June 2008 Archives

The first strawberries of summer finally arrived after a later than normal end to the Northwest gloom. What better way to celebrate than with the first strawberry shortcake of the season. The recipe here calls for heavy cream, but I substituted Silk soy creamer in keeping with my general avoidance of dairy. This is another recipe that's fun to do with kids because the steps are fairly simple and the payoff for your kid is dessert. Wyatt and I tackled the shortcake while Robin prepared the rest of dinner.

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcake Recipe

3 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbl sugar
1 1/2 Tbl baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or 1 1/4 cups soy creamer)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Procedure:


  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix dry ingredients with a fork.

  2. Cut the butter into the dry mix with a fork until there are only small pieces remaining (you can also use a food processor).

  3. Combine cream, egg yolk, vanilla, and almond, mixing until the egg yolk is beaten into the liquid.

  4. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and pour in the cream mixture.

  5. Mix your batter with a fork until the dough is evenly combined but still rough. Knead the whole mixture with your fork.

  6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and let dough chill while oven comes to temperature.

  7. Place dough in 8-inch round baking pan, pushing it evenly out to the edges with a fork.

  8. Bake until the top is a medium golden brown, which should take approximately 20 minutes.

Allow shortcake to cool in pan and serve with strawberries and your favorite whipped topping.

First impressions count. Would you greet a new friend with greasy hair and old sweatpants? Of course not. Then, why would you serve food that doesn't look neat and appetizing? Whether you put together your meal in 30 minutes or worked on your sauce for hours, the appearance is the final touch on the food. There are so many different ways to plate the food so that it looks as good as it tastes.
I am not a chef but I have learned from chefs in cooking classes and I noticed a few things.

Food Plating Example


1. Who framed the risotto?
The rim of the plate is like the frame of a picture. Many chefs like to keep the frame clean but some don't mind drizzling some sauce around to decorate. If you do , make sure to make it look neat and don't overdo it.

2. Good things come in all colors, shapes and sizes
Make sure to vary the colors on your plate. Don't use too many foods that are the same color. Sweet Potatoes and carrots will look boring. Sometimes a sprig of parsley is enough to liven up an item that is bland color. Don't put only round things on the plate, balance different shapes.

3. White is pure
I have noticed that using plates with busy designs tends to look messy. A nice big white plate is perfect for the pure, clean, appetizing look. If you can use busy plates and still pull it off, then do it.

4. Ring - A- Ding- Ding
Those ring molds that look like oversize cookie cutters are perfect for shaping a mound of rice. Just place the ring on the rice. Use a knife or something flat to level it out on top and remove the ring. Voila!

5. Roll your balls
Melon ballers are not just for fruit. Use them to carve potatoes into balls. Fry the leftovers for hash browns.

6. Let's twist again
For Pasta:
Pick up the pasta with tongs and give a little twist at the end for it to look nice.

7. Read up on Plating: Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation , Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before the Meal Begins

roast_turkey.jpg"How long should I cook a free range turkey to make sure it's cooked all the way through?"

The length of time you need to cook a turkey varies by weight and should be reasonably consistent whether the turkey is free-range or raised through industrial methods. Regardless of how long it should take to cook a turkey, it is always best to have a meat thermometer handy to verify the temperature of the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast have all reached 165 degrees. Below are some guidelines to help you determine how long you need to cook the turkey, just be sure to verify temperature of the meat before removing from the oven to serve. Timetable assumes a 325 degree oven temperature and a turkey that is either fully thawed or was never previously frozen.

Unstuffed Turkey

4 to 8 pounds: 1.5 to 3.25 hours
8 to 12 pounds: 2.75 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3.75 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3.75 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4.25 to 4.5 hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4.5 to 5 hours

Stuffed Turkey

6 to 8 pounds: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
8 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 pounds: 4.75 to 5.25 hours

I've been nagging Robin to help me make a lasagna with sheep cheese for awhile, primarily because I have an allergy to dairy, which means a "real" lasagna is simply out of the question for me. Somewhere along the way this morphed into a recipe that was something closer to the whole sheep lasagna. We substituted ground lamb in place of the normal meats you would include in a lasagna and instead of spinach we used Marche, the greens also known as lamb's lettuce. The result was an outstanding dish that stacks up nicely against any of the more traditional lasagna recipes (just because I shouldn't eat dairy doesn't mean I don't sample on occasion).

