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On my recent trip, I managed to get in a lot of reading on my Kindle. On airplanes, waiting for airplanes, waiting for the bus to load, waiting in lobbies for everybody to show up to leave, and at night when I couldn’t sleep. A fun book was Mr. Mac and Me, by Esther Freud. It takes place in England in 1914. In a time and place where a 13-year old boy has a lot of freedom. Although the war is looming, this little village is relatively quiet and safe, as life used to be. Boys will be boys, and he enjoys sort-of spying on people, especially people he doesn’t know well. He imagines that a man who arrives in town to rent a house with his paints and easels, might be a spy. Thus begins a story that starts from that premise, but eventually takes you into a very special friendship that develops between the man, Mr. Mac, his wife, and this boy. The story is absolutely charming. War brings some brutal truths for everyone in the village, yet this friendship flourishes. Great book.

Occasionally I’ll latch onto a book about food or restaurants. This one, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal, is a romance (not a sticky sweet one) about a youngish woman (and her dog) who take a big leap to Colorado when she’s offered a job as a chef. The restaurant is fraught with some issues, but the author weaves in a romance, her skills as a leader in the kitchen, throws in some recipes (that I have yet to extract from my Kindle pages, that I want to try) along with it, and you have a book that held my interest all the way through. Formulaic, I suppose, but it’s a cute story. Books about restaurants always divulge some new tangle of how a kitchen runs. I enjoyed the read.

If you haven’t already read it, you are missing a really good and insightful book, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly. I was riveted from page one, all the way through to the end. O’Reilly has a very engaging way of re-telling history and making it ever-so readable and interesting. He weaves people’s stories, ones  you likely haven’t read or heard, into his narrative, to give you such a sense of place. You can just feel how these soldiers, pilots, prisoners and seamen made their mark, but likely all unsung heroes. It’s a must-read, it really is.

Having read some of Kent Haruf’s other books, I read Our Souls at Night. A lonely widow decides to invite a neighbor man, also a lonely widower, if he’d like to come to her home, at night, to spend the night. I simply can’t tell you anything else because it would give away the story. This isn’t a story about s-x, but about two lonely people who come together for friendship and companionship. It’s very sweet, not twee, but sweet. You really feel for both of these older people. Read it.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on February 1st, 2017.

tenderloin_w_mock_bearnaise

I do enjoy a good hunk of beef now and then. I had my share over the holidays – I think I had it 3 times (prime rib twice and this beef tenderloin once), and each time it was just fabulous. This one, with the super-tasty but lighter calorie mock Béarnaise was really special.

Probably I’d cook a small beef tenderloin occasionally, but it makes no sense to do it for one person! Costco has them at a decent price, but they’re huge – only useful for me if I were to have a really big dinner party! Some Costco stores offer beef tenderloin that’s already been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin and sinews. That job takes awhile, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

The cooking instructor, Caroline, from Antoine’s Restaurant in San Clemente (CA) demonstrated  this at a cooking class. She said she was catering a dinner party for a client, and the wife asked if she could do a Béarnaise, but not a fat-laden one. So Caroline came up with the idea of this mock Béarnaise. I won’t sit here and type to you, that the sauce is just as good as a butter-driven Béarnaise, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had ALL the flavors of Béarnaise, but just not all the fat. Some yes, but not the usual amount. I really liked it, and I’d definitely make it. Even for a grilled steak, or any time you need a Béarnaise.

The tenderloin is so easy to do – you season the meat with salt, pepper and oil, sear it on all sides, then roast it in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, remove, tent it, let it sit for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

The sauce is made similarly to a regular Béarnaise, but it’s thickened with a little cornstarch, so it will hold together, AND you can make it the day ahead and just reheat it before serving. That’s a big help, so you wouldn’t have to do this as you’re roasting the meat and putting together the rest of the meal.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The meat was great (tender, juicy) and the sauce was amazing – since it’s a whole lot lower in fat and calories than a regular Béarnaise. My hat’s off to Chef Caroline for coming up with this option for Béarnaise!

