Friday, January 28, 2011

Blood Orange Marmalade

Have you ever noticed the blood oranges available at the grocery store this time of year?

Have you ever wondered what you could do with them?  Well, you could eat them straight, of course.  But, I like to make blood orange marmalade. It's very distinctive with it's reddish color.  And it's not hard to make, it just takes a little time.  If you don't end up giving it all away as gifts, this amount might last you until next year when the next crop of blood oranges arrives.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grilled Polenta with Tomatoes and White Beans

Tomatoes, white beans and rosemary are a classic combination and they come together well (and quickly) in this dish. The tomato-bean mixture is good served over polenta, but you could also serve it on its own as a side-dish.

Chicken Sancocho

Sancocho is a chicken stew made with plantains and yucca that is served with a tomato-onion sauce.  I've only recently realized that this is a typical Colombian dish.  (My mother would be proud.)  When I originally found this recipe, I thought it was Mexican.

Yucca can be hard to find.  It's also known as cassava.  Try a Latino or an Asian grocery store.  (They are usually waxed and will keep in your crisper f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I usually buy one when I see them.)

Corn on the cob is also not easy to find in Minnesota in January.  I skipped the corn this time.  I give you permission to do the same, though I think it is better with corn.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Barb's Very Excellent Chicken

When we had dinner at Barb's recently, she made some very excellent chicken.  I asked her how she did it. She told me her secret: high heat.  I was at the store buying chicken a couple of days later.  I just had to try this myself!

This is a very simple recipe, but consistently produces very excellent results.  Crispy skin and juicy, tasty meat. Barb didn't use garlic, but I like garlic, so I do.  Try it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


If you are a fan of waffle-type cookies, you may already be familiar with pizzelles.  I wasn't.

In this part of the country, there is a Scandinavian type of waffle cookie called Krumkake.  You cook them on a special waffle iron and when they are hot, you burn your fingers trying to roll them onto a wooden form that makes them into little horn shapes.  Our friend, Renee, has made it part of her Christmas tradition to come to our house and make dozens of krumkake with our kids.  We love that tradition!

Krumkake are good.  Pizzelles are better.

My painting teacher introduced me to them just before Christmas.  She brought some to class and from the first bite, it was love.  These are traditional Italian cookies flavored with anise.  (You may not think you are a fan of anise, but it's really good in a cookie like this.)

In my culinary heart of hearts, I think I am Italian.

To make pizzelles, you must have a pizzelle iron. I ordered mine online from Amazon for $38.

You can flavor the cookies with lemon or vanilla extract, if you don't like anise.  Better than that, no rolling is required, so your fingertips remain char-free.

Classic Pizzelles
(makes 36-40 pizzelles)

1 3/4 cups flour (I use 25% whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 Tblsp anise extract

Preheat the pizzelle press on heat setting #3.

Place flour and baking powder in a small bowl, stir to combine. Reserve.

Place eggs and sugar in a medium bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on medium speed for one minutes, until thickened.  On low speed add the melted margarine and anise in a steady stream.  Mix until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined about 15 seconds.  Do not over mix.

Spray the press lightly with Pam cooking spray.  (You only need to do this once, at the beginning of a batch.) Drop 1 1/2 teaspoons of dough onto the center of each cookie grid.  (Use two spoons to do this, scrape the dough out of one with the other.)

Close the lid and lock.  The red indicator light will come on.  When it turns back to green, the cookies are ready.  (They should be lightly golden brown.  If the cookies are getting too dark, turn the heat setting down to #2.)  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, January 21, 2011

(Almost) Lucia's Squash Pancakes

I had the squash pancakes last week at Lucia's Restaurant, a neighborhood gem of an eatery.  They were sooo good!

Last night, when I was digging in the fridge to figure out what dinner would be, I came across a pound of peeled and cubed butternut squash from Trader Joe's.  Aha!

I thought about those squash pancakes.  Could I make those?  Well, you can Google just about anything these days, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Irish Brown Bread

We were in Ireland this past June and I have to tell you--the food is seriously good there.  In case you didn't know, Ireland went through a culinary revolution in the past dozen years and it's hard to get a bad meal anywhere.  This is not true of England.

If you have the chance to go, make sure you stay in a B&B or an inn that provides full breakfast.  The Irish are great believers in the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Most of the inns we stayed at had a professional chef make the breakfasts.  You could order an entree (eggs, sausage and the like) plus partake of a heavily-laden buffet.  The yogurt is to die for, but this comes as no surprise once you've seen the contented cows grazing in fields around every corner.

