Friday, June 29, 2007

Heat Wave

Sorry for the lack of recipes lately! It's been really hot here in the East Bay, and I haven't been cooking as much. More soon, I promise...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Deli-Style Potato Salad

This is my favorite way of making potato salad. Sometimes people add hard-cooked eggs, or pickles, or bacon, and those things are all good, but I prefer just the basics.

About three quarts of small Russet potatoes (or another kind with waxy skin- even though I love Yukons, they are not good for this), cut into pieces
2 shallots, chopped fine
About 3/4 C dill, chopped
1/2 C green onions, sliced fine
1 C white vinegar
1 C sour cream (light works fine)
1 C mayonnaise

Boil or steam the potatoes until they are tender enough to spear with a fork, but still firm enough to hold their shape. Drain and toss with the vinegar, dill, shallots, and some salt and pepper. Let cool.

When cool, mix the sour cream and mayonnaise with the potatoes. Top with the green onions and serve.

Totally Excellent Guacamole

Guacamole is one of the easiest things to make and bring to a barbeque or party, but it seems that a lot of people have trouble getting it right. I've had my share of lousy guac, and I think it's time to set things straight.

5 ripe avocados
3 limes
About a cup of salsa (store-bought works great, or you can make your own [see below], or just dice some tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chilis and add a little salt and pepper)

Mash the avocados in a large bowl with a potato masher. I like my guac chunky, but you could puree the avocados in a food processor if you want it smoother. Add the salsa and the juice of two limes. Mix well and taste. If necessary, add another lime. Serve with tortilla chips!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cherry Preserves

Two weeks ago, my friend Jane and I went cherry picking, as is our annual tradition, and picked about 25 pounds of cherries. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to start canning everything, I had eaten my portion of the haul. Lucky for me, the market had some very inexpensive Bings, and I happily bought them up yesterday to make cherry jam. This recipe is from Martha Stewart and makes 4 half-pints. I'm not going to include canning instructions, just the actual jam-making ones, but you can easily look that up on her website, or just follow the directions that come with your canning jars.

4 pounds ripe cherries, pitted
2 C plus 6 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Place a small plate in the freezer.

Over medium heat, combine the cherries with about 1/4 C of the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Add about 1/3 of the remaining sugar and stir until dissolved. Repeat with two more batches of sugar. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture and bring to a boil.

Stirring frequently, cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees, about 30-40 minutes. To see if it's ready, try a "gel test": put a spoonful of jam on the plate in the freezer, leave for one minute. When you take the plate out, give the jam a little nudge with your finger. If it's ready, there will be a film over the top that will wrinkle a bit. If it's not, the jam will be too thin to form a film. If so, cook for a few more minutes and do another test.

Proceed with canning, according to the instructions that come with your jars.

Texas Style Salsa

My friend Logan grew up on a cattle ranch in the heart of Texas, where people really know their salsa. This recipe comes from his family, and as his girlfriend puts it, "it's no New York City salsa!" Originally the recipe called for "Peguin" peppers, but I wasn't able to find them, so I used a combination of jalapenos and habaneros. If you have a sensitive stomach, I would suggest using just jalapenos, and make sure you leave out the seeds and the membrane they grow on inside the peppers- that's where the heat is. The recipe also made about 12 pints of salsa, so I have cut it down to make just four.

10 2/3 C (2 quarts + 2 2/3 C) diced fresh tomatoes (or canned, if necessary)
1 C onion, finely chopped
2/3 C white vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
A little less than 1/8 C fresh hot chili peppers, chopped (about three habaneros)
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp cumin

Puree the peppers and two thirds of the tomatoes* in a food processor with the vinegar, garlic and onions. Place in a large pot, with the spices and sugar. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about a half hour at medium heat. Add the remaining tomatoes, and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Use fresh, or proceed with canning.

