Sunday, April 15, 2012

Peanut Butter and Broccoli

We were at a neighborhood beach bar when my husband wistfully recalled the dinner I’d made and said ‘oh that was so good, that peanut butter and broccoli.’ For a neighbor standing nearby this conjured up an image of someone dipping raw broccoli florets into a jar of Jiffy’s, so he had to ask… ‘what?!’

It’s nothing new to use peanuts in a stir-fry, but the interaction with our neighbor was amusing, and stir-frying broccoli with peanut butter has become a regular act in our household. I’ll make a huge batch of it for a meatless meal and then have it as an accompaniment or snack for several days. It’s inexpensive, quick, and my opinion, a good fast food.

Print

Peanut Butter and Broccoli

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

This is a quick, inexpensive and healthy crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

1 lb broccoli
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 Tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
.5 cup water
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
.25 cup peanut butter

1-2 Tbsp peanuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:

- in a wok on medium high heat add the oil and red pepper flakes and saute the onion 2 minutes
- add the garlic and saute 1 minute
- add the broccoli, stirring occassionally until bright green
- add .25 to .5 cup water and cover for 3-5 minutes until broccoli is cooked through
- add soy sauce and then push broccoli to sides of the wok and allow the liquid to pool in the middle
- whisk in peanut butter to liquid and allow to thicken slightly
- then toss everything together and finish off with some chopped peanuts for some extra crunch

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cool Curry

So of course I’m an avid Top Chef follower. I love it, even though some of the challenges – like hacking frozen packets of food out of ice blocks – showcase the cheftestants’ cooking abilities or food sourcing know-how less than if we sent them to reenact scenes from Psycho, or Housewives of New Jersey… and if you watched the reunion show you might have caught and enjoyed Peewee Herman’s outtake about his episode possibly being the ‘jump the shark’ Top Chef moment. Nevertheless, and Sarah’s ice pick inexperience notwithstanding, I heard something interesting when she competed in the fire and ice challenge and came up with a vegetarian, frozen curry idea. So I decided to make it the following week.

I know, Sarah is not well liked and I didn’t appreciate her Beverly bullying either, but 5 green stuffed pasta? It’s very rare to see a cook compete with a vegetable dish in a situation where it’s not required (turns out it’s not vegetarian, but easily could be). I also thought the idea of taking curry, which usually represents heat, and making it a semi-frozen element was interesting. As I watched the episode I really wished someone would bring me a plate of it, so off I went to the King George, VA stores in search of dandelion greens and the ever elusive flat-leaf parsley so I could follow her recipe here http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipes/dish-five-greens-filled-pasta-with-garlic-and-chili-and-spiced-sformato-cocktail-agrumi-gin-kumquat-and-mangonbspnbspnbspnbspnbspnbspnbspnbspnbsp

To no avail on the dandelion or flat-leaf, so I subbed around and went with swiss chard, spinach, baby arugula, basil and kale. I didn’t bother looking for burrata – I’d have to ask her why she used that. I would think any fresh mozzarella would be fine in a stuffed pasta with a lot of other ingredients. So I went with fresh buffalo mozzarella which, while not being free, is less expensive than burrata. I’ll save the burrata to have on its own with grilled bread and a mushroom salad. And ok, fine, with Oregon pinot noir.

After subbing on greens and the cheese, I also cut back on the over all amount of cheese in ratio to greens. We’re working (and succeeding!) on lowering my honey’s cholesterol, so I had to exercise some prudence. I did about 6 oz chopped mozzarella and 1.25 lb ricotta and kept the anchovy and seasonings the same. It came out nice and earthy with the greens, satisfying with the cheese, and bright with the touch of anchovy and lemon zest.

I followed her pasta recipe more or less and it was a very manageable dough that I rolled out to the 6th setting because I wanted the pasta to be thin enough to account for the fact it would later be getting rolled and doubling or more on thickness. She rolled hers to 5 and that’s probably what I’ll do next time. It turned out to be nicely delicate even after making the cannelloni and baking.

