Friday, December 23, 2011

Chocolate-Raspberry Torte

Many of you know that I test recipes and shop for groceries for Cook's Illustrated. This is a recipe that I tested several months ago, at that time I published a photo on the FoodBuzz website. Well Cooks Illustrated finally published the recipe in the November 2010 issue. This recipe is the first recipe I have tested where some big changes were made before the recipe was published. They added more chocolate, almost doubled the amount of almonds and the amount of vanilla was doubled. Since the first one was delicious I can only imagine how good it is with more nuts, vanilla and chocolate. The glaze turned out so shiny you can see the reflection of the raspberries in it. You can check out the entire recipe and notes in the November/December issue of Cook's Illustrated or on their website.  This makes a wonderful Christmas dessert.

Chocolate-Raspberry Torte
Cake and Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups (about 7 ounces) sliced almonds , lightly toasted
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (1 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup fresh raspberries , plus 16 individual berries for garnishing cake
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla and espresso powder.  The

2. Process 3/4 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses; set aside to garnish cake. Process remaining cup almonds until very finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour and salt and continue to process until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer almond-flour mixture to medium bowl. Process eggs in now-empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Using whisk, gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture until some streaks of egg remain. Sprinkle half almond-flour mixture over chocolate-egg mixture and gently whisk until just combined. Sprinkle in remaining almond-flour mixture and gently whisk until just combined.

3. Divide batter between cake pans and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until center is firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 30 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto cardboard rounds cut same size as diameter of cake and remove parchment paper. Using wire rack, reinvert 1 cake so top side faces up; slide back onto cardboard round.

4. TO ASSEMBLE TORTE: Place ½ cup raspberries in medium bowl and coarsely mash with fork. Stir in raspberry jam until just combined. Spread raspberry mixture onto cake layer that is top side up. Top with second cake layer, leaving it bottom side up. Transfer assembled cake, still on cardboard round, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.

5. FOR THE GLAZE: Melt chocolate and cream in medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and gently whisk until very smooth. Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze evenly over top of cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread glaze along sides of cake to coat evenly.

6. Using fine-mesh strainer, sift reserved almonds to remove any fine bits. Holding bottom of cake on cardboard round with 1 hand, gently press sifted almonds onto cake sides with other hand. Arrange raspberries around circumference. Refrigerate cake, still on rack, until glaze is set, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Transfer cake to serving platter, slice, and serve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Prime Rib and Cutting a Christmas Tree

Christmas make people do crazy things. If you don't believe me explain to me why people make fruitcake and wear sweaters with jingle bells attached. There is something about the magic of the season that makes people only use 1/2 of their brains. Here is a story to prove that. Annette and I had been married for about 5 years our children ranged from 1 year to 4 years old. We decided that it would be fun to cut our own Christmas tree. We were living in Michigan at the time and we had just gotten a nice snowfall, about 6 inches. We decided that Saturday would be the day to go in search of the perfect tree.

On Thursday the weather man said it was going to warm up and start raining on Friday. Sure enough Friday afternoon it started to rain and the temperature hit the low 50's. Saturday morning we got up and got ready for our big tree excursion. The temperature had dropped back to the 30's the snow was gone. We bundled the kids up in their show suits. The youngest turned 1 on Thanksgiving day so she could barely walk as it was, put her in a pretty little pink and white snow suit and she was like Ralphie's little brother in the movie The Christmas Story.

We went out side and piled in the minivan and we were off. We go to the tree farm only to see the melted snow had tired the entire place into a giant mud farm. Then it started to rain again. The combination of rain, mud and cold temperatures made a slippery mess. Ashlyn's pink and white snow suit quickly became black. The rain and mud forced us to park a long way from the trees and we had to walk back over the hilly tree farm to locate the trees we were allowed to cut. By the time we found the trees the kids looked like snowmen, well actually mudmen. My wife and I had mud up to our knees. We quickly cut dow the first 8 foot tree we saw and started back to the car. The way back was up hill. The kids were falling more frequently and were now crying. I was dragging the tree which became heavier as we went as it picked up mud as we went along. Finally we stopped to come up with a plan. Crying kids, a long trek up hill back to the car, 3 kids that didn't want to walk and that were covered in mud and 1 large tree. Eventually I came up with the idea of having the kids sit on the tree and hold the trunk. That way I could drag the tree and the kids at the same time. We made better progress because we weren't stopping every 2 minutes to pick up a kid who fell in the mud. People were laughing at first but by the time we reached the car others were doing the the same thing. I had invented the treebogan. We got home and hosed off the tree and the kids. You would think that would be the end of the story but no there is more.

