Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Baseball is Back, I Still Don't Know What Day it is, so It's Ballpark Food

Baseball is back; albeit with empty stadiums, or those filled with cardboard cutouts behind the plate and down the right and left side of the fields.  My favorite has been the Korean baseball teams that had stuffed animals in the stands---
I've got a crush on these Teddy bears, check them out on FB or Instagram. 
So, having a sports writer for a son, and a dad who dragged us to every brand of sports in Boston, you join in.  As a kid, my dad would make us keep score so that he knew we were paying attention. 
For our dining pleasure on Sunday afternoon, while we were watching the Padres vs the Diamond Backs, I decided we could imitate being at the game and I'd make sausage and peppers.  This is a pretty simple dish, but it can go so wrong, with the wrong sausage.  Use Italian sausage for this, no breakfast links, or bratwurst or Andouille---it just doesn't work. 

Sausage and Peppers
Serves 6

2 pounds Italian sausage (I use sweet, as I'm not fond of spicy sausage in this)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, like Vidalia---you'll need about 2 cups, thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced yellow, orange and red bell peppers, or Italian long frying peppers (see note 1)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/4 cup tomato puree or chopped tomatoes (see note 2)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

Put the sausage and water into a microwavable dish, cover, and cut a few vent holes in the plastic wrap.  Cook for 5 minutes on high.  You can also do this on the stove top in skillet.  What you are doing here, is almost cooking the sausage through--it takes less time that doing them in a skillet on the stove top and the sausage is juicier.  
Preheat the grill or a grill pan, and grill the microwaved sausages, until they are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly.  Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil, add the onion, and saute until it begins to turn translucent.


Add the peppers, and oregano, season with salt and pepper. saute until the peppers are softened.  


Add the tomatoes, basil and parsley, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the sausages back into the pan, and simmer another 5 minutes.  


Season with salt and pepper, serve on soft Italian rolls and pretend you are in the stands cheering on your team.  
Cook's Note 1:  It can be difficult to find Italian peppers, they are long and thin, and authentic for these sandwiches, but they can be hard to find outside of a metropolitan area.  Here in San Diego, Specialty Produce has them in stock. They tend to cook up faster since they have a thinner skin.  If you can't find them, colored bell peppers work really well here, as you can see.  Don't use green peppers, the flavor just isn't what you want.  
Cook's Note 2:  At the ball park you might not get peppers with tomatoes, because they are making the peppers and onion on a flat top grill.  It's up to you whether you use the tomatoes or not---we like it this way, but it's really a personal taste decision.

So our team lost, and I decided that sausage and peppers was a bad luck lunch, but that doesn't mean that I won't make it again since it's summer and there is a baseball.  ⚾

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Whatever Day it is; Kitchen Quarantine, Old School Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I confessed in another post that cookies are my downfall---given an empty house, I would eat every cookie I could find.  One of my favorite store-bought cookies is Tates' Bakeshop Chocolate Chip cookies.  These are crisp chocolate chip cookies, that stain your chin with buttery goodness.  
The recipe for these cookies in the Tate's Bakeshop Bakery Cookbook doesn't produce a crisp cookie---I've tried my darndest to get them there, but they don't get to that crispy consistency.  BUT, the good news, I've finally gotten their recipe to a point that I love them (which is unfortunate since I can't stop eating them). These cookies are thin, with a crispy edge, but a chewy center.  The other night I made them, and even our son, who is the chocolate chip cookie monster said they were my best effort ever.  Cook's Note here, we are more partial to milk chocolate chips in these cookies, but you can use semi-sweet or white chocolate in them if you prefer.  The other note is that using salted butter gave me a more flavorful cookie---go figure after years of culinary school, and teaching, it seems that salted butter in cookies has resulted in Nirvana.  

Chocolate Chippers
Depending on the scoop you use, this should make 36 to 48 cookies

1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
8 ounces milk chocolate chips (I've used Ghirardelli and Guittard with great results)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with silicone, aluminum foil, or parchment.  
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.  
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat till smooth. 
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, and chocolate chips, beating on low speed until just combined. 
  5. Using a portion scoop, or a tablespoon, form the dough into balls and place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.  
  6. Wet your hands, and press down on the cookies, bake for 10 minutes, reverse the baking sheets and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the edges are golden brown, and the center are set.  
  7. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool and store in airtight containers.  
  8. Cook's Note:  This recipe was adapted from the Tates Bake Shop Cookbook.
  9. If you only have unsalted butter, add 1 1/2 teaspoon salt to the recipe. 


So, I have no idea what day it is in our quarantine, but I do know that we are in, and when we go out we wear masks, and we social distance.  That is the only way we can flatten the curve.  After the 4th of July, I realized that we'd have 2 weeks till the next wave happened, and here we are in California, basically closed down again.  Stay safe and stay well.   


