Monday, July 18, 2011

Farmers Market Fun Part II

Fussili Pasta with Jalapeño Cheese Sauce, Sausage, and Swiss Chard
My second trip to this summer's Farmers Market was a wet, but wholly inspirational one. Summer's bounty is becoming more and more glorious as the weeks go by and I was thrilled to find numerous booths packed with fragrant herbs, bright leafy greens, and colorful berries. This meal started as we strolled by the same farm that provided the excellent pepper bacon for June's Carbonara recipe. A pound of Hot Italian sausage and brick of creamy Havarti cheese later, I was well on my way to crafting this green-packed, herby pasta dish. This was a quick and easy meal to put together and full of some of the summer's most distinctive flavors.

- l lb. hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
- 2 tsp. hot pepper flakes 
- 2 c. grated jalapeño Havarti (or a good quality pepper jack cheese)
- 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves torn into large pieces
- 1 lb. dried fussili pasta
- 5 spring onions, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces (both white and green pieces)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. of milk

Bring a large heavy pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it thoroughly. Cook pasta to package directions, about 9 minutes. After the pasta boils for about 7 minutes, add the chard to blanch. Drain water, reserving about a cup of the pasta water. Set aside. If you time this right, the cheese sauce should be finished about the same time the pasta and chard are cooked. While the water is coming to a boil, brown sausage in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-heat, about 5-7 minutes. When it is cooked through, remove from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving the drippings in the pan. Put sausage in a large serving bowl and set aside.

Add butter and chopped onions to sausage drippings and cook over medium heat until the onions soften slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook and additional minute.
 Reduce heat to medium-low and add flour. Whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add milk and cream to the flour mixture and continue whisking until a thick, smooth, creamy sauce forms. Add grated cheeses, Tabasco sauce, pepper flakes, and mustard and whisk over low heat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. 

Add the drained pasta and chard to the cooked sausage in the serving bowl and pour about half of the warm cheese sauce over the mixture. Toss with tongs to combine ingredients, then pour the remaining sauce and toss again to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed in. If the sauce is dry add some of the pasta cooking liquid about a 1/4 c. at a time. Toss in the fresh herbs and serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Plum Crazy

Honey Vanilla Plum Tart
I had every intention of whipping together my favorite summer dessert (strawberry shortcake) when inspiration hit. It had been a while since I'd made a fruit tart and I was interested in developing my own pastry crust. When I stumbled upon six perfectly ripe, dark fleshed plums at the market, the choice seemed obvious. They were blackish purple and had a subtly floral fragrance to them. Sweetened with a little honey and rum, this beautiful stone fruit makes one heck of a tasty tart.
- 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- 6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 1" pieces
- 2 Tbsp. cold vegetable shortening
- 4-6 Tbsp. ice water
- 6 plums, pits removed and cut into 1/4" thick slices
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- juice from one lemon
- 1 Tbsp. dark rum
- 4 Tbsp. large grained sugar

Combine flour, powdered sugar, butter, and vegetable shortening into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a crumbly mixture forms. With machine running, slowly add ice water one Tbsp. at a time until the dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a floured piece of waxed paper. Sprinkle flour onto the top of dough and cover with a second piece of waxed paper. Roll dough out into a circle so that it will fit into a 9" tart pan. Remove top piece of waxed paper and turn dough over and out into tart dish. Press dough into the pan and cut off any over hang. Cover in plastic wrap and chill dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes - 1 hour. 

After chilling the dough, preheat oven to 375˚ F. Remove plastic wrap from dough and cover top with foil or parchment paper then fill with pie weights or dried beans. The weight keeps the pastry from puffing up during baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is cooked through and beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling

While pastry crust cools, put sliced plums in a large bowl add honey, rum, and lemon juice. Allow plums to soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain off juices, preheat oven to 375˚F. Arrange slices in the pastry crust in a slightly overlapping spiral pattern. Sprinkle evenly with 2 Tbsp. of large grain sugar and bake for 30-40 minutes until plums are softened and juices begin to bubble. Remove from oven and allow tart to cool completely. Sprinkle with remaining large grained sugar, slice into wedges, and serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vanilla Wishes and Sour Cream Dreams

Vanilla Sour Cream Scones with Blueberries and Whipped Cream
Hands down, the best summer desserts include fresh berries and the simpler, the better. My favorite way is right out of the basket and into my mouth. But, for a slightly more involved preparation, a great shortcake recipe never fails to impress. For a while now, I had been musing over a twist on my favorite scone recipe and came up with this slightly sweet, vanilla-spiked biscuit. Without the blueberries and whipped cream, it's perfect alongside your morning coffee or afternoon tea. As a shortcake, it hits the perfect meal-ending note after a summer time dinner with friends.

