Friday, August 27, 2010

Summer Garden Tomato Compote & Char Crust Chicken

Well, hello again!  I've been missing in action since last weekend. Sorry! At last, it's Friday and can try to post some recipes for you. The weather across the United States has been all over the place.  While my girlfriend, in Rhode Island has been telling tales of miserable heat and humidity, and extreme weather changes to rain-- well, we folks on the Central Coast of California hadn't seen sun in weeks.  Suddenly, we had a heat weave that hit triple digits for two days. My tomatoes were happy little campers!

Just the week before, I had all kinds of little green tomatoes...

...and the next time I looked, they were bursting with summer sunshine ripeness. I had to start using these fast!
Roasted tomatoes, are one of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes.  I turned the oven on to 375F and sliced  a Vidalia onion-- my last one, in fact.  I sliced 2 cloves of fresh garlic and heated some olive oil in my beloved cast iron skillet...

Next, I decided to cut some thyme, from our garden. Dry would work fine, too.  I cooked the onion until tender, added the garlic and cooked that for a minute. Next, I added the thyme, kosher salt & black pepper (to taste).  I turned off the heat and added these beautiful yellow pear tomatoes.   Then I paused, and went back into the garden...

...and I grabbed some cherry tomatoes that were so ripe, some of the skins were already splitting.  These were added to the mix.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hasselback Potatoes -- Pretty easy, pretty looking and pretty darn tasty!

I am adjusting to my new work hours, but it does mean that cooking dinner -- and sharing it with my husband-- doesn't happen Mondays through Thursdays.  Friday nights are usual spent enjoying a Happy Hour Cocktail and tapas for a light dinner, that allows for me to unwind from my work week. It looks like I'm starting a new tradition, where I prepare a "Date Night" dinner at home, on Saturday nights.  Oh, there will be Date Night Dinners at a romantic restaurant in our backyard of Carmel (California) in the future! For now, I like to challenge myself to make dishes that look worthy to be served by a waiter.  In this case, that would be "moi"  wearing the apron  presenting the dinner on the table.  In my husband's case, he is the cleaning crew.  This arrangement works just fine! Not only do we save money, but we enjoy quiet dinners, for two, in our own home.

This pretty potato side dish that easy to make, but makes a beautiful presentation on your dinner plate. Hasselback Potatoes (or accordion potatoes)  were first introduced in the 1700s by a restaurant located in Stockholm named Hasselbacken. I found several variations for this recipe, and I decided to play around a little. The next time you want to impress company, these take just a few minutes to prepare. Any kind of potato will do-- Russets, Red Bliss are perfect. In my case, I had Yukon Golds on hand.  Wash the spuds...

Preheat the oven to 400F.  You'll want a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or foil; or you can use a silicone mat.  If you have a wooden spoon, you have an fool-proof guide.  The technique is to be able to make 1/8" thick slices, without cutting all the way through. Otherwise, you're making potato chips.  By laying the potato into the spoon, you will be unable to slice all the way to the bottom.  If your potato is big, then slice the first half, turn the potato around and slice the second.  I decided to add fresh garlic by slicing a garlic clove very thin. Insert one...maybe two slices per potato.  I melted 2 Tbsp unsalted butter and mixed it with an equal amount of olive oil.  You can pour it over the potatoes, or you can brush it on.

You can be creative with your seasonings.  I used kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper. Because I have an abundance of thyme in my herb garden, I decided to add a few sprigs to add a little more flavor.  While these potatoes weren't as large as a baking potato, I still needed to bake these for one hour and ten minutes.

These potatoes should turn out crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

OPTIONAL: I chose to brush a little more olive oil, during the last 10 minutes, and to sprinkle some fresh parmesan cheese on top. I'm glad that I did.

VERDICT:  My husband felt that the garlic was a little too much for him. Me? I thought the garlic was perfect. Then again, I love garlic-- even on a Date Night! Adjust accordingly.  

The rest of the dinner was a special Char-Crust Chicken, served with a Garden Tomato Compote, which was so delicious!  I will share the remaining recipes tomorrow.  We have a movie to watch, at home and the night is still young.  To me, cooking a flavorful dinner for my husband is my way of showing him how much I appreciate the wonderful husband that he is.  Isn't that why we food bloggers photograph and talk about what we make? We are passionate about good food!   Fortunately, my husband appreciates my cooking efforts and he lets me know.  While I blogged this dinner, he cleaned the kitchen.  What a deal!

A printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Made with love,

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Hello Dolly" Magic Cookie Bars

My husband seldom asks me to make a specific dish or dessert.  Today, is a mild summer day, so I had no problem with baking.  I'm reading that other parts of California are experiencing triple-digit temperatures. Not on the Central Coast of California!  Even though I live in the sunbelt, I doubt the temperatures have gone any higher than 72 degrees.  I asked my husband what treat he'd like for his lunch box.  "Hello Dollies", he replied, with hope in his voice.  This bar cookie is a classic-- otherwise known as Magic Cookie Bars, from Eagle Brand.  I don't know where his father got the name "Hello Dollies"-- it must be a Missouri version? So, I scoured the pantry, and I had one can of condensed milk on hand. I keep walnuts in the freezer, and always have an assortment of chocolate chips and other flavors.  My husband was in luck, when I found a box of graham crackers.  These took 10 minutes to put together:

Preheat the oven to 350F. You need one cup of nuts, chopped.  Pecans would be good, but I chose walnuts for today.  I pulsed one package of graham crackers to equal 1 1/2 cups.  Melt one stick of butter and combine to the graham cracker crumbs.  I love parchment paper, otherwise spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.  I prefer to make a "sling" of two sheets of cut parchment paper so that I have about 2" of overhang on each side.  You can use aluminum foil, if you don't have parchment paper. Ever since I started doing this extra step, I no longer struggle with cutting bar cookies or having them stick to the pan. Pour a 14-oz can of  condensed milk on top of the crust. If you have an offset spatula, it makes the even spreading so much easier!

Sprinkle two cups of chocolate chips, evenly. Then sprinkle 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut.

Sprinkle one cup of chopped nuts as the last layer....
Gently press down on the layers.  Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Since I took the time to make a "sling", I simply lift the cookie right out of the pan and onto a cooling rack..

One of my favorite baking tools is this giant spatula by Wilton.  I found mine at a "Michael's" Craft Store.  No more broken cakes or bar cookies!  Let this cook for at least 15 minutes... tell drooling husbands (or kids)  to wait.

The crust is chewy from the condensed milk. I cut these into 24 bars...

Baker's Rights... I get the first taste. 

VERDICT: I can see why these are Craig's #1 favorite cookie (next to peanut butter).  I love the chewy, buttery crust.  It's sweet, but not cloyingly sweet.  The balance of chocolate, coconut and nuts is perfect.  These are rich, and perfect to tuck into a lunch box.  I recommend a glass of milk, though.  I see this cookie recipe on blogs during Christmas Cookie season.  I think this is a fast and easy cookie all year round. As for me, I'm going to limit myself to my one cookie. Today, at least! The rest is for my hard-working husband, who deserves his boyhood treat. He's been busy taking care of our herb and vegetable garden.  Make these for your loved ones. They'll thank you.  If you've made these yourselves, then you know what I'm talking about!

These will definitely put a smile on your face.  A printable recipe is at the bottom of this post. 

For those of you who are roasting in record high heat-- save this recipe for a time when turning on an oven doesn't make you gasp in horror.  I hope you do find cooler temperatures! Tomorrow is back-to-school for the students where I work.  I am expecting to be busy and tired for most of the week. I'll do my best to share more recipes.  I miss not being able to post more than once or twice a week, and I thank you for lovely comments and private emails.  I  love to share with all of you what's cooking in our home. I feel so blessed!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Pan Seared & Roasted Halibut, Summer Garden Succotash and Yellow Lemon Rice

As a kid, I disliked fish.   My mother, in her true German way, loved to cook whole trout and serve it to us this way.  When you're young, if it doesn't look like fish sticks and isn't served with tater tots-- well, a fish with cooked eyeballs looking up at me is about as disgusting as you can get.  I refused to eat it. Period.

I avoided fish at all costs, until my early thirties.  That's when I discovered Petrale Sole.  It was a whole new world!  I have also learned to appreciate fresh salmon and fresh tilapia.  I've also discovered that fresh trout, sans eyeballs, is a very tasty fish.  My favorite way to prepare fish is to sear and roast it (grilling it comes in second).  I love the flavorful crust that develops on high heat on a stove, and then is roasted perfectly to present moist and tender fish.   Ever since I watched "Food Inc." I have decided to spend a few extra dollars to buy fresh and non-farmed fish.  I decided to splurge and buy fresh Pacific (Alaskan) halibut, at my local fish market, which is considered to be the best sustainable choice-- @$17.00 a pound. Ouch.  "How long ago was this halbut swimming off Alaskan waters?", I asked.
"Two days ago", he replied.
"I sure hope so", I thought to myself.

When I arrived home, I opened the packaged and sniffed the fish.  Nothing.  This is good!  Fresh fish shouldn't  stink "smell" like fish.  To keep things simple, I reached for my can of "Old Bay Seasoning" and preheated the oven to 400F.  I grabbed my favorite cast iron skillet, added a little olive oil and heated the pan until the oil just began to ripple and smoke...

I left the fish to sear for about 3 minutes, without moving it around.  By lifting a corner, I could see that I was achieving that beautiful brown sear.  I flipped the halibut and put the entire pan into the oven.  I started the side dish while the halibut was searing...

I originally wanted to make a zucchini gratin. However, our squash isn't quite ready. We're having an unually cool summer with less sunshine that usual.  Our tomatoes are behind schedule, but they are showing promise.  I picked the few cherry, Sweet 100's and pear tomatoes that I could find.  I found one zucchini squash that was ready to cook.

So I pondered what to do with these....

I spotted two ears of corn a friend had given me from her CSA box.  In the bowl  have fresh corn, zucchini and tomatoes.
I decided to slice a vidalia onion I had, on hand.  I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil, kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper....