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. A great dish – both the meat and the sauce.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Beef Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

MOCK BEARNAISE SAUCE:
3/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots — minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard — regular, coarse grain
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
BEEF:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds beef tenderloin — center cut (trimmed of silverskin and sinews)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES: do buy a tenderloin that has been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin. If you do it yourself, allow about 45-60 minutes time to complete it for a full tenderloin.
1. SAUCE: In a small saucepan place the vermouth, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce quantity to about a third (solids and liquids combined). Strain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the vermouth mixture.
3. In a small bowl temper the egg yolks with about 2-3 T of the sauce, then add to the sauce. Whisk and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add the coarse-grain mustard and adjust seasonings. May be made up to a day ahead. Gently reheat just before serving.
4. BEEF: Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, sear tenderloin on all sides for about 10 minutes total time.
5. Transfer tenderloin to a roasting pan and place in the hot oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove meat from the roasting pan and place on carving board. Tent lightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and then serve with the heated sauce, passing more at the table.
Per Serving: 840 Calories; 66g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 330mg Cholesterol; 182mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on October 11th, 2016.

mango_chutney

What rich color! Perfect side for some grilled steak, chicken, or pork. Or as a little condiment on a sandwich. Or, spread some on top of cream cheese for a nice appetizer with crackers.

Awhile back we had a family get-together and daughter Sara brought this chutney. She left some of it with me and I’ve enjoyed it with grilled chicken and some grilled pork chops.

Back decades ago I first read about Major Grey’s mango chutney. I was in the stage of my early experimental cooking and tried making chicken curry, as I recall, and with no recipe for chutney (or even a thought of making it myself) I bought a jar of it. My recollection is that it was very expensive! Too bad I didn’t try to make it. Presumably the Joy of Cooking contains a recipe for it (I haven’t looked). Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Major Grey’s Chutney is a type of chutney, reputedly created by a 19th-century British Army officer of the same name who, though likely apocryphal, presumably lived in British India. Its characteristic ingredients are mango, raisins, vinegar, lime juice, onion, tamarind extract (occasionally), sweetening and spices.

I think one of my grandmothers used to make chutney, and I must not have had a great memory of it – it probably had sticky dates and/or some candied fruit in it (yuk in my book). My grandmothers made numerous types of pickles that appeared on the dinner table (I wasn’t much into pickles in those days), and both of my grandmothers made some kind of piccalilli (mixed veggies in a slightly sweet brine). I wasn’t much into cauliflower back then, either, which was a major component of that condiment.

mango_chutney_with_steakBut chutney is a wonderful side dish. See photo at left nestled next to a nice piece of grilled ribeye steak. It’s s omething you can make a week ahead of time, and if you’re so inclined, this recipe gives instructions for canning it. Sara doesn’t can, and we ate a ton of this chutney that night, so don’t know that she had a lot left over. The recipe came from Simply Recipes. It’s very straight forward. First, you bring sugar and vinegar to a boil. While that’s happening, cut and prep the fruit, onion, and measure out the other ingredients. They’re all added to the liquid and cooked down (simmered) for about an hour until it’s thickened. At that point, can it for 15 minutes, or put in clean, sealed containers or jars and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. Actually, I have nothing fewer than 10 chutneys or marmalade sides on my blog. Go HERE if you want to view them.

What’s GOOD: Love this stuff. It’s sweet and only slightly savory from the onion. It’s not like jam, exactly, but it’s a close cousin. The crystallized ginger adds a nice little touch to it, and the raisins too. Altogether good. Make it ahead. Serve it with grilled meat.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Try it; you’ll like it.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Homemade Mango Chutney

Recipe By: From Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 12 (probably more than that)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3 cups mangos — peeled and cut in 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion — chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup crystallized ginger — finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove — minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds — whole
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes

1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a 6 quart pot; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally during cooking. It will be thicker once it cools. If it gets too thick, thin with just a little bit of water.
3. Optional preparation: place in sealed jars in the refrigerator – it should keep for several weeks. Or, to can, pour into clean, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch head space; close jars. Process in a water bath 15 minutes.
Per Serving: 113 Calories; trace Fat (1.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on December 19th, 2015.

