Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Frangelico Hazelnut Martini

This martini is a wonderful way to showcase Frangelico Liquer.   A squeeze of lime juice opens up the flavor and softens the sweetness on the palate.  This is a really nice martini that is best served following dinner and before dessert.

Frangelico Hazelnut Martini

2 ounces Frangelico
2 ounces good quality vodka
1 squeeze of  Fresh Lime Juice
Good quality bar chocolate (e.g. Lindt)

Grate chocolate into a fine dust over a small plate.  Wet the rim of a chilled martini glass with Frangelico, and dip the glass into the chocolate.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the Frangelico, vodka and lime juice.  Shake vigorously and pour into the chocolate rimmed martini glass. 


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blueberry Crunch

It's blueberry season! In North Florida, this season only lasts one month from June 1-June 30th and we take advantage of it. This past weekend we drove to Green Meadow Farm in Monticello, Florida and picked our annual supply of fresh blueberries.  My freezer is now stocked with blueberries!

There are million ways to use fresh blueberries and one way to celebrate the season is by preparing this never tiring blueberry crunch recipe. Blueberries are perfect for baking as the heat increases the intensity of the sweetness in the berry.

My friend Jena has been sharing meals with me for over twenty-years, and one of her recipes that has graced our table more times than I could ever count is her recipe for Blueberry Crunch.

Blueberry Crunch 
Serves 8
Recipe compliments of Jena

1 can crushed pineapple, 20 ounces, do not drain
3 cups fresh blueberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 package yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish

Layer 1: Put crushed pineapple on the bottom of the pan

Layer 2: Pour blueberries over the pineapple

Layer 3: Pour dry cake mix over blueberries

Layer 4: Sprinkle 1/4 sugar and chopped pecans on top

Optional: Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar in between each layer ( if you like it really sweet!)

Bake at 350 degrees approximately 45 minutes

Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Note: You may replace sugar with Splenda


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hand Over That Grill

I have stated before that my husband is the master of the grill at our household.  But on a rare occasion he will turn over his Weber to friends that are worthy of cooking on his grates.

On a recent weekend we invited over some friends for one of our Sunday potlucks.  My husband's "BVS" took over the grill and prepared a fabulous meal.

Tequila Cream Corn

Herb-Crusted Flank Steak with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

For the Steak

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2-1/2 pound loin lip or flank steak
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl.

Place steaks in large glass baking dish.  Brush steaks with olive oil.  Rub with herb mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat

Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium.  Transfer steaks to cutting board.  Cover with foil.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Cut steaks across grain into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Arrange steak slices on a large platter.  Spoon tomatoes with juices over steaks and serve.

For the Tomatoes

2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives 
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted brine-cured black olives
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted brine-cured green olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients in large bowl

Season tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.)

Note: If you are interested in the tequila corn recipe. Please send me an email and I will be happy to forward it you.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chicken and Asparagus Roulades

This recipe is from my friend Joel. We were friends in junior high, high school and are both part of the Gator Nation (Alumni of the University of Florida). We have reconnected through facebook and he is still exactly how I remember him. The only difference is that he is older, which he emphatically denies but, I know it for a fact.

Joel is a picky eater, at least that is what he tells me.  He shared with me a really good chicken roulade recipe that his family has been recently enjoying.

For you to get a sense of who Joel is I have only slightly revised his written directions to me on preparing his new favorite dish.  I think his directions will put a smile on your face, and his face too, if you leave a comment for him.

Note: We served up his chicken and asparagus roulades with a side dish of wild rice.

Chicken Roulades
Serves 8
Recipe compliments of Joel Greene

8-thin chicken breast cutlets or pounded thin
12 thin sandwich sized slices swiss cheese (8-ounce package)
1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off spears simmered in salted water until tender, then cooled.

His note to me: Velveeta, the instructions were rather confusing, so here is what I actually did.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Fill a big pan with water and turn on the heat to bring to a slight boiling point.  Add some salt, maybe a tablespoon or so, and then simmer the asparagus in it 4-5 minutes.  Taste one after 4 minutes to see if it's done.  if not, just give a little extra time.  Then put the asparagus aside and let it cool off.

