Sunday, March 29, 2020

There is Always Room for Dessert; Day 14, Quarantine Kitchen

Two weeks in, and tonight is Take Out night; we are ordering from one of our favorite local Italian places.  So, I decided to use up the mascarpone in the fridge and make Tiramisu.  Fortunately, when I did my expired food clean out before the quarantine, I had LOTS of ladyfingers (which have the shelf life of a Twinkie) so I figured I was in good shape.  My son Ryan is part of a CBS radio show in Indiana, highlighting Indiana University sports and basketball in particular.  One of his co-hosts has been asking me to FEDEX him some Tiramisu, but I figured that this would suffice since it's so easy anyone can make it.  So here goes, Coach Tonsoni, buon appetito!

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups espresso or double-strength brewed coffee** 
1/2 cup creme de Cacao or Kahlua
6 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone
3 packages Italian ladyfingers
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar mixed with 1/4 cup cocoa powder for garnish
chocolate curls or grated semi-sweet chocolate for garnish

Add 1/4 cup creme de cacao to the espresso and pour into a shallow bowl. Set aside.
In a glass or metal bowl, over simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and cook over high heat until the yolks register 150 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer.  Cool the eggs to room temperature.  

While the yolks are cooling, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  Add the mascarpone and remaining creme de cacao, and beat into the whipped cream. 

Whisk in the egg yolk mixture, and taste for creme de cacao, add a few tablespoons more if needed.  The liqueur flavor will be more pronounced the longer the creme ages.  

Dip the ladyfingers into the coffee mixture quickly and transfer to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, until you have a full layer. 

Spread the ladyfingers with half the creme, covering the ladyfingers. 
Dip the remaining ladyfingers into the coffee mixture and spread over the creme.  Cover with the remaining creme. 

Sprinkle with the confectioner's sugar mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 36 hours.  Garnish with grated chocolate or chocolate curls. 
**Cook's Note:  Sometimes you might need more coffee, if the ladyfingers absorb too much, no worries, just make another cup.  
As we head into our third week here in San Diego, we are becoming more and more adjusted to staying home, and only leaving to take walks and the occasional grocery run. Stay well and stay safe everyone. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

More Soup, Day 13, Quaratine Kitchen

Day 13 and I've got the slow cooker out.  It's a good day to make some soup, possibly for dinner, and then enough to freeze, or give to friends.  We still haven't decided if this is a take-out night.
I had grilled polish sausage for lunch the other day and had leftovers so they are the basis of the soup, along with a mirepoix, a bit of chicken broth, some thyme, and salt and pepper.  You can change this up and use lentils, split peas, or black-eyed peas.  I've made this soup without any meat, or I've made it with bacon, when there hasn't been any sausage to add.  This entire vat of soup can be made for under $5 and will give you at least 8 cups of soup.  Pair that with bread and salad, and you've got a great meal for your family.

Diced polish sausage, onion, celery, carrot, split peas and thyme; ready for broth

Split Pea Soup
Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 cups diced polish sausage, kielbasa or bratwurst
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound (16 ounces) dried split peas
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil, saute the sausage until it begins to color.  Add the onion, celery, carrots, and thyme, and saute until the onion is softened.
Rinse the split peas, and pick over for stones.  Add to the vegetable mixture, and stir in the broth.  

Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, adding more broth if needed.
Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.
Slow-Cooker Savvy: Saute all the ingredients, transfer to the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients, and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
We had the soup with some cornbread; the rest will go in the freezer, and we'll enjoy it another day. 
Stay safe and stay well.  

Friday, March 27, 2020

Key Lime Pie, Quarantine Kitchen, Day 12

This 3 year old lime tree, is a survivor, and I think that's a metaphor for our lives right now.  Self-isolating is tough for everyone; Dr. C. and I have tried hard to adhere to all the guidelines, taking walks, reading, and I've been cooking.  About 1 year after we'd planted this lime tree, it lost almost all its leaves, and we were sure we'd lost it.  But, with some TLC, this tree has risen from the ashes to produce 5 limes this year, and now we've got an abundance of blossoms and with that little tiny limes.  I guess this guy decided to bloom where he's planted, as we should.  So, with our dinner of pulled pork tonight, I decided key lime pie would be the best way to use these little guys.  Of course, G&T's would also be appropriate.
I had some lime juice in the freezer and used these guys to amp up the lime juice along with using a bit of lime oil instead of lime zest, which I think is usually bitter and doesn't enhance the flavor of the pie.

Key Lime Pie
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups graham cracker or cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray.  
  2. In a bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar, salt, and butter until blended.  
  3. Press into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. 
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Set aside.  

I'm not a fan of graham crackers, so decided to try these for the crust; one package did the trick

Crushed with a rolling pin in a zip-lock bag

Just add butter and sugar

Baked---it will shrink from the sides

4 large egg yolks
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime oil 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped stiffly

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored,, this may take about 5 minutes.  

before beating
5 minutes
Add the sweetened condensed milk, and beat another 2 minutes, stir in the lime juice and lime oil (if using) 

Light and airy
Pour into the pie shell, and bake another 15 to 17 minutes, until the center is set, yet a bit of a wobble---it will firm up in the fridge. 

Cool completely, cover and refrigerate.  Serve cold with copious amounts of unsweetened whipped cream and garnish with lime slices.   
A little slap-dash with the whipped cream, but it was glorious
Stay safe and stay well.   

Day 11, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Into day 12 here at Casa Phillips.  I've been feeding a sourdough starter every day (don't ask) I have no idea what it will turn out to be, all I can say is I've transferred it to several different (larger) containers because it keeps growing.  I've been following a lot of cooks on Facebook, and they actually name their starters--I haven't gotten that far, since I haven't bonded with this particular food. Dr. C. thinks we ought to claim it on our income taxes.   
Tomorrow night, our kids will be able to come over for dinner, they have been self-quarantined like we have, and so I thought I'd cook a pork shoulder for pulled pork, and they can have the leftovers, since this baby is over 8 pounds.  
8 pounds of pork perfection from Siesels Meats
Several days ago, I made a stop at my favorite meat market here in San Diego.  They are still open and stocked up.  I'm trying to support local businesses here, and bought the pork that I would need.
Figure that you will get 1/2 the amount of usable meat once your have cooked it.  The rest is water, and fat that melts off.  
This is my rub, it's half rub, half brown sugar.  I've tried to clone the one used at Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Alabama.  

Fill the bottom of the slow cooker with onions; you don't need any liquid, you should get 4 cups of liquid once the pork is done.
Rub this baby on the outside, and inside.  I don't do BBQ sauce till I serve it, since BBQ sauce will be too diluted after cooking.  (Remember that 4 cups of liquid)
Tight fit
The Cover just barely fits---I wrote a book on Slow Cooking, and I tell people NEVER do this.  I confess I did it!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Serves 6 to 8

Two medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon salt
One 6 to 8-pound boneless pork shoulder

  1. Put the onions into the slow cooker.   
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, celery seeds and salt.  
  3. Rub all over the pork shoulder, and set on top of the onions.  Cook on high for 6 hours, or on low for 12 hours.  At the end of the cooking time, remove from the slow cooker.  
  4. When cool enough to handle, remove all the fat, and shred the pork.  Serve on potato rolls with BBQ sauce and slaw. 
  5. Cook's Note:  Once the meat is shredded, you can store it in the fridge for 3 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.  
  6. You can use the meat for tacos, soups, pasta sauce, sandwiches, and casseroles.  If you want to reheat in BBQ sauce, you can do that on low for 4 hours, high for 2 hours.  I'd use about 3 cups of sauce for 8 pounds of meat---you will get 8 cups of shredded pork from 8 pounds of meat---translating to 4 pounds of usable meat.  
  7. There will also be at least 4 cups of pork broth, which you can freeze as well. Cool the broth, refrigerate, scrape off the fat, and then freeze. This would be amazing for bean soups.  
falling apart tender

Remove all the fat, and shred or cut into chunks

Everyone has their favorite BBQ sauce, and far be it from me to dissuade you from your fave, ours is Big Bob Gibson's red sauce, which we love.  

Today is take out Thursday, and we are trying to figure out what we want to eat, while this pork is simmering away.  Stay safe and stay home.  

Soup is Good Food, Day 12, Quarantine Kitchen

Many years ago, I had the privilege of being a student in several classes with Marcella Hazan.  She was larger than life in many ways, and I chronicled the classes here.  She brought authentic Italian food to the US when she invited New York Times columnist Craig Claiborne for lunch. 
Marcella's recipes were simple, that's really the basis for Italian and most of Mediterranean cooking: simple ingredients to produce extraordinary results. 
Today I had about 3 cups of cooked broccoli sitting in the fridge, Dr. C. had gone out for a motorcycle ride, and I found this recipe for Marcella's Broccoli and Potato Soup....I urge you to make it, it's simple, comforting and delicious. It's also a great way to get rid of leftovers.  I've adjusted the recipe from the original since I didn't have the same quantities called for in the original recipe.  This will serve 4 nicely.

