Friday, July 31, 2009

Giveaway Reminder!

Alright, everyone! Don't forget about the giveaway I am holding in August. Entries are due a week from today (by 4:00pm CST, please!).

If you're thinking about entering, this weekend would be a good time to put something pretty together for me and have a photo shoot....

I know you want that Deep Covered Baker....I know you do!!!

Happy Vegging!

TFF - A Disaster in the Kitchen

After being the one lucky enough to get picked last week to be on Tyler Florence's blog with my entry to Tyler Florence Fridays, I planned to take a week off from posting. Then I changed my mind. And I changed my mind again. Because really, there are just so many fun recipes to try!
I decided to go ahead and post anyway, just not really get myself worked into a frenzy over it.
I got the call at 9:45 Wednesday morning that my son was throwing up at school. All you moms out there know what that means. GO, pick up vomit covered child (quickly, please) and go home. You never know what a sick day is going to bring, but when it happens that late in the morning, what it does mean is that since it is less than 24 hours away from the "incident" you also can't take him back to school the next morning....which means two sick days. Two straight days at home with a four year old....
Fortunately, this happened to be one of those times where it passed very quickly, but I still didn't get much done (other than reading the entire tome of Julia & Julia, cover to cover) because the boy wanted me to snuggle him all day.
I was not about to complain.
However, my point is, that cooking was officially OFF the schedule. Well, for TFF anyway. I did cook. I took advantage of his four hour nap to roll all my meatballs for Swedish Meatballs Wednesday night, and I made Paula Deen's Hummingbird Cake yesterday afternoon to post Monday for My Girl, Paula!. But, since I was due to go to the grocery the day of said "incident" I had very little on hand to cook with.
SO!!! Since I am sooooo out of the zone this week, I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you about a Tyler Florence recipe I tried a couple of weeks ago. See, I have okra in my garden. I didn't really feel like making a gumbo, and I definitely didn't feel like deep frying, so I went looking for a recipe. I found one from Tyler (thanks to my MEF, Sylvia) from his Food Network Days. It only rated 2 stars, but I figured it was poorly reviewed for purely "personal opinion" reasons, and assumed I could make it work. it IS a Tyler recipe, after all.
Oh. My. God. Did this recipe suck.
I tried, I really did, but I'm sorry to say it, Tyler, you need to re-think this one.
So, no pictures....but here is the recipe....just in case you want to give it a try....or take it as a warning.

Cornmeal with Okra (Cou-Cou)
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence
Prep Time:
15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
0 min
Cook Time:
45 min
6 to 8 servings
2 ears whole corn
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups okra, frozen or fresh
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
6 cups water or chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups yellow corn meal
Freshly ground nutmeg
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the whole ears of corn into the oven (do not shuck the corn) and cook until the outside is charred and the inside feels soft when pressed, about 30 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, pull out the silk and remove the husk. Cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
If using frozen okra, put it into a strainer and run it under cool water for a few minutes to thaw. Remove the stems from the okra and cut them into thirds. Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion until it begins to soften, then add the corn, okra, and thyme. Cook for 1 minute and set aside.
Butter a 13-inch by 9-inch pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Gradually sprinkle in the corn meal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it is all incorporated, stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the sauteed vegetables. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste, and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour into the buttered dish and let cool.
Slice the cooled cornmeal into squares and serve. You can also fry the cornmeal squares for a few minutes in butter or olive oil to make them crisp on the outside and soft on the inside

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forbidden Love...and a whole lotta good food!

As you all know, I have a terrible penchant for good food. I will leave no stone unturned, I will not rest....until I find a dish that makes me go..."Mmmmmm".

Well, once again, Ginny came to visit this past weekend. Generally, when she visits, its because she wants to see me. Not this time. See, Ginny and I attended a class at the Kitchen Conservatory a while back and suffice it to say, we found our Happy Place. We've since determined that the appeal was just as much the two gentlemen presenting the class, as it was the food, as both were phenomenal.

We signed up for this session before we even had any idea what it was going to be about, based solely on the presenters, executive chef at Annie Gunn's restaurant in St. Louis, Chef Lou Rook, and his partner in cuisine, Wine Director Glenn Bardgett. Ginny's recent visit was scheduled around this class. As it turned out, the class was based on the local foods available right now in our area. Chef Rook is an active proponent of the Slow Food movement in St Louis, and Glen Bardgett is equally adamant about the quality of Missouri wines. We think they are both geniuses. (Lest there be any confusion, let me just say that we are not in love with these men, the "forbidden love" comes in a little later in the story.) Also, please bear in mind that I may have some of the wines with the wrong entree here as we moved back and forth quite a bit.

