Archive for June, 2007
Red wine sangria is great and all, but on warm summer evenings, nothing beats it’s lighter, crisper counterpart. As an added bonus (aren’t I generous?) the fruit makes a tasty desert when the booze runs out!
Makes: 3/4 gallon
Total kitchen time: 15 minutes
- 1 cheap bottle of chardonnay or white zinfandel, sweet
- 1/2 lieter tonic water
- 2 oz brandy
- 1 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1 pear, cored and sliced (bosc or d’anjou work well)
- 1 peach, sliced
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- Add the sliced fruit, sugar and 2 cups of ice to large pitcher. Muddle with a muddler or the back of a big wooden spoon. You aren’t trying to make a fruit smoothie (and the presentation is much nicer if the fruit are shapely) so just try to get some of the fruit oils released.
- Add the wine and brandy. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to server. Add the tonic water and top the pitcher with more ice. Pour into tall glasses or wine goblets, letting some of the fruit fall into the glass.
This drink is to yuppies what the mint julep is to Southern, aristocratic tobacco farmers. Serve along side a polo shirt and a heightened sense of worth.
Growing up in San Diego, my best friend’s house backed up to an avocado grove. On warm, bored Saturdays, we used to hop his fence play “grenades” with the ripe, delicious fruit. At $2.00 a pop, I shudder at the amount of damage we may have done to some poor farmer. But I was young, foolish, and hadn’t yet fallen in love – with guacamole.
Makes: exactly 34 chipfuls (look at the ingredients. that’s how much, dummy)
Total kitchen time: 5 minutes
- 2 ripe Haas avocados
- 1 vine-ripe tomato
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, roasted, smashed
- 1 jalapeno pepper, smoked, finely diced
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Split the avocados in half through the stem end; in case you’re from Nebraska, be warned that avocados have a large hard pit. Run your knife around the pit in the center. Twist the halves 1/4 turn to separate. To remove the pit, carefully (with a sharp knife and medical insurance) whack the knife blade into the pit. Turn your knife until the pit pops free. Or, use a spoon.
- Cut a 1/2″ grid pattern into the flesh of the avocado. Turn the skin inside out and use a spoon to remove the flesh into a bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
OK, now you know how easy it is to make your own guacamole. Trust me, this will be 10 times better thank that green paste crap they sell in the supermarket. You see, avocados are very perishable and they brown quickly in the presence of air. The acid in the lime juice will slow this a bit, but not long enough to give fresh guacamole a good shelf life. So, the crap you buy at the store is filled with radiator fluid, formaldehyde and lava ash. I’m pretty sure, at least.
These skewers are great grill fare. Sweet fruit, such as mango and cantaloupe pair very well with hot spices. In this case, I’ve used mace (yes, the stuff you spray at your creepy uncle) to add heat. The acid in the marinade chemically cooks the shrimp before they ever reach the grill, so cooking time will be short. This means succulent, tender shrimp, which is what you paid for in the first place.
Makes: 6 spicy shrimp stabbers
Total kitchen time: 20 mins, plus marinading time
- 6 skewers (metal or bamboo, soaked in water)
- 1 lb jumbo shrimp, raw, deviened, shells removed, tails on
- 1 mango, skin removed, cut into 1″ pieces
- 3 limes, cut into 8ths (halved, then halved, then halved), plus 4 limes, juiced
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 oz dark rum
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp mace
- 2 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the wet ingredients (including sugar) and spices in a large, shallow baking dish. This is a good time to taste the marinade and adjust accordingly. It will be very strongly acidic – this is good.
- Assemble the skewers as shown in the picture above: use limes at each end to hold the other ingredients firmly in place. When you skewer the shrimp, pierce it in 2 places – near the tail and near the fat end. This will help it stay on the skewer.
- Cover with plastic wrap and marinate 2-4 hours in the refrigerator.
- Preheat your grill on high heat and lightly oil the grates. If you’re using wooden skewers, wrap the blunt ends in foil to prevent burning. Grill about 1 minute per side..
