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Archive for October, 2008

Two nights ago, Boston Red Sox fans were cursing at their TV, their team, and those pesky Tampa Bay Rays (née Devil Rays). After losing game one of the ALDS, the Rays have absolutely spanked the Sox. Up until the seventh inning on Thursday, the Rays were winning 7-0 and it looked like the Rays would clinch the Pennant and be headed to the World Series. But in true Red Sox fashion, the team staged a comeback to end all comebacks and won game five 8-7.

Tonight the Sox face in Rays in their house. This is not only troubling because the Rays are 9-2 against the Sox at home, but also because TB fans have a fetish for cowbell and thunderstix. As if the clangor of noisemakers was not enough, tonight we have the added pleasure of another 9 innings of Chip Caray’s brilliant (snicker) broadcasting.

I know there are a lot of Sox haters out there, but what are you going to do, root for Tampa Bay?!?!?! What has Florida contributed to the culinary world besides o.j. and key lime pie? Well la-de-frick-in-da. Show your appreciation for this state, without us there would be no Boston cream pie, Fluff, chocolate chip cookies, Thanksgiving (!), and New England Clam Chowder.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 c. diced yellow onions
  • 1 c. diced carrots
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 2 c. fresh chopped clams (not canned, you can probably get this for about $5 prepackaged in the fish section of your grocery store)
  • 4 c. clam juice
  • 3 c. fish stock
  • 3 c. potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 c. light cream
  • 8 Tb. flour (divided)
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • Red wine vinegar

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium low heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to a small dish using a slotted spoon, reserving fat.
  2. Cook the onion, carrots, and celery in bacon fat until softened, but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 3 Tb. flour to the vegetables, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Cook for about 3 minutes. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if it is really sticky and dry.
  4. Pour in fish stock and clam juice. Its also fine to do all clam juice if you can’t find fish stock. I have subbed half vegetable stock before to save money and it was fine.
  5. Bring to a boil and add potatoes and thyme. Reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are done.
  6. Stir in clams, reserved bacon bits, and light cream. Season with salt and pepper. Heat slowly on low.
  7. In a separate saucepan, make the roux. Melt 4 Tb. butter and add 5 Tb. flour to it. Cook over low heat until brown. Take a couple ladles of liquid from the soup pot and whisk it into the roux. This will thin it out and make it easier to add to the chowder. Add the thinned out roux into the chowder, stirring constantly. Don’t let the chowder boil!
  8. Stir in a drop or two of red wine vinegar before serving.

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My post about pizza was only two entries ago, but my second attempt warranted its own post. Instead of baking two thick, bready pizzas in the oven, I was able to thinly stretch that same amount of dough into four thin-crust rounds to be cooked on the grill. Two pizzas were left simple with just homemade sauce and mozzarella. The third pizza I topped with goat cheese, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and grilled chicken. The fourth pizza was topped with sliced black olives, pepperocini, and chicken. Grilling the pizzas was quicker than oven baking and yielded a crispier crust.

The homemade pizza sauce is simply tomato paste, onions, wine, and spices. See the recipe here

Delicious caramelized onions

Before putting the dough on the grill, brush it with a bit of olive oil. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes, flip, and then top with sauce, cheese and toppings. Cook covered another 5minutes.

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This recipe from Martha Stewart came to me via this blog. I am always on the lookout for inexpensive recipes to add to my repertoire, and this meal delivers, feeding four for about $12 (plus pantry items). Like any good Chinese takeout, this is even better the next day. The recipe, listed below, is modified to reflect how I prepared it.  Sorry about the horrendous photography – it was after dark when I made this.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ lb. beef flank steak (sliced thinly across the grain)*
  • 4 Tb. soy sauce
  • 1 Tb. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb. apple juice
  • ½ tsp. untoasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 Tb. corn starch
  • 2 heads broccoli, trimmed, with florets separated into bite sized pieces
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

* Pop the beef in the freezer for an hour or two before slicing, it makes it easier to slice thinly

Directions

  1. In a large, shallow bowl, mix soy sauce, apple juice, sesame oil, grated ginger, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. Let marinate 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate; reserve marinade.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook meat until lightly browned, turning once, about 2 minutes per batch. Remove meat. Add 1/2 cup water to pan; stir up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour contents of the pan into the reserved marinade; whisk in cornstarch.
  3. In same skillet, fry broccoli in remaining teaspoon oil over high heat until bright green and crisp, tossing often, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water; cook until broccoli is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Stir marinade, add to pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until thickened, 30 seconds. Return meat to pan; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over brown rice or Asian noodles topped with sesame seeds and scallions.

Ingredients all came from the pantry besides beef and broccoli

The thinly sliced steak takes just one minute per side. Remove and sautee the broccoli

Add back in the sauce and beef and you’re done!

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As much as I love to cook, at times my laziness gets the best of me and I, like many others, succumb to the convenience of the pizza parlor across the street. While making my own pie was not nearly as convenient as takeout, it was not the arduous task I envisioned it to be.

Making sauce and cutting up toppings is the easy part. What has always prevented my (and I imagine most others’) success was making the crust. I recall the first time (as a child) being introduced to Boboli and my excitement that came topping the crust with mozzarella and sauce. As I sat in front of the oven window watching the cheese melt and salivating at my creation, there was nothing else in the world that could match my excitement (perhaps besides a new Cabbage Patch Doll or a new episode of Punky Brewster). My hopes and dreams of delicious homemade pizza were shattered at that first bite. Not even a child’s palate could be impressed by the glutenous and impossibly chewy Wonder Bread masquerading as crust. Many disappointments followed with store bought doughs and, given my lame bread making skills, I never dared to try making my own crust. Until now.

