Monday, October 31, 2011

Pecan Pie

I should have known food was going to be important to me.
1. As a child, all of our family pets were named after candy. Our first pet was a dwarf-lop eared rabbit named lollipop. We had her for a long time. The next long-time pet we had was a tortie cat named Reese's. We also had skittles, pixie, kisses, hugs, and licorice. I know there were more I just can't remember them now. I, on the other hand, have named my pets after my husband's past romantic entanglements. I won't mention them here, but I would like to say I got a small sense of satisfaction when my chickens were killed by a dog.
2. My mom was a candy connoisseur. I always remembered people raving about her fudge and toffee. She made things that other people never thought of making, like homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate. I never felt like there was something that couldn't be made at home. Of course, there are things you don't think of, but I never felt like things were impossible.
3. My grandmother was a gourmand. With six children in the house, there wasn't very much opportunity for fancy food. But when there was, she seized it. She loved Gourmet magazine, and when I heard they were no longer publishing I almost cried. I felt like part of my memory of her was going to be forever lost. I remember her canning peaches from the trees that were on their property. My grandpa was an avid gardener, ensuring the kitchen had a steady supply of fresh vegetables, and his birds had kale and sunflowers. His lemon, peach, and fig trees never ceased to entertain us.

One of my favorite pies, hands-down is pecan. I really love it, with a little dollop of freshly whipped cream. It can easily be disappointing if it is not prepared properly, but this recipe, I think, is perfect. Give it a try.

Pecan Pie
From Food Network

2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar (omit for savory crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 Tablespoons (or more)  ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 Tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide dough in half. Flatten each piece into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, 3/4 cup chopped

On a lightly floured surface, roll one disk of the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.
Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, cook the butter over medium-high heat until it browns, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vinegar and salt in a bowl. Slowly scrape in the butter mixture, whisking. Add the vanilla extract.
Spread the chopped pecans in the crust and pour in the corn syrup mixture. Top with the remaining 3/4 cup pecan halves. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pie is set.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take In: Egg Rolls

As I am nearing my 100th post, I have been thinking back on posts I have written, and recipes I have included. Chinese food, (fast Chinese) has always found its way into many memories for me and my husband. I know it isn't grandiose but its nostalgic, and sometimes that means more to us than the other. When we were dating, I moved away (he followed) and I was living in San Jose, CA. There was a Mr. Chau's very close to where we worked and we probably ate there close to once a week. Just after our first son was born, we ate at a restaurant here in town with his parents. We both distinctly remember it, for some reason. One of his favorite restaurants right now is a Chinese restaurant about a half hour away from us.
We have never really agreed on Panda Express. He likes it, me-not so much. But occasionally, if I feel like being really nice I will suggest it. Most of the time we eat Chinese at home, now. Spicy beef stir-fry, lettuce wraps, teriyaki chicken, kung poa chicken,  fried rice and egg rolls.
Here is a bit of nostalgia you can serve up when ever the mood strikes.

3 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/4 of a head)
1 cup mixed chopped vegetables
1 Tablespoon teriyaki sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

12 Egg roll wrappers

Combine vegetables and seasonings in a bowl. Lay egg roll wrapper in front of you like a diamond. Place a strip of the filling in the middle, running horizontal (about 1/3 of a cup) Fold left, then right side in toward the center. Fold the bottom up, use a bit of water and a pastry brush to seal and fold the top down, tightening as you go. Be careful not to tear the egg roll wrappers. Repeat with remaining wraps and filling. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook wrappers in two batches, seam side down for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

I always feel like I share a bond with people who feel the way I do about food. That is, they enjoy it, they think about it, and they enjoy sharing it with others. I do not understand people who feel like food is bad or a vice. I warned my husband a few years back that I will probably be a bit on the chubby side when I am older. I love cooking, baking, and eating. I take great pleasure in it.

Chicken gravy
 Another foodie I feel that I can relate to is Nigella Lawson. I absolutely love her Feast cookbook, which outlines many traditional and contemporary gatherings, usually centered around food. She explores them and I have often found myself wanting to do the same. I think this year my family will observe the Passover, not for religious reasons, but for cultural and historical reasons. It is very interesting and insightful to see how people and cultures have evolved, and what a great part food plays into these things.
Another one of my favorite cookbooks is the Bride and Groom cookbook, authored by twin sisters who were caterers in San Fransisco. An absolute must-have recipe is the roasted chicken. It is quick and easy, and makes any ordinary day seem special.

Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

3 carrots, cut into thirds
6 small red new potatoes, quartered if large
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 6 wedges
3 Tablespoons melted butter + 3 Tablespoons softened butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 chicken (3 to 4 lbs)
1 lemon, quartered
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Some help in the kitchen from Captain America
Put the carrots, potatoes, and onion in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Toss the vegetables with the melted butter. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetables to the edge of the baking dish, making room for the chicken.
Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the bird under cold running water and pat dry. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the baking dish.
Rub the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter on the chicken. Season the cavity and skin generously with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Put the lemon quarters and rosemary sprigs inside the cavity. Put the garlic cloves under the chicken to prevent them from burning.
Roast for 45 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven. Using tongs, tilt the chicken, pouring the juices from the cavity onto the vegetables, and shake to coat. Baste the chicken with the pan juices. If the bird is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Continue roasting until the chicken is a deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the tip of a knife is inserted into the thigh joint, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh,  away from the bone, registers 170 to 175 degrees F, 25 to 30 minutes more.
Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Toss the vegetables with the pan juices.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Basil Pesto

Well, I was trying to decide what I should write about...again.... it's not because I haven't made anything, nor is it because I have any shortage of recipes, but I do try to think of things that are seasonal, and people are possibly cooking right now. I made a roasted chicken last night for dinner, that I think I will share soon. It is very good, and fairly easy. You will have most items on hand and you can throw it in the oven and just fill the house with delicious scents, throw together a salad, maybe some dessert and everything comes to the table in a snap.
I made these absolutely amazing  apple pie cookies on Tuesday. I mean they are really good. Flaky, filled with warm apple goodness, bite-sized, and perfect for...well...just about anything. We had tacos, lasagna, and bbq chicken. We also had pesto.
I really, really like pesto, and so does my family. I love making creamy pesto, with some butter, half and half, and chicken stock. It is so flavorful and fresh tasting! The other thing I love about it is it is so easy to make, freezes well, and I can just pull a container out for an impromptu dinner. Like I did on Wednesday. I got back to the house later than I had anticipated. I had forgotten to thaw some chicken. I was running behind. So, I pulled out some frozen cheese tortellini and some pesto, threw together a salad, and voila!
I urge you to make homemade pesto. Everything tastes better, fresher, and healthier when you make it at home. You would probably be surprised at how vibrantly green pesto is when it is first made. And how absolutely amazing it is.
The other great thing about it is, if you ever feel like you want to stray from the traditional basil pesto, you can switch out the nuts (or omit them) change herbs to parsley for a mild flavor, or cilantro for a clean taste, and make a new, different pesto to drizzle on freshly roasted vegetables, pastas, fresh salads, or cheese and crackers.

Basil Pesto
adapted from Bride and Groom Cookbook
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmasan

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food proecessor fitted with a steel blade and process until the ingredients are well incorporated, about 15 seconds. Shut off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, slowly add the 1/2 cup olive oil through the feed tube. Shut off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture comes together and sooks like a thick paste. Use immediately or transfer to a container, drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

The herbal base of this pesto, minus the cheese, can be frozen. Add the cheese after defrosting the pesto and stir well to combine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

People's Choice (Caramel Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping)

This recipe is a labor of love. I say that because it has come about over several years of trying, testing, tweaking, and changing. This is one of those rare recipes that I feel like I can say is mine. This is the first time I have written it down, usually I just make it from my head.
We like apple pie. We like streusel topping, and we like caramel. So, naturally, this pie would become a favorite. It is for people like me, who just aren't crazy about fruit pies. The apples are not too soggy, not to crisp; the short, buttery crust is plentiful; the walnut streusel topping helps those of us who are not super confident about pie crust make something anyway. And the caramel sauce. You don't need it because the brown sugar and butter give the illusion of caramel, but if you are like me, and you just like to take things way, way, way over the top, drizzle some on top when you are done. Then pass it around with spoons or in a squeeze bottle for lucky souls to pour on top of their fresh-from-the-oven pie crowned with melting vanilla bean ice cream.
This is another recipe for the archives. You won't make an apple pie every day, but when you do, you want it to be worth the effort. This is. This is the pie you can take to your mother-in-law's on Thanksgiving, or make it in a baking dish and take it to the office pot luck. It will be welcome, you will be applauded. And its pretty darn easy. But don't tell them that. Just smile and slip into the role of domestic goddess.