Adam Puchta Signature Port (Hermann) served chilled - Mostly Norton - Aestivalis
served with Maytag Blue Cheese (Iowa) on Lardo Bruschetta

Montelle Dry Vignoles 20080 (Augusta) - NY Hybrid Ravat 51 and
served with Sauteed Troutdale Farm (Lake of the Ozarks) Rainbow Trout, with a Grilled Red Haven Peach Chipotle Chili Ginger Salsa

Montelle Chambourcin 2008 (Augusta) - French Hybrid
served with Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb with Blackberry (Top of the Hill Farm, MO) Adam Puchta Norton Verjus (Hermann, MO) Butter Sauce
and Roasted Candy Onion (MO) St. Isidore Farm (Moscow Mills, MO) Heirloom Tomato Thai Basil Relish

Stone Hill Traminette 2008 (Hermann) - Illinois & NY Hybrid
served with Grilled Medallion of Jones Heritage Farm (Cape Girardeau, MO) Berkshire Hog Loin and Braised Baby Fennel (St. Isidore Farm, Moscow Mills, MO) Sweet Corn (Theis Farm, Creve Coeur, MO) Ozark Forest Mushroom (Salem, MO) Sautee

Augusta Winery Icewine 2008 (Augusta) 17% RS - Vidal Blanc - French Hybrid
served with Poached Red Haven Peaches (Eckert's, IL)
with Herb Crusted Goatsbeard Farm Fresh Goat Cheese

The first course was an amuse bouche of a Maytag blue cheese and lardo on ciabatta bruschetta. This lovely little grilled bread with its pungent smear went along famously with the chilled Port. I am not accustomed to being served port chilled, and there was discussion about how difficult it can be to convince people to try it, but I've got to tell you, at least in this particular case, it was wonderful. The berry notes in the port really brought out the flavor of the blue cheese. Having spent a number of years in Iowa, I am partial to the Maytag anyway, so I was very happy to start with this dish.

After that, we moved on to the rainbow trout. Admittedly, I am not a big fish eater, but I'd also be hard pressed not to try something so beautiful. I have been introduced to some amazing foods by keeping an open mind, and this was no exception. Ginny was shocked when I not only ate my serving, but took seconds when the dish was passed around.The slightly spicy peach and chipotle salsa really complemented the mild flavor of the fish.

Sadly, I was so engrossed in the event that I didn't take a sing\eel picture of the first two courses. That changed once we started moving on to the pork and lamb.....

The grilled pork loin was another winner, tender and juicy, and, yes, here is where the Forbidden Love comes in....As you may remember, I am allergic to mushrooms. Fortunately, on the occasions that I have eaten mushrooms, I have never really cared for them, so it has made the allergy more bearable. However, I do react differently to different varieties of mushrooms and there are many types that I've never tried. I hate to be left out as much as I hate missing the opportunity to try something I might not otherwise be exposed to. Sometimes that involves mushrooms. I know, I know, I'm allergic. But Ginny and I always carry Benadryl, and after the last class with Chef Rook, where we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample Colorado Black Truffles, I came prepared. I was glad I did, too, because the vegetable sautee that was served with the pork loin had some lovely wild mushrooms in it. I was happy to pas on the little baby shitakes to Ginny, since I'm familiar with those already, but I had never had a Chanterelle and I wasn't about to be stopped. I carefully cut the little delicacy into tiny pieces so I could taste a bit with each bit of the pork.
**insert heavenly voices of angels singing**
All I can say is.... "hello, beautiful..."
Not only did I not expect to like it, I certainly didn't expect the barrage of wonderful taste sensations it had to offer, nutty, a little smoky, and buttery at the same time. Just a little nibble of heaven.
Great. So NOW what am I going to do??? I've fallen in love with the enemy....I mean, just look at this little melange of gorgeousness....*ahem* ok, so I guess I should tell you about the rest of the class, eh?

Yes, well, moving right along.....probably my favorite dish of the night was the leg of lamb. But really, what's not to love? I adore the flavor texture of lamb, and you know I am a huge fan of fresh herbs, so naturally I'm going to approve of this combination. And Chef Rook did not fail me.It was a fascinating mouthful of flavors, paired with a blackberry Verjus butter sauce and an heirloom tomato relish. If you've never had verjus before, you really should try some. Verjus, if you are unfamiliar, is unfermented grape juice, but let me tell you, this batch of Norton Verjus was really wanted to be was trying.....and we didn't mind a bit.
(see the blackberries just bubblig away on the stove top?)
Another local find was the heirloom tomatoes that went into the relish. If you're a foodie at all, you already know that fresher is better, but when it comes to tomatoes, these lovelies tasted more like tomato than anything I've ever put in my mouth. The flavor was just outstanding. It really made the dish sing. Last, but certainly not least, a dessert, of sorts. Early in the class, some peaches were covered in a Riesling and put on to poach.Those were later paired with little rounds of goat cheese which were delicately coated in an herb crust and pan fried until they were golden.The tartness of the goat cheese paired beautifully with the mild flavor of the peaches and the dish was accompanied by a sweet ice wine to bring it all together. Absolutely heavenly. I have not meant to leave out the wines, because believe me, they were a star as well. Glenn does a fantastic job of pairing wine to food and I now have two new Missouri wines to scout out at the local stores. By far, my favorites of the night were the Adam Puchta chilled port (rich and complex), the Stone Hill Traminette (crisp and citrusy), and the Montelle Chambourcin (just a mouth full of flavors, without being too tannic).