If you’re cooking for a fire-loving crowd, adjust the mace accordingly. Or substitute with Indian or South American powdered spices. These skewers go very well with a refreshing glass of white wine sangria! [Food modeling courtesy of my sister, Jill]
Here’s a quick tip for great hors d’oeuvres without any actual cooking! See the crab cake recipe below? Instead of forming patties, just spoon the mixture into endive leaves. They make for wonderful finger food and present very well too!
I can’t stand it when I order crab cakes at a nice restaurant and, instead, I’m served a crab-flavored bread patty. These crab cakes are seriously crab-centric, with just enough filler to add flavor and style. Plus, there’s no frying involved! Beat that, Long John Silver.
Total Kitchen Time: 35 Mins
Makes: 15 large crustacean burgers
- 2 lbs crab claw meat (yeah, that’s a lot of crab)
- 1 papaya, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp red cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 425F and adjust the rack to the middle position.
- Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with non-stick cooking spray. The foil is an insurance policy against clingy crab cakes.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. There, wasn’t that easy?
- Form the crab into patties. I like to use a mold, such as a pastry ring (or the inner sleeve of my potato ricer) to shape the patties. Make sure that you press them down tightly since we’re not using egg to bind the cakes together.
- Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 5 minutes before transferring to plates.
Crab pairs very well with tropical fruit flavors. Here we’ve used papaya, but there’s no reason you couldn’t also add mango, kiwi or even coconut. Or, whip up some guacamole and spoon right on top.
I’m on a quest, of sorts, to replicate my favorite restaurant’s pizza in my own kitchen. Will it work? Well, I’ve got a lot working against me: no 700 degree brick oven, no special flour or wheat, no commercial baking experience… but on the plus side, even if I fall short, I still end up with great pizza.
Here’s my latest attempt in which some cast iron improv takes the place of a dedicated pizza oven.
Total Kitchen Time: 30 mins + rising time
Serves: 4 teenage mutant ninja turtles
- 1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup of 110-degree F filtered water
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 2 tsp salt (fine/table salt)
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cups mozzarella (fresh, sliced and pressed dry OR shredded)
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce, prepared
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
- If your oven has a bread proof setting (or a 100 degree setting), preheat it on that mode. Bloom the yeast in the 110-degree water for 5 minutes.
- Clear off some counter space and dump the flour into a pile. Add the salt and cornmeal and mix with your fingers until combined. Arrange the flour like a volcano with a crater in the middle. Add about 1/4 cup of the water and slowly combine with your fingertips until it is fully absorbed. Add another 1/4 cup and repeat, trying to work the dough as little as possible. Add the remaining water (or less) until the dough can be rolled into a large ball and no flour spots remain. Avoid adding unnecessary water; you may not need to use all 3/4 cups.
- Coat the inside of a medium bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the dough ball and toss in the oil to coat. Cover loosely and let rise for 40 mins.
- If you have an oven-proof griddle or very large cast iron skillet, place it in the oven on the middle rack. Now, crank your oven as high as it will go and give it at least 20 minutes to preheat. In the meantime…
- Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. As much as you can, use your hands to gently stretch the dough into a shape that will fit your cooking vessel (for me, a large rectangle fits my cast iron griddle). Remember to only handle the dough as little as possible – overworking causes the gluten in the flour to activate, leading to a dense, gummy texture. Brush the dough with olive oil on both sides.
- Once your oven is nice and hot, carefully transfer the dough to your cooking surface. It should sizzle a bit. Bake for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the bottom crust has started to char a little. Remove the dough from the oven and add the toppings. Return to the oven and bake about 7 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown around the edges.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes. Cut and serve!
The secret to really great pizza is, of course, great dough. This dough is simple and reliable, though it lacks the flavor and crunch profile of my “goal crust”. I’m sure that a few hundred slices from now, I’ll get it right. Enjoy!
Pico de gallo (literally “rooster’s beak”) is a chunky, fresh salsa found at most Mexican (or vaguely Mexican) restaurants these days. This is a tangier, mango-ier version of the salsa, which I have named after the only non-fictional yellow bird that I could translate into Spanish: the canary.