Filling_and_pasta

I rolled out sheets to the width of the pasta roller and then cut 6″ pieces; cooked them for about 2 minutes in salted boiling water working in batches of 4-6 and laying out on a sheet pan, spraying with cooking spray to keep them from sticking. I found that they required more filling than the recipe called for, perhaps because I was making this as an entree and not as a small reception plate. Either way, I would want a ratio of more filling to pasta flavor-wise. Like I said, the idea of seeing a ‘greens recipe’ was refreshing!

Filling_pasta

I rolled and lined them up in a sprayed pyrex baking dish and covered with foil and popped in the oven. A few minutes later I pulled out my ‘sformato.’

Curried_ricotta

I am right now eating this dish for the 3rd time. After trying it as a hot stuffed pasta with a

semi-frozen, self-saucing element I just reheated the sauce, poured it over my remaining pasta rolls, froze it to save some of it, and then reheated it all together. And it is delicious : )

So while I’m sure Sarah’s rendition was more refined and fabulous, my recommendation is to forget the ‘ice’ and just enjoy her good feel for flavor. I did the business with the gelatin, froze the curry sauce etc, but I did not bother putting the cheese through a food processor or strainer. At home I don’t think things need to be that refined unless Tom Colicchio is showing up; and even then, probably not unless he has a $100+k check to offer.

I suggest this: follow her measures for the curried the cream. It’s very nice. But just make the curry cream, combine it with ricotta out of the plastic container, pour it over your pasta and bake it off old-school. I’m enjoying a delicious, healthy, affordable dinner that way tonight, and I don’t have to icepick my way through the sauce ; ) Thanks Sarah for a cool dish.

 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

filet your fish

So far I’m failing in my endeavor to become a beach bum. It’s been an insane month of commuting, holiday errands and crafting, and of course tons of cooking. I’ve also been setting up a new blog site which is coming soon… chefinista.com : )

I realized that while I cook a lot and have years of professional and practical cooking experience to share, that I’m relieved to be out of a professional kitchen for now. I don’t have to be one of the boys! So anyway, the new site will be coming soon with plenty of cooking, but I’m also allowing myself some freedom to continue reclaiming my former girlie.

In the meantime, I’ve been fileting salmon. There’s been prime rib roasting and smoking, hors d’eouvres, and cholesterol-reducing meals in between, but I found myself cleaning up quite a few salmon filets over the past few weeks. It’s a handy skill to have, so here it is…

Start by pulling bones. They run down the length of the fatter part of the filet. I run my left index finger along to feel for them and then pull them out with my right hand. Tweezers come in handy but usually you can get them with your fingers.

Dsc_0576

Why yes, that IS glittery holiday nail polish! I have barely worn any nail polish for the last 12 years because it’s against regulations if you’re cooking commercially. It’s downright fun to wear nail polish! But I digress. The more noteable color is of course the rich salmony, corally color of the wild salmon (as opposed to pale pink). I eat certain farmed salmon as well, but love the flavor of wild.

Dsc_0573

Once you’ve pulled out the pin bones and double checked by running your finger along one more time, you’re ready to take the skin off. Start by taking the skinny tail end and making an initial incision through the flesh to the skin. The knife for this job is a sharp, long thin slicer.

Dsc_0578

Note the angle of my knife. It’s at about 45 degrees to the board so that hopefully I’ll remove all of the skin but without taking any flesh off with it. It’s a fine line to find, but you never want the knife going straight ahead, parallel to the board. You always want it angled towards the board.

Dsc_0580

Then grab the 3rd very important tool for this job. A paper towel. I’m a rightie so I hold the knife in my right hand, kind of backhanded, and then use the paper towel in my left hand to hold the tail of the fish. The towel is critical in helping grip the slippery tiny little end of the filet while guiding the knife through the much heavier part of the filet. Both hands are going to do an equal amount of work. Actually the right hand will stay quite quiet, and the left hand will do more moving. Of course, do a switcharooni if you’re left handed.

