Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking a Break but Leaving You With An Easter Menu!

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I'll be away for awhile but here are some Easter Menu ideas I hope you will find helpful.

In my house the Easter menu, like Thanksgiving, doesn' vary much from year to year.  We all much prefer the baked ham over a leg of lamb which is something we can have anytime of the year.  Depending on how casual I want to make it, I will either serve the potato salad or the potato gratin and asparagus are usually served hot with butter and slivered almonds or cold as in the recipe below.  Deviled eggs are a must and dessert is either coconut cake or cupcakes and strawberry something or other.  It is such a great combination of flavors why mess around with perfection!

Have a Happy Easter and relax.   This is an easy one, foodwise.













I will see you in May!



Photo: Martha Stewart

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cold Beet Salad With Mint And Chevre

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I have yet to serve this salad to someone who didn't like it...and that includes people who say they are not in love with beets.  My father, being the product of an Ivy League education, adored Harvard Beets.  It was one of the first recipes I ever posted on this blog.  My children, unfortunately, gag on them so I have to devise all kinds of tricks to serve them at home.  Chopped in salads is one way, although I've often found them in a neat little pile at the bottom of the bowl hidden under some lettuce.  This has been by far the most successful way and I am no fool to believe it is the beets they are after and not the goat cheese!

A few years ago beets and goat cheese started appearing in fancy restaurants as an appetizer, often served on a bed of arugula with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.  You can also stack the beets and spread goat cheese in between the slices for a very fancy presentation.  I think this was Wolfgang Puck's idea,  one he often served at his catered parties.  Very dramatic and very good.

Whatever you do, don't use canned beets.  There is nothing like fresh ones and the difference is a big one.


Serves 6

Ingredients:

•1 bunch of beets (3 large), any garden variety

•1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed

•1/4 oz. chèvre, crumbled

•Olive oil & Vinegar

•Sea salt or kosher salt

Arugula (optional)

Walnuts (optional)

Directions

Discard top leaves and drop beets in boiling water.  Cook for about 1 hr or until done.  With a fork pierce them and test for doneness.
 Transfer them to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit for about 30 minutes until cool enough to peel..

Cut beets in slices or large chunks.

Stack mint leaves on top of each other and chiffonade them by rolling lengthwise like a cigarette and slicing into thin ribbons. Discard the stems.

Place the beets in the refrigerator until cold.

Using a fork, crumble a small amount of chèvre into a small bowl or plate and set aside.

Sprinkle mint onto the beets and stir, leaving a few ribbons for garnish. Add olive oil and vinegar to taste (i use 1 part vinegar, 3 parts olive oil).   Adjust salt to taste. Transfer beets to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chèvre and remaining mint. Serve immediately.

You can serve on a bed of arugula and/or sprinkle walnuts on top.


Photo: Food Network




Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice With Shrimp

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I normally would not post this type of recipe until summer when I would probably feature it as a main course for a poolside buffet ; but I was so excited to try it I decided to think of it as a practice run.  It all started with leftover pineapple and  grew from there.  Although I found many recipes for this particular rice dish, the one I decided to try came from Closet Cooking, a food blogger I follow from the West Coast.  He is a wonderful source for sweet and savory ideas, particularly when it comes to Thai food.

I have made some slight changes in the directions which I think will make the recipe easier. You can buy shrimp uncooked for example and cook by stir frying on the first step.  I have also added another egg as I felt one was a little skimpy.  Also, I felt that at the end there was a need for more soy sauce and salt.   Maybe my chiles were not hot enough to begin with but I am such a baby about heat I always err on the side of bland.  You can always add but never take away and I have been burned on more than one occasion! Taste it first and see what you think.  Pork is a good substitute for the shrimp but frankly I loved it just the way it is.   Bok choy or snap peas might be a nice addition or substitution at a later date.

 If you serve it as a main course, try using large shrimp.   For a larger party, serve as an accompaniment to roast pork or spare ribs and in that case, use medium sized shrimp.

 Serve in pineapple shells if you want to impress your guests!




(makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil

2 shallots (sliced)

3 cloves garlic (chopped)

1 red chili (chopped)

1 red pepper (diced)

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

3 tablespoons chicken stock (or vegetable broth)

3 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup cashews (roasted)

2 cups cooked rice (preferably a day old)

1 to 1/4 cup pineapple (cut into bite sized pieces)

1 cup shrimp (cooked)

1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

1/2 cup raisins (or currants)

4 green onions (sliced)

1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)


Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a pan.  Cook shrimp (if you buy raw) until pink.  Remove to the side.

2. Add the egg and stir-fry for a minute.  Remove to the side and cut in slices.

3. Add the shallots, garlic, chillies and red pepper and stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute.


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4. Add the chicken stock, fish sauce, curry powder and sugar and stir-fry.

5. Add the cashews and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

6. Add the rice, break up any clumps and stir-fry for a few minutes.

7. Add the pineapple, shrimp, peas and raisins and stir-fry to mix them in.  Add back the egg.



8. Remove from heat, taste for additional soy sauce and salt and serve garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.

This recipe was adjusted on 4/22/2011






Pineapple boat photo:  D. Schmidt
All other photos Lindaraxa

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dinner After The Scavenger Hunt...Rigatoni With Eggplant And Pine Nut Crunch

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I've been dying to make this recipe since I saw it and finally last night I had the perfect excuse...a small dinner party for my daughter's friends after the office scavenger hunt to raise money for St. Jude's Children Hospital.  If you need to raise money for a worthwhile cause, this is at the top of my list.

Founded in 1962 by entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude's finds cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. It is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance.

If you are serving dinner to a group of sweaty and tired young people who have spent their sacred Saturday looking for stuff in downtown Atlanta, it better be substantial and filling.  Be prepared for seconds and thirds ...and an early exit.

This pasta recipe was everything I was hoping for and more and it fit the occasion to a tee. The only change I made was using crushed or chopped tomatoes and stirring the cream in and adding finely diced basil and garlic.  I'll do anything to cut down on dirty bowls.  Also make sure you use a good brand of tomatoes like Pomi or Cento.

At the end I sprinkled the pine nut topping first and then the mozzarella which made for a nice golden crust on top.  I don't know if this made a difference but it worked!

This is the perfect main dish for a small and very casual dinner party, particularly if the guests are young adults; or it can be served as part of a buffet on another informal occasion.


Ingredients

•Nonstick vegetable oil spray

•1 unpeeled large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

•2 medium yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch squares

•2 cups grape tomatoes

•3 large garlic cloves, divided

•1/3 cup olive oil

•2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves, divided

•1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

•1/4 cup pine nuts

•1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice

•1 cup heavy whipping cream

•1 pound rigatoni

•1 pound whole-milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (i used shredded)

Preparation

•Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray; add eggplant and peppers. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise; add to sheet. Using garlic press, squeeze 1 garlic clove onto vegetables. Drizzle vegetables with oil; toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring often, 35 to 45 minutes.

•Combine 2/3 cup basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in mini processor. Blend until crumbly. Season topping with salt.

•Blend tomatoes with juice, cream, 1 1/3 cups basil, and 1 garlic clove in processor until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper.*

•Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally; drain. Return to pot. Toss with vegetables, sauce, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Transfer to 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pine nut topping.

•Bake pasta until heated through, 25 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.


Adapted from Bon Appetit





Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mock Corn Souffle

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Awhile back, my friend Reggie Darling requested a recipe for a mock corn souffle.  I had not forgotten, except I knew exactly what he was referring to and I just couldn't deliver.  Most of the recipes I had on file called for the typical corn pudding, better known as spoon bread in the South. A little heavier and not quite what I was looking for.  Knowing Reggie D. I was sure he was talking about one MD or one of her friends had probably served.  So where better to look than an old cookbook I had in my shelf called Palm Beach Entertains, Then and Now, published by the Junior League of the Palm Beaches  in 1976.

This is very light and very. very simple to make.  Reggie, darling, a caveman can do it, so can you.  The only thing I would suggest is cutting back the butter at the top from 8 TB to 6TB and cooking a little longer at a higher temperature for the last 5-10 minutes.  Aside from that, my family loved it!