Broccoli and Potato Soup
Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cubed Yukon gold or red potatoes
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups cooked broccoli
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper

In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of butter with the oil.  Saute the onion over medium-high heat, until almost caramelized--this will take about 5 to 7 minutes. 

Add the garlic and cook another minute. 
Add the potatoes, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the potatoes have begun to color. 

Add the broth (if you have uncooked broccoli, add it now, otherwise, wait till the end of the cooking time)

Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. 

Add the cooked broccoli, simmer another 5 minutes, add the remaining butter and Parmigiano, season with salt and pepper, and serve warm.

During this time of self-isolation, it's sometimes the simplest things that make me happy; simple dinners, a glass of great wine, and the company of Dr. C.  Praying you all are safe and well. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Got Peanut Butter? Day 6

As we came to day 6, I was back in the kitchen thinking about recipes I have loved, but don't make very often, since there are only 2 of us in the house.  For some reason, peanut butter was on my mind, and since there are no pistachios for me to make pistachio shortbread, and chocolate was also calling my name  so, Peanut Butter Brownies were made.  These are pretty much pantry brownies, made in the saucepan and they are sinful.  Buon appetito!

Peanut Butter Brownies
Makes about 16 squares

1 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate.  Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is melted.  (You can also microwave the butter and chocolate for 2 minutes until the chocolate is melted)
  3. Stir in the eggs, until combined. 
  4. Add the flour, and stir to blend, until the flour disappears in the mixture.  
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Cool completely.  

For the Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
few tablespoons milk or water

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and peanut butter.  
  2. Add the sugar, and beat until a creamy consistency, adding some milk or water to thin if necessary.  
  3. Frost the cooled brownies, cut into squares are serve.  
  4. The brownies will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 1 week.  

Sugar, chocolate, and butter (I microwaved on high for 2 minutes)

Baked brownies

Frosting!  Make sure to lick the bowl😉

Dr. C. came in from a motorcycle ride and found a great snack
So it's day 8 today for us.  Last night we ordered Vietnamese food from one of our favorite local places. It's important for us to support local restaurants and businesses because we want them here when this is over. 
As we were eating, I thought how different this self-isolation would have been 30 years ago, with no internet, Amazon, or technology.  We'd be re-reading books, we'd be doing puzzles, playing board games, and probably writing the great American novel.  Today I think I'll try my hand at making surgical masks--check out Joann fabrics, there is a great tutorial---if I can find some interfacing, I'm in business.
Remember, stay safe and stay home.  

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Focaccia Chronicles; Quarantine Kitchen

Mix the flour, water, oil, yeast and salt together
So on my last flight from New York to San Diego, I binge-watched episodes of the Great British Baking Show, and two episodes of the Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.  The Fat episode takes place in Italy, and the focaccia that host Samin Nosrat made in Liguria intrigued me.  Focaccia is something I love, but frankly, knowing the time it takes with a long slow rise, coupled with the fact I'm not a baker, I don't make it at home.  But, that has all changed since we have been in self-isolation.  So the fact that I have lots of time, and the ingredients and that dinner at my Italian friends' house on Saturday night included some of the best focaccia I'd ever had, I knew that I wanted to give it a try. 
The recipe is here.  This is really simple to make. It requires an overnight rise, and then a bit of fiddling to get it into the pan.  Other than that it's pretty much a no-brainer.  Make sure to use a high-quality olive oil, I use the organic from Cuore Verde which you can buy from Enoteca Properzio.  And, use a flaky sea salt like Maldon for the finishing. 
Without further ado, here are the focaccia chronicles of days 4 and 5. 

3 hours in
Good Morning!
Rub the pan with olive oil (I used foil on the pan for ease of cleanup--my sheet pans are a mess)

Scrape onto the oiled pan

Add caption

pour oil over the dough

spread the dough over the pan

Make indentations in the dough with your knuckles
pour the brine over the dough
sprinkle with salt and I used some rosemary

Really hot oven


As many of you know, here in California, we have been advised to stay home, and not go out.  I'd ask you to heed all the warnings from your state officials and the health officials at CDC and NIH.  If they say don't go out, don't do it.  Your health and the health of those that you come in contact with are paramount at this time.  Stay well everyone, and keep on cooking.