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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the rare occasion.

   The rare moment comes along every now and then if you look real close you will see me actually enjoy mushrooms. I've never been a huge fan of mushroom,so I was surprised when I gobbled down this shiitake mushroom frittata. It was actually a rare culinary night in this house,the same night beets were on the menu.
     So we have received shiitake mushrooms in our CSA bag and every week I've been puzzled as to how to use them. They don't keep very long in the crisper drawer .I've thrown them in my salad a few times,but understand I was not a huge fan of them until here recently,but I digress. Moving along,this frittata recipe found it's way into my kitchen and mushrooms and I became acquaintances.

Shiitake Mushroom and Cheese Frittata
Adapted from Everyday Food/Martha Stewart
Serves 6
Ingredients:
8oz shiitake mushrooms-stems discarded,caps cut into 1/4inch slices
1 small onion,halved,sliced into 1/4in slices
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 TBL olive oil
coarse salt
10 large eggs
1/2 c ricotta
1/4 tsp black pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees,heat oil in 9 or 10 inch ovenproof,non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot BUT not smoking. Add mushrooms,onion and thyme,cook stirring until mushrooms are soft and onions are golden brown,about 10 minutes.Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and remove from heat. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
2. Whisk together eggs until frothy,then stir in ricotta,1 tsp salt,and pepper to taste.( ** I only had 1/2 cup of ricotta so I added 1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese,oh goodness it was rich**)
3. Return the pan to the heat,medium heat,pour in the egg mixture,lightly stir around and evenly distribute the onion and mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium low,cook 2 minutes.With a spatula draw the egg away from the sides of the pan and slightly tilt the pan to allow the uncooked egg to reach the bare pan surface. Cook until just starting to set,about 2 minutes.
4. Transfer skillet to the oven,Bake until frittata is just set and top is pale golden,10-12 minutes.
HINT: **This is a perfect lazy quick dinner and goes great with a mixed greens salad and crusty bread.Enjoy every bite of those mushrooms,they are ok with me!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can't wait,just can't wait.

