Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wild Mushroom Barley Wild Rice and Beef Soup

Yup, the name is a mouthful, but this is a thick and hearty soup. Something I do a lot of in the days leading up to the holidays to save room for the BIG feasts and treats.  The soup is full of woodsy mushrooms, whole grains and veggies in a very tasty beefy broth.

This is one of those rare situations where I won't reconstitute a dried mushroom.  No need as it imparts its woodsy deep flavor right into the broth while absorbing the herbs and other flavors.  Makes a lot more sense then just rehydrating and adding a lot of water to the 'shroom when it should be all about adding flavor.

I use pearled barley.  Tried the unpearled, or barley with its husk on once.  The texture was too crunchy and it took forever to cook up.  What you loose in the lack of the bran coating you more than make up for with texture and ease of cooking.  Even pearled barley does take a while to cook up.  45-60 minutes depending on the age and dryness so it needs to go in before the wild rice.

Wild Mushroom Barley Wild Rice and Beef Soup

  • 1 lb beef roast - 1/2" cubes
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 3 ribs celery with tops - sliced
  • 3 carrots - sliced
  • 1 c dried porcini mushroom pieces
  • 2 t Thyme
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 c pearled barley
  • 1/3 c wild rice
  • 1 large (48oz-ish) can beef broth (I use swansons)
  • 1 small can beef broth

In large stock pot add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan.  Add onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper, cook over low heat until onion is translucent.  Add barley and cook 2 minutes longer.

Add large can beef broth, thyme and dried mushrooms.  Raise heat to medium and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer 20  minutes. 

Add wild rice and cook another 30-45 minutes until barley and wild rice are cooked through.  Add additional broth from the small can as needed to keep it at a thick soup consistency.  Check for seasoning and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with crusty buttered bread.
Monitor liquid levels as the soup simmers dryness of barley and wild rice determines how much additional borth needs to be added during the cooking process to keep it at a thick soup consistency.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peanut Butter Kiss cookies

We love these cookies at my house.  Whats not to like, peanut butter and chocolate.  Can it get any better?

This recipe has been in our family since as long as I can remember.  Not sure where my Ma got it, but its a keeper, with a few tweaks.

My Aunt Anna Mae was quite the baker and turned me on to using Crisco instead of margarine or butter.  It bakes better as it doesn't have a lot of water in it to muck up the crumb and crispy outside.  I took it a step further and used butter flavor Crisco and wow...it makes a big difference in the cookie.

The other tweak I gave it was to roll the unbaked cookie in turbinado or raw sugar.  It adds a nice crackly crunch to the cookie as well as a deeper, richer dark sugar flavor.

There are two schools of thought as to when you put in  your chocolate kiss.  I learned doing them before baking but that yielded a funky texture at times to the kiss itself.  My daughter, par-bakes the cookie then plops the kiss in place and finishes baking them that way...the end result is a kiss that holds its shape and has a nice smooth texture still.  I go that route now.

Even with all the Crisco and fat from the peanut butter you do need to bake these cookies on a silpat or a parchment lined baking sheet.  The turbinado sugar will  stick to the pan if you don't use a silpat or parchment paper.  Using either of these prevents sticking cookies that are mangled when you take them off the sheet.

The last trick I have up my sleeve is I use a small #30 scoop to ensure uniform sizes and even baking of all the cookies. A #30 scoop is just about 2 tablespoons of dough.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

  • 60 chocolate kisses, unwrapped
  • 2 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • Turbinado Sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

Cream together Crisco, peanut butter, milk, brown sugar and salt.  When light and fluffy beat in eggs and vanilla.  

Sift together flour and baking soda.  With mixer on low slowly spoon in flour a quarter cup at a time until all incorporated.  Do not over beat as you will have a tough cookie.

Scoop dough and form into balls.  Roll into a ball and toss lightly in turbinado sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Place balls about 3 inches apart to allow for spreading. 

Bake cookies 8 minutes then remove from oven.  Take one chocolate kiss and place in center of cookie pressing it in nearly to the cookie sheet.  Repeat with all the cookies until the sheet is complete.  Return to oven and bake 3-4 minutes longer until the cookie is a light brown.

Cool 3-4 minutes before removing from sheet pan to wire racks to compete cooling.  When cooled store in airtight container, separating layers of cookie with wax paper.
Cookie dough rolled in sugar on a silpat sheet ready for their first baking.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seafood Stew

I can't believe I haven't already posted this recipe for seafood stew.  Its not a major hit in my house, but is well received by those that do like shrimp and seafood.  Its loosely based on a recipe from Barefoot Contessa that I've adapted to fit the seafood I can get fresh here on the west coast.

You do need 3-4 lbs of fresh or frozen/thawed seafood. What I used is what I found fresh in my local grocs, you can substitute what you can find fresh in your stores.  You can also use precooked items just add them the last minute before serving to warm them up without overcooking.  Add your seafood in order of size, largest pieces first as they will take the longest to cook, to the smallest which just need a brief bath in the hot broth.

Heres a cheap swap...langostines have a taste and texture similar to lobster.  Lobster here on the West Coast is a bit of a luxury item and can be pricey especially off season.  These little gems are a good swap out and still get the flavor of lobster. Having it for guests and really want to impress?  Break down and get a lobster tail slightly more than a pound and cube the meat so you end up with about a pound of lobster meat.

 Shrimp stock is stupid easy to make and I usually have some on hand.  Store bought seafood stock would work fine in a pinch, but seriously, try making your own stock the flavor is much better AND you get to control the salt levels.

I'm usually not a fan of specialty items, but I do use two in this stew that without them it just lacks the big punch of flavor they bring to the table.  Neither you meed much of so buy as small a quantity as you can find.

First up is Pernod.  I search high and low before I got smart and hit my local liquor store up to special order it.  Pernod is a wonderful anise/fennel liquor that really brings the fennel flavor up in this dish. Its fresh and herbaceous with a nice punch of flavor.  Its very similar in flavor to absinthe, so that could be substituted.