Monday, June 29, 2020

Getting Cheesy; No Idea What Day it is; Quarantine Kitchen

I know that's not cheese, they are blackberries, and I was fortunate enough to find some amazing blackberries this week, and then decided it was time to make a sauce out of them.  So, then I needed something to put the sauce on. 
I've been helping a family who lost a loved one, making a few Sunday dinners for them.  It's been therapeutic for me, and I hope it's taken the stress off of them.  When making these meals I want to make it as simple as possible, so the main just gets a heat up in the oven, and the desserts can just be served, so cheesecake it is.  This recipe was given to me when I was newly married, over 48 years ago, and it's been a keeper ever since.  I've made other cheesecakes, but this one is still my go-to.  Cheesecakes are magic, you get a smooth, creamy, delicious filling on top of a crunchy crust, and they can be frozen with no problem at all. 


Sour Cream Cheesecake Bars
Serves about 10
Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
To make the crust, in a large bowl, combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the dish.  Set aside.
Cream Cheese Filling
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese softened
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract

With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat until the filling is smooth. Pour into the crust and bake until set, 35 to 40 minutes.

Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meanwhile, make the topping. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. 
When the cheesecake is done, remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400° F.  Spread the sour cream mixture over the hot cheesecake and return to the oven for 5 minutes. 
Remove from the oven and immediately cut into squares. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Do-Ahead: At this point, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 2 months.
Cook’s Note: Cutting the cheesecake while it’s hot is much easier than cutting it when it’s cooled and solid.  I recommend you do this with a chef’s knife or bench scraper and make one long cut down each row, wiping the knife after each cut. 


Blackberry Sauce
4 cups blackberries, washed and picked over for leaves
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup orange juice

In a saucepan combine the ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Cool and serve the sauce over ice cream, cheesecakes, or chocolate cake.  
As we begin another week, Dr. C. and I are staying home this week, I've stocked up on groceries, and snacks, and we won't go out except to take our walks.  He had his first cataract surgery last week, and this week we need to make sure that he has a negative Covid test on Sunday, so he can have his next surgery on Tuesday.  So staying home is our jam.  Stay safe, stay well, and wear a mask. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Quarantine Kitchen, Gaining the Covid 19


Cookies are my downfall; if they are here, I'm like Cookie Monster, I'll eat them all.  Which brings me to the Covid-19...those pounds we are packing on by baking and cooking enormous amounts of food.  Recently I've been on the lookout for a really delicious sugar cookie---I want a cookie I don't have to roll out, soft, chewy, buttery, and satisfying.  I've tried a few recipes, then ran across this one on the Cooks Illustrated website.  I made then once using unsalted butter, and they left me flat, so the next time I made them I used salted butter that was leftover from an early Costco run when they were out of unsalted butter.  These are my cookie; everything I was looking for, and I really can't stop eating them. They will make an amazing ice cream sandwich cookie, too.  That was my motivation for trying some recipes, I'd been to a restaurant in LA with our son who was doing a review, and the best part of the meal was the ice cream sandwich made with some amazing sugar cookies sandwiched with strawberry ice cream.  So with Father's Day around the corner, and July 4th coming up, these are the perfect cookies.  

Soft Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 cup salted butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line baking sheets with silicone, aluminum foil, or parchment. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until the mixture comes together. 
Add the flour and baking powder, and stir until blended.  
Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, roll in the sugar, and place on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  

Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten the cookies, and bake for 7 minutes, reverse the baking sheets and bake an additional 7 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges, and just set.  


Cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  
Cook's Note:  If you only have unsalted butter you will need 1 teaspoon of salt.  
I hope you are all safe and well.  Until next time, wishing you a great weekend.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

What Day is It? Quarantine Kitchen; Pasta Alla Norma

Almost three weeks ago, I lost a dear friend; we had traveled together with our spouses, and she had led my last tour to Sicily in April 2019.  I've had her and her family on my heart and on my mind this week---somehow I feel her loving presence nearby in many ways, and today I was remembering our time in Palermo.
Dr. C. and I have lost 7 friends all to non-Covid related illnesses, and this has been a tough time.  Tonight, it was time to get back in the kitchen, and so tonights' meatless Wednesday was a typical dish you will find in many restaurants in Sicily, Pasta all Norma.  This is a dish that is almost ready while the pasta water is boiling.  I made a pilgrimage to my favorite Italian store today and bought ricotta salata to make this truly authentic. 

Pasta Alla Norma
Serves 6

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt
One pound penne, or other shaped pasta like rigatoni, cooked 2 minutes short of al dente reserving some of the hot pasta water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped 
pinch red pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, or tomato puree
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crumbled Ricotta Salata with more for garnish

Put the eggplant into a colander, and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes then squeeze out any moisture.  
In a large skillet, heat the oil, saute the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, until the onion is translucent.  

                               Add the eggplant, and saute until the eggplant begins to brown.  
Add the tomatoes, basil, and parsley simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  


Add the ricotta salata, and cook another 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  
Toss the pasta with the sauce, add some of the pasta if needed, and serve garnished with additional ricotta salata, or shredded Pecorino Romano cheese.  
This is a great meatless dish to add to your repertoire, and eggplant is now in season, so it's easy to find beautiful eggplants at your farmer's market.  
I hope that you all are staying safe and well, and I'll be back soon.  Wear a mask; it's a show of love for others.