Friday, May 31, 2013

Dirt to Table Experience: Leek and Potato Soup

Fresh Red Pontiac Potatoes from the Garden

Fresh Leeks too!

 Equals a Spring Fresh Potato and Leek Soup

Leek and Potato Soup
Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

1 pound leeks ( approximately 4-5 medium), cleaned, dark green sections removed.  
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heavy pinch of kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
14-ounces Yukon gold potatoes, approximately 3 (note: I used red potatoes), peeled and diced small.
1 quart vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon snipped chives (note: I used fresh dill)

Chop the leeks into small pieces.

In a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks, and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes.  Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the heavy cream, buttermilk and white pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Sprinkle with chives or dill, serve immediately or serve cold.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by Tomatoes on the Vine

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tallahassee Wine Club: Chocolate Cabernet Crunch Ice Cream

The Tallahassee Wine Club gathers to discover and enjoy wine.  My husband and I admit to being the novices and we learn a lot by just listening.  For us it is about enjoying wine, telling the story and having the experience.  Truth be told.... We have learned just enough to be dangerous.

Our theme this month was W-I-N-E.  Each couple was given a letter and our job was to bring a wine and an appetizer starting with that letter from any region.  We were assigned the letter "I"   Our contribution to the evening was a bottle of India Ink 2009, Red Wine blend from Kuleto Estate Winery in Napa Valley.  The second bottle was a 2008 Isenhower Pinot Noir from the Walla-Walla wine region in Washington State.  Washington State is an under appreciated wine region in my tasting notes.  They produce great wines, that are typically more reasonably priced, and rivals their wine sisters in California.   I highly recommend either bottle if you are looking for a new wine to enjoy.

The appetizer... You guessed it was ice cream and to keep with the wine theme it was a blend of chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Red wine and chocolate are an amazing combination of flavors that complement each other.

Chocolate Cabernet Crunch Ice Cream
Makes about 1 Quart
Recipe from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup biscotti, crumbled

1.   In a small mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow.  Set aside.

2.   Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.  Whisk in the cocoa and bring the milk back to a simmer.  Simmer 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Slowly beat the hot milk and cocoa into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot chocolate custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Set aside while you prepare the ganache.

3.   Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Immediately remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chopped chocolate in a bowl.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Combine the chocolate mixtures, then stir in the vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

4. Bring 2 cups red wine (cabernet sauvignon) to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan.  Boil until the wine is reduced to about 1/2-cup and is thick and slightly syrupy, about 10 minutes.  Let this syrup cool, then stir into the custard.  Freeze the combined mixture in 1 or  2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacture's instructions.  Add 1/2 cup crumbled biscotti to the machine, when the ice cream is semi-frozen, When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Adventures of the Yankee Kitchen Ninja (A Vermont Food Blog)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Got Herbs: Polenta Pound Cake with Blueberries and Thyme

Summer for most of us is almost here.  To get in the spirit of summer  I start thinking about desserts with fruit,  meat and veggies on the grill, and summer salads loaded with tomatoes and cucumbers.

I am working to get in the summer spirit.  My garden is rocking.  Fingers crossed that I can get a decent harvest of tomatoes this season.  The blueberry and blackberry farms are scheduled to open soon and if I can get my hands on good peaches this year, then my summer of food will be deemed successful.

Part of getting into the summer groove is learning that infusing herbs into desserts produces desserts that are savory and not to sweet.  This pound cake is a good example that using fresh thyme in both the  blueberries and the cake brings a simple pound cake to a new level.  The addition of polenta (cornmeal) really complements the texture of the pound cake by providing an ever so subtle chewy texture.

Go ahead and get your summer cooking groove on-

Polenta Pound Cake with Blueberries and Thyme
Serves 10
Recipe from Fine Cooking


For the Blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 pint blueberries, picked over
1-1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Pinch kosher salt

For the Cake
8-oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
6-2/3 oz. (1-2/3 cups) cake flour; more for the pan
1/3 cup polenta (cornmeal)
2 Tbs. finely chopped thyme
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Make the Blueberries
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, thyme, and 2 Tbs. water.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Add the blueberries, lemon zest and salt.  Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the syrup thickens slightly and the berries are warm but most are still whole, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat 

Note: The blueberries will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 1 day; the thyme flavor will become more intense.  Reheat gently before serving.