- 2 c. flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 8 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder 
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp. good quality vanilla
- 2/3 c. sour cream
- 1-2 Tbsp. cold milk
- 2 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- juice from one lemon
- fresh whipped cream

Preheat oven  to 400˚F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, and baking powder until well combined. Work in cold butter with a pastry blender or two forms until it is broken up and a slightly crumbly mixture forms. Add sour cream, vanilla, and egg and mix together until it is just blended. If mixture is too dry work in 1-2 Tbsp. of cold milk to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly with floured hands. Roll dough into a 1 1/2" thick rectangle and cut out scones into eight squares. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake scones for 9-12 minutes until they have risen and are just barely beginning to turn brown on the tops. Remove from baking sheet with a spatula and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container before serving. These can be made up to two days ahead.

 Prepare the blueberries by placing them in a medium sized bowl and drizzle with honey and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine ingredients and allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes to soften slightly. Assemble the shortcakes by splitting the scones lengthwise down the center. Top the bottom half with a dollop of whipped cream and a scoop of blueberries. Top with the other half of the scone and add a little more whipped cream and blueberries on top. Enjoy with your favorite dessert wine, tea, or whatever your pallet craves.

The Spice of Life

Hearty Vegetarian Chili with Roasted Tomatoes and Corn
I had a pork loin in the freezer and every intention of making an extremely meaty, tender slow-cooked shredded pig chili. I had been thinking about that mouth-watering smoky taste all day and looked forward to an evening of friends and food. But, any good hostess must have a degree of flexibility when entertaining and I was challenged to re-vision my hearty chili recipe when I realized I would be having a vegetarian over for dinner. No problem. I made a few adjustments to the recipe to ensure that the chili would be spicy, extremely flavorful, and 100% meat-free. In fact, skip the cheese and sour cream topping and this is a great vegan option that is sure to please the pallets of carnivores and herbivores alike. Chili is one of those great throw-it-in-a-pot-and-leave-it-alone kind of recipes. The only real prep you need to remember to is soak your dried beans overnight and roast the tomatoes ahead of time. Otherwise, this is a great low-commitment recipe to feed a hungry crowd.

- 2 c. dried small white navy beans
- 2 . dried pinto beans
- 4 ears sweet white corn, husks removed and kernels scraped from the cob and set aside
- 1 lb. Roma tomatoes
- 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
- 2 large, sweet yellow onions, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 12 oz. bottles of Mexican lager, such as Corona
- 1/4 c. tequila 
- 1 3-4 oz. can black olives with liquid from can
- salt and pepper
- dried oregano
- red pepper flakes
- cayenne pepper
- cumin
- chipotle chili powder
- olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. butter 
- 16 oz. jar medium red salsa
- 16 oz. jar medium green salsa
- 1/4 c. chopped chili peppers in adobo sauce
- pickled jalapeño peppers, sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole, and corn chips for serving

Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside. Slice Roma tomatoes lengthwise into 1/4" pieces and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, 2 tsp. dried oregano, and 2 tsp. ground cumin. Drizzle tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and roast in oven for 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and browning. Remove from oven and place in a resealable container. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Rinse dried beans in a colander then place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with cool water and soak overnight for the beans to soften. Beans will expand after soaking, you may need to use two bowls. When ready to use, dump out soaking water and rinse beans in a colander with cool water. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 275˚F. Melt butter in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook onions on stove top until they become very soft and are beginning to turn brown, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes. Add fresh jalapeño peppers and garlic to the onions and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Pour tequila into the Dutch oven to deglaze pan, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and add drained beans, roasted tomatoes, corn, salsas, chili peppers in adobo sauce, olives in their juices, and beer. Season with 2 or more tsp. salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp. chili powder. Stir ingredients thoroughly to combine. 

Turn temperature to medium high heat and bring to a boil. When the chili is simmering, put a lid on it and place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven. Cook for 2 hours until the beans are softened and the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove from oven, stir again and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers, shredded cheese, guacamole, and tortilla chips.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Time to Grill

Thai Marinated Shrimp Fajitas
Summer is in full swing and it's time to enjoy the long hours of light with a cold beer in one hand and something fresh off the grill in the other. I could make burgers a thousand different ways, but the other night was in the mood for something a little different that my pescatarian roomie could enjoy. Shrimp sounded like the perfect protein to pack into a tortilla, I decided on a Thai-style marinade to add a little twist on the classic fajita recipe. The spicy, citrusy marinade is great with the sweet tender shrimp . . . topped with grilled vegetables and creamy guacamole, this is a great meal for a July evening.