The King's Quiche

The folks at Cook's Illustrated have done it again.  Their recipe for Deep-Dish Quiche Lorraine is marvelous. The only problem is that you'll have to cancel all your plans for one whole day to make it.  Seriously.  The crust alone takes 4 hours to make if you follow their instructions to the letter.

The only reason I had time to follow this recipe is that my youngest son was sick and we were home the whole day.

If you have a life, I recommend buying a deep-dish pre-made pie crust and 'blind-baking' it according to the package directions.  (That means that you bake the crust alone, usually covered in foil and filled with pie weights.) Then, make the custard according to the instructions below (skip to step 7.)  It's the custard that makes this quiche great.  But, you must bake it in a deep dish, or else it will be dry.

I'm including the pastry recipe below, for you over-achiever types.  Or just in case you want to impress someone.  It really is a very good savory pie crust and not hard to make.  The other thought I have is that you could make the pie crust one day, and bake the custard the next.

You'll find that you have extra custard. I poured the extra into small ramekins and baked them for 30 minutes.  They make a good after-school snack.

Also, this recipe is easily made vegetarian by substituting mushrooms for the bacon.

Deep-Dish Quiche Lorraine
Serves 8
From Cooks Illustrated, July 2010

Pastry Dough
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen 10 minutes
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup ice water
1  large egg white, lightly beaten

Custard Filling
8 ounces bacon , preferably thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

1. FOR THE DOUGH: Process flour and salt together in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of large peas, about ten 1-second pulses.

2. Mix sour cream and ¼ cup ice water in small bowl until combined. Add half sour cream mixture to flour mixture; pulse for three 1-second pulses. Repeat with remaining sour cream mixture. Pinch dough with fingers; if dough is floury, dry, and does not hold together, add 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and process until dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains, three to five 1-second pulses.

3. Turn dough out onto work surface and flatten into 6-inch disk; cover disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm but not hard, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

4. Line your extra-deep (at least 2") pie dish with a circle of parchment paper.  Spray sides of the dish lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

5. Roll out disk of dough on generously floured work surface to 15-inch circle (about ¼ inch thick). Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into cake pan. Working around circumference, ease dough into pan by gently lifting edge of dough with 1 hand while pressing into pan bottom with other. Trim any dough that extends more than 1 inch over edge of pan. Refrigerate dough-lined pan until firm, about 30 minutes, and then freeze for 20 minutes.

6. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line dough with parchment or foil and fill completely with pie weights or dried beans, gently pressing weights into corners of shell. Bake on rimmed baking sheet until exposed edges of dough are beginning to brown but bottom is still light in color, 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and pie weights. (Now, the original recipe calls for a second baking of the crust for 20 minutes to brown the bottom, but I would skip that as it makes the crust too crisp).  Remove shell from oven and brush interior with egg white. Set aside while preparing filling. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

7. FOR THE CUSTARD: Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from skillet. Return to medium heat, add onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Set onions aside to cool slightly.

8. Place cornstarch in large bowl; add 3 tablespoons milk and whisk to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in remaining milk, eggs, yolk, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne until mixture is smooth.

9. Scatter onions, bacon, and Gruyère evenly over crust. Gently pour custard mixture over filling. Using fork, push filling ingredients down into custard and drag gently through custard to dislodge air bubbles. Gently tap pan on countertop to dislodge any remaining air bubbles.

10. Bake at 350 until top of quiche is lightly browned, toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, and center registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Transfer to wire rack and let stand until cool to touch, about 2 hours.

11. When ready to serve, use sharp paring knife to remove any crust that extends beyond edge of pan. Lift foil overhang from sides of pan and remove quiche from pan; gently slide thin-bladed spatula between quiche and foil to loosen, then slide quiche onto serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garlic Chicken with Artichokes

Cherry, here is another slow cooker recipe for you.  This makes a good weeknight dinner.  Of course, it helps if you like garlic and artichokes, but as a California girl this should be in your genes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pumpkin Mushroom Bisque

Winter is soup season for me.  Here is a tasty soup with a beautiful color and texture. You can use any kind of sliced mushroom.  Try it with pureed butternut squash in place of the pumpkin!

Serve with cheese quesadillas and a salad of spinach, apples and bacon.

Easy Cranberry Apple Cake

We had two ideas for what to bring for dessert last night.  It was going to be either Ruth Reichl's New York style cheesecake or Ina Garten's easy cranberry apple cake.  Trust me, when you are cooking for a masterful chef like Barb, you need the security of a brand-name recipe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


With popovers you can make any occasion special.  When I serve soup or something else my kids find equally dreadful, I make up a batch of popovers and everyone is happy.