       The pickling series continues...and now break out the breath mints: Emeril's Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles ! I had a moment a couple of months back. I'm standing in my kitchen and I open a new jar of pickles.I tasted these pickles from Wickles Pickle Company and they were spicy and sweet and garlicky and spicy again with a sweetness that stopped me in my tracks. The pickles were just real tasty and they had a familiarity about them I couldn't ignore. SO the night moves along and the light bulb turns on,I recognized the different tastes because I had made something similar to these garlicky sweet pickles. The moment was pretty stunning,kinda like buying a new shirt and wearing it all over town. You decide you really like the shirt and it looks really good on you. You go home that night and notice there in your closet the exact same shirt,only it's a different color and the button is in a slightly different place... ok well something like that( ok folks it was monumental). The difference between the pickles I made and Wickles pickles was a. mine were way too garlicky and b. there's were just dang good,bottom line. I go along with my week and still have a taste for the Wickles pickles and I HAVE to find a recipe similar to there's and I have to find it fast. The recipe search was on. I had to assume the flavors and taste and seek out a recipe that covered the basis of what I thought the pickles should taste like when I made them.I had to hope for the best (cause you know what happens when you assume...).
             Well see I got lucky, way lucky.I found the recipe Emeril's Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles.The garlic,sugar,vinegar and red pepper taste that read through on the recipe page came real close to what I thought was in those pickles,oh the Wickles. I printed out he recipe,found the dried cayenne peppers at my favorite spice store and I was off! Ok ,well had to wait just a bit for pickling cucumbers to come in season,so I waited. And waited and in the meantime got the big pot and rack I needed to can these pickles. The cucumbers were now in season and I made some delightful bread and butter pickles (Linda's way)  and was now ready to be spicy and sweet. The only other hill that I had to climb (now remember this is work,but fun. right. uh huh...) was the garlic. Nothing to intimidating about garlic,really,except when the recipe reads "10 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic"...oh. The math here is this : 1 garlic clove( chopped) = 1/2  tsp of garlic (follow me here) 3 tsp = 1 TBL so that means, 6 half tsp garlic = 3 tsp garlic =1 TBL garlic ,SO I needed 60 garlic cloves to equal 10 TBL of roughly chopped garlic,oh Emeril. (if I lost you in the math,catch up cause we're moving on,I know numbers lose me too sometimes)  I took the hard way out for a reason unbeknownst to me now and peeled all 60 cloves,chopped the up in the food processor (now she's gettin' with it) and it was on to makin' pickles.
Emeril's Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles
recipe courtesy Emeril Legasse, 2005 and the lovely foodnetworktv.com
Makes 4 pints
NOTE: Another reason to buy from the farmers markets: ripe pickling cucumbers are darker green,firm and not bloated.They are shorter and chunkier and have plenty of bumps on the outside.Choose cucumbers that have not been coated in wax. The wax coating makes it hard for the pickling brine to penetrate the cucumbers skin.The fresher the cucumber the crisper the pickle.
Ingredients:
3 pounds pickling cucumbers,sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 c sliced onions
1/2 c pickling salt
6 c water
3 c white vinegar
1 1/2c apple cider vinegar
3 1/2c sugar
2 TBL yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 whole cloves
10 TBL roughly chopped garlic
24 dried cayenne peppers
Directions :
1. Place cucumbers,onions,pickling salt,and water in a large non-reactive bowl.Cover and allow cucumbers to soak for at least 2 hours. Drain the water from the cucumbers and onions through a colander and rinse well for 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
2. Combine the vinegars,sugar,mustard seeds,turmeric,cloves,garlic and peppers in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil,reduce heat to medium and add the cucumbers and onions.Bring to a simmer and remove the saucepan from heat.
3. (NOTE: it helps to heat the jars up with hot water just to sort of prep them for the hot liquid thats coming soon)
Fill each of the hot sterilized pint-size preserving jars with the pickle mixture,dividing them evenly,and enough of the liquid to come within 1/2 inch headspace of the top. (Add 1/2 tsp of pickle crisp to each jar,if desired) With a damp towel wipe the rim and fit with a two-piece lid and rim. Screw the lid just to the point of resistance  is met. Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars form the pot with a jar grabber,let cool completely on a cooling rack. You will hear a higher-pitched ping when the seal takes. Let the jar and its contents cool completely,when cooled and the seal has taken screw the lid on tight. Let the pickles age 2 weeks before eating. Oh the excitement,I'll let you know if I have any left. I'll share I promise...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Butter and Olive Oil,Oh What A Pair.

  Oh goodness this dish is good.You want a rich,decadent plate full of flavors,you make this recipe.I found it in a cookbook that features the twelve regions of Italy and the recipes that reflect the nature,love of food and local ingredients in that region.The cookbook is called Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy and it's written by a fantsatic italian lady chef Lidia Bastianich  and her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali. I had the pleasure of meeting Lidia Bastianich a few weeks ago at the downtown farmers market and was thrilled when she offered some culinary advice on the rich,decadent dish I spoke of a few sentences back,but first a little lesson on regiaonal Italy.
         Want to go to Italy? We could leave tomorrow. We would go to the region of Le Marche,Italy . It is on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and the city of Ascoli is where we would visit first. It is covered in olive groves and great olives olive oils come from this region. The city of Ascoli is known for a certain kind of olive, Ascolana tenera  or tender Ascolana. The Ascolana tenera is large tender green olive. The olives are cured in brine and according to Lidia,this type of olive is great for antipastos.Gosh the possibilities of this olive...I'm hooked.
      The recipe that makes me want to jump on a plane to the Le Marche region of Italy is called Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts. The different components of this recipe do just fine on their own,but they wouldn't taste their best with out the others,Let's talk. Butter and olive oil melted together really add a smooth blanket of flavor wrapped up in each bite of chicken (I didn't put in the title for just any reason.)The  savory olives are noticed through the garlic and bay leaves that roast right along side them in the pan.The toasted pine nuts are scattered in the last few minutes of cooking and are glazed by the olive/bay leaf/garlic buttery goodness.Funny thing happens,the butter is browned right in front of you and really goes unnoticed until you taste the pine nuts with the crispy skin on the chicken. And oh,oh the skin on the chicken pieces. The chicken skin has a glazed,still crispy texture and really is the culinary bonus of this dish.Ok,so you buy the tickets to Italy and I'll tell you how to make Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts. Here goes:

Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts
from Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy
 -Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
pg 176....I tell you the page number,because it is that good.
Ingredients:
3 1/2 pounds assorted cut-up chicken pieces
( skin-on and bone-in,it makes all the difference in the world)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBL butter ( i used a little bit more than that,4 TBL or so)
3 plump garlic cloves,peeled
2 bay leaves,preferably fresh (when Lidia and I got to chat at the market,she said if you use dry,don't break the leaves,just place them in the pan)
1 cup brine-cured green Italian olives or oil-cured Italian black olives
1/2 c white wine (remember only cook with a wine you would drink,if you wouldn't drink it,don't dare cook with it. Enjoy all the aspects of your food)
1/4 c toasted pine nuts (in a dry skillet on low heat,toast them for 1-2 minutes,just a little brown on the edges)
Recommended Equipment: Now Lidia said a cast iron skillet would be best,but seeing as I don't have a 12 inch cast iron skillet,I opted to use a 12-in enameled cast iron skillet,it worked really well.)
Directions:
1. Rinse the chicken pieces, pat dry and trim off the excess fat,not all the skin,just the excess. Season the chicken all over with salt.
2.Melt the olive oil and butter in the pan over med-hi heat. When the butter is melted lay the chicken pieces in the pan,skin side down in a single layer;drop the garlic cloves and bay leaves in the spaces between the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and let the chicken cook over gentle heat browning slowly. After about 10 minutes,uncover the pan and move them around the pan (so they cook evenly)replace the cover. Turn again in 10 minutes or so and continue cooking covered.
3. While the chicken cooks pit the olives,if you bought pitted. I found brine-cured green olives, pitted, in a can at Whole Foods ) So after the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes,scatter the olives onto the pan bottom,around the chicken and pour in the wine. Raise the heat so the liquid is bubbling,cover and cook gradually concentrating the juices,about 5 minutes.
4. Remove the cover and cook uncovered,evaporating the pan juices and turning the chicken pieces and olives.( this step helps to glaze the chicken and roast the olives,tasty stuff) Scatter the pine nuts around the chicken and continue cooking uncovered,turn the chicken one more time. Turn off the heat and serve the chicken right from the skillet or in heaps in shallow bowls. BE SURE to spoon any extra sauce left in the pan over each serving,it's liquid gold,geez.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Never would have thunk it.


