Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orange & Red Onion Salad

I wanted a simple dinner. I don't mean easy; I was perfectly willing to put in kitchen time. I wanted something simple tasting. I decided on a straightforward Marinara sauce, made from a quart of my home canned summer tomatoes, served with spaghetti and freshly grated parmesan cheese. To go along with it, an orange and onion salad, which I have made several times.

Depending on the oranges, I may add a LOT of onion and a LOT of parsley. I have also arranged the orange slices on a mound of spinach. This time, I used a combination of very beautiful and dramatic Cara Cara and Moro (Blood) Oranges. Because of the juiciness of the oranges, their bright color, and intense flavors, I barely kissed them with the onions and parsley. I love this salad with tomato based pasta dishes.

Orange & Red Onion Salad
(from LIDIA'S ITALY by Lidia Bastianich)
8 small blood oranges or other oranges
1 medium red onion
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cut off the peel and pith of each orange completely, exposing the flesh of the fruit. Slice the oranges into rounds. Handle them gently so they remain intact.

Peel the onion and slice thinly.

Arrange the oranges prettily on a serving platter or individual salad plates. Scatter the onion slices all over the oranges.

Sprinkle the salt all over the top. Grind lots of coarse black pepper over the top. Drizzle with the best quality olive oil you have. Shower the parsley over all and serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I have never seen a cheesecake recipe quite like this one, not to say one doesn't exist. This cheesecake is very rich and cheesy, but bakes up much lighter and not as sweet as a standard New York style cheesecake, without using commercially prepared "lite" ingredients. I have made this recipe many, many times over the years, and everyone who has ever eaten it has complimented its deliciousness.

I got the recipe from a cookbook called, Mother's in the Kitchen, which was published in the 1970's by La Leche League International. The book is filled with recipes submitted, tested, and compiled by mothers, over a four year period of time, with the goal of helping families acquire good eating habits, which is to say, the habit of regularly eating food that will be good for you. The recipes contain no mixes or packaged food, and the focus is on nutrition, stretching the family food budget, and economy of time, presented with the philisophy that feeding your family should be done with tender loving care.

8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
6 to 8 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla
Graham cracker crust

For the crust, combine 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 Tbsp. melted butter. Press into the bottom and part way up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the filling, have the eggs and cheese at room temperature. Separate eggs, using enough to make 1/2 cup yolks. Blend cottage cheese and egg yolks in blender until smooth. Add sugar, cornstarch and cream cheese and blend. Add vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into prepared crust. Bake in the middle of a 300 degree oven for 1 hour. Turn off oven and allow to cool 1 hour without opening the oven door. Serve with fresh fruit or other topping of choice. I served it with figs I preserved last summer.

Unfortunately, this little gem is out of print but if you ever see a copy in a used bookstore or garage sale, nab it, especially if you have children. The last time I checked, Amazon had 2 available, used, one priced at $85.00 and the other at $89.95! The original price, printed on my book is $4.00.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Classic Caesar Salad

This is the salad for my Saturday Steak Dinner. I adapted it only slightly from a recipe of the esteemed Deerpark Restaurant, which is located on the beautiful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. All the components of this salad can be prepared ahead of time.

Caesar Salad
4 -5 anchovy fillets
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce
3/4 cup olive oil
1 small baguette
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large head romaine lettuce
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

Prepare the dressing by processing first 3 ingredients in an electric blender at low speed until smooth. Add next 7 ingredients and process until well blended. Cover and chill.

Trim romaine lettuce core and separate into leaves. Tear into pieces and plunge into a sinkful of cold water. Lift lettuce from the water and spin dry. Wrap in paper towels and place into a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more.

Make the croutons by cutting the baguette into bite sized pieces. Heat the 2 Tbsp. olive and 1 Tbsp. butter and add the garlic cloves. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the garlic and add the cubed bread, stirring until it is all coated. Spread onto a sheet pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until toasty.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce with the croutons. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing, tossing gently. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and freshly grated black pepper.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday Steak Supper for a Soldier

The Soldier in our family is leaving for his deployment to the Middle East. I had told him I wanted to cook a dinner for him before he left and asked what he would like. Without hesitation, he replied, "Steak and a baked potato."

His wife helped me hone the menu. How does he like his steak cooked? Does he want a sauce? How does he like his baked potato? Don't forget the chives she advised me--he is always disappointed when he orders a baked potato in a restaurant and they don't have chives. What kind of salad dressing does he like? He loves cheesecake.

Menu to Honor a Service Member
Charcoal Grilled Angus Beef New York Strip Steak
Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes
Classic Caesar Salad
Yeast Rolls
Cheesecake with Summer Preserved Figs

Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
4 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp. softened butter
2 Tbsp. snipped chives

Scrub potatoes very well under cold running water. Dry them, then rub all over with olive oil. Place onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 60 - 70 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cook bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towel.