Syrup  / Photo by Chelsea Kyle, food styled by Rhoda Boone

One of my readers, Donna, left a comment for me about the new grading system for maple syrup.

If you haven’t shopped for maple syrup lately, you might not have been aware that sure enough, the powers that be have come up with a new set of names for the same set of maple syrup types. I never did particularly like the way they graded maple syrup because it seems to me that Grade B implied a lesser quality than Grade A – when, in fact, Grade B was actually a stronger flavor. I guess some other people must have thought the same thing. So now, all maple syrup is Grade A, but they just have gradations of color and descriptors.

The photo above came from epicurious and most of the information contained here comes from an article on epicurious about the new grading system.

In a nutshell, here’s what’s new – just look for the descriptive name and you’ll figure it out:

GRADE A: Golden Color & Delicate Taste – The far left one, that used to be called Grade A, is still Grade A, but it’s the mildest form, more like honey. It’s the early season syrup.

GRADE A: Amber Color & Rich Flavor – The second from the left is also still Grade A, but it’s like the old Grade B, both “Medium Amber” and “Dark Amber.” This one is more mid-season syrup.

GRADE A: Dark Color & Robust Flavor – the 3rd from the left is a Dark Amber also, but has the deeper flavor and is harvested later in the season.

GRADE A: Very Dark & Strong Flavor – the far right one and has the most maple flavor. It was a type that wasn’t sold commercially, but sold to factories and candy producers and can be substituted for molasses. I’m guessing it’s not something we’d ever see in a store. And obviously, this one is the last of the maple syrup to be harvested.

Thanks, Donna, for informing me about this change – I’ll know now, and so will you as you shop for maple syrup.

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on November 17th, 2015.

pistachio_crusted_salmon_apricot_glaze

You know when I tell you you have to make this. Yes. This. Soon. Fabulous.

Oh my goodness, this recipe is so good. I do love salmon, but it’s almost like chicken, in a way, since you can do so many different things with it – broil it, bake it, pan sauté it, or in this case it’s sautéed briefly, then baked for 6-8 minutes. And then served with this wonderful tangy, spicy apricot sauce/glaze. And with those pistachio nuts on top (with chives, parsley and a little oil to hold it together). Oh yes.

The sauce will keep several weeks. And, in fact, Phillis Carey talked about how good it is with chicken or halibut too. Phillis’ original recipe made half as much glaze, and my friend Cherrie and I, who attended Phillis’ class together, decided then and there that we’d make more of the sauce to use on other things, so I’ve increased the glaze part by 50% in the recipe below. We also thought a serving portion of the salmon could use just a bit more of the glaze than we had, so that’s another reason to make more.

So, the sauce can be made ahead by several weeks, as I mentioned, or the day before. Do give it some time to marry the flavors, though, if time permits. The salmon fillets are seared for a minute or so on each side, then placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Then you combine a tiny tetch of oil, the pistachios, parsley, chives and salt and pepper, and carefully pile it on top of the salmon. Into a 375° oven it goes and bakes for 6-8 minutes (depending on how thick the salmon is). Serve immediately! I promise – to raves! Easy. Good enough for a company meal, and not so hard that it couldn’t be made for a weeknight dinner. Especially if you made the glaze ahead of time.

