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Sunday, August 31, 2008

sausage, peppers and fresh mozzarella pasta

sausage pepper pasta

I have a coworker friend who told me about a great sausage and pepper recipe that his family loves which I've been thinking about for some time. I intend to try his actual recipe very soon - it sounds perfect for football Sundays. If I understood him correctly, he takes up to 6 green bell peppers and sautes them over low heat until they've almost caramelized, and with good quality italian sausages cooked up alongside. I had a few peppers, and wanted to try this technique of longer, slower cooking to make the peppers sweeter. With some extra cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, and a couple of fresh sausages, it was a delicious weekday meal that only took about half an hour to make.

Grocery list: 2-3 italian sausages, casings removed, 2 green bell peppers thinly sliced, quartered cherry tomatoes (half a pint or more), cubed fresh mozzarella, handful of chopped fresh basil, 1 pound pasta.

ingredients for sausage pepper pasta

The prep work for this dish was very simple - just slice your vegetables and chop the sausage and mozzarella into bite-size pieces.

sauteed peppers

Start by sauteing the peppers over medium heat in olive oil, for at least 10 minutes, until they start to brown. Cook the pasta according to the package directions (save a little of the cooking water to stir into the cooked pasta along with some olive oil, so you won't need as much oil to keep it from getting sticky).

sausage and peppers

Next, add the sausage and continue to cook until the sausage is cooked through, about 8 minutes more. Then, turn off the heat, and stir in the chopped basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, and pasta. Season well with salt and pepper (and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if you want a little kick).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

four cheese serrano mac & cheese (and cheese, and more cheese)

serrano mac and cheese

Can you ever have too many mac and cheese recipes? My sister told me she tried mincing some serrano peppers (remember her libba burgers??) and sauteing them in the butter she used for making the cheese sauce. Since I have a little serrano pepper plant - producing about 20 new peppers a week (really!), I had to try this. I threw in 4 cheeses, not to be fancy, but just to use up the ends of a bunch of things: cheddar, brie, gouda, parmesan. Some panko bread crumbs on top added some crunch to the rich cheese - perfect!

Grocery list: 3-4 cups shredded cheese, 1 pound dried pasta, 3 cups milk, flour, butter, 1 chopped onion, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 3-5 minced serrano peppers.

serrano garlic onion cheese

It really helps to do the prep work before starting the cheese sauce. Mince the garlic and serranos, and chop the onion. Any soft cheese (like brie) should be diced, and the other sharp cheeses can be shredded.

onions garlic serrano for mac and cheese

Start the roux as usual by melting 4-5 T of butter in a saucepan. Instead of immediately adding the flour, saute the onions, garlic and peppers for about 5 minutes.

roux for serrano mac and cheese

When the onions are transparent, stir in 4-5 T flour - it will turn into a paste. Slowly stir in the milk a little at a time; bring almost to a boil to thicken, then turn the heat down very low. Stir in the cheeses to melt, then remove from heat.

cooking panko

If you want to use the panko crust, melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add 1-2 cups of panko crumbs. Stir occasionally until the panko starts to toast, then remove from heat. Cook the pasta according to the package directions (minus a couple of minutes - it's best to leave it extra al dente, since it will continue to cook in the hot cheese sauce).

serrano mac and cheese to bake

Place the pasta into a large greased casserole dish; sprinkle grated parmesan and panko crumbs over top. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and golden on top.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

turkey, blue cheese and caramelized onion sandwiches

turkey blue cheese caramelized onion sandwich

I found this recipe in the september issue of bon appetit, and decided it would be a lovely way to shake up the weekday turkey sandwich routine. (Havarti with dill and roland extra strong is my "usual" - still lovely no matter how many hundreds I've had by now...) The original recipe calls for arugula mayo - a mix of 1 cup chopped arugula with 3/4 cup mayo - but I skipped it to save time, and just used regular mayo and plenty of fresh arugula in the sandwich.