Makes: 4 cups
Total kitchen time: 20 mango-maddening minutes
- 1 large, ripe mango, peeled and diced
- 1 kiwis, peeled and diced
- 2 limes, juiced
- 4 tomatillos, husked and diced
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- coarse salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- If you’ve never worked with a whole mango before, it can be a bit daunting. First, be sure to wash the skin very well before peeling the fruit. Mango tree sap causes itching and mild irritation, like poison ivy (this is why you should NEVER burn mango wood). The mango has a long, solar car shaped pit that runs vertically through the middle. Slide your knife down through the top of the fruit, slightly to one side, When you hit the pit, try to follow its contour. You may have to make several cuts to get the flesh off, but you’re going to dice it anyway, so who cares?
- Once your mango is peeled and chopped, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. This will give the flavors time to mingle.
Serve with chips, fish tacos, or as a very fancy churro topping!
Anyway, there are 2 secrets (not anymore) to flank steak: 1) Don’t cook it past medium rare, and 2) let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Naturally, flank steak is a very tough, fibrous cut of meat. If you overcook it, it will toughen up and lose its character. Also, if you slice it (remember, with a sharp knife on a steep bias) before the juices have had time to redistribute, it will quickly dry out.
Makes: Enough for 2 frugal gourmets (college students, I’m looking at you)
Total kitchen time: 30 mins (plus marinating time)
- 1 lb flank steak (just multiply out this recipe if you’ve got a larger crowd)
- 1 cup prepared mojito marinade
- Place the flank steak in a large shallow dish and cover with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate 30 mins 4 hours. Remove from the fridge at least 40 minutes before cooking to let it come to room temperature.
- Heat your grill (or grill pan) over very high heat. You want to get a nice char on the outside of the meat before the heat has time to permeate to the center.
- Grill the steak, about 3 minutes per side, depending on your grill. Use your favorite doneness-testing method (the thumb crevice; cut and peek; tarot card), but don’t let the meat cook past medium rare. Remember, also, that the meat will carryover when it rests.
- Remove your steak from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes on a carving board. Slice into thin strips across the grain of the meat, holding your knife at a steep angle.
Serve with whatever makes you happiest. Corn on the cob with jerk butter is a family favorite. Or, add your favorite tuber for some “meat and potatoes” action.
I went out on a limb with this recipe. Salmon and hash browns on a pizza sounded really good. Somewhere between the planning and execution, this dish failed to achieve its potential. So, I humbly ask of you (the blogosphere): try this recipe, add your own variations, and reply back in the comments. I’m certain there is really good food in here – we just have to find it.
Makes: one, uh, unique pizza
Total kitchen time: 40 mins
- 1 lb salmon fillet portions (skin removed)
- 1 large russet potato, julienned into match-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto (your favorite recipe, or out of a jar. I won’t tell)
- 1 14″ pizza dough (I made a whole wheat and cornmeal dough. Make or use what sounds best to you)
- 2 tbsp oil (a high smoke point oil such as Enova or even sesame oil works very well here)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4-5 basil leaves, finely chopped (garnish)
- Preheat your oven to 420 F. Salt and pepper the salmon and hash browns.
- Heat 1 tsp of cooking oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the pan is good ‘n hot, add the salmon fillet. Only let it cook for about 1 min per side, or until a nice crust has developed on the outside. It should still be very raw in the middle. Remove the salmon from the pan, scraping up all the bits that are stuck, and let rest on a plate.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the hash browns until crispy. Alternately, you can toss with oil and broil the potatoes until golden. The idea here is to introduce crunch.
- Spread an even layer of pesto across the pizza dough. Add the hash browns. Flake apart the salmon fillet with a fork and sprinkle over the pizza.
- Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, making sure that the salmon is cooked (it should lose most of its transparency. However, if the “white gunk” starts seeping out, you’re overcooking it. Stop, get in your time machine, go back 2 minutes, remove then.)
Suggestions for brave souls: The pesto flavor wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the salmon. I might recommend a strong honey mustard or a honey-balsamic glaze instead. Also, the hash browns didn’t end up bringing much crunch to the party when I made mine. I might substitute shredded cabbage, added after the pizza has come out of the oven. Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!