Dsc_0582

The trick now is to maintain the angle and direction of the knife while using the other hand to pull and fishtail the filet back and forth. It’s more an act of pulling the filet along the blade than trying to push the knife down the filet. You’ll adjust the knife as you go and as the filet gets heavier towards the fatter end, but keep the tension and waggling back and forth with the paper towel hand.

Dsc_0584

Ta da! boneless, skinless and almost ready for barbie. Now to tackle one of my pet peeves. The grey fat line on the back. It bothers me almost as much as getting cold bread with cold butter to order salmon in a restaurant and find that grey fat line on the bottom. So go ahead and flip the filet over, survey your work and grab a smaller knife to slice off that grey matter.

Dsc_0587

That little bit of silver left over isn’t too big a deal. I trim it down a little, but primarily work on the grey fat in the middle of the filet. Then I portioned it into smaller filets and marinated it in some safron tea with lemon zest. Once I seared it, I brushed with a compound butter of lemon zest. Delish.

Dsc_0588
Dsc_0591
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bag Lady 2.0

Find that as you run to the car in the morning you’re grabbing old shopping and grocery bags to corral some extra files and the healthier lunch and snacks you packed up the night before? I was doing this. I have a beautiful coat and beloved pink patent Kate Spade purse, that I’d then accessorize with files, tupperware, a laptop, Food Lovers’ Companion and other sundry items in old shopping bags and sometimes an old boating cooler.

In my recent shift from Dansko clog and chef coat wearing to dressing up and working in a front office, I realized that I need a more practical solution with less of a ‘shopping cart lady’ look. I’m happy to report that I did just that with my BuiltNY ‘Gourmet Getway’ and laptop bag.

These Built bags are made with neoprene which makes them stretchy, affordable, water resistant and washable! I found two styles which fit what I need and managed to coordinate their colors. I chose the Gourmet Getaway style for my lunch tote because it’s a little bigger and zips closed, helping insulate the food.

Dsc_0417

The stretchiness is great after trying to puzzle tupperware containers into a rigid little cooler. This puppy easily holds two pyrex dishes here, but I’ve also managed to get some small bottles, extra sandwiches and even my Food Lovers’ in there without anything getting too squished or mushed.

Dsc_0420

Then I needed something for a laptop but also for random odds and ends, papers, bills, insurance claims and other painful things so I found this Built bag. Because my purse is a shopper that I hook onto my lower arm, and the lunch bag has a handle, I wanted this to be a shoulder bag. It all works together great! The soft, stretchy double straps make it comfortable on my shoulder and again, it has all sorts of give to accomodate cookbooks, my camera and things of other odd shapes. There is an interior zip pocket for the laptop which keeps it cushioned and dry, then there is room on each side for stuff, with two snap pockets that carry chargers, ipods, phones etc.

Dsc_0425

Then when I’m home and don’t need them for a couple of days I just empty them out, roll them up and don’t worry about them. Check them out for lots of different bags, sizes and styles both chick and dude-friendly. I’m using two Gourmet Getaways as part of a Christmas gift  : )  http://www.builtny.com/

Dsc_0442
Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Hot Dogs Got into My Gumbo

Let me be clear, I haven’t eaten a reeeal hot dog in over 20 years. I’m ascared of the processing and chemicals. I’ve enjoyed a meditation hall’s-worth of tofu pups and veggie dogs because I miss hot dogs so much… gracing many fakies with yellow mustard as I stare off and recall the magic of my first ballpark dog; the revelation of placing the dog in the bun before wrapping it in foil, dropping it into a steamy box and allowing it to attain perfection as it finds its way to me.

Well, I’ve denied myself until now. What ‘now’ has brought me is something that I’ve chosen to trust simply because I’ve been told it was housemade and has been delivered by a friend from my college town of Pittsburgh. Ok, so that’s all ‘I got.’ I don’t actually know the butcher/ sausage maker, and I barely know the guy who bought these from the unknown sausage maker, but I do know my neighbor and new friend Bj, and her brother visits occasionally from Pittsburgh bearing wonderful tubular meats like those I used to enjoy from the Strip District.