What’s GOOD: everything about it – especially the glaze. It’s all good, and it’s also very easy.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Apricot Glaze

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 10/15
Serving Size: 4

GLAZE:
12 dried apricot halves — quartered (use sulfured type)
1 cup apricot nectar — plus 2 tablespoons
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — or other Asian chile sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
SALMON:
20 ounces salmon fillets — 4 pieces, 1 inch thick, 5-6 ounces each
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil — divided use
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts — toasted & chopped (or you can use walnuts or pecans)

NOTE: You probably will have some of the sauce left over – that’s a good thing – use it on other fish or chicken since it keeps several weeks.
1. SAUCE: Place ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and simmer to thicken, if desired. (Will keep for several weeks, refrigerated.)
2. SALMON: Preheat oven to 375°. Season fish with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T. of oil in a large nonstick pan. Sear fish for one minute per side and then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
3. Toss remaining tablespoon of oil with parsley, chives and pistachios. Brush fish lightly with the apricot glaze. Spread pistachio mixture on top of the fish and bake 6-8 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve drizzled with more apricot glaze and serve remaining sauce on the table.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 23g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on October 6th, 2015.

caramelized_onions_bourbon_sauce

Caramelized onions stewing in the pan make for a wonderful aroma – add some bourbon and a few other things and it’s a match with a piece of grilled steak or pork chop.

Remember, I was mentioning that my freezer in the garage is kinda full of frozen beef? Mostly steaks. I think this one was a prime ribeye from Costco since it was in a vacuum sealed bag. I can’t remember the last time I grilled a steak – I’ve had steak at my son’s home –  I never order it at a restaurant because I think I can make it better anyway. So, I defrosted a nice big steak – enough for 2 meals for me. It was 4:00 in the afternoon once it was defrosted (I plunged the sealed bag into a big bowl of cold water, put a big wide bowl on top and put a weight in the middle to keep the steak submerged). It took about 2-3 hours and it stayed very cold.  Grilled or sautéed onions with a splash of bourbon were what appealed to me so I researched several recipes online. I went off on a tangent and added a variety of things

I decided not to fire up the outdoor grill, but instead I cooked the steak in my sous vide. It needed a minimum of 2 hours at 131°F, and that was just exactly how much time I had before my approximate dinner time at 6:30. The beauty of the sous vide is that I could have cooked it for 4 hours at 131° and it would have been the same, perfectly cooked medium rare.

Meanwhile, I started making the onions. Sliced them – not paper thin as they kind of come out as a gloopy mess – a little thicker than that. They are gently sautéed in olive oil and butter. It takes awhile for them to sweat off all the liquid, but it’s enhanced with just a teaspoon of brown sugar. Once they began to brown they need more frequent stirring so they don’t burn. Once they get to a dark golden brown you can finish – or you can let them go to a full mahogany color if you’d prefer. By then it had been about 35 minutes and I was ready to eat, so I added in the liquids (Worcestershire sauce, a dash of soy sauce, mustard, and bourbon). It took another 5+ minutes for that liquid to be absorbed and simmered off – I wished I’d left just a smidgen of liquid to drizzle onto the steak, so keep that in mind if you make this.

My sous vide steak was ready to finish – it was fully cooked, but it has a kind of insipid grayish color to the outside when it’s done in the sous vide, so I fired up my stovetop grill and got it smoking hot and plopped that steak on there for about 90 seconds per side – that’s all it needed. I let it sit for about 5 minutes on a cutting board, cut it in half and served it with the onions on top.

What’s GOOD: oh my, yes, it was delicious. Loved the sweet onions – I could have eaten double the amount if they’d been there – I saved half for a 2nd meal. The bourbon flavor was very subtle. Altogether delicious. If you like bourbon, you could add more – I will next time.

What’s NOT: really nothing other than the time it takes to sweat down and caramelize the onions.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14 file (click on link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Caramelized Onion Sauce with Bourbon

Recipe By: My own concoction, but loosely based on several online recipes
Serving Size: 2

1 large yellow onion — peeled, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 clove garlic — smashed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce — reduced sodium
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup bourbon