Lamb Lasagna

Whole Sheep Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

Lasagna Noodles

Meat
2lbs ground lamb (coarse if you can get it)
1 Tbl fennel
2 Tsp red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

Sauce
28oz can Crushed Tomatoes (San Marzano)
1/2 yellow sweet onion (diced)
5 whole cloves garlic
1 Tsp red pepper flakes
1Tsp anchovy paste
3 Tbl EVOO
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine (Sangiovese / Chianti)
1/4 cup total basil, oregano, thyme
1 pint grape tomatoes

Filling
16oz cubed soft sheep milk's cheese
1 cup grated pecorino romano
3-4oz Mache (lamb's lettuce) or sub spinach
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves whole
2-3 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven 375
  2. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente. Remove from heat and set aside in a little water and olive oil
  3. While the noodles are boiling, use a medium saute pan to brown lamb and combine with ingredients for seasoning meat. At this time you can also start your sauce by sweating your onions and garlic in medium sized sauce pan, combing the onion and garlic with olive oil, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.
  4. Once meat is brown set aside.
  5. Finish sauce by adding wine, cook to reduce till liquid is almost gone.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes to the sauce, simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes (this is a good place to sample the wine you purchased for dinner)
  7. Prepare your filling by picking basil, cubing soft cheeses, grating pecorino romano (reserve half cup of cheese for top). Combine all filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  8. Slice mushrooms
  9. Add chopped herbs and grape tomatoes to sauce. Combine meat and sauce at this point.
  10. Using the saute pan from your meat add olive oil and saute mushrooms on medium high to high. Add salt, pepper, and thyme to mushrooms. Saute till browned. Add mushrooms to bowl with filling.
  11. Prepare lasagna 9x12 baking dish so you can start making layers.
  12. Coat the bottom of dish with a layer of sauce, followed by a layer of noodles, and then a layer of filling (veggies cheese and mushrooms).
  13. Repeat layers until you get to your last row of noodles, then finish with a layer of sauce and sprinkle the reserve cheese on the top.
  14. Cover with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove foil, change oven setting to broil. Cook lasagna until topping is golden brown and bubbly (5 minutes max). Don't walk away at this stage or the lasagna will burn.
  15. Remove from oven, allow to rest for 5-7 minutes before serving.
  16. Serve with bread, salad, and your favorite Italian wine.

3 Sheep Cheeses The three sheep cheeses used in this recipe are pecorino romano, pecorino di pienza, and brigante pecorino pinna. The pecorino romano is an excellent cheese for grating, the other two cheeses a much better for melting.

When Robin told me she was making graham crackers for part of a Skillet Street Food dessert this week, I thought it sounded like a great project for Wyatt (our 6-year-old son) and I to tackle at home too. The ingredient list for graham crackers is fairly simple, the preparation steps are easy, and I don't know a kid that doesn't love graham crackers. The dough is even safe to eat raw since there are no raw eggs, which makes it even more fun. We didn't have any graham flour in the house, so the recipe below uses whole wheat flour in its place.

Wyatt's Homemade Graham Crackers

Homemade Graham Crackers Recipe

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick if you buy quarters)
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbl honey
2 Tbl molasses
1/4 cup water

The recipe this draws on calls for adding the two flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to a food processor for mixing. Wyatt and I dumped them all in a bowl first and then in the food processor. You could also use a mixer with a paddle and get the same result.
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the dry mixture in your food processor, mixing until it looks fairly coarse and there are no visible lumps of butter. This should take between 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add the honey, molasses, room temperature water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough becomes a big lump. This may take about 1 minute as well.
Take out a big cookie sheet with no sides and place a layer of parchment or waxed paper on it. Scrape the dough onto the parchment paper and place another piece of the paper on top. Roll the dough until it's about 1/8-inch thick.
Chill for 1 hour (longer is okay). I left the parchment paper on the cookie sheet for easy transportation. Wyatt and I played cards while we waited.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven heats, remove the top layer of parchment paper and cut the dough with a sharp knife into approximately 2 1/2-inch to 3-inch squares, which will yield about 20 graham crackers. We left the cuts together, which created crackers similar to the ones you get at the store that break apart at the seams. We ate the portions that were removed to square the edges.
Using a toothpick, poke holes in the top of each cracker (we did 9 per cracker).
Bake for 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.