*If you want a smoother salsa, puree all of them. I just like mine chunky!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Italian Pork Chops

I got the recipe for these pork chops from Giada di Laurentis, of the Food Network, and then I served them with a really simple tomato sauce, over pasta. I think this recipe would also work nicely with chicken breasts, but you might want to bake them, rather than pan-frying them, because they are thicker. (I would suggest baking them at 450 for about 35 minutes.) All together, this took less than a half hour to make, so it's great for those nights when you haven't got much time. This makes enough for two people.

For the pork chops:

2 Pork Chops
1 C grated parmesan cheese
One egg, beaten
2 C dry seasoned breadcrumbs (you can make your own, but I just used the kind in the can!)

For the pasta and sauce:

3/4 pound pasta
2 large tomatoes or 3 medium ones (or about 2 C cherry tomatoes)
1 shallot or half a small onion
1 clove garlic
Dried basil and oregano
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs Olive oil

Boil a pot of water for the pasta.

Set out three bowls: in one, the parmesan cheese, in the second, the egg, and in the third, the breadcrumbs. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Dredge first in the cheese, then dip in the egg, and coat with breadcrumbs. Place in a pan over medium heat. Let the chops cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the meat is opaque all the way through.

While they are cooking, chop the tomatoes into smallish chunks (for cherry tomatoes, just halve them), and drain the excess water. Finely chop the garlic and shallots.

Add your pasta to the water.

Set aside the finished pork chops, and leave the remaining bits in the pan. Add a little olive oil, and sautee the garlic and shallots until brown. Add the tomatoes and herbs to the saucepan. When the tomatoes have softened a bit, add a little tomato paste to thicken into a sauce. Drop in about a tablespoon of butter, and let melt into the sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss. Remove from heat and serve.

Basil Pesto

My father has an enormous garden that includes close to 30 fruit trees, and every conceivable herb. During my childhood we grew beans and carrots, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes, squashes, corn and artichokes. We grew watermelons, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries... but our most important crop of the summer season was always the basil.

Every summer my mother, father and I would engage in one long evening of picking, cleaning, toasting, blending, and freezing the basil into often more than 300 servings of pesto. We kept this stash in the freezer year round, and would pull out a foil-wrapped cube to defrost whenever we were at a loss for dinner plans. Pesto was a staple in my lunchbox all through high school, and in college, my parents would ship me packages of it, along with canned pears, dried apples, and homemade cookies.

This is my family's recipe for pesto. It's simple and makes approximately 12 servings, and is wonderful fresh or frozen. We used to freeze it in ice cube trays but found it tricky to get out; now my parents use a baking pan and cut the frozen mass into servings. I find it easiest to freeze it in muffin tins, with paper liners. Each muffin is about two servings, and I keep them frozen in Ziploc bags.

2 1/2 C fresh basil leaves (make sure not to include the flowers or stems- they make it bitter)
6 garlic cloves
1 C shelled pinenute, toasted
1 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C Romano cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 C olive oil

Grind the pinenuts and garlic together in a food processor. Add basil leaves and grind well. Blend in the cheeses and nutmeg. Add olive oil slowly through the tube of the processor, while running, to emulsify. Only use as much as necessary- you may not use the whole cup.

Use fresh, or freeze in muffin tins with liners overnight. Remove from tins and store in Ziploc bags in the freezer. This should make about 6 muffins-worth, or 12 servings.

Frozen Watermelon Pops

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Robyn.

Watermelon, cut into chunks
A little sugar
Popsicle molds, or dixie cups and popsicle sticks

Puree the watermelon with a little sugar (to taste, depending on how sweet your melon is) in the blender. Pour into popsicle molds or dixie cups. Freeze, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sweet Pickles

This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. I would suggest using Japanese or English cucumbers because they are extra crunchy. They also suggest using yellow summer squashes.

2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/8 inch slices (about 6.5 Cups)
2 heaping Tbs coarse salt
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 C ice cubes
3 C cider vinegar
2 1/4 C sugar
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
3/4 tsp celery seeds
3/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes (I used three small, dried hot chilis- one for each jar)

Toss cucumbers and onions with salt and ice cubes in a large colander. Place over a bowl and refrigerate for three hours, or overnight, tossing occasionally. Drain, and rinse.

