Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quinoa Croquettes

These delicious croquettes are a spin-off  from my Ten Layer Salad. I used quinoa in that salad and had some leftover I wanted to eat because that stuff is expensive!

Up until now, I have avoided jumping on the band wagon of quinoa's current popularity. I had eaten it in the past and frankly, I just didn't find it to be, pardon the antiquated cliche, "all that".  But I recently decided to give it another chance to shine and splurged on some.

And I do mean splurge. I was buying some items from the bulk bins as follows: wheat berries at 89c per pound, brown rice at 1.29 and quinoa at 4.59!  And that was bulk prices.

Once again, I found the cooked quinoa to be rather ho-hum flavor-wise.  However, once I jazzed it up and made it into savory little cakes, we loved it.

Quinoa Croquettes
2 cups cooked quinoa, chilled
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or other hard cheese

Combine all ingredients and form into patties. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add another egg. If it is too wet, add more bread crumbs.

Place formed patties onto a sheet pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with a light cooking oil and set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, use a spatula to gently lower the croquettes, one at a time, into the pan. Let them brown, undisturbed, on the first side. Then gently turn them over and brown on the second side.

When golden brown on both sides, place onto paper towels or brown paper to drain.

Can be served piping hot but are equally delicious at room temperature.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Marinated Cheese

AS PROMISED, THE RECIPE for the marinated cheese I mentioned (and pictured) in my previous post, Ten Layer Salad.  I originally made this as a topping/dressing for salad. But it also serves as a lovely appetizer in its on right.

The vinaigrette the cheese is marinated in is delicious served over crisp salad greens or as a marinade for broccoli, cauliflower or other vegetables. Would also serve well as a marinade for meats or seafood prior to grilling.

The marinated cheese alone is also lovely served with crackers. Better yet, with crusty bread to dip into the delicious dressing.

Marinated Cheese
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. mozzarella, Monterrey jack, or Swiss cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3-4 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2 oz.) jar diced pimientos
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. fresh basil chopped, or 1 tsp. dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all marinade ingredients in a jar and shake until combined. (Or use blender).

Cut cheeses into slices or cubes, as desired. Pour the marinade over the cheese. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ten Layer Salad with Fresh Ginger Dressing

FOR A RECENT LADIES LUNCH, I was asked to bring a salad. People often ask me to bring the salad because they know I will actually make a nice salad, rather than stopping by the grocery store deli for potato salad, or bringing a bag of lettuce, a box of jaw breaker croutons and a bottle of dressing.

I knew all the ladies attending the luncheon favored THE seven layer salad. You know the one, right? It has been a staple at picnics forever and consists of lettuce (iceberg), boiled eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, peas, cucumbers, and tomatoes all layered in a pretty glass bowl. The deal breaker with that salad is what goes on top. I have never seen one that did not have a thick layer of mayonnaise to seal in the fresh ingredients below it.

No. I just have to say no, absolutely not, to a thick layer of mayo on my salad.

I designed this salad after a vegetable juice I had bought, a few days earlier, at the health food store and adored. The flavors were just fantastic together. Of course my juice blend did not include quinoa but I wanted this salad to be substantial so I added it here with great result.

Ten Layer Salad
Bok Choy
Red Bell Pepper
Crisp apple plus lemon juice to prevent discoloration
Alfalfa Sprouts

Cook quinoa according to package directions and let cool. Wash all vegetables, including the alfalfa sprouts. Slice the bok choy, cucumber, scallions, and celery. Dice fresh pineapple which was previously peeled and cored, and also dice red bell pepper. Remove large stems from a handful or two of fresh parsley. Peel and dice apple, drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and toss to coat.

Layer ingredients in a pretty clear glass bowl in the order given.

I also made marinated cheese (recipe forthcoming in another post) which can be used as an alternate dressing to make the salad even more substantial.

Extra ingredients can be layered in jars and saved in the refrigerator for several days.

Fresh Ginger Salad Dressing
1/2 cup salad oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 T. fresh grated ginger
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake to blend (or use electric blender)

Place salad layers into a bowl and toss to combine. This really is a terrific combination of flavors.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Red Flannel Hash

I LOVE THE NAME RED FLANNEL HASH. It sounds so appealing, cozy, and comfortable. Also bright and cheerful. I first heard of Red Flannel Hash from the fictional, smart-mouth tough guy with a heart of gold character, Spenser, a Boston based Private Investigator, in a series of books written by Robert B. Parker.