Once the crackers are cooled, eat plain or top with Nutella or your favorite spreadable.

Finished Graham Crackers

Before baking:
Graham Crackers Ready for the Oven

After a recent reading of Bottomfeeder, I'm trying to refocus my seafood eating on fish that are more sustainable, responsibly fished, and higher in omega-3's. This means kicking most of the larger fish like tuna out of my diet and replacing them with smaller faster-maturing fish like mackerel. Just be sure to look for mackerel from the North Atlantic Ocean, as the ones found near the Gulf of Mexico tend to be high in mercury. Here's a great recipe Robin put together for roasting whole mackerel in an Asian-themed sauce.

I recommend having the fish monger gut the mackerel for you before you bring it home. At home, you'll need to bone the fish, removing the backbone before cooking per the instructions below.

Ingredients:
1 whole Atlantic mackerel
1 Tbl yellow miso
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup sake
3 Tbl soy sauce
2 Tbl Mirin
2 Tbl rice vinegar
1 Tbl sugar
Salt & Pepper
Siracha

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare fish for cooking. With the dressed fish on its back, use a sharp knife to cut on both sides of the backbone starting at the head and cutting toward the tail. Be careful during the cutting process as mackerel flesh is soft. Once cut, remove the backbone and tail, leaving the head on for presentation. Remove rib bones, realizing mackerel is a bony fish; there will be pin bones along the center line.
  2. In a 9x12 glass roasting dish combine miso, sake, soy sauce, Mirin, rice vinegar and sugar until miso dissolves. Add onion and garlic slices.
  3. Dip fish flesh side down to coat with sauce then place in pan skin side down to roast. Salt & pepper fish to taste.
  4. Place roasting dish in oven for 7-10 minutes (depending on size of fish). Fish should be slightly opaque and starting to flake.
  5. Remove fish from pan to serving plate.
  6. Place baking dish back in oven to reduce sauce (or reduce sauce in pan on stove if you're in a hurry).
  7. Pour sauce over fish and serve with rice.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can crisp the skin in a lightly oiled pan on the stove (pictured below).

Crisping Mackerel Skin

Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 7-10 minutes

Peach Cake

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This cake takes just a few minutes to put together. It's great when the guests are on the way.It tastes great with warm with ice cream ( this I learned from one of my readers).

Peach mixture:

6-8 peaches

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of sugar

Flour mixture:

1 and 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/4 of a teaspoon of salt

1 cup of sugar

3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

2/3 cup of oil

On top (makes a sugary crust)

1 tablespoon of sugar

a handful of pecans


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop the peaches into squares (size doesn't matter)
2. Put in bowl with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, eggs, oil and 1/4 of a teaspoon of cinnamon
4. Oil a round baking pan and places peaches on bottom.
5. Pour the flour mixture on top.
6. Sprinkle pecans on top. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar evenly on cake.
7. Bake for 40 minutes or until ready.

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Braised black cod with green beans and Sichuan peppercorns

Black cod, also known as sablefish, is one of the few MSC certified fish widely available throughout the US, which means it's ecologically responsible in addition to being tasty. It is a mild flavored fish and practically fool-proof as it is hard to overcook. Black cod stays juicy especially when marinated and cooked with the method described here. I'm calling this "braised" because of the amount of liquid used during roasting; the high heat cooks the fish quickly, locking in moisture and the marinade reduces into a beautiful sauce.

The green beans make a great side dish and add a little spice to the meal (essential, in my opinion, for a successful date night dinner). Sichuan peppercorns have unique kind of spice that is not really hot, but numbing to the tongue. When combined with the texture of pork sausage and soft-crisp beans, the peppercorns create a palate party. These should definitely be served with your favorite rice; I chose a medium grain jasmine rice.

