Saturday, June 27, 2015

Celebrate Summer With A Frozen Watermelon Slush

I didn't want the 12 pound watermelon rolling around in the back so I held onto it as I drove. Watermelon in my left hand. Steering wheel in my right. Sometimes, when the mood strikes me, I do these things just to amuse myself. A driver just going about their day passes me on the road and chuckles, or they honk and give a thumbs up, or they scream WATERMELON at the top of their lungs as they whiz by. Either way, it always results in a good laugh. I'm always up for squeezing a few more laughs into my day.

When I arrived home safely, watermelon in hand, I decided to give this particular watermelon a special treatment.  I had watermelon margaritas on my mind, but the kids were begging for watermelon, so whatever I chose needed to be kid-friendly.  Thankfully, I found this recipe for Frozen Watermelon Slush in Jacques Pepin's book and it was perfect! A tasty and refreshing slush for the kiddos and the ideal base for an adult drink. Simply add some watermelon slush to a glass and top it with a little splash of tequila or vodka, a quick squeeze of lime, and you have the perfect summery drink! It's delightful!

Frozen Watermelon Slush
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 8-10

1 medium watermelon (about 12 pounds)
3/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Halve the watermelon lengthwise, halve again, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Remove and discard the rind, black seeds, and as many of the softer white seeds as possible. Cut the flesh into 1-inch chunks. Place in a food processor, in batches if necessary, and process until liquefied; some small chunks may remain. You should have about 10 cups. Add the lime or lemon juice and sugar and process until incorporated. Blend in batches if necessary.
Transfer the watermelon mixture to a stainless steel bowl, cover, and freeze until solid, 8 to 10 hours. 

About 2 to 3 hours before serving, move the bowl to the refrigerator to soften the mixture. In the hour before serving, use a fork to break the softened mixture into shavings. Serve in chilled glass goblets or bowls. Garnish with lime and/or watermelon wedges.

Theme: June Potluck!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Croutons with Creamy Red Pepper Dip

It's time for another mystery box madness with I Heart Cooking Clubs. Participants are asked to chose 3 out of 10 ingredients and make a dish from one of our 12 IHCC chefs. The ingredients were really tough this time around: Any White-Fleshed Fish, Green Leaf Lettuce, Pine Nuts,Dill, Cheddar Cheese, Almond Extract or Liqueur, Blueberries, Cornstarch, Bell Pepper, and Black Beans. It's not that the ingredients didn't favor one another, because they definitely do. The trouble was I simply couldn't find a recipe among our 12 IHCC chefs that contained 3 of those ingredients. 
So, what did I do? Well, I cheated.  I chose Pepin's Croutons with Creamy Red Pepper Dip because it contains red bell pepper and dill.  Then I got crafty and served it on a bed of green leaf lettuce. Yes, I did!

We all loved the pretty color of this dip and thought it was really tasty with the crunchy croutons.  While this dip contains both cream cheese and cottage cheese it is not necessarily cheesy. The cheese creates a wonderful creamy consistency, but the main flavor is the red pepper and the dill (which is actually a delicious combination). I think this is a perfect summer dip for croutons, crackers,or even some fresh veggies. I can definitely see myself making it again for a party.

Croutons with Creamy Red Pepper
Adapted from Simple and Healthy Cooking
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jar (5 ounces) red peppers, drained
2 oz. cream cheese (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons cottage cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 very thin French-style baguette bread loaf (6 ounces)
fresh dill sprigs
Garnish: green leaf lettuce

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place one garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add the red peppers, cream cheese, cottage cheese, dill, lemon juice and black pepper.  Process the mixture until it is smooth.  Set aside.

To make the croutons, cut the bread into 42 to 48 slices. Arrange the slices on a cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from the oven and rub each slice with the other clove of garlic and drizzle croutons lightly with olive oil. Spread the croutons with the pepper spread and garnish each with a small sprig of fresh dill.
Theme: Mystery Box Madness June 2015

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Quiche with Bacon

Gruyère cheese is something I rarely used prior to cooking with Jacques Pépin. However, Jacques' recipes favor Gruyère and I am ever so thankful for the push to experiment with this marvelous cheese. Gruyère is now my favorite cheese. Hands down!

Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a somewhat nutty flavor, and it melts beautifully. I like it for snacking, grilled cheese, sauces such as bechamel, and as a topping for any gratin. I've been buying the real deal cave-aged Gruyère from Switzerland and it is pricey but it's flavor and melt-ability simply cannot be beat.

This bacon quiche is really more of a  Gruyère quiche. The five slices of crumbled bacon lend a hint of bacon flavor, but what you really taste in this quiche is the one and a half cups of diced Gruyère.  The Gruyère (and the bacon) settle to the bottom and create a bacony cheesy layer that is quite addicting! I was hoping for leftovers but we loved this so much we ate it in one setting!

Quiche with Bacon
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 6-8

1-1-/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice-cold water

4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 slices bacon, cooked in a skillet until crisp and broken into pieces
1-1/2 cups diced Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

For the Dough: Combine the flour, salt, butter, and lard or shortening together in a food processor and process until you have a coarse mixture, about 10 seconds. Add the water and process for 5 seconds. Turn the dough out and gather together in a ball. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into an 11-or 12-in circle and use it to aline a 9- to 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom or a pie pan. Refrigerate until you are ready to fill the quiche shell.

For the Filling: Beat the eggs in a bowl only until well mixed. Stir in the milk, cream, and salt and pepper. Scatter the bacon and cheese over the dough. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and pour in the egg mixture. Bake for 1 hour,or until the filling is set and browned on top.  Remove from the oven rested for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Theme: Fromage S'il Vous Plait!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Egg and Onion Gratin {One Of My All-Time Faves}

So this Egg and Onion Gratin is one of my all time favorites. Hands down!
You simply cannot beat this dish when it comes to simple and comforting fare.
Try it and I bet it will be one of your new favorites too! You probably have all the ingredients on hand already. Serve it with a slice of toast and I promise you'll fall in love just like we did.
Egg and Onion Gratin
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 6

7 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups sliced onions
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Slice the eggs crosswise with an egg slicer or a knife and arrange them in a 4 to 6 cup gratin dish.  Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When it is hot, add the onions and cook over medium high heat, stirring once in a while, for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, until they sizzle and have just started to brown.  Add the flour, mix well with a wooden spatula, and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer gently for about a minute.

Pour the sauce over the eggs and mix the sauce and eggs gently.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Turn the oven to broil.  Place the eggs under the hot broiler for 4 to 5 minutes to make a nice brown crust. Serve immediately.

Theme: May Potluck!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Little Shrimp Casseroles For a Sweet Friend

My sweet friend Deb, at Kahakai Kitchen, lost her mom recently. Deb and I have shared so much over the years and I'm so happy to have her in my life. My heart goes out to her and her family. As a passionate cook I like to show my love and support by making food. Since Deb lives in Hawaii and I'm in Kentucky that is not possible. Instead, I am dedicating this dish to her. 

Deb shared a special memory, and picture, of her mom last week. In the picture her mom was eating a lovely shrimp plate. Deb said that her mom would want her to mention that she "usually doesn't eat this much." Then Deb says her mom would say she couldn't finish it, but then she did. Deb said she chose to remember her mom this way.

In honor of her memory, I decided to share these scrumptious Little Shrimp Casseroles.  A dainty and feminine casserole of shrimp with the classic flavors of butter and garlic topped off by crispy golden breadcrumbs. Little enough to eat one, or even two!

Love and hugs to you, Deb!

Little Shrimp Casseroles
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped button mushrooms*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled
1cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth

Note: I omitted the mushrooms simply because I didn't have them on hand.

Mix the butter in a large bowl with the garlic, scallions, mushrooms, salt, pepper,and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shrimp and toss to mix well. Divide the mixture among four individual gratin dishes with about 1-cup capacity,or spoon into one large gratin or shallow baking dish.

In another bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, so that they are lightly coated but still fluffy. Sprinkle the crumbs over the shrimp mixture and pour the wine on top.