When we set the tree in the stand we realized the tree we grabbed had a large curve in the trunk. It would not stand up in the stand. After sticking a lot of wedges in the stand we eventually go the tree to stand up. We decorate the tree and laughed. On Sunday we had friends come over for a Christmas party. About 1/2 hour into the party the tree fell over. Several of us tried to get the tree upright but the tree would not cooperate. Where we put the tree was in the corner of a room that had windows all around the outside walls. Someone suggested we get a rope and tie the tree to a nail in the wall, of course with all of the windows we couldn't put a nail in the wall. So we tied 2 ropes around the tree, opened 2 windows and ran the ropes outside. Once the ropes were outside we secured the ropes to shrubs in our yard. We never cut our own tree again, but in 28 years of marriage can you guess which Christmas tree we have never forgotten? 
This is the recipe I made last year for our Christmas dinner. It was the first time I ever made prime rib. The prime rib recipe was based on a Tyler Florence recipe I found on the Food Network website.

Prime Rib With Horseradish Crust

1 bone in prime rib beef roast, 3 ribs, about 6 pounds
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup grated fresh or prepared horseradish
Leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups canned chicken or beef broth

I made a couple of changes to this. I only used a 1/4 cup of salt and it made a good paste (described below) and I still thought that some bites seemed very salty. I started with 1 tbs of flour and the gravy was very soupy so I added one additional tbs and ended up with a thin gravy. This was ok as the leftover gravy can now be used for aus jus. The recipe took every bit of the 2 hours, if it wasn't for my children wanting to leave to get home before the snow, I would have cooked it a little longer. It was still very good and the gravy was excellent.

Here are Tyler's instructions with my comments in brackets [ ].

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the beef in a large roasting pan with the bone side down. (The ribs act as a natural roasting rack.) In a small bowl mash together the garlic, horseradish, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil to make a paste [I used a mortar and pestle to get everything finely mashed]. Massage the paste generously over the entire roast [I had enough paste to cover top and sides but not the under side where the bones are]. Put the pan in the oven and roast the beef until the internal temperature of the meat registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (medium-rare), 1 1/2 to 2 hours [See my comment above]. Remove the beef to a carving board and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Pour off some of the pan drippings and place pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. [I saved 1 tbs of drippings to go with the original 1 tbs of flour. I wished I would have saved more since I ended up adding more flour to thicken it. I would save 2 to 3 tbs if you want thicker gravy.]

Add the white wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by half. Whisk in the flour, then add the broth and continue to cook, whisking until sauce thickens into a gravy, about 10 minutes. [I would use low sodium broth if use Tyler's 1/2 cup of salt. It took longer than 10 minutes to get thicker gravy, but I had to go back and add additional flour to thicken it.]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The First Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving my oldest daughter, Lynn, cooked while I recovered from knee surgery. She did a fantastic job and the meal turned out beautifully. At the end of my story is the Cornbread Stuffing recipe that Lynn made. Now I think it is time to tell the story of my wife and my Thanksgiving dinner. We were young and not really into cooking at the time. I am not sure why we did not go to one of our parents houses, I guess turning old causes memory lapses. Here is the story as I remember embellish it.

My youngest daughter, Ashlyn, was born on Thanksgiving day. Now being young and foolish my wife and I decided to give her and small birthday party the day before Thanksgiving. We decided to make her a cake with some kind of cartoonish character on top. As we started to make the cake I turned on the water and the water faucet broke off in my hand. Now is a good time to tell you that the previous owners of our house were very frugal and when it came to repairs fixing things did not mean they did it correctly if they could save a buck. Water was spraying out of what was formerly a faucet handle with such force that it was bouncing off the ceiling and puddling in the middle of the floor. At this point I am pretty sure I let a few 4 letter words fly, which brought my wife and 3 children flying into the room. As they hit the wet spot on the floor bodies were flying in all directions. They looked like penguins sliding down a glacier until their bodies hit the cupboards on the other side of the kitchen and they collapsed in a heap on a floor. After what seemed like hours we managed to find the shut off valve and turn the geyser off. Now the fun begins. As my wife and children dry off, I head to the local hardware store to buy a new faucet.