Second on the specialty ingredient list is saffron.  Its billed as the worlds most expensive spice, I know a few threads at the groc will cost an appendage.  I found my supply, reasonable at about 1/3 the cost compared to my local groc, at Cost Plus World Markets.  You only need a few threads, but it brings the intense color and a rich spiciness, subtle heat even, that can be duplicated with something else.  A little goes a very long way, and too much, well it taks on a metallic taste so use it sparingly.

Seafood Stew
  • 1 lb cod -cut into generous 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb scallops
  • 1 lb shrimp - pealed and deviened
  • 1 lb langostinos
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onoin - thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c diced red bell pepper
  • fronds from the fennel bulb
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1 c diced tomatoes
  • 4 T Pernod
  • pinch, 6-7 threads, saffron
  • 1 quart shrimp stock
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley

In large stock pot over medium heat add olive oil and heat to shimmering.  Thinly slice onion and fennel with mandolin.  Add to pot along with the diced red bell pepper.  Cook 5-8 minutes until union is translucent but not browning.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute while stirring constantly.

Add 2 T Pernod and stir in to deglaze the pan.  Add can of diced tomatoes with juices and shrimp stock.  Add saffron.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and simmer 10 minutes.

Add cubed cod pieces, cook 3 minutes
Add prepared shrimp pieces, cook 2 minutes
Add langostino, cook 2 minutes.
Add scallops, cook 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Pernod and parsley.  Serve hot in bowls garnished with a fennel frond and with a thick cut crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Cook the vegetables over medium heat until onion is translucent, but not browned.
Add your largest pieces of seafood first and time your additions so they are fully cooked by the time the smallest pieces are cooked.
Stirring in the parsley and final bit of Pernod at the end off the heat preserves their fresh crisp flavor.

Wild Mushroom Fritata

Or should I call this breakfast for two?  That's exactly how many are served with this, could be 4 folks if you happened to have a slab of ham or some bacon next to it, but today I didn't so it served just the lovely Mrs and I did today.

A Fritatta is really nothing more than an Italian version of a omelet that is finished in an oven.  For that reason its imperative you use a non-stick pan with oven safe handles.  Guarantees you get a clean release and easy clean up.  Might I suggest the calphalon contemporary non-stick, that is 8" of hard anodized aluminum perfection and is dishwasher safe AND an has an oven proof handle? I ABSOLUTELY  couldn't survive in the kitchen with this handy little pan.

I used dried morel mushrooms in this recipe.  Do save the liquid used to reconstitute the mushrooms for another use such as a gravy or soup stock as it has a ton of flavor.  Reconstituting is stupid easy, simply cover them with boiling water and let them soak for 20 minutes.  Strain reserving the broth and voila mushrooms ready for a recipe.

Wild Mushroom Frittata

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 c dried morel mushrooms
  • boiling water
  • 1 shallot - minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 t  herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 c shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/4 t salt

Put mushrooms in a large heat proof bowl.  Pour in just enough boiling water to cover.  Cover with plastic wrap (cling film to my pals in the UK) and let it steep 20 minutes.  When done pour through a strainer and set onto a paper towel.  Slice the reconstituted mushrooms into 1/4" thick pieces.

Preheat oven to 350F

In an 8" non-stick skillet add 1 T butter, salt,  shallot and mushroom.  Cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the shallots are translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Whisk together eggs and herbs de Provence.  Add remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and swirl to melt and evenly cover pan.  Pour eggs over the mushroom mixture.  Over medium-low heat slowly stir and left egg at edges so liquids move under the forming frittata.  Cook 3-5 minutes like this until mixture is mostly set but still wet on top.  Sprinkle with cheese and put in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Moose Track Candy

What's Christmas without candy and sweets?  I'm telling ya...I come from a long, LONG line of sweet tooths and this confection sure satiates that craving.  The actual recipe is sorta lost in space, as its its origins.  My daughter got the recipe from my Mom, but deleted most of the stuff that goes in as she didn't like it...sadly she doesn't remember what is omitted.

This recipe falls into the stupid easy category.  Popping Popcorn is the only skill needed.  The other is stirring and using a microwave.  How easy is that?

The popcorn isn't dauting at all.  Its better to do it in a couple of small batches than one large for better popping and fewer "bullets", or unpopped kernals at the end.  Also using a large mesh kitchen spider to fish the popped corn out of the pan ensures that any bullets are left behind and all you have is good fresh popped corn for the rest of this sweet treet.

My daughters version doesn't include dried cranberries.  I added it to my recipe as, well, the tart of the cranberry is a nice counterpoint to the sweet of the white chocolate coating.  I also add a pinch of salt...something all that popcorn needs as well as a nice foil for the sweet.  Tart, sweet and salty can it get any better?

An absolute must to success with this recipe is using a silpat sheet on your baking sheet.  Without it the confection sticks to much to the baking sheet and makes it hard to pull off and break apart for storage.

Moose Track Candy

  • 1 1-lb package Candy Quick
  • 1 bag Reese's pieces
  • 2 C reduced sugar dried cranberries
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 3/4 c unpopped popcorn
  • 6 T vegetable oil

Heat 2T oil in a heavy pot with a lid.  Add 1/4 c popcorn kernels.  Cook over medium-high heat until popping slows and comes to a stop.  Remove popped corn with a spider and toss out the unpopped kernels. Repeat with remaining popcorn and oil until its all popped.

Put popped corn into a very large bowl.  Sprinkle Reeses Pieces and dried cranberry over the popped corn and fold lightly. 

Melt Candy Quick according to package directions in microwave.  Sprinkle salt over the candy quick and stir until smooth.  Pour the candy quick over the popcorn mixture.  Fold until all ingredients are evenly coated with the candy quick.  While still warm spread out over a large silpat covered baking sheet.  Put in refrigerator for 1-2 hours to set.

Remove from refrigerator and break into small chunks.  Put into gift jars or large container with a lid and store at room temperature.  Enjoy with a big cup of creamy hot cocoa or Mexican Hot Cocoa with peppermint schnapps added.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peppermint Fudge

Here it is in all its glory.  Peppermint Fudge.  No its not stupid easy, but it is uber tasty.  A few steps are involved but worth it.  This fudge has it all, creamy, crunchy and melt in your mouth with a blast of peppermint.