All in all, another memorable day for Ginny and myself, which we hope to repeat the next time Lou and Glenn are holding class. Cheers, guys! Hats off to you! Please forgive me if I missed any details or got anything mixed up, I'm still learning! I must need another class....when did you say you were going to be back again? *hint, hint*

Not to be overshadowed by all the wine, we couldn't resist making a quick stop by the Schlafly brewery on the way home to pick up a couple of growlers of their seasonal brews. If you get a chance, stop by and check out their Hot Liquor Lager and their new Scotch Ale. After tasting the Hot Liquor Lager, we knew without a doubt that it would make a perfect Michelada (beer with lime, salt, and bitters, Mexican style), and it was gorgeous, the foam turning just a slightly pink tinge from the bitters. It made for a heck of a midsummer's day and night!

Giveaway Update!

Ok, everyone, I've had a few questions, so I'm going to try and lay this out a little more clearly (sorry, its my first time doing a giveaway and I was so excited, I didn't think it through well enough!)

1. Come up with a flower or other item that belongs in a garden that can be made out of vegetables. So, think, something edible, preferably on a stick, so that it can be easily "picked" by the shower attendees, and not too terribly complicated to make.
2. By all means, go find ideas on the Internet! I'm just greedy and I want to see your very own pretty picture to judge.
3. You can either email me your entry at bethanneleach(at)gmail(dot)com, or you can post it on your own blog (how fun!) and leave me a comment with the link to your post. If I get enough entries, I'll do a roundup of all the submissions when I announce the winner.

Now, come on, keep in mind how cool this prize is, its worth incorporating some veggies into your week, isn't it? And now, I'm not asking you to make a whole veggie garden, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I just want some good ideas for items to include in MY garden. So, If you want to REALLY pump up your chances, make more than one. No need to post separately, just send me pics of each individual item so I can lay them out for Little Man to drool over. He loves flowers, and he'll have a blast telling me which one is prettiest.

There you go! If you have any more questions, feel free to comment here or email me and I'll be sure to reply and/or post a comment with updated info. The clock is ticking!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Push-ups - all Grown Up!

Alright people, we all know that every once in awhile, you just gotta have a drink. At least I know I do! And with my girl Ginny coming to visit this past weekend, I wanted something fun and refreshing for us to share out on my new deck.

Browsing around Tastespotting, I found this great idea for Pina Colada Popsicles . All I could think of was that I bought a set of push-up tubes to make individual little ice creams for my Little Man this summer, but I never got around to using them. Well, I guess you can call me "mother of the year" because I filled them up with a frosty adult beverage for me and Ginny instead!

Now, I did have to change the recipe, so click on the link if you want the original, but Ginny loooooooathes coconut. So I substituted some items and made Fuzzy Navel pops instead! Check out these bad boys!Fuzzy Navel-sicles

3 cups chopped fresh peaches
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup vodka
3 T granulated sugar
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate
ice pop molds

Puree all ingredients in a blender until very smooth. Pour into molds- leaving about 1/2 inch at the top for expansion. (**note: I left headspace on mine, but didn't need to, I could have filled them up) Freeze for 24 hours To remove the pops from the molds leave them out for about a minute- or if in a hurry run them under hot water for 20-30 seconds. (**note: Since i had the pus-up style molds, I didn't need to do anything at all...just push up and enjoy!

Tyler Florence - and a Giveaway!

Happy Monday, everyone!!! I have very exciting news for you. If you have not been keeping up with the Tyler Florence Fridays roundups, where I and a number of other people contribute dishes we have created each week, then you have missed out! Aside from the fact that each Friday you get to see dishes made by some wonderful home cooks based on Tyler Florence's recipes, they have joined forces with Tyler Florence to choose their pick for "best dish" each week, and the winning post will appear on Tyler's own blog that week.

Well, guess what? This week, I won! That's right, as soon as Tyler's people have the site updated, you will see my lovely Roasted Tomatillo Salsa right there on Tyler's blog! I could not be more excited. Be sure to keep checking back to see him link to this blog soon!

SO! Since I am still riding the high from Friday, and I have been looking for an excuse to do this for a while now, I've decided to have my very first blog giveaway! I'm not going to make it easy on you though, you're going to have to do more than comment to get entered. I thought since I just won a little prize based on my own creation, I'm going to do the same for this giveaway.

Here's the scoop. My very dear friend Tracy is having a baby in November and I will be helping throw her a baby shower. At another shower I helped out with awhile back, I made this cute little veggie "garden" that everyone just raved about.I, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointed because I really had hoped that my "flowers" would have been prettier or more creative. Well, for Tracy's shower I want to do better! And I need your help! You have two weeks, people. Here's what I am asking for.
  • Come up with one creative flower (or another item that could be considered part of a garden) made of vegetables and send me a picture of it. You have until next Friday, August 7th, and I will let my Little Man (he doesn't know you, so he can't be biased) pick his favorite from the entries submitted, with the winner to be announced on Monday, August 10th.

SO, now you want to know what the prize is, right? How about this:

Yes, this is new in the box, a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker in their signature Cranberry color.