So it went like this… my studmuffin husband was excited to pull saved shrimp shells out of the freezer and start a stock so he could get me to make gumbo. He had gumbo on the brain big time. gumbo gumbo gumbo… then running through my sleepy brain as I wake up Sunday morning the smell of what I’d explained when he asked me ‘how do you make shrimp stock?’ Shrimp shells, other shells, onions, celery. I think he forgot the bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns, but I have a solution for that. Next time I’ll store them by the frozen hot dogs.

I can’t say it was my pick for that day to stand and work on a ‘healthy (lower fat/ more burnable)’ dark roux, but my honey’s exuberance drew me to the galley and I rooted through the fridge for ham scraps. I knew I had prosciutto, bacon and worst-case-scenario, cold cut ham…. well I guess we’re eating too carefully because I’d let all of those go bad. jeeez

Hey! My man says.

How about these hot dogs from Pittsburgh?

He pulls them out of the freezer and the part of me that’s been crazy to have them says ‘Great idea. Gimme those : )’

So I cut them up, browned them, got them crispy and crack-like and used the cooking oil as the base for my roux, later adding scallops, shrimp and a little crabmeat. We’ve enjoyed it all week. Thank you Bj and Bj’s brother for setting me free!! xoxo and go Tartans!

Dsc_0381
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peggy’s Bday : ) Chowder and Fish Sticks

I’m paying the price for letting another month go by before trying to recall how I made this entree for peggy’s bday! Soon, when my new site is ready, I will be posting weekly and with total recall ; ) In the meantime, this dish turned out delicious and this recipe will work, especially if you actually remember to put the potatoes on the plate, which I failed to do.

For some reason I wanted to do a seafood stew, but was also interested in making domino potatoes like these ezrapoundcake.com/archives/7464 and so I decided to do a seafood dish with a chowder sauce. I also wanted shellfish and fin fish so what evolved was this chowder of littleneck clams, seared sea scallops and a halibut phyllo fish stick with sweet corn and clam chowder sauce.

Dsc_0144

Fish Sticks

3 5 oz. pieces halibut, cut a longer, skinnier shape
4 tbs butter, melted
phyllo dough
Old Bay seasoning

– lay out a sheet of phyllo dough (keeping the rest under a damp towel), brush with butter, sprinkle with a little Old Bay. Lay another phyllo sheet on top of that, brush with butter, sprinkle Old Bay and repeat with one more sheet so that there are three layers
– season the fish with pepper (I’m putting the salty Old Bay on the pastry and keeping the salt off of the fish because we’re making this ahead of time and I don’t want salt in contact with the fish, pulling water out of it), brush fish with butter, and lay on the phyllo sheets
– roll the fish lengthwise in the phyllo
– with scissors cut excess phyllo off and fold remaining phyllo around the ends of the fish the way you would wrap a gift
– place fish packet seam side down on a baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to fire the dish

The Chowder

1 tbsp butter
1 shallot minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp fresh thyme, picked

2 lemons, zested on a microplane
3 cobs silver queen corn, cut from cob, sauteed with butter, salt and pepper – save the cobs
2 leeks, white and light green part, sliced thinly on a bias, sauteed until very soft, finish with a touch of butter
1.5 cups clam juice or seafood stock or about 1 bottle of store bought clam juice
1 pint heavy cream
dash tabasco sauce
dash worcestershire sauce
.75 cup dry white wine
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
12 sea scallops, tendon removed
1 – 2 tbsp vegetable oil or clairfied butter
1 recipe domino potatoes

