Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cookies with cranberries, white chocolate and macadamias

from left: white chocolate-cranberry-macadamia, oatmeal fruit bars,
chocolate with walnuts and peanut butter chips

So a few days before Christmas I decided to go with my baking frenzy.

I've already posted about the oatmeal-pecan shortbread and the oatmeal fruit bars.

I also made another version of these super chocolatey cookies, but instead of chocolate chips in the chocolate cookies, I used peanut butter chips in the chocolate cookies. Just a straight substitution.

Finally, the fourth cookie variety was this:

I opted for the small cookies.

Cookies with cranberries, white chocolate and macadamias

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup golden brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted salted macadamia nuts

Heat oven to 350.

Sift first 3 ingredients in medium bowl.

Use electric mixer to beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add brown and white sugars; beat until blended.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Then beat in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients, beating until just blended.

Gently stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips and nuts.

For larger cookies, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 2 1/2 inches apart. For smaller cookies, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until just golden, about 18 minutes for large cookies and about 15 minutes for small cookies. Cool.

After a full day of cleaning and baking, I was able to get the dough for these made that night, but I did not bake them until the next morning. The dough had hardened up a lot in the fridge, so I let it sit out of the fridge for about 30 minutes then baked them.

The dough can be made and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for two days or in the freezer for up to two weeks.

And that was the last of the cookies.

Though I did also make a chocolate-rum cake on the 25th for Christmas dinner's dessert.

It may be a while before I bake again!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chile verde with potatoes

For years on Christmas Eve, if I didn't have to work, I have cooked some sort of fish dish.
I am not sure why that is. It is just something I have done.
Maybe because I know on Christmas Day I will get meat, meat and more meat.

But this year I was craving chile of some sort.

Instead of my usual tomato-based bean chile with ground beef, I decided on a chile verde: pork cooked in a green sauce of roasted tomatillos and peppers. I added the potatoes to bulk it up and because that is how my dad liked to make it.

It was an excellent choice and was even better as leftovers once the flavors had time to really meld. It also freezes well. I did several single serving portions in zipper bags that I can pull out of the freezer as needed.
Chile verde with potatoes
4 pounds pork, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
flour for dredging
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 white onions, diced
2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles
2-3 jalapenos
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
about 1 cup cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped (I like cilantro, so I had more and added it to taste)
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 large russet potatoes

Garnish with:
extra chopped cilantro
grated cheese (I used queso blanco)
lime wedges if you like that sort of thing

Serve with:
your favorite tortillas and/or rice

Pork shoulder works well in this. I could not find that this time, so I used a boneless pork roast and cut it into cubes.

Remove outer husks from tomatillos. Wash and dry tomatillos and peppers.

Place tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning every few minutes, until they are roasted on all sides and skin starts to bubble and split. Let cool and set aside.

Season pork cubes with salt and pepper then dredge with flour.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Brown pork in small batches, on all sides.

As batches of pork are done, transfer from skillet with slotted spoon into a large stock pot.

Continue until all the pork is cooked and in the stock pot. You may need to add a little oil to the skillet depending on how many batches you have to cook.

While the pork is cooking, dice the tomatillos and set aside in a bowl with the juices.
Dice Anaheim/Poblano peppers and set aside.

Also cut jalapenos in half, discard seeds and ribs, then mince, add to set aside Anaheim/Poblanos. (I wear plastic gloves when dealing with chiles, even when they are cooked. Just to be safe. That chile residue stays on the hands a while and can burn, especially if you touch your eyes.)

Once the pork is all cooked and in stock pot, add onions to the skillet and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add peppers and cook 3-4 minutes, then add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the onions and peppers to the stock pot with the meat.

Add chopped tomatillos, dried herbs and cilantro to the meat.

Pour in chicken stock just to cover the meat.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce to a simmer.

Cook for about 2 hours uncovered or until the pork is fork tender.

When pork has been cooking for about 2 hours, peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Add potatoes to the pork and cook another 30-45 minutes or until potato pieces are tender.
Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with cilantro, cheese, etc. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oatmeal-fruit bars

These are a favorite treat all year long. This was the first time I made them as a Christmas cookie, and they were a big hit at work.