Finding marshmallows are a challenge.  I gave up on finding the mini-peppermint and went with the chocloate mint.  They weren't minis nor were they normal jet puffed sized. To make them the right size I cut them in half. I actually like these marshamallows as they have just a hing of chocolate to offset all the mint flavors.

Peppermint Fudge

  • 3/4 c cream
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  •  pinch of salt
  • 1 7oz jar marshmallow creme
  • 1 12 oz bag Andes baking mints
  • 1 12 oz bag white chocolate baking chips
  • 1 lb Candy Quick
  • 1 bag chocolate mint marshmallows (minis if you can find)
  • 1/4 t peppermint flavoring
  • 6 crushed minature candy canes

Prepare 13X9 baking dish with wax paper.

In a stand mixer put in marshmallow creme, Andes baking mints and white chocolate baking chips.

In non-reactive heavy sauce pot melt together butter, sugar, cream and salt over medium low heat.  Stir until dissolved.  Bring to boil and boil exactly 5 minutes, whisking to prevent boil over.  

Immediately remove from heat at end of the 5 minutes.  Turn mixer to low and pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl.  When all of syrup has been poured in increase speed to medium.  Beat 2-3 minutes until it is all melted and combined.  Pour into prepared pan. Smooth and spread into the corners. Chill in fridge at least an hour.

Melt Candy Quick according to package directions.  Stir in peppermint flavor until smooth.  Put marshmallows into a large bowl.  Pour melted candy quick over the marshmallows and fold to evenly coat.  Spread in even layer over the cooled fudge base.  Sprinkle with crushed mini candy canes.  Return to fridge and chill at least an hour.  Cut into squares and serve with a steaming cup of hot cocoa!
Wax paper is a must to prepare the pan, without it you'll never get the fudge out of the pan.
Slowly pour in syrup while on low to prevent splashing the hot syrup.
Spread the base evenly while still warm.  Using a silicone spatula makes it easier as the fudge base won't stick to it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Baked and Breaded Cod

I have loved those silly frozen fish sticks for as long as I can remember. Ditto going out for "fish & chips".  Its a nice thick piece of cod. The problem with frozen is that it was previously deep fried and has a lot of added fat calories.  How to avoid without loosing any taste or texture?  Bake it.

I bought whole cod fillets and trimmed off the thinner pieces from the back of the fish, cubed it and froze it for future use in a fish stew.  That left me with perfect fillets for dinner last night.  Trimming so they are all uniform in size ensure that they are all cooked through at the same time.

Baked Cod Filets

  • 4 filets trimmed into approx 8oz portions
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T milk 
  • 1 1/2 c seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cooking spray (I use Pam)

Preheat oven to 400F-use convect feature for best browning.
Spray baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.
Season each filet well with salt and pepper.  Set aside
Season flour with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon each in a large bowl.  Set aside.
Combine egg and milk in a bowl.  set aside
Add bread crumbs to a bowl.  Set aside. 

Dredge filet in flour. Immediately move to egg mixture, turn to coat well in egg.  Put filet in bread crumbs, turning and press light to ensure they stick well to the  filet.  Transfer filet to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining filets.  Spritz each filet with cooking spray to help with browning.

Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with favorite tartar sauce.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Green Bean Casserole - volume turned up a tidge

Sorry the pic isn't perfect, but folks were digging into the food as fast as I pulled it out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day.  This is seriously good stuff.  Loved the classic but I'm also always on the look outs to keep the flavors there just amp it up.

For this I added in a bunch of fresh cremini mushrooms, sauteed them in butter with some garlic. After they were browning a bit I added a pinch or two of salt to get them to release all their moisture and make them less spongy.

I used fresh green beans, blanched and chilled to keep them bright green.

I used cream, good old heavy whipping cream, to give you an even better mouth feel and taste. I thought about going the roux routine...but then I thought why do what when a can of cream of mushroom soup gives you good consistent  results.

Green Bean Casserole

  • 1 1/2 lbs green beans
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 3 T butter
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t worchestershire sauce
  • 1 8oz can french fried onions
  • 3/4 c cream
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Trim ends of green beans and cut them in half.  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1 T salt. Add beans and cook 5-6 minutes.  Immediately remove from boiling water and put into a bowl of ice water.  Drain and set aside.

Over medium heat add butter and sliced mushrooms.  Sautee for 5-6 minutes until starting to brown.  Add a pinch or two of salt and the black pepper, cook another 2-3 minutes until liquid in pan is avaporated out.  Add garlic and cook 1 minutes longer.  Reduce heat and add worchestershire sauce, soup and cream.  Gently stir to combine. Fold in green beans to coat.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour in 1/2 of the green bean mixture.  Sprinkle 1/2 can of french fried onions over the beans.  Add remaining bean mixture, smooth out.  Cover and bake 50-55 minutes until bubbly.  Remove lid, sprinkle remaining french fried onions over the top.  Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes until the french fried onions are browned.  Serve hot.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Butterscotch Bread Pudding...with butterscotch caramel sauce

This was one of those rare home runs with everyone. The bread pudding alone would probably been pretty terrific, but the addition of this caramel sauce, based on brown sugar so it picked up the butterscotch notes that took it from special to spectacular.

A trick I picked up over the years is that dry bread cubes soak up the custard for the bread pudding better than fresh cut cubes.  For that reason I cube the bread the night before and put it in the warm (170f) oven for an hour or so and then let it cool in there over night.

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

  • 1 16 oz loaf French or Italian Bread, cubed
  • 2 c cream
  • 2 c milk
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c butterscotch chips.

Butter insides of a 13X9 baking dish.

Cube bread into roughly 1 inch cubes.  Place cubes on baking sheet in a warm, 170F oven for 1 hour.  Turn off heat and allow to sit overnight.

Combine cream,  milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.  Put dried bread cubes  and 1/2 c butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Pour custard mixture over the bread and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 - 3 hours to allow custard to soak into bread.  Toss occasionally.  