When I arrive at the store I assumed I would be able to grab a faucet and come home. Nobody told me I had to know how many holes were in the sink. One thing that you need to know about my handy man capabilities is that I have none. So back home I head to see how many holes were in the sink. To count the holes in the sink you would have to remove the old faucet or be able to look at the underside of the old old. Well at the time I was the size of a small kitchen appliance and I had to contort my body to even get under the sink. This involved wedging my shoulder under a garbage disposal while lying on my back, squeezing my 3 foot wide body into an 18 inch opening. Turns out that I couldn't see the under side of the sink. Plan 2 remove the old faucet. I squeezed my body back under the sink, took a wrench and started to loosen the water supply. After an hour I gave up.

I went back to the hardware store humiliated as a man and with a look of defeat on my face. Now we lived in a very small town where everybody knew everybody. When I went back into the store and talked to one of the family members who owned the store he offered to loan me a faucet wrench as it was designed to get into tight spots. I took it home and 2 hours later went back to the hardware store again in total defeat. At this point the helpful store owner offered to come home with me for a mere $20. I took him up on that offer. He crawled under the sink and began the task of unscrewing the water supply. After a few minutes he came out from under the sink and headed to the store. He returned with a small flashlight that had a flexible neck and a tool box. Eventually we discovered that the previous owner had replaced the water supply not with a supply line but with 20 brass fittings that were all screwed together. As we would start to loosen one, you would stop and try again but land on a different fitting and start loosening the next one and tighten the previous one. Eventually we replaced the water supply and the faucet. It only took us 5 hours to do that 2 hour job. The cake was made just in time for the party and none of the pre-Thanksgiving preparation was started because we had a party to host.

Now Thanksgiving morning we got up early and began cooking and everything seemed to be going fine. The smell of turkey was in the air, the pies were cooling, the stove top was filled with side dishes in various stages of doneness. We went to add the dressing to the oven and the second disaster hits us full on. We opened the oven door and the turkey was white and the oven was not hot. Sometime during the first hour of cooking the oven had died. Instant panic sits in, what are we going to do? We can't afford to try to have it repaired on Thanksgiving day, the stores are closed so we can't go buy a precooked one. Yes 20 years ago the stores actually closed on Thanksgiving day.

Since the bird was partially cooked and started to take on some color we decided to... are you ready for this...microwave it. We had turkey for Thanksgiving that year, it was barely edible but it was turkey. It was dry and tough and tasted the best when completely covered in gravy. The kids didn't seem to mind and we had accomplished making our first Thanksgiving dinner. Over the years we have had numerous successful Thanksgiving dinners, but this is the one I will always remember.

Cornbread Stuffing with Bourbon, Sausage and Apples
based on recipe by the Neelys from Food Network

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 1/4 pounds cubed and dried cornbread stuffing, store-bought
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 cups turkey or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put olive oil in large skillet and heat to medium high.
Brown sausage. Add celery and onions and cook until softened. Salt and pepper to taste. Add apple and cook for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add the bourbon. Simmer until bourbon almost completely evaporates.
Put cornbread, parsley, chicken stock eggs and pecans in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add the Sausage, apple mixture and combine all ingredients. Spread mixture out evenly in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake until cooked about 30 to 40 minutes.
Lynn and Rouz

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shrimp and Veggie Alfredo

The Christmas season has officially begun at my house. Annette has got the decorating well in hand. I heard Grandma got ran over by a reindeer on the radio and my company had their "holiday" party this week. Annette and I are planning a Christmas dinner party.
For those that have Tweeted or asked me on Facebook, my knee is doing well. I am hoping to start walking this week and maybe starting back at my regular exercise routine next week. Thanks for the concern.
After a week of beef and lamb in Ireland followed by a week of turkey and turkey leftover creations it was time for something different. I opted for a pasta dish, big surprise isn't it?

Shrimp and Veggie Alfredo
1/2 pound of mixed veggies, cut into bite sized pieces (I used mushrooms, red peppers, carrots and broccoli)
1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp canola oil

For the sauce:
1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
3/4 cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

I used angel hair, you could use spaghetti or whatever floats your boat. Prepare according to directions on package. Plan to have the pasta ready as veggies and shrimp are finish cooking.

Heat the oil in a pan to medium high, when it shimmers add the thicker veggies (carrots and broccoli in my case). Sauté for 3 minutes then add mushrooms, cook for 1 minute. Then add the shrimp and red peppers. Cook until veggies are soft and shrimp are cooked through, 2 or 3 minutes.