 If you would have told me on friday, you:"Meredith you are going to love some roasted beets,bleu cheese and walnuts all together in one bowl!" I would have said,me: "Don't play. Never liked them and don't plan on starting buddy!" But I stand corrected,well my hypothetical self does and you were right, I do love me some beets,bleu cheese and walnuts together in one bowl. Throw some balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil on all that stuff and I am pleasantly pleased.
            We have gotten beets in our CSA bag from those fantastic folks at Downing Hollow Farms. Yes people, beets.We have gotten beets for the last few weeks and they have been on my mind ever since,truth be told really just sitting there in the crisper drawer(note to self- they stay pretty fresh for a week or so in that crisper drawer).I had looked at a recipe that looked pretty tempting from the fine cooks at Fine Cooking,well...I thought I should start small. My Aunt Carol told me a few weeks ago when she went with me to the farmers market,that my grandfather wouldn't eat beets and couldn't stand the site of them. My grandfather was stationed in London,England during World War II and beets were on the menu over there all the time. The beets were served on brown bread toast,mmm... tasty.AND! I also found out that my grandmother liked beets and out of love for him she never made beets,ever again. I am so blessed,blessed beyond belief,but somewhere down the line my parents decided they didn't like beets and well I did not eat them until recently,like 2 days ago recently. The oh-so-awful beets were oh so good.The beets really sweeten up when they are roasted.The bleu cheese is just creamy bleu-cheese heaven.The walnuts add slight crunch and dance well with the sweetness of the roasted beets. Gosh they were good.
So here goes it:
Roasted Beets with Bleu Cheese and Walnuts
Ingredients:
1 bunch beets,washed,scrubbed and trimmed
4 oz of bleu cheese
1/4-1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted (depends how much you like walnuts)
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper,to taste
Directions:
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss whole beets in a bowl with olive oil,salt and pepper.Spread them in a single layer in a roasting pan,roast for 30-40 minutes until fork tender.
-While the beets are roasting,toast your walnuts in a dry skillet for a minute or so,just until browned on the edges,remove from heat and toss them in your bowl.Take out the beets,let cool until you can handle them and carefully peel the skin off of them. Now you can slice them if you like,I left mine whole (whatever makes you happy).
-Put the peeled beets in the bowl with the walnuts,toss in your bleu cheese and drizzle some balsamic vinegar and a little bit more olive oil.Now serve and enjoy.Tasty,tasty tasty.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's probably just the glare on the mason jar.

       I can admit it,I like mason jars. I think the clear glass containers hold tons of possibilities. They can hold your pens and pencils on your desk. The jars are used as drinking glasses and even shabby chic chandeliers, this crafty lady has even given them a whole day of the week . The most alluring use for mason jars is the obvious,pickles! Ok,really there are a lot of tasty,fresh pickling recipes that can be stored in mason jars,through the clear glass the produce looks amazing. The colors of the ingredients all fall into place and the flavors that come together meet you at the twist of the lid.

   I have piddled around with a few recipes over the last few years that wound up in mason jars. I made these really garlicky-sweet pickles,some tasty pepper relish and have even made a a lemon hand scrub that should be mass produced for all your friends,their hands and feet will thank you.I didn't really decide to really get into pickling until this summer and when you make this sort of decision you have a few things to make peace with:
1. You should use fresh,locally-grown produce if at all possible. I know I know it's hard to find certain produce locally grown,well.... sometimes. The cucumbers I have used in the most recent pickling recipes have all come from the local farmers market. Now I am totally willing to admit,that Kroger has some fine produce and yes somewhere you are helping someone that grew that bell pepper,but seek out fresh produce from the local farmers market first. The produce is fresh and the taste is fresher.Ok I'm off my soap box.


2. Follow the canning instructions and read the recipe all the way through. Canning is a  bit of a process. The jars need to be clean and sterilized. Wash them in the dishwasher,that fantastic appliance works wonders,if you don't have a dishwasher,wash them really well with hot soapy water and rinse well. You can sterilize them in a big pot of boiling water that reaches a temperature above 212f degrees for 10 minutes.  The lids and rings have to fit the jar and the rim of the top of the jar needs to be smooth and clean without nicks or chips. Make sure you have a canning pot big enough to fit your jars and a caning rack that fits in your big ol' pot. The rack keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the pan and they can process safely. Processing the jars kills of any bacteria that may want to grow in your delicious pickles and heating up the jar and the ingredients to a certain temperature stops any bacteria growth dead in it's tracks.
3. HAVE FUN! Canning is a lot of work and will produce delicious food for you and your friends and family to enjoy. It's worth the work and you get a steam facial along the way,your skin will thank you.


