July 27, 2008

Chickpea Curry

This is a great, easy main dish- you might have the ingredients in your pantry already.

1 medium sweet onion
2 chorizo sausages sliced into small chunks
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (and their juices)
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 container vegetable stock (to add 1/4 cup at a time, let reduce and repeat)

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and let it cook until it is translucent. Add curry powder and chorizo. Cook with the onions until the onions start to caramelize. Add 1/4 cup of vegetable stock to deglaze and let simmer until stock is absorbed.

Add chickpeas and tomatoes and more stock- let it simmer until the stock is absorbed. When chick peas are soft and cooked, the dish is done. It takes different amounts of time depending on the heat- but takes between 30 and 45 minutes from start to finish. Serve with bread or over rice.

This is something different for us- and we loved it. The chorizo gave it a kick and the caramelized onion adds another layer of flavor. My brother in law, JAM, makes this dish regularly without the sausage and he more or less directed me in the kitchen. There is so much you can do with chick peas, I am definitely inspired to try new proteins and new flavors...and the eggs.

July 22, 2008

Steak Fajitas

At the end of a trying weekend during which my car wouldn't start and we needed an emergency plumber (among other things) there was a silver lining. TLMM had something up her sleeve that would save the day! She made these steak fajitas on the grill using a cast iron skillet to give it that sizzle reminiscent of what you might get at a Mexican restaurant.

Slice flank steak on a slant and red pepper, green pepper and onion in 1/2" slices.

Start the grill. Put a small measure of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet and add spices- garlic powder, garlic salt, cayenne pepper-- we looked at the ingredients on a package of fajita seasoning and improvised. She used the cayenne to cook the steak to spice it up and not have to use sauces and condiments after the fact. It also seasoned the vegetables to the perfect heat level. This worked because the three of us (JAM, TLMM and I) all like spice! Close the grill's lid and let the spices toast for about 2 minutes. When the spices are fragrant, add the steak.

Let it go for a couple of minutes and then flip and stir. When there is no pinkness left, remove and drain steak. This does not take long on a hot grill!

Add about a tablespoon more vegetable oil to the grill and add the vegetables. Close lid- listen for that sizzle!

After a couple of minutes, stir veggies- when they just start to brown, add beef back into the skillet. That's it! As soon as the beef gets hot again, it's ready to eat.

For flour tortillas, heat a tiny amount of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan. When it gets hot, put tortilla in the pan for up to a minute on each side until it's warm and toasty. Load up tortilla and add any desired condiments- we used shredded cheese, guacamole and a dab of sour cream.

I think I could eat this every night- it was so good, better than any I have had in a restaurant. It's easy to make. It's yummy. It put a good spin on the whole two days. Of course, the margaritas didn't hurt, either...and the eggs.

July 18, 2008

Banana Pudding

Today I am feeling particularly joyful! I have been in the market for a new job for a few months and accepted an offer late yesterday afternoon. TLMM cooked up a celebratory dinner which included phenomenal grilled shrimp along with my favorite dinner, steak and artichokes! Complete with champagne! It was a fun night, I don't change jobs often so when I do I see it an an excuse to celebrate. Anyhoo, have you ever tried to make the banana pudding recipe on the Nilla Wafer box? I did it the other day and the result was rich and downright delicious.

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers for garnish

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving. Makes 8 rich, custard-y servings...and the eggs.

July 16, 2008

Classic Bolognese! Mange!

In the heart of NYC's Little Italy is a great little eatery, Amici II. It's a little gem in a sea of Italian food- and their bolognese is the best I have ever tasted. I wanted to recreate the taste so I turned to.....you guessed it......Cook's Illustrated. This is their Classic Bolognese Sauce.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced onion
4 tablespoons minced carrot
4 tablespoons minced celery
1/2 pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal, and ground pork
2 cups whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans whole tomatoes (28 oz.) , packed in juice, chopped fine, with juice reserved

Heat butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and sautè until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.