When you add the shrimp are added start the sauce. Add the butter to a pan on medium heat. When the butter melts, add the flour and whisk until the flour is incorporated and the lumps are gone. Slowly add the milk, while you are whisking. The sauce should thicken. After the milk is added add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the cheese and keep whisking, the sauce should get thicker. When the sauce gets thick enough for you add to the veggies and plate on top of the pasta.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fresh Cranberry Relish - Kick the Can

When it comes to Thanksgiving my family is very traditional. The meal is always turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. 3 or 4 years ago I found this recipe for cranberry sauce and slipped it in on them. We haven't seen a can of cranberry sauce since. It is so simple and flavorful. Try it and you will kick the can to the curb. This recipe is based on Tyler Florence's Cranberry Relish. The picture above is my dog Bo (and if you look closely the nose of Zoe) giving his approval of the Thanksgiving choice of meats.

Fresh Cranberry Relish
2 12oz bags of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 orange, zested and juiced

Put everything in a food processor and pulse it until finely chopped. Put in bowl and let it set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. I usually make this the day before and let it sit in the fridge. You can reserve some of the orange zest for a garnish.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eating Ireland

Some of you may have noticed I didn't post last week. My wife and I went on a trip to Ireland. That is the Blarney Castle above.

Being a foodie the first thing that I do when I decide to go on vacation is check out the food scene. Ireland's food scene  seem to be a bit fuzzy, I could see a lot of the stereotypical dishes stews, shepherds pies, lamb dishes. Here and there I would find an article about new chefs updating the cuisine. The seafood seemed to be the area where the revolution was taking place. What I found was if you went to a pub you found the traditional dishes, if you went to a restaurant you found an eclectic mix of food. Italian seemed to dominate, even some of the pubs served tiramisu. There were a few curry dishes, I imagine that comes from the British influence. The thing that surprised me most about the food was that you have an island with many small fishing towns on the coast and that very little fish is eaten. Our tour guide said that until the last few years fish was eaten less than once a week. With the health food movement in Ireland the Irish now average eating fish once a week. Most of the fish is frozen and imported, according to the tour guide.

Here are pictures of some of the meals we had in Ireland. Pubs and Castles built before electricity have rally poor lighting, so I will apologize for the pictures in advance.

The first night we had dinner at Bunratty Castle. At Bunratty you get an authentic medieval entertainment and a meal. The only piece of silverware you get is a dagger (knife), so be prepared to get messy fingers. We started with the best potato soup I have ever eaten, I want that recipe. I am sure it is something like 1 pound of potatoes, 1 gallon of cream and 5 pounds of butter to taste that good.
The next course was Pork Ribs. They claimed that there were no finer ribs in all of Ireland. All I will say is thank God I live in North Carolina and not Ireland then.
The next course was Capons with wine sauce and boiled vegetables.
For dessert we had a berry mousse.
Stopping at a pub a couple of nights later here is what we got. Annette got Potato Cakes. these Potato Cakes were fantastic, in fact the people that ordered them are still talking about them.
I had to try the Lamb Guinness Stew, it was very good.
On our last night we went to the Merry Ploughboy, a pub that feature authentic Irish music and dancing. My wife got the beef stew, the wedge is a slice of bread. 
I ordered the Lamb Shank. I have never had lamb shank before, I am hoping to find it locally as I wouldn't mind having it again.
My last culinary event in Ireland was a trip to the Guinness factory. After the tour you get a free pint. Most people go to a round all glass bar where you can over look the city. We opted to go to a class on how to pour a pint of Guinness correctly. My wife and I are now certified in properly pouring a pint of Guinness. Since it takes a few minutes to get your certificate we had to sample our pints, that is why they are not full.
PS. Before I went to Ireland I mentioned I tore my meniscus (cartilge in my knee). The day after we got back from Ireland I went to the doctor about my knee and I am having surgery on Tuesday. No cooking Thanksgiving dinner for me. Luckily Lynn, my oldest child, has decided she wants to make Thanksgiving dinner. Next week when I am resting my knee I will write more about the trip and try to add some recipes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beef and Guinness Stew

 This has been a bad week for me health wise. I caught a cold in my chest and head. Then my knee, which has been bothering me for a couple of weeks, really started bothering me. I finally went to the doctors for the knee and he thinks I tore the meniscus. I have to go for a MRI later this week to confirm the diagnosis.
My wife, Annette, loves it though she can come up to me kick me in the knee and run. I can't yell at her or chase her. She really hasn't done that, but I think she has thought about it a few times.

Annette has been craving winter comfort food. Of course she is constantly cold and starts craving winter comfort food in August, if the temperature drops below 85 degrees. This weeks craving was beef stew. Here is the recipe I made.

