Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End of August

I am ending August with an array of pictures of food I made and photographed, but never blogged about. For various reasons. I am trying to clean up and organize my photo files because I want to install a new photo editing program. I hope you enjoy gazing at some of my B-list foods.

Antipasto salad. Tasted good at the time, but all my photos were kind of ugly. And that garbanzo bean skin on the cube of cheddar cheese, near the bottom, drives me nuts.

Hoppin' John Stuffed Giant Zucchini. This zuke came from our neighbor's garden and was huge! Over a foot long. I had great hope for this meal, but it was just, "OK".

Cowboy Skillet Supper. That is what I named it at the time. It was ground beef, beans, some other stuff I'm sure, cheese was probably in there, and topped with cornbread. Served with salsa and sour cream. Ho-hum.
Marinated, skewered, and grilled flank steak. Tasted really good, but looks hideous.
French Dip Sandwich. I cooked a roast for this one, and made the au jus from scratch. In the end, I scorched my provolone cheese and got mad.

Empanadas. These were a lot of work and I expected them to taste awesome. Alas, they didn't even make it to "OK". I would relegate them to "not bad" catagory. I'm determined to try Empanadas again when the weather gets cooler.

What is this? I never knew what to call it. It is not really Maque Choux because I left the corn on the cob. It is not Gumbo--no roux. And it isn't Jambalaya. It was quite delicious, made with fresh okra, black eye peas, and some of my home canned tomatoes. But it just seemed like such a mutt of a dish.

Fried Chicken Tenders with Rice and Gravy and Buttered Butter Beans. We both really enjoyed eating this dinner very much. But some things just seem so ordinary, what's to blog about?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup

This is a recipe I make each summer, when tomatoes are at their peak--vine ripened, red, juicy, and bursting with flavor. No liquid is used to make this soup, so the flavor is mainly that of tomatoes.

For this recipe, I use a pressure cooker, which is a piece of kitchen equipment I have not talked about before on this blog. Food cooks much faster in a pressure cooker, the pressure cooker is very energy efficient, keeps the kitchen much cooler, nutrients are not lost in the cooking process, and flavors are intensified.

Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup
(The New Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Pat Dailey)
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
3 leeks, white part only, sliced
1 Tbsp. butter
3 pounds ripe summer tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 - 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup cream, if desired
Small pinch ground allspice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter in pressure cooker. Add the leeks and garlic and cook over medium heat until the leeks are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes to the pan along with 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Cover pressure cooker and bring up to full pressure. Reduce heat to stabilize pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Release pressure. (On really hot days, I step outside to release the pressure, so the steam doesn't fill the kitchen. On cold days, the steam feels nice.)

Remove about 1 cup of the liquid from the pan and reserve. Puree the remaining tomato mixture in a blender, then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the tomato skins and seeds. Add the cream, if using, the allspice, and the salt and pepper. Taste and add remaining 1 tablespoon of brown sugar if the soup is too acidic. Add the reserved cooking liquid if the soup is too thick. (Don't dispose of the liquid if you don't need it. It can be used as cooking liquid in another recipe. Also tastes delicious to drink, well chilled.)

This soup is good served either hot or chilled.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Black Skillet Peach Cobbler

This is a very old-fashioned, very Southern, very rustic, very easy, and very delicious fresh peach cobbler just like my Grandmother used to make. In fact, I found this recipe in a 1960's church cookbook which belonged to Grandmother.

I bought these beautiful, organic, peaches at our Farmers Market. They were extremely flavorful and quite big--almost softball sized. These 4 peaches weighed almost 3 1/2 pounds and yielded me at least 8 cups of slices. And I noshed freely while peeling and slicing.

Black Skillet Peach Cobbler
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/3 cups milk

8 cups fresh peaches
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup to 1 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of peaches and personal preference

Peel and slice peaches into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon juice and sugar, then set aside.

Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet or heavy casserole dish. Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder, then stir in the milk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter over the melted butter. Pour fruit over the top. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the crust is browned and the peaches are tender.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sesame Noodles

For several days now, I have been seeing versions of Asian Noodle Bowls posted on blogs. Which put me in the mood for sesame noodles. I posted a slightly different version of Sesame Noodles last August.

I used Udon noodles to make this salad. Udon is a long, thick, flat, noodle made from whole wheat flour. Or you can use Soba, which is a thinner noodle made from buckwheat. Or you can chose linguine or spaghetti.

Sesame Noodles

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
3 -4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Puree in blender into smooth, then transfer to a large bowl.

Noodle Salad
8 oz. Udon noodles
1 bunch (about 6) scallions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized chunks
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Cook, drain, and rinse noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile prepare vegetables and add to bowl with the dressing. When the noodles are cooked and drained, add those to the bowl as well. Stir all together to mix well.