Add ground meat and 1 teaspoon salt; crumble meat with edge of spatula to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 3 minutes.

Add milk and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 30 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 30 minutes longer.

Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 4 hours. Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve. When draining the pasta, leave some water on the noodles- and add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the draining noodles- this, in addition to some parmesan cheese on top of the sauce, will help the sauce coat the pasta noodles.

As you can see, it's easy- just time consuming. You add liquid three times and wait for it to be absorbed each time. I think the secret to the Amici's taste I was looking for was simmering the meat in milk. This isn't kosher Italian, folks. But it is wonderful- the flavors of the tender flavor infused crumbly meat do the talking. The recipe above is doubled- if you halve it, simmer each time for 10-15 minutes instead of 30, and after the tomatoes simmer for 3 hours instead of 4. You know how pasta sauce is always better after being frozen? That's precisely why I doubled it, to have even better sauce in a couple of weeks with another box of fettucine. That is if I can wait a couple of weeks for another pranzo squisito...and the eggs.

July 12, 2008

Eastern Shore Crab Cakes!

My father grew up in Baltimore and he tells us that as a child he would crab the Chesapeake by dangling his toes in the water waiting for a nibble and scooping up crabs with a net. My earliest memories of him involve crabbing off of a rickety (my mother's adjective for the spot) pier in Port Aransas, Texas, tying chicken necks to strings and sitting, waiting for that good tug on the line. If we went out with one of his friends on a canoe or small boat for a few hours, we'd come back with laundry baskets brimming with live crabs. We'd take them home and he would cook them in huge pots with beer and Old Bay seasoning. Finally, when we were all sitting around a picnic table covered in newspaper, wooden mallets and small cups of melted butter, our mouths watering, I would watch my father meticulously clean at least a dozen crabs- placing all of the cleaned meat in a small pile- before he would start to eat. OCD? Perhaps. I never emulated that strange and wonderful skill (I was far too impatient), but I did inherit his love of crabmeat. This is a not-so messy way to enjoy the goodness of crab. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, a periodical and a website which I strongly recommend based on its use of a test kitchen. These crabcakes are made with ingredients which enhance the flavor of the crab without adding much filler.

1 pound lump crabmeat, meticulously cleaned
4 medium scallions, green part only, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cups vegetable oil

Gently mix crabmeat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, bread crumbs, and mayonnaise in medium bowl, being careful not to break up crab lumps. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg with rubber spatula until mixture just clings together.

2. Divide crab mixture into four or five portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2-inches high. Arrange on baking sheet lined with waxed paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Can refrigerate up to 24 hours.)

3. Put flour on plate. Lightly dredge crab cakes. Heat oil in large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently lay chilled crab cakes in skillet; pan-fry until outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve hot.

I made a super-easy chipotle dipping sauce. It can be spicy or mild, depending on the ratio of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to mayo. Start by putting 1 cup of mayo in a food processor and add one chipotle pepper and one teaspoon of the adobo sauce. Blend and then taste. If it's not spicy enough, just do the same steps again until it is as hot as you want it.

Well, as it happened, that rickety little pier did collapse, and we were on it at the time. We managed to escape unharmed. It was one of those inexplicable times when your mother ends up being right. That evening, we headed home with the story of the adventure and, of course, a few dozen crab...and the eggs.

July 9, 2008

Arctic Char with Horseradish Cream, Sweet & Sour Beets, and Dandelion Greens

This post comes to you from guest blogger (and childhood friend) Suzanne. How she found time to make this dinner with 15-month old twin boys and a 4 1/2 year old son is completely beyond me, but she did. The results sound delicious, and here they are. Thank you, Suzanne!!

My husband was recently appointed the Chair of his department at Oakland University. As such, he felt it would be nice for us to entertain a woman that was just hired to teach in the department and her husband when they were in town looking for housing. The woman is Japanese and her husband is Norwegian. So of course I chose to make fish and rice. I'm pretty fearless in the kitchen but one of my problem dishes happens to be rice. Even with a rice cooker, I always manage to screw it up. I was in the process of preparing the meal when I realized I was really setting myself up to be embarrassed by serving rice to a Japanese woman (not to mention fish to a Norwegian man). Fortunately the dinner turned out really well. The salad and main course were both beautiful and, all in all, the meal was quite healthy.

We started with some store bought appetizers - hummus, cheese, etc. I also made some delicious and potent martinis. I got the recipe from a restaurant called Kona Grille.

Berry Martinis (recipe makes one martini)
Mix the following and serve chilled
2 oz Three Olives brand Triple Berry Vodka
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/4 oz Rose's Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice

The salad, main course, and dessert recipes all came from Bon Appetit

Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 large oranges
7 cups arugula
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (again, I used a mandoline)

Whisk the first three ingredients together to make the dressing. Season to taste with S & P.
Cut the peel and white pith from the oranges. Working over a bowl, use a small knife to cut between and release the segments.

Combine the arugula, fennel and onion in a large bowl. Toss with dressing to coat. Add orange segments and toss to combine.

Note: I added some of the juice from the oranges to the vinaigrette and adjusted the amount of oil to balance out the acid. I also added a bit of dry mustard powder. This helps the vinaigrette to emulsify and give a nice tang to it.

Note: I let the onion slices soak in ice water for several hours then patted them dry before tossing with the salad. This helps to mellow the onion flavor.

Arctic Char with Horseradish Cream, Sweet & Sour Beets, and Dandelion Greens (4 servings)

Horseradish Cream:
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes fresh peeled horseradish root (about 1 lb unpeeled root)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

To make cream, coarsely grate horseradish; transfer to medium saucepan and add cream; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Strain cream into small sauce pan through sieve extracting as much cream as possible by pressing firmly on solids. Cream can be made 2 days ahead - cover and chill.

8 baby red beets, tops trimmed
8 baby golden beets, tops trimmed
(baby beets were not available so I used large beets and cut them to size after cooking)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 TBS sugar

Cook red and golden beets in separate medium pots of salted water until tender, about 18 minutes. Drain and cool. Beets can be prepared to this point 2 days ahead - cover and chill.

Peel red beets, cut in half and place in skillet. Peel golden beets, cut in half and place in a separate skillet. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 TBS sugar into each skillet. Cook beets in each skillet over medium-high heat until liquid thickens to syrup and begins to coat beets, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste with S & P. Remove from heat.

Fish and Greens:
4 6-oz arctic char or salmon filets with skin
3 TBS vegetable oil, divided

1 large bunch dandelion greens, stems trimmed (you can use any other bitter greens such as arugula, watercress, endive or mustard greens; I used arugula to complement the salad).

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle fish with S & P. Heat 1 TBS oil in large, heavy ovenproof sauce pan over high heat. Add fish, skin side down and sear until skin is crisp and brown, about 3 minutes (do not turn fish over). Place skillet with fish in oven and roast until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the horseradish cream over medium heat. Heat remaining two TBS oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens until just wilted, about 1 minute and season with S&P.

Divide greens among 4 plates. Top with fish, skin side up. Surround fish with beets. Spoon warm cream over top and drizzle with any remaining beet juices.

Note: For a more substantial portion, I would double the amount of greens as they wilt to just about nothing once cooked. And we could all use more dark leafy greens in our diets. I wouldn't hesitate to double the beet recipe, either, as I love beets. And we could all use more beets in our diets. I served simple steamed sticky rice with the main course.

Raspberry Topped Chocolate Tartlets with Pecan Crust

2 cups pecans, toasted
6 TBS packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2-pint containers raspberries
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325. Combine pecans, sugar, and cinnamon in food processor. Blend until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and process until moist clumps form. Press dough over bottom and up sides of four 4-inch diameter tartlet pans with removable bottoms (I couldn't find them with removable bottoms so I used non-stick tartlet pans and they worked just fine; I just had to carefully extract the crust from each after the ganache filling had a chance to cool).