1. Slice onions and add to a skillet in which you have heated the oil and butter. Stir frequently – it will take awhile – about 20 minutes – to get most of the water out of the onions, then they’ll begin to get golden, then darker and darker. Turn down the heat so the onions don’t burn. Once they’ve reached the color you like, add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or so.
2. In a small bowl combine the Worcestershire, soy sauce, Dijon and bourbon. Mash up the mustard so it’s mostly disappeared into the liquid.
3. Add liquid to the pan of onions and cook over low heat until nearly all the fluid has evaporated – about 4-5 minutes. It’s nice to have just a little tiny bit of liquid left to drizzle onto the grilled meat.
4. Pile on top of a piece of grilled steak or pork chop.
Per Serving: 220 Calories; 13g Fat (73.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 338mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on July 26th, 2015.

nigel_slaters_plum_chutney

Plums are in season now – or maybe, lucky you, you have a plum tree? If so, here’s a new way to use plums and if you’re so inclined you can can it to keep for another season.

Shopping at Trader Joe’s, I spotted some plumcots, a hybrid fruit that’s more plum than apricot, and am not really sure what’s different about them (in tasting them I really couldn’t tell the difference with it and a straight plum). But I’d read this recipe for a plum chutney and decided I’d make it. As I write this, I’m going to entertain one night soon, about 12 people, and I wanted something to serve alongside some grilled meats. I’ve made this and will also make an old favorite, Escoffier’s Peppers for Cold Meats. I don’t think I’ve made those peppers for a couple of years and I love them.

plums_cut_upIt took over an hour to make this, but most of it is just simmering time. There’s about 15-20 minutes of prep time involved. It’s not difficult – just chopping the onions and plums mostly. The plums are the most gorgeous color, aren’t they? I love the color red. If you came to my house, you’d know how much I love red. It’s not in every room, but it’s in several!

The plums get cut up (the recipe said to halve them, but I wanted smaller pieces than that) and then you put it all together in a big, heavy-duty pot (don’t use something flimsy as you cook this, or it will burn). There, below is a photo of all the gorgeous stuff in the pot – the onions, raisins, sugar, dried chile flakes, mustard seeds, apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar (that’s different, huh?) and I added a little bit of dried thyme. Oh yes, and a stick of cinnamon too.

chutney_mixture

My eye strays immediately to the deep ruby red of those plums. Anyway, the mixture is brought to a boil and simmered for about an hour (without a lid) and it cooks down and cooks down until it’s the consistency of loose jam. Just keep it on low so it doesn’t burn. Listen for the sound of sizzling, meaning it’s too hot, or needs just a little bit of water added to it.

You may wish to can this as soon as it’s done – pour into sterilized jars and seal. But I knew I’d be using it soon, so I just allowed the pot to cool (that took awhile because the mixture was really hot) and poured it into refrigerator containers and it’s now safely stored in the refrigerator until I need it next week. You could freeze it as well, if that’s your fancy.

plum_chutney_with_chickenAnd there at left was my dinner – some left over chicken with a couple of dollops of the chutney on top.

The vinegar in the mix gives a definite savory edge to this chutney but it’s sweet too – guess that’s why it’s called hot and sweet. There are some red chile flakes in the mixture – I didn’t use many because I’m always wary of using too many, and you certainly can’t un-do it. Chutney almost always has some kind of acid in it, and usually some kind of fruit as well. So this is definitely a chutney, right?

I bought some nice goat cheese, and think I’ll serve the chutney on that as an appetizer. Should be lovely. I’ll also serve it as a relish with the grilled meat. I found the recipe online in several places. One suggestion was to make this ahead because it improves with age. Okay, I’ve done that.

What’s GOOD: love the sweet and sour aspect, though there isn’t much sour. Yet the acid definitely gives it a sweet/savory piquant taste. It’s great with some cold meat. Would be fabulous in a turkey sandwich, I think. Pork would lend itself well to this. Also on cream or soft cheese as an appetizer. Or just plain on a cracker.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of!

