No recipe today, but I thought I'd post anyway just to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! I pity those of you that don't have changing seasons, I really do. The maples look just gorgeous right now.
Okay, then, I'm signing off. Have a safe holiday! Until I return tomorrow, please enjoy the photo of our Halloween pumpkin this year. I've affectionately named it JLo.
31 October 2007
No recipe today, but I thought I'd post anyway just to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! I pity those of you that don't have changing seasons, I really do. The maples look just gorgeous right now.
30 October 2007
Cold weather is here, which means I can finally make my all-time favorite dish: Sauerbraten. This German lady and her German husband love love love their sauerbraten, a traditional dish from Deutschland.
Translated from German, sauerbraten means "sour roast". Essentially, it is a roast marinated in vinegar and spices for a few days then slow roasted in the oven. Do not, however, let this description deter you from the dish. I can't describe the taste if you've never had this, except to say it is absolutely delicious. Tart and tangy and sweet, with the most tender fall-apart roast meat. If you like Carolina BBQ, that vinegary sweet thick sauce, then you will love sauerbraten. And it is actually quite easy to make, just takes some planning ahead for that good long marinade.
Just a few asides: for one, I always roast a big hunk of meat when I do this, then I can use the leftovers to make sandwiches for lunch the rest of the week (on rye bread with just a smear of horseradish spread, mmmm). Also, if you can't find juniper berries at your local market, try a spice shop (e.g. Penzey's in KC) or sometimes organic markets will carry them.
2 c. water
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. red wine vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt, additional for seasoning meat
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
12 juniper berries
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 (3 1/2 to 4-lb.) bottom round
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 c. sugar
18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 oz.), crushed
In a large saucepan over high heat combine the water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Cover and bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Pat the bottom round dry and rub with vegetable oil and salt on all sides. Heat a large saute pan over high heat; add the meat and brown on all sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.
After 3 to 5 days of marinating, preheat the oven to 325 F.
Add the sugar to the meat and marinade, cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.
Remove the meat from the vessel and keep warm. Strain the liquid to remove the solids. Return the liquid to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
Slice the meat (or if it gets as tender as mine and slicing is impossible, just shred off in big chunks) and serve with the sauce. Serve over noodles, spaetzle, or with dumplings.
29 October 2007
I make this rice dish fairly often, it's a combination of a few different recipes I've seen. Aside from coming together easily, it is also filling and a great mix of flavors and textures. The rice gives the dish a nutty base. The onions and cranberries sweeten it up. The bell pepper and almonds give it a nice crunch, and the lemon zest seems to brighten up all the flavors in the dish.
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. uncooked brown rice
1/2 c. uncooked wild rice
3 Tbsp. butter
3 onions, sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. green bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
28 October 2007
The Hubs and I were married one year ago today. One of the awesome parts of our wedding reception (there were many, but this was a good one) was the fact that the hotel's Ten Restaurant catered the meal. To me the most important thing on that wedding menu, with no argument from the husband-type man, was to serve their signature chopped salad for our first course. I am a sucker for a chopped salad anyway, but this one is truly amazing! It's like a beefed up BLT, in salad form: lots of juicy tomatoes and bacon and blue cheese, plus chicken and green onions and the biggest surprise of all, pasta. And nothing is more appropriate as a dressing as the mustard vinaigrette it's tossed in - it's flavorful but doesn't take away from the ingredients in the least.
I love love love this salad. It is and always has been my most favorite thing on the restaurant's menu. I love it so much, in fact, that I weaseled the recipe out of a friend years ago. I make it frequently for dinner and can attest to the fact that even in leftovers form, wilted greens and all, it's absolutely delicious
And now, in celebration of this fine occasion, I spread the love along to my dear readers. Give this one a try, you will not be disappointed.
Ten Restaurant's Signature Chopped Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed and drained
2 romaine hearts, rinsed and drained
2 baked chicken breasts (approx. 2 cups cubed chicken breast meat)
6 bacon strips, fried and crumbled
1 c. diced tomatoes
1 c. cooked ditalini*
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles
For the mustard vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 to 2 Tbsp. sugar, to taste
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 c. salad oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of coarsely crushed black pepper
Chop the iceberg lettuce and romaine hearts and place them in a large salad bowl. Add the cubed chicken, crumbled bacon, tomato, ditalini, green onions and blue cheese crumbles.
For the mustard vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegars, water, garlic, dry mustard, sugar and salt and whisk until blended. Pour in the oils slowly, whisking constantly until the mixture is emulsified. Whisk in the oregano, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
Pour as much of the Mustard Vinaigrette as desired over the salad. Toss to coat. Makes 4 main course salad meals, or 8 side salads.