Almost 30 minutes before serving time, heat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is ready, place the gratin dishes or dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

Theme: In Honor Of Deb

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Crab Cakes In Red Sauce

Once again it's time for our Mystery Box Madness over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This time around our list of mystery box ingredients were: Brie, Crab, Chives, Pecans, Strawberries, Vanilla, Breadcrumbs, Green Beans, Vinegar, and Puff Pastry. We are to chose three ingredients from the list and cook a recipe from one of these chefs: Nigella Lawson, Mark Bittman, Giada De Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, Madjur Jaffrey, Yotam Ottolenghi, Donna Hay, Nigel Slater, Diana Henry, and Jacques Pépin.

I chose to cook with Pépin simply because I'm currently crushing on his recipes in a major way. After months of being in a cooking rut I'm happy to say that Pépin's recipes are so exquisite that I've been rejuvenated. My cooking mojo has returned and it's about time! I can't wait to get in the kitchen and cook his recipes each week.

I always jump at a chance to eat crab so I knew I was choosing crab as my first ingredient. When I found this recipe for Crab Cakes in Red Sauce from Pépin's Fast Food My Way book I was delighted to see the recipe called for both breadcrumbs and chives, the two final ingredients needed for the mystery box challenge.

These crab cakes were crazy insane delicious. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, just the right amount of seasoning to bring out the flavor of the crab without overpowering, and the red sauce...well, it was a divide combination of tangy creamy deliciousness.  That sauce was a very welcome break from tartar sauce or remoulade.  A unique and delicious way to serve crab cakes. Will be making this recipe again. Soon.

Crab Cakes In Red Sauce
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 4

Crab Cakes
1 (8-ounce) pkg fresh crabmeat, drained and picked clean of shell
1-1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from about 2 slices white bread)
2 tablespoons minced scallion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons canola oil

Red Sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

Put the crabmeat in a bowl and add 2/3 cup of the breadcrumbs, scallion, cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, Tabasco, and salt. Mix lightly, just until the ingredients are well combined.

Put the remaining breadcrumbs in a food processor with the almonds and process until the nuts are well chopped and combined with the bread.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Form the crab mixture into 4 patties, then dip each patty into the crumb mixture until it is coated on all sides.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and arrange the patties next to one another in the pan, handling them gently because they are soft. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Keep warm in the oven.

Meanwhile for the sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

At serving time: divide the sauce among four plates.  Place a patty in the center of the sauce on each plate, sprinkle some chives on the sauce, and serve immediately.

Theme: Mystery Box Madness: May!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Eggs Jeannette

Jacques Pépin's Eggs Jeanette is a fresh and original take on eggs for me. Eggs are hard-boiled and the yolks scooped out.  The egg yolks are then mixed with a touch of milk, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper. The eggs are then stuffed, much like a deviled egg, but instead of being overstuffed the eggs are simply filled and leveled off with the mixture. Then guess what...the eggs laid yolk-side down are browned in a skillet with a touch of oil.  It's kinda like crispy deviled eggs, except for the fun doesn't stop there!

Let's talk about this dressing. It's creamy and tangy and zippy and zesty and I just want to put it on pretty much everything!  It's a combination of some of the reserved egg yolk mixture, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and oil and it's literally heaven. It's pretty much an egg yolk vinaigrette and it's unlike any dressing I've had before. A whole new world people. A whole new world.

I served the eggs over baby spinach as a first course and we pretty much inhaled it. Three people vs. 12 Eggs Jeannette.  It wasn't pretty!  If you're looking for a fresh, fun, unique way to serve eggs then this is it!

Eggs Jeannette
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pépin
Serves 6

For The Eggs
6 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons milk
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil

About 2 tablespoons reserved egg yolk mixture (from above)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For The Eggs: Cut the eggs crosswise in half at the widest point. Remove the yolks and push them through a foodmill fitted with a fine screen into a bowl.  (If you do not have a food mill, mash the yolks with a fork.) Mix the egg yolks with the milk, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper; the mixture should be moist and hold together. Stuff the whites with the yolk mixture, reserving approximately 2 tablespoons for the dressing. (The egg yolk mixture adds texture to the dressing).

Heat the oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick. When the oil is hot, add the egg halves, stuffed side down, and fry over medium heat for about 2 minutes; they will brown beautifully. (Do not cook the white side.) Remove the eggs from the skillet and arrange them on a platter or in a gratin dish. 

For The Dressing:  Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the oil.  Pour the dressing on top of and around the eggs and serve.