I said the hell with overlapping, pounding and fusing as stated in the original recipe (Told you, I ain't no gourmet chef).  I simply laid out the 8 thin-sliced chicken breasts on plastic wrap, added salt and pepper to taste, and threw in some Italian seasonings (which was not part of the recipe, but which I like and which added flavor.)

I used provolone instead of Swiss because the wife does not care for Swiss.

Place one breast down, salt/pepper/Italian season it.

Add cheese slice (broken up if necessary, to fit the size of the chicken breast, but not too close to the edges).

Stick in about 4 asparagus pieces, roll it up tightly (as tightly as possible, as this is not easy).  Dip in flour that I dumped out on a plate, added toothpicks to hold together.

Then pan fry on medium heat to brown on all sides, which is not easy because of the toothpicks, but it is still manageable. (It has been suggested to me that I use twine instead of toothpicks, which I may try next time).

Then put in the oven 15 minutes.  No need to begin preheating the oven until you start the pan frying.

By the way, when I was done cooking it, I said "never again!", because it was too much hassle, but after tasting it, and seeing the wife go back for seconds, I might have to reconsider.

In actuality, the only real hassle was figuring out the #!!##% directions that I had.  Use my directions, and it will go pretty easy. It was worth it.

Joel Greene

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friends Can Cook!

It's vacation time. Our family is going to take a break from everyday life to join friends for a vacation that includes a bike tour through the Loire Valley, France and a lot of good food and wine. Now, for those of you who know us personally, you can wipe the tears of laughter from your face, upon being reminded that we will be biking, and expected to arrive at every new destination each evening.  Don't worry; we are are packing plenty of ibuprofen, and chamois butter (a/k/a butt butter).

Rather than take a vacation from my blog, our friends favorite recipes will be featured.

Check back tomorrow as the first friend post will be sharing the pleasures of their tables with you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

Our June Cooking Club theme was an evening focused on the cuisine of Singapore.  Singapore's food culture is a reflection of their diverse culture of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and English. This evenings meal allowed us to explore their complex and flavorful cuisine.

One of the dishes highlighted this evening was a dessert prepared by our friends and cooking club members Robert and Heidi.  They used black rice, to prepare this rich tasting rice pudding.  The rice has a strong nutty flavor, and is traditionally eaten by itself, and not combined with fruits.  However, the grilled pineapple served along side this black rice pudding provided a mildly sweet contrast to the natural nutty flavor of the rice.

Two methods could be used to prepare the rice.  In this version the boiled method was used.  To enhance the depth of flavor additional sugar and cardamom was added to the rice.

Black Sticky Rice Pudding
Serves 8
Recipe compliments of Robert and Heidi Butler

2 cups whole-grain black sticky rice, sweet rice or glutinous rice
2 cups, or 1 can, coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds and/or toasted unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Mint leaves (optional)

Measure the rice into a bowl; run your fingers through the rice and check for any pebbles or other noticeable impurities.  Rinse the rice a few times until the water clears.  Cover with at least 2 inches of water and allow to soak 4 or more hours, or overnight.  The grains will absorb water and grow in size.

When ready to cook, drain the rice and place in a heat-proof bowl with room enough for the rice grains to expand about a third more than its uncooked bulk.  Add a small amount of boiling water, just enough to barely cover the rice grains.  Place the bowl on a steamer rack and steam over medium heat about 30 to 40 minutes.  If you do not have a steamer, use a large pot in which the bowl fits.  Place trivet on the bottom along with 2-3 inches of water.  bring to a boil.  Balance the bowl with the rice on the trivet and add hot water to the rice.  Cover and steam.  Steaming the rice with a small volume of water will leave the top layer of grains intact, retaining a chewy texture which pops in your mouth like nuts.  If you wish the rice to be softer, add more water to the rice.

While the rice is steaming, make the coconut sauce by heating the coconut milk, sugar, cardamom and salt together in a saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt and blend the sauce until smooth.  Keep warm.