Grocery list: bread, turkey, a couple of red onions, arugula, mayo, blue cheese crumbles.

caramelizing onions

Slice the red onions and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in 3T red wine vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Assemble your sandwich: toasted bread, as much mayo as you like, turkey, some onions, blue cheese crumbles, topped off with arugula leaves. So easy, and definitely worth the extra 10 minutes of effort.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

vietnamese shaking beef

vietnamese shaking beef

One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is The Slanted Door, a trendy Vietnamese place in the Ferry Building on Embarcadero (I go there for the food, not the trendiness - I've not been there once when the hostess hasn't acted like I should be grateful that they allow me in the door - but I digress). Recently, a friend introduced me to their "shaking beef", which is stir-fried filet mignon cubes with just the simplest of sauces to complement. Someone told me it's called "shaking" due to the way the cook has to shake the pan to quickly sear the meat in the pan. Like everything I've tried at TSD, it's amazing, but never in a million years did I think it's something I could attempt at home. That is, until I came across this full recipe for TSD's version of Shaking Beef on the SF Gourmet blog. I'll let you check out the original, and here I'll post my modified version. Please note that I did NOT use filet mignon, as I'm morally opposed to marinating any cut of meat that costs more than $20/pound. I substituted local ribeye at the suggestion of my butcher, and it was *amazing*.

Grocery list: 1.5 pounds steak, garlic, sugar, salt, canola oil, rice vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce (both light and dark if you have it, if not, just use what you have), fish sauce, lime, 1 bunch green onions, 1 bunch watercress, 1/2 red onion, butter, plus rice to serve.

shaking beef marinade

This is a very simple marinade: just a couple of chopped garlic cloves, 1 tsp sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp black pepper, all mixed into a couple of tablespoons canola oil.

marinating shaking beef

Chop your steak into 1-inch cubes, and swirl the meat around in the marinade to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I actually think it helps to take it out of the fridge for the last 20-30 minutes or so, to allow it to return to room temperature.

chopped onions for vietnamese shaking beef

Thinly slice half of a red onion, and chop the green onions. While the meat is resting on the counter, prepare the vinaigrette (which you'll add to the stir-frying meat and shake around, hence the name). Stir together 1/4 c rice vinegar, 1 T sugar, 1/4 c rice wine, 4 T light soy, 1 T dark soy, and 1 T fish sauce.

cooking vietnamese shaking beef

I don't own a wok, so I used a large nonstick skillet for this. With a wok, you have a smaller surface area on the bottom of the pan, so the original recipe says you should divide the meat and onions in half so you can cook it in 2 quick batches. I had room in my pan to do it all at once though. Heat 2 T canola oil over medium-high heat, then add the beef in a single layer. Don't stir it around for the first minute or 2 - you want it to develop a nice crust on the bottom. Flip all the meat cubes over quickly, and sear for another couple of minutes.

adding onions to shaking beef

Add the onions and stir everything around - cook for another 1-2 minutes (the meat should be medium rare, so be careful not to overcook). Pour the vinaigrette over and shake the pan. Add a pat or 2 of butter, shaking to coat. Serve over a bed of watercress with rice. TSD also serves this with "dipping sauce" - just the juice of one lime mixed with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

cream cheese brownies

cream cheese brownies a la mode

Another weekend, another request for homemade dessert... A finally got his hands on my copy of "The New Best Recipe" (from Cook's Illustrated), and started reading the dessert section. As an engineer, he was impressed with the thorough, scientific approach, which was all he needed to be convinced that their brownie recipes must be the best in the world. I had all the ingredients on hand, so we were digging in to hot gooey layered brownies about an hour later.