Lucky for me I did not take the whole pan to the office yesterday.

I will be bringing some of these to my aunt's tomorrow for Christmas dinner.
Oatmeal-fruit bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
10 ounces of your favorite fruit preserve
(I used Knott's brand seedless blackberry)
Heat oven to 350.
In a large bowl combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking soda.
Cut in butter and mix until it forms coarse crumbs.
For me, the best way to do this is to use my hands.
But that might just be me.
Firmly press about half, maybe slightly more, of the flour-sugar-oat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan.
Heat fruit preserve in microwave for about a minute or until softened but not hot so that it is easily spreadable.
Spread softened fruit preserves over first flour-sugar-oat layer, but not quite all the way to the edges. Leave about 1/8 inch at the edge. This will help keep the fruit from seeping to the edge and sticking to the pan during baking.
Sprinkle remaining flour-sugar-oat mix over top of preserves and gently press it down.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top gets golden brown and crispy.
Cool in pan then cut into squares to serve. If they stick a little, just run a butter knife around the edges. They usually come up OK with minimal sticking.
For cookie bars, this is best to cool completely before cutting. It needs a little time to set up.
But I have served it warm with vanilla ice cream, kind of like a fruit crumble or crisp.
For the cookie plate that I took to work, I cut these fairly small. Just about two little bites.
This time I used blackberry preserves. I have also made them with marionberry and peach. And I wonder how they would be with marmalade.
I may have to try that next time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oatmeal-pecan shortbread - part 2

My Sunday, which is most people's Monday was busy with cleaning and cooking and baking.

One of the things I baked was this oatmeal-pecan shortbread that I have posted here previously.

To dress them up for the holidays, I melted down some chocolate chips and drizzled it over the top of the cookies.

I like Guittard brand. It is tasty and it melts nicely and sets up quick.

I made the cookies Monday night, melted and drizzled the chocolate Tuesday morning. I melted the chocolate in a glass bowl according to package directions then used one of those mustard/ketchup/condiment bottles to drizzle it on the cookies.

After about 30 minutes of fridge time on baking sheets to set up the chocolate, I packed them in layers separated by wax paper so they would not stick together.

These were a big hit the first time I made them with no chocolate. I think they were more popular this time with the chocolate drizzle.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spaghetti carbonara

So the pictures of this did not come out great.
For some reason I have trouble photographing pasta.
But the dish was so tasty I had to post it anyway. I mean really, really tasty.
I only started making this recently. I looked at several recipes and took the parts of each that sounded best to me, cobbling together this version.
On a whim, I added some sauteed shrimp on top. But it is still good without the shrimp.
It's also good with some sauteed asparagus or peas or zucchini tossed in with the pasta.

Spaghetti carbonara
6 ounces bacon or pancetta
1 small white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried oregano or thyme
1 cup dry white wine
4 eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little extra for garnish
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti or other pasta
Cut bacon or pancetta into a small dice and cook until crispy. Drain on paper towel and set aside. Discard all bout about 1-2 tbsp of the bacon fat in the pan.
Cook pasta according to package directions. If the pasta is done before the sauce, drain it and set it aside.
In the same pan that the bacon cooked in, sautee the onions, garlic and dried oregano for about 5 minutes or until tender and just starting to brown.
Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Add in a dash of salt and pepper, nutmeg and grated cheese.
Add bacon and pasta to onion mixture. (If pasta has gotten sticky while siting, give it a quick rinse with hot water and drain it well.)
Toss gently over medium heat to combine.
Remove pasta/onion mixture from heat and add eggs/cream mixture and parsley, gently tossing to combine.
Serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Roasted cauliflower with curry

I have always liked cauliflower, but just steaming it gets old.

Another option is to roast it. It gives it a nice, nutty flavor.

Add a little curry and lemon juice, and you get a lightly spiced version.

And it's super easy.