In many cases, while investigating, Spenser would get out of the rain, and of course he would be drenched (and remember tough guys don't use umbrellas) by going into a warm diner and ordering a steaming cup of coffee along with Red Flannel Hash. After this happened on more than one occasion, I started wondering, what the heck is Red Flannel Hash?  So I "investigated".

Red Flannel Hash is corned beef hash with the addition of beets. After my husband's favorite meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage, I usually make either Reuben sandwiches or Corned Beef Hash with the leftovers. After I learned about Red Flannel Hash, my hash changed forever. We love beets anyway and adding them to hash transforms its flavor and gives it such a beautiful color.

I don't think you need a hard and fast recipe for a dish called hash, but this is more or less what I did.

Red Flannel Hash
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups chopped leftover corned beef
2 cups cooked beets, diced
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter and oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add in the chopped onion and potatoes. Cook and stir until they are tender. Toss in the corned beef and beets. Mix together and continue cooking until everything is hot and beginning to brown. Top with freshly ground black pepper. There should be enough salt from the corned beef, but taste and add some if you like.

Serve with eggs and some of your leftover Irish Soda Bread.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Roasted Thai Eggplant

I HAVE SPOKEN SEVERAL TIMES about my husband's love of shopping so I thought it only fair to talk about mine. My Retail Therapy comes from shopping for food. Besides my regular grocery store, I look at and shop for food in Mexican Tiendas, an Oriental Market, 5 different independently owned, local Natural Food Stores. I discovered a little grocery area connected to a gas station that carries Middle Eastern and Indian foods. We have a wonderful State Farmers Market in Asheville, North Carolina and many smaller tailgate markets have sprung up all over town. We have 3 different supermarket chains based right here out of North Carolina and one from our neighbors in South Carolina. We have 2 (that I know of) local, independent meat markets. We have a few of what I call Boutique stores, spice shops, bakeries. So many choices.

With all those food stores thriving in our area, the big guys have decided to move in. Whole Foods is building a huge store and so is Publix. A Trader Woe's just opened and I do not "get" that one. Six different locally owned small businesses, were put out of business and razed to make room for a national corporate chain. Here in the era of emphasis on local food and environmental awareness, we have a store based out of California, the furthest state from us--a store where everything is packaged. Every produce item is wrapped. And for a store that built its reputation on "natural foods", they are anything but. I read labels. They don't and won't reveal the sources of their private label items. From the outside, the store looks huge--a hulking thing in the small mixed use neighborhood, but I was shocked when I got inside to find how small it is.  All facade. But they have cool clip art and aloha shirts. And an almost cult-like following.

Yesterday, I was in one of our local supermarkets and spotted these cute little eggplants about the size of ping-pong balls.  I just had to try them. They were labeled Thai eggplant, but they were locally (greenhouse) grown.

When I cut them open, I was surprised by how many dark seeds they had. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that. So I rinsed them, salted  liberally with Celtic sea salt,  let them set for 30 minutes, and then rinsed thoroughly.

In a large mixing bowl, I combined about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 garlic clove, minced, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Then I tossed the eggplant with the mixture and spread them onto a rimmed sheet pan.

Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning half way through the cooking time.

I was originally planning to make a curry sauce for these and serve over brown rice. But they were so delicious just like this, we ate them as a side dish. These eggplants were so flavorful, they didn't even need a dipping sauce.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

German Chocolate Cake

SUCH A MAN CAKE, the German Chocolate Cake, don't you think? Because it is my husband's favorite cake, I'm always looking at others' recipes for it. I recently saw a magnificent looking specimen, complete with three layers soaked in a rum syrup, and a chocolate frosting in addition to the buttery, coconut and toasted pecan filling. It was gorgeous I tell you.

The thing is, see that wedge of cake missing in the photos? Pritchard Parker ate that much after dinner last night and he couldn't do that with a richer one. This cake is simple, light, and not too sweet; just the thing for a weeknight dessert. Perhaps on a special occasion, I will go all out and make the deluxe version.

I make this, my husband's favorite cake to follow his favorite meal of the year--corned beef and cabbage. I made both yesterday.

