Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Today marked the end of summer in my house- school began for my new 1st grader. New school, new teacher, and a kid so full of confidence in himself that he barely needed me to walk him to his classroom. How did he get so big?
This is just a small sampling of the cherry tomatoes that I picked last week from the four plants in my backyard. That doesn't include the huge beefsteaks and heirlooms that are just days from ripening at the moment. What's a girls to do with them all? This was the dilemma that faced me a few days ago as I was deciding what to make for dinner. A salad (again)? A pasta (eh)? A risotto (YES!!)? I make a killer salad with corn, tomatoes, zucchini and basil and I had a hunch that those flavors would work just barely cooked into a risotto with its creamy rice. Of course, I just happened to have all of those things in my kitchen. So off to the stove I went.
Risotto is nothing to be afraid of, friends. It's really very quick to make and just requires a turn of the spoon every few minutes. The rice and broth do most of the work themselves. All you need to do is stand by and watch the magic happen.
End of Summer Risotto
This, to me, is a meal in and of itself. However, if you have an eater in your house who is anything like my husband, it will also make a nice side dish for grilled or roasted chicken or fish.
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup arborio or canaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups homemade chicken broth or store bought low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups diced beefsteak tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
kernels from 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1 small zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 cup grated perorino romano or parmesean cheese
handful of basil leaves
In a medium saucepot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer, then turn the heat to low.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter. Stir in the onions and saute until they are soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two. The rice will begin to become translucent as well and it will get coated with the butter and oil.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
But one cannot live on tomatoes alone (though I feel as if I've been trying). The cure for too many tomatoes? Well, actually, I don't know if there is a cure for that besides giving them all away to grateful friends and neighbors. But finding the sweetest smelling cantaloupe in my produce box last week certainly helped. I think my little one ate most of the first half of it all by himself. Don't you just love watching them gobble up ripe fruit, the juices dribbling down their chins? Ah, to be two again...The rest of the family helped him eat the remainder of the first half and we could have easily eaten the rest as well. But I had my eye on it for another purpose- popsicles.
From All Things Simple
Please, please, please use the best smelling and most perfectly ripe melon that you can for this recipe. You won't regret it. I got my popsicle molds in the dollar bin at Target, but you can really find them cheaply all over the place. Mine are a bit on the small side, so I cut back on the recipe I used as my guide. If yours are an average popsicle size, you may want to increase the amounts by half.
3 cups fresh cantaloupe, cubed (about half of a average sized melon)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 sup water
juice of 1 lime
In a small pot, mix together the water and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool. (Incidentally, I found that I can also do this step in the microwave using a Pyrex measuring cup)
**NOTE** I have made popsicles using this same basic recipe, but swapping the cantaloupe for watermelon and adding about a dozen mint leaves. The result is a pretty, layered popsicle (the watermelon separates into a clear layer and a pink pulpy layer) with a refreshing hit of mint. Quite a nice way to use up one of those big melons.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
My son was an adventurous eater right from the start. Even at one he would sit next to me at the restaurant and scarf up all of my tzatziki sauce and eat every last one of my pita wedges, then go for my stewed green beans and tomatoes. I couldn't get over how much he liked that sauce since it seemed way to strong in garlic flavor for such a young eater. Even the wait staff would marvel at him as they brought him extra bowls of the stewed veggies on the house.
Pretend you're sitting on a whitewashed patio overlooking the Adriatic Sea (this is the closest I'm going to get to it) and enjoy.
Lemon and Oregano Chicken Drumsticks and Tzatziki
Adapted from, Grill Master (Williams-Sonoma), by Fred Thompson
For the chicken:
2 dozen chicken drumsticks, skin on
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbs chopped, fresh oregano
1 tbs each chopped fresh basil and thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
For the tzatziki sauce:
1 english cucumber or 2 persain cucumbers
16 oz plain greek yogurt
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the chicken:
Make the marinade by stirring together the lemon juice, herbs and garlic. Whisk in the olive oil then pour the marinade into a large bowl or resealable bag. Add in the drumsticks and stir to coat the chicken. Cover or seal the container and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (even up to 24 hours!).
