29 September 2008

Braised Chicken with Figs and Bay

It's fresh fig time, folks. Hit up that grocery or market and pick up a carton or two!

I love fresh figs; they remind me of grapes with lots of teeny strawberry seeds in them. I found this recipe after searching for something to use up the extra figs in our fridge before they went bad. Soooo good. And pretty healthy. I love this recipe because it's good for you, flavorful, and doesn't take a lot of cooking skills. Give it a shot if you have the time, because while an easy dish to pull off: the presentation is pretty stellar - you can definitely impress if you have a dinner party.

Braised Chicken with Figs and Bay

(adapted from Cooking Light, August 2000)


6 chicken thighs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 bay leaves
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. sliced shallots
1/3 c. dry red wine
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey
16 fresh figs, each cut in half lengthwise

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place 1 bay leaf on each chicken thigh. Heat oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

Place chicken, bay leaf sides down, in pan. Cook 5 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 3 minutes. Add water; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Add shallots; cook 2 minutes. Add chicken, wine, vinegar, and honey to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

Add figs; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until figs are tender.

Serve over rice or couscous.

27 September 2008

Lavash Crackers

This one kinda sneaked up on me. Thank goodness I double-checked the deadline a few days ago! Gave me time to eek out my entry into our monthly little baking club.

This month, we spiced things up a bit. Our challenge was to make lavash crackers (an Armenian hard flatbread), and gluten-free ones to boot. Our first Alternative Challenge! I have never in my life worried about the gluten in my life, love the stuff. Can't live without it. I've tried gluten-free bread just out of curiosity, from my favorite Hippie Grocery Store even, but it was just so... dry. Dry dry dry. Never grabbed the gluten-free bread again.

But for the Daring Bakers, I'll give it a shot.

These crackers actually whipped up rather quickly - in fact, I think it's a challenge for the record books as far as "least amount of time suck". We were given free reign as to our cracker toppings, and I went with sesame seeds. I have plans for some of the leftover crackers, muah-ha-ha-ha. You have to wait and see what that entails.

Another part of the challenge was to make a dip or relish to accompany our crackers, but on one condition: it had to be vegan and gluten-free. A wee bit trickier. My original intention was to make some cool little pickled hot relish, or maybe some exotic dip. I ran out of time trying to think up something Fantastic, however, so I went with the old stand-by: hummus. Not like that's a bad thing, to be honest, but a wee bit boring. Ah, well - nothing wrong with a classic, right?

I am happy to report that both crackers and dip were quite lovely together. I left my crackers a little bit thicker than I think was recommended, just so they would have the slightest bit of softness for my dip (would be sad to try to eat hummus with shards of cracker flying everywhere). Not bad! I might venture into the gluten-free bread world a little bit more often, even if just to make these crackers again.

A big thanks to Natalie and Shel for the challenge! And as always, click the link to see more Daring Baker takes on this vegan and gluten-free Challenge.

Lavash Crackers

1 1/2 c. unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 Tbsp. agave syrup or sugar
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bread-Dough-Has-Been-Mixed-Long-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.

Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors. or4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Classic Hummus

4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed
2 (14 oz.) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 c. tahini
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Paprika and olive oil, for garnish

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Slowly stream in olive oil, until combined. Season to taste with salt.

Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with paprika, and drizzle with olive oil.

25 September 2008

Breakfast Parfaits

I am a sucker for a healthy breakfast that masquerades as dessert.

This recipe is to-die for, I love all the nuts and coconut in it. It's a fantastic basic granola recipe, and after making it a time or two you can decide what you want to add to it - sometimes I'll add different nuts and dried fruit, or vanilla flavoring, or those yogurt-covered raisin things. YUM!
Just layer the granola with fresh (or jarred) fruit and yogurt to make a filling, satisfying breakfast 'treat'. Thank the lord for Ina Garten - for once, something I'll make a lot because it doesn't have tons of butter and cream ;)

Breakfast Parfaits

1 c. quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 c. sliced or slivered almonds
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 c. of your favorite fruit, diced if needed
2 c. plain yogurt (or flavored if you so desire; I like Dannon Light & Fit vanilla)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, oil, and honey together in a large bowl until they are completely combined. Pour onto a sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring once.

Combine the fruit in a bowl. In 4 glasses, layer first the fruit, then the yogurt, and the cooled granola alternately until you fill the glasses.