– heat the oven to 350 and if the halibut has been in the fridge, pull it out and leave on the counter
– put .5 cup water, the wine, juice from half a lemon and some kosher or sea salt in the bottom of a dutch oven and heat until it’s steaming
– add the littlenecks, top with a lid and casually sip on something while you stand guard and wait for the clams to open
– after 2 minutes, lift the lid and with a pair of tongs remove to a bowl any clams that have opened, then return the lid and repeat in another 30 – 45 seconds; repeat until all the clams have opened and been removed. If after 6 – 8 minutes there are unopened clams, discard them, and save the cooking liquid
– in a sauce pan melt the butter and saute the shallot and red pepper until soft
– add the cooking liquid from the littlenecks, clam juice and juice of remaining three lemon halves with a pinch more salt; simmer on medium high heat and allow to reduce by about half
– add the heavy cream, corn kernels and cobs and allow to simmer and thicken; taste and season after 5 – 10 minutes; finish with lemon zest, tabasco and worcestershire
– drop the halibut into the oven and set the timer to 20 minutes
– heat a separate skillet with the oil or clairfied butter to smoking, pat scallops dry on a paper towel, season with salt and pepper and lay flat in the pan; after about two minutes flip them over and after another two minutes, if you like, cut a big pat of butter into the pan and when it gets foamy take a soup spoon and baste the scallops with it.. sweet butter on sweet scallops… yum. Remove to a paper towel and hold on a warm spot on the counter
– drop the potatoes into the oven to rewarm about 5 minutes

 

To Pick Up…

– pull the fish out when the phyllo is browned and crispy; about 20 – 25 minutes and rest on a cutting board
– rewarm the leeks and place in the upper middle of 6 plates or wide shallow bowls
– plate 3 littlenecks and 2 scallops per plate around the leeks
– add a portion of the potatoes to each plate, or be like me and leave them in the oven for your mother-in-law to find during clean up! well, at least now that I’ve written out the plan, I’ll have a reminder next time : )
– cut each of the three fishsticks in half on a bias and add a half to each plate with the phyllo side down and the cut side towards the presentation side of the plate
– take the chowder and spoon generously into the clams and around the plate and pour some onto the extra clams to go in the middle of the table and enjoy!

Final Note… this recipe can be simplified by just doing the fish sticks with a corn cream sauce, or the chowder with clams only; by simply adding small scallops or shrimp to the chowder rather than searing separately. I wanted to combine some of the textures of the different techniques but it doesn’t have to be that complicated and you have a better chance of getting all of your desired components onto the plate if you simplify.

 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peggy’s Bday : ) Ratatouille and Silky Parmesan [Part 2 of 3]

From HDs and now on to the table to have a seat, a lingering look at the river, and a nice crisp glass of Cakebread Savignon Blanc mmmmm. oh, and our first course…

Dsc_0141

Peggy planted basil and some other herbs for me in the Spring, so basil from the yard was a natural focus on the 1st course. Then, because my in-laws love parmesan, rather than doing a sauce I included a parmesan mousse and finished the plate with ‘balsamic dots’ – balsamic syrup polka dots decorating the plate from a squeeze bottle.

The tart is a favorite recipe of mine from culinary school. It’s very simple and clearly relies on freshness and super simple technique, but I’ll confess, when this first wooed me back in school, we made it with bulk-purchase roma tomatoes and I was surprised by the flavor of the finished tart. So if that’s what you have access to, I’d say go ahead and try it – individual like these, or large cut into wedges. It makes a great lunch with a salad or on a buffet with salmon or eggs. All things herby and earthy are nice next to it. I love these easy, elegant and sea salty ways to eat because of they’re so reliable and versatile.

 

Dsc_0139

… in a restaurant I would have only served a wedge of the tartlet for this plate to be elegant, but as a hybrid of restaurant and home cooking we got a bit of a clumsy plate, but pretty good eating : )

Finally, I got to the ratatouille, sauteeing each vegetable separately, cooling and then combining all but the eggplant and finished it with lemon zested on a microplane. Cooking and cooling each diced veg separately helps keep the mix from getting muddy in taste and appearance when you mix it together, and the barely detectable lemon keeps it bright in flavor. Lemon zest works great that way in a lot of things. I love how delicate the Japanese eggplant is, so I kept the coins separate to put down as a base for the rest of the ratatouille. 