- 1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp, defrosted, deveined, and rinsed
- 1 package fajita sized flour tortillas
- juice from one lime
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1-2 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce
- 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on vegetables
- 2 medium-sized yellow onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, rinsed
- 1 red and 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2" pieces
- fresh guacamole
- sour cream

In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, Sriracha, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, and olive oil. Season with a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Arrange uncooked shrimp in a single layer in a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour marinade over shrimp and cover dish with plastic wrap. Marinate in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Arrange vegetables and marinated shrimp on bamboo or metal skewers alternating between vegetables and meat. (If you use bamboo skewers soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using to prevent burning on the grill.) Brush vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.
 Place prepared skewers on a hot grill and cook until shrimp turn bright pink and vegetables begin to soften, turning once in the process to cook both sides. Shrimp cook quickly, it won't take longer than 4-5 minutes per side. Keep an eye on the shrimp, if they are overcooked they will become tough and rubbery. Remove from heat and serve with warmed tortillas. Top with sour cream, guacamole, or your favorite fajita topping!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

License to Grill

Super Secret Service Sauce Burgers with Triple Threat Roasted Balsamic Potato Salad
Summer is finally here and it's time to relish in the long hours of light and balmy summer air with what else? Grilling. Nothing says summer better than firing up the grill for an evening of burgers, beer, and friendship. For several days prior towards our grilling-get-together, I mused over the possibilities and decided I had to develop my own "secret sauce" for our burgers. Lucky for you, I decided not to keep it a secret. Instead, I want to share this delicious jalapeño-spiked dressing with the masses. And what better side for a tasty burger than a decidedly non-mayonnaise based potato salad? It was a hit. This seasoned burger was easy to make and with caramelized onions . . . a complete masterpiece of grilling. Seriously. It's worth the effort. This recipe seems very involved, but it's really quite easy. Much of if can be done ahead of time and stored until you are ready to grill.

- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 8 hamburger buns
- sliced tomato
- lettuce
- sliced cheddar cheese
- garlic salt
- onion powder
- Worcestershire sauce
- salt and ground pepper
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise
- 1/4 c. ketchup
- 2-3 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce
- 1/4 c. diced pickled jalapeño peppers
- 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced into 1" chunks
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes diced into 1" chunks
- 3 red potatoes, diced into 1" chunks
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 medium sized sweet yellow onions
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
- 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin crosswise
- juice from one lemon

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, ketchup, Sriracha sauce, and jalapenño peppers. Season with 1 tsp. garlic salt and 1 tsp. of onion powder. Taste. Seriously . . . taste it for seasoning. Do you like it? Most likely it needs to be seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a little of each. Taste again. If it is seasoned to your liking, go for it. If not. Try spicing it up with an extra squirt of Sriracha sauce and some extra salt and pepper. When the sauce it seasoned to your liking, cover in plastic wrap and store in fridge until you are ready for use. Can be made ahead of time, at least a day or two in advance if necessary.

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil and spray down with cooking spray to prevent potatoes from sticking. Arrange potatoes and sliced shallots on the baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with 2-3 Tbsp. of good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Toss lightly with your hands to make sure that the oil is evenly distributed on the potatoes. Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes have soften and are beginning to turn brown on the edges. If you taste one, it should be tender and sweet with a slight crispness in the skin.

Set potatoes aside for a few minute to cool and then place in a large serving bowl. Squeeze the juice from one lemon over the potato mixture and drizzle with 1-2 additional Tbsp. of olive oil to make sure than potato salad is moist. Toss with Italian parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. If you make this ahead, you can store it in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, covered in plastic wrap. If made shortly before serving, leave out, covered in plastic to be served at room temperature. So yummy!

I have always believed the best way to make a slam-dunk burger is to season the meat prior to grilling. To make this flavorful beefy-beast, place ground beef in a large bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add 1-2 tsp. of garlic salt to the mix and 3-4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce. Work seasoning into ground beef with bare hands. When ingredients are thoroughly combined form 8 palm-sized 1/4 lb. patties with hands and arrange on a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet in a single lager for grilling. Press a small indentation into the center of each burger before grilling. This ensures that the burgers will remain flat and won't puff up when you cook them.

Grill burgers for 4-5 minutes per side over a hot grill for medium rare. Top with cheese and cover to melt for 1 minutes. Remove from grill and tent with foil for several minutes before serving. Slater burgers buns with Super Secret Service Spicy Sauce then sprinkle bottom with caramelized onions. Top with a burger patty, tomato slice, lettuce, and bun top. Serve with potato salad. It's seriously so good. I promise. The sauce definitely has bite to it. If you like spicy stuff, you won't be disappointed.