Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nigel Slater's Stir Fry of Broccoli and Lamb

We love a good stir fry in my house and it has been far too long since the last. It's no wonder then that Nigel Slater's Stir Fry of Broccoli and Lamb literally jumped off the page at me! Lamb stir fry? With our favorite veggie, broccoli? Why hadn't I thought of this before?

So happy I found this gem of a recipe because it was fabulous! The lamb was so succulent (a word I use a lot when cooking Nigel's recipes).  Flavorful and tender, it is the perfect base for the broccoli, garlic, and chilies.  However, the winning component of this dish was the sauce.   

A simple mixture of soy sauce, sugar and lime juice? How can that be so stinkin' delicious? Yet it totally makes this stir fry.  I poured the sauce on the stir fry as it was finishing and my entire family ran to the kitchen wondering what in the world smelled so good! The sauce coated the stir fry leaving behind glossy veggies and juicy bits of lamb. All the yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan mingled with the stir fry to make one perfect dish.

Mouths drooled as I added white rice to the bowls and placed the stir fry on top.  It was hard to get pictures of this one. This dish needs little extra in the way of a garnish, but I enjoyed mine with a little extra cilantro and a drizzle of Sriracha to spice things up! Heavenly!

Stir-Fry of Broccoli & Lamb
Adapted from Tender
Serves 4

Broccoli - 2 large handfuls of florets
green onions - 6 whole
garlic - 6 plump cloves
3 hot red chilies
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound of ground lamb
a lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
handful of cilantro

Blanch the florets of broccoli in boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Chop the green onions, removing the darkest green leaves as you go. Peel the garlic and chop it finely, then seed and chop the chilies. Get the oil really hot in a shallow pan or wok, then cook the onions, garlic, and chilies until soft but not colored, moving them quickly round the pan as you go. It will appear there is too much oil, but bear with me.

Add the ground lamb and let it color appetizingly. It should go a rich golden color. Add the drained broccoli. In a small bowl, mix the juice of the lime with the soy sauce and sugar. Add to the hot pan and let sizzle briefly, scraping at the gooey stickings on the bottom of the pan and stirring them in as you go. Check the seasoning - you may need a little salt - and stir in the cilantro.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Grilled Corn On The Cob with Parsley and Garlic Brown Butter

Dear Curtis,

I sent my husband to the store for six fat ears of corn on the cob and he delivered.  I read through your recipe for Grilled Corn On The Cob with Parsley and Garlic Brown Butter and it seemed easy enough.  Full of motivation I proceeded to peel back the husk all the way, leaving it attached at the end. This was a little tricky and took a long time but I was still somewhat motivated to continue on with the recipe.

Twenty minutes later, I finished removing the silk and husking the corn. The husk was looking nicely arranged at the end of the cob. At this point I realized that my kitchen was a huge mess. Pieces of husk and cornsilk everywhere. Time for the corn to soak for an hour. Here is where I must ask you, what kind of object does one use to achieve this? I looked down at my six ears of fat corn with long husks hanging at the end and my mind went blank. Did I have anything big enough to hold all this?  Yes, but all the way in the back of my cabinet. It will take at least 10 minutes to dig it out. 

Beginning to get frustrated, I dig out everything in my cabinet looking for the pot big enough to hold the corn. Arrange the corn this way, doesn't fit.  Arrange the corn another way, doesn't fit. Smashed the corn into the container, threw on the lid, and threw a heavy cast iron pan on top to weight the lid down. Whatever, I say. It is what it is.

Blood rising, I had to clean the kitchen. Have you ever tried cleaning up cornsilk? It ain't easy, Curtis. Nearing a hissy fit I threw a stick of butter in the pan and proceeded making the brown butter sauce. I can do that. Easy enough. Butter melted, ingredients mixed in, and butter added back in fridge to harden up.

Finally the corn was done soaking and the butter was ready.  I must confess that I was totally over the corn by now. Who in their right mind works this hard to make a side dish? I felt like chucking the corn into the road, but I took it out to the grill. This is where the real fun began.

Husks everywhere, Curtis. Husks, everywhere. Too big for the grill, Curtis. The corn is almost impossible to turn. The husks are burning, Curtis. Why do I even have these husks on, Curtis? Do you know what burned husks do, Curtis? They turn into ash and disintegrate into one unbelievable mess. Why do you do this to me, Curtis? I thought we were friends.

I deem the corn charred and make my way back into the house. Wrestling with the brittle corn husks, I swear under my breath as I take pictures. Goodness sakes, Curtis. This corn is stressing me out. I'm starting to sweat and I hardly ever sweat, Curtis.

