25 June 2008

catching up.

So. I have quite a few things that I have cooked in the past few weeks that I haven't posted about. Today is the day that I catch up on these, because this week has been a big week for cooking and I will need to post on the newer stuff soon enough. That makes today catch-up day. The day when you get a lot of photos, some recipes or links to them and not too many words. Words aren't my strong suit anyway. I cook.

Number one on the list it the fabulous steak sandwich that I found on The Kitchen Sink. I knew when I saw it that I would be making in for the husband, as he loves the mix of steak and blue cheese.

It was awesome. I highly recommend it as an alternative to the normal grilled burger. Find the recipe here: Grilled Flank Steak and Blue Cheese Sandwiches

Keeping with our grilling theme, we will move onto number two for the day. Chicken and Vegetable Kabobs with Hoisin BBQ sauce. I'd had a jar of hoisin sauce in our fridge for a while and this seemed like the prefect way to put it to use. I good way to spice up chicken and veggies. Yum.

Find the recipe here: Hoisin BBQ Sauce

Now, onto the sweet stuff.

My freezer often gets a bit crowded. I make a lot of stuff and save a lot of stuff and buy a lot of stuff... and lots of this stuff ends up in the freezer. Since some of the stuff that I have been making included ice cream, I've ended up with lots of frozen egg whites. What better way to put them to use than to make meringues. Simple, slightly low-fat, tasty. What more could you ask for?

I decided on a brown sugar version and kind of made the recipe up as I went. I don't really remember it too well, but I will do my best to give it to you here:

Brown Sugar Meringues
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 140°C (285°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Place the egg whites in a large, clean bowl (i.e. dry and with absolutely no trace of fat). Using an electric whisk or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whisk until soft peaks form.

Keep whisking continuously as you add in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time: wait until each tablespoon is fully incorporated before you add the next. Once all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and firm and glossy gorgeous, whisk in the vanilla until incorporated.

Using two tablespoons, form pingpong- to golf-ball-sized blobs of meringue and drop them on the prepared baking sheet, giving them some space (roughly their own width) to expand.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes for soft centers, 1 hour for fully baked centers. If you prefer soft, remove the baking sheet from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the meringues delicately to a rack to cool. If you prefer fully baked, turn the oven off, open the oven door just a crack, and let the meringues cool inside for a couple of hours.

And onto our last recipe for the day:

I saw these on SmittenKitchen a while back and they immediately went on my list to bake. I knew there was some cocoa powder hanging around in the cupboard that was longing to be used (it was pretty old) so one evening some lovely Brownie Roll-out Cookies were born. A lot of them, in fact. I stashed some in the freezer while we were out of town last weekend and they are still being eaten.

These really are what they sound like... very dense brownies pretending to be cookies. They are great. Even right out of the freezer. And although I was hesitant to make a roll-out cookie because I am lazy, they were really easy to make and the cookie cutter use brought me back to childhood.

How is that for a cheesy line to end this post?

23 June 2008

where does the time go?

It has been a long time since I posted... not since I've cooked, but getting the posts up has been tough. We got rid of our internet connection at home, which leave me only work as a place to post. Which wouldn't be bad except then I have to get my photos here. And I have been lazy. And last week my kitty went missing and I could focus on anything. I spent three days walking the street of my neighborhood searching for her, only to have her re-appear out of nowhere. We think she was hiding in the basement for three days. Scared me half to death. I am going to do my best to get back to it. I am going to bring in my camera tomorrow to download photos and get some stuff up. I have been making good things too! I can't wait to share them! And so much more plannned for this week. There will be lots of entries coming. I just have to get to it.

11 June 2008

sweet pea.

Yay! It's Pea Dumpling time!

I'm sorry for my absence in the past two weeks. I was running on a huge lack of sleep from press checks for work and a really fun but really hot trip to New York City. It is really difficult to sleep when you feel like you are on fire. Just so you know.

Anyhoo... on to the peas. I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and new immediately that I had found a home for the bag of frozen peas that had been living in my freezer for a while. I was so excited about making these I just can't express it! A quick and simple filling and pre-made won ton wrappers. Easy, right? Well... don't get your hopes up. Filling these suckers is a task. And your counter gets kind of gummy from the water/flour-ness of things. But it really is worth it. I made a double batch and have had them in the freezer ready to pop in a pan at a moments notice.

Plump Pea Dumpling Recipe
101 Cookbooks
The instructions here are for steaming the dumplings, but I prefered pan-frying them. Use just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cover and cook in a single layer until the bottoms are deeply golden, flip, cover and cook until the other side is browned. I really liked the crispy skin that is created from the frying.

2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups peas (freshly shelled or frozen)
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
scant 1/2 tea spoon fine grain sea salt
1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
zest of one large lemon

1 package of wonton wrappers, or round wrappers

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water (as you would pasta water) and add the peas. Cook until bright green in color and puffy, about a minute if the peas were frozen, less if you started with fresh ones.
Drain the peas and run under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking.

With a food processor (or hand blender) blend the peas, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and salt into a puree. I like a bit of texture, so I don't go too far. Return the mixture to a big bowl and stir in the shallots, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

Fill the dumplings using an assembly line technique - a dozen at a time (for the most part following the instructions on the wrapper packaging). Place twelve wrappers out on the counter, drop a very scant teaspoon of filling onto each wrapper, rub the perimeter of each wrapper with a wet finger seal, fold (most packages have diagrams), and set aside on a plate. Do the next dozen and repeat until all the filling is used up.

Set up your steamer, rub each dumpling with a bit of olive oil, arrange the dumplings in a single layer (being careful not to overlap), and steam for about three minutes - until the dumplings are tender and transluscent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and enjoy.

Makes about 4 dozen dumplings.

02 June 2008

crispy phyllo.

Phyllo is tough, man. It's cranky and cracky and temperamental. And that is just the fresh stuff that hasn't been in the freezer for a year. Try using that. But before you do, maybe you should cover your kitchen floor in drop cloths. Damn, does that stuff make a mess.

I had my heart set on making this dish. I am a huge Jamie Oliver fan and am so happy that he finally has a new show on the food network (I miss the Naked Chef so!). Although 8:30 on a Saturday morning is asking a little much of me, I TiVO it and watch it faithfully when I finally roll out of bed. This recipe called to me one Saturday morning and I knew it had to be dinner for the next day. I went out and bought the right size tart pan (unnecessary, I know, but worth it) and was ready on Sunday to make a great little tart. I wasn't ready for the phyllo. It was too much for me and it got everywhere. My kitty was eating it out of her food dish by the time I was done with it. BUT! I forged on and the tart came into being. And it was great. Dave and I both went back for seconds and we ate the leftovers at room temperature on our drive to Nebraska that next week. I bet it would be even better with the really fresh, local asparagus from the farmers market... there may be another tart in my future.

Crispy and Delicious Asparagus and Potato Tart
adapted from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
1/4 whole fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Get an ovenproof dish - I've used many different shapes and sizes. Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.

When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve just as you would a quiche for a quick lunch or supper, with a salad.