Caramel Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping

Pie crust
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar (omit for savory crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 Tablespoons (or more)  ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 Tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide dough in half. Flatten each piece into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Apple filling

9 apples
1Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 stick butter cut into pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour

Walnut Streusel Topping

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

The way I usually make this recipe is I start the crust early in the day or even a day or two before. I put it into the fridge until I am going to use it. Also, if I know I am going to make an apple pie, I usually divide the dough unevenly. I put about 2/3 of the crust aside for the bottom, and the remaining 1/3 aside for cutting out decorative leaves and things for the top.
Then, I make the walnut streusel topping. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in on/off turns until the walnuts are broken down and in very small pieces. Set aside.
Peel apples and cut each half into three slices. Cut out the center core. Place apple slices in a row and cut into three or four chunks. Place into large pot. Repeat with remaining apples. Add the pumpkin pie spice, butter, brown sugar, and flour. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until apples are just tender.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Roll out your larger pie crust and place in the bottom of your baking dish. Pour in apple filling, then top with the streusel. Use the other pie crust if you wish to decorate the top with cut out leaves, etc.
Brush any decorative pie crust pieces with a mixture of egg and water (1 egg, 2 Tbsp water). Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is a deep gold color.

If  you desire, which you will, top with caramel sauce.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All the Time (Chicken Salad Sandwich with Bacon)

Two of my favorite smells in the world, bacon, and coffee, are somehow made better when you smell them together. To wake up to those scents is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Not every day, of course, because it wouldn't be special any longer. I remember, as a child, there was a restaurant I loved to eat at. They had a large fireplace in the center of the restaurant, and they made the most delicious ham and processed cheese sandwich I had ever tasted. Each sandwich came with a pile of fries and a cold, crisp pickle. Pair that with their chocolate shake and it was heaven on earth. I wanted to eat there all the time. I remember my dad telling me that if we ate there all the time it wouldn't be special any more. I looked at him incredulously. I was sure he was wrong. It would always be special.
They have since closed down this bay area eating establishment, probably saving me from being disappointed when I returned as an adult, only to find the food wasn't as good as I remembered.
Bacon, however, is timeless. It adds unbelievable flavor to a wide range of dishes, and is wonderful just by itself. I have taken to adding it to my chicken salad recipe with a hint of liquid smoke. The liquid smoke gives the impression that there is more bacon than is actually in there. This is a very simple recipe, and it is perfect piled high on some soft, white, potato bread.

Chicken Salad
serves 2
1 cup precooked rotisserie chicken, diced
I stalk of celery, sliced thinly
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 slices of bacon, cooked
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ladybug Baby Shower

We did the baby shower for my sister-in-law, Brenda. She is carrying the first granddaughter my parents will have, so of course there is a lot of excitement because currently there are four grandsons. My mom and I planned the evening, with help from my sister and my other sister-in-law. Her nursery theme was ladybugs, so my mom decorated the event with ladybugs she made from styrofoam balls she halved and painted red with black dots. She wound some wire and stuck it in the bottom, which was attached to different items on the table.
She used fake grass instead of a tablecloth to give an outdoors feel to the table. Bowls and jars of red and black candy adorned the table. We played baby shower games that mixed up bug names and tested our skill with nursery rhymes. Just for fun we did a baby shower mad lib that I found here.
We printed the menu on cardstock and set it on an easel on the table. Our menu consisted of gougeres, quiche, pomegranate-pineapple lemonade, green apple sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, mini chocolate fudge cupcakes, spinach salad with warm bacon-balsamic vinegrette, strawberry parfaits with angel food cake croutons, and shortbread cookies dipped in orange-chocolate.
I want to share the recipe for the pomegranate-pineapple lemonade, a recipe that I developed from something I tasted at a restaurant. This is great for a party for grown-ups, because it is not too sweet, but has a delicious blend of flavors.

Pomegranate-Pineapple Lemonade
2 quarts lemonade, homemade or purchased
1 can pineapple juice concentrate, thawed
4 cups pomegranate juice
1 2-liter of lemon lime soda

mint leaves for garnish

Combine ingredients, plus water called for on pineapple juice concentrate (usually 3 cans). Garnish with mint leaves and lemon wedges, if desired.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The flavors that do (Chocolate Souffle with Orange Whip)

The details are never laborious.
Do you ever have a project, and you just want to hurry through it to get to the end? I rarely feel like that when I am cooking. Each step of the process is rewarding. Each different technique that needs to be mastered is another small pleasure. I love flipping through cooking magazines, mentally savoring each recipe, imagining what the flavors in the dish would taste like. Or walking through a cooking store, covetously glancing from one cooking gadget to another, trying to justify my need for each item.
I think souffles are a particularly gratifying item to cook. I have yet to make a cheese souffle, all mine are sweet, but that velvety texture, like a perfect union of cake and custard, topped with some delectable sauce of dark chocolate, raspberry, or perhaps a simple whipped cream just make the perfect end to dinner.
I made this with a celebratory dinner that consisted of (you guessed it) steak and au gratin potatoes (I strongly believe the Irish meat-and-potatoes-dinner will never leave my husband). Whenever you announce you are making a souffle with dinner it just sounds special.
I have to say my children were quite happy with it also. About a week later my five-year-old wanders into the kitchen and announces he wants a chocolate souffle. My three-year-old didn't stop talking about if for several days, telling people we ran into about it. I have to say it brings a smile to my face.
This souffle is particularly inviting because it is made with bittersweet chocolate, so it is not cloyingly sweet, nor is it so bitter that you are longing for a bit of sweet. The lightly sweetened, orange-flavored whipped cream perfectly compliments the semi-sweet chocolate flavor, and the rich and creamy texture of the souffle. Let me just say this is much easier than it seems. People are intimidated by souffles. If you gently fold the egg whites in, just like the recipe indicates, and efficiently butter and sugar the ramekins, you will not have a problem with the souffle rising. These can be made ahead, and refrigerated until you are ready to bake them, but I find I can usually prepare them while I am waiting for something to finish, and pop them into the oven just as we are sitting down to dinner.

Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle with Orange Whipped Cream
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), finely chopped

Orange Whipped Cream

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 Tablespoon orange juice
You will also need:
8 2/3- to 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups
Butter eight 2/3- to 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups; dust with sugar, completely coating to top edge or souffle will not rise as high as it should. Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, flour, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in small saucepan. Pour 2/3 cup milk into measuring cup; whisk enough milk from cup into saucepan to form thick paste (2 to 3 tablespoons), then gradually whisk in remaining milk from cup. Stir over medium-low heat until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan. Continue cooking until slightly thickened, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add cocoa powder, remaining 2 tablespoons milk, egg yolks, and vanilla; stir until smooth, thick paste forms.
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, beating on high speed until firm peaks form. Add 1/4 of whites to chocolate mixture; fold to blend. Add remaining beaten egg whites and chopped chocolate and fold until whites are just blended into batter.
Divide batter among prepared ramekins; place on rimmed baking sheet.
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake soufflés until puffed above rim of ramekin and toothpick inserted into center comes out with thick batter attached, about 12 minutes (15 minutes for chilled soufflés).
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients for orange whipped cream in medium bowl until peaks form.
Using spoon, form small indentation in top of each soufflé; spoon dollop of Orange Whipped Cream into indentations. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Bowl of Warmth

Crisp mornings. Chill winds cooling the evening from the sun's attempt to make summer endless. Little brown leaves dancing across the blacktop, taunting children to come and play. The smell of cloves and nutmeg, and a bright red dutch oven. Hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. All these things speak of fall. Gathering friends and family, sharing treats or dinner. Another thing that signals the arrival of fall is my mom's annual Holiday Boutique.
Since I was a small girl my parents attended these shows with religious fervor. My dad made armoires and toy chests, buffets, pie safes, and kitchen hutches. My mom made a large assortment of wooden ornaments, door crowns, garden stakes and stuffed dolls. Angels, snowmen, santa claus', and nativity scenes were just a few of the themes.
Whenever I see poster board with 'craft show' scrawled in black marker, I feel drawn. I want to stop in and just see what they have. Of course, in my mind, none can compare to my mom's, which she has taken to doing in her home. Hot cider and coffee are plenteous, along with samples of her homemade toffee and fudge. Christmas music underlying every conversation and fresh loaves of pumpkin, banana, and zucchini bread popping out of the oven every few minutes. I just can't wait.

A word about this recipe. Put this on the stove on a Sunday afternoon, relax, and let the stove do the work. If you don't want to make the noddles, just add in pasta of your choice at the end of the cooking time. You can halve the recipe for soup, but you will have a lot of noodles. I am ok with that. Feel free to add what you like. I have often made soup like this with chopped green beans, mushrooms, peas, and anything else I feel like throwing in. You can use pearl barely instead of noodles, but these noodles are a cinch, and if you have never made them at home you are missing out!

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Herb Noodles
For the Noodles
2 cups flour
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons chopped herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, thyme)
 Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl until a soft dough forms. Roll out on a counter or pie mat until about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into four equal parts. Slice dough into strips of desired width. Set aside.

For the soup
2 Tablespoon fat, such as bacon grease
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup white wine (or additional chicken stock)
8 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred)
2 slices bacon, chopped
6 cloves roasted garlic
4 Tablespoons chopped herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, thyme)
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheddar cheese for serving

Place bacon grease (or oil) in the bottom of a medium pot. Heat over medium and add carrots, celery, onions, salt, and pepper.
Saute for about 8 minutes, until pan begins to look dry. Add 1/2 cup wine or chicken stock, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes more. When vegetables are soft, add 4 cups chicken stock and chopped bacon. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Add noodles, and cook for 25 minutes more. Add roasted garlic and chopped herbs, stirring to combine, along with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with grated cheddar.

Popular Posts