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chocolate Layer Cake for Baby's First Birthday

We wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for Baby's first birthday, but I had a little trouble finding a recipe which fit my criteria for a baby. All the recipes I found had some ingredient I did not want to use--Guiness Stout, coffee, vegetable shortening, tomato soup, mayonnaise (ugh!), corn syrup. Admittedly chocolate cake is never going to be considered a health food, but Baby does not need those other ingredients introduced into her diet. I didn't even decorate the cake, although I was very tempted to use sprinkles, because I didn't want to use any artificial colors.

Ultimately, I started a Talk Topic on Serious Eats and that is where a fellow reader, AnnieNT, introduced me to this cake recipe, which is from Hershey's website. The cake is easy to make, very chocolately, and has the perfect moistness. Check out the Talk thread to see some other delicious sounding chocolate cakes.

Chocolate Layer Cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bow. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla;beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Stir in vanilla.

Here, I thought Baby was about to go in face first, like she sees the dogs doing but she did not. She sure loved the cake! She's never had anything like it and found it very delightful. She was covered in chocolate and so was her high chair by the time she was finished. Luckily, we were having a backyard barbeque and her wading pool was filled nearby. Also, the great Ikea high chair ($25) can be hosed down.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mr. Stripey Tomatoes Stuffed with Loaded Tuna Salad

We have a local farmer who is legendary for his Mr. Stripey tomatoes. The Mr. Stripey is an heirloom tomato with a mix of red and yellow colors, more yellow on the stem end, redder toward the bottom, and striped along the sides. The fully ripe Mr. Stripey is surprisingly sweet, tender, juicy, mild, and flavorful. We are not the only ones in town who eagerly await the appearance of Harold's tomatoes around mid-August each year.

The thing Pritchard Parker always wants to eat with the first Mr. Stripey, is a simple tomato sandwich--white bread, mayonnaise, tomato slices, salt and pepper. I like them with cottage cheese, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of celery seed.

Here, I have stuffed Mr. Stripey tomatoes with tuna salad, which I really loaded with ingredients. I'm always happy when I hear my husband say, after taking his first bite, "Mmmmmm, this is good!"

Loaded Tuna Salad
12 oz. canned tuna
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. pimiento
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
6 oz. extra sharp Vermont white cheddar, diced
Juice of half a lime
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. mayo
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cherry Clafoutis

When Robin Bellinger posted this recipe on Serious Eats, I knew I was going to make it. I wanted to enjoy more cherries while they are still in season and her clafoutis looked delicious. I even lifted my moratorium on baking for this one.

My kitchen faces west, so I get the scalding afternoon sun glaring in. It gets hot in there! My solution was to bake this early in the morning while it was still cool. As I was pitting the cherries, I realized I can't possibly go through the summer without baking crisps, crumbles, grunts, and cobblers from delicious and seasonal stone fruits, just because we are having the third hottest summer on record. Morning baking seems like a good answer. . .hmmm, peach cobbler for Sunday Brunch?

Cherry Clafoutis
(compliments Robin Bellinger)
12 oz. fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup minus 2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 cups milk
3 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place the cherries, cut side down, into a buttered and floured, 9 1/2 inch tart pan, baking dish, or ceramic pie dish.

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in half of the milk until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add the sugar, remaining milk and vanilla, and whisk until smooth.

Pour the batter over the cherries and dot the top with butter. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 25 - 35 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned. Cool completely before serving.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mango Lassi

I first became aware of lassi by dining in Indian restaurants, which I love. I enjoy exploring other cultures through their cuisine, and I'm always dabbling in unfamiliar gastronomic territory.

I once invited some friends for dinner and promised them Indian food, which none of them had ever experienced. After spending all day in the kitchen, I was very disappointed with my food. My friends thought it tasted great. I thought it tasted good, but not authentic, and I had no idea how to fix it. That is when I decided to leave the wonderful and flavorful curries to the experts. I no longer attempt complex Indian dishes, but rather go to restaurants to enjoy them. I can, however, muster decent lassi.

Lassi is a chilled yogurt drink and is like a healthy milkshake. Lassi can be flavored variously with salt, mint, cumin, sugar, fruit, and even spicy additions such as ground chilis or ginger. I had a perfectly ripe and juicy mango on hand, so that's what I used.

Mango Lassi
2 cups unflavored, all natural yogurt
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. (more to taste) cardamom
1 cup cracked ice

Place everything in a blender and blend until all ingredients are well combined, light, and frothy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza Panini

I was inspired to make this by a post on the blog Plain Chicken, although this is not even the same recipe. Do you ever do that, start out with the intention of making one thing and end up with something completely different? Steph has a really cute blog, so do check it out.