Preheat oven to 350F.  Pour bread pudding mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c butterscotch chips over top.  Bake 1 hour until puffed and golden brown and the and the edges are set.  Its OK if the center has a little jiggle.  Cool to set and serve at room temp.

Cut into squares and serve with warmed caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

  • 6 T butter
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 T dark corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 t vanilla

Put butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in heavy bottom pan.  Over medium low heat gently stir with metal spoon or wire whisk until smooth.  Slowly bring to boil and boil 2 - 3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.  Slow add cream and stir constantly.  It will bubble vigorously.  Stir until smooth and cook 1-2 minutes longer until smooth and shiny.  Off heat stir in vanilla.  Pour into a serving container, or glass jar if making head.  If making ahead, zap in in the microwave for 1 minute to warm it a bit for serving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Margarita EVER!

I learned to mix Margaritas from my friend Geri Castron years ago when my wife and I were dating and she had a place just south of Rosarito Beach.  (Las Gaviotas if you know the area to be precise).  We'd go down and visit, she'd mix up the best kick ass margaritas EVER.  We've all moved forward but still stay in touch.  I still remember her margarita recipe as it was so smooth going down they snuck up on you.

Some 15 years ago, maybe longer, I discovered the Bacardi Margarita Mix in the freezer section of my local grocery store.  Tried it and loved it.  Its not your typical mix of reconstituted lime juice, or worse lime flavored sugar water.  Its the perfect blend of lime juice with just enough simple syrup so its tart but not so tart your throat seizes as you drink it like those nasty premades on the liquor store shelves.  If your grocer doesn't carry the mixer, implore them to order you a case.  You won't go wrong.

The real secret to this recipe is the Cointreau.  Cointreau is a pretty awesome orange liqueur that adds a subtle orange hit that mellows the tartness of the lime juice.  Don't skip it.  You don't use much of this pricey booze, but what it brings to the party of the perfect Margarita its worth it.

You can increase the tequila from 1/2 can which makes for perfect sippin' 'ritas to 3/4 can for those that will kick your ass.  I prefer the sippin' variety as they are thirst quenching and you can have several during the course of the afternoon.  I used to make them by the gallons for our neighborhood July 4th block parties, both versions, and a good time was had by all.  There were several April 4 babies attributed to my Margaritas...they were that good.

Best Margarita EVER

  • 1 can Bacardi Margarita Mix, partially thawed
  • 1/2 can Tequila
  • 1/4 can Cointreau
  • 4 c ice

Fill blender with ice. Add Bacardi Mix, tequila and Cointreau.  Blend on liquefy or whatever your highest speed is until its smooth and slushy. Serve with salted or unsalted rims as desired.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thai Chicken Green Curry

Here we go again...I've seen it used and called for in lots of recipes but I could never find the stuff.  Curry Paste, that is.  Then, suddenly an Asian market opened up and there it was in the colors and flavors of the rainbow.  Lucky me.

The brand I used is Maesri Green Curry paste and can be found on Amazon if you can't find it at a local market.  Do buy it online as a last resort as its pricey, I paid only $1.29 at my local Asian Market.   That tiny 4 oz can may seem like such a little bit, but it is potent and goes a long way.

The stuff is really tasty.  Its a paste as the name implies and the green version has lemon grass, thai chili, curry leaf and a host of other goodies in it.  It is FLAMING HOT so use it sparingly and taste often to get the right amount of heat.  You can always add more but you can't take it away once in.
Thai Chicken Green Curry

  • 1 1/2 lb chicken, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onion thinly sliced, 1/2 c green tops reserved
  • 1 T garlic
  • 1 14 oz coconut milk (not the low fat variety)
  • 1 14 oz can baby corn, cubed
  • 1 14 oz can bamboo shoot sticks
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 T minced cilantro
  • water
  • cooked rice

In a large wok add a tablespoon or two of oil.  Heat to shimmering over medium high heat.  Add chicken and stir fry until browned and cooked through.  Add onion and garlic and stir fry 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat to medium add coconut milk, baby corn, bamboo shoots and fish sauce.  Heat to boiling.  Add water as needed if the coconut milk starts to thicken to keep it at the consistency of light cream.  Cook just a couple of minutes until veggies are warmed through.  Top with chopped cilantro.

Serve hot over rice and garnish with reserved green onion tops.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pasta fagioli, fazool or minestrone?

Maybe I should call it Italian Left Over soup.  Whatever you call it I am certain there is an Italian grandmother somewhere rolling in her grave by what I did or what I call it.

I started off raiding my fridge and pantry this cool damp L.A. day.  Found was a leftover porchetta that I needed to do something with and re-purposing made more sense than just reheating and serving it up that way.

I also had the tops of a bunch of beets I had the other day.  The beet greens actually make for very tasty greens sauteed on their own or in soup.  If you don't have beet greens, kale, collards, mustard or any other greens you have around would be a reasonable substitution.

I also used both dried and fresh basil in this recipe.  The former in the soup itself for the simmer and the latter as garnish torn and served on the individual servings.  Each bring a slightly different flavor to the party, I really like the fresh green flavor of the raw basil on top the soup.

Italian Style Left Over Soup

  • 1 1/2 lb roast pork/porchetta
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 large carrots sliced
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 t fresh ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 32 oz can chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c tiny macaroni noodles
  • 4 c beet greens coarse chopped
  • fresh basil
  • parmesan

In large stock pot over medium heat add a couple of tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion, carrots and garlic, cook until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Cut pork roast to small dice, about 1/2 inch square.  Add pork to stock pot and stir in cooking a couple of minutes until it is warmed up.

Add undrained tomatoes, beans, oregano, dried basil, bay leaf, fresh ground black pepper and chicken stock.  Stir and taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.  Simmer over low heat for an hour until flavors are combined.  Add macaroni and greens.  Simmer 10 minutes longer.