Frustrated beyond recognition I take a bite of the corn. It is delicious, Curtis. Almost worth all the frustration. Almost. The corn is sweet and juicy and the garlic butter is the perfect compliment to the corn. The squeeze of lemon adds just the right touch, brightening things up, and providing a fresh flavor. However, as I look down at my plate, the table, and the floor I notice burnt pieces of husk and ash.  Why, Curtis? Why do we need to leave the husk on the corn? Things would be so much easier if the husk was completely removed.

Thanks for the lesson, Curtis. It's been awhile since I learned a lesson the hard way. From this point on I will never, and I do mean never, leave the husks attached when I grill corn. Then I will truly be able to appreciate the deliciousness of this corn. Summer on a plate.


Grilled Corn On The Cob with Parsley and Garlic Brown Butter
Adapted from Curtis Stone Website
Serves 6

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 lemon, juiced
6 ears fresh yellow corn with husks attached
salt and black pepper, to taste

To make the brown butter: Place a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook for 5 minutes or until the butter melts and becomes golden brown, swirling the pan occasionally.

Remove from the heat, stir in the garlic. Set aside until the butter is almost cold, then add the parsley and lemon juice. Place the butter mixture in a bowl and chill until the mixture is cold and firm.

To grill the corn: Fold back the husks from the corn cobs and remove the corn silk (keep the husks attached to the cobs). Soak the corn in a large bowl of cold water for 1 hour.  Drain and pat the corn dry.

Prepare the barbecue for medium heat:  Tear a few corn husks into long strips. Gather the husks at the base of a corn cob and tie them with the husk strips to secure. Repeat with the remaining corn cobs.

Spread the garlic butter all over the corn kernels. Sprinkle the corn kernels with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the grill. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the corn is soft and juicy and the husks are lightly charred.

Theme: On The Barbie!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Spanish Roasted Potatoes

You know how you have a friend for a very long time and you feel like you know pretty much everything there is to know about them? Then all of a sudden they surprise you with a statement, goes something like "I don't eat eggs." Or maybe "I don't like peanut butter."  Dumbfounded you sit there wondering how in the heck you didn't know this vital piece of information. You're a foodie after all. You take this seriously.  It's almost an offense.

These statements tend to slide by others without any concern at all, but I find myself somewhat baffled by these types of statements. You don't like eggs? How in the world can that be? You don't like peanut butter? Well then you must be crazy for certain. Not so long ago I had a friend tell me she didn't like rice. I was so perplexed by her statement it turned into a one hour debacle about how in the world you couldn't like rice. I think I even went so far as to tell her that she must be making it wrong because there was no way she couldn't like rice if it was made properly. I mean how can I know you for so long and all this time you were hating rice behind my back? Say what?

I guess I could understand if someone said they didn't like okra or oysters,  BUT eggs? Peanut butter? Rice? No way! Unacceptable! Of course, I say all this with a sense of humor, but I do really get baffled and feel the need to tease people when I hear that they don't like what I consider to be core foods.

Speaking of eggs, you are seriously missing out if you don't eat eggs. I could honestly put a fried egg on top of just about anything, except maybe chocolate, and call it a meal. These Spanish Roasted Potatoes, for example, would be even better with a glorious fried egg sitting on top. A little bit of egg yolk oozing out onto the potatoes? Right? Thank you for agreeing.

However, I will say that these potatoes really don't need anything extra. They were absolutely delicious and crave worthy as is. Crispy and coated with flavor on the outside and creamy and tender on the inside.  The half teaspoon of cayenne pepper lends a spiciness that is just about right, not too overwhelming. A little squeeze of lime over the potatoes does wonders to brighten up all the flavors. We gobbled these up in record time.

Now let's just hope no one tells me they don't like potatoes. I might very well jump outta my chair...

 Spanish Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from Curtis Stone Website
Serves 4-6
4 medium russet potatoes (about 3 pounds total), peeled
3 serrano chilies
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To parboil the potatoes: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Add the whole peeled potatoes and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost cooked through but the center is still firm. To test for doneness, insert a small sharp knife into the center of the potatoes. It should meet with some resistance when inserted into the center of the potatoes.
Using a large slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the boiling water and set them on a plate for 5 minutes to steam dry and cool slightly. Cut the potatoes crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick discs or wedges.