When you're ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place it on a baking sheet. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature while you heat up the grill. Heat the grill to medium then place the drumsticks over the heat. Grill for about 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over. Continue to cook, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the meat registers 170 degrees (get an instant read thermometer if you don't have one, it'll save so much guesswork when measuring for doneness). Let the meat rest while you enjoy a nice glass of white wine with your family or guests.
To make the tzatziki:
Chop the cucumbers into small pieces. Place the cucumber chunks, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice into a food processor and pulse until the cucumber and garlic are finely diced. Stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.
The chicken and tzatziki are wonderful served together, dipping the chicken into the sauce as you eat. Serve with pita and a big greek salad and you've got a great summer meal.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Things I need more of in my life...
Days at the beach...
Warm, sunny afternoons with my boys playing happily and quietly...
Over the summer and on the weekends, I have a hard time not making pancakes every morning that's how much I love them. And my boys would happily oblige my need for fluffy, warm, buttery pancakes. Am I drooling?
I have been using the same pancake recipe for years. It's from a book that I bought off the clearance rack at a wine shop. Random, right? The first time I made them, I knew I would never make pancakes using another recipe again. They are dead simple, perfectly fluffy, just a tiny bit sweet, and just a tiny bit buttery. I eat them right off the griddle, no syrup, no extra butter, right out of my happy little fingers. You must have this recipe.
Perfect Everyday Pancakes
From pancakes & waffles, by Kate Habershon
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs sugar
1 cup milk
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
Mix the milk and eggs in a large bowl. Add the flour and baking powder to the wet ingredients and stir gently until the batter just comes together. Stir in the melted butter. Spoon a few tablespoons for each pancake on a buttered griddle, flipping when bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is golden.
Sometimes, however, the occasion calls for a bit of a fancier breakfast or just something a little different. Maybe you have guests for the weekend. Maybe your kids will begin throwing pancakes at you if you make another one. On occasions like this, I break out the Dutch Baby. I even woke up early one morning at the home of a friend I was staying with and made it for my hostess and her little girls. It was a hit with big and little alike. More like a popover than a pancake, it's easier than making pancakes because you don't have to stand over the stove flipping forever. You mix, bake, and enjoy.
Dutch Baby Pancake with Spiced Peaches
Adapted from One Perfect Bite
1/2 cup flour
1 tbs sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbs melted butter
3 ripe peaches
1 tbs butter
1 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
seeds from half a vanilla bean (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a 10 inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat up.
|The Dutch Baby as it comes out of the oven. I let mine get a little too dark- yikes!!|
While the pancake is in the oven, prepare the peaches. Peel, core and slice the peaches. Heat a medium skillet over medium and melt the remaining tbs of butter. When the butter is melted, add in the peaches, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until the peaches are softened and caramelized.
When the pancake comes out of the oven, sprinkle it with a bit of sugar (about 1-2 tsp) and about 1 tsp lemon zest. Top with the peaches, cut into wedges and serve.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I love to cook for my friends, it's a way of sharing what's in my heart with them that I could never speak with words. And of course I always try to cook with flavors and ingredients that my friends enjoy. Over the years a few of these wonderful people I've known and some of their children have had food allergies and intolerances. I would never want someone to feel deprived at my table, as if everyone else is sharing a fantastic meal and they have to sacrifice because of an allergy. I do my best to include everyone in all aspects of my meals.
It is with this in mind that I developed the sorbet recipe I'm sharing with you today. We were having a meal with our neighbors recently and their youngest daughter has a dairy allergy. I have a hard time coming up with a dessert that doesn't include dairy in some form, but sorbet came to mind after a bit of searching the net and my favorite blogs. With the abundance of fruit available right now, sorbets are an easy choice, but I'm never content to make the expected. That's when I found a recipe for chocolate sorbet on the Smitten Kitchen blog. A bit of ingredient altering- I wanted Mexican chocolate not dark chocolate- and I had what I was looking for. A rich, satisfying dessert for both adults and kids alike. No one was feeling deprived that night.