You know you want it, don't you? This item retails at $69 (I know Donna loves that!) and it is a heck of a time saver. You can use this to cook things in the microwave that you would normally have to heat the whole house up for by using the oven. What a perfect kitchen gadget for summer!

So come on now, get your thinking caps on and come up with something good! (and no, I don't want to see links or pictures from the Internet...I want to see your own personal creations!

Ready, set, GO!

Friday, July 24, 2009

My very first award!

I want to thank Kim at Stirring the Pot for giving me my very first bloggy award. I have to admit, I have been a bit discouraged at times that my blog doesn't have more readership, but then remind myself that that is not why I started it and its completely OK to have a nice quiet blog. I love the fabulous people who do read my posts and I would never trade their quality for the quantity of others.
So, on that note, I also want to pass this award on to a few other people:

To Sylvia at Sylvia's Ramblings. My oldest and dearest friend. I don't know what I would do without you in my life.

To Anne at Annethologie, my real, flesh and blood sister, who got my started blogging and just gave my my real, flesh and blood niece.

and to NV, at This D*mn House who has a fabulous house blog, which was the first blog that I followed, and still do to this day. She has a huge heart and an amazing energy, Keep it up, NV!

Thanks to you and to all my bloggy peeps! It is so nice to know you are out there, reading, and sharing your lives with me as well. I love you all!

Only at the County Fair

When you live in a small, rural area, like we do, you learn to look forward to, and savor, even the most mildly entertaining events. For example, the Promenade, which consists of setting up lawn chairs on the front lawn of the high school on the day of Prom and watching all the couples arrive in their creative vehicles and their sparkling, sometimes risque, garb.
Well, I'd also say that our county fair fits into that category. I mean, it IS the county fair, right here in our little town, but of all county fairs I've ever been to, this one is kind of...well....puny. We look forward to it every year as a source of entertainment and an excuse to eat corndogs and funnel cakes, but the rides are straight out of the 60's, very limited, and yet the prices go up every year. I will give them this little bit of credit this year, though. For one thing, the carnies were actually not drunk this time, and were quite helpful with the little kids, which we all appreciate. Also, they replaced the "Country Gold" tour with a much better (IMHO) group on stage last night and a well known country singer tonight. I still say they need to, at least ONCE, have a rock band instead of, or in addition to, country.
But I digress. I don't want to make it sound like we don't enjoy the fair, we do. And this year we really couldn't have asked for better weather. After the scorching heat last year, and racing a tornado out of town the year before, this year was perfection.
With the hubs being out of town at a hunt, Ty and I picked up his friend Brayden and his mom and took off for the fair yesterday evening, arriving just in time to grab a corn dog and a lemon shake-up before it was time to buy wristbands and get on the rides. While the boys didn't play together as much as we thought they would, they did have their moments and had a great time.We spent a good portion of the evening with my sister in law, who had been abandoned by her nearly-teenage son and his friend, and we were casually chatting while Ty spun around on the airplane ride, when we saw the most indescribeably....wrong.....thing I've ever seen at the fair.
His name is Captain Cornelius, and my dear sister in law just couldn't resist hinting and nudging me with quips like, "Just think, you could put it on your blog and say something about what a great corn salsa you could make with it..." until I gave in and agreed to this:Yes, that is me, posing for a picture with Captain Cornelius, the life size, walking, talking ear of corn. The picture really doesn't do him justice, you've really got to see him full length to get it. The costume is so messed up, he had muscles on his KNEES.....and although I'm sure (I hope) it wasn't intentional....he was kinda.....well.....anotomically correct. Yeah. So, if you ever wondered whether or not I was exaggerating the level of "hick" to the town in which I live....wonder no more! This is photographic proof positive.

Moving right along....after last year's trip to the fair, which was Ty's first year riding rides, we definitely learned our lesson. Don't eat much before riding, and don't let him ride the same ride more than one time in a row without getting off and walking around a bit....especially not the swings.

Or, at least, we THOUGHT we learned our lesson. We were doing so well. We moved around from ride to ride, and even when Ty threw a fit about getting off, I stood my ground. I even let him ride the swings! I didn't realize, however, that last year they had two sets of swings, the small one and the regular one. Last year Ty rode the small set, and got sick when I made the mistake of letting him ride three times consecutively. This year, I didn't realize until the swings started spinning that there was no "small set" this year. This was the BIG swing. And Ty loved it! He did great, and I made him get off and go walking after his ride. I let him ride again with his cousin about an hour later, and he had an absolute blast. We were at the point in the evening where the ladies (me and Brayden's mom) were thinking it was about time to go and we'd let them ride another ride or two and then call it a night. Ty wanted to go on the Dragon ride with his cousin again, so I sent them on their way while we strolled behind.By the time we caught up, they were at the front of the SWING ride's line again. Well, I hadn't intended to let him ride it again, but it had been about an hour, and we were getting ready to leave, so why not, right?

If you ever ask yourself, "why not?" you should probably take that as a sign to hit the brakes, make a u-turn and run in the other direction.

