Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Fun In the Kitchen!

I know, I am one of those kind of people...I pretend to not be interested in the Royal Wedding (its even capitalized) but then secretly I am searching for links and pics. Well, really the only thing I was interested in was their menu. It was easy to find this morning, 10,000 canapes (small decorative appetizers) which are my favorite things to eat because when you are at a good wedding, there is usually a big variety of this yumminess. Well the Royal Wedding included this extensive list of canapes, of which I may try to make many of them myself. Once I do, I will be sure to post the success or failure of them.

I am excited about trying the duck terrine, just need to find someone to eat it with!


Cornish Crab Salad on Lemon Blini 

Pressed Duck Terrine with Fruit Chutney 

Roulade of Goat’s Cheese with Caramelised Walnuts 

Assortment of Palmiers and Cheese Straws 

Scottish Smoked Salmon Rose on Beetroot Blini 

Miniature Watercress and Asparagus Tart 

Poached Asparagus Spears with Hollandaise Sauce for Dipping 

Quails’ Eggs with Celery Salt 

Main course 

Scottish Langoustines with Lemon Mayonnaise 

Pressed Confit of Pork Belly with Crayfi sh and Crackling 

Wild Mushroom and Celeriac Chausson 

Bubble and Squeak with Confit Shoulder of Lamb 

Grain Mustard and Honey-glazed Chipolatas 

Smoked Haddock Fishcake with Pea Guacamole 

Miniature Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Fillet of Beef and Horseradish Mousse 


Gateau Opera 

Blood Orange Pâté de Fruit 

Raspberry Financier 

Rhubarb Crème Brulée Tartlet 

Passion Fruit Praline 

White Chocolate Ganache Truffle 

Milk Chocolate Praline with Nuts 

Dark Chocolate Ganache Truffle 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easy Cheesy and Oh So Darn Good!

It's Easter. That usually means the meat of choice is ham. I love ham, good ham that is. Spiral ham. Spiral ham with that delicious crunchy brown sugar and clove glaze. Sometimes fruit too!

Ok enough about the ham. It is always difficult to decide what to serve along side this succulent hunk of meat so I am constantly brainstorming ideas and presenting them to a crowd of stubbornness (hi family!). Well, I fought tooth and nail to bring this dish to the table last Thanksgiving, and if you know my family then you know ANYTHING different during a holiday is a huge no no. Sorry, I just got tired of the same old bland mashed potatoes!

Anyways, whenever I think of having ham as the main dish, I always think of Au Gratin Potatoes as an accompaniment. What is Au Gratin? Well, it is a French dish of something, could be almost anything, baked in a shallow dish topped with something that would create a lovely brown crust. In this case, cheese is the browning agent of choice and potatoes is the "anything."

Start off with a good starchy potato, you'll want the starch to thicken the sauce during cooking, if you don't have starchy potatoes at hand, no problem, just sprinkle a little cornstarch between the layers. If you have a Mandoline Slicer, then your job has just been made much much easier! Actually, this recipe is pretty simple, seriously...try it.

4-6 Potatoes, peeled and sliced fairly thin
1 large onion sliced in rings
2 cups milk
1-2 cups shredded sharp cheese
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
Salt n Pepa to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

So slice your potatoes, you'll want them thin but not too thin so that they break down while cooking. I'd say a little thinner than quarter of an inch. Slice the onions in rings, you may actually want to chop them instead as the rings may put people off. Butter a large glass baking dish and spread out half the potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with the onions. Add the remaining potatoes and salt and pepper again.

Next, heat the butter in a medium sauce pan. Once melted, add flour to create a roux, yes I said it...the ROUX (don't be afraid of it). Its pretty easy, just keep stirring over medium heat for a minute. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly! You don't want to heat the milk too quickly or it could curdle though, ugh.

When the milk is hot enough, add the cheese and keep stirring, when it is all melted pour the lovely cheese sauce over the potatoes and enjoy the sharp cheesy perfume. Cover with non stick foil (or you could spray it with cooking spray) and pop this baby in the oven for an hour and a half. So, I made this in advance and will reheat tomorrow in the oven, probably the same heat, allowing the cheesy top to form that brown crust that we all fight for. You can broil too for maybe 5-10 mins (just don't burn it!)