To roast the chilies:  Set the chilies directly over the burner flames on the stove and cook, turning as needed, until the skins are blistered and nearly black all over. Transfer the chilies to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until the chilies are cool enough to handle. Peel the chilies and then cut them into thin strips. Set the chilies aside.
To fry the potatoes: In each of 2 large nonstick frying pans, heat 1/4 cup of oil over medium-high heat.  Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in the pans, dividing equally to ensure you do not overcrowd the pan, as this will cause the potatoes to become soggy, not crisp and brown as desired. Sprinkle half the salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper over the potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown on the bottom. Turn the potatoes over and sprinkle with the remaining salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown on the bottom and tender in the center. Stir in the chilies.
To serve:  Arrange the potatoes (also known as patatas bravas) on a small platter, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Theme: July Potluck!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Plum & Cinnamon Crumble

In the summer my Grandpa's plum tree would be heavy with the weight of ripe juicy plums. Many were eaten right from the tree, ruby red juice staining our chins and clothes. There were too many to eat out of hand, so Mom would make plum jelly, and lots of pies, crumbles, and cobblers, until we exhausted the lot.

Many summers the plums were sweeter than others, but we loved them regardless, except for that one summer.  That summer the plums were almost inedible. We found them sour and dry and none of the usual recipes made them any better. Not one to waste, my mom decided to try her hand at making plum wine.

I vaguely remember the  "wine making" process. I know there was a barrel and some tools down in our basement and mom had to go down and attend to it daily, or so it seemed. Mostly what I remember about the summer of plum wine was the EPIC, and I do mean EPIC, party my parents had when the wine was ready.  In their defense, it was another time, parenting in the early 80's was much different, and definitely not politically correct, as it is today. The only way I can explain the nature of this plum wine party is to say that it rivaled, or even surpassed, any college frat party. In fact, for years my parent's friends talked about that party and begged Mom to make more plum wine, but Mom always smiled and said, "never again". 
Like Mom's plum wine, this Plum & Cinnamon Crumble is also epic, but much easier to make and enjoy! The plums offer a wonderful balance of sweet and tart, the addition of cinnamon is subtle, and the filling-to-crumble ratio is just right, not too much of one or the other. It's absolutely incredible with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. One of the best things I've made in awhile. I urge you to buy some ripe juicy plums and try it for yourself!

Plum & Cinnamon Crumble
Adapted from Relaxed Cooking
by Curtis Stone
Serves 6

2 pounds plums (roughly 13), halved, pitted, each cut into 6 wedges
1/3 cup sugar*
2 cinnamon sticks

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Note: Adjust sugar depending on your fruit and taste. If fully ripe, you may not need the full 1/3 cup. If not ripe enough, then you may need more. Mix in sugar, taste, and adjust to your liking. This recipe, with ripe plums, is definitely written to be sweet- but we like it that way, so we think it's perfect!

Preheat the oven to 350F. To make the filling: Toss the plums, sugar, and cinnamon sticks in an 8-inch square baking dish (or similar vessel). Arrange the mixture evenly in the dish, tucking the cinnamon sticks beneath the plums.

To make the topping: Mix the flour, sugar, and oats in a medium bowl to blend. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until moist clumps form.  Mix in the almonds. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the plum mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling, the fruit is tender, and the topping is golden brown. Allow the crumble to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Spoon the crumble into bowls, discarding the cinnamon sticks, and serve with vanilla ice cream. 

Theme: Fresh & Fruity

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp with Amber Ale

New Orleans "Barbecued" Shrimp has been on my to-do list for years. Why years? Solely because I was being extremely stubborn about the shrimp I used.  I wanted to make the real deal New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp and for that I needed whole shrimp, head and all. 

Once I'm fixed on an idea I will rarely concede. I searched high and low for years looking for whole shrimp.  I went to every market in a 60 mile radius. I saw all kinds of shrimp, every size imaginable, but they were all headless. Why oh why couldn't I find shrimp with the heads on? Eventually I got frustrated and gave up the search. If I couldn't find whole shrimp then I simply couldn't be bothered to make it.

Then I got to thinking...why am I am being such a brat about shrimp with heads anyway? It's not like I'm really going to eat the head, or suck it, or anything like that. So I gave up the search, just like that, and I finally made New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp and you know what? Turns out it doesn't matter if the shrimp has a head or not! It was worth the wait!

Tender shrimp in a buttery hot sauce with a hint of lemon and loads of fresh herbs. Pop a shrimp in your mouth and grab some bread to sop up that yummy sauce. No need to be polite about it. It's finger lickin' good!

N'awlins Barbecued Shrimp with Amber Ale
Recipe Adapted from Curtis Stone website
Serves 2-4

2 pounds extra-large shrimp in the shell*
1 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup amber ale
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, such as Crystal or Tabasco
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Sliced French bread, warmed or lightly toasted

*Note: If you're lucky enough to buy the whole shrimp then that is awesome, but regular old shelled and devined shrimp works just fine.