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peach & Walnut Oatmeal Pancakes with Maple Syrup

Peaches are in season and I couldn't be happier. I love them grilled, in yogurt, as an ice cream topping, baked in muffins, as jam-- and now, I love them in pancakes.   Two things you won't find in my pantry are boxed pancake mix or pancake syrup.   Making my own pancakes is so easy, and I'll bet that you have the ingredients on hand.  I have been making a version of these oatmeal pancakes for quite a while, but I had forgotten about them until this morning. I spotted a peach that had ripened yesterday, and I wanted to enjoy it for breakfast.    It took about 15 minutes to put the batter together and I cut some caloric corners.  Let me show you:

I store my walnuts in the freezer, so that the walnut oil won't go rancid. In a dry skillet, I toasted a small handful (about 1/2 cup) for two minutes, on high heat. You don't have to do this step, but I think it makes them walnuts taste better. Besides, they make good snackin'!  Dice a peach.    The dry ingredients are unbleached white flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and old-fashioned oatmeal. Don't worry, the printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.  The wet ingredients are whole milk, sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  However, I used 1% milk and nonfat Greek Yogurt to cut back on a calorie or two.

Toss the dry ingredients together, and make a well.  Whisk the wet ingredients and pour into the dry and gently fold-- don't overmix it!  Add the peaches...

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Feta-Stuffed Fig-Glazed Grilled Lamb Burgers with Red Onion Jam -- OhMy!

I am having a love affair with fig jam.  This week, I was smitten with a recipe for Fig Glazed Burgers with Red Onion Jam that was posted on "The Bitten Word".   The recipe originally comes from Southern Living Recipes, and uses ground beef and Muenster Cheese. When I think of fig jam, I tend to think of pork... or even lamb. So, I started thinking of Greek inspired ingredients, and an idea was born. I adore lamb, but my husband is so-so about it.  I bought one pound of ground lamb and 1/2 pound of ground veal. I figured the mix of meats would tone down the sometimes "stronger" flavor of lamb.  I didn't want to add too many seasonings, since I wanted the fig jam to be the star...

I added fresh oregano & parsley, from our garden. The seasoning I chose was Montreal Steak Seasoning.  It's a Rachael Ray staple, but I have to say that it's perfect for seasoning burgers.  Done.  I made four patties.  I decided to add slices of feta cheese.  I stacked one patty on top of the feta topped patty...

This feta cheese had sun-dried tomatoes and basil.  It was really tasty, and will end up in a salad very soon. 

I carefully sealed the patties together. Now, that's a patty!

The red onion jam has simple pantry ingredients.  I love my mandoline, because you'll want the slices to be rather thin. This is about four cups.  I also need fresh thyme, red wine vinegar and sugar.   In a little bit of olive oil, the onion is cooked until very tender-- about 10 minutes.

Next, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of the red wine vinegar is added, the the fresh thyme. The recipe says 3/4 of a teaspoon. I added more. I think that's more for dried thyme, but add what you like.  Cover the onions and cook on low-- keep warm.  Fire up the grill...

Typically, I like to make my own hamburger buns. These are Honey Wheat Hamburger Buns from Trader Joe's.  I like their ingredients, so I take a shortcut today.  Fresh spinach ties in the Greek ingredients just fine, don't you think?

 The burgers are on standby...

I'm calculating one tablespoon of fig jam per person-- and a little extra... here we go!

Though we love our Weber, we fire up the gas grill and preheat it nice and hot.  The burgers are cooked about 6 minutes, covered (they are pretty thick)... and then flipped over...

Once the  burgers are flipped, we let them cook for about 4 minutes. Craig is adding the fig jam, now. He closes the cover and let's the burgers grill over direct heat.

Doesn't this glaze look amazing?  I was licking my chops.  We cooked these until an instant read thermometer registered at 145F.  The total cooking time was about 16-18 minutes.  My husband is wary of lamb that isn't cooked past medium rare, so cook according to your liking.

We let these rest for a few minutes.  In the meantime, I crack open a cold imported beer.

Let's build a burger.   I'm questioning how important the red onion jam will be, but I add that on top of this.

Carl's Junior has nothing on this.  It's big, I'm hungry and I'm going in!

I'm happy to see that the feta cheese melted perfectly...
Can you see how moist the burger is?  It's perfectly cooked.  So, what did I think?

VERDICT: Fig jam is the perfect glaze for grilling burgers. I am so going to use this more often... I'm thinking grilled chicken burgers, grilled turkey burgers, grilled anything burgers!  My husband liked the burger, and didn't think the lamb was overpowering at all. Whew! The red onion jam is very good.  I could go with or without it, because the fig jam is what intrigued me the most.   I'm a jam maker, so I expected more of chutney or thick jam consistency with the red onion.  I am very tempted to use brown sugar, instead of white sugar next time.    As far as the burger seasonings-- I might be tempted to add some garlic to this... maybe shallots. Heck, that's the fun of making burgers! You can go wild with different ingredients.

Whatever you do, don't leave out the fig jam.  That's the cherry on the sundae. Or, in this case, it's the star of this burger.  

As always, a printable recipe is at the very bottom of this post.

Happy Grilling!

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