I used a purchased foccacia, a sturdy bread, because I planned to really pile it up with pizza toppings. I don't have a panini press, so used my stovetop grillpan, with a cast iron skillet for flattening. Since it is too hot to bake a pizza, this worked out just fine to get a little pizza hit. And I will be making these again. Soon.

Pizza Panini
Provolone cheese
Fresh sliced tomatoes
Fresh basil
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh sliced mushrooms
Red bell pepper slices
Marinara sauce for dipping

Split the foccacia horizontally. Pile on pizza toppings of your choice. I like to use cheese on the bottom and the top because it helps hold everything in place. Grill and press until toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Olive Potato Salad with Grilled Scallions

This is not my usual way of making potato salad, but was born based upon ingredients I had on hand and which needed to be used. It is one of my favorite things about cooking. . .taking inventory in the kitchen, then creating a dish.

I already had a grill going so decided to grill the scallions, which turned out to be a smoky flavor bonus. But I would not have heated up the grill just for that. Also, I originally thought I would dress this salad with lemon juice and olive oil, but knew my husband would prefer it dressed simply with a little mayo.

Olive Potato Salad with Grilled Scallions
2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
8 scallions (1 bunch) grilled, then sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. (approx.) mayo
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Simmer the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in salted water, until fork tender. Try not to over cook them. Meanwhile, slice and combine, in a large mixing bowl, the celery, olives, scallions, and eggs.

When the potatoes are done, drain them, and rinse in cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off with a paring knife and chop into bite size pieces. Add to the mixing bowl with the vegetables and eggs. Add the parsley and stir gently until everything is well blended. Fold in the mayo and add salt and pepper, to taste. Chill for a few hours before serving.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grilled Ratatouille

I suppose there are as many recipes for Ratatouille as there are cooks to prepare it. If you didn't know this very popular French dish before, you probably do now from the movie of the same name.

Ratouille is a wonderful dish to make in the summer, while all the vegetables are abundant and at the peek of freshness, which is also when they are the most affordably priced. I went on a trip to the Farmers Market for my vegetables. I bought 8 Japanese eggplants, 6 summer squash, 3 large Vidalia onions, 1 each red and green bell peppers, and 4 very large and perfectly ripe and lucious tomatoes, all for under $8. And I made a huge pot of Ratatouille.

I posted a version of Ratatouille with roasted tomatoes, which are delicious, last year, but it was already into the fall when I made it. Right now, I'm not roasting anything! For this version, I grilled most of the vegetables.

Making Ratatouille does involve quite a lot of vegetable chopping, so I hope you have a good cutting board, a sharp knife, and enjoy the quiet meditative process of working with fresh, lovely vegetables.

Grilled Ratatouille
3 large onions, roughly chopped
3- 4 plump cloves garlic, chopped
2 bell peppers, any color, quartered, seeds removed
8 Japanese eggplant, split in half lengthwise
6 summer squash, split in half lengthwise
4 very large ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Olive Oil

In a large soup pot, cook onions, in olive oil, over medium low heat, until tender. Meanwhile, drizzle peppers, eggplant, and squash with olive oil, and salt and pepper them. Grill until tender. Chop the grilled vegetables to desired size and add to the pot with the onions. Add the garlic. Stir together, and simmer for a few minutes. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and the fresh rosemary. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with French bread and brie. Ratatouille is also delicious with steak, and equally satisfying with brown rice. It is good hot, cold, or at room temperature, and the flavor improves after a couple of days of refrigeration.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Caprese Inspired Pita Pizza

I had several homegrown, ripe tomatoes, as well as a few whole wheat pita breads, and made these simple pizzas. I went to the market down the street to buy fresh mozzarella. I was very disappointed to find they were sold out of fresh basil and for the life of me, I don't know why we didn't grow any this year. I did, however, have oregano and chives growing, so substituted those.

Caprese Inspired Pita Pizza
4 whole wheat pita breads
3 medium large tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Basil or other fresh herbs
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes, then place them in a single layer on paper towels to absorb some of the extra moisture. Meanwhile, place the pita breads on a baking sheet and brush generously with olive oil. Slice the mozzarella. Arrange alternating layers of tomato and mozzarella around the bread. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, or other herbs of your choice, and salt and pepper.

Bake on the bottom rack of a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until heated through, the cheese is melted, and the bottom is toasted.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Stuffed Dates

I was searching for an appropriate Middle Eastern dessert, which would not involve baking, to end my Falafel dinner, when I came upon the concept of stuffed dates. Simple, sweet, healthful, cooling. Perfect.

Stuffed Dates
Pitted dates
Toasted whole almonds
Confectioners sugar

Stuff each date with an almond then roll in confectioners sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

After a few hours of refrigeration, the dates began to absorb and moisturize the sugar, making it glaze-like, rather than powdery like they initially were.

Delicious with a cup of coffee.