23 September 2008

Muffaletta Sandwiches

I remember seeing this recipe on Everyday Italian years ago (well, not like 80 years ago or anything, maybe more like a few). Anyhoo: it always stayed in my head, not only because it looked outrageously delicious, but because the presentation was kinda cool. What's not to love about slicing what looks like a normal round loaf and finding many layers of an awesome sandwich inside? My sister and babies were coming up for their annual visit, which included going to the Zoo. I was in charge of lunch, while my sister would bring snacks and drinks. Now that her babies are a bit older and they LOVE sour things, I figured this recipe would finally get used.

Thank goodness, it was still archived on foodtv.com. I got it all prepped and made the night before, then did a quick slice before leaving to meet my sister at the Zoo in the morning. We stopped for lunch in the Lion Viewing Area, and I thought the sandwich was perfect. Her kids picked out the sandwich goodies from the bread, and then ate that separately. They even devoured it. A good sign that the recipe is a winner! I loved the tart vinegar/olive mixture with the meats and cheese. This is something I will definitely make again.

Um - a Nemmie Note: be sure to get a loaf that truly is only 3-4 inches tall, and if you can't find that then shave it down before hollowing it and filling. I bought a nice crusty loaf of sourdough from my favorite bakery, but it was terribly tall. Those sandwhiches were true Dagwoods, a wee bit hard to eat, especially at the Zoo when we had our laps and that was it, no table or plates to catch the goodies dropping out of our sandwich slices.

Muffaletta Sandwiches

1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 c. olive oil
10 large pitted green olives, chopped
1/3 c. pitted, chopped kalamata olives
1/4 c. chopped roasted red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1-lb.) round bread loaf, about 7 inches in diameter and 3 inches high
4 oz. thinly sliced ham 4 ounces thinly sliced mortadella
4 oz. thinly sliced salami
4 oz. sliced provolone
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 oz. arugula leaves

Whisk the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Gradually blend in the oil. Stir in the olives and roasted peppers. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cut the top 1-inch of the bread loaf. Set the top aside. Hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread some of the olive and roasted pepper mix over the bread bottom and cut side of the bread top.

Layer the meats and cheeses in the bread bottom. Top with the onions, then the arugula. Spread the remaining olive and roasted pepper mix on top of the sandwich and carefully cover with the bread top.

You can serve the sandwich immediately or you can wrap the entire sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator a day before serving.

Cut the sandwich into wedges and serve.

21 September 2008

Mahni's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Hi hi! I've been gone for awhile. Sorry for all the delays. I had my sister Beah, nephew Dylan, and the infamous sous chef Mahni visiting me for awhile; they just left Chez Nemmie to head back home. We took trips to the KC Zoo, downtown Lawrence, hit The Merc to get Mahni some baking essentials, did some shopping in KC, the kids braved the T-Rex restaurant for an evening...

We even got the sweet babies' pictures taken by the extremely talented Josh Solar while they were here :)

Photos courtesy of Josh Solar Photo, 2008

You can take a peek at the rest of the pictures if you click right here! Josh and Jenny are fantastic, so a quick plug: if you are in the KC area, you should absolutely give them a call when you need some family (or wedding, or graduation, or baby...) photos.

Anyhoo: while in town, Mahni made sure to teach me her famous Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe. We accidentally doubled the butter, which seeped lovingly into the cake (and would have made Paula Deen proud), but trust me: in its original form you have a sweet, pineapple-y cake with a crunchy sugary crust, and caramelized pineapples to boot on top. Mmmm.

Mahni's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple slices, juice drained and reserved
1 pkg. Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Pineapple Supreme Cake Mix
3 eggs
Juice from canned pineapple + water, to equal 1 c.
1/3 c. oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

For topping, melt butter in the preheated oven in a 9X13 pan. Once butter is melted, remove from the oven. Sprinkle brown sugar in the pan over the butter.

Arrange pineapple slices in the pan, over the brown sugar. Set aside.

For cake, combine cake mix, eggs, pineapple juice/water, and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour batter evenly over fruit in pan.

Bake at 350 F for 45-55 min. or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Invert onto serving plate.

The End.

We love going to the Zoo.

16 September 2008

Cinnamon Buns

Every year for my husband's birthday, I get up early and make him cinnamon rolls. Most years I just use pre-made stuff (you know, like the biscuits in a can?). This year, though, I decided to make them from scratch. The Daring Bakers made cinnamon rolls last year before I joined up, and they looked so good. I decided that this year, I was making those yummy looking cinnamon rolls for the Hubs.