*ditalini = very small, short tubes of macaroni. You can find it with other died pastas at the grocery store. If I'm out (which I happened to be the last time I made this salad, as witnessed in the pics) I will just use any tube-shaped pasta I have on hand. Just give it a rough chop before tossing into the salad.
25 October 2007
Oh, the oven is back! It's here! It's fixed! The landlord installed the new heating element, and it works like a champ. To celebrate my oven's return, and to break in the new element, I thought I'd make a quick batch of cookies.
Not just any cookies, though. See, I need to preface this by telling you that I have this fascination with Vosges Haut Chocolates. If I find myself in Chicago, it's mandatory that we stop by one of their stores. Vosges makes gourmet, exotic truffles in unusual flavor combinations ( dark chocolate + ginger + wasabi, for instance, as can be sampled in their amazing black pearl truffle). And while some combinations sound absolutely crazy, the creations are actually very good.
24 October 2007
If you ever find yourself near Laguna Beach (California) and you're hungry, head down the PCH and find Taco Loco. Large patios and good music playing on the outdoor speakers will let you know that you're at the right spot. It may look like a hole-in-the-wall, but inside this tiny spot has a lot of character. The servers wear tie-dye T-shirts and the menu lists hemp brownies as well as a smattering of vegan offerings and lots of Mexican fare. However, hands down, the fish taco is the true star of this place, and makes it probably my favorite place for a meal in the entire town. There is nothing quite like enjoying a hot crunchy Taco Loco fish taco while basking in the warm California sun, the smell of the ocean nearby. Ahhh.
The white sauce is probably the hardest part to recreate: it's tangy and creamy and thin thin thin; also spicy, with a good mix of spices. The recipe below is from a Dan Diego native who did many experiments to get the sauce right; I think she nailed it. And now, whenever I want, I can have a slice of sunny SoCal right here in Kansas.
23 October 2007
22 October 2007
Yum. This recipe is compliments of Rick Bayless, and I love it. Very spicy and flavorful, the salsa really perks up the fish (sometimes I get bored with salmon, all we seem to do is either a white wine or dill/mustard sauce with the stuff). This is definitely different, and the colors are bright and gorgeous (pictures don't do it justice!).
The best part of the whole thing: This dish is meant to be served at room temperature, and you can make the salsa up to 2 days ahead, plus grill the salmon a day ahead if needed (then just bring both to room temperature, on the counter for an hour or two).
Grilled Salmon Vera Cruz with Lemon Thyme-Scented Salsa
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the grill and the salmon
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
7 c. diced (1/2 inch) ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 c. pitted, roughly sliced green olives (preferably manzanillo olives)
1/4 c. capers, drained and rinsed
3 pickled jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
6 salmon steaks (7 to 8 ounces each), about 1 inch thick
Prepare the sauce: Place oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes, chopped thyme, lemon zest, and half of the olives, capers, and peppers. Simmer briskly, stirring, for about 5 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in 1 cup water and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt. Cool.
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot. Reduce the heat on one side of the gas grill to medium-low or set up the charcoal grill for indirect cooking by banking all of the coals to one side, leaving the other half of the grill empty. Set the cooking grate in place, cover the grill and let the grate heat for 5 minutes. **Note: I skipped all this craziness, and just grilled fish in my grill pan on the stovetop.
Oil the grill and both sides of each salmon steak; sprinkle fish with salt. Cook the salmon over the hottest part of the grill for about 4 minutes, until nicely browned underneath. Carefully flip over the fish onto the cooler side of the grill; cook 2 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare.
Spoon the sauce into a deep platter and nestle the fish in it. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour to bring together the flavors of the fish and the sauce.
To serve, sprinkle the fish with remaining olives, capers, and peppers; garnish with the thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.
21 October 2007
I need to thank Sarah for this recipe. After over 2 weeks with no oven, I've been in quite the funk. These truffles, while not a baking recipe to fulfill that particular 'itch' of mine, came out perfectly and taste great. I was a bit surprised: I thought the truffle/oreo filling would be light, but in fact it really is quite rich. I wanted to spice things up a bit so I added some flavoring to my mixtures (vanilla to one-half the truffle filling, those are white-chocolate decorated; mint flavoring to the other half with green sugar sprinkles).
They were perfect, a great little treat after a filling dinner. Pretty fun to make, too!