Beef and Guinness Stew
1 1/2 lb. beef, cut into bite size pieces (I had London Broil that I cut up, but you can use stew meat from grocery store)
2 tsp canola oil
1 bottle Guinness beer
enough beef broth to make 4 1/2 cups of liquid when combined with beer
2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in beef broth and beer
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 large potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
3 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into small pieces
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp cold water

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil. Add the meat and cook until browned. Add the rosemary and pepper. Then add the beef broth/bouillon/beer mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it simmer for 1 hour.

Add the potatoes, carrots, celery and onion and bring back to boil. While waiting for it to boil mix cornstarch with cold water. When stew starts to boil add cornstarch mixture and let it boil for 1 minute, while stirring. Turn back down to simmer. Let simmer for at least 1 more hour. The longer it cooks the better it is. This is one of those meals where it is even better if you reheat it and eat it the next day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grilled Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala has been a family favorite for years. My dad found a recipe somewhere, probably in the Detroit Free Press and started making it. The recipe doesn't call for Marsala, but a dry white wine. Growing up I didn't even know Marsala was a wine. Eventually I figured out the wine thing. Then I took a cooking class with Paula, from bell' alimento and learned the Italian way to make Chicken Marsala. Paula's version was incredible and became my new favorite. This weekend I invented a new version, that takes most of the fat and calories out of the dish but leaves a lot of flavor. The 2 previous versions have between 3 to 6 tbs of butter plus 3 tbs to 1/4 cup of olive oil. My version uses 1 tbs of butter and no olive oil.

Grilled Chicken Marsala
2 chicken breasts
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup Marsala wine
1 tbs butter
1 tsp parsley, chopped for garnish

Preheat grill to medium high.

Take one 3 foot long piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half. Fold each of the 2 sides over about 1/2 inch. Repeat so the sides have been folded twice. Then fold the bottom up about 1/2 inch. This will give you 3 sides folded over and the top with an opening. Add all of the ingredients, except butter and parsley, then fold the top over twice each time about 1/2 inch. Cook for about 10 minutes, then flip over and cook another 10 minutes. If you have bigger or smaller chicken breasts you will have to adjust cooking time. The breasts will be poached/steamed at this point. Open the packet , be careful of steam. Dump the contents into a skillet, except the breasts. I left the breasts on the grill to add a little color to them. Take the skillet and place on a stove over high heat. If you only have a little liquid add more Marsala to the pan so you have about 3/4 cup of liquid. Cook until liquid evaporates to about 1/2 (3/8 to 1/2 cup). Add the butter and cook until butter is melted.

I served this over polenta, you could also serve over rice. Put breast on top of polenta or rice. Then cover with Marsala, mushroom and onion mixture. Sprinkle with parsley.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Asian Tuna and Noodle

I have a list of dishes that I keep thinking to myself someday I am going to remake this recipe. One of those recipes is Tuna Noodle Casserole. I want to make a version that people will want to eat, instead of the goop my mom made that had canned tuna and cream of mushroom soup. This recipe started out to be the remake but some place in the middle it took on a life of its own and became an Asian Tuna and Noodle dish. I think if I made it again I would add something like broccoli to it, to give it color and more texture. I added the water chestnuts but they didn't work as well as I hoped. I have used the sauce for the noodles on spaghetti and several types of Asian noodles. I have also used the noodle sauce for different types of meats when making Asian dishes. the sauce is very versatile.

Asian Tuna and Noodle
2 tbs canola oil
1 tbs honey
1 tsp sesame Oil

6 oz egg noodles
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1 small can of water chestnuts

2 green onions, finely chopped, green part only

Put tuna ingredients in a resealable plastic bag and let it set for at least 1 hour in refrigerator.

Preheat grill to high. I like my tuna red in the center so I put it on high so the outside gets color, but inside is still red. Start a pot of water on to boil to make the noodles. The honey in the marinade will make the grill marks really stand out.

In a medium bowl add all of the ingredients for the noodles, except the noodles and the water chestnuts.

Add the noodles to the boiling water. Check the package for cooking time. Remove and drain when done.  Toss them in the bowl with the soy sauce mixture and add water chestnuts. Toss to coat all of the noodles.  Let them sit until Tuna is ready.