I made the bulk of the recipe the night before, then set my alarm for 3am to pull the dough out of the fridge to temp (!). We weren't disappointed: warm and gooey, sticky cinnamon goodness stuck to your fingers while you pulled apart the soft bread for breakfast: cinnamon rolls (buns) have a special place in this world, and the warm just-out-of-the-oven ones are insanely good. Just trust me, and give these a shot.

There is a reason 90% of the Daring Bakers threw away their previous Cinnamon Roll recipe and made this their main stay.

Cinnamon Buns

6 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 1/2 Tbsp. shortening or unsalted butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon extract OR 1 tsp. grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 c. unbleached bread or all-purpose flour2 tsp. instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 c. whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 c. cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon)
White fondant glaze (at the end of the recipe.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).

Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball.

Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)

Prepare the Buns for Proofing: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.

Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

Bake the Buns:Preheat the oven to 350 F with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool the buns: Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

14 September 2008

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred; and more Meme!

I've tagged this as a blogging event, and as much play time as it's gotten on foodie blogs, it might was well be! This "Quiz of Foods" originated from Very Good Taste.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

Without further ado...

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison (duh - the Hubs is a hunter; this stuff rocks)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (from some chain Outback Steakhouse-type place, but still)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht (Russian food at its finest!)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (teeny bits on a pasta dish count, right?)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut (LOVE)
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cigarette instead of cigar is okay, yeah?)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (Jello shots! Who didn't have one in college??)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut, while still hot
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (dirty gin martinis are the only true martini, darling)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (Canada's version of heart-attack-on-a-plate; quite addicting)

60. Carob chips (blech)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (this is that stinky fruit; no way man)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost (I had an author from Norway; somehow we got in the conversation of this caramel-y cheese and I was then his US soulmate. He still randomly sends me pictures of his hometown occasionally, that dear man)
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (yum indeed!)
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef (small bit in tartar; that counts right?)
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I have tried 63 out of 100... what about you? Post the results on your blog, dear readers!

ALSO: dear Amy at Cape Cod Makeover tagged me for a Meme, so here goes that as well! I am supposed to post 6 facts about myself. Yay, I'm flattered Amy :) Here we go:

1. I love the smell of paint. Love love love the smell of it. It just smells fresh and new I guess. I was so happy when we first moved into our house after painting the entire thing; it smelled so good to me that first month or so.

2. My freshman year of high school, I was the Best Basket Weaver in 3 counties. (Seriously: I won 1st place in 3-dimensional art at the SEK High School Art Fair)

3. Today is my birthday :)

4. I know Don Gorske. Well, actually my parents and brother know him better (my brother and his son were great pals growing up). Still, I do know him! And will report that he truly is a wonderful, skinny, fit guy. His wife is a total doll, too.

5. The company I work for is in a building that used to be a Van Camp factory many many years ago. The Van Camp people put a time capsule in the wall, which we are opening this year. I am totally hoping that big canister is full of Beanee Weenee.

6. I have become an expert at manicure/pedicure/nail painting; in fact: I don't go to salons any more, because I do a better job myself. Totally in the wrong field of work, I tell you.

That's it! Have a great day dear readers! Here's a pic of my sous chef to tide you over until I post again (it's not a post without pictures, after all).

Beep beep! All dressed and ready to head to Nemmie's for a nice long visit :)

12 September 2008

Capellini with Salmon and Lemon-Dill Sauce

This is more of a winter dish: it simmers down for a long time, making a thick, rich sauce. And keeps the room warm (not really something necessary in September in Kansas, but whatever). The sauce tastes so deeply of cream, with a hint of the lemon and dill. And in honestly, while rich, the sauce quotient is low so is just enough to coat the pasta and salmon (no puddles of sauce on the plate, hurrah!). Something I tried once and loved, so keep making even when the weather is more than warm outside.

Quick note: Gourmet piggy-backed this with a recipe for roasted salmon, recommending that you use the leftover salmon for this pasta recipe. I'll make it when I have salmon leftover from a meal, but more often than not I will just pop a few foil-wrapped fillets in the oven for 20 minutes. Works like a charm.

Capellini with Salmon and Lemon-Dill Sauce
(adapted from Gourmet, June 2005)

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 c. flaked broiled salmon
10 oz. capellini (angel-hair pasta; about two thirds of a 1-lb box)

Cook onion in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (but not browned), about 6 minutes. Add broth, cream, and salt and boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 2 cups, 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in dill, lemon zest and juice, and pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup sauce, then add salmon to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat until fish is just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

While fish is heating, cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander. Return pasta to pot, then toss with reserved sauce and cooking water. Serve pasta immediately with fish and sauce spooned over the top.