Contrary to popular opinion, popovers are simple to make. You just need a hot oven (425 degrees) and a bunch of eggs.  Check, check?  Let's do it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Mother's Chocolate Frosting

My mother made this chocolate frosting for every birthday cake.  It simply was what I knew as chocolate frosting growing up.  By comparison the stuff that comes out of a can or on a commercially-made birthday cake seems overly sweet and lacking in chocolate flavor.

Like most recipes that are "keepers," this one is easy to make and uses ingredients that you probably have on hand, if you do any baking.  One recipe is just enough to frost a small two layer cake.  Any extra frosting keeps well in the refrigerator.  It can also be made vegan by substituting margarine for butter.  Try it on cupcakes!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Fresh Dill

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Fresh Dill

In our household, it is a tradition that on your birthday you can request your favorite meal for dinner.  It's fun to see how the kids' tastes change from macaroni and cheese, peas and hot dogs to more sophisticated foods.

My daughter, Nicola, requested this tuna noodle casserole recipe that I found in Bon Appetit for her 13th birthday.  I'm serving this with a crusty baguette and a citrus salad, at her request.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marzipan-Stuffed Dates

Algerian Stuffed Dates

Last Friday we were at a party at my friend Julia's house.  Sarah and I had taken over the couch and had found our bliss with a heavenly morsel in each hand. I turned toward her, between bites, and mumbled,  "Do you know what she put in these things?"

Sarah nodded, "Julia said marzipan and that the recipe also called for orange flower water. She didn't have any, but she did have some passion fruit extract, so she used that instead." Sarah gave me a wry smile.  "Now, who just happens to have passion fruit extract sitting around in their cupboard?"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken Breast

My husband does not cook often, but when he does he approaches the job like a scientist in the lab.  He has to have all the ingredients listed, and in the form listed.  (If the recipe calls for fresh thyme, by golly, he's not going to substitute dried, even if it means another trip to the store.)  He has to have all the right kitchen equipment.  And, he has to have the kitchen to himself.

Actually, I think his insistence on sticking to the recipe e-x-a-c-t-l-y comes from his lack of confidence as a cook.  But, he does get excellent results, so I can't argue with his methods.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cauliflower with Panko

Let's face it: cauliflower is not a sexy vegetable.  It's stinky and it's pale. But this recipe goes a long way towards bringing cauliflower to rock-star status.

Adding panko bread crumbs (Japanese style bread crumbs) and lots of garlic to just about anything raises its culinary status.  I like that this recipe is simple to prepare and looks pretty on the plate.  And it uses olive oil instead of butter which means you can serve it often, without any trace of guilt.

Creamy Chicken and Noodles

I recently purchased a 6-quart slow cooker to replace a 4-quart one that was too small for our family.  I found a good home for my old slow cooker with my friend, Cherry.  I promised her a few recipes to go along with it.  Here is the first one.

First, let me say that the slow cooker is a bit like magic.  When I worked full-time, I used to say that I needed a wife--someone at home who could shop and cook while I was at work so we could all come home to a hot meal.  Well, having a slow cooker is a bit like that.  I use it a lot in the winter to make hearty dishes like soups, stews and roasts.  The beauty of the thing is that you can assemble your ingredients in the morning (or at night, if that is when you have the time--just store the crock in your fridge until the morning), turn it on to the low setting and walk out the door.  Voila!  Return nine or ten hours later to a hot meal.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Split Pea Ham Soup

We served ham at Christmas this year and consequently have a meaty ham bone in the freezer. This happy circumstance calls for Split Pea Ham soup!  This recipe is from the Knack Soup Classics cookbook, a series that I like for its appealing easy-to-read layout, quick cooking summaries and yummy photos.  Oh, and the recipes are pretty good too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Garlic and Sapphires

Ruth Reichl is currently my favorite food writer.  Not only is she a gifted writer with a wonderful descriptive style, but she can really describe the way things taste.  And I envy her memory, which must be nearly perfect.  (How can she remember what it smelled like in that room so many years ago?  How can she remember everything she ate at every significant meal of her life?  I can't remember what I ate last week!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When is a Calorie Less Than a Calorie?

For Christmas, my eleven-year old son received a copy of Faith D'Aluisio and Peter Menzel's new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets from his aunt and uncle.  I think we showed great restraint in allowing him a few hours to pore over the book in peace before the rest of the family pounced on it.

As in their previous books (Hungry Planet, Material World) the photos and essays are fascinating and the variety of lifestyles and diets profiled is staggering.  Unlike their previous books, they were not looking to profile an average eater to represent their culture.  Instead, they chose people across an eating/exercising spectrum including, for example, an acrobat, a bullfighter, a bike messenger, a taxi driver, an extreme gamer, and a binge eater.