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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

If I keep waiting to share this recipe it will be full-on winter and then what is the point of talking about Fall Sage Pesto?  The problem is that there is no recipe.  I found this pesto in an Ina Garten cookbook.  But since then I’ve packed up and moved twice and now many of my recipes are somewhere between here and Ecuador … or the Runyan’s garage.  It’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll give you a pitiful attempt at my recollection of what this entailed and see where you go with it.  It was pesto so it involved herbs, nuts, olive oil and parmesan blended.  The herbs consisted largely of sage and rosemary and I’m pretty sure it used walnuts.  There.  There’s your recipe.

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But if I haven’t given you enough help to try your own pesto experiment, I figure this is a great opportunity to remind you of the BEST GNOCCHI RECIPE.  It uses sweet potatoes instead of the regular little guys and in doing so creates a lot of extra flavor without tasting overly sweet, which is often my sweet potato complaint.

Not to dissuade you, but gnocchi is one of the easiest pastas to mess up.  If you handle it too much or add just a bit too much flour it will turn totally gummy and feel like glue when it hits your stomach.  Because it’s easy to mess up, there is a lot of bad gnocchi out there.  I’m convinced that this is why more people don’t love gnocchi.  They’ve only ever been served bad stuff and now don’t care to try gnocchi again.  I was fortunate to try the most delicate and meltingly delicious puddles the first time and have thus ordered many a gnocchi hoping to find that perfection again.  This means that even though this recipe uses precise measurements, you shouldn’t.  Your goal is to get a workable dough with as little flour, handholding, and cursing (just kidding, but it is time consuming and sticky at times) as possible.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Originally from allrecipes.com
Serves 4

2 (8 ounce) sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.  (I do the quick version by pricking the potatoes and cooking them in the microwave til soft – about 10 minutes.)
Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Drop the pieces into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with butter or cream sauce.

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Great flavor.  Sometimes that is all a girl needs to say.  ‘Specially a girl who will always push the protein to the side of her plate and let it sit neglected while she smacks her lips over her bread and salad.

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But this flank steak was bold enough to take center stage on my plate and for once Nate actually had a fork fight on his hands for the leftovers.  A great balance of sweet and salty and a great method to let steak remain what it is while enhancing it in all the right ways.

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Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak
From Fine Cooking 73, pg. 86
Serves 4

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1-1/2 to 2 lb. beef steak, preferably flank, or 1-1/2-inch-thick New York strip steaks

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, bourbon, sugar, mustard, and hot sauce in a large zip-top bag. Seal and shake to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar. Add the steak to the bag, seal, massage to cover the steaks with marinade, and set aside for 15 to 20 min. at room temperature. (Or you can marinade for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, bringing the steak back to room temp before grilling.)

When the grill is ready, remove the steak from the marinade and shake off any excess, but don’t pat it dry. Reserve the marinade. Grill the steak until good sear marks appear, 3 to 4 min. With tongs, rotate the steak 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the edges are a little crisp, another 3 to 4 min. Flip the steak and grill the other side in the same way until the exterior is nicely seared and the steak is cooked to your liking, 10 to 12 min. total cooking time for medium rare. Let the steaks rest for about 5 min.

Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 3 min. (watch carefully to prevent burning). For flank steak, slice the meat thinly across the grain. For strip steaks, slice thickly or serve in chunks. Serve with a drizzle of the sauce.

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Remember way back when in September when I flew to Oklahoma to visit my sister and meet my very first nephew?  Well that was awhile ago and so were these pots de creme.  The trip included more than a mess of babies, diapers, crying and naps.  We also managed to get a few new recipes in.  And even though September in Oklahoma is still 99 degrees, Fall bug had hit me and the thought of the return of maple to my palate was positively enticing.

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And so instead of filling my sister’s freezer full of practical, nutritious meals I chose to whip up these sweet little custards.  Somewhere in between a creme brulee and a flan lay these little beauties with their sparkle shards of crunchy, burnt sugar.  The custard and the shards together, a great pairing.  But I’d be perfectly content to let the maple creaminess slide around on my tongue all on its own.

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*Just a note that these are a gluten-free option.  I always try to pick recipes that are naturally gluten-free when needed since I have no expertise in the area.  I try to choose desserts that work for the dietary restrictions but don’t leave the rest of us wondering where the crust went to.  These fit that bill for me.

Maple Pots de Creme with Almond Praline
Taken from Bon Appetit, October 2010
Serves 4

Custard:
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup maple sugar
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon imitation maple extract
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Praline:
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
Pinch of coarse kosher salt

Special equipment: 4 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups

For praline:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Scatter almonds on small rimmed baking sheet. Bake almonds until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven. Push almonds together in 4-inch square on sheet and cool.

Stir sugar, 1 tablespoon water, corn syrup, and coarse salt in small heavy saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is dark amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour caramel evenly over almonds, coating completely. Let stand until cold and hard, about 30 minutes. Break praline into pieces or process to coarse crumbs. DO AHEAD:Can be made 4 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For custard:
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Arrange four 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups in 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan. Whisk yolks, both sugars, extract, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream. Divide custard among ramekins. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake custards until center is just set, about 35 minutes. Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 2 hours. Cover; chill overnight.