Oreo Truffles (from Sarah)
1 pkg. (1 lb.-ish) Oreo sandwich cookies
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, mint, almond, cherry; anything your little heart desires)
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Decoration (melted white chocolate, sprinkles, raw sugar, etc.)
Crush cookies to a fine crumb in a food processor. Add cream cheese and flavoring; pulse until well blended. Put mixure in a large bowl.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Roll cookie mixture from bowl into balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
Melt chocolate in a saucepan (do not burn). Dip balls in chocolate and place on another wax paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar or decorate as desired.
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.
18 October 2007
Well, this one is a winner. Healthy, tastes great, and comes together sooo quickly: took me longer to chop the veggies than cook! I used frozen shrimp, because I'm too lazy to devein the things, and I also served them with lime slices (because limes make everything oh so much better). And a big thanks to Julie for the fabulous recipe!
17 October 2007
1 broiler chicken, about 2 1/2 lbs., split and with the backbone removed
16 October 2007
I finish up at the store and head home with my new prizes, including the mystery pan. Thoughts of delicate lavender cakes and chocolate Charlotte floated around in my head. I absolutely could not wait to get home and look this thing up, then start baking cakes so refined and gorgeous that no one would believe it came from my shoebox-sized kitchen in the Midwest.
After some research, I found out exactly what I had purchased: A steamed pudding mold. Yes, steamed pudding. The English "treat" that is so bland and unmemorable that even the English rarely make it these days. Ever heard of figgy pudding? Spotted dick? Both are variations of steamed pudding. As I desperately dug deeper on the subject, I found talk about an "outdated" dessert, I read that it will keep for months if wrapped in a wet towel, and most recipes required suet – yeah, that would be beef lard. Fannie Farmer even recommends that you "keep the lard from several cuts of beef until you have enough for your suet, then combine". Oh, no. No no no. And of course, not a word about steamed puddings in my copy of La Technique.
What amazed me about this dessert is just how complex it was. The steamed pudding uses molasses instead of sugar for its sweetness, so there is a rich, deep, molasses-bitter quality to it (very reminiscent of brown bread). This very moist cake is also studded with plump cranberries, adding just the right amount of lightness (and a great tart contrast). And the recipe included a hard sauce to pour over slices, which was the ideal compliment: it's sweet and buttery, which cut through the cake nicely. This was very very good. I am impressed. And I think this steamed pudding would be absolutely PERFECT on a cold day, with a nice hot cup of coffee.
The cranberry steamed pudding turned out so well, I think I'll break out the steamed pudding mold a lot more often than I originally thought. Recipe is below for those adventurous people (you can make it without the mold by putting it in a loaf pan and covering tightly with foil).
Cranberry Steamed Pudding
1 c. white sugar
15 October 2007
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Place the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a medium-size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.
In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.
12 October 2007
First off, a few things about bluestem itself. Cody and Megan Garrelts, the co-owner chefs, come from Tru in Chicago. Their restaurant bluestem has garnered attention from several biggies – Food and Wine, James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator. Some national newspapers (such as the Washington Post, San Francisco Gate, and NY Times) have taken note as well. Cody was named one of the best new chefs of 2005 by Food and Wine magazine, and then they honored Megan for her pastries in late 2006. That adorable food writer at the KC Star only gave it 3.5 stars, but then again… well, now is not the time to get into her misguided tastes (if bluestem put BBQ sauce on everything, it'd be automatic 5 star).
Bluestem has tons of accolades, and yet the place is so laid back. The sommelier and Megan take turns running the floor. Everyone there is excited to explain things on the menu. They treat every customer in their tiny, 14-table establishment as if they were the only customer in the place. And that alone is a reason for splurging on a meal here.
So, we make a reservation. We go to bluestem. They have this miniscule parking area behind the restaurant, we were lucky enough to get a spot there. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to Westport, not sure on traffic, and ended up getting there 40 minutes before our reservation. Oopie. Lucky for us, the restaurant has a wine lounge. We checked in with the host/sommelier and made our way to the cooshy chairs and sofas in the bar area. Scott ordered a dirty martini and I got a Manhattan – my cocktail was dressed with imported Italian cherries rather than maraschinos. They were a dark ink-red, way way sweet and seriously tart. Already a good sign.
We finished our drinks and then were seated in the dining room. Immediately an amuse bouche was sent out - pineapple juice with strawberry foam(?). Yup, a shooter. I don't like pineapple juice, at all. This was good though, and the strawberry foam on top was insane – it tasted just like fresh strawberries, I swear you could even taste the seeds.