Now ! onto the first recipe: Bread and Butter Pickles,My Way! Linda Ziedrich has written lots of cookbooks and she wrote a pickling cookbook that has won my heart and it will win yours too! It's called The Joy of Pickling and it has been a fantastic introduction into pickling for me.I hope you enjoy a recipe of hers soon enough for yourself. Now let's get down to some pickling!
Bread-And-Butter Pickles,My Way
-The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich,pg 89
Ingredients:
About 3 1/2 pounds 3-5 inch pickling cucumbers
1/4 c pickling salt
4 tsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp whole celery seeds
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 c cider vinegar
2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp ground tumeric







Directions:
1. Slice the cucumbers 3/16 inch thick,discarding both ends. You should have 2 quarts.In a large bowl,toss the cucumber slices with the salt. Top the cucumbers with ice from 2 ice cube trays. Let the cucumbers stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
2. Drain the cucumbers well. Toss them with the mustard seeds,celery seeds,and hot pepper flakes. Pack the cucumbers into 4 pint mason jars.
3.In a saucepan,bring the vinegar,water,sugar and tumeric to a boil.Pour the hot liquid over the cucumber slices,leaving 1/2 inch headspace.Close the jars two-piece caps.In a boiling-water bath,process the jars for 10 minutes.Or pasturize the jars for 30 minutes by immersing them in water heated to 180f degrees to 185f degrees.
4. Store the cooled jars in a cool dry,dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the pickles. After opening store in the refrigerator. (I have mine stored in my dining room on the bottom shelf of a small table.It's in a corner and they have a chance to really get good and tasty,oh I can't wait!) 
    
    

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Classic culinary beauty

   I had heard a little about squash blossoms from a friend,little did I know how beautiful and tasty they would be. And really... stuffed and fried squash blossoms,where can you go wrong. My friend mentioned that they were only available for a few weeks in the beginning of the summer and a real culinary treat. I visit the farmers markets here in town most weekends and wasn't even on the look out for anything but pickling cucumbers( more on that in a few days). So this past saturday,I go to the downtown farmers market to pick up those pickling cucumbers and some gorgeous wildflowers .I am walking towards the exit and stop at this table full of produce. Well ta-da! guess what was sitting there in a clear plastic to-go container,...(i'll give you time) ok beautiful golden orange SQUASH BLOSSOMS! Yep that moment was priceless and I was immediately under some spell. I give the nice man my money,mutter something about how I've been wanting to cook these for some time ( he just smiled and took my money,...huh) and I tuck them in my bag and I had to hold my self back from skipping all the way to the car (that would have been something to see!).


   I searched the web for a simple stuffed and fried squash blossom recipe and came upon this one.It's on  a pretty great website http://www.thekitchn.com/ . They taste like squash,smell like squash (nothing floral about these gems but the shape) and when you bite in a fresh fried blossom the slight crunch of phyllo comes to mind. Now here we go: get yourself a big glass of iced tea or a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy classic summer appetizer in the making.


Fried Squash Blossoms
Ingredients:
3/4 c cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (i.e. Lawry's)
1/2 c water
1 egg-slightly beaten
10-15 squash blossoms
1/2 c whole-milk ricotta ( i used low-fat,made no huge difference)
1/4 c mayo
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBL bread crumbs
Vegetable oil
salt & pepper,to taste
Directions:
-First make the batter: combine the first 5 ingredients(cornstarch,baking powder,black pepper,flour and seasoned salt) in a mixing bowl . Next add in the water and the egg, stir until smooth.Store in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
-Carefully separate the petals and with a pair of thin scissors,point the scissors down into the flower and snip out the pistil,turn over the flower and just shake it out,then set it aside. These flowers are pretty darn fragile,so be gently.Next mix together the stuffing ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Combine the ricotta,mayo,oregano, and bread crumbs. Gently hold open the flower and spoon in about 1 TBL of the stuffing into the middle of the flower. (I used the slimmest spoon I could find and just kind of let the batter fall into the body of the flower.) Next,gently close the petals and twist the top of flower petals closed.
-Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet,pouring in enough oil to just cover the top of the flowers.Get the batter out of the fridge,dip each flower in the batter and coat completely in batter. Place the battered flower down in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. (In my skillet I could get 4 flowers without crowding them).
  Stuffed and fried squash blossoms are a real treat,a classic culinary beauty if you will. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Best. Banana Chocolate Bread. Ever.

