Saturday, November 26, 2016

Salted Caramel Pretzel Sweet Potato Casserole


Skip the candied yams...go straight for this salty sweet treat for Thanksgiving.  Using real fresh sweet potatoes instead of a canned yam makes a world of difference so don't just grab a yam, get the real deal even if it takes a couple of stores to find it.  You won't regret it.

To safe a few steps I cheated and bought a good quality caramel from the ice cream section at the groc.  One less thing to do on a busy day of cooking is a good thing.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 4 sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2-3 pounds)
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t nutmeg


Topping

  • 1/3 c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c butter
  • 1 c crushed pretzels
  • 2/3 c caramel sauce
  • flaked sea salt (like maldon)


Heat oven to 400F.  Poke holes into sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about an hour until thickest potato is fork tender.  Cool to room temperature.

Once potatoes are cooled peel and place the pulp in a mixing bowl.   Add spices, cream and brown sugar.  Mash until smooth and even consistency.  Transfer into a lightly greased casserole dish.ds

Make the topping.  In a small sauce pan heat butter and brown sugar.  Stir over moderate heat until it starts to bubble and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir in pretzels until well coated.  Pour pretzel mixture over the sweet potatoes and spread to evenly distribute.  Drizzle caramel sauce evenly over pretzels.  

Bake in 350F oven uncovered until hot and bubbly for about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle flaked sea salt over the hot caramel pretzels.  Serve hot with your Thanksgiving feast!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fall Fruit Crisp

Apples, Pears, Cranberry and Walnuts...how bad can it be?

The perfect ending for a wine and cheese night over at my cousins house.  Fall Fruit Crisp, a lovely combo of fresh fall fruit, the crunch of first harvest walnuts under a crispy crumble topping.  A universal hit, and using 1 cup ramekins you get perfect portion control.

You'll want to use firm fruit that is ripe like a Bosc pear instead of the softer Bartlett variety.  Similarly you'll want to use a firm ripe apple like a Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith over a softer Red or Golden Delicious.  The firm fruit holds its shape during baking, the softer cooks to mush and the texture is just wrong in this Fall Fruit Crisp.

Fall Fruit Crisp
Filling

  • 3 pears - peeled,cored and 1/2" dice
  • 3 apples - peeled, cored and 1/2" dice
  • 1/2 c dried cranberry
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Topping

  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 3/4 c quick cooking oats (not instant)
  • 1/4 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 c COLD unsalted butter cubed


Preheat oven 375F convection, 400F without convection

Peel, core and dice apples and pears.  Add to mixing bowl.  Add dried cranberry, walnuts, brown sugar, salt and spices.  Toss lightly to combine.  Set aside while making topping.

To make topping in food processor add all ingredients and pulse a few times until butter is evenly crumbled in the topping and you can't see large pieces any longer.

Take 6 ramekins and place on a baking sheet.  Divide fruit filling evenly among the ramekins.  Divide topping over the fruit filling evenly.  Place in preheated oven and bake until rich golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of fresh whipping cream.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sausage and Spinach with fresh pasta


This was loosely adapted from a couple of recipes in this months Bon Appetite magazine.  The big difference is that I purposely skipped the addition of heavy cream and avoided the cured meats...that some of the donor recipes called for.  Its still not a low fat recipe but, dang is it tasty.

I finally got making pasta from scratch down.  The pasta used here was fresh pappadrelle in style, with a few thinner ribbons more like tagliatelle.  Call it "rustic cut" and be done.  You are more than welcome to swap out fettuccini or other wide flat pasta for the recipe.  That's the glory of pasta....similar shapes won't affect the taste.

I can promise you this, even my pickiest eater loved this pasta and came back for seconds.

Sausage and Spinach with Fresh Pasta

  • 1 lb fresh pappadrelle or tagliatelle
  • 1 lb mild Italian Sausage
  • 1 lb baby spinach
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 c)
  • 2 shallots thinly sliced shallot
  • 1.4 c minced fresh flat leaf parsley (or 2 T dried)
  • 1-2 ladles boiling pasta water


Add salt to pasta water until it is has the taste of the ocean (1/4c to about 2 quarts water) and bring to a boil.