Ty made it all the way through the ride, but I could tell when they stopped that something was seriously wrong and I made a beeline for his swing.....just in time to catch him depositing previously-owned corndogs on the carnie's boots. (who, by the way, was a fantastically good sport). (I imagine Ty felt something like THIS during the ride. And yes, that is actually Ty and his cousin on the left hand side of the picture.)

Suffice it to say that next year, Ty's rides on the swings will be limited to TWO. It was a long ride home, and then there was cleanup, and finally, blessed sleep. Today might have started better if in the midst of all this, I hadn't forgotten that the hubs was out of town and that I needed to set my own alarm. Ugh. Thank god for Ginny, who just happened to call me at 6:06 this morning to discuss her trip out here this afternoon....or I'd never have gotten a much needed shower this morning.

So, happy Friday, everyone! See you at the fair? (yes, that's snark, in case you were wondering...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TFF - Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Different seasons always put me in the mood for different foods. I think this is probably true for anyone. For example, the moment the temperatures start to drop in the fall, I want soup. And in the dead of winter, the only thing on my table is hearty, hunterscomeinoutofthecold food, like sauerbraten, braised beef, and chicken and noodles.

Likewise, when the sun starts spending more time in the sky, I start to crave vegetables, sweet corn is a big one. But when Mother Nature really turns up the heat, and its just almost too hot to eat, let alone heat the house up for the sake of cooking, I want SALSA. Chop up some nice tomatoes, chiles, cilantro and onion, and tear open a bag of tortilla chips and I don't need anything else to eat. I could live on chips and salsa in the summertime. Salsa Fresca, Pico de Gallo, fruity Peach or Mango salsa, burn-the-hairs-right-out-of-your-nose HOT salsa, doesn't matter to me. As long as there is a lot of flavor. I like my food to be a mouthful of flavors fighting for control of my tastebuds. Sweet, Sour, Tart, Hot, Savory....I want it all.

My taste buds would like to personally thank Tyler Florence for making their day.

Have you ever had a tomatillo? You know, those weird looking little things that resemble small green tomatoes, but have a paper husk around them? No? Well, you SHOULD. And there will never be a better time than now. I have always loved them, because they are little powerhouses of flavor. Tart and pungent, they make my mouth happy. You can use them raw (after peeling and rinsing, of course), or you can do like Tyler does, and roast them.

I know, I know, I just made a big speech about not heating up the house for the sake of cooking, but you can do this in the morning when its cool (which is what I did), and then enjoy the fruits of your labor later on.

In Tyler's book, he recommends serving it with his Chiles Rellenos. (I am SO sorry, I can't remember which book this is in. I am fairly sure its in Eat This Book, but it may also be Stirring the Pot. When I get back home, I'll double check and post a comment!) I am a personal believer, however, that this is a standalone dish that is perfectly good just scooped up in a chip. Not to belittle Tyler's suggestion, I did decide to pair it up with another food. See, I recently roasted a whole ton of chicken pieces and had about half of that amount leftover.....hmmm what else do I have in quantity in my fridge? Yep! Corn! Let's see, what else is in here.....tortillas......queso fresco.....and cotija cheese.... Yeah, this will work!!! Here's what I did:

Shred some leftover roasted, baked, fried or rotisserie chicken. Whatever you've got handy.

In a baking dish (or you could do this on your grill to keep the house cool, if your husband wasn't a slacker who had yet to pick out his new grill...) put some shredded chicken on one side of a tortilla, top with some grated or sliced queso fresco. Scatter with some corn (cut off the cob, of course!) and fold the tortilla over.

Bake in the oven at 350 (ish) until the cheese is melty.

Remove from the oven and top with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and a little Cotija cheese.
Ok, you're going to have to excuse me for a moment....
If I smoked, I'd probably have to light up right now....
Please, please, PLEASE try this at home.
My tastebuds would give Tyler a standing ovation right now if they could....
The corn added a nice little bit of crunch, and the queso fresco is so creamy, it played against the bite of the salsa. When I made the salsa, I used some hot chiles (I think they were serranos) instead of jalapenos, and admittedly, I used more than he suggests....but hey, I'm a chili-head, you should know this about me by now. I also probably used more cilantro than the recipe called for, but again, that's standard operating procedure at my house, too.
If you were paying close attention, you noticed that some of the quesadillas had corn and some didn't. That's because this was SO good, I made more last night but I was out of corn. That's actually THREE times this week that I've eaten them...and I have more packed for my lunch at work today.

So, really, this recipe couldn't be easier, and now that I know it is this good, I'll be making another batch just as soon as I can get my hands on some more tomatillos, and I'm going to freeze jars of it for later! I really hope you do try this...I think it is the perfect summer food. I'm wondering how I could work it into a marinade for chicken or pork and then grill that might be seeing THAT post soon, too!