Mexican Chocolate Sorbet
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted it from David Lebovitz, god of ice cream)
This sorbet is extremely rich. In fact, I used my tiny ice cream scoop that I usually only break out to scoop cookie dough and two scoops was plenty. I found that serving it with slightly sweetened strawberries lightened the richness a bit and by the time the sorbet melted I had a lovely chocolate and strawberry soup. The sorbet itself is a bit like a extra fudgy fudgesicle with a bit of a cinnamon hit at the end. In fact, if you don't have an ice cream maker, I bet you could whiz the cooled mixture in the blender for a few minutes to give it some air and then freeze it in popsicle molds.
6.5 ounces of mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra, in which case you will use 2 discs), chopped
2 1/4 cups water, divided
2/3 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa*
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
*You can make this a dark chocolate sorbet by using dark chocolate instead of the mexican chocolate, omitting the cinnamon, and increasing the sugar to 1 cup.
Mix 1 1/2 cups water, the cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, whisking. Let the mixture boil for about 45 more seconds, still whisking. Remove from the heat and pour in the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the vanilla and the remaining 3/4 cups water.
|Just after mixing in the chocolate|
Friday, August 12, 2011
|The final step- a coating of BBQ sauce and a few minutes on the grill.|
Over the years I've tried all sorts of ways to make ribs and the recipe that follows is the best way that I have found to get get tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs with a great flavor and a bit of the smoky BBQ-ness that I really crave in a rack of baby backs. I never did copy down the original source for the method, so I apologize to whatever publication it came from. But over the years, I've tweaked it enough that I now consider it mine.
This is a great recipe for company. Get a few racks of ribs, throw them in the oven the day before, let them cool off, refrigerate them over night and then grill them when you're ready to eat. Make plenty though, they always go quickly.
Garlicky Barbequed Ribs
You can use baby back ribs or pork spareribs, though I prefer the baby backs.
1 rack baby back ribs
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne (use as much or as little as you like, I tend to use the lesser amount so the heat doesn't overwhelm the garlic)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
3 tsp canola oil
|The rub ingredients|
|Let the ribs rest for a while and the rub will soak in.|
|The finished product|
|The meat will be falling right off the bone if you've done them correctly.|
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Then I stumbled upon this wonderful little recipe in Cooks Illustrated. Now, they have a zillion chefs testing out all of their recipes over and over again, so they're easy to trust. The article promised smooth, creamy hummus that would rival any authentic restaurant's version. And honestly (I didn't really have any doubts, but you never know), this is the best hummus I've ever had. It's not much more than dumping the ingredients in a food processor and letting it whirl, but the order of additions makes all the difference. So now I do make the hummus myself in several different variations, and I don't miss buying it at the supermarket at all.
Creamy Restaurant-style Hummus
From Cooks Illustrated
3 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup water
6 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne
1 15-oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice and water. Set aside. In another small bowl, stir together the tahini and olive oil. Again, set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the garbanzo beans (minus a small handful for topping the hummus), the garlic, cumin, salt, and cayenne. Pulse the mixture several times until almost fully ground together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the lemon juice and water. Continue to process for about 30 more seconds. Scrape down the bowl again. Begin running the food processor a third time and slowly pour in the tahini and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
Place the hummus in a bowl and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, and the reserved garbanzo beans. Serve with pita bread or chips and sliced carrots, cucumbers, or peppers.
Variations: Roasted garlic hummus- replace the raw garlic with several cloves of roasted garlic
Red pepper- Coarsely chop one roasted red pepper and add it to the food processor along with the garbanzo beans, garlic and spices
Or add in any combination of herbs or spices you like
Thursday, August 4, 2011
|Slicing up the finished and rested Tri-tip|
I moved down here to California and found tri-tip on menus everywhere. Remembering my friends fabulous descriptions, I gave it a try. Now I'm hooked, like seriously addicted. My favorite happens to be the sandwich served up Wednesdays and Saturdays at the local airport cafe. Sounds like a strange place to find good BBQ, I know. But as my husband, an aviator, will tell you, sometimes the small airport restaurants have the best food and this place is no exception. You can sit at a table outside and watch the airplanes taking off and landing while the cook stands grilling several tri-tips over a wood-fired grill right in front of you. It's a cool way to spend an afternoon. And the place is always packed on tri-tip days. I learned the secret is simple seasoning- garlic, salt and pepper- and the smoke of some oak wood as the meat grills. The end result is truly something special.