Bring vinegar and all other ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Add the cucumbers and onions, and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and ladle into three sterilized, hot pint jars. If you are planning to keep these for more than a month, you should can them according to the directions that come with your canning jars. If not, refrigerate and serve!

Icebox Cake

This is one of the easiest desserts I know how to make, and it is so yummy! A classic recipe that is pretty to serve and takes only a half hour to prepare.

2 boxes of Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1 Tbs sugar

Whip the cream with a little vanilla and sugar.

Arrange a few cookies in a round shape on a plate or cake stand. Spread whipped cream on top. Repeat until you have formed a cake. Use the fine crumbs at the bottom of the cookie boxes to sprinkle over the top of the cake. Serve in slices, with fresh strawberries.

Salad Nicoise

This is a family favorite from the summers of my childhood. Traditionally, it is served with tuna, but I like to use salmon (see recipe below). You can add as many items to the salad plate as you like; the following are my favorites:

Green beans: steam and then toss with dressing (below) just before serving.
Cherry tomatoes: halve and then toss with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh thyme.
Potatoes: boil and while still hot, mix with a little white vinegar and dill. Once cool, add a dash of olive oil.
Hard-cooked eggs

Arrange all your ingredients on a bed of butter lettuce, dressed in a mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped shallots and fresh herbs (I like to use tarragon, chives, and thyme). Place the fish on top, and serve cold with good bread.

Baked Salmon

This is a really easy and delicious dinner. I often serve it with pasta al pesto, and it is also nice with just a simple spinach salad.

Salmon filets
Olive oil
Lemon slices (2 per filet)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. Sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper, and place on aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Fold the foil upwards around the fish to create walls. Chop the herbs finely and mix with olive oil. Drizzle this on top of the fish, and then place two lemon slices on top. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes.

Sour Cherry Pie

My dad's favorite! This is excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You could add more sugar here to make a sweet cherry pie. Since the filling is tart, I like to use a sweeter pie crust than usual, and this one from Martha Stewart is my favorite.

About 6 cups of fresh, not-quite-ripe-cherries, pitted, or canned sour cherries, drained
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs butter

Two Pie Crusts:
9 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 C (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten (save the whites for the top)
2 Tbs ice water

In a large bowl, or in a Cuisinart, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and mix until the dough looks crumbly. Add the egg yolks to combine. While the food processor is still running (or while mixing constantly by hand), add the water in a slow, steady stream until the dough just holds together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before rolling out.

Meanwhile, make the filling: mix the cherries with the cinnamon, cardamom, and cornstarch. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit.

Roll out half the dough on a flat, floured surface. Try not to handle it too much. Place this crust in the bottom of a deep dish pie pan. Fill with the cherry mixture. Dot the top of the cherries with butter. Roll out the other half of the dough and use a knife to cut it into strips. Carefully weave the strips of dough into a lattice over the filled pie crust.

Brush the top of the lattice with a little egg white mixed with water. Sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

Peach Cobbler

This is a combination of a Tyler Florence recipe, a James Beard recipe, a Martha Stewart recipe and my own improvisation. I'm sorry I didn't take better pictures, but I promise that it looks as good as it tastes! The topping is a little like sweet biscuit dough... yum!

8 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 C bourbon or brandy
1 1/2 flour
3/4 C sugar, plus a little extra for on top
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
16 Tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, kept cold
3/4 C heavy cream, plus more for on top
Almond extract (my grandma taught me this makes peaches taste extra peachy!)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 C sugar, cornstarch, and spices to taste. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the flour, 1/2 C sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in 12 Tbs of butter (1 and a half sticks) with a pastry cutter (note: this can all be done in a Cuisinart, too) until the mixture looks shaggy. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the remaining 4 Tbs of butter. Add the peaches and cook until just heated, about 5 minutes. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the top. Brush with the remaining cream and sprinkle with some sugar (I used cinnamon sugar). Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Banana Pudding

This recipe is based on one from Sheila Lukins' USA Cookbook. I like to use chocolate cookies instead of Nilla wafers because I think it classes things up a bit, and I also use whipped cream instead of merengue on top because, well, whipped cream is great on everything.