We ordered the five-course meal, which consisted of two "openers" and two entrees, plus dessert. We also sprang for the wine tasting menu - very glad we did this, not only cheaper than ordering a few glasses ourselves but also it didn't hurt to have the sommelier hand-choosing wines to match our courses. Scott got the wagyu tartare for his first course. I ordered the seafood chowder: crispy rock shrimp with fingerlings and pearl onions. They poured seafood puree over the shrimp et al. tableside, so the shrimp was still crispy in the soup. I've never had chowder like this before. Even though there was only shrimp in it, I tasted a million different kinds of seafood. The sommelier came with our wines, Scott had champagne and my chowder was paired with an Austrian Veltliner that was crisp and almost lemony.
Second course: Scott had the oxtail torchio, I had the foie gras. The foie gras was served torchon-style, with brioche French toast, kumquat jam, burnt honey drizzle, and sprinkled with pink peppercorns. Oh! The foie gras was cold and firm but melted in your mouth, and the sweet garnishes were perfect. The sommelier served a wine that I can't remember, embarrassingly enough – it wasn't the usual sauternes, but was similar. Sweet and tart and it complemented the foie gras well. That's the best I can remember. That foie gras was good, man. Scott's pasta was paired with an Argentinian Syrah.
Third course. I had Ahi tuna, with a ragout of winter veggies and a rock shrimp verjus fume. They poured the broth over my tuna tableside, and it turned into a creamy broth. Like magic! The tuna was just seared, my favorite way to have it. The tuna dish was very clean and fresh, the ragout and verjus did not take over the flavor of the meat which was awesome. The sommelier paired it with a nice pinot noir from Oregon, plum-y and thick and a good contrast to the freshness of the tuna.
Fourth Course. I ordered the veal short ribs – the chef kept one small bone, and wrapped the meat around and around it. It was sided with turnips, fingerlings, and a horseradish devonshire. The meat was sooo good – rich and tender, like a huge veal cinnamon roll. Scott had the wagyu again, this time a striploin with smoked potato puree, tomato jam, and spinach croquettes.
After all that, we were full, tired, and ready to take off. But oh no! Megan, the pastry chef, sent out champagne floats for us before we left for the evening. Loved it – they were fizzy and sweet. So simple and perfect. How we found room to gulp them down is beyond me.
We ran into Megan at the hostess desk when we were leaving, and thanked her profusely (foodie nerds). And off we went, back to Lawrence and straight to bed. But man – best meal evah. That bluestem knows what it's doing. Scott and I have decided – if we cut back on spending, don't eat out as often as we're used to, we can swing this kind of outing about once every few months. Pretty tempting.
11 October 2007
In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sauté the onion until soft and beginning to brown. Add garlic, and sauté for a few more minutes, until fragrant. Remove from heat.
09 October 2007
Another Ina recipe, although this one I had to alter because I'd gain 5 pounds if I made it as directed. Maybe for a special occasion, or on my death bed, I'll make it the full-fat way as Ina instructs. But I am way too in love with this dip (and make it way too often) to make it the way she gives it.
In Ina's defense: I hear people complain about her fattening recipes, but frankly I can't blame her for using such artery-clogging ingredients. These are more than likely the recipes from her catering business, which had quite the reputation for its delicious offerings. And if I had a catering business, you better believe that I'd use the most tasty, flavor-enhancing (more than likely fattening) ingredients, too. Butter, lard, cream, sugar. Pile it on. Get 'em hooked and keep the jobs coming in. The woman has the nicest smile, and she sure seems like a sweetie-pie on her television show, but make no mistake: she's a smart businesswoman.
Anyway, the recipe below is my (normal-person) version of Ina's recipe. I cut down on the butter/oil, and used reduced fat where I could. I'm sure it is still very bad for you, but think of it this way: it's not as bad as it could be! I ate it with Wheat Thins instead of kettle-style potato chips, but I can't blame you if you use the kettle chips (there is no better way to eat this dip).
Pan-Fried Onion Dip
2 large yellow onions (you want about 3 c. of sliced onion)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 c. reduced-fat mayonnaise
Cut the onions in half, and then slice them into 1/8-in. thick half-rounds. Cut the halves in half again (quarters) if you want shorter onion pieces in your dip.
Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10-15 minutes, until they are beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 more minutes, until the onions are completely browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix together well. Taste for seasonings (add salt and pepper if needed).
Serve at room temperature, with chopped veggies, thick (kettle-style) chips, crackers, etc. It's important to serve this at room temperature! The dip is rather thick, if you serve it cold (refrigerated) then it'll be very hard to dip.