Monday, July 25, 2011

Felt Gone Wild

My friend Alexis over at Fern and Feather gave me the idea for this cool felt wall to make for our Granddaughter Poppy's 2nd here to see Alexis' finished work of art.  She's much more clever than I, and as I told Dr. C. I can cook myself into oblivion but I've never been an artist, or had any artistic capabilities, but I wanted to make Poppy something rather than buy her something that won't last, and thought this would be a fun way to play make-believe with her, without the aid of electronics. 
So, for the past week, as we've been watching the Padres sink further into the cellar, I've been cutting felt and pasting googly eyes onto the figures for her wall.
Yesterday I made a few of the characters from Yo Gabba Gabba and plan to finish the set this week.  My plan is to mount the green and blue background on foam core, and we will put it beneath a window in her room---I'm hoping to do 4 of them, so we can have them be seasonal, or maybe even do a princess themed one for Christmas.

So this is the wall so far, and I'm working towards getting it done by the end of the week---I'll be back later with some food, but for now Happy Monday! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shrimply Irresistable

I've loved shrimp as long as I can remember; I could wax poetically about shrimp dishes I've loved just like Bubba in the movie Forest Gump, when he tells Forest how many ways you can make shrimp.
I'm particularly fond of shrimp salads and shrimp cocktail in the summertime.  Shrimp arrive in our markets here in California frozen; the shrimp that may look fresh in the case, is really frozen and defrosted.  When buying, buy the shrimp that's frozen, at least that way you'll know you're defrosting it.  I always have shrimp in the freezer, and today was one of those days when I felt like a shrimp salad, and had some leftover lobster roll buns from Bread & Cie here in San Diego.  So, Dr. C and I feasted for lunch, drowning our sorrows when the Padres lost to the really is our losing season. 

 Shrimp and Dill Salad
Serves 4
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 teaspoon fresh snipped dill (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and chopped
grated zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients, adding more mayonnaise if desired.  
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on a bed of lettuce or in a toasted roll.  
A toasted roll really perks this up

As I tell Dr. C. you cannot rush a toasted roll!
Shrimp Roll with Potato Salad....ahhh summer!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sounds of Summer

The sounds of summer in most of the country are sizzles right now; with temperatures over 100 degrees in many places, the snap from the tab of a can of beer, is a welcome sound for many during these impossibly hot days.  Beer is actually a terrific ingredient for summer meals, and the most famous way to use beer is to make beer can chicken, and yes, it works, and yes, it's delicious.  The premise is that the beer steams inside the chicken while it gets crispy on the outside, and remains moist and tender on the inside.  

Beer Can Chicken
Serves 4
1/2 cup all-Purpose Barbecue Rub (either homemade or store bought)
1/4 cup olive oil
One 3 to 4 pound chicken, rinsed in cold water, and dried thoroughly
One 12-ounce can Beer or ale

  1. Combine the rub and oil and rub into the skin of the chicken and into the center of the chicken.  Preheat a gas grill.   
  2. Open the beer, remove the tab and using a can opener remove the entire top of the beer can, and pour yourself 1/2 cup.   
  3. Hold the bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, and lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. 
  4. Pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright with the can being part of the tripod. 
  5. Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back. 
  6. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place the chicken in the center of the grill, cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked to 170 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer.   
  7. Remove the chicken from the can, and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes, and cut into serving pieces.  You can roast up to 3 chickens on a 4-burner grill. 

Serve the chicken with your favorite sauce, potato salad, and your favorite sides.  
I know I've been a bit of a slacker this week, I've been doing some testing in the kitchen and promise to share more next week, until then enjoy your weekend, and keep cool. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's Greek to Me

I love street food, and a gyros is one that particularly entices me; what's not to love? Garlic, oregano, a hint of lemon mixed with lamb, and beef, then topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce, and a green salad in a red wine vinaigrette---it's the perfect summertime meal.  When I was testing recipes for Slow Cooker, The Best Cookbook Ever  I made gyros meatballs and they were terrific, but you could also make them into meatloaf or into burgers for the grill.  I found a gyros meatloaf in the freezer on Thursday night (we call these nights "freezer surprises") and made it into pita sandwiches for Dr. C and I---it was terrific.  Here's the basic recipe and I hope you'll try it for your next party of get together. 