Grill the tuna about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

Place noodles on plate and top with tuna steak. Garnish with green onion.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Risotto With Chianti and Mushrooms

 A while back I ordered some new cookbooks, none of them were released yet. Last week they started arriving. It's fun coming home from work and finding a new treasure in the mail. This last one was the best. I got The Italian Country Table by Maxine Clark. I admit I ordered this book so I could get free shipping and a bigger discount on my order. Turns out every page has a recipe that I want to cook. I could not decide what to make first. I finally handed the book to my wife and said pick something for dinner. She selected the Risotto with red wine mushrooms and pancetta (Risotto al chianti, funghi e pancetta). The book gives the American name and then the Italian name like I wrote it. I shortened the name to make it easier for titles and tweeting. I did make a couple of changes because I did not have the exact ingredients on hand and I will explain them below.

Risotto With Chianti and Mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
3 oz pancetta or other smoke cured bacon, finely chopped (I used regular bacon)
1 red onion, finely chopped
7 oz cremini or porcini mushrooms, finely chopped (I used white mushrooms because I just bought a pound)
1 oz dried mushrooms, (I added this to make up for the flavor I lost by using the white mushrooms) let them soak in the chicken broth
2 1/2 cups risotto rice (I used arborio)
1 cup Chianti
6 cups hot chicken stock
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
For Garnish:
A couple of large mushrooms sliced
2 tbs parsley, finely chopped

Heat the chicken broth and add the dried mushrooms if using.

Heat 1/2 the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the bacon, when it starts to crisp add the onion and mushrooms. Cook until soft and translucent.

Add the rice and cook until it smells toasty, it will start becoming opaque. Add the wine and cook until it disappears.

Add 1 cup of the stock and cook until absorbed. Add another cup and cook until it is absorbed. Continue the process for about 20 minutes until you are down to 1 cup of broth, only cut back and add only 1/2 cup of broth at a time. When you are down to 1/2 cup of broth and the rice is getting tender, but has a little bit of bite to it. Add the remaining olive oil and Parmesan. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Add the remaining broth and cover pot with lid. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Put into bowls and garnish with mushroom slices and parsley.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Limoncello Shrimp and Big News

I am rerunning my Limoncello shrimp recipe this week, because of a special event that happened in my family that prevented me from cooking this weekend. My son, Joel married the love of his life Meghan. Here is a picture of the happy couple with the grumpy old married couple. Welcome to the family Meghan.

Limoncello Shrimp

Do you ever get a recipe idea stuck in your head, I have cooked it 5 or 10 times in my head. Tonight I finally cooked it. I am glad I did as this has to be one of the best recipes I ever invented.

Limoncello Shrimp

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon thyme, you could use any green herb that isn't real strong flavored
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup Limoncello
1 tsp butter

In a saute pan heat oil. While oil is heating mix the garlic, lemon zest and thyme together. When oil is hot but not shimmering add the garlic mix. Let it heat up until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp. Toss the shrimp to coat with garlic mixture. Cook until shrimp is cooked 3 to 4 minutes depending on size. Remove shrimp from pan. Wipe out any burned garlic. Add Limoncello to pan and let it reduce to about 1/2 the original amount. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Drizzle this over the shrimp. The sauce will be very sweet but when it is added to the shrimp the flavors will balance out.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheese Ball

Every Christmas when I was growing up my parents made cheese balls. I remember the big balls of sticky cheese, that no longer resembled cheese, being rolled in nuts. In later years I was probably the one who chopped the nuts, not with a knife but in a jar that had 2 blades that crossed in the center and were attached to a plunger. You had to press the plunger down about 3 million times to get nuts that were so unevenly chopped that some nut pieces were pounded into powder and some were still whole. But that did not matter because the end results tasted so good.

Flash forward to this weekend. My wife was in the musical Godspell. If you have seen it you will realize all the cast is on stage most of the time and most of them have more than 1 part (at least when you are doing a small church production). They decided to have a cast party and each member would bring a dish to represent on of their characters. One of my wife's characters was from a parable about sowing seeds. Well I right away I thought I would make a multi grain bread with seeds on top. As the party got closer several people announced they were making bread. Time to change plans. Google seed recipes. What comes up...cheese balls. Time to engage the brain, what was in those sticky balls rolled in nuts? Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion salt, cream cheese and cheddar I think.

Cheese Ball
8 oz Sharp Cheddar, the sharper the better, shredded
8 oz Cream Cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Enough chopped nuts and seeds to cover the ball of cheese, I used sunflower seeds and pecans I would guess about 1/2 cup total I did not measure.

Chop the nuts and place in a pie pan.
Put all ingredients except the nuts in a food processor. Mix until combined. I thought the cheese looked a little dry so I added a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Then roll the cheese mixture into a ball. After the cheese is rolled into a ball, take the ball and roll it in the nuts. Refrigerate the ball for a couple of hours. The cheese ball has more flavor when it is at room temperature so take it out of refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before serving.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Caramels with Nutella and Nuts

This is a recipe that looks like you spent a lot of time making, but reality in reality is quick and easy.

