Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nectarine and Rhubarb Cobbler

This cobbler recipe has become a staple for me. Last night I made it with nectarines and rhubarb, which was delicious. Here is how I made the filling. Click here for the topping.

6 large nectarines, sliced
2 C chopped rhubarb
3/4 C sugar
Ground ginger
Ground cardamom
Ground nutmeg
2 Tbs cornstarch

In a pot over a medium flame, mix the rhubarb, sugar, spices, and cornstarch and cook gently until the rhubarb is soft. Add the nectarines and mix together. Remove from heat and pour into a casserole dish. Top with the dough (see below), brush with a little cream, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Roasted Garlic Risotto

Risotto was one of the first dishes I learned how to make, and for a long time it was sort of my signature. There are a million different ways to make it, and this particular recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver. It's one of my favorites, and it's easy to make in big batches for a large crowd.

Arborio rice (about one handful per person)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
Fresh thyme (leaves picked off the stems)
1 whole bulb garlic
Two cloves garlic chopped
Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
Sliced almonds

Chop the top off the garlic bulb and wrap the bulb in foil, leaving an opening at the top. Place in the oven at 400 degrees and roast for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then squeeze the garlic out of the paper and set aside.

While the garlic is roasting, make coarse breadcrumbs by tearing stale bread (or use fresh and toast it slightly) into pieces. In a frying pan, combine with the almonds, a pinch of thyme, and enough olive oil to saturate the bread. Over medium heat, toast until golden brown and crispy. Be careful because the almonds will burn easily!

Start the risotto by browning the onion and chopped garlic in a little olive oil, in a large pan. Add the rice and toss to coat in the oil. Add about a cup of broth and bring to a boil. After you have added the first cup of liquid, add a couple pinches of thyme, and the roasted garlic. When almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, add more. Keep adding broth until it runs out, and then use water. You want to keep the rice bubbling, but not sticking to the bottom of the pan, so you will need to keep stirring constantly for about 45 minutes. Season as necessary, and remove from the heat when the rice is very soft. Add a tablespoon of butter (or two for a large amount) and let melt into the rice.

Serve with the breadcrumbs on top and a dollop of mascarpone cream.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Veggie Lasagne

This recipe is fairly simple, and the trick is to get your tomato sauce going before you make the other sauces. I also cheat by using the kind of noodles that you don't have to boil.

Vegetarian tomato sauce (below)
1 egg
1/2 lb ricotta cheese
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter
4 Tbs flour
1 C milk
1 C vegetable broth
1 package lasagne noodles
2 C shredded mozarella cheese

Once you have the tomato sauce cooking (or already cooked), make your cheese filling by blending the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and salt together. Then, in a small saucepan, start the Bechamel sauce by melting the butter over a low flame and add the flour. Stir together for a minute to form a roux and then slowly add the broth and milk while stirring constantly.

In a 9x13 baking pan, layer the one third of the tomato sauce, half the cheese filling, half the Bechamel, and half the noodles, and repeat. Finish off with the rest of the tomato sauce and the mozarella cheese on top. Bake for between 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Singapore-Style Black Rice Pudding

This is a dish that I have had at a favorite Singaporean restaurant and decided to try making for myself. I think it's delicious served warm with a little cold coconut milk on top. The sweet, warm pudding, combined with the cool milk is such a treat, and it's great with fresh fruit. Usually I serve it with strawberries, but this time I thought I'd play up the tropical origins of the dish by adding pineapple. Yum! Warning: like with most rice puddings, you will need to stand over the pot, stirring for a long time.

1 C black rice (Chinese Forbidden rice, or Thai sticky rice)
1/4 C sugar
Coconut Milk
Pineapple slices

Start by soaking the rice for at least 6 hours (or overnight). The rice should be covered by about 2 inches of water.

In a large pot, combine the rice and enough water to cover it, and bring to a boil stirring constantly. When almost all of the water is absorbed, add more and return to a boil. You will want to keep the pot bubbling, but not so hot that the rice will burn. Keep adding water until the rice has expanded and is extremely soft. Now stir in the sugar and remove from heat, letting the rice sit for a few minutes before serving.