Using a small sharp knife, cut down the back of each shrimp just deep enough to expose the dark vein. Devein the shrimp under cold running water, leaving the shells intact.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add 2 tablespoons of the butter and swirl to melt it. Add the garlic, sprinkle with the cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for about 1 minute, or just until the garlic is tender. Add the shrimp and toss to coat well with the butter mixture. Add the ale, lemon juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes, or until the shrimp are almost cooked through, turning the shrimp after 1 minute.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, the parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary and simmer gently for about 1 minute, or until the butter melts and the shrimp are just cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the shrimp and sauce to four wide shallow bowls. Serve with the bread to sop up the sauce.

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Theme: Surf n' Turf

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Donna Hay's Smashed Avocado Toast w/ Hard Boiled Egg

I work in a special needs room at a local elementary school and I absolutely love it. My favorite part is that we get to teach practical life skills: cooking, crafting, hygiene, shopping, and social skills, all with the hope that the kids can be as independent as possible. I love to watch the kids' faces when they learn these new skills, but it is even more rewarding to watch them master these skills and see their confidence grow over time.

All of these skills are fun to practice, but of course I favor the days we cook. Not every student is capable of doing some of the skills we practice, but I feel like cooking is something everyone can experience in one way or another. Cooking is such a sensory experience and even if you can't see, then you can still feel the food, touch the food, hear it cooking, smell it and definitely taste it, and so on. So while we have several students who are impaired in different ways, there is usually something they can experience while cooking.

During the last few weeks of school our Spanish translator came into the room and made a Mexican feast. The kids made guacamole in her molcajete. They also made homemade corn tortillas from maseca and learned how to cook them on a comal. We cut veggies for salsa and also made a steak filling for tacos. It was a very special day. The kids were beaming, the food was delicious, and everyone learned something, including me.

The guacamole was something that everyone could participate in, more so than any other dish we created up to that point. The avocados were soft, and easy for the kids to chop and mash, and of course their pretty green color was a hit. The guacamole, because of it's soft nature, was also something everyone could eat, and for that we were thankful.  We had such a special time making and eating the guacamole that we even decided to buy the teacher in our room a mortar and pestle, as well as the ingredients to make her own guacamole, as a special end of the year gift. Now guacamole is present at every get together we have. It's our signature dish that holds special meaning.

Since that day I've been buying avocados and eating them with everything: on sandwiches, on toast, in guacamole, chopped up in a salad, and so on. Not only are they good for you, but they just make me smile!

This Smashed Avocado Toast with Hard Boiled Egg is an easy and quick recipe that is perfect for the hot summer mornings we've been having. Satisfying enough, but also light enough, so as not to weigh you down. I love the sprinkling of seeds and the refreshing pop from the mint and squeeze of lime. Perfect for enjoying before heading to the pool!

Smashed Avocado Toast with Hard Boiled Egg
Recipe Adapted from Donna Hay Website
Serves 2-4

4 eggs
 4 slices of wholemeal bread, toasted
1 avocado, mashed
1 teaspoon white chia seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
salt and black pepper, to taste
mint springs, to serve
lime wedges, to serve

Place the eggs in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Peel, slice in half and set aside.

Place the toast on plates and top each slice with the avocado and egg. Place the chia seeds, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix to combine.

Sprinkle the seed mixture and mint over the avocado and serve with lime wedges. 

Theme: Monthly Featured Chef: Donna Hay!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Orzo Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Gardening isn't my forte, but I manage a very small herb garden. One thing I can count on every spring is the return of my chives, and of course my mint. Once those start to sprout I always run out and grab a few basil plants. Basil seems to do well all on it's own, with very little attention. It is so nice being able to clip them whenever I'm in need and I always enjoy having them on hand in the spring and summer.

This Orzo Salad with Basil Vinaigrette was a perfect way to use up some of that fresh basil and chives from my garden.  A lovely salad of orzo, juicy grape tomatoes, spinach, toasty pine nuts, salty goat cheese, in a fresh herby vinaigrette...yum! Perfect and light for summer!

I've made a couple versions of this salad and I do have to say that I like this one best! The ratios just seem to be spot on and the salad kept very well. I can see myself making several times throughout the summer. It's absolutely lovely to have on hand and eats well on it's own, or as a side.

Orzo Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
Adapted from Curtis Stone Website
Serves 6-8

1-1/2 cups orzo pasta
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced parsley
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Basil Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
salt and pepper, to taste

 Fill a medium sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente (7-8 minutes, usually). 

While the pasta is cooking get the rest of your salad together. In a large salad bowl add the chopped shallot, chopped garlic, and sliced basil. Stir in the red wine vinegar, then slowly whisk in the olive oil until completely blended. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and set aside to cool slightly. Add the tomatoes, spinach, pine nuts, feta cheese, and herbs to the dressing.  Toss to combine. When the pasta is slightly cooled go ahead and add it to the salad, tossing until combined.  Serve warm or cold. Salad can be refrigerated and held in the fridge for 2-3 days.

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Theme: Local & Seasonal