   Never been a fruit and chocolate person.I have never really enjoyed chocolate-dipped strawberries and unlike my mother,I don't like chocolate-dipped candied orange peel.My friend Amanda leaps at the chance to get a frozen,chocolate dipped banana at the fair every year.Oh but wait,people there is hope.Banana and chocolate,what a tasty combo. I know the excitement is overwhelming and let me tell the fact that I like this bread so much amazed me too. Amanda is on to something,but I'm talking banana and chocolate in bread form. Cinnamon,sugar,chocolate banana goodness in one 8x8 baking pan,I'm a changed woman.
And not to mention that this bread is so good and legendary in my house that my husband requested it the other night.We were picking up some groceries at Kroger . I am wondering around the produce section,slowly crossing things off my list when he comes up to me with a question: Him: "Ummm...how many bananas does it take to make that bread you make?" Me: "What bread would that be honey?" Him: "That banana bread with chocolate." Enough said,I told him to pick out 3 ripe bananas. He did.I made the bread and we were both happy campers the next night. Yep the best banana chocolate bread I've ever tasted,trust me. Make it. Enjoy.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Sugar & Chocolate
(this amazing recipe comes from an amazing blog called Orangette http://orangette.blogspot.com/ . It's written by an incredibly talented writer and chef,Molly Wizenberg She's got her own restaurant and she's written a book and you can catch her monthly column in Bon Appetit,this lady has got it goin on. SO here's the plan Stan,go buy her book A Homemade Life make this bread,pour up a big glass of cold milk,chocolate milk if you're that adventerous and read her book. You'll love the book and the bread.)
Ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
For Topping:
2 TBL granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Directions:
-preheat your oven to 375 deg.Butter or spray with a cooking spray an 8x8 sqaure baking pan.
-in a medium mixing bowl mash bananas with either a potato masher or fork.Add eggs and stir in well to combine.Add the sugar,vanilla,flour,baking soda,and cinnamon,stir to mix well. Add 3/4c of the chocolate chips to the mixture and combine.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and set aside.
-in a small bowl mix together the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the batter.The sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c of chocolate chips over the batter.
-bake 35-40 minutes,let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
Thank you Molly Wizenberg.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Some summer,just for you!


   HAPPY SUMMER!!!! So yep these are some heirloom tomatoes growing in my garden and I can't wait to make this http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000283.html and enjoy it with a big ol' glass of iced tea. Go outside,(if it's not way too hot that it makes you ugly sweat as opposed to lady-like glisten) play in the dirt,plant something and take in all this season has to offer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Can't have a party without this dip.

   I tasted this dip a few years ago at a friend's house. It was cream cheesy,parmesan-tastin' oniony goodness and I knew right then I was hooked. That night,I never really found out the name of the dip,I just fed my face. The chip of choice, Fritos. The combination of cheese,onion and parmesan flavors met with the toasted corn chip was out of this world. The dip and Fritos were destined to be old friends. I didn't find out the name of this dip until a month or so later when I went to breakfast with another friend. She listened to me describe this dip I had that night a while back ago and she knew (because this dip gets around,let me tell you) instantly the heavenly concoction I was describing,it was Hot Onion Souffle. I told her that I would get the recipe at some point,but was in no hurry. Later that same day... she called me super excited and told me the page number in this cookbook by the Junior League of Memphis and lo and behold I HAD THE COOKBOOK! The don't-throw-a-party-without-this-dip recipe can be found in the Heart and Soul Cookbook,by The Junior League of Memphis,page number 31(bottom of the page,bookmark this page,you'll thank me later). You taste it once and you'll be hooked. Make it,serve it at few gatherings and just sit back and watch the magic. It's that good. Bottom line.
Hot Onion Souffle
Ingredients: 
1 bag frozen chopped onions,thawed and squeezed dry
24oz ( 3 8oz blocks) or cream cheese,softened
2 cups grated paremsan cheese
1/2 c mayo
Fritos
Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-In a large bowl,mix together the cream cheese,parmesan cheese and mayo.Fold in the onions and mix
 well.Transfer to a shallow 2qt souffle dish.Bake about 15-20 minutes until the edges are golden brown and ...well until it looks like this picture really. The time might depend on your oven,but no more than 25 minutes. Serve with Fritos,other chips might work ok,but like I said this dip and those chips go back a long way. Enjoy a bite and then invite me over.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Basil,oh basil.