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Nigel Slater’s Hot and Sweet Plum Chutney

Recipe By: Nigel Slater’s Recipe from his cookbook, Ripe (I found it at The English Kitchen blog)
Serving Size: 20

1 2/3 pounds plums — (I used plumcots)
3/4 pound onions
3/4 cup raisins
1 1/4 cups muscovado sugar — (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes — crushed
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
5 1/2 ounces apple cider vinegar
5 1/2 ounces malt vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme — (my addition: optional)
a cinnamon stick broken in two

Notes: This gets better tasting as days go by. If you can do it, let it ripen for a couple of weeks. Perfect to serve with cold meats and cheeses.
1. Halve the plums, discarding the stones. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Put the fruit and the onions into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients.
2, Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Taste for sweetness – may need more sugar, depending on the plums. (DO not forget to stir it occasionally as it may burn.)
3. Pour into hot and sterilized jam jars and seal. Or, allow to cool to room temperature, refrigerate and use within a few weeks.
Per Serving: 83 Calories; trace Fat (3.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on June 18th, 2015.

perfect_hard_boiled_egg
No credit is due here to my invention or my years of kitchen skills. I read it all over at Serious Eats, a blog that’s been in existence for about as long as mine has (8 years). The difference is that one of their contributors is a restaurant chef (and I’m not), and she just set out to share her years of experience in a restaurant kitchen. So I took her advice.

Never again will I put cold eggs in a pan of cold water, cover them and bring them up to temp and simmer for awhile. Never again will I bring the eggs out of the refrigerator to let them “warm up” a little on the kitchen counter. Never again will I put eggs in their shell IN water in a pan. Never again will I just guess at how long they need to cook – 15 minutes? 20 minutes? Nope. Never again will I rap the just ice-chilled egg (in the shell) onto my sink side to “break” the air bubble at the flatter end, that membrane inside, hoping the cold water will circulate around in there and make it easier to peel (because that’s what my mother taught me to do). Never again will I try to peel them when they’re just newly chilled in ice water. And lastly, never will I try to make them in a pressure cooker (I never have, but just thought I’d add that in since Kenji mentioned it also).

breville_risotto_cooker_acting_as_a_steamerIf you’re curious about all-things-hard-boiled-eggs, then you must go read the extensive and very scientific blog post over at Serious Eats. And if you want to read the short version, with just the recipe, then do this one.

cold_eggs_ready_for_steamingWhat I WILL be doing is what Kenji taught me – to cook them exactly 12 minutes in the steamer insert of a pan. I did it in my risotto cooker (pictured above right, set on the sauté function so I could keep the water boiling), which is just like doing them in a steamer insert of any old pan set you have and doing them on the stovetop. And after exactly 12 minutes, I’ll be plunging that steamer insert full of hot, just hard-cooked eggs eggs_steaminginto a big bowl of extra-cold ice water (with ice cubes) to bring the temperature down right away quick. And I will be chilling them for a few hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator before trying to peel them.

Here’s the short course:

1. Bring about an inch of water to a boil, in a covered pan for which you have a steamer insert. Place the steamer insert inside while it’s heating up.

2. Once the water is boiling solidly, add the cold (right out of the frig) eggs to the steamer insert and cover again.

3. Set the timer for 12 minutes.eggs_chilling_ice_water

4. Meanwhile, get out a big, deep bowl large enough to contain the steamer insert and fill it with cold water and with lots of ice cubes.

5. After the 12 minutes, remove the steamer insert with eggs inside and plop them down, altogether, into that icy water. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

6. Remove eggs and refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight if possible.

Kenji does say, and I think rightly so, there probably is no 100% perfect way to hard cook eggs – you’ll have an occasional failure, but this method, which is new to me, worked like an absolute charm. But all the credit is Kenji’s!

printer-friendly PDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

Posted in Miscellaneous, on May 16th, 2015.

tartar_sauce_with_cottage_cheese

Don’t stick up your nose at the title of this – I know what you’re thinking – how could tartar sauce made with cottage cheese taste like anything? Well, I might have been in that camp, but laziness on my part made me inventive.

You see, I didn’t want to go to the store to buy sour cream. Or, yuk, to buy ready-made tartar sauce, which I think is awful. So, since I did have cottage cheese in the refrigerator (full fat type), I decided to snoop around on the ‘net to see if anyone had devised a recipe that was palatable. I took ideas from a couple of different recipes, and  used different proportions. I didn’t want a lot – it’s just me these days – and I had just one piece of salmon to eat.