Roasted cauliflower with curry

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and cut into pieces (about 2-3 bites per piece)

Heat oven to 450.

Whisk oil, lemon juice, curry, salt and cayenne in a large bowl.

Toss cauliflower in the oil mixture to coat.

Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and chewy, turning about halfway through the cooking time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gadget: Garlic gator

I use a lot of garlic. Which means I chop a lot of garlic.
Normally I am not that into kitchen gadgets. I like to chop and dice and julienne.
But on those days when I need a lot of garlic chopped, I like the Alligator garlic chopper.

It is made up of three pieces: the bottom piece with the teeth, the top part with the grid cutting blade and the little piece that keeps garlic from sticking in the teeth.
This little piece goes down in the teeth. It makes cleaning the thing easier. Just pull the little grid out and any little remnants come out of the teeth.

So you set your peeled garlic cloves on top of the teeth...

Then push the top part with the blade all the way down...

And you get neatly sliced bits of garlic.

A lot of times I use the garlic at this size. But sometimes I want it minced more finely, so I will run a knife through it a couple times.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zucchini stuffed with ricotta and manchego

OK. I am back.
Yes, I have been cooking the past couple weeks.
And now I have a few things stored up in my brain to blog about here.

First up:
Zucchini stuffed with ricotta and manchego

This was a great side dish to have with a simple grilled flank steak. It was very rich and creamy and flavorful, but still light with the ricotta.

And the next day I cut one of the stuffed zucchini pieces into slices and scrambled it with an egg and a little bit of chopped up, leftover steak. It was delicious!

Zucchini stuffed with ricotta and manchego

4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
5 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
2 medium roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup manchego cheese, grated (pecorino or romano or parmesan will work, too.)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp Italian or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 egg yolks, beaten
salt and pepper

Using a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon), scoop out the pulp from the zucchini halves and discard. You want to scoop it out to leave a rim about 1/4 inch around the edges.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sautee pan or skillet over medium heat.

Cook garlic and onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes, or until soft.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta, 1/2 cup of the manchego, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, parsley, mint, oregano and egg yolks.

Gently stir in the tomato-onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Rub inside of zucchini with remaining olive oil to coat lightly and season with salt.

Place zucchini cut side up in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet.

Broil on high for about 5 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven and fill each zucchini half so that filling mounds a bit, but does not spill over the sides.

Mix together remaining bread crumbs and cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the filled zucchini pieces.

Cook at 400 degrees about 10-15 minutes until hot, then zap under the broiler to get the tops golden brown and crispy.

I like this picture. The cross-section shows how really yummy that filling is.

The ricotta is creamy, but fluffy; the manchego has a lovely, nutty flavors; and the herbs and tomatoes give it a nice, fresh flavor. The eggs and bread crumbs hold it all together.

I served these hot, but they can also be served at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All's quiet in the kitchen

Sorry for the cooking blackout.
I have just not been in a creative cooking mood.
Then there was the whole vacation thing.

But I am home. And I need to cook.

So maybe this weekend I can get my mojo back and make some new stuff.

Any requests?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Double chocolate chips with nuts

Sorry for the slacking. I've been cooking here and there, but mostly stuff that is either on here already or stuff I am not ready to put here because it is new or not what I think is special enough.

Yeah. I am a food snob. At least when it comes to this.

So when I made these cookies I thought they would be a great recipe to post here. Because chocolate on top of chocolate is always special!

I made a double batch of these and took them to work. It is my own little effort at morale boosting.

Double chocolate cookies with nuts

makes about 2 dozen cookies

11.5 ounces 60% cacao chocolate chips or chocolate broken into pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I've made these with peanut butter chips, too. Yum!)
1 cup chopped nuts (I have used walnuts, pecans and pistachios before, all good)

Put 60% cacao in a microwave safe bowl with the butter.
Melt on medium heat for 30 seconds.
Continue melting about 20 seconds at a time until chocolate is just melted but NOT bubbling hot.
In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until well-blended.
Stir in melted chocolate.
In a small bowl, mix flour and baking powder, then stir into chocolate mixture.
Mix chips and nuts in gently until blended.