 

Parmesan Mousse

1.5 cups parmesan cheese, grated – the best quality piece you can get with rind if possible, grate at home and keep the rind

1 cup whole milk

1 clove garlic

1 fresh sage leaf

.5 packet gelatin

.25 tsp salt

.5 tsp black pepper, fresh coarse grind

1 cup heavy cream

vegalene or other neutral cooking spray

– combine milk, .5 cup heavy cream, garlic, sage, salt and pepper over medium heat and watch carefully

– when milk begins to simmer around the edge of the pot ad grated parm and ant rind

– you have to watch it and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon, but allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes

– remove from heat, strain thru a chinois or either fine mesh, pressing on solids, then whisk in gelatin

– allow liquid to cool and whip remaining .5 cup heavy cream to medium-stiff peaks

– when liquid is cooled (strain again if it looks unsmooth or gelatin clumped up) and fold in whipped cream

– turn into a small glass, conringware or other non-metallic dish sprayed with non-stick spray and allow to set up in the fridge

– to serve I cut rectangles, but you can cut tiny squares, do mini scoops, quenelles, whatever lucious parm shape you want!

Tomato Zucchini Tarts
pate brisee (in basic recipes)

4-5 medium zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1 dozen baby heirloom or 5 plum tomatoes, 1/4″ slices
basil chiffenade
gruyere cheese, grated
3 tbsp olive oil (good stuff), salt and pepper

– heat oven to 350 degrees

– combine olive oil with a pinch of each salt and pepper
– roll pastry dough to 1/4″ thickness for your tart pan(s)
– lay dough into tart pan(s)
– sprinkle bottom of tart with the gruyere and basil
– from the outer edge alternately tile the tomato and zucchini slices, brushing with the seasoned olive oil as you go
– bake uncovered for 12 – 18 minutes

 

Ratatouille

 

1-2 small zucchini, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
1-2 baby Japanese eggplant, sliced or about half of a larger eggplant, small dice
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, very small dice
1 tbsp tomato paste
basil chiffenade
1 lemon on microplane

 

– saute zucchini, then the eggplant – each over medium high heat in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes then turn onto a sheet tray to cool
– saute red onion over high heat, then turn heat down and allow to soften; add tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes more then turn onto sheet tray
– once cooled, combine zucchini, onion, red pepper with basil and lemon zest and seasoning to taste
– to plate, warm slighty, put down eggplant coins and top with remaining ratatouille

 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peggy’s Bday : ) Fig, Pig, T’matas and Chowder [Part 1 of 3]

Late August means cooking my 2nd annual birthday dinner for my mother-in-law Peggy.  It feels predictable, but I can’t help but focus the first course on tomatoes as they bumble and tumble off of every produce stand around this time of year. Then, I seemed to be pulled toward doing a seafood dish that would be almost saucy enough to be a stew, but plated like a regular entree. In part because I was interested in doing these fabulous domino potatoes like the ones done here on ezrapoundcake.com/archives/7464. So I settled on a chowder.

The Eats

Prosciutto Purses

with local figs, mascarpone and parmegiano reggiano

Tomato and Basil

individual tomato zucchini tartlettes 

parmesan mousse with roasted tomato petals

lemony ratatouille with Japanese eggplant coins

 

Seafood Chowder
littleneck clams, seared scallops, and halibut fish stick with molten leeks and chowder 

 

Watermelon Sorbet

watermelon puree, with the awesome ginger liqueur I posted earlier

*****

I bought figs at the Fredericksburg farmers’ market and as usual was faced with the challenge of serving something I would often use raw – cooked (my hubby.. see ‘about.’ He won’t eat raw stuff. not yet. but I digress)

Dsc_0136
I love figs with prosciutto, and I new I couldn’t go wrong with some tangy cheese in there, so I decided to make these prosciutto purses. At first I imagined that I would take a square of the ham, put a touch of cheeses and then a wedge of the fig. I tried by cutting the store-bought pieces of prosciutto in half, assembling the purses and baking off briefly. Surprisingly the fig flavor wasn’t forward enough. And they were too big.