What I wanted was a tartar sauce similar to what you’re served in a restaurant, which  usually is made fresh daily. So, I fiddled with what to add, a little jot here and there, and it tasted pretty darned good. Generally, I don’t buy “diet” labeled items, and I don’t necessarily stint on using butter (in moderation) when it’s needed. And I’d have used sour cream if I had it; but I didn’t. I’d have  used yogurt, except what I have in the refrigerator is sweetened slightly, and I didn’t think that would taste good with salmon! So, you see, I made do.

The capers are essential – they add a little sour taste and a briny flavor from their juices. And the pickle relish is also essential for me. But you can jiggle the proportions to suit your taste if you’d like. The cottage cheese kind of flew around inside my little tiny food processor, and the part that stuck to the lid was still little curds, so I didn’t scrape that down or use it in the finished sauce. Just the part that got whizzed well until it was smooth (remember, I wanted it to taste like sour cream). I tasted, add more lemon juice, more pepper, then scraped it out into a bowl, with some going into that little ramekin in the photo. If I’d had fresh dill I would have added it, but I didn’t. You could add dried dill.

What’s GOOD: I was almost amazed at how good this was. Of course, it’s not like the real thing, but salmon has a lot of flavor all on its own, so the tartar sauce was just fine. And yes, I’d make it again if I needed to. Note that there is a tiny bit of mayo in it – I think that helped. I used regular Best Foods/Hellman’s because that’s all I have in my refrigerator.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. No, it’s isn’t like the real thing, but it’s pretty darned close!

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Tartar Sauce made with Cottage Cheese

Recipe By: My own concoction, but based on several internet ones.
Serving Size: 2

1/3 cup cottage cheese (full fat)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon chives — minced

1. In a small food processor combine the cottage cheese, mayo, lemon juice, pepper and mustard. Whiz until you can no longer see any cottage cheese curds, and it’s smooth.
2. Scrape out into a bowl and stir in the pickle relish, chives and capers. Taste for seasonings. Chill for 30 minutes or more to blend the flavors. Will keep for several days.
Per Serving: 93 Calories; 7g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 288mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, Miscellaneous, on March 23rd, 2015.

bobby_flays_steak_rub

Just plain steaks are fine, but don’t you sometimes want to put something on them, to give them an added lift, or some different flavors?

Recently I invited my/our son Powell and his family over for dinner. (And the good news is that I was able to do enough walking and standing in the kitchen to pull it off.) I have meat in my freezer. Oh my, do I have meat in the garage freezer, and I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since my darling DH died, and I’ve hardly made a dent in the meat stash. I’ve purchased plenty of chicken breasts and thighs, and salmon steaks which crowd in there, and go in and out, but I have numerous cuts of beef, pork, whole chickens and fish fillets that are now more than a year old. I’ve GOT to do something with them.

The good news was that I WANTED to cook. Those of you reading this, who don’t know me very well yet, won’t understand. In the last year I’ve hardly wanted to cook at all. But I also had my darned foot injury that for 7 months has kept me from standing at my kitchen counter much at all. That’s completely healed now and I’m trying to push my limits a bit. Am walking some every day to flex those tight ligaments, tendons, the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendons too.

In coming days  you’ll see a couple of other new recipes I tried out for this dinner (a crostini appetizer using green peas, and a fennel vegetable side). I also made my favorite Crisp Apple Pudding, one of my signature, very homey desserts. My grandson Vaughan was salivating from the moment he heard Grandma had made the apple pudding, which he just loves. He could hardly eat hissteaks_with_steak_rub dinner because he wanted that dessert so much. Then he wanted seconds, but mom and dad said no.