Break up sausage and brown with a little bit of olive oil to get it started.  Add sliced shallot and saute until translucent.  

Add fresh pasta to salted boiling water and cook 1-2 minutes until al dente.  Scoop out the noodles with a spider and tongs and add to sausage mixture. Add Spinach.  Add butter and parsley and 1 ladle pasta water.  Toss to coat pasta with sauce and sausage.  Toss until spinach is wilted.  IF sauce is too thick thin with additional pasta water.

Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a nice Pinto Grigio white wine



Lime Custard Pie


I love Key Lime Pie, but here in my corner of L.A the Key Lime is not easily found, and if you do find it, its stupid expensive.  Step in the trusty basic Lime found at the corner groc...its limey and tasty enough and much easier to juice than a Key Lime.

Hint, and this applies to all citrus, to get maximum juice out of them.  Have them at room temp, zap in the microwave 10 seconds and roll them on the counter with firm pressure prior to halving and juicing.  This ensures maximum juice for your effort.

Salt.  Its what balances sweet and sour and needed in this recipe.  Don't omit as your cutting salt in your diet, remove elsewhere...there isn't much and it does make a difference in taste.

I'm assume you have your own favorite pie crust recipe and will skip providing here.  I actually made an all butter crust for this that was really flakey and tasty, but any pie crust will work.  

Lime Custard Pie
  • 1 9" pie shell prebaked

filling
  • 1 c Lime juice
  • zest of one lime
  • 2 cans (14.5  oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2-3 drops green food color


Bake pie shell according to your recipe instructions.  When lightly browned remove from oven.  Reduce heat to 325F.

Zest one lime first then juice.  Juice enough limes to make 1 cup lime juice.  Mix, zest, juice, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, salt and food coloring until well blended.  Pour into baked pie shell and place in oven for 25-30 minutes until just set.  It will still jiggle some and should not be browned on top.  Cool to room temp then place in fridge for at least 2 hours until well chilled.  Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream...or cool whip if thats your thing.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Oven Butter Poached Shrimp


A similar version of this recipe exists on this blog.  This version is a bit lighter, who am I kidding, one less stick of butter isn't really lighter.  To amp up the flavor I toss in chopped garlic and wine to make things a bit tastier.

Cooking with wine is a no brainer, use any good wine you'd drink that doesn't break the bank.  Added bonus when you cook with a wine and serve it at the table there's a pairing that magically happens on the palette.  I used a Pinot Grigio, but Pinot Gris or even Chardonnay will work.

I use large shrimp for this as they have better flavor and are easier to eat.  The 21-25 size are ideal for this finger food...not a fine dining experience, but casual dining where you grab it by the tail and enjoy.  Be sure to have a bowl next to you to catch the remaining tails.

Oven Butter Poached Shrimp

  • 2 lbs large shrimp
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 c dry white wine
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic minced


Preheat oven to 375f

Wash and shell/devein the shrimp leaving the tail on.

Gently heat butter until just melted.  Add wine, salt, pepper flakes to taste, parsley and garlic.  Whisk to combine.

Place shrimp in a 9X13 baking dish.  Pour over butter mixture.  Bake 20-25 minutes until no longer pink and cooked through.  

Ladle into bowls. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the luscious poaching liquid.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Limoncello Bread Pudding


Universal hit.  Not a sad face in the crowd when I unveiled it last night at an evening of wine and cheese or with the samples left at home.

What to do when you have an abundance of lemons has been addressed before, make limoncello.  Then what do with all the limoncello you have floating around is the next question, why make stuff with it.

This recipe is a conglomeration of several I found on the web.   I used more common ingredients to ensure ease of duplication.