Place half of the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and form a log about 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long.
The dough will be pretty soft, almost like batter. Use the plastic to form the dough.
Wrap tightly.
Repeat this with another piece of plastic wrap and the rest of the dough.

Chill dough in fridge for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 375.

Unwrap dough and cut into slices about 3/4 inch thick.
Put dough on parchment lined or greased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
Bake 12-13 minutes or until cookies have a shiny crust on top.
The interior will still be soft.

Cook on wire rack.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheesy twice-baked potatoes with pancetta and roasted garlic

I love twice-baked potatoes. For me they are one of the ultimate comfort foods.
If I am baking potatoes for another meal, I might throw in a couple extra to have for twice-baked.
And you can pretty much add anything you want to them as far as the cheese and herbs and add-ons go.
This time around I had some pancetta in the fridge, so I decided to give that a try in there with the other goodies.

I like pancetta, which is an Italian type of bacon.

Cheesy twice-baked potatoes with pancetta and roasted garlic

8 cloves garlic, roasted in oil (click here for method)
3 oz pancetta (bacon will work if you can't get pancetta)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 large potatoes, BAKED (I work with them warm, but not hot)
1 stick butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cup cheese, shredded (I used a 4-cheese blend: Parmesan, asiago, fontina and provolone)
2 tbsp dried oregano

preheat oven to 35o degrees

cook pancetta in olive oil (if using bacon, omit oil)
drain on paper towels and set aside
cut potatoes in half lengthwise
scoop out potato filling into large mixing bowl
set aside empty potato skins

mix butter, cheese, oregano, crumbled pancetta and chopped roasted garlic into potato mixture
season with salt and pepper

spoon potato mixture back into skins
bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until hot and a little crispy on top

I make extras of these and don't bake them.
I freeze them in pairs to bake later.
They make great freezer food!

And they are easy enough to make more vegetarian friendly. Just skip the pancetta.

Garlic roasted in olive oil

This is the garlic, before cooking.
After cooking it will be golden brown

I like to use roasted garlic in a lot of things.
It is great in pasta dishes and potato dishes.
It's also great on the side with baked brie and bread.
Or just with the bread.

Once at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach, they put out a little bowl of what they called "Italian candy."

It was just plump cloves of garlic roasted in olive oil.

Roasting garlic turns the sharp taste into a mild, nutty flavor.

This is quite a simple method.

Garlic roasted in olive oil

garlic cloves, as many as you want or need
olive oil
sea salt

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the garlic cloves, but leave them whole.
Put garlic cloves in a small, oven safe dish. I like to use glass or ceramic. I worry metal might react with the garlic and change the flavor. Who knows? I just play it safe.
Pour just enough olive oil over garlic to cover it about half way.
Season lightly with sea salt.

Place dish of garlic in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Stir and cook for no more than 30 minutes more, keeping an eye on it.
You want the garlic to get soft and a little bit golden brown. You don't want it to get too dark and brown. If you cook it too long, it turns from nutty to bitter.
If it looks done before the full hour is up, take it out.

Remove garlic from oil, setting oil aside.

The garlic can now be used in any number of ways.
Oh, and the oil is now infused with roasted garlic. It's great as a bread dipper.

Balsamic-glazed cipollini onions

When I make something like a simple grilled steak, sometimes I like to make a little something that at least looks fancy to garnish it.
Stuff like this goes well with most meats, roasted or grilled.

Sometimes I make mushrooms sauteed with wine and garlic.
Sometimes I make the easy roasted roma tomatoes.
They both have good, bold flavors to stand up to the meat.

Another thing that works well?

Balsamic-glazed cipollini onions

I usually buy the whole onions with the peels on. But Trader Joe's (oh how I love that place) recently started selling them already peeled.
I just opened the bag, washed them and sorted them to make sure there were no duds. I found only two in the whole bag that were mushy, so I tossed them.