Slice off the top quarter of each potato. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh leaving a quarter inch of flesh on the skin. Place all the scooped out potato into a bowl and mash with a hand masher. Add the butter and sour cream and continue mashing until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese and the reserved bacon, crumbled. Stir in the chives. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the potato mixture back into each of the potato shells. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheese is melted.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lady Cakes

I went outside at daybreak and heard birds singing! Music to my ears after the seemingly endless run of cold and snowy (and silent) weather this winter. A respite is forecast for the weekend with relatively balmy temperatures, maybe even 50 degrees, and plenty of sunshine. Should feel like heaven.

Here are some little cakes I made to have with a cup of tea or coffee. I made these because I wanted an excuse to use my square muffin pan. They are super easy to make and clean up is a breeze--no mixer or food processor needed. They are not too sweet and have a texture somewhere between a scone and a cupcake.

Lady Cakes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. butter, sliced into pieces, and allowed to come to room temperature
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place oven rack in upper third of oven. Butter and flour muffin pan or use cupcake liners, if desired.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix and cut in the butter until the mixture becomes moist crumbs. Add egg yolk, egg, vanilla, and buttermilk. Beat together, with a wooden spoon or spatula, until well combined.

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Combine the flour, sugars, salt and cinnamon. Pour the melted butter over the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients are moistened but still crumbly.

Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups and top each with some of the crumb mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving, if desired.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Found List #3

(front and back)

Pear Blue Chicken Salad

About a year ago I decided I really like the taste of fruit with roasted chicken. Therefore, I enjoy making chicken salad with leftover roasted chicken and seasonal fresh fruit. For my most recent version, I used pears and blue cheese, which is a classic flavor combination.

I loved the pears in this! Their fresh, juicy mildness was the perfect contrast to the strong cheese and the heartiness of the chicken. I think pears are a little underrated and I often forget how delicious they are.

Pear Blue Chicken Salad
5 cups (approx.) roasted chicken, torn into bite-size pieces
3 bosc pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 oz. blue cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey

Toss together the chicken, pears, blue cheese, shallot, and pecans. For the dressing, whisk the vinegar and honey into the mayo, until very smooth. Pour over the chicken mixture and stir gently until well coated.

Note: The dressing tastes best if made the day before and refrigerated overnight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

I had made a big pot of soup and decided I wanted a bread to serve with it. It was too late in the day to start a yeast bread, and ordinarily I would have turned to cornbread, or even biscuits. But I wanted a loaf of bread, partly because I was already planning ahead for sandwiches the following day.

There are many variations on Irish Soda Bread and some question whether the Irish even invented it. Some recipes call for raisins but I opted not to include them. I did however, add some sugar for a little sweetness. The traditional bread is shaped into a round with an X cut into it to prevent the crust from cracking. I used a well buttered loaf pan and let 'er crack.

The bread was moist, dense, slightly sweet, buttery, and delicious with our soup. It was great for sandwiches the next day and excellent toasted and spread with apple butter, the day after that, for breakfast.

Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter

Combine all dry ingredients well. Stir egg into buttermilk, then pour this mixture, all at once, into the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Stir in the butter. Pour into a buttered loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 - 70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Rocquie on Foodista

Friday, February 12, 2010

Croissant Bread Puddings with Chocolate

Sometimes food seems to fly out of my kitchen. At other times, a food will take on a seemingly mysterious ability to last forever. The latter usually happens when I've been on a kick of indulging on an item until we are tired of it. Several years ago it happened with portobello mushrooms and I still can't look at one of those the same. More recently, I did it to myself with feta cheese--probably won't want any of that for a while. If I don't slow down on chickpeas, they will be next.

Of late, I have been on a mild croissant bender. Until I had to stop replenishing my croissant inventory and noticed that I had a few on hand that would need to be used or tossed in a day or two. (You know your bread has some age on it when you start checking for moldy spots.) I decided to use them for a bread pudding. I also spotted some Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao) leftover from my Christmas baking and decided to use them too. The pudding was delicious, when puffy and still warm from the oven.

Croissant Bread Pudding with Chocolate
7 - 8 cups leftover croissants or other bread, cut up or torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup chocolate chips
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 quart milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Heavily butter a 3 quart shallow baking dish. Place the bread in the dish. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs then add the sugar. Whisk until well blended, then add the milk. Continue to whisk until evenly colored; stir in the vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and press down any bread that floats to completely saturate it. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 - 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

The next day I was looking at the pudding. It was no longer puffed, but rather sunken, and very unattractive. I thought I'd cut it into squares to help the aesthetics, because the taste was great. Then I thought no, I'll take a biscuit cutter and cut it into rounds. Then, Hey, it's Valentine's Day, I'll cut it into hearts.

A little dusting of confectioner's sugar, and now it is pretty.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

We had a Super Bowl party for 2 and I made Chicago-style deep dish pizza, which is something I ate once, loved, and think about from time to time. Because I had been thinking about it a lot lately, I decided it was time to try my hand at it, and did an internet search for a recipe. The one I decided on was from, though, of course I tweaked it to satisfy my own tastes. I used fresh garlic rather than the garlic powder called for. More importantly, I made a crust rather than using the frozen bread dough called for. Lastly, I made my pizza in a black cast iron skillet. It was beautiful!