Sprinkle praline over custards.

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Biscuits’n’Gravy

It’s hard to believe this graced my table.  Biscuits and gravy.  Gravy.  GRAVY.  Not my thing.

But every once in awhile you have to do something in the name of love, right?  And sausage is my husband’s love.  And sausage n gravy n biscuits just might be his ultimate love.

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And so the other night this graced my table. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to serve up Maple Cornmeal Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. But I don’t know why I bothered because for Nate the tried and true will always be best. And for me biscuits and gravy will always be something I could live without for a long time. Like forever. That long.

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How perfectly fitting that I’ve moved into our new, temporary home with it’s wonderfully retro dishware making it’s debut on a wonderfully retro dish.

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Lemon-Vodka Cream Pops

Popsicles in November.  I know.  What’s wrong with me?  I’m always waxing poetic about in summer fruits, pumpkin and cinnamon flavors in the fall and other seasonal favorites.  And here I introduce you to popsicles.  In November.

But it’s 74 degrees in our new place.  Every day.  All day.  I don’t automatically search for my slippers when I get out of my morning covers.  My babe can rub his knees raw attempting to crawl on the floor in nuthin’ but a onesie.  And we can have popsicles for dessert.  Yessirree.  Popsicles in November.

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These were made ‘specially for my husband who would forego a slice of flourless chocolate cake for a lemon italian ice, who would choose orange sherbet a salted caramel and bittersweet chocolate tart.  (Hate him for it, I know!).  They are deliciously, pucker-up tangy, surprisingly creamy for a popsicle, with a hint of bitter due to the steep lemon rind and only enhanced by that shot of vodka.

Oh and they are also much prettier, more buttery yellow in real life.  Blame it on the amateur photographer trying to figure out new lighting and staging in a new home before total popsicle melting happens.  (Although that would have been quite pretty I’m sure.)  And whoever tried to photograph lemon yellow anyway?  That color’s tuff.

Lemon-Vodka Cream Pops
Taken from Fine Cooking 100, pg. 53
Serves 8

3 or 4 medium lemons
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. table salt
2 Tbs. citron vodka

Using a vegetable peeler, remove all of the zest from 3 of the lemons in 3- to 4-inch-long strips. Set the lemons aside.

Combine the lemon zest, cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let steep at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Squeeze 2/3 cup juice from the reserved lemons (juice the fourth lemon, if necessary). Stirring constantly, pour the lemon juice into the cream mixture in a slow stream. Stir in the vodka.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a 4-cup glass measure (or any container with a spout for easy pouring), pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Divide the mixture among eight 3-oz. pop molds or wax-lined paper cups. Freeze until just barely set, 5 to 6 hours. Insert craft sticks and freeze until completely set, about 2 hours more. When ready to serve, unmold or peel off the paper cups.

Pops can be frozen for up to three days.

 

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I think salads are absolutely beautiful.  They are often full of a mix of vibrant colors, incorporating colors like pops of fuschia on a rich green background.  They are the food-lover’s version of a fresh bouquet of flowers.  Because I find them so beautiful, salads are one of my favorite parts of the meal to plate.  A good presentation can really help make other less leaf-loving people excited to try a salad out.

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I bookmarked this salad recipe simply because of the presentation.  The salad itself looked like nothing special but I sure wanted to try the crispy parmesan baskets out.  And I was not disappointed.  The baskets were easy to put together, fun to play with and made for a unique looking plate.  The parmesan was perfectly toasted crunchy, making it full of flavor.  But as suspected the salad itself was just average.  I’ll keep making these baskets and filling them full of whatever beautiful fruits and vegetables I have on hand.

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Parmesan, Walnut and Arugula Baskets
Originally from Taste of Home magazine, April/May 2009
Servings: 6

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

SALAD:

4 cups fresh arugula or spring mix salad greens
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts over the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds.
Using a spatula, carefully remove cheese mixture and immediately drape over an inverted glass with a 2-in.-diameter bottom; cool completely. Repeat with remaining cheese and walnuts, forming five more baskets.
For salad, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, grapes and walnuts. Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over arugula mixture; toss to coat. Place 1/2 cup salad in each basket.

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Classic Croissants

Fine Cooking is a helpful fantastic magazine for technique education.  They don’t just spotlight a recipe for a perfect pie crust.  They include step by step photos and instructions and explain why the methods and ingredients were chosen.  I’ve made croissants once before (and ate them all up rather quickly), but when I saw Fine Cooking had featured them in an instructional piece I knew it was time to try again.  Oh and my baby was finally sleep trained so yes, it was time to try again.

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Fantastico were the results!  Perfectly crunch outside, perfectly flaky inside.  Gobs and gobs of buttery goodness.  They gave measurements and guide to make 15 large croissants and this was the only part I ignored because I wanted croissants of all varieties.

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Classic croissants

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Vanilla sugar croissant clusters

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And never to be left out, pain au chocolat

Instead of including the recipe, I’m sending you straight to Fine Cooking where you, too, can benefit from the purty pictures and long, long, long instructions:  Classic Croissants at Fine Cooking

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