Happy Summer, everyone! Its half over, so start enjoying it!
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 jalapeño, split down the middle
1 small spanish onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
½ bunch fresh cilantro
2 limes, juice only

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
On a roasting tray, arrange tomatillos, jalapeño, onion and garlic. Drizzle with a 3-count of oil (about 3 tablespoons) and season with salt.Roast for 10-12 minutes, until tomatillos are tender and slightly blistered.Put the cooked vegetables in a blender with the cilantro and lime juice.Pour in oil and process until you have a smooth puree (be careful when you process the hot vegetables in the blender; hold down the lid with a kitchen towel over the top). Taste and, if desired, adjust the seasoning with extra lime juice or salt according to preference.

In all seriousness, people, this may be my new favorite summer dish. I still have more in the fridge, and I'm already planning another batch as soon as I can get my hands on some more tomatillos. The great news about this is that it doesn't even have to be a "summer" dish. If you live near a big enough store, tomatillos are available year round. You can make this as mild or as hot as you want, since the tomatilos are full of flavor, but not heat. The heat is based solely on the variety and quantity of the chiles you use.

In case you missed the point of this, this is most definitely my submission for Tyler Florence Fridays this week. Please stop by tomorrow afternoon to check out the roundup!

Well, I'm signing off for the week. Ginny is coming out tomorrow evening and we've got another cooking class on our agenda this weekend, and I'm taking Ty to the county fair tonight, so I hope to have lots of great pictures for you next week. Have a great weekend, everyone!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caramelized Onion Focaccia

Wow! I just realized it has been an entire week since i posted....what's up with that??? Its not that I haven't been doing stuff, really, I guess I've just been otherwise occupied.

Well, I have been wanting to share this with you since I made it this weekend, so I guess now is as good a time as any! See, my girl Tracy came to see me Saturday. She only lives about a half hour from me, but with our schedules, we don't see very much of each other. I did get to see more of her than usual this time, though, considering she is six months pregnant!
There is always one sure fire way to get a pregnant woman to come see you. Yep, that's right, I promised to feed her. Ok, so I've used that bribe with her for years and it has nothing to do with her being pregnant, but I used it anyway. And, I always follow through. Mama-to-be has been in the mood for pasta, so I got a bag of raw shrimp out of the freezer, and started some water to boil for spaghetti. Once the water comes to a boil, toss in the dried spaghetti and start your sauce:
In a skillet, I sauteed up some diced shallot and fresh garlic in a little bit of oil. When that started to soften, I added just a little white wine (don't freak out on me, you all know the alcohol cooks out!) and let it cook down just a touch.
Then I turned up the heat a bit, added some red pepper flakes, and the shrimp, just for a couple of minutes until the shrimp was opaque.
Add in one can of diced, fire roasted tomatoes, and you have a lovely sauce.
Pull the pasta out of the water and toss it in the pan with the sauce. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and caramelized onion focaccia, a la Tyler Florence.
I caramelized the onions earlier in the day and set them aside so that I could just pop this in the oven when I started the sauce. I had had a beautiful vidalia onion on standby, but with the summer heat, it was starting to go soft on me. I didn't realize that until I was ready to start cooking, though, so I ended up using 2 red onions instead, and it worked out just fine. I also cheated in a few more ways! I used a pizza dough mix that I had in the pantry (It was a bad day for staples in my kitchen...I also had 3 tubes of Pillsbury pizza dough in the fridge, but apparently I bought them longer ago than I thought, and they were all too old, too.) and since I've been out of fresh rosemary for a while (and we all know I don't like thyme) I used some fresh oregano from my garden. All in all this turned out fabulously! I made so many substitutions that I'm not going to submit it to Tyler Florence Fridays this week, but I'm going to try doing it again sometime and actually FOLLOW the recipe! Instead of posting Tyler's recipe, I'm just going to tell you what I did.
In a large skillet, cook thinly sliced onions over medium heat, stirring only occasionally until they are caramelized. I mean it, don't over-stir it or they'll never caramelize. If you're using red onions like I did, toss in a tablespoon of sugar to help the process along.
Roll out a tube or package of pizza dough and brush it with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, some chopped herbs, and then spread the onions over the top, pushing down gently into the dough. Bake at 350 or until the crust turns golden. Cut and serve with a little more parmesan cheese. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TFF - Thai Grilled Beef

I am a big fan of any kind of Asian food. As a matter of fact, a Korean style beef skewer was the first "ethnic" food I managed to sneak in on the hubs under the guise of being "like kebabs". SO, when I recently got a copy of Tyler's "Eat This Book" and opened it up to the page marked Thai Grilled Beef and Green Papaya Salad, I was all about getting the ingredients to make the dish! I searched high and low for a green papaya, finally finding one at Meijer, gathered the rest of my ingredients, and set out to make a great meal. Due to circumstances beyond our control, I couldn't make it the next day, so it was two days later when I got started on the dressing for the salad, and the marinade for the beef, and I saw that the papaya was already moldy. CRAP! Well, that counted the salad out, but it wasn't going to stop me from making the beef. It just so happened that that same night, I had to make another dish for Matt that he found in a newspaper article he read, so we had kind of a "snacky" night, sitting out on the deck, munching away. I didn't have any chili paste, and I wasn't about to drive an hour to pick some up, so I substituted red chili flake, which I always keep in quantity, and it worked nicely, and gave the skewers a nice healthy kick! I mixed up a little dipping bowl of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flake to serve with it, and we had quite the little taste treat!
This is my submission for Tyler Florence Fridays this week - be sure to hop over there and check it out on Friday!
Thai Grilled Beef
Tyler Florence, Eat This Book, page 93
45 minutes +time to marinate the beef