Serve warm with a layer of cold coconut milk on top, and pineapple slices.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vegetarian Summer Tomato Sauce

The tomatoes have been so good lately that I thought I'd put up a big batch of sauce for those winter nights when I'm dying for summer produce. I bought several pounds of gorgeous, locally grown tomatoes the other day and made enough for an army! This is a mild sauce, and it would be really good with a little hot pepper thrown in if you like that. Also, you can add as many summer veggies as you want. I often use broccoli, but sometimes I think the flavor can be overwhelming.

About 2 Quarts diced fresh tomatoes (although you could easily use canned)
2 large bell peppers (I used yellow ones to make it extra summery), diced
2 Cups yellow summer squash, sliced (or just plain zucchini would also be yummy)
1 large sweet onion (Maui, Walla Walla or Vidalia), diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 cans tomato paste
2 Tbs sugar
Olive Oil

Sautee the onion with the garlic in a little olive oil, until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes, peppers and herbs to taste. Remember, don't be shy with your herbs! They do so much for a slow-cooked sauce like this. Add the tomato paste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and squash, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cook until the squash is softened, and then remove from heat. This makes a lot of sauce, so you should plan to can or freeze some of it.

The Perfect Cheeseburger

There are two secrets to a perfect hamburger: good, lean meat, and handling said meat as little as possible. My mother always combined dried oregano and Worcestershire sauce with the meat, and I think this adds a subtle and delicious flavor, but for the purist, just good ground meat will do fine. My friend Richard likes to lightly salt and pepper the patties before brushing them with a little olive oil and putting them on the grill. I usually forego those steps and just put the meat directly on the grill (or frying pan), myself. In any case, I believe that the perfect burger consists of the following:

1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Tomato Relish
4 slices white cheddar cheese
Bread and Butter Pickles
4 soft, white hamburger buns

Kneading as little as possible, mix the oregano and Worcestershire sauce into the ground meat. Form into four patties, again handling as little as possible. Try to make the patties of uniform thickness all the way through, and the edges smooth for even cooking. Place on a hot grill or frying pan and cook until the edges have turned gray. Flip (Eric says: only flip meat once!) and cook a few minutes more, as desired. After flipping the patties, place one slice of cheese on top of each and let it melt. When the burgers are done, remove to a plate and quickly toast the buns, sliced side down, on the grill/ pan. Top each with a patty, relish, pickles, and lettuce. Devour!

The Brazilian High Life

Our friend Logan lived in Brazil a few years ago and came back with several wonderful cocktail recipes (including the now popular Caipirinha). This one is my favorite, the High Life (not to be confused with Miller's excellent beer of the same name). It tastes like a chocolate milkshake, and is a great alternative to the White Russian.

1 part Peach Schnapps
1 part Creme de Cacao (the dark kind)
2 parts half and half

Serve over ice and mix well!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Roast Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Spinach Salad

I learned how to roast a chicken from Jamie Oliver. We had cable television for a little while when I was living in Providence, and I literally scheduled my day around programs on the Food Network, particularly "The Naked Chef". In addition to his boyish charm and adorable kitchen, Jamie Oliver knows how to cook simply, using good fresh ingredients and a lot of heart. I have a few of his cookbooks, and I love his recipes, but I have to say that SEEING him prepare the roast chicken on his show is what truly convinced me of how easy and delicious it would be. Over the last few years, I have adapted and elaborated on his recipe, but I still follow his method. It's amazing how wonderful a whole roasted chicken looks, fresh out of the oven, and it's by far one of the simplest dinners I make. My favorite way to serve it is with garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach salad.

For the chicken:

1 whole roasting chicken
2 sticks of butter, softened
Bunch of fresh thyme
1 large lemon
Several cloves of garlic

Clean the chicken with cold water, pat dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan. Carefully remove the leaves from the thyme into a small bowl. Zest the lemon into the same bowl, and then add salt and pepper, and the butter. Using your hands, scrunch everything into the butter. Lift the skin from the breast of the chicken away from the meat, and stuff this space with the butter mixture. Rub the remaining bit of butter from your hands all over the top of the skin. With a sharp knife, slash the thighs and push garlic cloves into the incisions. Place more garlic and the zested lemon (cut in half) in the cavity of the chicken. Cook at 425 for 20 minutes before basting, and then for another 40 minutes. When it's done roasting, let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before carving.