Gyros Meatloaf/Meatballs/Burgers
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 pound lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in the palm of your hand
2 slices bread, crust removed, torn into pieces
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest of one lemon
½ cup finely chopped parsley
Oil for frying (if making meatballs)

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients stirring to combine.  Using a scoop, form into 2-inch balls, or two meat loaves 6-inches long by 3-inches wide, or burgers about 5-inches in diameter and refrigerate until ready to cook.    
  2. For meatballs, heat 1-inch of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the meatballs until they are crisp and golden brown and cooked through.  Remove to a rack to drain and cool.  Serve either warm or at room temperature with cucumber yogurt sauce. 
  3. For meat loaves, bake the loaves on a rack in a baking pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  4. For burgers, preheat the grill for 10 minutes, and grill over direct heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until the burgers are cooked to your desired degree of doneness. 
I sauteed the meatloaf to give it that crispy crust that I love--it's optional!
Heat up the pita in a non-stick skillet like Scanpan
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce 
Makes about 3 cups
1 European cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups Greek Style yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white pepper 
  1. Put the cucumber in a colander and toss with the salt.  Drain for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, dill, vinegar, oil, and pepper until blended. 
  3. Fold the cucumber into the yogurt mixture.
  4. Do-Ahead: At this point, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4 days.Stir before serving cold. 

Great with toasted (leftover) pita wedges, over roasted lamb, or chicken this is a great all-purpose sauce, and you can even use it to dip your favorite veggies.  

Dr. C. had fresh tomatoes on his, I'm allergic to fresh tomatoes (but not cooked---go figure) so this one was mine, his was half-way finished by the time I got the camera out!  
Hope you all have a terrific weekend; I'm into phase two of my quest for the perfect pizza dough--will be back to tell you all about it next week.  Ciao!

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's In the Bag!

Once again, the crew at Specialty Produce put together another amazing bag of produce for me to play with in the kitchen at Great News.  From the front left, rainbow micro greens, grape tomatoes, freckles lettuce, okra, concord grapes, rainbow Swiss chard, French melon (to die for) and white peaches.  A terrific assortment of the freshest produce from local farms.  I've got a few more recipes to share with you to use some of this enjoy!

Harvest Grape Focaccia
Makes one 13-by-9-inch pan

Rosemary, Lemon Zest Oil for Focaccia

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
Grated zest of one Sorrento Lemon

1. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the rosemary and lemon zest.
2. Swirl in the pan one minute, and remove from the heat. Allow to cool and steep for at least 1 hour.
3. Pour into a bottle and seal, refrigerate until needed, or proceed. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For the Focaccia

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup rosemary, lemon zest oil (above)
1 cup Concord seedless grapes, halved or quartered if large
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon fleur de sel for finishing

Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons Rosemary Lemon zest oil in the bottom.
Combine the water, salt, flour, yeast, and 2 tablespoons oil, beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it becomes puffy.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger creating dimples and arrange the grapes and raisins over the top, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with some fleur de sel.

