes.  When you do find them later on in the year, at least try to mix some in. 



Key Lime Pie

Makes 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust

1 wax paper-wrapped package graham crackers (1/3 of a pound box)
or
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp graham cracker crumbs
5 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Filling

3 Egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp Grated zest of 2 limes
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Topping

1 cup heavy or whipped cream, chilled
1 tbsp confectioners sugar


Directions

For the graham cracker crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

For the filing:

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping:

Whip the cream and the confectioners' sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie in wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lindaraxa's Tidbits...Finger Bowls

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Finger bowls are pretty additions to the dinner table and look particularly attractive with flowers floating on them.  I remember in my grandmother's house they sometimes had a thin slice of lemon floating in the water in lieu of a flower.  As a child, I was often reprimanded and reminded they were not for taking a bath.

The origins of the finger bowl go back to the time when people ate their meals largely with their fingers.  In the past, a diner might dip his napkin into the finger-bowl and wipe his mouth and chin, or even rinse his mouth with the water from the finger-bowl and then spit into it.  This was very definitely before my time! Today, a finger-bowl is used for fingertips only, which are then dried daintily with the napkin on one's lap.

Finger-bowls are particularly welcome if whole artichokes, shellfish or asparagus (in Europe they are picked up and eaten with your hands) is on the menu.  At very formal dinners, they are brought in on the dessert plates (usually on top of a lace doily) with the dessert spoons and forks.  When the finger bowl arrives, the guest should dip fingertips in the finger bowl, one hand at a time, wipe them on his or her napkin, and then remove the finger bowl and doily to the upper left side of the place setting. Then take the silver pieces and place them on either side of the plate -- fork on the left, spoon on the right. The large plate is now ready for dessert. Alternatively, if the finger bowl is just brought on top of a decorative or silver plate,with no utensils, and there is someone serving the table, usually a la russe, leave it in front of you after you finish dipping and drying your fingers.  It will then be removed by the server and the dessert plate and utensils placed in front of you .  This was the way it was done in my home, but nowadays, chances are the former is the way to go. Just watch the hostess,  if in doubt.

Finger- bowls come in all manners:


In silver
in pewter


crystal


in pretty colors



with lime slices



or rose petals


Doilies for Finger Bowls



Battenberg Lace




Cambridge Lace


Cotton Lace Crochet


My favorite

Never, never, never use paper lace doilies!!!

As with everything nowadays, here's a video that will help you.

And here's an interesting article from the New York Times, published many moons ago!
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9A01EFD7173EE033A25753C3A9639C946897D6CF

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lapin A La Moutarde...Rabbit in Mustard Cream

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Tonight, one of the blogs I follow from New Zealand, Willowbrook Park,  posted on a shooting party at a neighbouring estate and provided the recipe for a delicious rabbit pie served by the hosts at the end of the shoot.  The writer mentioned how delicious it tasted and how surprising it was to him that he had never tried rabbit before. I posted back that I had been hesitant to add my rabbit recipe to the blog for fear of offending some of my readers.  As luck would have it, and much to my horror,  while I was looking at the recipe already in the works awhile back, I must have pressed the publish button, instead of the save one, and  there it was, half in French, half in English, with no introduction, for the whole world to see (well, not really).   Oy vey, so here we are...damage control time!

Now, before you go into a tizzy,  I'm not talking the Easter Bunny kind of rabbit or even that scoundrel Bugs Bunny, or even the ones they have at the pet store, but wild rabbit, ladies and gents, the kind that wreaks havoc to farmers crops and destroys the harvest.  I know, they are cute too, but they are also edible, tasty, low in fat and very underrated in this country.  As a matter of fact, you would be hard pressed to find rabbit in most of the restaurants in this country; whereas in Europe, particularly France, it is a very common item on the menu.  As an introduction, I am posting a French classic, Lapin a la Moutarde, Rabbit in Mustard Sauce, a favorite of mine and my daughter, the animal lover.

You will find rabbit in a lot of grocery stores in the same place you find duck, turkey and goose.  These usually come from Florida,  but I am sure that now that I'm in Georgia, where there is a lot of hunting, I will find a local source to buy fresh.  Do try it, it is better than chicken!