1 3/4 C sugar + about one Tbs for the whipped cream
1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 Tbs cornstarch
5 C milk
8 large egg yolks (you can freeze the whites to use later)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
Vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate cookies (I like to use Newman's Own Alphabet cookies, but any oreo-without-cream style cookie would work)
8 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
Whipping cream

Scald the milk in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk as you add the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. Continue whisking until smooth.

Place the mixture over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it starts to thicken (dip a spoon in and then run your finger across the back- if it leaves a trail it is thick enough), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks, one at a time, until blended.

Return the saucepan to low heat and cook until very thick, aboud 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Set aside.

Line the bottom of a glass bowl or trifle dish with hald the cookies. Add a layer of half the banana slices. Pour half the custard on top, and then follow with another layer of cookies, a layer of bananas, and the rest of the custard.

Whip the cream with a bit of sugar and a drop of vanilla. I like to do this in my Cuisinart, but you can easily use a blender or just a whisk and a bowl. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pudding, and then sprinkle with the fine cookie crumbs that are left in the bottom of the package. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tyler's Fried Chicken

I got this recipe from Tyler Florence of the Food Network. Their website is always a great resource for recipes. Usually I will pick a few recipes for something (say, Fried Chicken), and then combine them, but Tyler's recipes always work really well on their own (his meatloaf is amazing!). We used a deep fryer, rather than a pan, to fry our chicken, but I think this would be very easy to do on a stovetop.

1 (3 to 4 pound) chicken, cut up into 10 pieces
Kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (recommended: Srirachi)
Peanut oil, for frying
1/4 bunch fresh thyme
3 big sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 bunch fresh sage
1/2 head garlic, smashed, husk still attached
Lemon wedges, for serving
Put the chicken pieces into a large bowl. Cover the chicken with water by 1 inch; add 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water used. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
In a large shallow platter, mix the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne until well blended; season generously with salt and pepper. In another platter combine the buttermilk and hot sauce with a fork and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dredge the pieces, a few at a time, in the flour mixture,
then dip them into the buttermilk; dredge them again in the seasoned flour. Set aside and let the chicken rest while you prepare the oil.

Put about 3 inches of oil into a large deep pot; it should not come up more than half way. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and garlic to the cool oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil registers 350 to 365 degrees F on one of those clip-on deep-fry thermometers. The herbs and garlic will perfume the oil with their flavor as the oil comes up to temperature.

Once the oil has reached 350 to 365 degrees F, working in batches, carefully add the chicken pieces 3 or 4 at a time. Fry, turning the pieces once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Total cooking time should be about 30 minutes. When the chicken is done, take a big skimmer and remove the chicken pieces and herbs from the pot, shaking off as much oil as you can, and lay it on a tea towel or brown paper bag to soak up the oil. Sprinkle all over with more salt and a dusting of cracked black pepper. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. Once all the chicken is fried, scatter the fried herbs and garlic over the top. Serve hot, with big lemon wedges.

Meyer Lemonade

1 part fresh squeezed juice from Meyer lemons
1 part simple syrup
2 parts water (or more, to taste)

To make the simple syrup:

Simmer one part water to two parts sugar for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid begins to thicken. Let cool.

*For your own frozen lemonade concentrate that you can use all year round, mix one part lemon juice to one part syrup, and freeze in muffin tins. Then just add one frozen muffin's-worth to a glass of water and stir until combined!


I'm starting this second blog as a place to post the recipes for the foods I talk about on Printer & Piemaker. I hope you like what you see, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about a recipe. I often make up recipes as I go along, so it's hard to give precise measurements.