While I cannot say I was one hundred percent satisfied with the result, I did make a pretty tasty meal. The pizza dough was easy enough to make, though stretching it was a bit difficult. I made a little “test” pizza first (to check if I was spot on with the oven temperature and baking apparatus) which turned out crispy and delicious. I had slightly more difficulty stretching the dough thinly when it came time to make the big boys, leaving me with a slightly bread-ier result. Nonetheless, it was still tasty and I will use this recipe again taking more care to stretch the dough out thinly.

After cooking the crust for a few minutes sans toppings, I brushed it with some garlic infused olive oil, added a zippy homemade pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and then topped with leftover chicken, kalamata olives (a vice of mine), and thinly sliced roma tomatoes.

Read on for photos and recipes

(more…)

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Summer is undoubtedly my favorite season. I am one of those people you will see wearing shorts and flip flops until the first frost. Summer foods own any other season – strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, corn, blueberries, the ice cream man, coronas, flav r ice… oh, wait, I was talking about fruits and veggies in season. Anyways, one of the only things that get me excited for fall is butternut squash. It’s delicious roasted, in homemade raviolis, mashed, you name it. But I had never made it into a soup until now. It was great! The one thing I will do differently next time is not process it so much in the blender so it will have a little more texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 Tb. butter (optional)
  • ½ c. diced onion
  • ¾ c. diced carrots
  • 1 large apple, cored, peeled, and diced
  • 2 butternut squash, roasted
  • 4 c. vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Ground nutmeg to taste
  • Ground ginger to taste
  • 2 Tb. maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.°
  2. Cut each squash in half and scoop out seeds. Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper then place cut side down in pan. Roast about 40 minutes, until squash is tender. Scoop out the insides when done.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and melt the butter (optional) in a large pot over medium heat. Sautee onions, carrots, and apples until softened.
  4. Add in squash and then pour in vegetable stock, and season with salt, pepper, ginger, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender.
  5. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup mixture until smooth.
  6. Heat through and stir in maple syrup.

Post-puree, heating through

Viola!

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I have used this salad from Allrecipes.com several times for inspiration. I just make it with whatever I have on hand, but the Lemon Poppyseed Dressing is to die for. The recipe makes a pretty large quantity of dressing and it will keep in the fridge for weeks. I try to use lemon juice for the acid base, but it is almost as good with some apple cider vinegar. Here is my interpretation of the recipe (its almost the same).

Ingredients

  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. diced shallots
  • 1 tsp. whole grain mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. light olive oil
  • 1 Tb. poppy seeds
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
  • ½ c. goat cheese crumbles
  • 1 c. toasted pecans
  • ¼ c. dried cranberries
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, shallots, whole grain mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.
  2. In a large serving bowl, toss together the Romaine lettuce, goat cheese cheese, pecans, dried cranberries, and apple. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

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French Bread Rolls

I have only made yeast bread twice. The first time I was still a teenager and it was a disaster. The second time was maybe a year ago, and it just wasn’t worth the effort. I think my inexperience is the cause of my lackluster results so I figured I would try again. Again, this recipe came from Allrecipes.com. I followed it exactly. I don’t think I am cut out to be a bread maker. They were tasty, but not worth the effort. I found they tasted a bit like Bertucci’s rolls, but flatter.

Here is a picture from the Allrecipes website which enticed me to try making them (notice how round and shiny these are):

Here are my pathetic flat rolls:

I would welcome any tips on how to improve. I must be doing something wrong.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 Tb. active dry yeast
  • 2 Tb. white sugar
  • 2 Tb. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 c. bread flour

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. To the yeast mixture, add the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  3. Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, and form into round balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

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Surprise, surprise, this recipe is from Allrecipes.com. I have only ever made one other cheesecake recipe (about 100 times). It was so incredible I have never tried another one, but I figured I would try this out since it went better with the theme of the dinner than my usual white chocolate raspberry swirl (to be shared at a later date).

This turned out truly amazing. It starts out with a graham cracker and pecan crust sweetened with a little bit of sugar and cinnamon. The crust had an incredible flavor. I would definitely experiment and use the crust again for another recipe. Next, it has a traditional cheesecake filling (soo easy). Next, the cake is layered with thinly sliced apples (I used Cortland) tossed in cinnamon in sugar. The apples are then topped off with pecans.

Though the recipe called for a 9 inch pan, I would HIGHLY recommend using a 7 inch pan. Even with the smaller pan, this was still a thin cheesecake. I did not adjust the cooking time for the smaller pan. The first time I ever made cheesecake, I was warned to use a water bath (I don’t even really know the reasoning, so it won’t crack?). Either I would pour the boiling water into the “bath,” and then gingerly try to put the entire two ton thing in the oven without burning myself or slopping it into the cheesecake. Or, in the alternative, I would sit there with the oven door open, letting all the heat escape, trying to pour boiling water into the two inch space between the springform and the “bath,” inevitably splashing it into the cheesecake or on the oven floor. My most vivid water bath nightmare was when my springform pan was not quite sealed entirely. When I eagerly unlatched the springform, expecting to find a crisp crust beneath the silky cheesecake, I was instead met with a wet (not just soggy) crust and soupy cheesecake. Not this time. I decided to throw caution to the wind and skip the water bath altogether and I did not miss it one bit. I did put a small baking dish with boiling water on the lower rack to keep the cheesecake from drying out. Good riddance to the water bath.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ c. finely chopped pecans
  • 3 Tb. white sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ c. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 c. apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ c, chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and melted butter; press into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix at medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla; pour filling into the baked crust.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss the cinnamon-sugar with the apples to coat. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped pecans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes. With a knife, loosen cake from rim of pan. Let cool, then remove the rim of pan. Chill cake before serving.

Right out the oven (sorry a little dark)

Mmm!

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