First I want to say that the microwave caramel recipe came from someone I follow on Foodbuzz. I printed the recipe and I thought I saved it to my recipe box, but now I can't find it. If the recipe is yours please let me know so I can give you credit. I added the Nutella and nuts to kick up the caramels.

Microwave Caramels
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts or small pecan halves
enough Nutella to cover the caramel

Melt butter in microwave safe bowl. Stir in syrups, brown and white sugars and condensed milk. Mix until sugar dissolves. Microwave on high for 3 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in vanilla. Spray a dish (I used a 9 inch x 13 inch dish which made this caramels, use 8 x 8 if you want thick caramels) with nonstick spray. Pour caramel mixture in pan and refrigerate until set. Spread Nutella over the caramel and sprinkle with nuts or place pecan halves. Cut into 1inch squares. I did not spread Nutella over whole dish.  I sprinkled sea salt on some and left some plain.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Roasted Pepper, Sun Dried Tomato & White Bean Soup

As the weather cools down and fall slowly creeps up on us our food thought turn to foods like soups. Why it dropped all the way down to the mid 80's this week.  My wife got out her insulated underwear. Although I am not really sure she ever put it away, I have never seen anybody who is as cold as she is. She wears a hoodie to the grocery store because she has to go in the refrigerated section.

Here is a a very simple soup I came up with that features pantry items Roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, white beans and pasta. You can make this in 20 minutes.

Roasted Red Pepper, Sun Dried Tomato and White Bean Soup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes finely chopped
1 tbs of oil from sun dried tomatoes (you can use olive oil)
1/2 jar (15 oz) jar Red Peppers, finely chopped (about 3 whole peppers)
1/3 cup of small pasta, like orzo
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Fresh basil

Heat a pot with the oil in it. Add the garlic and heat until fragrant. Add the broth and the sun dried tomatoes. Let the broth come to a boil and leave it for a couple of minutes. Add the peppers and the pasta. Let it cook until the pasta is al dente. Put in bowl and heavily garnish with basil cut into ribbons. I originally just put some basil on as a garnish but we liked it so much that I added additional basil to the soup.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

This Labor Day weekend my wife and I had something going on every day. At one of the parties we were at the host of a party we were going to later in the weekend said she had a cilantro fetish. Knowing that I had to make a dish for the second party I filed that away in my brain. There isn't much room but somehow it managed to stay there for 2 days. This is the recipe that I came up with. I made about 3 pounds of shrimp. You can make the sauce and drizzle over shrimp or use as a dip. If using as a dip you will want to make more.
Cilantro Lime Chicken
lime infused oil, enough to coat your shrimp about 1 tbs for 1 pound shrimp
Lime zest, about 1/2 lime per pound
1 tbs cilantro, finely chopped

3 pounds Shrimp

1/4 cup honey
juice of 1 1/2 limes
2 tsp lime zest
Hot Sauce to taste

Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the shrimp and let it sit for 1/2 hour.

Heat grill to medium. Add the shrimp and grill until done about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes per side.

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together except the hot sauce. After the other ingredients are mixed add the hot sauce to taste, testing as you add. 

Since we were making the shrimp for a crowd I opted to drizzle sauce over over shrimp instead of having them take it and dip the shrimp. If we dipped people would use more sauce and since this was for a grill out sauce and paper plates usually leads to some kind of accident. Pile the shrimp on a platter and sprinkle more cilantro on top. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Ever have one of those days in the kitchen?  I must have picked out 5 different things to make for dinner and every time I went to make it we were missing ingredients, had the wrong kind of whatever or somebody didn't want what you decided to make. I ended up improvising and making shrimp salad sandwiches. They turned out to be very good.