Dsc_0137

I wanted a smaller bite-size and more pronounced fig, so I made a mix out of rough chopped figs, the cheeses and a touch of agave and cut the prosciutto slices into 3rds. They were a great size, had more balanced flavor and worked better for a smaller parcel.

Dsc_0138

Worked great. Like most bacon style HDs, they sold well, but they’re very intense in flavor, so you only need so many. I did 2.5 pieces per person.  

Prosciutto Purses

6 figs

.5 cup mascarpone cheese

.25 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

8 slices Prosciutto

24 chives, blanched (shocked in ice) – an option if you wanna to tie the tiny bows

– cut figs into wedges and then cut those in half (depending on the size of the fig)
– mix figs, mascarpone and hard shredded cheese

– cut the ham into 3rds and place fig filling in the center of each
– pull the corners and sides of ham up to bunch in the middle/top and form a purse
– the ham will hold the shape of the purse, but if you want to finish with a flourish ; ) tie the chives around the tops of each purse in bows (see background of 2nd pic)
– bake on foil in 350 degree oven for 5 – 8 minutes to warm the fig filling and get a slight crisp on the bottom of the purse OR just sear in a pan over moderate to high heat for a minute or two

Hint for making ahead: I planned on assembling and searing at the party, but it seemed like the filling might make the ham soggy after a few hours, so I quickly seared them over moderate heat to ‘set’ the bottom of the purse, and then held them on foil so I could pop them in the oven for 3-5 minutes when I went to serve. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boat Picnic

Just in time for a typical Washington summer heat wave, last week graced us with some stunning, 80-something degree days! It was beautiful, and as fun as our neighborhood beach restaurants are, I wanted to get out onto the water by boat for a peaceful Friday night picnic to end the week and cherish the weather. Thursday night I invited two friends to join us and Friday afternoon, lucky enough to have worked from home, I clocked out and pulled together some summery snacks to set out on a cooler in the middle of our 22′ Larsen, in the middle of the Potomac.

Boat_buffet

To prep I roasted red potatoes, steamed corn, made barbecue sauce for chicken I had on hand, and olive oil roasted garlic for some fresh ciabatta and flatbread that we later threw on the grill.

Garlic

Usually I roast garlic by just cutting the top off a whole head, drizzling a little olive oil inside and wrapping each in foil. This time I wanted extra oil to dress my bread, so I decided to cut the bulbs in half along the equator and put them cut sides down in a pot with about a cup of oil to each head of garlic. In this case I put 2 bulbs, or 4 halves, and about 2 cups of olive oil in a covered pot at 300 degrees for an hour. In the meantime I used that low oven temp to roast the pencil-thin asparagus for about 20 minutes with olive oil and then tossed with some jarred roasted red pepper julienne.

When my husband got home and offered help I asked him to remove the roasted garlic cloves from the bulbs so we could make a paste; which he did, and then cheerfully went about cleaning up and poured off the oil into the sink! So be sure to advise your sous chef that the olive oil is tasty and good for dipping and marinating ; ) In commercial kitchens I’ve seen unfortunate misunderstandings where the vegetables were strained and saved from a stock as the stock went down the drain! So here at least we had some of the oil and lots of sweet, sticky garlic paste.

Then I citrus marinated the shrimp which need only a few minutes to take on the acidic marinade. They went off along with chicken and bread to the grill. In the meantime, steamed corn cut from the cobb and some of the asparagus were tossed with the potatoes to make the veg combo above.