Bake the bread till it's golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chilled French Melon Soup with Key Lime Crème Fraiche
Serves 4

1 cup water
1/2 cup packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 pounds French melon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup Reisling or Gewurztraminer
1/2 cup crème fraiche

In a small saucepan combine the water, mint, 2 tablespoons lime juice and sugar.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Let stand for 15 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve, and cool. 
Puree the cantaloupe with some of the syrup in a food processor or blender, in two batches, and stir into a large bowl after it is pureed. 
Stir in the wine and chill for at least 2 hours. 
Stir the remaining lime juice into the creme fraiche.  Serve the soup with a small dollop of crème fraiche in the center, and garnish with any extra mint leaves. 
Wishing you a weekend filled with surprises and great food. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Metric Conversion Nightmare

Ever have one of those days?  Yesterday was mine....I am finishing the edit on my next book that will be due out in September, 2012 and the publisher wants all measurements in standard US and metric equivalents.  They don't know that I can't add, and that my check book is only balanced because of Quicken.  Being the type of cook who rarely measures, unless I'm testing recipes, this makes me a square peg trying to fit into the round hole--not fun, and uncomfortable to say the least.  Yesterday after trying to weigh chopped onions, and shallots, and tomatoes, and bell peppers, and carrots, and then weigh packed basil and parsley and then weight chopped herbs, I was about to do some primal screaming.  Fortunately, my copy editor is the most patient woman on the planet, and held my hand as I tried to make sense of the diverse readings I was getting with each ingredient, weighing some up to 5 times.  UGH!
The kitchen was full of bits of onion, basil, and the other ingredients, and I was not being neat as the photos will attest.  So what do I do with all these onions?  Since it was Bastille day, I made a fig and onion jam that is dynamite to serve with pork, or to dollop over goat cheese on baguettes.  In the Dordogne they serve this with foie gras.....amazing! 
Fig and Onion Confit
Makes about 4 cups

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 to 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups dried figs, coarsely chopped (I had Mission figs)
1/2 to 3/4 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the onions and brown sugar, until the onions begin to turn translucent.

Add the figs, and cook another 10 minutes, add the vinegar, and cook another 20 minutes, uncovered, until the mixture is thickened. 

Taste for seasoning, and add more vinegar if needed.  (This will depend on the quality of your vinegar, if it is sweet to begin with you may need a bit more to give it some zip)

Cool the mixture, store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

The day wasn't a total loss, I was able to get through the measuring, and then did an Excel Spread Sheet for the measurements to make it easier for me, and the next unsuspecting author that has to do wasn't fun, but I know that my readers in other countries will be able to convert the recipes easily with these measurements in the book.
Tomorrow I'm teaching the Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag Class at Great News in the morning, and I'll be back with a few recipes for you to try this weekend using some of the amazing produce we have in the bag this week, until then have a great day!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Curds and Whey

My pal Mary Karlin came into town this weekend to teach two great classes at Great News.  Mary has written two amazing books, Wood Fired Grilling and her latest due out in August is Artisan Cheese making at Home .  Saturday Mary taught a class grilling with artisan cheeses (awesome) and today she taught a hands on Intermediate Cheese making.  I don't teach hands on classes, I'm too much of a control freak, but Mary and the staff at Great News did an amazing job helping 25 students make 4 cheeses.  Cheese making is really magical....adding acid and culture to the milk and creating cheese right before your eyes.  If you have the opportunity to take one of Mary's classes, I urge you to do it; she's such a great teacher and resource, and this cheese making thing can be addictive!  Here are a few photos from our class. 
Happy in the kitchen
That's a lot of milk!
Caitlin helps Leonard with the curds
The women from table 3 stirring it up!

Bettina and the gang at table 4
Scooping the curds into the cheesecloth

Scooping the last pieces up
Draining the cheese
Pressing the ricotta salata

Chef Mary cutting the curds with table 5
 We have lift-off ---Feta Curds!
Finished Feta curds!
Bettina and Jessica are THE BEST!!!  Thanks girls!
Lots of cooks in the kitchen.......and lots of curds and whey and lots of fun! 
Cheese making is simple and with some instruction you can have a great time making your own cheese.  Mary's coming back to Great News in October, and I hope you'll come on down and try your hand at making your own cheese, it's a great way to spend an afternoon.  I'll be back later this week, until then I wish you a buona notte from San Diego.