11 September 2008

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

One of my employees has abandoned me (sniff). E. is sweet and smart and just a doll to work with; she often hides behind her shy personality, and was a vital part of our department. When she sat me down a few months ago to tell me she was moving out of state, I was not only surprised but a bit sad to see her presence go.

I also must mention that E. has a slight obsession with cows. Slight is an understatement. They cover her very being, found in every square inch of her cubicle, hanging from the ends of her bookshelves and overflowing onto her desk. I'm not totally clear on the story behind them (well, actually I kind of am, but am not going to divulge it here), but it's a very intriguing part of her personality.

When she announced her leaving, we found a way to have her contract out as a freelancer for our company. Sweet! And yet, I was still sad to see E. and her cow shrine go. On her last day in our office, she carefully packed all her belongings, including her cows. One lone cow remained on a shelf, and when she took a load of boxes to her car, I stood over her cubicle staring at that sad lonely cow. The sole reminder of a great gal soon to be no longer around.
So I stole him. He's a smushy plastic mess of a cow, but beloved none the less.

I sneaked out of her cubicle with him, but not before leaving a gift in exchange: two huge squares of that peanut-buttery, chocolate-y dessert that Martha Stewart fancy-fied into bars. Yum. Totally worth my petty theft.

I took these bars to a potluck for the Cow-Lovin' Coworker in Question, in honor of her last official day of employment. They are everything a person could want from a no-bake: rich, sweet, filling. These suckers don't disappoint.

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
(shamelessly stolen from Cape Cod Makeover)

Cooking spray
9 oz. chocolate wafers, finely ground (2 cups)
1 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 oz. unsalted butter
1 c. chunky peanut butter
3/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 long sides.

Combine wafers, oats, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add chunky peanut butter and 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, whisking until well combined. Add peanut butter mixture to wafer mixture, stirring until combined. Transfer to baking dish, and use the bottom of a measuring cup or an offset spatula to firmly press mixture into an even layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour melted bittersweet chocolate over chilled mixture and, using an offset spatula, spread into a thin layer that covers the entire surface. Refrigerate until hardened, at least 15 minutes.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter in a small saucepan until runny. Drizzle peanut butter over chilled chocolate. Refrigerate until hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use parchment to lift out chilled block of bars. Run a sharp knife under hot water, dry well, and cut into 24 squares, wiping knife between cuts. Let bars stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. (Sliced bars can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.) We used chocolate graham crackers in place of the wafer cookies and dark chocolate in place of the milk chocolate.

09 September 2008

Corn on the Cobb Salad Wrap

This made a TON of food - I halved the recipe, and we still literally ate this for days. Days! Days of lunches and dinners both. Not like that is a bad thing: it was very, very good. Great as just a salad, and also fabulous as a wrap. So count it in as versatile as well :)

The only think I'd change: I'd grill the onions for the dressing a bit longer, so that they are good and carmelized. The flavor was totally lost in the blue cheese dressing; not that this 'problem' is necessarily terrible, mind you, but it did overpower the onions. Other than that, though, this was amazing. It's not often that I'd willingly eat the same thing for several days, but this definitely is an exception.

Thanks bunches to Drewie, once again, for a wonderful recipe!

Corn on the Cobb Salad Wrap

2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lb.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6 slices prosciutto (or plain ole bacon)
2 ripe avocados
1/2 head romaine, rinsed, spun dry, and finely chopped (about 4 c.)
1 c. cooked corn, heated or defrosted
1 bunch watercress
2 tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
3 large hard-boiled eggs, separated and chopped
4 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 c. Grilled Onion Blue Cheese Dressing, recipe follows

Preheat a grill or grill pan. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Grill for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Set aside to rest for 2 minutes and then cut into bite-size pieces.

In a skillet, cook the prosciutto over moderate heat until it is crisp; transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Break into bite-size pieces. Halve, pit, peel and cut the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the romaine, corn, and watercress. Add the chicken, prosciutto, tomatoes, egg yolks and whites, and avocado. Pour Grilled Onion Blue Cheese Dressing over salad and toss well. Divide over tortillas and fold or roll up to make a sandwich wrap.

Grilled Onion Blue Cheese Dressing:

1 sweet white onion
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c. mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
12 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat a grill or grill pan. Onions can be grilled utilizing a stove top grill pan or outside grill. Remove outer skin of the onion. Cut into 1/2-inch thick circles. Place in bowl and season with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste. Transfer onion to grill or grill pan and cook over medium-high heat until they have a transparent, caramelized color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then cut into medium dice.

In mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, hot sauce, and Worcestershire until well blended. Add blue cheese and mix well to incorporate throughout dressing. Fold in diced grilled onions. Check for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to use.

06 September 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats

Ali, darling. Some of your recipes just drown me in deliciousness. Just like your portobello sandwiches, this recipe is totally awesome. And can I just say? So glad you didn't allow the blog to self-destruct :)

For some reason, my Rice Krispie treats in the past have always been a bit... dense. Kinda dry. I never thought much of it, but when I made these I read the magical words "... don't press down too hard or else your treats will be too dense". Well, duh Nemmie. That was my problem, every single time. But not any more! These treats are chocolate-ty, and full of peanut butter goodness to boot. Can't beat them.

Today my treats are dedicated to that husband of mine - it's his birthday, you see, so he gets a bit of the royal treatment today. Chocolate and peanut butter are his absolute favorite combination, so it seemed fitting.

Happy Birthday, darling!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats
(From Ali)

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more to butter dish
10 oz. jumbo marshmallows
3/4 c. creamy, common brand peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 c. crispy rice cereal (recommended: Rice Krispies)
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot. Stir in the marshmallows and cook until fully melted and no marshmallow white remains. Stir in the peanut butter until combined. Stir in the cereal until distributed evenly through the marshmallow mixture. Pour out onto a lightly greased rectangular baking dish (9" x 13"). Smooth out the top of the treats by moistening your hands with a little water and using the palms of your hand to press down gently. Don't press down too hard or else your treats will be too dense. Set aside to cool.

Once the treats have cooled, melt the chocolate over low heat. Cut the treats into even squares and quickly just shallowly dip the top side of the treats into the chocolate. Turn chocolate side up and set in a baking dish or on a rack until set.

04 September 2008

Catfish Po' Boy

Cheap, easy, and good for you. Oh, and really really yummy. Can't beat that, can you? Thank goodness for Louisiana, folks.

I had Po' Boys on our Labor Day weekend menu well before Gustav reared its ugly head, but eating these after seeing its path on the news made for a good, filling, yet melancholy dinner. Thank goodness this hurricane was not another Katrina, but there was still a lot of damage. So to the people of Louisiana: you're in my thoughts and prayers, here's to a quick recovery. God bless.

Catfish Po' Boy
(from Cooking Light, October 2002)

2 Tbsp. fat-free milk
1 lb. catfish fillets, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (such as McCormick)
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. fat-free mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
Dash of crushed red pepper
2 c. bagged broccoli coleslaw
4 kaiser buns (French bread if you want to be traditional!), split and toasted

Combine milk and catfish in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat. Remove fish from bowl; shake off excess milk. Sprinkle fish with salt. Combine cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag. Seal and shake to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

While fish cooks, combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (vinegar through pepper) in a medium bowl. Add broccoli coleslaw; toss well to coat. Spoon 1/2 cup slaw mixture onto bottom half of each roll. Arrange fish evenly over each serving, and top with top halves of rolls. I also doused the fish liberally with Tabasco sauce. Yum!

02 September 2008

Blueberry Scones

My parents gave me a subscription to Cook's Illustrated one year for Christmas, and it wasn't a gift wasted. The magazine essentially takes classic recipes and perfects them, finding a way to get the best possible outcome.

This scone recipe is nothing short of brilliant: freezing the butter insures a very flaky scone; the bare minimum of kneading makes it incredibly light. Lemon brings out that fabulous blueberry taste, and folding in the berries rather than mixing in and breaking the delicate berries is nothing short of genius. I love love love this recipe, it is a classic I'll always use around here.

I made these late at night, so Hubs could take them to work the next morning for a "Breakfast Potluck" at his office. Why oh why doesn't my office do this?? Anyway. I took my pictures late over the light of the under-cabinet-LED lighting, so excuse the photos please. I did swipe one to keep and photograph (and sample), so there's a few shots of that too for you to enjoy.

Blueberry Scones
(from Cook's Illustrated, July 2007)

16 Tbsp. unsalted butter (2 sticks), frozen whole
1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sour cream
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
1/2 c. sugar, + 1 Tbsp. for sprinkling (I used turbino sugar for sprinkling)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Score and remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you should grate total of 8 tablespoons). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.

Whisk together milk and sour cream in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Following illustrations, fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.