    Every year about this time my herb garden really starts to take shape and color. The plants that made it through the winter,like sage and rosemary, have settled into their summer attire and grown out of their winter coats. I make my handful of trips to my favorite nursery here in town,Trees By Touliatos http://www.waterplants.net/ to pick up the annual herbs,namely basil. Now let's be honest,basil has it's many roles to play in many different recipes,but truth be told,I buy it for one reason,basil pesto. Pestos are traditionally a means of preserving herbs and this day and age we can freeze little cubes of it for later and enjoy the spoils of summer into the cooler months. You thaw your little cubes of green goodness,stir in the cheese and ta-da!  pesto. It does well in pasta,brushed on bread for zippy garlic bread of sorts or my most favorite, Caprese salads (more on that soon). I have tested and tried a number of slightly different basil pesto recipes in the last few years and have found the ONE ! And after tasting the finished product it was heaven,beautiful and just plain fantastic. Enjoy,from my food processor to yours!

 Basic Basil Pesto
Adapted from the only cookbook you'll ever need How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (this guy has got it together)
Ingredients:
2 loosely packed cups of fresh basil leaves,big stems discarded,rinsed and dried
Salt to taste
1/2 to 2 cloves garlic,crushed
2 TBL pine nuts,walnuts ,lightly toasted in a dry skillet
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes *optional
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil,or more
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese (optional,but I think it really blossoms in pesto,taste what you make,you'll know)
Directions:
- Combine the basil,salt ,garlic,nuts,and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
-Process,stopping to scrape down the sides of the container occasionally,and adding the rest of the oil gradually.If you want it thinner add a little more oil until desired consistency is reached.Stir in the Parmesan by hand just before serving (if your going to use it up in a few weeks or less,I've found that you can go ahead and stir in the cheese,it'll do fine). Store in the fridge for a week or two, freeze it in ice cube trays ( if you choose to freeze,go ahead and grate your cheese pour it into a ziploc bag and freeze right along with the ice cube tray or just grate up the cheese right before serving the pesto)
-Gosh you're going to love this stuff,I man really... LOVE.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Swiss chard,pretty and tasty... who knew!

    The past few weeks in our weekly produce delivery we've received a variety of greens. Butter lettuce,spinach,endive,dandelion greens,and swiss chard. Oh the swiss chard,not only is it pretty,it's tasty. Swiss chard,when sauteed with olive oil,garlic,red pepper flakes and salt, taste darn fine and has a richness that can't be beat. The fantastic folks at Downing Hollow Farms http://www.downinghollowfarm.com/  grew this bunch of greens. The charming folks at Simply Recipes http://simplyrecipes.com/ showed me a way to make swiss chard sing!

Sauteed Swiss Chard
Ingredients:
1 large bunch of fresh Swiss Chard
1 small garlic clove,sliced
2 TBL olive oil
2 TBL water
pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp butter
salt
Directions:
-Rinse out the swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest third of the stalk,discard. Roughly chop into inch-wide strips.
- Heat a saucepan to medium heat setting,add olive oil,a few slices of garlic and red pepper flakes.Saute for about a minute. Add the chopped swiss chard leaves and cover. Check after about 5 minutes.If it seems a little dry add a couple of tablespoons of water. Flip leaves,so what's on top is now on the bottom. Cover again,check after 5 minutes.(check a piece for doneness,taste it). Add salt to taste and a small amount of butter. Remove to a serving dish.