Serve hot with a couple of tablespoons fresh grated parmesan and a few basil leaves torn on top.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Savory Stilton Souffle

Souffle's are really easy. Exact measurements and temperatures is all it takes. This Savory Stilton Souffle is  just another iteration of the Stilton Souffle I posted a bit over a year ago.  What makes it more savory?  Simple addition of 1/4 c thinly sliced green tops of a scallion or baby onion.  Same amount of chives would have done the same thing...a slight hint of onion to the souffle taking it up a notch with that little extra layer of flavor.

A secret to good release of your souffle and guarantee it climbs right up the sides without sticking as it rises is the use of a cooking spray with flour already in it.  First found the stuff years ago at Smart and Final, now even my local Pavilions (a Safeway store) has their own version.  Works magic and you don't have to worry about the butter scorching during baking.  You also don't have to worry about it being over floured and getting gummy.  It also makes for a very easy clean up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

Pure pumpkin flavor and you control the salt level.  Its also making the most of  your pumpkins after you carve them for jack-o-lanterns.  Quite easy and very nutritious. All the fiber and no fillers (some brands use cheap squash to keep the cost of their puree down) or nasty additives.  This puree can be used interchangeably with the canned stuff cup for cup. Sounds like a win to me.

As this is a low acid, low salt recipe you do need to do a water bath to ensure your puree is safe to store and consume down the road.

Roast Pumpkin Puree

  • 3 medium (3 lb +/-) cinderella pumpkins
  • cooking oil spray
  • salt
  • Boiling water

Cut pumpkin in to 1-2" wide strips along the circumference.  Trim off the outer shell leaving only the pulp. Cut into 1' cubes.  Spritz your baking sheet with cooking oil spray, add pumpkin in a single layer.

Heat oven to 350F, use convection cycle if you have it for more even roasting.  Roast 45-60 minutes until the largest pieces are fork tender and break easily when pierced with a fork.

In large blender jar add 4-5 c roasted pumpkin.  Add 1/2C boiling water and 1/2t salt.  Blitz on puree until smooth, add more water if needed to get the right consistency so it all blends.  Pour into sterile canning jars, filling to within 1/2" of top of jar.  Loosely place on lid and sealing ring.  Repeat until all pumpkin has been pureed.

Place jars in water bath and simmer in boiling water that comes within an inch of the top of the jars.  Treat for 60 minutes.  Remove jars from boiling water bath and screw lids down tight.  Make sure the lids "pop" to guarantee a good safe seal  Cool completely. Store in fridge for up to a year, 6 months in a cool dark place.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cherry Almond Cobbler

Because I don't do pie dough

A while back I scored on a bag of frozen sour cherry's something like 4 freaking pound bag for barely $10.  Can't buy fresh for that.  Can't buy fresh with the same convenience as they were already pitted!  Today it was our first really cool rainy day for the fall season.  In fact its raining right now...and cold stormy days bring out the baker in me.

This is really a simple recipe.  Frozen cherries and almond slices as the two simply play together quite well. I remember hearing, reading, picking up by osmosis that they are in the same plant family and thus have similar flavonoids that really enhance each other.  Almond makes cherry more cherry believe it or not.

For the prep of the streusel toppings you really need to use a food processor with a dough blade.  Its much faster to give it a couple of quick pulse whizzes than to cut it in by hand with a pastry cutter.

Cherry Almond Cobbler
6 c frozen pitted sour cherries
1 c sugar
3 T corn starch
pinch salt
1/4 t almond extract
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c flour
3/4 c quick cooking oats
2/3 c brown sugar
1 stick butter - chilled
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350F  Grease 9X13 baking pan

Pour frozen cherries into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the almond extract and vanilla. Let thaw 10-15 minutes.  Mix together salt, corn starch and sugar.  Sprinkle mixture over cherries and toss lightly to combine.

For topping combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in food processor and pulse to combine a couple of times.  Cut butter into tablespoons and place evenly over flour mixture.  Pulse 7-10 times until it resembles wet crumbly sand.  (If not using food processor whisk together dry ingredients.  With pastry cutter cut in butter until it resembles wet crumbly sand.)

Pour cherries into prepared pan.  Spoon streusel evenly over the cherries.  Bake 45-50 minutes until topping is golden brown.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stupid Easy Thai Style homemade cup-o-noodles

Life doesn't really get any easier than this.  Fresh noodles from your local asian grocery.  Broth and some herbage to finish it off.  Best of all since you are controlling the ingredients there is no fear of MSG!

Today I went Thai with it.  What made it Thai you may ask?  Fish Sauce and Thai Chili's.  Finish with a squirt of lime.  Its done as fast as that

The noodles are hard(ish) to find if you don't have an Asian market close to you.  If you do have one such market close by I urge you to spend time there and get to know all the ingredients, fresh and otherwise.  Who knew there were 20 kinds of Bok Choy...there are and each are a little different in size and texture, all taste similar.  The funnest part is wandering over to the fresh noodle arena, my local market has literally over a 100 kinds of noodles, many gluten free as they are made from rice. The noodles I used here were pre-packaged soba noodles.  A sorta reasonable substitute be cooked whole wheat spaghetti.

I usually have homemade chicken stock around, but today I didn't so I used my next best favorite, the trusty can of Swanson's low sodium chicken broth.

The big word of caution here is that a little fish sauce goes a long, long way.  Too much and its just stank.  Just a few drops here and it adds another level of flavor that doesn't overpower and adds just the right amount of salinity.

Stupid Easy Thai Style Cup-o-noodles

  • 1 C fresh soba noodle
  • 1 can Chicken broth (about 2 c)
  • 1-2 thinly sliced Thai Chili
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T fresh cilantro
  • 4 drops fish sauce
  • 1/2 t low sodium soy sauce
  • lime

In small sauce pan add chicken broth and heat to simmer. Add fish sauce and soy sauce. Add fresh soba noodles and cook 1-2 minutes until heated through.  Take off heat, stir in onion, chili(s) and cilantro.  Pour off into serving bowl and give it a squirt of fresh lime juice.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plum Dumplings with the volume turned up

I thought of my Dad the other day when his sister, my Aunt Kathy posted on FB that she was making plum dumplings for dinner.  Its a Slovene dumpling that is just a few simple ingredients and served with soft butter on top.  I decided to turn up the volume a bit and made a brown butter herb sauce to toss them in before serving.  A bit less fat than a pat of butter per dumpling and some herbs for brightness and green.  OMG were they good.  My grandmother, heck even my mother would likely snort and chortle at the idea, but it REALLY WORKED.