Ingredients (for 1 rabbit):

 1 rabbit

- 1 bottle dry white wine

- 3 TB of Dijon mustard

- 1 small jar of cream

- Olive oil (or butter)

- 2 cloves garlic

- 5 shallots

- 2 bay leaves

- 3 sprigs thyme

- Parsley, salt, pepper

- 1/2 tsp.sugar

- 1 carrot finely chopped(optional)


Preparation:

Cut the rabbit into pieces and brush lightly with mustard and olive oil.  Place in a bowl, covered, and let it sit for at least a couple of hours.  Add about 2 TB olive oil or butter to the pan and brown the pieces.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add a little more oil to the pan (if needed) and brown the sliced shallots and the garlic. Add the bay leaves, thyme, carrot and a pinch of sugar. Add the rabbit back and pour 3/4 bottle of the white wine (drink the rest). Add salt and pepper and let simmer for 1 hour, covered.

When the rabbit pieces are cooked, place them on a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley.

Strain what is left in the pan after you remove the rabbit and add the cream. Taste for mustard and add some if needed. Cook 1 minute without boiling and coat the rabbit pieces with this mixture. Add additional parsley for garnish, if desired.

Le Filet De Lapin A La Moutarde on Foodista

Morels in Cream On Brioche...Morilles A La Creme

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There used to be a restaurant named Mortimer's, in the space that is now Orsay, on Lexington Avenue and 75th Street in New York City.  It was the kind of place frequented by "the ladies who lunch" and ruled with an iron fist by its owner Glenn Bernbaum.  There really was nothing memorable to the restaurant,including the decor and the food, except as a place to see and be seen by those who made up cafe society at the time.  I was not a frequent visitor, except for lunch once in awhile.  Surprisingly, the prices were reasonable and it was fairly close to where I lived at the time.  It was also the only place outside of France where I would find morels in cream sauce when they were in season.

With Mortimer's now gone and me living on a lake in Georgia, I buy them whenever I find them and enjoy them at home.  March is the time for morels so be on the lookout for them in the supermarket or at places like Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca.  If you can't find fresh ones, buy the dry ones and reconstitute them. They are just as good and they keep forever.

This is a delightful lunch for four with a salad or it can be served as a first course for a more formal lunch.

Serves 4
 
Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup white wine

1 pound fresh morels, trimmed, washed well, and patted dry*

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Freshly ground white pepper

5 thin slices brioche or challah bread, crusts discarded, each slice cut into 4 triangles and toasted


Preparation

Heat cream in a small saucepan until hot.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté morels, stirring frequently, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and reduce until almost all evaporizes. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in hot cream and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer, covered, stirring once, until morels are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.

Arrange 5 toasts on each of 4 plates and spoon morels and sauce on top. Serve immediately.

*Cooks' note:

You can substitute 1 ounce small dried morels (1 1/3 cups) for the fresh. Soak dried morels in 2 1/2 cups warm water until softened, 10 to 30 minutes. Lift from soaking liquid, then rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Pour soaking liquid through a paper-towel–lined sieve into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup soaking liquid to cream when heating (dried morels absorb more liquid than fresh).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seared Mahi Mahi With A Citrus Soy Glaze & Coconut Rice

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I have been eating and fishing for yellow tail (mahi mahi) ever since I was twelve and I have found no better way to prepare it than straight into the frying pan.  You can bake or broil it, but there is something about searing it first to preserve the moisture and then topping it with a light and simple sauce or glaze..  If it is really fresh, don't fool around with it, fry it in butter and oil combination, garlic, maybe onions, lots of lemon or lime and salt and pepper.

For many years, I lived in Key Biscayne, Florida and all I had to do was go down to the docks (a 10 minute ride) and get some still kicking around in a bucket.  Now I live inland on a lake and guess what, there isn't a yellow tail in sight for at least 600 miles.  Luckily, there is a Trader Joe's about 20 miles away and their fish is pretty good. Comes flash frozen from Peru and that is as close to fresh as you can get. I have already posted a recipe for mahi mahi but this time I thought I would give it an Asian flair.


Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

For marinade:

1 lb. mahi mahi fillets
juice from 1 orange
juice from 1 lime
2 TB soy Sauce
2 TB olive oil
1 TB cilantro
Salt & Pepper

3 TB sesame oil
4 cloves garlic mashed
1/2 tsp minced ginger
Flour for dredging
1 bunch scallions, sliced green & white part



Directions

In a shallow glass dish, stir together the orange and lime juices, soy sauce,  and olive oil. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper and cilantro, and place them into the dish. If the fillets have skin on them, place them skin side down. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to marinate.



Heat sesame oil oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the dish, and reserve marinade. Pat dry and dredge in flour.  Shake off excess flour. Add garlic and ginger to pan, saute for about 30 secs. add fish and fry  for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets to a serving platter and keep warm.

Add a little more sesame oil to pan. Add chopped scallions and cook for about 2 mins.  Remove and add to platter with fish. Pour reserved marinade into the skillet, and heat over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a glaze consistency. Spoon glaze over fish, and serve immediately.





Coconut Rice

Don't gild the lily this time.  The mahi has a lot of ingredients so you want to keep this coconut rice fairly simple.  This is just background music with a little diversion for the star of the meal.

1 cup jasmine rice
1 TB butter
1 Cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
rind of lime
salt

Bring coconut milk, salt,  butter, lemon rind and water to a boil.  Add rice, lower the temperature to low and cook covered until done.  Do not stir!.  Once it has absorbed all the water and is done, stir with a fork and replace the lid with a folded paper towel placed between the closed lid and the rice.  Just before serving, remove paper towel and stir.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This Weekend's Family Dinner...Beer Braised Beef With Onions

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I remember my mother making this recipe when I was a teenager.  It was one of our favorite meals. Since in those days we sat down to dinner as a family every night, we didn't consider this meal anything special...it was just another weeknight dinner at home.  Well, times have changed, and the family meal is fast disappearing, altogether...and so are table manners and social graces, never mind the art of carrying on an articulate conversation.  Well, I'm not here to preach, just to share recipes and entertaining ideas, but it's a shame where we are headed as a society.  It's a shame how much children will be handicapped when they are adults and get invited to a restaurant or dinner party and just don't know how to handle themselves.  It all starts at home, folks, and the family table is a good place to start.

You will love this, and so will the rest of the family, young and old.  It has a German tone to it because of the beer so spaetzle, noodles or boiled potatoes will go nicely with it.

Menu


Buttered Noodles or Spaetzle




Have fun!

Forget the Past...Heavenly Tiramisu!

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The great thing about tiramisu is that it goes with pretty much everything.  It has always been my favorite Italian dessert although I am surprised at how many people dislike it.  I  think it must have to do with all the bad tiramisus they had once upon a time. 

Tiramisu can be terrible or it can be heavenly.  I think this recipe is the latter...it is after all adapted from Lorenza di Medici who runs a fabulous cooking school in Italy with a little Williams Sonoma thrown in for simplicity's sake.  It is a little more involved that most recipes you have seen, but it is, after all, the classical tiramisu where both heavy cream and beaten egg whites are added to the mascarpone and eggs. Ingredients do count here and if you cannot find fresh ladyfingers, there is a recipe for them in my country blog.  Also, make sure you use mascarpone, good cocoa powder and  good liquor.  Don't cut corners when it comes to this dessert and, who knows, you might change your mind.

Next week, I will post a simpler version in my country blog but, in the meantime, here is my version of this heavenly dessert.

serves 12 to 15.

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1 lb. mascarpone cheese, softened

2 cups chilled heavy cream

2 Tbs. brandy, marsala or rum

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbs. plus 2 to 3 cups brewed espresso

5 egg whites

40 to 50 ladyfingers

Cocoa powder for dusting

Directions:

In a mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water but not touching the water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a chilled large mixing bowl, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the liquor, vanilla and the 2 Tbs. espresso and whisk until smooth.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. (When the whisk is lifted straight out of the bowl and inverted, the whites should hold their shape.)

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the cream until blended and smooth. Add about 1 cup egg whites and fold gently until blended. Add the remaining egg whites and fold gently until the mixture is smooth and blended.

One at a time, submerge the ladyfingers into the 2 to 3 cups espresso. Lay enough ladyfingers on the bottom of a 6-quart glass or ceramic baking or serving dish (about 2 inches deep) to form a single layer. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers until evenly covered. Arrange another layer of ladyfingers over the mascarpone cream, then spread the remaining mascarpone cream evenly over the top. Dust the tiramisù with cocoa powder to create a rich, dark topping. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day before serving.

Recipe adapted from Lorenza di Medici and Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuscany in Winter...Pasta e Fagioli (Tuscan Bean Soup)

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This may be the last recipe of winter. ..and what a way to go!  I sincerely hope so, I'm sick of cashmere, fireplaces and comfort food.  Bring on Spring!

The picture above appeared on this weekend's New York Times. I just had to post it and find one of my recipes to go with it.  Just had to...

Servings 10

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes


Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 ounces diced pancetta

1 cup minced onion

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

Salt

Pepper

4 minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage (or 2 teaspoons dried)

10 cups chicken or beef stock

8 oz.  Pomi Crushed Tomatoes

2 cups small soup pasta

4 20 ounce cans drained Tuscan Cannellini beans

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or if you have saved the parmesan rind, throw it in!)

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley




Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and saute for 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and sage and saute for two minutes more. Add the stock and crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes. Add the pasta and beans and cook for 10-15 minutes or until al dente. Mix in the cheese and parsley before serving with additional cheese and bread.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tapas Desserts...Crema Catalana (Catalan Cream)

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If you like Creme Brulee, you will LOVE Crema Catalana.  Crema catalana (Catalan 'Catalan cream') or crema de Sant Josep, is the Catalan version of crème brûlée. It is usually served on Saint Joseph's Day March 19. The custard is flavoured with lemon or orange zest, and cinnamon.

Catalans claim that their crema catalana is the predecessor of France's crème brûlée, though many regions lay claim to the origin of the dessert. The chief difference between the two is that crema catalana is not baked in a bain-marie as crème brûlée is.

I frankly prefer it over creme brulee but I think you owe it to yourself to try it before you make such an important decision.  If you have a tapas party, this is the dessert to have at the end of the table.

For 4 servings in casuelas
or 8 servings in ramekins


Material

- 4 small, shallow heat-proof dishes, preferably cazuelas

Ingredients

- 4 cups whole milk

- 1 cinnamon stick

- Rind of 1/2 lemon

- Rind of 1/2 orange

- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 8 medium egg yolks

- 2 cups sugar

- 2 tbsp. cornstarch

- 1/2 cup (3 oz) brown sugar to caramelize


Directions

In a saucepan, gently heat 250 ml (1 cup) milk; infuse the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar; blend in the cornstarch dissolved in 750 ml (3 cups) cold milk, and the zests.

Pour into the hot milk. Heat gently, stirring briskly.

When the mixture thickens, immediately remove the pan from the heat; remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

Pour the cream into individual ramekins and let cool.

Just before serving, caramelize with a torch or under the broiler (see chef's notes).



Notes: 

Catalan cream is served cold. To caramelize the cream, ideally use a torch. If you want to caramelize the cream under the broiler, put the ramekins into a shallow pan containing ice cubes so that the custard doesn't heat up. Afterwards, stick it back in the refrigerator so it will remain cold until you serve it.  I usually caramelize it in the afternoon, and stick it back in the fridge until dinner time.  This will ensure a hard caramel crust on the top and a very cold cream underneath.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Casual Oscar Night...Baked Rigatoni With Tiny Meatballs...

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When I saw this in Smitten Kitchen's blog last week, I knew I had to try it...soon.  Well tonight I did and both of us gave it two thumbs way up.  I also thought it would be a fitting main dish for Oscar night where dinner would  probably be served on your lap in front of the TV, so as not to miss a single dress or award.  If you are having a few close friends over, no problem, this recipe will easily fit 6, and even 8, if you serve plenty of hors d'oeuvres and a big salad.  