If you want to roast some vegetables with the chicken (I recommend parsnips, carrots, potatoes and fennel), chop them up and steam them, and then add them to the pan around the chicken after 20 minutes. When you baste the bird be sure to coat the vegetables in the juices as well.

For the Potatoes:

Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bulb of garlic
Cream or milk

Cut the top off the garlic bulb and wrap in foil, leaving a little vent at the top. Bake in the oven for about a half hour (you can do this while the chicken is roasting). Meanwhile, boil the potatoes with the skins on. When the garlic is done roasting, squeeze out the soft cloves and mash with the potatoes in a large bowl. Add butter, cream, salt and pepper to taste. I like my potatoes chunky, but if you want them smoother, run the mixture through a food processor.

For the Spinach Salad:

Fresh baby spinach
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 hard-cooked egg per person, sliced
Red onion, finely sliced
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Mix the mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of sugar (to taste) to make a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the spinach, tomatoes and onions in this dressing, and add the sliced eggs on top.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This is my mom's recipe and one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. The sauce freezes really well, which is good because this recipe makes about 9 large servings. If you're planning to use this sauce for lasagne, you will only need about 3/4 of the recipe.

1 lb lean ground beef (or turkey works well, too)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs fresh, diced tomatoes (or canned)
1 large red pepper, diced
1-2 6 oz cans tomato paste
Ground red pepper
Black pepper
2 Tbs sugar

In a large pot, brown the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add the meat and brown. Add the red pepper, tomatoes, one can tomato paste, and herbs to taste. Stir well and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thin, add another can of tomato paste (you will most likely need this if you use fresh tomatoes). Check for seasonings, and stir in the sugar before serving.

I recommend serving with garlic bread... yum!!!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Mom's Mac and Cheese

This is classic Mac and Cheese, (almost) the way my mom made it. I've taken her recipe and added a cream sauce, which helps hold the casserole together and distribute the cheese a little more evenly.

1 pound of pasta
4 C shredded cheese (I prefer a mix of Fontina and Cheddar)
1 C cream or milk
2 Tbs butter

While the pasta is boiling, make a roux with half the butter and a little flour. Add the cream and a bit of cheese and season with salt and pepper to make a thick sauce. Drain the pasta and toss in the cheese sauce. Pour half into a casserole dish and cover with half the remaining cheese. Add the rest of the pasta, followed by another layer of cheese. Sprinkle top with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the top is golden brown.

Apricot Cobbler

I managed to get a better shot of the cobbler I made a couple months ago. This time I made it with apricots, and it was delicious! For the recipe, click here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Berry Shortcake

It's so simple to make, but everyone will always be impressed when you show up to a barbeque or party with shortcake. My mother always made it with biscuits instead of cake, and I think that's the best way because they hold up to the juices of the berries much better.

One recipe of Easy Scones (below).
4 pints strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.
1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs sugar

Wash the berries and slice as needed. Combine in a large bowl with 1 Tbs of the sugar, and let sit for at least an hour.

Just before serving, whip the cream with the rest of the sugar and a drop of vanilla. Serve DIY style, or assemble in layers.

Easiest Scones Ever

I used to make these in my dorm kitchen in college, and they were always a big hit. They are easy and fast enough to throw together for a quick breakfast, and they also freeze very well. The scones are like a sweet biscuit, and they are great if you want to add berries or currants to them. They also make the perfect shortcake!

2 C flour
1/3 C sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4- 1 1/2 C heavy cream*
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in 1 1/4 C cream. Fold in with a fork, stirring as little as possible until a shaggy, soft dough forms. Add more cream if necessary.

Drop batter onto an ungreased baking sheet about 2" apart. Brush tops with a little cream and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

*I have made them with milk as well, and it works just fine!

Tomato Relish

This is a recipe from the Food Network's Tyler Florence that is meant to go with his delicious meatloaf. I think it's also really good on burgers, in the place of ketchup.

Olive oil
1 onion, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 bay leaves
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 12-oz bottle ketchup
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaves for a few minutes. Add the red peppers and oregano and cook them for a few minutes, until softened. Next, add the tomatoes, along with the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. This makes about 4 cups of relish.