The recipe itself is generations old.  The actual roots are obscured to family lore.  My Dad had them as a kid and made my Ma make them for him as a treat in the fall when the tiny "prune plums" came ripe.  Dad would likely even know the Slovene name, google translate calls it "plum cmoki" which is nothing I ever recall hearing growing up.

I made them some 25 years ago for my then fiance.  We liked them, but never made them again until that nostalgic twang struck the other day.  Why you may ask...they are labor intensive.

The dough in looking at the recipe isn't that much unlike an Italian gnocci.  With Slovenia and northern Italy next door neighbors the ancient roman influence could well be the ancient root of this dumpling dough.  Just a wild arsed guess.

Plum Dumplings in Herbed Brown Butter Sauce
  • 8-10 small ripe plums
  • 1 c hot mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 salt
  • Bench flour - scant cup

  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon

Brown Butter Herb Sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 T minced parsley
  • 1 T minced mint
  • Pinch of salt to taste

In stand mixer add mashed potatoes, flour and 1/2 t salt.  Whiz a minute or so until flour is well dispersed.  With mixer on low pour in melted butter then the egg.  Mix just until a soft dough comes together.  Let rest 5 minutes.

Bring a large stock pot, 4-6 quarts of water with salt to a boil.

Half the plums and remove the pits.  Use the "plumber crack" groove on the plum as a guide to halve your plums precisely.  Take a piece of dough the size of a walnut and flatten.  Place a plum half in the do cut side up.  Add 1/2 t cinnamon mixture.  Bring up the edges of the dough and seal all seams. Roll dumpling in flour and set on a tray to rest while you make the rest of your  Repeat with remaining dough, plums and cinnamon/sugar mix.

Place dumplings in the salted boiling water.  They will sink. Stir gently at first so they don't stick to the bottom and tear.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  The will float to the surface as they cook.

While dumplings cook make the Herbed Brown Butter Sauce.  Take stick of butter and put in large skillet over medium heat.  Stir as the milk solids begin to foam and brown to prevent scorching.  When the butter is browned, reduce heat to low and add the minced herbs.  Cook stir in and taste for seasoning and add a pinch or two of salt.  Place the cooked dumplings in the browned butter and herbs turning to coat.

Step by Step dumpling making:
flatten walnut sized piece of dough until about 1/8" thick, about twice the diameter of a plum half
spoon in scant 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon sugar into the hole left behind by the plum pit
Pull dough sides up and over the center of the plum, sealing edges to form dumpling. Be gentle so you don't tear the dumpling skin.
Roll completed dumpling in flour and set aside on a clean tray to rest
After putting dumplings in the boiling water allow the water to come back up to a boil.  When it does reduce heat to a simmer.  A Hard boil will cause the dumpling skins to burst and leave you with a giant mess.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the dumplings from the boiling water.  Let excess water drip off and slip the dumpling into the browned butter.  Turn carefully to coat so you don't tear the dumpling skin.
Serve hot...enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Smoked Gouda Souffle

A while I back I wrote about how daunting a souffle is, then it dawned on me, its fancy baking, precise measurements, temperatures and timing are what its all about.  Suddenly they became easier and are becoming a Sunday Brunch Staple at casa frazgo.

The real key is have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go (aka mis en place), oven preheated on standby and all tools at the ready. This goes very quickly once your milk is almost at the boil.  You don't have time to futz with measuring and grating once you start making the base.  Take your eyes and whisk away for even a minute and you have scrambled yolks and need to start over.

Prolly the greatest improvement on the traditional box grater was the creation of the Microplane Brand box grater.  Its precision cut stainless steel that is so sharp even sticky cheeses grate without clogging and dragging.  Amazing little tool. A friendly tip, cold cheese fresh from the fridge does grate faster and easier than those at room temp, this is particularly important to remember when you are working with soft cheeses like gouda, edam and young cheddars.

Have your ingredients at room temperature helps with separating the eggs, mixing the base or whipping the whites.  Even the cheese once grated and brought to room temperature melts better with less chance of clumping and separating.

Unlike other cheese souffle's you do need to cook this one a bit after the cheese has melted so it doesn't curdle and separate.  It only takes a minute or two on the heat to cook it enough and as long as you whisk continuously during that part you won't have any issues with the eggs scrambling or cheese getting funky.  When you take it of the heat stir with the whisk for an additional minute as it cools so it doesn't scramble.  Sounds like a risky spot, but its not that bad as long as you just keep whisking and keep the heat at medium using a heavy pan that won't have hot spots that can cause scorching.  The flour and mustard do a great job of stabilizing the base and minimize problems in preparation and baking.

I've been a fan of the smoked Gouda for a while.  Trader Joe's carry's a really nice one that won't break the bank. Its a semi-soft cheese with a deep smoky taste that permeates the entire souffle.

Smoke Gouda Souffle'

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 t cream of tartar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 T whole grain mustard
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 t salt 
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • dash nutmeg
  • 2/3 c Smoked Gouda Cheese
  • 1 c whole milk

Pre heat oven to 450F.
Grease and flour your souffle' dish

Pour milk into a large heavy sauce pan.  Over medium heat slowly raise temperature until it just starts to steam and tiny bubbles form at the edge.  Do Not Boil.

Combine egg yolks, flour, mustard, water, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg in a bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour off 1/4 c hot milk into a heat proof measuring cup.  While whisking slowly pour in the milk in a slow stream until all has been incorporated.  Do not pour in all at once as you could scramble the yolks.

While whisking the warm milk pour in the yolk mixture. Stir constantly over medium heat and bring to a boil.  As soon as you get your first couple of bubbles, slowly start adding the cheese, stirring well between additions so it is incorporated.  Cook 1-2 minutes longer, remove from heat and whisk 1 minute.