Lastly, if you have a stubborn family like mine who insist that they will HATE HATE HATE anything different at a holiday, smile and say "ok!" Bring them a dish of this magical wonder without telling them and guaranteed they will ask you to make this at every holiday.

TIP: you can keep the fat and calorie content down pretty easily. I use butter yes, but I never use whole milk, usually 1% for something like this. I also discovered 2% Crackerbarrel cheese. SOOO GOOOD. Cuts out a lot of the fat right there too but doesn't compromise taste!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easy Eggplant Parmasagna

I love lasagna, but I don't always love the high calorie noodles. Well, ok I do, but my body does not. So I've decided to share with you a lovely variation, which could easily become vegetarian as well!

If cooking for 2-3 peeps, start off with a medium eggplant. Look for a dark purple fruit without any bruises or brown spots. If you are lucky to have a farmers market with all kinds of varieties, I love using white and light purple speckled eggplants. Now, I always peel mine, its not a requirement, but larger eggplants usually have tougher skin. Totally up to you.

Next, I slice mine thin but not TOO thin, they break down when they cook. You can cut them in rounds or in noodle size slices. This time I did half noodle size slices (I don't know why the half!), salted them and let some of the juice ooze out. Ew, sounds pretty gross ha, but it's not. Sometimes the juice that comes out is a little bitter, that is what they say on  tv but never experienced it myself, but I do it anyways sometimes to be bad ass!

So you'll want a good tomato sauce, this time around I used some from my mom that she gave to me last week, if you are in a hurry or just don't want to make your own sauce, then jarred is...acceptable (hey I do it too sometimes!)

1 Medium eggplant, peeled and sliced
1.5 cups ricotta
1/2 lbs hot italian sausage or beef or turkey or all three!
Couple handfuls of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, shredded
Some shakes of parmesan
2 tsp dried basil
1 egg
2-3 tbsp bread crumb
1 tbsp sugar
Red wine
Olive oil

Depending on your frying pans, mine stick a lot, so I use a non stick pan for frying the eggplant. I use about a table spoon per full pan of eggplant, so fit as many slices as you can, and brown on medium heat, once they are cooked set aside. If you like, you could coat your slices in bread crumb. Its delicious but takes more time and makes more of a mess, you can skip it!

Cook the sausage/beef and drain off some of the fat. Here is my little secret that I am now sharing with the world. At this point, I always add a generous splash of red wine and and a couple tablespoons of bread crumb. The breadcrumb soaks up all of the wine and meat flavors and then mixes throughout the meat. Trust me, the flavors are ammmaazzzing. Oh also, throw in some of the parmesan cheese here too.

Ricotta time! So, I always add some flavors to my ricotta. The reason that you love my lasagna (those that have had it) is because of this and the meat tip above. So add, the sugar, dried basil and more parmesan cheese, mix and taste! Should be slightly sweet, not like cannoli sweet. Now add the egg and mix, this will bind the cheese together when it cooks.

Looks like Poo tastes like heaven
Use a small glass baking dish for this one. Ladle some sauce on the bottom of the dish, just enough to prevent sticking and allowing the eggplant to cook more. Next, layer on the eggplant, you don't have to cover every inch of the pan, I often have large gaps that get filled in with something else. You'll see. Plop on the ricotta, don't spread it, it will spread itself. Maybe about half of it now, and save the other half for the next layer. Sprinkle the meat mixture, a little more sauce and some of the shredded cheese.

Keep layering until you end with eggplant on top. Top that with sauce and pop it into the oven, I would say about 375F for 40 minutes, sound good? The last 10 minutes you can add more cheese to the top and let it brown.

Now, you can totally use lasagna noodles, this is what I do every christmas when my lasagna is requested, except I make a 15 lb baby which requires much reinforcement (multiple disposable pans). Depending on what I have, I might use all turkey meat, sausage etc or I might mix it all up, it is all delicious either way.

Please also enjoy responsibly, it is THAT good!

Oh and for those of you that may not get it at first, the name of the dish Parmasagna was purposely invented to mean half eggplant parm and half lasagna.
This was only two layers, build more for traditional look

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Herbs & Spice Make Everything Nice!

No, really! They do! Could you imagine eating a gingerbread cookie without the ginger? Or spaghetti sauce without basil (ok some people can, but not me!) or pumpkin pie without nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice? Ew.