When the rice is cooked and while still hot, add about half of the sauce or enough to throughly coat the rice.  Stir and mix well.  The rice should be wet but not swimming in sauce.  Let stand 15-20 minutes to allow for flavorings to be absorbed.  Reserve the remaining sauce for spooning over the rice before serving.

For a wetter pudding like texture, the rice may alternatively be cooked by boiling, the same way as you would regular rice.  Use 2-1/2 to 3 cups water to each cup of rice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook partially covered until the grains are cooked and surrounded by a thick sauce, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.  Add sugar to sweeten to your liking.  Stir well, cover and place on the lowest heat setting for another 5-10 minutes.  Make the sauce less sweet but more salty for contrast with the already sweetened rice.  When ready to serve, dish the rice into individual serving bowls.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Classic Shaken Margarita

This is my favorite margarita-strong, tangy and icy but not frozen.

Any good quality tequila will allow for a great tasting margarita but, if you can take a bit of a splurge, then take the leap and purchase a 100 percent agave tequila, it really makes this cocktail shine and is worth the investment.

Classic Shaken Margarita
Makes 4 generous cocktails
Recipe from: Rick Bayless

1 cup tequila, preferably a young silver or reposado 100 percent agave tequila
1/2 cup Cointreau or other high quality orange liqueur
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, plus a little extra for moistening the rim of the glasses
A little sugar if necessary
About 1/3 cup coarse (kosher) salt for crusting the rims of the glasses
About 3 cups medium ice cubes

In a small pitcher, combine the tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice.  Taste and add more lime or a touch of sugar if desired (keep in mind that it will taste a little tangier once it has been shaken).

Spread out the salt on a small plate.  Moisten the rims of four 6-ounce martini glasses with a little lime juice (if you have a cut lime, even an already squeezed one, just moisten the rims by running it around them).  Dip the rim of each glass in the salt, creating a thin, even crusted all around the rim.

Pour half of the margarita mixture into a cocktail shaker, add half of the ice cubes and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds (this is important to achieve the perfect strength-some of the ice needs to melt into the margarita-and the right degree of frostiness).  Strain into two of the prepared glasses, then repeat with the remaining margarita mixture.  

Relax and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Asparagus Salad with Bacon

This is a great way to show-off fresh asparagus and enjoy when it's in season.  The bacon and the grated cheese add just the right amount of saltiness to this salad.

Asparagus Salad with Bacon
Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Applegate Farms

1/4 cup finely grated Romano or other hard cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed and woodsy part removed
4 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
8 slices cooked, chopped bacon
A handful of fresh mint leaves

For the dressing:
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
Juice of half a lemon, or more if you like
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

1.  To cook the asparagus, bring a pan of water to a soft boil, add salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the asparagus, cook for just a couple of minutes to blanch.  Remove from heat and drain immediately. Add asparagus to a quick ice bath, drain.

2.  In a small mixing bowl add the garlic, parsley and lemon juice.  While whisking, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream.

3.  Arrange asparagus on a plate or small platter.  Drizzle dressing over the asparagus. Grate the cheese and scatter the scallions, bacon and mint leaves.   Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs

Eggs are still struggling in their underrated status as only a breakfast food. I am not sure why, eggs are a very inexpensive low-calorie source of protein and are delicious served alone, or incorporated into other dishes.

I am lucky to have a co-worker who raises heirloom chickens. She provides me each week with a couple dozen fresh eggs in the most beautiful shades of pink, green and brown.  Her chickens have access to grass and pasture which means that her eggs have less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamins A and E and more omega-3's. More importantly, they taste amazing.

Make an effort to frequent a local farm or farmer's market to purchase fresh eggs. You will not be disappointed.

Eggs grace our table at least twice a week for dinner.  Here is a version of scrambled eggs that are creamy, flavorful and easy to prepare any time of day.

Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs
Serves 6
Recipe from Barefoot Contessa

16 extra-large eggs
1-1/4 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the half-and-half, salt, and pepper.  Heat 2 tablesppons of butter in a large saute or omelet pan.  Add the eggs and cook them over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the desired doneness.  Turn off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the parsley, scallions, and dill. Stir until the butter is melted.  Check for seasonings. Serve hot.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday