Archive for July, 2009

Oven-Roasted Veggies

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Not much of a story here, tonight. Just a super-easy, extra-tasty roasted vegetable side. I will say this: You should be able to tell from the blog that I’m skeptical, to say the least, about most vegetables. I include them grudgingly, if at all, though I’m trying to get better. But David bought some zucchini and some squash and I needed to cook them somehow, so I threw these together. And though I picked around the zucchini mostly, I will admit that on the whole, these veggies were pretty tasty.

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Oven-Roasted Veggies

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Adobo seasoning

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with non-stick spray, or line with parchment paper.

2. Prepare the vegetables as outlined above. Toss together the sweet potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, shallots, and carrots with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning, plus salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer in the bottom of your roasting pan, and let cook for 25-30 minutes.

3. While these hardier veggies get a head start, toss remaining vegetables with the other tablespoon of oil and the 1/2 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning and salt and pepper. After 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are just fork tender, but still firm, add the zucchini & squash and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the zucchini & squash are tender and the potatoes and carrots are cooked through. Serve immediately.

Spice Rubbed Salmon

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Every six months or so, I get it into my head that we like fish. Or we’re going to like fish. Or we should like fish. So every six months or so, I make some kind of fish, and every six months or so, I remember that we don’t really like fish.

Except this time.

This time, my friend Jeff bought me this awesome set of spice rubs for my birthday. One Salmon Rub, one Steak Rub and one Chicken Rub from Rub with Love.

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So I took that spice rub, and what I learned from an episode of Good Eats, and I made broiled salmon. And it was good. Really.

The Spice Rub is sweet and spicy at the same time. As usual, Alton Brown’s method yielded perfectly cooked salmon, even though I had no idea what I was doing. I really enjoyed the salmon, too. It was flaky, but meaty, and very moist. And of course, this is probably just a salmon thing, and I’ve secretly not known it, but the texture was more like chicken than any fish I’d eaten.

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Spice-Rubbed Salmon

Position a rack in the oven 3 inches from the broiler. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the salmon on the pan.

Evenly spread the spice rub onto the salmon and allow to sit for 45 minutes, at room temperature.

Turn the oven on to the high broiler setting for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, place the salmon into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes or until the thickest part of the fish reaches an internal temperature of 131 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the salmon from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pastitso (Greek Lasagna)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

So Kat got me a pretty awesome birthday present. A cooking present. (It sure does seem like all of my presents lately are cooking presents, but I’m not complaining!)

She bought me this Middle Eastern cookbook. It’s called The Complete Middle East Cookbook. And it’s pretty awesome. It’s broken into sections for all different kinds of cuisines, including Greek, which I know a little bit about, but also others that I know nothing about, like Cyprus, and Turkey, and Egypt and many more. There’s a lot to learn in this book, which I know I will enjoy. And, like all my favorite cookbooks, it’s complete with pretty pictures. I love my cookbooks filled with glossy pictures.

The first thing to catch my eye in the new cookbook was Pastitso. Defined in the book as a “Macaroni & Meat Pie,” it’s really just Lasagna with a Greek twist. When I’ve seen recipes before, it featured spinach, and other veggies, which to be honest, I’m not that crazy about. I was excited to see that this recipe didn’t require substitutions on my part. We liked all of the ingredients.

Though it required some effort, much like making a Lasagna from scratch, it was totally worthwhile. I especially liked the layer of cream sauce. I really wish that I’d thought to make two and freeze one, like I do with Lasagna. That, I think, was my one mistake.

Pastitso (Greek Lasagna)
Adapted from The Complete Middle East Cookbook

For the pasta layer:

  • 1 pound box of macaroni (I used whole wheat penne, because that’s what we had on hand)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cups grated kefalotiri or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the meat sauce:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the cream sauce:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and return to pan.

2. In a small saucepan, melt butter until golden brown, and pour over the reserved pasta. Add 1/2 of the cheese (1 cup) and toss well. Leave until cool, then add eggs and toss again. Set aside

3. Make the meat sauce. First, saute onions and garlic in butter until the onion is soft and translucent. Increase the heat and add the ground beef. Stirring frequently, cook until meat is browned. Add the tomato paste, wine, stock, parsley, sugar, and salt and pepper and cover. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, to let the flavors come together.

4. Make the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook gently for 1-2 minutes, until the flour browns and the raw taste is removed. Stir in the milk and bring to a bubble, stirring constantly. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool before stirring in the beaten egg.

5. Add 1/2 cup of this cream sauce to the finished meat sauce and stir to combine.

6. To assemble, butter a 9×13 baking dish. Line the bottom of the dish with a single layer of prepared pasta. Make sure that the pasta covers the bottom of the dish and is spread evenly. Top with the meat sauce, spreading it carefully and evenly to the edges of the baking dish to create a complete layer. Next, pour the cream sauce on top, and again spread carefully to create an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top and cook in a 350 oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

A “Frequently Asked Question”

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

One of the things that has been entertaining to me throughout this whole blogging process is taking a peek at the behind the scenes information that the Word Press tools generate. I enjoy reading through the searches that lead complete strangers to this blog, though I do feel bad that 90% of the time, they aren’t going to find the answers here.