These two lovelies come in a few forms. Whole, ground (dry) and fresh. But when do you use fresh, as opposed to dried, or even whole!? It really depends on what you are cooking. Many Indian recipes call for whole spices to be cooked in with the sauce, with the intention of removing them at the end as to not take a bite into a crunchy cardamom pod, you still get the intense flavors. Most recipes call for dried ground herbs and spices, but when you are serving something fresh, like a salad, you wouldn’t want to serve it with dried herbs, now would you (say no)?

What is the difference anyways? An herb is a green plant, used dried or fresh as an accent…Basil, Parsley, Sage etc. I think of these as cool and refreshing (even when they are slightly spicy!), usually are green.

Spices…well I think of spices as being warm and welcoming. Spices come from seeds, tree bark, roots etc, I think of earthy tones like browns, reds, deep orange

Imagine a  beautiful mozzarella and tomato salad (or a fresh salsa even), now imagine it mixed in with fresh basil. It really brightens up the aesthetics of the salad! Now imagine that same salad, bright red tomatoes, snowy white mozzarella, sprinkled with dried basil. Well ok, it might look interesting and still taste ok, but you cannot beat fresh herbs in instances like this, especially when making a salsa.

Now, on the other hand lets say you are cooking a tomato sauce. You probably don’t want to use fresh herbs from the start. I always use dried herbs and spices in my sauce 1. Its easier 2. They are more intense when dried, and a little goes a long way in a large pot and 3. Cooked whole herbs are not pretty. Now, I am not saying tha you should’t add fresh chopped basil as a garnish, or even to the pot at the end, you totally should, but in this case..stick with dried.

Whole vs ground
Frontier Cloves Whole, Fancy Grade, 16 Ounce BagBoth are good, but if you buy whole then you can and should grind your own. The whole spices hold their flavors much longer than ground. Also, with many spices you can roast them first for a different, more intense flavor. Lets say you need a tablespoon of cumin seeds ground, that right there is one flavor, and then you need a tablespoon of cumin roasted in a dry skillet and ground. You get 2 totally different flavors from the same spice at your finger tips! This also saves you money in the long run.
In the winter time, I love to boil water with a stick or two of cinnamon, its easier, less messy (you get the powdery cinnamon water ugh) and smells amazing.

Also, never by shy to use powdered garlic and onion. I mean, you certainly don't want to use it in place of chopping onions for something where you need volume, but in a marinade or sauce, powdered works perfectly. The flavors seep into the sauce and stick to whatever you are marinating, allowing the flavors to completely coat the meat.

Whew! There is a lot of info here and sorry that I don't have any pics up yet. Maybe I will become inspired and take pics of some of my whole spices and herbs!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chutney for Me! (And Maybe for You Too?)

So, as you already know I love Indian food. My lovely friend Noopdawg has a blog that I am hoping she updates with authentic Indian recipes (hint hint), like this one for green chutney which is my second favorite Indian chutney, but when Noopdawg makes it, it is #1! 

You may be asking, what the heck is chutney anyways? Well, I will tell you what the heck chutney is! It is a condiment, a lovely lovely condiment, that is made from all different things like limes, coconut, mango, mint, tamarind and can either be soothing, tangy or spicy. In the words of Noopdawg "aah! Chutney is a worryfree condiment to me. Worryfree - because the calorie count is very low, its all fresh and not cooked with any grease and really packs a punch of flavor!"

Major Grey's Mango ChutneyNow, there are other kinds of chutneys as well, kinds that are probably not as indigenous to places like India where you might find mint, coconut or tamarind chutney. A country like England (US too), for example, has a very LOVELY chutney that you would eat with a nice sharp cheddar cheese. If you know me, you know that I cannot pass by a hunk of good cheese without wanting to sink my teeth into it, and if you DO know me, then you know I have done it more than once! 

What better way to enjoy the cheese than with something tangy like a fruit chutney! One of my favorites, which by the way I found out just last month (!!) that this is what you would most likely find in an Indo-American restaurant, is Major Grey's Mango Chutney. It is a sweet and tangy (think vinegar) condiment, and not only goes excellent with Indian dishes but is also amazing with that sharp cheddar cheese I was hummin' and hawin' about! Other nice cheese chutneys include ingredients such as raisins, apples, prunes, get the idea.

We all know I am down for home made stuff, some chutneys are easier than others, but if you want something like Major Grey's, buy it. 