Now these are not you usual rigatoni with a sauce...they are quite special and although easy on the pocketbook, somewhat elegant. I’ve upped the sauce, cheese and seasoning for a baked pasta that is more lush, but surprisingly un-heavy.  I have also added some minced fresh basil to the meatballs (I actually used the one that comes in a tube from the produce department of the grocery store).

Accompany with hearts of romaine with a vinaigrette, those nice thin Italian bread sticks, and a nice Sangiovese.  Try Monte Antico, an inexpensive red from Tuscany which sometimes can be found at Costco and regular grocery stores. It's an inexpensive version of an Italian Super Tuscan and is the one I drink when price is an issue.

This dish can be prepared in the afternoon, covered, placed in the refrigerator, and cooked when ready to serve.  If you want to buy the dessert, I suggest something lemony, like the lemon tart posted a few days ago.

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

1/4 cup milk

1 slice good white bread trimmed of its crust

1 pound ground pork (or beef, or lamb, or a mix of the three)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 TB fresh chopped basil or 1 tsp basil concentrate (in tube)

1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)

1 egg

Salt

Black pepper in a grinder

1 cup flour, spread on a plate

Vegetable oil for frying

For the bèchamel:

4 1/2 cups milk

6 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To finish:

1 pound rigatoni

3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup milk

Directions

Make the meatballs: Heat the milk, but don’t let it simmer. Tear pieces of the white bread into it and let it soak for 5 minutes, before picking it up with your hand, squeezing it of excess milk and putting it in a large mixing bowl.

Add the pork or beef, garlic, parsley, basil,grated cheese, egg, salt, and pepper. Combine all the ingredients with a fork until they are evenly mixed .

Pinch off a small lump of meat, about the size of a raspberry and roll the lump into a ball in the palm of your hands.  When all the meatballs have been shaped, roll them in the flour, 15 to 20 at a time. Place the floured meatballs in a strainer and shake it smartly to dispose of excess flour.

Put enough vegetable oil in a skillet to rise 1/4-inch up the sides of the pan and turn on the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, put as many meatballs in the skillet as will fit without overcrowding. Brown them until they form a nice crust all around. When one batch is done, transfer it with a slotted spoon to a platter covered with paper towels to drain and do the next batch until all are done.

Make the bèchamel: Heat the milk over low heat in a saucepan until it forms a ring of pearly bubbles, but do not let it break into a boil (you can also do this in the microwave). In a larger saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or flat whisk until combined. Add a little of the milk to the flour and butter mixture, stirring steadily and thoroughly, then repeat until all the milk is added.( you can add the milk in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly to keep it smooth.) Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir the sauce until it thickens.When you see the first bubble, the sauce is done.

Assemble the dish: Cook the rigatoni in a pot of well salted water. Drain when still al dente, and combine immediately in bowl with two-thirds of the bèchamel, half the grated cheese, and all the meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heavily butter a 9×13 baking dish. Spread the rigatoni and meatball mixture in the pan, leveling it off with a spatula. Pour the milk over the dish, the spread the rest of bèchamel on top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.

Place in the uppermost level of the preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a golden brown crust forms on top.


Adapted, from Marcella Hazan and Smitten Kitchen
Photo: Smittenkitchen

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscar Party Snacks- Truffle Butter Popcorn With Sea Salt And Chives!

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What would an Oscar party be without popcorn?

For 2 servings

Directions

1/4 cup black jewel popcorn

1 tablespoon black truffle butter

1 teaspoon black truffle oil

1/2 teaspoon black truffle  sea salt

Garnish with chives (optional)

Directions

Pop popcorn in hot air popper. Drizzle melted truffle butter over popped corn, tossing to coat. Follow with truffle oil and truffle salt, gently blending well.

You can skip the truffle oil and add more truffle butter and salt or do the oil and butter and substitute the truffle salt for regular sea salt.  That way you dont have to invest so much money!

 Simple and really really good.

You can find truffle oil, butter and salt at specialty gourmet stores like Dean & Deluca and online at igourmet.com

Photo credit http://www.tastewiththeeyes.com/

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