One amusing example is “How to make authentic enchiladas?” Unfortunately for the google-er, the only reason they ended up on my page was that I made a point of explaining that my enchiladas were definitely NOT authentic. At least the person looking for “How to make the toppings on steaks at wildfire?” got a little closer to what they were looking for. I don’t think they’d be disappointed by my Blue Cheese Crusted New York Strip Steaks.

But far and away, the most common question that I see in my blog stats is “How to Make A Whisk?” And I get it. I see how they got there. I do. And for the longest time, I’ve chuckled to myself and wished that I could help them. Well, now I can. If you’re here to see how a whisk is made, check out the video below.

Of course, if you’re a regular reader, you’re probably here for recipes, and there’ll be more of those tomorrow. I got a new Middle Eastern Cookbook for my birthday, and baked up Pastitso this past weekend, which is like a Greek Lasagna. It was delicious—but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to see for yourself!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Pretzels and cheese…kind of a no-brainer, that one. This dish takes the salty crunch of pretzels as a breading for juicy chicken breast cutlets. The chicken’s finished with a creamy sharp cheddar cheese sauce, with a spicy note of mustard.

This was one of the first dishes to catch my eye flipping through my new Rachael Ray cookbook, 365: No Repeats.

I enjoyed cooking from this book. The recipe was easy to follow, and while I’ve heard that people take issue sometimes with the promise of a 30 minute meal, I think this chicken dish came together in about that time.

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Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Cheddar Cheese Sauce
Adapted from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats.

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2 inch thin
  • 5 ounce bag of salted pretzels, any shape
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 heaping tablespoons spicy mustard
  • kosher salt

1. In the bowl of your food processor (or if you don’t have a food processor, this can be done by hand in a ziploc bag), grind the pretzels into fine crumbs. Transfer the pretzels to a shallow dish or pie plate and add the thyme and cracked black pepper.

2. In a second shallow dish or pie plate, lightly beat the two eggs with a little bit of water. Working one at a time, coat the chicken breasts in the pretzel crumbs, then in the eggs, and then in the pretzels again.

3. Preheat a large skillet with 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Add the breaded chicken breast cutlets to the hot oil and cook in a single layer about 3 or 4 minutes per side. You may need to fry the chicken in two batches to get it all to fit. When the chicken is cooked through, the juices will run clear and the breading will be evenly browned.

4. While the chicken is cooking, make the cheese sauce. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for one minute, to remove the raw taste of the flour, then whisk in the milk. Let it come to a bubble, then stir in the shredded cheese and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

5. Serve the fried chicken cutlets with a drizzle of cheese sauce.

Note: I liked this dish, but I screwed up and accidentally bought unsalted pretzels, which left the whole thing lacking in salt (duh!). Still, it was pretty good without the salt, and would’ve definitely been a keeper if it had been properly seasoned. Oops! I steamed some broccoli to go with the cheese sauce for David, and I suppose if you like broccoli, that was a real success. We had plenty of cheese sauce for the chicken, the broccoli, and even to dip some chips in later that weekend. 🙂

Lemon Bar Tart

Monday, July 20th, 2009

One more Fourth of July recipe, this time a twist on another recipe.

When I made the Strawberry Tart, I made a double batch of crust. I did this for two reasons. One, I wasn’t confident in my ability to roll it out and get it into the tart pan on my first try. Two, I wasn’t 100% sure what size my pan was or what size my tart crust recipe really was. Of course, as it turns out, the recipe made exactly twice as much tart crust as I needed, and I was able to put together my tart with no troubles at all, so there was no need for the backup crust after all.

Which is how I found myself with an extra ball of tart crust dough in the fridge, and how I decided to make another tart for the 4th of July. When I started thinking tarts, I honestly was thinking strawberries and blueberries and cream, in some variation of the red, white, and blue dessert that shows up at every 4th of July barbecue.

When I thought about what I had–a flaky, rich, buttery crust with just a touch of sweetness–I tried to come up with things that would go well inside, and after a while, I realized what the crust reminded me of: the bottom of a lemon bar. Yum! So I decided to make a lemon bar filling to bake inside my tart crust. I read through several recipes before coming up with the method below.

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Lemon Bar Tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 tablespoons frozen or cold unsalted better, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Make the tart.

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds. Add in the egg yolk and process for a few more seconds.

2. Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add 3 tbsp. ice water and mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball. You can add a little more water if necessary or a little more flour if it’s too wet. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

3. Spray your tart pan with a non-stick cooking spray made for baking, or grease and flour your tart pan. Roll the dough into a round about a half an inch thick, then transfer into your tart pan. Using your fingertips, press the dough into the pan evenly, spreading it out all the way to the edges and up into the fluted sections of the pan. Refrigerate for about an hour.

4. After the crust is properly chilled you need to prebake it. Heat oven to 425 (F). Sufficiently prick the entire bottom of the crust with a fork. Take a large piece of foil and butter one side, press the buttered side into the crust and up along the sides. Weigh the foil down with a pie weights (or if you don’t have pie weights, a few cups of raw rice or dried beans will do the trick) Bake for 12 minutes.