Make the Cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter and flour 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, thyme, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix briefly to combine.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour gradually until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, then tap the pan on the counter to pop any large air bubbles.  Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours.  ( If the top starts to get too dark, lay a piece of foil loosely over the cake) Cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate or cutting board.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature, topped with blueberries.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by Tomatoes on the Vine

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Ways to fill a Tortilla with Beef Barbacoa

This post is another attempt at persuading you to keep moving past the grocery aisle that displays the taco kits.  You know the ones I am referring too, just say NO.  With a little extra effort you can create new flavorful ways to fill a tortilla.

The dried guajillo peppers are easily located in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store.  The dried peppers lend a mild smoky flavor to the sauce.  The meat is simmered for a couple of hours until it is fork tender.  We moved past the typical flour tortillas and used warmed corn tortillas that provide a nice backdrop to the smoky flavor of the meat.

Beef Barbacoa 
Serves 6
Recipe from Food Network

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 small white onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Kosher salt
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-to-2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Corn tortillas, warmed, and assorted toppings, for serving.

1.  Heat a large cat-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chiles and cook, pressing them down with a spatula, 10 seconds per side: transfer to a plate.  Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are charred in spots, about 10 minutes.

2.  Peel the garlic and transfer to a blender along with the tomatoes and onion (reserve the skillet).  Tear the chiles into pieces and add to the blender along with 1/2 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt; pulse until smooth.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the skillet; pressing it through with the back of a spoon.

3.  Add the beef to the skillet and turn to coat in the chile sauce using tongs.  Cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until a crust starts to form on the meat, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle in the cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and cook 1 more minute.  meanwhile, puree 2-1/2 cups water, the cilantro and thyme in the blender; add to the skillet along with the bay leaves.

4.  Reduce the heat to low.  Cover and gently simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2-hours, adding up to 1-1/2 cups water if the sauce gets to thick.  Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and black pepper.  Serve in tortillas with assorted toppings.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Daytona Strong

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sunday Supper: Poblano, Mushroom and Potato Tacos

Last weekend I was experiencing a taco craving and thought it would be a good Sunday Supper meal for the family.  There was a point in which I was looking for a recipe that I stopped and considered how we typically eat tacos (sigh).  A pound of hamburger meat, a packet of taco seasoning Blech!  Have you read the back of one the packets of taco seasoning?  We call that taco filling?  Add a few hard shells, soft ones too, and assorted ordinary toppings.  Folks, I am not feeling the love.

There are many awesome ways to fill a tortilla using simple ingredients like this one, roasted poblano peppers, fried potatoes, mushrooms and sprinkled with fresh parsley and cilantro. Move away from ordinary toppings and edge closer to extraordinary toppings like avocado, lime juice and Mexican or other Spanish crumbling cheeses.

Fun Food Fact: A flour tortilla contains five times more calories, and three times more fat than a corn tortilla.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! This is how to enjoy a taco.

Poblano, Mushroom and Potato Tacos
Serves 6
Recipe from Food Network

4 medium poblano chile peppers
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
12 ounces cremini and/or white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Mexican crema, creme fraiche or sour cream
Juice of 2 limes
Freshly ground pepper
Corn tortillas, warmed, and assorted toppings, for serving.

1.  Roast the poblanos directly over the flame of a gas burner or under the broiler, turning with tongs, until charred all over, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plate and let steam until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.  Scrape off the charred skin with a paring knife; remove the stems and seeds.  Cut the poblanos into strips and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large nonstick skillet and cover with cold water, season with salt.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until just tender,  5 to 6 minutes; drain.  Wipe the skillet dry.

3.   Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  While still hot, sprinkle with half or the herbs, and salt to taste.  Discard the excess oil and wipe out the skillet.

4.  Heat the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the remaining herbs and the garlic; cook 1 minute.  Add the roasted poblanos, crema, lime juice and a few spoonfuls of water; stir until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve the potatoes and mushroom mixture in tortillas with assorted toppings.

Note: To warm tortillas, wrap a stack in a damp paper towel and microwave 30 seconds, or warm them one at a time in a dry skillet.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Maureen Brady Johnson