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until they form stiff peaks.  Stir in one fourth of the egg whites into the souffle base until all whites have been incorporated.  Take the base and pour over the remaining whites.  Gently fold in the base to the whites until it is all fluffy and no more egg white clumps remain.

Pour into prepared souffle' dish.  Bake at 450F 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to 425F and bake an additional 8-10 minutes until puffed and golden brown.  Serve hot.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kickin' back a cocktail and looking for ideas...

Seriously, since I've joined the post a day blog challenge I've had a ton of fun. Made me think a lot about my blogs and what I can do differently with them.  Today's challenge was to ask our readers what they would like to see from us.  o_O

I can look at stats and tell you French food, at least the simpler homie stuff I do is the most popular based on hits and traffic generated.  A close second is sourdough.  I explore so many ideas and styles based on what interests me at the moment, so picking one isn't an option.  I'm really not into doing just one cuisine or style as its not how I live and cook.  Its L.A and the world is literally at my doorstep so why limit myself?

It really comes down to what's fresh, what's in season and who I fell asleep through on FoodNetwork and picked up ideas by osmosis for most recipe and blog post ideas.  What I eat really shows up on this blog.  I do a lot of repeats hence the dry spells, but repeats are family favorites that already have been blogged here.

I purposely use my cell phone cameras for my blog posts. They have an informality that describes me and my food as well as my general philosophy of entertaining my friends.  The goal here long term is to take these posts and make a "Blogger's Cookbook" with a focus on the stupid easy cookery that is a theme throughout this blog.  Should I do it?

In rounding out my blog what else should I do for you that makes it a better blog for you to visit? I'm all ears and always open to new ideas.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Guest Post: Dirty Rice by Caroline Paras

As you can probably guess, frazgo isn't doing the cooking right now. I'm stepping in to share one of my recipes from my foodie blog. My blog is dedicated to my mom and the recipes she passed along -- and a few of my own that I've whipped up over the years. Most of my cooking comes from what I know, using Asian vegetables and rice. I've also branched out a bit and cook up foods that I enjoy, For this shared recipe, I thought I would combine rice with a bit of Cajun-flavoring and make Dirty Rice.

I like to think of Dirty Rice as steamed rice stir-fry. Like stir-fry, you combine a bunch of ingredients with rice and it becomes a meal. This dish gets its name from the look of white rice that is used that then gets its "dirty" color from being cooked with minced chicken livers. I know, no one eats chicken livers anymore. But, use the chicken livers, the ingredient adds that extra kick to make the recipe really good. Because of the depth of flavor, I serve Dirty Rice as both a main dish and/or as a side dish. I use a combination of onions, celery and bell peppers to form the base. Then I use green chiles for a mild flavor. If you are looking for something spicier, use jalapeño chili peppers. And, if you like this recipe, you can find "My Mama's Recipes and a Few of My Own" at http://mamasrecipesandafew.wordpress.com/ Enjoy! 

Dirty Rice 
1 1/2 cup long-grain rice
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 lb. spicy ground pork
1/2 cup chicken livers
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper
1-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped or 1/4 cup diced green chiles
1 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 green onions, chopped
Cook the rice according to the package instructions, but use chicken broth for one third of the cooking liquid. So, for example, if the package says to use 3 cups of water for 1 1/2 cups of rice, use 2 cups of water and 1 cup of chicken broth. Once the rice has finished cooking, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Turn the rice out onto a sheet pan and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over it. Mix to combine and let cool.

While the rice is cooking, mash and finely chop the chicken livers or purée in a blender. In a large pan, put 1 tablespoon of oil plus the bacon in and cook over medium-low heat until the bacon is crispy. Add the ground pork and increase the heat to high. Allow the meat to brown before stirring. As soon as the pork starts to brown, add the final tablespoon of oil and add the bell peppers, celery, jalapeños and onions. Brown them all over medium-high heat. Add the minced liver and cook for a few minutes more. Add the remaining cup of chicken broth and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the Cajun seasoning and turn the heat to high. Boil away most of the chicken stock.

Add the cooked rice. Toss to combine. Add the green onions. Toss once more to combine and serve hot.

Quesadilla Casserole

Quesadilla...a wonderful FLOUR tortilla stuffed with something savory and a ton of cheese and grilled.  This was the inspiration for this dish.  Its actually almost a lasagna, but the inclusion of flour tortillas instead of corn warrants the change up in the name.  Regardless of what you call it, its quite tasty.

Stupid easy to make too.  Simple browning of meat and then layering to assemble. If you can't do that its time to pack your knives and resort to already made frozen.

Tortillas, flour is a must. They come in a variety of sizes, go for the 8" to 10" variety for easiest fitting into the pan with nominal overlap.  Too much overlap and they get to be dense and chewy.

For the cheese, I'm blessed to be in sunny SoCal where "mexican blend" cheeses are everywhere.  Its a blend of cheddar, monterey jack, queso something or other and another traditional cheese.  Its a lot more flavor than just a "colby jack" blend would give and worth searching out.  If all else fails, well, use the colby jack as it is a reasonable substitute.

Quesadilla Casserole

  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper
  • 2 T Chili Powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t oregano leaves
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 12 oz frozen corn
  • 1 can diced green chiles, undrained
  • 6 8-10" flour tortillas
  • 4 1/2 c shredded mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 9X13 baking dish with a non-stick spray.

In large skillet combine beef, salt and pepper.   Brown over medium heat until well browned.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Add spices, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Bring to simmer.  Add frozen corn and simmer 5 minutes longer.  Fold in green chiles and take off the heat.

Cut tortillas in half.  Place 1/2 c of meat mixture on bottom of baking dish. Cover with 4 tortilla slices, cut edges to the ends of the pan.Place 1/3 of meat mixture on top of the tortilla, then with 1 1/2 c shredded cheese.  Press lightly and repeat layers until all the tortillas, meat and cheese are used up.  Bake for 350 minutes until all bubbly and the cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes so it cuts and serves easier.
tortilla placement for maximum coverage and minimum overlap.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Want a sneak peak before the post?

Want a good spot for teasers on what will soon be on this blog?  Check out my Feasting & Indulgences set on flickr. Often there is as much as a day lede from when a picture appears there until the post is done here.

Another set to check for kicks and giggles is Eating Out.  Its a foodies collection of meals out that I've enjoyed and use as an inspiration for what I cook up in my kitchen.

Tomorrow...may be a silent day.  I'm going to Surfas in Culver City.  My cooking mecca, as opposed to Venice Beach where I go for soul rejuvenation.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Carrot Cake...one even haters will like

Here it is, after a few teasers here is the post you've been waiting for.  Carrot Cake for those who profess to hate it.  Nary a slimy raisin to be found in in it.  Perfect crumb and moistness, the latter enhanced with the pineapple which isn't usually found in a carrot cake.  Its part of the reason I really like this cake, that and the absence of a slimy snot like cooked raisin.

Different from a lot of carrot cakes is that this is baked in a slow oven that allows for very even rising with out a too terribly pronounced dome or high spot in the middle.

The addition of pineapple adds a nice tang to the cake as well as moistness.  I use crushed pineapple and you really need to let it drain well so you get an accurate measurement of pineapple without a lot of liquid to muck up the batter.  I poured a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple into a strainer set over a bowl for an hour to ensure it was well drained.  Et voila it did the trick.

I use a neutral vegetable oil for this cake as I don't want any stray flavors from the oil working its way into the cake. I've used corn oil in the past with good results and no funky flavor additions too.  I would refrain from olive oil or nut oils as they impart flavors that you might not want to the final product.

Carrot Cake

  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3 c (about 3/4 lb) grated carrot
  • 1 c crushed pineapple - well drained
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

cream cheese frosting

  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 T (half stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 24 oz (about 6 c)  powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla pod.

Grease and flour 2, 9" cake pans.  Preheat oven to 325f.

Combine flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices in a bowl.  Set aside.

Beat oil, vanilla and sugar until well mixed.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well with addition.  Beat 3-4 minutes until light yellow and fluffy.  Reduce speed and fold in dry ingredients in half cup increments until blended.  Fold in Carrot.  Fold in Pineapple. Fold in walnuts. 

Divide batter between the 2 pans.  Bake 45-50 minutes until tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.  On low speed add powdered sugar a quarter cup at a time until all incorporated.  Beat on high 1-2 minutes until fluffy.  Thin with water if needed to bring to spreading consistency.  Frost cooled cake layers.
Cooling cakes on a wire rack ensures that the cakes don't have a soggy bottom.  Cooled cakes frost easier with no melting and running of the frosting.
 A dab of frosting in the center of the cake plate ensures it doesn't slip when  you are frosting the cake.  A nice thick layer in the middle ensures frosting in every bite.
The money shot.  All frosted and ready to devour.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Carrot Cake the teaser

I told you a few months back I'd find my old friend  Dee Dallaire from Phoenix carrot cake recipe.Dee was the manager of Diamond's Park Central Housewares department back when I lived there in the mid-ish 80s.  I was working retail and knew that the housewares managers always had the best food and recipes and listened to what they had to share.  I did find it and its as marvelous as I remembered, moist, hint of spice and nary a freaking raisin to be found in the thing.  Nor coconut.  This recipe does have pineapple which just adds to the moistness and adds just the right tang to make it better than average.  I mean, what good is a blog if you don't share what's better than average.

Its been a long day chasing my grandson. Yes, I found time to bake a cake from scratch and enjoy a slice with dinner.  I'm beat.  Tomorrow the full recipe will be up.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grilled salmon for a rainy day.

I'm a fan of the grill pan.  It gives those lovely marks just like a barbecue grill.  It just doesn't pack the smokey flavor of the outdoor barbecue. Smoked Paprika solves that and adds a delicate heat to it all as well.  I've post iterations of this in the past so this post will be about the pan.

Its a Calphalon Non-Stick grill pan.  Non-stick because its a compromise with the lovely Missus as its our deal.  I cook, she cleans up after me and she hates scrubbing.  Calphalon because that heavy gauge aluminum heats fast and evenly.  Also their non-stick was the best there was around when I bought this pan some 8 years ago, and the finish is still good.  Yes I take care to use only nylon tools so as not to scratch and ruin the surface, but that is the extent of the care it needs.

There are devotees out there for the cast iron grill pan.  To you I blow a big fat raspberry.  It takes longer to heat up, has hot spots and is a royal pain to clean. Then keep seasoned.  That last one my friends is reason numero uno why I don't have cast iron. Who wants to monkey around with special cleaning, drying then having to re-season when you are done.  Not.  Me.

All that aside smoke paprika is really a way to impart nice sweet hot smokey flavor to a dish or piece of meat.  Sprinkle it on, let it sit as a dry rub marinade for 15-30 minutes and you are set.  That period I put plastic wrap over it and simply allow the fish or meat to come to room temp. Added bonus is that room temp meat cooks more thoroughly and evenly than cold fresh from fridge.

Finding smoked Paprika isn't that difficult anymore.  Finding Good smoked paprika can be a challenge.  Gourmet shops have it, but they charge a small appendage.  Grocery stores stock OK but still pricey.  I found the current bottle I'm using at Cost Plus World Markets for under $4.  I've had similar luck at Surfas in Culver City and they have a veritable library of smoked paprikas covering a variety of price points.  I think I need to make another Surfas run soon.

Grill Pan Salmon

  • 4 8 oz salmon fillets
  • garlic salt
  • pepper
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Clean and dry off your salmon fillets.  Give a quick spritz with cooking spray and sprinkle garlic salt and pepper to taste.  Dust each salmon piece with about 1/2 t smoked paprika.  Turn fillets over and repeat with spritz, garlic salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let come to room temperature and marinade for 15-30 minutes.  (The spritz of olive oil allows the paprika to stick to the fish).

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes.  NOTE if you are not using a non-stick pan you will need to oil your grill pan.  Add salmon fillets and cook 3-5 minutes, or until the cooked line is about 1/2 way up the side of the fish.  Turn over and cook another 2-4 minutes until cooked through. Serve hot.