Citrus Grilled Shrimp

1 lb shrimp, deveined, shell/ tail off
1 lime, zested on a microplane and juiced
1 lemon, zested on a microplane and juiced
sea salt
chipotle chili powder
1 T olive oil

– toss everything together, skewer shrimp, grill and baste with juices and zest
– hit with salt as soon as it comes off of the grill; have it at the grill and pinch some out of a salt well or tupperware container and hold your hand up high to sprinkle so that they get generous but even seasoning

In this case, I then halved the shrimp and sliced the chicken thinly so they would be easy to balance on the grilled bread in case a breeze or other boaty factor made paper plate or plastic fork management difficult. Then it all got plattered up and packed with a pitcher of Ginger Green MarTeanis and off we went for a sunset supper cruise. Ok, we didn’t cruise exactly… we floated. and it was downright delightful.

Sunset
Imag00231
Friday, July 8, 2011

Sails, Milo’s Tail, and Empty Crabbing Pails

It all started with dessert somehow. Post dessert even. If you can imagine, it started with Friandise – the sailboat that is. I was as unclear as you are now back in the late fall when I went on search for a boat to charter on the Chesapeake Bay.

A dear friend, his hottie Norwegian wife and their two young children wanted to join our upcoming BVI cruise in the winter, but alas, editing, social work, child-rearing and general awesomeness in Manhattan does not always afford every opportunity when family obligations et al are present. No fear! I told my friend. You are just the excuse I’ve been seeking for a spring Bay charter. Allow me to cruise the inet for a master plan.

I came up bust as I searched in places closer to my childhood port of Bodkin Creek. Nothing in Annapolis or Baltimore seemed to quite work. Then I remembered that I’d be married and living south of the Mason Dixon soon, and that I remember this nice place Solomons Island. And the perfect boat appeared, and only a day’s sail from the perfect creek.

Img_5667

A 39′ Jeanneau with 3 cabins, great online charm and a delicious name. I scratched my head, surfed the charter company’s website and rewetted my contact lense a little when I felt that I saw my culinary school’s Chef/Owner Francois, the Pastry Chef at my time of attendance, Chef Mark and others in chef coats aboard my new find. Sure enough, the boat is owned by the pastry chef from my culinary school! So we booked it, and had a great sail and a great time this past week thanks to the Bay’s great adventures and Chef’s great taste in sailboats. Here I am with wenchettes in training, practicing hiking out for the close hauled long ride. Milo the stuffed cat was below with a figure 8 knot leash for this part. The girls did great!

Img_5635

Fast forward to crudite. And by that I mean the most pedestrian pepper sticks, carrots… ok fine, some peanut butter snacks and dare I ‘fess? velveeta.. which I mixed with organic wheat pasta goddammit. ech. Even the crab that bit our line didn’t make it into the bucket. My ‘gourmet’ plans all rotted on board while we made sure the girls had full bellies and avoided motion sickness. I made crab cakes one night but otherwise I cleaned dishes more than I cooked. I realized though, that I have something culinary to share beyond my fun ride with the girls as I went to email the spinach ‘dip’ recipe that my friend asked me for the whole trip. It’s humble and simple, but it’s versatile, portable, will appease your gastroenterologist, your figure, and also works great on a burger or alongside a piece of fish. To my most recent shipmate,  your requested recipe : )

Img_5713

Print

Sailory Spinach Dip

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Healthier but delicious spinach dip

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 tsp. cracked red pepper flakes
1-2 bags baby spinach or local cleaned leaf spinach
1 pkg shiitake mushrooms, sliced, seared until golden, finish with red wine, then chop down a bit
1 small bottle artichoke hearts marinated, chopped
Parmesan cheese and a grater

Directions:

- heat the oil over medium heat and add the salt, onion, and red pepper
- when onion starts to soften, add the garlic
- after about 30 seconds add the spinach... as much will fit and allow to wilt, turning with tongs and removing to a cutting board; cook the remaining spinach with a little more oil or spray and add to original batch of spinach
- chop spinach and toss with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and cheese to taste

Spinach_dip_and_chips