5. Now remove the tart from the oven and reduce the temp to 350 (F). Take off the weights and the foil and put the crust back in and bake until it’s a nicely browned, 10-15 minutes. Take out and cool completely on a rack.

Make the Filling.

1. While crust is baking, prepare the lemony filling. In a larger bowl, add sugar, flour, and baking powder.

2. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the lemon juice, and poor into the flour mixture. Mix well, and pour on top of warm baked crust.

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the tart pan, on a cooling rack. When cooled, dust with sifted confectioner’s sugar and refrigerate.

4. Serve chilled.

Note: This was very good, but I have a few  improvements for next time. First, I need to be more careful with the tart crust, because mine ended up with a hole in it, and that lead to lemon filling leaking all over the place. I made this work, but it would’ve been easier if my tart crust had been liquid proof. Second, I didn’t have fresh lemons on hand to juice, so I used bottled lemon juice. I think it would’ve been better with fresh. Finally, I didn’t have enough time for the bars to truly chill, and I think they got eaten so quickly that even the “leftovers” didn’t get chill time. Oops. 🙂

Sugar Dusted Corn Fritters

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Here’s another one of our 4th of July treats: Sweet and Crunchy Corn Fritters. If you’ve never had a corn fritter, they are hard to describe. It’s like a doughnut but less sweet. Or a hush puppy, but more sweet. Kind of like a doughnut with a sweet cornbread flavor. These had fresh corn on the cob inside, and were seasoned with just a little bit of cayenne pepper for a mild kick. They were super easy, and as long as we were frying things anyway, totally worth while.

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Sugar-Dusted Corn Friters
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 4 generous cups corn kernels: fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk, more to thin if necessary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Canola or peanut oil, for frying
  • Sifted powdered sugar to finish

1. Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir together to make a batter.

2. Add corn to batter. Fold together to combine.

3. Heat oil to 365 degrees. When oil is heated, drop spoonfuls of batter and cook, flipping to the other side, until golden brown. The fritters will sink and then float to the top as they finish cooking.

4. Drain on a towel-lined plate. Serve  sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar.

Note: This made a huge batch of fritters. I only cooked about a fourth of it, and it was enough for the 5 of us eating dinner. I’ll probably halve it next time I make this. But there will be a next time.

Greek-Style Vinaigarette

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The other night we had Gyros, just made from a store kit, nothing too special. I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own Gyros from scratch, but I’ve never quite gotten there. I have found that it’s worth it to dress up the store bought Gyros by frying each pita individually in a little bit of olive oil, and by topping them off with fresh tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese.

But this post actually isn’t about that. This is about the Greek salad that I made as a side. I took fresh, crisp romaine lettuce and topped it with tomatoes, feta cheese, salt, pepper, and a homemade greek vinaigarette. To make this a little more authentic, you could add Katamala olives and anchovies, but I don’t like either one, so I didn’t.

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Greek-Style Vinaigarette

  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dry Oregano
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped

1. Mix all ingredients in a salad dressing stirrer, or whisk together in a small mixing bowl. Chill before serving.

Note: This dressing was pretty tasty. I also got the chance to use my salad stirrer, a birthday gift from Leah. It did a pretty good job of mixing the dressing, but next time, I think I’d add the herbs and stuff to the pitcher before the liquids. When I added it last, lots of it coated the bottle on the way down, due to the narrow neck of the bottle. It did a great job of emulsifying the dressing though, which is really handy for an oil and vinegar dressing.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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The latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, came out today. Finally! I’m excited to say I managed to drag myself to a midnight viewing last night with my mom, sister, cousin, and friend. Even though I was crazy to think that I could pull off the crazy scheduling (I’d traveled to Houston and back for work that day, and been up since 4 a.m.), and even though we got stuck in front row seats of the theater, and even though the theater, it seems, had never experienced a midnight show and had no idea what they were doing, and even though we were stuck in the parking lot traffic jam for what seemed like forever, we had a really great time, and really enjoyed the movie.

I’ve got lots of thoughts on the film, but of course, this is a food blog, and so it’s really not the place for my film reviews.

Instead, how about a nice, hot glass of Butterbeer?

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Madame Rosmerta’s Butterbeer
From Mugglenet.com

  • 1 cup (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
  • ½ cup (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
  • ½ tablespoon butter

1.  Measure butterscotch and butter into a 2 cup (16 oz) glass. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated.

2. Stir and cool for 30 seconds, then slowly mix in club soda. Mixture will fizz quite a bit.

3. Serve in two coffee mugs or small glasses; a perfectly warm Hogwarts treat for two!

Note: If you wanted more of a Butterbeer “cocktail,” I think butterscotch schnapps would be delicious in this!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Just a quick message to say Happy Birthday to my mom, an avid reader and commenter on the blog.

Because this is a food blog, after all, here’s a pic of her birthday cake from yesterday. I was almost disappointed that it wasn’t a wreck!

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