This is such a typical Palm Beach recipe...very elegant and very simple.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

2 Cups milk
1/4 Cup sugar
6 eggs, beaten well
2 TB flour
2 cans (16 ounces each) creamed corn
8 TB butter

Directions


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the  bowl of a mixer combine milk, sugar, eggs and flour. Beat well for 2 minutes.  Add creamed corn and mix well with a spoon.  Pour into a shallow 9 x 13 baking dish.  Dot with the butter.  Bake 45 minutes.

Allow to set a few minutes before serving.

This will not come out brown on top.  Ir is really the color of a pudding.  I baked it an extra 5 minutes at 400 to get it an amber color.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Polpette Al Vino Rosso For My Brother!

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If you are looking for Italian meatballs cooked in tomato sauce with red wine, this isn't it.  What this is is the most delicate of meatballs cooked in red wine with a dark red wine sauce at the end.  The best compliment came from my brother who proclaimed them the best meatballs he'd ever had and immediately took out a piece of paper to write the recipe.  That he's never done before so how's that for an endorsement!

This recipe is loosely adapted from Lorenza de Medici's.  When I served the original dish I made it exactly as the recipe called for/  We loved the meatballs but were a bit disappointed in the sauce or lack of it.  When my brother came and it was just the two of us for dinner one night, I had some uncooked ones in the freezer and decided to experiment with the sauce by adding more wine, a little tomato and some pasta water.  The result was extraordinary.

I would skip the spaghetti and serve with a baguette, a green salad and a nice bottle of wine.  That is all you need!

Ingredients

3/4 lbs ground veal**
3/4 lbs ground sirloin
handful country bread soaked in milk and squeezed dry
1 TB dry mustard
2 TB fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 TB grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 C all purpose flour
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup Pomi Chopped tomatoes*

In a bowl combine the meats, bread, mustard, parsley, garlic, eggs and Parmesan.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. and mix with your hands until all ingredients are perfectly blended.  Form into round patties, about  inch long and dust with flour, wiping out excess.  (Do this right before you sautee)

In a frying pan, melt the butter with the oil.  Add patties and brown on both sides, turning gently, about 5 minutes.  Pour 1/2 cup wine and bring to a boil, reduce.  Add 1/2 Cup of Pomi chopped tomatoes, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.  Uncover and add another 1/2 cup of wine.  Let it reduce a bit.  If cooking pasta add some of the pasta water if needed.

*Pomi chopped tomatoes can be found in most grocery stores where the canned tomatoes are found.

Pomi Chopped Tomatoes 26.46 oz.

**the original recipe calls for 1/2 lbs ground chicken, 1/2 lbs ground pork and 1/2 lbs ground veal.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Affogato...A Simple Dessert In a Glass

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Some of life's greatest pleasures are either free or easy to make. Take the affogato.  One shot of espresso, one scoop of gelato and the rest is up to you.  What could be easier and more delicious than that!

Sometimes when I'm in a pinch I will serve this for dessert, primarily for lunch, and it's as if I had presented my guests with a chocolate souffle.  Granted, here in the States it's not often that you come across affogato while in Italy is just as common as Coke.



You have to start with good ingredients, though, and a good shot of espresso is a must .  Espresso is very easy to make at home and you don't need one of those fancy machines either.  Get a simple stovetop espresso maker like the Bilaletti Moka Espresso Maker which comes in various sizes.  Take your pick.  If you are a serious drinker you will have a couple of sizes - a small one for everyday use and a larger one for when you have guests.  I have 3 sizes, wouldn't you know?!


Bialetti 6799 Moka Express 3-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker


Good espresso beans are important - either Lavazza or Illy will do the trick. 


Next, you will need good ice cream, or preferably, gelato.  Take your pick, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate hazelnut or my favorite, coffee.




And next come the accoutrements.  Here you can be as creative as you want.  Biscotti, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, hazelnuts, amaretti cookie crumbles.  Whatever you do, try to keep the Italian theme!



Next is optional, and that can be anything from grappa to Amaretto or Kahlua. 

Pretty cups, pretty dishes, nice presentation and you've got a smashing success!


 

Recipe

1 scoop of gelato
1 shot of espresso
whipped cream or your choice of topping.

You might also want to check this recipe for Chocolate Gelato Affogato

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