1 lb cipollini onions
3 tbsp olive oil
3 rosemary sprigs
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tbsp sugar

peel and clean onions
heat oil in large sautee pan
add rosemary sprigs and sautee
when fragrant, add butter
melt butter over medium heat, but do not let it brown
add onions and cook until golden over medium-high heat, turning to cook evenly, about 8 minutes
add vinegar, red wine and sugar
stir to mix
simmer on low-medium for 10 minutes until onions are soft and liquid has caramelized into a sticky glaze, stirring occasionally
be gentle with the stirring to keep onions from breaking apart

serve on the side of your meat dish or spoon some over the top

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just showing off

When I make a steak that looks this pretty - restaurant pretty - the manfriend says I am just showing off.

So why not really show it off?

This was from last weekend.

I know grilling purists will not like to hear this, but it was cooked on a gas grill.

I use a grill pan similar to this over the regular grill rack.

It is a large cast-iron sort of pan with raised ridges.

These ridges are what make the lovely, lovely marks.

I get that thing as hot as possible then put the steaks on.

The steaks are seasoned simply with salt and pepper and rubbed with a little olive oil.

The key for the grill marks is to let the steaks really cook in one place for few minutes, then without flipping them over, turn them a quarter turn.

Let them cook another couple minutes and you get the crisscross pattern.

Then flip them to cook the other side.

Now me, if I get the pretty, pretty grill marks on the first side, I don't even bother with the other side. I just let the steak finish cooking.

Because making it perfect on both sides would really be showing off.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pork chops stuffed with chard and pine nuts

I am been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks now.
Various things have kept me from do so.
Mostly just laziness, I guess. You know, looking back on it.

Anyway... Here you go:
I like this dish because the chard is unexpected. And within the chard, the pine nuts are unexpected. Plus it is pretty easy and very satisfying when you want big comfort food.

Pork chops stuffed with chard and pine nuts
serves 4

3 tablespoons pine nuts
12 ounces Swiss chard, washed and dried and torn or cut into pieces
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
4 pork loin chops, each 1 1/2 inches thick (I used boneless)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine

First, toast the pine nuts.

To do this, put pine nuts in a small sautee pan and heat on high.
Let pine nuts start to brown, stirring frequently.
These will go fast, so do not leave them unattended. They can burn quickly.
You just want them to turn a rich, golden brown.
Once they are done, remove them from the hot pan immediately and set aside.

Next, make the chard.

In a large sautee pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium high heat and add chard and garlic.
Cook, stirring frequently, until chard is wilted. Turn off heat and stir in pine nuts. Season with salt.
Set chard aside to cool a bit.

Finally, it's time to prepare the pork chops.

Cut a pocket in the side of each chop. Do not cut all the way through.
Fill pockets with chard, gently press closed. Secure with toothpicks.
Season chops with salt and pepper.
Wipe excess liquid out of pan used to cook chard.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add chops to the pan and cook until browned on one side, then flip them.
I removed the toothpicks at this time because my chops seemed to have set up enough at this point.
Once they are browned on both sides, add broth and wine to the pan.
Heat liquid to boiling then reduce heat and cook, covered, for about an hour at low heat.
When chops are done, remove from pan.

To make sauce, heat liquid on high heat and boil until liquid reduces to about 3/4 to 1 cup.

To serve, remove tooth picks if you did not do this in the browning stage, plate chops and pour sauce over them.
Sorry, my pictures of the finished product were not good. So you get a shot from the browning process, just before I added the broth and wine to simmer them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mini potato pancakes

I was at the grocery store recently and saw a magazine with these beautiful little potato cakes on the cover.
I decided, without even buying the magazine, that I could attempt something similar.
I have made the big, skillet size potato pancake before. This would just be on a smaller scale.
And a little fancier as an appetizer.