Anyway, back to the steaks. They were ribeyes (USDA prime, from Costco). Powell grilled them for me, and I handed Powell this little bowl (above) to season them. He used the trusty Thermapen to make sure the steaks were cooked to perfection. The 4 of us shared these 2 big steaks. I have some leftover which I’ll use to make a nice steak salad, I think. Karen brought a lovely green salad (with the first of our spring strawberries) and left some greens with me which will make a nice start. Maybe I’ll have that for dinner tonight.

What’s GOOD: just something different. I liked the spice combination. It was easy enough to make. Just remember, spice blends should not be kept for more than a month, so use it up, or make a smaller batch to begin with.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Same as above, a spice blend doesn’t keep more than a month, so use it up.

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Bobby Flay’s Steak Rub

Recipe By: Bobby Flay, online
Serving Size: 10

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika — (sweet paprika)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chile de arbol — (optional – I didn’t have any)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine ingredients and store in well-sealing jar. Sprinkle liberally on steaks before grilling.
Per Serving: 12 Calories; 1g Fat (37.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 16mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Miscellaneous, on November 30th, 2014.

five_spice_fall_fruit_salad

five-spice fruit salad

It’s always nice, at a brunch, to have some kind of a fruit dish. You could certainly do plain, fresh fruit, but you can also make it special with this recipe that has some spice additions that are certainly a little off the usual list – five-spice and vanilla bean.

We had this lovely, fun brunch. We sat outside (a few weeks ago, here in California, we were still having full-on summer) so gathering on a Sunday, at nearly mid-day, we enjoyed the waning days of summer with a delicious mixture of brunch dishes. This being one of them. Peggy brought this one, a delicious marinated fruit mixture that contains some five-spice powder and a half of a vanilla bean. It’s marinated in a honey-based mixture, which also gave it a lovely sweetness. The recipe came from epicurious a couple of months ago. Peggy couldn’t find any figs, since they’re out of season, so she used peaches, the plums, and she added a few prunes to give it some alternate color. I think this dish could be very adaptable – use whatever fruit is in season, though not apples unless you cooked them a bit. Pears would probably work also.

The spiced honey syrup is made ahead, cooled, then poured over the fruit. It’s refrigerated for a few hours. It probably would be fine made the day before as well. I would think this could be made with less honey syrup – starting with 3/4 cup of honey is a lot. I might try making half the amount of honey and water (but use all the spices), marinate in a plastic bag, and turn the bag over several times in the refrigerator.

What’s GOOD: well, you know me, I like foods and recipes that have something different about them, and this definitely fits the bill here, with the five-spice (not overwhelming at all) and the vanilla bean. Of all the dishes we had at the brunch, this was the only one I went back to for seconds. Use fruit that have different colors to them if at all possible. The syrup could be used again – strain it, freeze it and use it weeks or months later.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – it was a really lovely fruit salad.

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Five-Spice Fall Fruit Salad

Source: adapted slightly from epicurious
Serving Size: 8

3/4 cup honey
1/2 vanilla bean — split and scraped
1 piece ginger — (1 inch) thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 plums — black-skinned, if possible, pitted and sliced
5 red plums — pitted and sliced
4 whole peaches — or fresh figs, if available

Notes: the original recipes called for 2 types of plums plus figs. If those fruits aren’t in season, substitute other – even cherries or prunes. If using apples, you may need to partially cook them; same perhaps with pears. Plums, figs and peaches are all soft fruits, so they lend themselves well to just marinating in the syrup. Try to vary the color in the fruit just because it looks nicer.
1. Place 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Add the honey, vanilla bean pod with seeds, ginger, and five-spice powder. Bring to a boil and stir until honey dissolves. Set aside to cool completely, and stir in lemon juice. Discard ginger and vanilla bean pod.
2. In a large bowl, pour cooled syrup over the sliced plums. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
3. An hour before serving, slice peaches (or figs) and gently fold into plum mixture. To serve, use a slotted spoon to ladle fruit into a serving bowl.
4. DO AHEAD: Syrup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. [My suggestion: save the syrup, strain it, and freeze to be used again.]
Per Serving: 166 Calories; 1g Fat (2.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium.

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