I did not get a photo because of lack of light that day, plus we were really hungry. This is a leftover slice, which was my lunch the next day. It was just as delicious reheated. I'll be making this again, and next time it will be a vegetarian version--asparagus season is right around the corner.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
1 pkg. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm water
2 - 2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. bulk sausage
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, well drained
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 freshly grated parmesan cheese

For the crust: In a mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the oil, salt, and enough flour to form a stiff dough, beating until smooth. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and let it rest for 5 minutes. Roll or pat the dough into a circle, then transfer it to a lightly oiled, 10 inch deep dish pizza pan, a springform pan, or skillet.

For the filling: Crumble the sausage into a large skillet and cook, over medium heat, until evenly browned. Drain the sausage well and place onto the prepared crust. Drain excess fat from the skillet and add the mushroom and onions; cook until the onions are tender. Stir in the garlic, then the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and red pepper.

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the sausage, then spread the tomato mixture over it. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pizza in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cheesy Potatoes

I don't have cravings for chocolate or sweets, nor for chips and salty foods. The one food I often crave is cheese. It has been my favorite food for as long as I can remember. And when I want cheese, nothing else will do. I can, have, and do easily and cheerfully give up meat but cheese is quite another thing. I think the French have the right idea with a cheese course for dessert.

I feel that food cravings are meaningful and should be acknowledged and considered. For example, some nutritionists believe a shortage of magnesium can cause cravings for chocolate. Cravings for ice and starch usually indicates a defiency in iron. My own cheese cravings probably point to my body's need for calcium and vitamin B12, which I also try to supplement with leafy greens, legumes, and sesame, because in spite of cheese's great nutrition profile, it is a fatty, salty food, which can be difficult for some to digest.

I like to eat potatoes too because of their high concentration of potassium, which is proven to regulate blood pressure. These cheesy potatoes, along with some steamed greens, makes a very satisfying meal.

Cheesy Potatoes
2 pounds small waxy potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 - 6 scallions, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup grated Gouda cheese

Scrub the potatoes well and cook in boiling, salted water until fork tender.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add the scallions and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomatoes, the cumin, and the water. Stir and cook until a sauce forms, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.

Drain the potatoes and slice thickly into a serving bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Okra and Tomatoes

I'm dreaming of summer.

We have had a severe winter this time around and it has started to oppress us. All of us. Everyone I talk to. This morning, the light is drab and gloomy and the sky is gray and pregnant--with something. We have a 100% chance of precipitation, but what to expect depends upon who you listen to. Luckily, I have a weather rock. You know the one. . . if the rock is wet it is raining, if the rock is white it is snowing, if the rock is glistening, it is icy, and so on.

I'm also tired of hearty soups and stews, although those are my favorite things to cook. We still need sturdy, warming food and I decided a pot of okra and tomatoes sounded just right. Ideally you should start with fresh, young pods of okra, and plump, juicy, vine ripened garden tomatoes for this recipe to be at its best. I used a jar of my home canned tomatoes and fresh frozen okra. This is an okra lovers dream.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or bacon drippings if you have it)
1 large, sweet onion, chopped
1 lb. okra, thoroughly rinsed, sliced if desired
3-4 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
(or 1 quart canned tomatoes and their juice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Cook until the onions are tender and turning golden. Add the okra and tomatoes along with their juice. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 25 minutes, until the okra is very tender. Add salt and pepper.

I've been trying to think of kind words to describe the texture of okra, which releases a milky substance whose thickening properties make it useful in soups and stews and famous in gumbo. Glutinous? Ick. Muculent? Even worse. Silky sounds good. OK then, silky it is. Oh heck, I am not going to defend okra. It is slimy. I love that about it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Found List #1

I love lists. I live and organize my life with lists, master lists, sub-lists. There is the ongoing shopping list in the kitchen where I jot down grocery items as I exhaust them. And of course, there are post-it-notes, which I adore. Lists help me save money and time, and free my mind of having to "remember" things, so it is free to dream and create.

I became fascinated, years ago, by strangers' discarded grocery lists. I like piecing together a story of a person by their list. I speculate about whether they are male or female, lifestyle, single or partnered, children, whether someone enjoys cooking, their state of health, often hobbies are revealed, religious propensities, and whether they are happy. Later, I learned I am not the only one. . .there are websites, such as grocery and even a magazine, Found. The magazine features not just lists, but letters and other found items. Not me, I'm only interested the the grocery lists.

This is the first list I ever saved and is still my favorite. To this day, it makes me smile to see the title and date, along with the obvious effort on the handwriting. It is a very hopeful list and I have my imaginary story of the man, yes man, who made this list.

Stay tuned for more found lists.