The wine (if so desired) should be acidic as this is a relatively sweet dish. Pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and chenin blanc are all good choices. A Tsing Tao or Sapporo would be just as nice.

1 1/2# black cod w/skin (boned and portioned into 4 pieces)
Salt and black pepper (to season fish)
2 Tbl Chives
2 Tbl Toasted sesame seeds
Marinade:
1/4c Soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbl Mirin
3 Tbl Shaoxing wine vinegar (also spelled Shaohsing)
1 Tbl Sweet chili sauce
3-4 sliced, Green onions
3 cloves, sliced Garlic
1, 1" piece of Ginger, grated
Toasted Sesame oil, to season

  1. Prepare fish , combine marinade and refrigerate in a Ziploc for about 30 min
  2. Chop chives; toast sesame seeds over medium heat in a sauté pan till golden; preheat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Place fish and marinade in a baking dish (I prefer glass or stone ware with about 2" sides); bake for approx 10-15 min or till fish is almost flakey and sauce is bubbling. If necessary the sauce can be further reduced on the stove top.
  4. Serve garnished with chives, sesame seeds, and a few drops of sesame oil

Green beans with Sichuan peppercorns
3/4-1# fresh green beans, trimmed and cleaned
1/2 # ground pork
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 Tbl Canola oil
1 ½ Tbl Sichuan peppercorns
1 Tbl Red pepper flakes
3 Tbl Shaoxing wine vinegar
3 Tbl Soy sauce or tamari
Siracha (a few drops, or more if you want more heat)
1 Tbl Sugar
2-3 Green onions, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
1, 1/2" piece Ginger, grated

  1. Blanch green beans in salted boiling water (be sure they are still crisp); shock in cold water and set aside
  2. In a large sauté pan or wok on medium high heat, add oil and pork with salt and black pepper; cook till browned and small chunks; add sugar, shaoxing wine vinegar, siracha, and ½ the soy sauce; reduce then remove from pan and set aside
  3. Add more oil to the pan if needed, then add Sichuan peppercorns and red pepper flakes; sauté for a minute; add onions and garlic and sauté for a minute; add green beans and toss; add the remaining soy sauce and ginger along with the sausage
  4. Toss all together over high heat till sauce coats the beans and is no longer watery, approx 2 min
  5. serve with rice

Bruschetta is one of those really easy things to make that just tastes so good. It is pronounced Brus- ket- Ta in Italian. I especially like the taste of ricotta salata, a mellow tasting cheese made from Sheep's milk. Ricotta Salata is dense and has a salty flavor. It is similar to feta but is a lot more mild. Be sure to use tomatoes that are okay to eat (any tomatoes will work fine). For a list of tainted tomatoes, click here
Bruschetta

Bread( enough for 8 slices)
6- 8 ripe tomatoes(diced)
4 garlic cloves
Olive Oil
Ricotta Salata cheese
Basil

1. Heat broiler. Place toasts on broiler.
2. Rub garlic on bread.
3. Place tomatoes and basil on bread and grate ricotta salata on top.
4. Drizzle olive oil and place under broiler again for a few seconds if desired.

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I came up with this recipe for those days when you really don't have time to cook but the guests are on the way. It is simple and uses only ingredients that you have in your pantry.

Ingredients:

Puff Pastry
Tomato sauce (any kind will work, even spiced up canned tomatoes)
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan (grated)
Oregano (fresh works better but you can use the spice)
A kitchen ring or a glass to make circle shapes
A mini muffin tin

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Defrost puff pastry according to directions.
3. Flour the work area.
2. Roll dough out thin and make circles using rings.
3. Place each circle in each hole of the mini muffin tin.
4. Use your fingers to stick the dough to the edges of the muffin tin.
5. Brush circles with olive oil.
6. Spread sauce on them.
7. Place an olive in each tin.
8 Cover with mozzarella
9. Cover with grated parmesan and oregano.
10 Bake for 12-15 minutes

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