Beef Skewers:
1 pound beef sirloin
1/4 low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chili paste (or 1 tsp red chili flake)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

First, slice the beef as thin as possible against the grain. Skewer and put the skewers in a shallow baking dish. Then stir together the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, chili paste, and sugar; pour it over the beef; and marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour (I left mine in overnight).
Put a large grill pan on two burners (I used my electric indoor grill)over medium-high heat or preheat and outdoor gas or charcoal grill and get it very hot. Take a few paper towels and fold them several times to make a thick square. Blot a small amount of oil on the paper towels. Then carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill to make a nonstick grilling surface. Grill the beef on the skewers for about 1 minute on each side.
Just look at those grill marks....doesn't it make your mouth water? Hmmmm? Now, imagine me, kicked back on my new, nicely shaded deck, leaned back in my adirondak chair, beer on one armrest, plate of grilled beef in the other, pulling little pieces of tender meat off the skewer and dipping them in my spicy soy, then tipping my head back to keep the juice from dripping on my chin while I drop the juicy tidbit in my mouth....finger food at its finest....jealous? Don't be! Go make your own! Cuz I know you're not getting any of mine!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chicken with Blackberries and Goat Cheese

Every morning, on his way to work, my husband picks up a newspaper (or two) to read on his breaks. On Wednesdays, that particular paper has a Food section that has recipes, reviews, and other information about local food and dining.
Nowhere comes the sweet part. My husband may have his issues, but every so often, he does something considerate, just because he knows I'll enjoy it. Every Wednesday night, I am presented with the food sections from those papers, and he spends a few minutes tell me, in great detail, which recipes look good to him, which ones he thinks I would like, and sometimes even pointing out class announcements that he thinks I may be interested in. Sweet, right?
Here's the part that you're going to need to sit down for. A few weeks ago, my meat-and-potatoes husband came home and presented me with my weekly dose of food porn, pointed to one specific recipe, and said, "I think I might like to try this."
I looked at the page, expecting to see something like Beer Braised Pork Fat, with Beef Fat Brine, and Velveeta Mud Masque". Then, what, to my wondering eyes should appear?
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Blackberries, Sage and Goat Cheese
Wait, what? My reaction and the ensuing dialogue went something like this:
Me: Honey, you don't like fruit with your meat.
Hubs: But I like blackberries. I don't know hat goat cheese is like though, what does it taste like?
Me: Well, its a soft cheese, more.....tart.....than the cheeses you usually like.....kinda
Hubs: *blank look*
Me: creamier?
Hubs: I'd try it....if you'd make it for me.
Me: *blank look*
Hubs: It sounds good, doesn't it?
Me: *blank look*
Hubs: Well, if you don't want to....
Well, far be it from me to put a damper on any kind of interest he might take in trying something new, so yeah, you know I made it. Damn right! He was also thoroughly entranced, watching me put the dish together, and ate with a curious gusto. His only complaint was the seeds in the berries, but that is kind of hard to avoid. He even ate leftovers. So, yay! A new meal, and it wasn't even my idea! Try this one out on your picky meat eater...who knows, he might like it, too!
(**by the way, on a cooking note, make sure you seal the pockets well so the cheese doesn't come oozing out, and tuck in the corners of the parchment paper well. The chicken turned out incredibly moist and juicy - enjoy!)

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Blackberries, Sage and Goat Cheese 4 TB butter, divided, plus more to prepare pan
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
ground black pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese, divided
3 TB minced, fresh sage, divided
1 cup blackberries, washed
1 lemon, sliced into very thin rounds

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with butter. Cut a length of parchment paper slightly longer than the baking dish and rub one side with butter.
2. Cut a long, deep pocket into side of each chicken breast. Season the inside with a bit of salt and pepper. Spoon 2 TB of goat cheese into each pocket and pat into a even layer. Add a sprinkling of sage, then stuff the cavity with as many blackberries as will fit comfortably. Use toothpicks to secure the opening so the berries don't fall out.
3. Rub the outside of each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of butter and then season heavily with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken breasts side by side in the baking dish with at least 1/2 inch between then. Lay a few slices of lemon over the top of each breast.
4. Cover the chicken breasts with the parchment paper, butter side down, and tuck the ends into the pan to create a loose seal. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked and the interior registers at least 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
5. Let the chicken rest 5 minutes, still covered. Remove and discard lemon slices. Serve chicken over green salad, rice pilaf or couscous. St. Louis Post Dispatch, 'Let's Eat' Section, Wednesday, 06/24/2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chicken and the Corn!