For the brownie base: 2/3 c AP flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, 4 oz bitter or semisweet chocolate, 8T unsalted butter, 1 c sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 3 large eggs. For the cream cheese filling: 8 oz cream cheese (room temp), 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 egg yolk.

melting chocolate and butter for brownies

In a medium bowl, melt chocolate and butter (start with 1 minute on high, stir, and keep heating in 30 second increments till melted). Stir the mixture till it's smooth, then whisk in sugar and vanilla.

brownie base 2

Let this cool for a couple of minutes, then whisk in eggs one at a time till smooth.

brownie base

Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder, then set aside.

cream cheese filling for brownies

In a separate bowl, make the cream cheese filling. Whisk all ingredients together till blended.

layering cream cheese brownies

To assemble the brownies, layer half of the chocolate base into bottom of 8x8 pan (greased). Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese filling into the base, reserving half of it. Repeat by spreading remaining brownie base, then dropping spoonfuls of the remaining cream cheese filling.

cream cheese brownies before baking

Use a knife and drag blade through mix to swirl filling and base together. Bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes, then allow to cool.

Monday, August 18, 2008

classic jambalaya

jambalaya shrimp 2

None of these photos do justice to this classic jambalaya dish, but I'm going to blog it anyway in the hopes that AHB readers trust my recipes more than my photography skills by now... I've made crab and andouille sausage jambalaya before, but A made a special request a while ago for a "real" jambalaya (i.e. with shrimp, not crab).  There are a surprising number of versions of this dish, but if I was going to trust anyone specifically, it would have to be Emeril, since creole cooking is his bread-and-butter. He didn't let me down - although his recipe made such huge portions (even by A's standards), we were eating leftovers for so long that I probably won't get this request again for months.

Grocery list: 1 pound medium shrimp (peeled, deveined), 2 pounds chicken, 1.5 pounds andouille sausage, 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 onions, 2-3 stalks celery, 1 bell pepper, 3-4 dried bay leaves, cayenne pepper, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1-2 tomatoes, 2 cups rice, 1 bunch green onions, handful of fresh parsley, plus Emeril's Creole seasoning (his proprietary blend of paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, dried oregano, dried thyme).

seasoning shrimp for jambalaya

Start by chopping the onions, celery, tomatoes and green onions. Cut the chicken and sausage into bit-size pieces. In separate bowls, season the shrimp and chicken pieces generously with the creole seasoning (enough to coat - the more you season it, the spicier the jambalaya will be).

shrimp for jambalaya

Heat a couple T of olive oil in a large dutch oven - medium high heat - and saute the shrimp. After 3-4 minutes, the shrimp will be almost cooked through (whitish pink instead of opaque), so remove from the pot and set aside. They'll cook the rest of the way through when you add them back to the cooking jambalaya later.

chicken for jambalaya

Add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, and cook the seasoned chicken pieces about 6-8 minutes. Remove and set aside as well.

add vegetables to sausage jambalaya

Add the sausage pieces to the pot and brown evenly, then add all the vegetables *except for the green onions* (you'll add those later). Throw in a couple of minced garlic cloves, a few bay leaves, a sprinkle of extra cayenne, and a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.

add tomatoes to jambalaya

The vegetables will wilt after 5-6 minutes, at which point you can add your chopped tomatoes. Stir in 6 cups of water plus the cooked chicken pieces.

add rice to jambalaya

You may want to check your rice label before using this ratio - I used brown rice, which requires a little less water but much longer cooking time. Emeril's recipe calls for 2 cups of rice to 6 cups of water - I used 2 cups brown rice and reduced that water (and the cooking times - I made sure to NOT add the shrimp until the rice was about 10 minutes from being done). Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or as long as your rice needs to cook minus 10 minutes.

jambalaya shrimp sausage

Stir in the shrimp, the chopped green onions, and a handful of chopped parsley, and cook for another 10 minutes. The rice should be done, and the liquid almost entirely cooked out - the consistency is creamy, not watery. Turn off the heat and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

roasted potatoes, onions & garlic on the grill

roasted potatoes and onions on grill

Have you ever tried this? It's not really a recipe, but just an easy thing to put together if you're already heating up the grill for barbeque chicken or steaks. Just slice up some vidalia onions and potatoes and layer in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

roasted potatoes onions garlic

Throw in a few whole garlic cloves (smash just a little so the flavor comes out), drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and fold into small packets. Grill for about 15 minutes over medium flame.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

pesto chicken salad with bacon, tomatoes and garlic croutons

chicken bacon pesto salad

Yet another winner from my favorite new cookbook of the summer, "Raising the Salad Bar." With all the fresh basil at the farmers market, I made up a double batch of pesto for a couple different meals (the other pasta dish to follow soon). If you have a food processor, some basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil, you can make pesto in about 3 minutes (see previous post here). This recipe combines some chopped cooked chicken with a pesto + mayo dressing, then tossed with fresh tomatoes, bacon, and croutons. The book's version doesn't do it this way, but I also mixed all the ingredients with some mixed greens (the dressing coats all the lettuce surprising well, without having to add extra) for a "true" salad.

Grocery list: 2 cups cooked chicken, 1.5 cups quartered cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup pesto, 4-5 slices bacon (cooked and chopped), garlic salt, a few slices bread for croutons.

homemade croutons

You could certainly use store-bought croutons to make this recipe even faster, but homemade croutons are SO much better. They really don't take any time at all - you can cook them while you're prepping the rest of the salad. Remove the crusts from your bread, cut into bite-size pieces, and toss with a few T of olive oil and garlic salt. Either toast on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees (turning occasionally), or in a large skillet over medium heat.

pesto tomato salad ingredients

Mix the pesto and mayo together, then toss with the chicken.

chicken pesto dressing

Add to a large salad bowl with the mixed greens, and toss to coat everything with the dressing. Stir in the crumbled bacon and cherry tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.

chicken bacon crouton salad

Divide into bowls (this could make enough for 3 meal-size salads), then top with the croutons.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

grilled mahi tacos with avocado cream

mahi tacos avocado cream

I think everyone who picked up the most recent Domino mag fell in love with this recipe. Not just the idea of fish tacos (who doesn't love fish tacos any day?), but the beautiful outdoor table setting, all the colors, all the "I just threw this little impromptu get-together with my friends and my backyard picnic table and strings of lights in the trees, you know, just because" - it's so appealing. Well, I don't have a picnic table, but I did decide to invite a couple of our friends over to share this meal. The idea of it was just too good to keep to ourselves. The avocado cream is nice, although next time I'll do what I always do and make guacamole (dual purpose -for tacos AND chips!) and keep the sour cream on the side. Red cabbage with a splash of vinegar and pinch of salt - the crunchy texture was absolutely perfect with the grilled fish. I made another batch of the jicama mango salad and the entire meal was just perfect.

Grocery list: corn tortillas, mahi-mahi fillets (skin-on), red cabbage, avocados, limes, sour cream, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro (I added a little fresh corn to the pico de gallo since it's in season and I can't help myself when I walk by fresh corn at the farmers' market - ever).

Make the avocado cream by blending 2 avocados with 1/2 c sour cream and the juice of 2 limes in the food processor (season with sea salt). Finely chop the cabbage and dress with a splash of vinegar and salt. Make fresh pico de gallo by chopping a couple of tomatoes, 1/2 red onion, a handful of cilantro, and as much jalapeno as you like - plus the (optional) kernels from an ear or 2 of corn. Mix with lime juice, salt and pepper. Grill the mahi-mahi skin-side down (brush with olive oil first to make sure it doesn't stick to the grates) until fish is flaky and cooked through. This can all come together in 20 minutes, and with everyone serving themselves, it might just be the least stress you've ever experienced at a dinner get-together...

Friday, August 8, 2008

brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (!!!)

brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

Yes, these cupcakes are as good as the name suggests. Better yet, I'd wager you have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now. So maybe you should put down the laptop and just go see about making these right now, hmm?