This year's dinner afforded me a few culinary challenges opportunities. The first was the fact that it was snowing. Undaunted, I put on my coat and drove to the grocery store. On my way, I told myself not to go to my regular store because they sold out of corned beef last year. No, I told myself, they wouldn't be out again. Surprise, they had no corned beef. So I parked my buggy, went back out into the snow and drove to the other store, the one I don't like.

I got back home with corned beef and the rest of the items on my list. I set the groceries in the kitchen and went to change clothes. When I walked back to the kitchen, I smelled something bad. I started sniffing and realized the odor was coming from my shopping bags. Upon further sniffing and inspection, I discovered there was a rotten potato in the bag of them I had just bought.

Ugh. Gag. You know that horrible smell, right?  And so I had to deal with that.

Later, while the corned beef was cooking and I was on the phone talking to my Mother with my Mother talking to me, I smelled something else bad. I sniffed: she talked. Suddenly, I realized the beef was burning and rushed to the kitchen.

After much aggravation, I was able to salvage the dinner and it turned out to be delicious. I do, however, still have that burned pan soaking in the kitchen.

Fortunately, things went smoothly when I made the cake, which I had done earlier in the day.

German Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
4 oz. sweet baker's chocolate, melted
1/2 cup milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer, on low speed, until blended. Increase speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Pour batter evenly into two 8" or 9" cake pans, which have been greased and floured. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove cakes to wire racks to cool.

German Chocolate Icing
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, roasted, chopped

In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring milk, butter, and brown sugar to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans.

When both the cake and the icing are completely cool, place one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread half the icing onto the layer. Top with remaining cake layer and icing.

Pritchard Parker found this 1960's cake plate and cover at one of his stores.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Smoothie

I AM STILL ENJOYING A SMOOTHIE (almost) every day. I say almost because things do come up. Last weekend, we had an out-of-town family get together. Four of us girls shared a hotel suite and had a blast! I was outnumbered on the temperature control; I like to be very warm but the other three said, "no way".

I knew this beforehand so I packed extra warm PJ's for hanging around the room. And I refrained from packing my blender though I did think about it. The hotel had breakfast so we ate there. I'm not used to eating breakfast at all, but I did enjoy slipping on my sweat yoga pants and riding the elevator down to a choice of bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, biscuits and gravy, waffles, pastries, grits, oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt, and ice cold orange juice.

Somehow, I became the designated waffle maker.  I thought about Mama telling me of a trip she was on with Daddy. While she was checking out the hotel's breakfast line-up, a man walked up beside her, one she thought was her husband, and she asked, "Do you want me to make you a waffle?" The man replied, "Well, sure." Mama was very embarrassed when she realized the man was a stranger, fortunately a good humored one.

Avocados have become one of my favorite smoothie ingredients. Not only are they full of good nutrition, they blend up so smooth and creamy, taste delicious, and keep me satisfied for hours.  Almost every smoothie I make has a banana because they add just the right amount of sweetness. A juicy pink grapefruit makes this one just perfect.

Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Smoothie
1 ripe avocado
1 pink grapefruit
1  ripe banana
1/2 cup yogurt
Milk, coconut water, or juice as needed or desired for consistency
1 serving protein powder (optional)

Peel and roughly chop avocado and put into blender. Add one peeled banana. Peel grapefruit including the white pith. Holding the peeled grapefruit over the blender to catch juices, cut sections away from the membrane using a sharp paring knife and let them drop into the blender. Squeeze the grapefruit to catch all the juice. Add the yogurt and protein powder if using. Add liquid of choice and blend to desired consistency.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Apple Amber

GRATED APPLES ARE COOKED briefly before baking in this traditional Irish dessert. Apple Amber (don't you love the name) is a lightly sweetened apple mousse topped with meringue and can be made with or without a crust.

Any apples can be used to make this pie. I used three different varieties--Fuji, Pinata, and Opal because that is what was in my fruit bowl.

Apple Amber
Pastry dough for single pie crust
4 medium apples (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 Tbsp. water
Juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, or to taste, divided

Line pie dish with the pastry dough and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grate the apples on a coarse grater. Put the water in a heavy pot and heat until steaming. Add the apples and cook over medium heat until reduced to a puree, about 15 minutes. The apples do not have to completely disappear into the puree; some texture is fine. Remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks slightly. Add the lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar to the apple puree, then add the egg and stir well. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites, adding 1/4 cup sugar gradually as you continue beating. Whip until stiff peaks form. When the pie has baked 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and spread the meringue over the top of the pie. Return to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Serve hot or cold.