Some of you know, and some of you don't, that my husband owns a chunk of farm ground, and we have a farmer that cash rents it every year. He's nice enough that when he plants his own corn, he does us a favor and plants two rows of sweet corn, just for us. Well, its CORN time! The property happens to butt up to my sister in law's house and she's been checking it for us every couple of days, and it is officially ready. I know it sounds corny (pun completely intended), but we look forward to this every year.

I know, some of you are saying, "come on, its just CORN". And you're right, I used to say the same thing. But there is just nothing better than fresh from the stalk sweet corn, pulled from the field, shucked, and dropped straight into a pot of boiling water. A little butter, and we could make an entire meal out of nothing but corn. The season is so short, we may have this for a week, and then it will be over. We used to put the corn up, but that tradition died several years ago.

So, the husband stopped by and picked a couple dozen ears last night and I defrosted some chicken breast to make chicken strips to go with it. In case you haven't noticed, I'm the kind of person who likes to cook with what she has on hand, and to make use of items that might otherwise go to waste. Well, a few weeks ago, I had a full bag of pretzel twists that had been around long enough, they went stale. Instead of wasting them, I poured them into my food processor and turned them into "pretzel crumbs" to use for breading, just like I do when I have partial sleeves of crackers left over from a "chili" night.

This dish turned out well enough that the husband may not want to have chicken strips any other way from now on. He couldn't stop raving about them. The pretzel coating made them just a little crunchy, and the addition of some seasonings made it extra special. Add a few ears of corn and you have one amazing summertime supper!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Strips
3 chicken breasts, sliced into strips
2-3 cups pretzel crumbs
1 cup flour
1 TB ground mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk

On a plastic cutting board, clean and slice your chicken. Blot away any extra moisture on the chicken with paper towels.

Using 2 pie plates (not three, I also like to save on dishes to wash, so follow along!), set up your breading station. In one, put the 1 cup of flour, in the other, crack 3 eggs, and whisk in the milk to make your egg wash.

A few at a time, roll the chicken strips in flour, then return them to the cutting board. Once they all have a light coating of flour, dump the pretzel crumbs in with the remaining flour and mix together. Add in the mustard, paprika, and pepper.One at a time, dunk each strip in the egg wash, then in the pretzels, pressing down on them to hold the crumbs to the chicken.Once all the strips are breaded, begin frying them in batches in 400 degree oil. Fry the strips until golden and serve with your favorite dippers (we used barbecue sauce).
Enjoy! We thought these turned out great. Unfortunately, the hubs liked them so much that he took all the leftovers to work for breakfast AND lunch today. none for me....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

TFF - Salt Crusted Porterhouse and Smashed Potatoes with Peas

If you remember reading this post, last week, you'll understand when I decided that my hubby needed a "pick-me-up" kind of dinner to lift his spirits after a particularly rough day. I've been looknig for an excuse to make this Tyler Florence recipe for awhile now, and being the meat and potatoes kind of guy that he is, I thought this one would be right up his alley! (as a side note, I am not much of a "cast iron" cook, but after visiting my SIL and BIL this week, that is gonna change! I learned to love Roger's favorite cast iron pan, so you'll likely be seeing more of this!)

On the way home from work one day last week, I picked up a lovely Porterhouse steak and prepared to pamper the man of the house. Talk about a low-maintenance meal! The only change I made was to garnish the potatoes with peas instead of mashing them into it, because I knew the hubs would avoid the lovely little greenies like the plague, so I played nice. I intended to make a fancy cocktail to go with this, but keeping the man of the hour in mind, I poured him a nice cold beer instead.

I admit I was a little leery of this dish, wondering how the salt crust would affect the flavor of the dish, but I needn't have concerned myself! The way Matt described it was "a cross between a juicy steak and corned beef". The first bite you take, the salt hits you first, but immediately mellows and you get the robust taste of the steak, sealed in the juices by the salt crust.

This recipe got an A+ from my husband, and we'll definitely be trying it again! Be sure to check out the roundup over at Tyler Florence Fridays tomorrow afternoon - this is my entry for the week!

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot
Yield: 2-4 servings
Time: 35 minutes

3 cups kosher salt
6 egg whites
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
3 stems fresh sage
extra-virgin olive oil
2 (18oz) Porterhouse steaks (1 ½ inches thick)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

Bring steaks out so they can come up to room temp, drizzle with a little olive oil and a few turns of black pepper.
Put egg whites in a large mixing bowl and gently whisk until slightly foamy. Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor), mince garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and sage. Add to egg whites with salt and combine well until it holds together like a paste.

Take a large cast-iron skillet (or two smaller ones) and set strip steak in the center of the skillet and mould salt paste on top of and around the sides of the steak.Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes (internal temp should reach 120 degrees F.) then pull out and rest for 7-8 minutes.Crack shell open – remove steak, slice and serve.Smashed Potatoes and Peas
Recipe Courtesy of Tyler Florence
8 medium new baby red potatoes
1 cup frozen peas, blnached
4 sprigs fresh mint
1/2 cup heavy cream
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare potatoes. Put potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain and put back into the pot. Add cream and using a wooden spoon, smash the potatoes to break them up a little and incorporate the cream. Fold in peas and mint then season with salt and pepper.