Here are Noopdawg's top chutneys:

fresh green chutney
mint chutney
coconut chutney
tomato chutney
tamarind chutney
ok i need to take a break ... i am salivating - (yes this really happened! See why I love her?)
so i was on break ...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some like it hot...German Potato Salad

Everyone has a secret family recipe for potato salad, and I've tried many of them. They are all delicious! One person might use a lot of bacon, another uses chopped pickles, I use a lot of fresh dill. But there is one thing in common with many of these recipes, MAYONNAISE! Yum, I do like good ol' mayo here and there but sometimes its just too much, isn't it?

Well, I've decided to expand my recipe base and try out the warm potato salad, as it is eaten in one of my favorite lands, Germany! Its really very easy to make, and will please almost any crowd ( I say almost because there are people who know what they like and thats all there is to it!), so if you want to try something different, this is HIGHLY recommended, by me! Of course! That, and its served with many dishes in Deutschland and is just awesome.

Here is where you can 1. be lazy like me or 2. be a good home cook. You will need potatoes, about 4 medium, however, I used canned sliced potatoes the last time I made this but you can peel and slice your potatoes into a thick chip, boil them, but not for too long!

In the mean time, mix 1/3 cup of water, 1/4 cup vinegar (I use apple cider, but you can use white, or rice or whatever, and 2 table spoons of sugar. Set aside.

I use a cast iron skillet, but feel free to use whatever you have. I fry 4-5 slices of bacon. I recently got some really good, smoked bacon from Karl's Sausage Kitchen yummmmm. Fry til crispy and set aside but don't pour out the fat! (Ok I guess you could and replace it with something healthier but why?)

Next, add a small chopped onion to the fat and saute lightly til soft, but don't burn! Next add a table spoon of flour and stir around, this will act as your thickener. After about a minute, add the liquid and stir to dissolve the flour, and now add the potatoes and gently simmer until the sauce is nice and thick and coats the potatoes. You can let them sit in the warm pan with sauce for a while as long as you didn't overcook them in the first step.

Just before serving, crumble and sprinkle the bacon over the top (ugh I can taste it already) and serve!

Now, to be a bit more exotic....I wonder what it would taste like sprinkled with a masala??  Maybe next time!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vegetarian Recipe Alert! Italian Stuffed Swiss Chard

I love greens. A lot. But I get tired of the same old stewed or sauteed side dishes so I referred to one of my favorite Italian chefs, one that I have been watching since I was a wee boy, Maryann Esposito from Ciao Italia! She always has wonderful recipes using ingredients that you always WANT to buy from the farmers markets, but never know what to do with them.

Well, one day I decided to ask Maryann herself what she would do with something such as swiss chard that doesn't involve sauteing with olive oil and garlic (which isn't bad but ughhh). She responded to my comment with a recipe that sounded delicious and good for you. I've sort of created my own recipe with the help of Maryann. This is very suitable for vegetarians as well!

Stuffed Swiss Chard

1 bunch of Swiss Chard (make sure the leaves are full and not full of holes)
15 oz ricotta cheese
Handful of kalamata or black olives, chopped
Handful shredded parmesan cheese
1 tbsp pesto
1 egg
1 tsp sugar
1 onion chopped
1-2 garlic cloves minced
15 oz can stewed italian tomatoes or your favorite sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

First, wash and dry the swiss chard, chop off the long stems (reserving them and chopping into small pieces) and set aside. Take your finger and crush the spine of the leaf all the way, but be gentle as to not rip the leaf.

In a bowl mix the cheeses, pesto, egg, sugar and olives.

In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat, add onions and swiss chard stems, saute until stems and onions are soft but not browned then add garlic making sure not to burn it. Allow to cool about 5 mins and add to cheese mixture and mix thoroughly.

Take your first leaf, and place a heaping spoon of the mixture at the smaller end. Begin to gently roll, tucking in the sides (like rolling an egg roll). When you reach the end place the bundle in a casserole dish seam side down, tightly pack the dish with the rest of the rolls. Pour your tomatoes over the top of the rolls, cover with foil and bake at 350F for, ohhh, lets say 35-40 minutes.

Now, I am a big fan of stuffed cabbage cooked in a tangy tomato sauce, I don't see why you couldn't use swiss chard in place of the cabbage. Go ahead, try it!