Santa Maria Style Grilled Tri-tip
a 2 1/2 to 3 lb trip-tip steak
1 large head garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups hardwood chips- preferably oak (you can get these in bags in the grill section of your local hardware store, Target, or WalMart)
|The marinade ingredients|
In a food processor, place the peeled garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until you have a thick paste. Alternately, you can chop the garlic by hand, use a mortar and pestle, or even grate the garlic with a fine grater if you don't have a food processor. Your goal is to get the garlic as fine as possible so that you can spread it over the meat. Poke the meat all over with a fork, then rub your garlic paste all over the tri-tip. Wrap it in plastic wrap, or place in a zip top bag and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
|The tri-tip is ready to relax in the fridge and soak up all that garlic|
|The tri-tip is searing on the grill|
|The resting tri-tip|
Grill the tri-tip for about another 20 minutes. The meat will be medium-rare to medium (130 degrees if you're using a thermometer). Remove it from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes. If you cut into it too soon, all the juices will run out of the meat and it will be dry. Once it's rested, slice the meat into very thin slices and serve. If you'd like, you can turn it into a tasty sandwich with some toasted bread and the secret sauce from my favorite airport cafe- mix 1/4 cup mayo with about 2 tbs of the darkest, zestiest BBQ sauce you can kind. That's my kind of sandwich.
|Tri-tip sandwich a la Waypoint Cafe|
Monday, August 1, 2011
|The plain rustic bread and the lemon cherry version|
I'm a pretty experienced bread maker, so I try to make my own when I can. And I even make a pretty good approximation of my grandmother's bread, if I do say so myself. I like to have a slice with dinner (or lunch...french toast anyone?...), but I have less time and less patience to deal with fussy recipes as I and my kids get older. Somehow I stumbled upon a recipe for a bread that requires as little work as humanly possible. The original is from the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC, but a recipe was published in the New York Times a few years back and spread across the internet like wildfire. So I guess I'm a bit late to the party, but better late than never. This bread is so good and so easy, I don't think I'll ever make an everyday bread with any other recipe. In fact, my husband explicitly asked me not to (that's always a sign of a winner).
|A slice of the lemon cherry bread|
If you're not an experienced bread maker, this is the recipe for you. It really can't get any easier.
Rustic No-knead Bread
This recipe will make one large loaf. I personally like to have really fresh bread, so I'll use half the dough to make a smaller loaf one night, refrigerate the rest and then make another small loaf later in the week.
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups flour
|The dough gets nice and bubbly sitting on the counter|
|The lemon cherry bread waiting for the oven to heat up|
To bake this bread, you will need a pot that can withstand very high oven temperatures. The only way to get a crisp, crackly crust is to have a lot of steam, which is why the dough is so wet. If you had a professional bakery oven, it would be able to burst steam over the bread, but then again, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog if you had a professional bakery oven. So instead, the way to get the bread good and steamy is to get the oven temp nice and high (475 degrees), get a pot with a lid nice and hot in the oven while you preheat it, dump the dough in, cover it with the lid, and bake. A heavy porcelain-coated cast iron dutch oven works best (I have a Le Creuset that I use), but a regular pot will work if it and its lid are oven proof. I even put my pizza stone under the pot to make sure it stays good and hot in the oven. Bake the bread for 30 minutes and then very carefully remove it from the oven (lots of potholders for this recipe). Lift the bread out of the pot with a spatula and let it cool on a rack completely (if you can resist eating it right away).
Lemon Cherry Variation
Anyone who's been to the Thursday night farmer's market in Oak Harbor, WA has seen the fantastic breads from the BreadFarm Bakery. The bakery is a small one based in Edison and they sell at farmer's markets and in their own store and smaller ones around the Skagit Valley. Go there if you get a chance, you won't regret it. My absolute favorite bread is the sour cherry sourdough bread that they only sell in the summer. I've been trying like crazy to recreate this fabulous bread since moving away and have come close with this recipe. If you make my version and have had the BreadFarm's version, please let me know where I can improve.
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups dried tart cherries
My favorite way to eat this bread is with a nice slather of softened goat cheese.