Mini potato pancakes with dill
served with chopped shallots, capers, smoked salmon and wasabi cream

This recipe makes about 12 cakes

1.5-2 pounds potatoes - I used a small white variety
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup very fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped dill
salt and pepper
canola or vegetable oil for cooking
to garnish:
1 large shallot, chopped
smoked salmon slices
sour cream
wasabi (the prepared kind in the tube. If you don't like horseradish, just skip the wasabi.)
Wash potatoes. Depending on the type you are using and your taste, you may want to peel them, too.
Since I used the tiny potatoes with the thin skins, I just washed them.
Using a cheese grater or a food processor (this was a big time saver!), shred potatoes.
As you work, transfer potato shreds to a large bowl of cold water.
Let potatoes rest in the cold water for 15-20 minutes to reduce the amount of starch in them.
Drain potatoes and rinse with cold running water and dry using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels.
Dry the large bowl used to soak potatoes and put the dried potato shreds back in it.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, dill, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.
Add egg mixture to potatoes and stir to mix well.
To cook:
Heat a large frying pan with 3/4 inch of oil in it over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot, use a large spoon or your hands (I used my hands, they are the best kitchen tool!) to scoop out a ball of the potato mixture about the size of a golf ball.
You want kind of a loose lump of potato. Don't compress it too much or you will squeeze out all the egg, which is what holds it together.
Flatten the potato ball slightly and use a spatula to slide it into the hot oil.
Press down a little more to make the potato patty.
Do not crowd your pan. I cooked these four at a time.
Cook until edges are brown and crispy, about 2 or 3 minutes, then carefully flip them over.
Cook on other side about 2 or 3 more minutes until that side is also golden and crispy.
Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
To serve:
I like these at room temperature, but they are sure good hot, too.
They also are good plain, but for me even better with a few tasty treats on top.
This time around I went fancy.
First, I made the wasabi sour cream. Which basically means taking a couple spoons of sour cream and mixing in some wasabi until I get the flavor and heat I like.
I drizzled a little of the cream on each potato cake, sprinkled on a bit of shallots, added a piece of the smoked salmon then some capers.
We had two each as an appetizer. The rest went in the fridge for leftovers.
Manfriend was not a fan of the capers. He said they were quite strong. Which is why I liked them. We had leftovers of these the next night and I reheated the cakes in a little oil and skipped the capers on MF's portion.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

easy roasted roma tomatoes

The finished product, fresh from the oven. Can't wait
to have a few! I cook them in a foil pan that I can
toss in the recycling. I've done this on cookie sheets
and in glass dishes, but it can turn into a
hard to clean, sticky mess. So this is easier.

I know some people are not fans of tomatoes.
Me? Love 'em.
I will eat them like apples.
I like them sliced with cottage cheese.
I put them in sauces, in salads, on sandwiches and in stews.
And if I see an unripe, green tomato at the market, which is a rare thing, I buy it to make fried green tomatoes.

But one of my favorite ways to prepare them is to roast them.
It's very easy and the result is soft, yummy tomatoes with a super concentrated flavor.

So, if you are not a tomato fan, this is not for you.

But if you like tomatoes as much as I do, give this a try.

I eat these roasted tomatoes as a snack, as a garnish for roasted meats, on burgers, on sandwiches, on salads, with bread and a good sharp cheese as an appetizer, tossed in pasta... really, I just eat them.

I made some Monday to go with dinner and they were gone in a flash.

So tonight I made some more.

I like to use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds.
The serrated edge is also good if you cook artichokes
and need to scoop that fuzzy stuff out to get to the heart.

These are the seeded tomatoes, coated in olive oil
and seasoned with pepper, sea salt and dried oregano.

Easy roasted roma tomatoes

10 roma tomatoes
olive oil
dried basil or oregano or your favorite herb blend

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out and discard the seeds and juice.
Place in baking dish.
Coat tomatoes with olive oil.
Season with salt, pepper and herbs.

Roast at 425 degrees for an hour or until as roasty-toasty as you like them.

I like mine when they are just starting to get crisp around the edges but are still soft and juicy in the middle.

They are good hot or at room temperature.

Tonight I just ate a few of them straight out of the oven as a snack.

I will put the leftovers in the fridge to add to a salad for dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grilled lamb rib chops with redcurrant glaze

A while back I got this cookbook at Costco.
It was a total impulse buy.
It had a lot good pictures, a wide variety of recipes and, best of all, the title:

The cover says it has "400 fuss-free and fast recipes - breakfasts, appetizers, lunches, suppers and desserts using only four ingredients or less."