Rather than spread the fluffy egg whites on the pie, I piped on little mounds of meringue.

I love the little landscape it created.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Magic Cake

MAGIC CAKE CYCLED through the food blog circuit about a year ago. I was intrigued by these pretty little squares and finally decided to try them out.

One thin batter really does separate into three different layers during baking, but I would not necessarily call it cake. Perhaps "Chiffon Custard" more accurately describes it but I really love the name, "Magic Cake"

The recipe is rather fussy to make; you must separate eggs, beat the whites separately, warm the milk, melt butter. I enjoy this type of baking and I will make this recipe again, maybe with a twist next time, but this is not something to make in a hurry.  Also, it needs to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting.

Magic Cake
4 eggs, separated, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
2 cups warm milk
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until light. Add melted butter and vanilla and continue beating another minute or two. Add flour and mix well.

Slowly add the milk (milk must be warm or the butter will seize up) and mix until well combined. Add the stiffened egg whites to the batter, one third at a time, gently folding in each addition with a spatula.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cake is no longer jiggly.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. Dust with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

French Style Miso Onion Soup

THERE ARE FEW THINGS about French Onion Soup.

One of the things is the cheese. How many times have I seen French Onion Soup filled to the brim with oozing and melting cheese stuck all over the outside of the bowl? While it makes a gorgeous and appetizing presentation, it is not an easy thing to eat.

I attempt piercing the barricade of cheese, only to hit a blockade of toast. Once the spoon enters the soup, it has splashed onto the tablecloth and is there a polite way to eat cheese off the outside of a bowl?

I used expensive cheese--Emmental and Parmigiano-Reggiano for my soup and I wanted it on my spoon not wasted on my bowl. While I am ordinarily all for more cheese is better in almost any recipe, I think that restraint is best with this soup. Julia Child, herself, felt that 1/2 cup of cheese was the correct amount for 6 servings. (I do like more than that).

The crouton, a slice of French bread toasted hard so it doesn't disintegrate into the liquid is the correct way to serve this soup. I am not a lazy eater, but I must admit to being rather prissy. So I cut my French bread into cubes to further ease my freedom to enjoy.

Cut a small baguette into bite-sized pieces. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat in a heavy skillet until melted. Add a crushed clove of garlic and cook for a minute or two. Remove the garlic and add the bread cubes. Stir frequently until browned and crisp. Leftovers can be used later for delicious salad croutons.

As for the broth: I am not inclined to use meat broth in a recipe that would otherwise be vegetarian. I am trying awfully hard not to go on a tirade about the current trendy use of chicken broth in everything--cream of potato soup, cream of mushroom soup. I recently ordered Spinach Enchiladas in a Mexican restaurant and guess what it tasted like, spinach? cheese? enchilada sauce? No. Chicken! I've heard the old joke about unfamiliar meat which "tastes like chicken", but I have not started wanting my vegetables to taste like it.      Oops, 'scuse me.  

Lets talk miso. If you are not familiar, I hope you will research it and seek it out. It is a wonderfully health giving and flavorful paste. It makes a delicious broth and is what I have used for my soup. Use 2 - 3 tablespoons of dark miso per quart of water as a substitute for beef broth and 3 - 4 tablespoons of light miso per quart for chicken broth in recipes. But don't add the miso until the end of the cooking time as the enzymes will be destroyed by boiling. (More in an upcoming post about miso.)

French Style Miso Onion Soup
2 lbs. sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 t. sugar or molasses
2 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup white wine or water
6 cups water, divided
3 Tbs. dark miso
A spring or two of fresh thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste, being careful with the salt if using miso and also keep in mind the saltiness of the cheese.
2 - 3 Tbs. mirin or cognac, optional, but highly recommended

Cook onions slowly in melted butter and olive oil, covered, for about 20 minutes. Raise heat to moderate and stir in sugar or molasses to help the onions caramelize. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes to an hour. The onions should be an even deep golden brown color.

Stir in flour, cook and stir for about 3 minutes. Stir in wine and deglaze pan. Stir in 5 cups water and simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or more. Dissolve miso into 1 cup of very hot water and then stir into soup. Add the fresh thyme and the cognac, if using. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top with croutons and grated Emmental, Swiss, Mozzarella, and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese. Place under broiler to melt cheese or use a little torch like I did.