For the bread I grabbed a simple rustic white bread, but really texas toast or an Italian loaf will work just fine.  Don't make yourself crazy trying to find things like Challah or Brioche loaves.  The key to the bread absorbing all of the egg mixture is to buy it a few days prior to making your bread pudding and leave it on the counter so it dries out some.  Stale bread absorbs custards better, remember that factoid for all bread puddings.

Limoncello Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding

  • 1 1/2 c Half and Half
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 c limoncello
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 quarts bread cubes.


Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2T limoncello


Cube bread into 1/2 inch cubes.  Keep crust as that adds color and texture to your bread pudding.
Combine eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, sugar, limoncello, and zest.  Whisk well until combined.  Pour over bread cubes. Toss lightly to coat all cubes.

Let set on counter 20 minutes.  Toss occasionally to keep bread completely covered in custard mixture.


Preheat oven to 325.
Generously butter the bottoms and sides of 5-6 small ramekins.  Spoon in bread mixture until within a half inch of the top of ramekin.

Place filled ramekins on baking sheet.  Spritz aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover with foil sprayed side down on the ramekins.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil.  Bake additional 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden and tests clean with a tooth pick.

Cool.  

Prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar, zest, and juice of lemon.  Add limoncello as needed to thin to consistency of heavy cream.  Spoon glaze over the bread pudding just prior to serving.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Watermelon Rind Pickles


Nostalgia alert.  One of the treats I remember on my Grandma Jasovec's farm in Ely Minnesota growing up was her watermelon pickles.  Being a depression era housewife she was particularly thrifty and nothing went to waste.  That includes the bitter watermelon rind.  Think of sweet and sour with the warming spice of cinnamon, clove and allspice on the back note.  Really a tasty treat and a childhood favorite.

Flash forward a few more decades and I've been craving these for a while. I have my grandmother's canning book and recipe so that's a big leap forward.  The hold up in making them however was finding one of the key ingredients...pickling lime.  You'd think in a city the size of Los Angeles it could be found, but you'd be wrong.  Google searches didn't turn up the ingredient either.  The purpose of the lime is to keep the rind green and soften it.

Sooo...off the the google board I went.  I found several recipes that called for soaking the cut rind in salt, kosher salt to be specific to soften and keep the color.  It is important to use kosher salt as the iodized crap will discolor the pickles.

That seemed easy enough to sub out and try.  The rest of the recipe is from my Grandmother's canning book ca 1930??? from when she was a young housewife.

FYI...a 9.5 lb watermelon yielded the needed rind for the recipe.  The edible flesh...cube and toss into a feta salad or similar.  Maybe watermelon sorbet or sherbet?

Watermelon Rind Pickles
brine

  • 2 quarts hot water
  • 1/2 c kosher salt

Pickles

  • 4 lbs watermelon rind cut into 1/2'X1" cubes
  • 4 c water
  • 4 c white vinegar
  • 4 c sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks cut in half
  • 1 T whole allspice
  • 1 t whole cloves
  • 5-6 sterilized pint jars, lids and rings


Day 1.  Cut watermelon into 1 inch slices.  Cut the slices at 1/2 inch leaving roughly 1/2" by 1" cubes.  Place rinds into a large non-reactive pan (stainless steel).  Dissolve kosher salt in the hot water and pour over the watermelon rinds. Keep covered at room temp for 18-24 hours.  Stir occasionally to ensure all rinds get a good soak in the brine.
cubed and ready for brining

Day 2.  Drain Rinds.  Fill pot with cold water and let stand 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse in colander.

In large non-reactive pot add water, vinegar, sugar and spices.  Bring to boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add watermelon rind.  Bring to hard boil and then reduce heat to soft boil.  Cook until translucent about 1-1 1/2 hours.
simmering rinds not quite got their pickle on
When pickle is translucent pack pickles into sterilized hot canning jars.  Top with pickling liquid to within 1/4 inch of top of jar.  Add Lids and tightly fasten rings.  Let set 1 week to cure before eating.
I put a  half cinnamon stick and try to get some of the allspice and cloves in each jar so you see what the flavors are as well as taste them.