I quickly got past the fact that it should be "four ingredients or fewer" and bought myself a copy.

As I have said before, I am a cookbook junkie. This was a great find, I was sure.

Then I put it in the cabinet with the rest of the cookbooks and forgot about it.

Until Sunday. I was in the mood to try something new, and I had decided on lamb.

I have never made lamb before, but recently had a great dish at a little place, Bistro 767, not far from my house. They had a yummy appetizer of lamb "lollipops" with cherry glaze and black bean hummus.

It was the perfect combination of salty and sweet and grilled.

So I decided to try this at home.

And to my surprise there was a recipe in this cookbook that sounded pretty similar, minus the black bean hummus.

And with only four ingredients!

By the way, salt and pepper do not count toward the ingredients. They are in the recipe, but I guess since they are sort of stock items, they don't count.

So... My lamb experiment... I modified it a bit from the book. The original recipe called for lamb steaks, but the store did not have those. So I got rib chops, which are more like the little "lollipops" I had at the restaurant.

Grilled lamb rib chops with redcurrant glaze
Serves 4

5 large fresh rosemary sprigs
12 lamb rib chops
(they look small, but three each is plenty with side dishes, etc.)
5 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
(red wine vinegar is also listed in the book, but I had raspberry, so that is what I used)

salt and pepper to season/taste

Strip the rosemary leaves from stems and chop into very fine mince.
Season chops with salt and pepper and rub rosemary onto chops.
Preheat grill on high.
Melt redcurrant jelly in small pan over low-medium heat. It should not boil, just melt.
Stir in vinegar.

Reserve about 1/4 of glaze for serving.

Brush one side of chops with glaze and place, glaze side down on grill.
Cook about 3 minutes, brush glaze on uncooked side, then turn.
Cook about 3 minutes more or until to desired doneness.

To serve, place on plates and drizzle with a little of the reserved glaze.

These were not exactly like the restaurant chops. I think they used more salt and pepper.
Since this was the first time I had made lamb, I was cautious about over seasoning it.
It was still very good, still that sweet and salty flavor.
But next time I might go for it a little more, especially with more pepper.

Even though it was not the same, it was still pretty freaking good. An experiment that went quite well.
And I will take a closer look at that cookbook for more ideas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tomatoes stuffed with herbed rice

This was a very easy side dish made easier by using that boil-in-a-bag type of rice.
I like Uncle Ben's. It's easy and the rice does not get too mushy.

One bag should be enough to stuff four medium-size tomatoes.

The other good thing about the prep can be done ahead and then they can be baked when you need them. They also can be served at room temperature. Which is what I did.
I made the tomatoes and then while they were cooling a bit, made the rest of the dinner.

Here's what I did.

Tomatoes stuffed with herbed rice

1 bag Uncle Ben's boil-in-a-bag long grain rice
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium tomatoes, ripe but firm
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions, then rinse with cold water to cool.
(I actually used half white wine-half veggie broth instead of water to cook)

Heat oven to 350.
Lightly coat baking dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Cut a slice, about 1/2 inch thick, off the top of each tomato, saving the tops.

Scoop the seeds, juice and flesh out of each tomato into a small bowl and set aside.

Place hollowed-out tomatoes in baking dish.
If they do not sit steady in the pan, flatten the bottom by cutting off a thin slice.

To the cooled rice add:
1/4 cup of the reserved tomato flesh
2 tablespoons of olive oil
lemon juice
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Spoon rice mixture into each of the hollowed-out tomatoes.
Replace reserved tomato tops.

Bake about 20 minutes or until rice is heated through and tomato softens.

These can be served hot or at room temperature.
They can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time, which gives you time to work on the rest of the meal.

I made mine about 90 minutes ahead of time and they came out great.
I tasted the rice right from the oven and it was good, but I think letting them sit and cool a bit brings out the fresh herb flavors even more.