Bake crusts until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely in pans.

Bring cream to simmer in heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate. (Use a very good quality chocolate - like Valhrona - since this is a simple dish and chocolate is the star). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour mixture into crusts, dividing equally. Chill until chocolate is set, about one hour. Cover and chill. Can be made 1 day ahead. If you use tartlets with bottoms that are not removeable, gently tap the tartlets out of the pans before the next step.

Arrange berries over top of tartlets. Stir jam in heavy saucepan over low heat until melted. Brush over raspberries. Refrigerate. Can be made up to 3 hours ahead.

Note: I used raspberries and blueberries. Strawberries would be great, too.

Note: Next time I think I'd make a different crust, perhaps combining nuts with graham crackers or shortbread. I found this crust to be a bit on the greasy side from the butter and oils released by the nuts.

I will certainly make all of these dishes again. You can do a lot of the work in advance which makes this a nice meal for entertaining.

July 8, 2008

Shirley Valentine, Barksdale Theater- Richmond, VA

For any theater lover in the Richmond, Virginia vicinity, I urge to to take a trip to Barksdale's Hanover Tavern to catch Shirley Valentine. This show is extra, extra special because the star is my little sister, Jill Bari Steinberg! It is her second one-woman show, and if her first was any indication, this will be unforgettable. The show runs from July 11th - For specific information, click here. BREAK A LEG, JB!

July 6, 2008

Pickled Eggs and Beets

I love pickled eggs and beets- and think of them as comfort food. We decided to whip some up for the 4th of July weekend this year. Using Marilyn and Jack's recipe, the flavors were perfect. This is a no fault recipe!

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cans or jars pickled beets
1 dozen eggs

Bring large pot of water to a boil and add eggs; boil for 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool and peel.

Mix other ingredients in smaller saucepan- and add the juice from the 2 jars of pickled beets but not the beets. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Put eggs and beets in a container that you can cover with a tight lid. Pour warm beet juice mixture over them and cover. Let them marinate from up to a few hours to a few days- they're ready to eat any time between. We found that they reached the perfect flavor after 24 hours.

These make a tasty side dish- they pack flavor and protein. Their festive color make them perfect for the red, white and blue color scheme, too. They keep for at least a few days, so you can put some out with every meal over the holidays, making your hosting job all that much easier! What could be better?  Happy Independence Day...and the eggs.

July 2, 2008

Kentucky Chess Pie!

Last week, my friend Nelo gave me a recipe for chess pie. Gert, the cook at the summer camp I went to growing up, used to make chess pie for special occasions. I remember its custardy, rich taste and was anxious to try my hand at making it. I have heard people talk about lemon chess pie or chocolate chess pie, but Gert's chess was plain, and absolutely delicious. The recipe I received is from Saveur, and was simple. I made two- one for Nelo and one for me.

The recipe includes instructions for making the pie crust. I didn't make the crust, I bought a pre-made pie crust I have used before. I didn't have the kind of time it takes to make the crust and make the filling, plus the pre-made crust is a great product. I am leaving out the crust ingredients and instructions here.

1 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg yolks plus one whole egg

Pre-made crust in 9" pan.

Heat oven to 325°. Pour water into a 4-quart saucepan to a depth of 1"; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk together sugar and salt, brown sugar, buttermilk, nutmeg, egg yolks, and egg.

Set bowl over saucepan. Add butter; cook, whisking frequently, until smooth and warm, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; let cool for 5 minutes. Pour mixture into chilled pie shell. Bake until center is just set, 45–50 minutes. Transfer pie to cooling rack; let cool completely before serving, about 2 hours. That's it! This pie is hard to describe, the flavor is subtle. It is almost like a pumpkin pie without the pumpkin. It's not heavy. With one bite, I was transported back to my summer camp, standing in the kitchen with Gert, trying a bite of something new...and the eggs.