Shrimp Salad Sandwiches
16 shrimp, 21-25 count cooked and cut into 3 pieces
2 tbs light mayo
1 tbs light sour cream
1 green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/4 Dill weed
2 slices tomato
2 lettuce leaves
2 buns

Makes enough for 2 sandwiches.
Mix everything except tomato, lettuce and buns in a bowl. Place lettuce and tomato on bun. Then spread the shrimp mixture on the bun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Seven Recipes for the Price of One

This has been a week of cooking highs. At the beginning of the week I won the Cook's Illustrated Indoor Clambake Challenge, the recipe is in the Seven Links listed below. At end of the week Tiffany from Como Water announced that I won a print by a local artist in her give away. Tiffany lived in Durham until recently, so do the artist and I, so it really is a local artist for me as well. Tiffany also surprised me by selecting me to participate in the Seven Links challenge that has been going around among bloggers. The Seven Links was hard for me as things have changed about my blog in the last month and a half. For some reason the number of hits on my site has quadrupled in the last 6 weeks. Recipes that have been number one for the last 1 1/2 years have dropped and recipes that hardly got any hits when I posted them are now my new number one most viewed. Anyway here are my Seven Links:

Most Beautiful: This was a hard one for me as I like photographing the food as much as cooking it. After much debate the winner was Shrimp and Red Pepper Pasta.
Most Popular: Until 1 month ago my Limoncello Shrimp was number one but now it is Spaghetti with All Day Sauce, That I Made in 2 Hours. This also wins longest recipe title.
Most Controversial: I would have to say this was hard because I have never really had any controversy over my posts. I went with my Lobster Ravioli with Champagne Sauce because after it was posted I got an email from an Italian lady who told me how she would have made this dish and proceeded to tell me what I did wrong. I actually learned a lot from the email and was glad she sent it.
Most Helpful: This was one of my very first posts and is still in my top 3 posts of all time. Quick and Easy Pasta Sauces
Surprisingly Successful: My wife says it was the Blueberry Balsamic Salmon. I don't think so I was always sure this would work, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt. This one maybe ugly but it's good.
The Recipe That Did Not Get The Attention That It Deserves: This has to be my Barbecued Baked Beans. I love these beans, so much flavor for so little time.
Recipe I Am Most Proud Of: This one was a tie. Until this week the recipe I was most proud of was my Limoncello Shrimp. Limoncello Shrimp was my first time in the Foodbuzz Top 9 and it took the number one spot. Then my Lobster Boil went and one the Cook's Illustrated Indoor Clambake Challenge this week, so right now Lobster Boil wins.
Now for the second part of the Seven Links Challenge, to select people who must now take the challenge. My first 2 choices are registered dietitians with excellent iPhone apps. Make sure you check out their blogs and their apps.
Kristin from Mother Rimmy
Rebecca from Chow and Chatter 
My next 3 are people that I just started following, but I have known Catherine from other food sites for a while.
Catherine from Living the Gourmet
Kita from Pass the Sushi 
The rules for the Seven Links challenge are simple. You must post a link for each of the seven categories and you must pick 5 people to play after you make your post.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mexican Salad

I love it when I get to go to the Farmers Market, it always inspires me to make something great for dinner.   There are several parts to this recipe but most are easy and can be made in a couple of minutes so don't panic. 
Mexican Salad
1 batch of Mexican Chicken, this if from my other blog

1 tortilla, per person
1 cup lettuce, torn into bite size pieces per person
1 oz Queso Fresco per person

Heat a frying pan over high heat. After the pan gets hot throw the tortilla in it. When the starts to bubble and get some color on it flip it over and cook until other side starts to brown. Remove and do the same to the remaining tortillas.

2 Tomatoes, chopped into small pieces (I used 1 heirloom and 1 yellow)
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, chopped into very small pieces
1 tbs red onion, chopped into small pieces
1 tbs cilantro, finely chopped

Mix all of the ingredients together and let it sit for a few minutes for flavors to mingle. You can use store bought or your own recipe if you want. I do recommend fresh when tomatoes and peppers are in season.

2 small avocados, peeled, sliced into pieces
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbs red onion, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in 1/2
1 tbs Cilantro, finely chopped

As soon as the avocados are cut and peeled squeeze the lime juice on them, to prevent them from oxidizing. Mash the avocados with a potato maser. Fold in the remaining ingredients. 

To assemble put tortilla on plate top with the lettuce. Then add the chicken top with guacamole and salsa. Sprinkle with the Queso Fresco.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shrimp and White Beans

An old favorite.

Shrimp and White Beans

2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 tbs onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
12 to 16 shrimp depending on size
2 oz spinach, you can use frozen or fresh but cut into smaller pieces
Olive Oil for drizzling
Crusty bread to eat with this

Put a nonstick pan on medium low heat, after the pan is hot add the bacon and let the fat render. Add the onion and let it cook until translucent. Add garlic and let it get fragrant 30 seconds to 1 minute. Now add shrimp and cook for a minute of 2. Add the beans and spinach and cook until shrimp are done and beans are heated through. Plate the mixture and drizzle with a good olive oil and eat with the bread.