Grocery (pantry) list: 6T butter, 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips + 3oz unsweetened chocolate [note - I just used semisweet only and they worked great], 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 cup AP flour, 1/3 cup walnuts (if you don't like nuts in brownies, skip them); for the frosting, 1 cup powdered sugar, 3/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 stick room temperature butter, 1/4 tsp vanilla, 4 tsp heavy cream.

brownie cupcakes

To make the brownie cupcakes, heat the butter + 1/2 the chocolate in a microwave or over a double boiler until smooth. Mix in both the granulated and brown sugar, then whisk in both eggs, the vanilla, flour, walnuts, a pinch of salt, and the remaining chocolate chips. Divide into cupcake liners - should make 8-10 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

peanut butter frosting

Use a hand mixer to mix the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and cream together until very smooth. Keep in mind that the peanut butter will melt and get very messy if the cupcakes haven't cooled completely before you frost them (if you can wait that long...).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

enchilada lasagna

enchilada lasagna

For people who work long hours during the week, the concept of making a few meals on Sunday that you can easily bake or reheat during the week has got to be pretty appealing. Even though I work from home, and theoretically could use all the time I save not having a commute on cooking something fresh and inspired every night, sometimes I just can't - or don't want to - get away from my laptop with enough energy to do anything special. But my problem is that the only ideas I've really had for this prepped-on-Sunday eaten-on-weekday meal is your standard lasagna. So I started looking for other options, and found this interesting recipe for Enchilada Lasagna (by Emeril). It has the same components as an Italian lasagna, with these tweaks: layers of corn tortillas in lieu of pasta, layers of seasoned meat (shredded chicken), and this great pepper jack cheese sauce instead of bechamel or ricotta-based sauce. I ended up baking it right away and then reheating in the oven during the week, since I wasn't sure what the corn tortillas would do in the fridge next to all that moisture from the sauce over the course of a day or 2.  This makes a pretty huge batch (probably 8+ portions?), so it's great for a dinner party too.

Grocery list: butter, flour, milk, chicken stock, 8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese, 18 corn tortillas, 4 cups (2 pounds) cooked shredded chicken, 2 tsp "Emeril's Southwest Essence" (i.e. equal parts salt, chili powder, paprika, cumin, plus a pinch of cayenne and coriander), roasted poblano peppers, green onions, cilantro, 3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese, 4 oz shredded queso anejo (or parmesan), 1 cup chopped tomatoes, plus sour cream and salsa for serving.

flour and butter for pepper jack sauce

You start off by making the pepper jack cheese sauce, just like any bechamel type sauce. Melt 6T butter, then whisk in 6T flour. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk - just a little at a time, stirring after each addition until it is combined. Then stir in 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken up very nicely.

pepper jack cheese sauce

Now, add 8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese, stir well, then season with salt and remove from the heat. Emeril adds a step here where you'd fry each tortilla individually in oil to soften them up - which I think would be necessary if you're having the tortillas in enchiladas or fajitas, but I decided to skip it. I didn't miss the extra oil, but you might opt to try this step if you want...

enchilada lasagna assembling

If you've already shredded your cooked chicken, you can just start assembling. I used 2 pyrex dishes (his recipe said a 9 x 13 casserole, but I swear there's no way all that food could fit in that space), lightly greased. Put one cup of sauce in the bottom of your dish (note - 1 cup for one dish, or split proportionately if you use 2 different sized dishes), then layer 6 of the tortillas. Lay half of the shredded chicken on top and sprinkle 1 tsp of the seasoning ("Essence") over it. Then you lay half the peppers - his recipe said "6 poblanos" but I cheated and used a canned version I found in WF instead of roasting whole ones myself. Then spread 1/2 cup chopped green onions, 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce, plus 1 cup of the monterey jack. Make another layer exactly like that one (this would finish off everything but 6 remaining tortillas, some sauce, and 1 cup of monterey jack).

enchilada lasagna ready to bake

Finish by laying down the last 6 tortillas, and spread the rest of the pepper jack sauce over it. Sprinkle 1 cup chopped tomatoes and a handful of chopped cilantro, and the rest of the monterey jack over this layer. Top with a little shredded queso anejo (I substituted parmesan, as the recipe suggests). Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until bubbly and golden on top. [If you're making this ahead, just take it out after the 45 minutes and allow to cool, then refrigerate for a couple of days until you're ready to eat it. Then you'd need to warm it in the oven w/the foil on for 20-30 minutes, then finish the rest of the baking w/the foil off.]

enchilada lasagna 2

To serve, top with a little more chopped cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, and a generous amount of salsa or pico de gallo.