Tuesday, August 31, 2010
If you have not been lucky enough to have fresh figs at your disposal, there is one crucial aspect to having your own tree. Fresh figs....don’t stay fresh for long. Sometimes not long at all. Sometimes you don’t even know they are ripe and they’ve gone bad.
• 2 lb firm-ripe fresh figs, trimmed and quartered
• 2 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Simmer sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Gently stir in figs, zest, and lemon juice and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 1 3/4 to 2 hours. Gently stir in sesame seeds.
However, now that I know how good this stuff is....as much as it will pain me to do so....if there aren’t enough figs on my tree the next time I’m ready for this, I may have to resort to buying them in the store.
Its that good.
And Ginny is going to find out for herself this weekend when I pack everything up and head out to Iowa for a visit.
So, let me just say this. Next time you find yourself at the store, drooling over a package of fresh figs. But you can’t quite bring yourself to buy them because you don’t know how you will use them up before they start getting mushy..... do THIS. You won’t regret it.
I may be a bit out of touch over the next week with the upcoming trip (yeah yeah, I know, I’ve ALREADY been a bit out of touch! Bear with me – I’m working on a new project that I hope to announce very soon!) but when I get back, I hope to have some fun new posts worked up for your viewing pleasure.
Until then....get “figgy” with it!
Monday, August 30, 2010
If you recall, shortly after she got back, she came for a visit and we made Mofongo (a dish made from roasted plantains) and spicy shrimp.
More recently, I took a trip myself, to Baltimore for a visit with the family. We spent one day at the bay and I had a wonderful plate of Tostones with Crab Salmorejo at a local bar & grill.
SO, when I saw that our theme for this month was Puerto Rico (I say “our” as if I had anything to do with it – this is the first month I’ll even be participating!), I had one thing in mind.
Shockingly, even in my little berg, where I normally have trouble finding some of the most basic ingredients, plantains can often be found at the local Walmart. I grabbed a couple up, and set to work.
First, I took a page from my MEF’s book and made a wonderfully aromatic Garlic Mojo (a la Rick Bayless) which consists of roasting the cloves from four heads of garlic (yes, I said FOUR HEADS of garlic) in olive oil until soft, then mixing in some fresh lime juice and roasting a little longer before removing it from the oven and pureeing it.
For the Tostones, you just peel your green plantains (I don’t recommend using plantains that are overly ripe as the sugars lend them to burning in the pan), and slicing them into sections 1 to 1 ½ inches long.
Sautee the pieces gently in olive oil, then turn them on their ends and use a heavy bottomed glass to press them flat. Then, return them to the pan for a second turn at frying. A little salt and pepper is a nice addition at this point.
I served these little gems up with rice and black beans. For the dipping sauce, I used some of my lovely Garlic Mojo and topped it with a spoonful of my own homemade Hot Pepper Sauce.
This was a tasty little treat to enjoy while sitting out on the deck last night, a cold bottle of beer in hand, after an exhausting weekend of organizing the hubs’ auction and checking the FOID cards of potential bidders.
This is one dish you don’t even need a recipe for and it goes together in just minutes (unless you have to cook the beans, that is). Enjoy!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It would make your head spin.
It doesn’t help that I’m participating in Steph Chows’ 2nd Annual Jam Exchange, and I’m having a hard time resisting the urge to make jam right now. And, you know what they say, “some like it hot”.
This one is super simple. My batch didn’t firm up very well, but after tasting the heat of it, I’m thinking its probably a good thing you can’t get very much at a time. Dip a little cracker in it, or pour it over a brick of cream cheese, but this one is NOT one you want to eat by the spoonful (get back, Joey Tribbiani!). Unless, of course, you enjoy bleeding ulcers. Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Here is the link for the original recipe I used, but I am including my version (with a couple of changes) below.
Mango Habañero Jam
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
And they started sending me recipes. (Yeah, they love me.)
Thanks to my MEF (most excellent friend, to you), I discovered this recipe by Jamie Oliver. Really, I’m not even sure you can call it a recipe since it is so darn easy to put together. I whipped this little masterpiece together when I got home from work yesterday and sat gleefully on the couch to dig into it.
And I now know why Jamie calls it “sexy”. I never really thought about it, because he is always using that word in reference to food, but this time.... well, I understand.
See, this could be a knife-and-fork salad. Because the figs aren’t truly separated into pieces, just fanned out on gorgeous display, looking all sensual....and the prosciutto is left in long, leggy strips...which, honestly, you just can’t eat gracefully.
This is how it went.....
I started with the plate on my lap, delicately tucking into the salad with a knife and fork.....
And very gradually, I moved from a sitting position to being semi-reclined, propped up on one elbow.... knife and fork thrown to the wind.... lifting beautiful long drippy pieces of prosciutto and dangling them over my mouth.... picking up blushing segments of fig, nibbling the rosie flesh from the skin, then finishing that off as well.... wiping the luscious dressing from my chin with the back of my hand.
And then I paused..... and I looked down at myself. And I laughed out loud.
And my five year old son says to me, “Mommy WHAT are you EATING??”
I think I blushed.
You just can’t beat walking to your front door after a long day at work, plucking three fresh figs off the tree on your porch, and turning them into this sexy little salad.
Try it...I dare you. Just don’t do it in front of your husband. Well, you know, unless you’re in the mood.
This is the excerpt from Jamie’s article. I just love the way he talks, so I had to include it verbatim.
One thing I do is to criss-cross the figs but not quite to the bottom - 1 fig per person is always a good start. Then, using your thumbs and forefingers, squeeze the base of the fig to expose the inside. At this point you'll think, 'Oooh, that looks nice, I think I'm quite clever ...' or at least I do. More importantly, it allows your dressing to get right into the middle of the fig. All these little things really help to make a salad special. Simply place the figs in a dish, weave around 1 slice of Parma ham or prosciutto per fig, throw in some slices of buffalo mozzarella and rip over some green or purple basil. Mix 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of good honey and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper together in a bowl and drizzle everything with this dressing. As far as salads go, it's pretty damn sexy.I agree completely, don't you?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
THAT, obviously, is the makings of a very happy day. Especially if you know anything about the living hell we went through with day cares for the first five years of his life.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Well, me? I LOVE it. And those people that hate it? Yeah, well, I don’t understand them...
So, when I recently saw this recipe posted by Pam over at Sidewalk Shoes, I knew I was going to have to try it.
Cilantro Pesto??? FRIGGIN’ GOOD!!!
I did have a little trouble finding the raw pumpkin seeds. Consistent with the ongoing saga of having little or no access to decent ingredients, it took a trip to Baltimore to find a bag of raw hulled pumpkin seeds for this recipe.
Ohhh but it was worth it. “Just use sunflower seeds” Ginny kept saying to me.....
Well, as you may or may not be aware...I’m a little stubborn, (like a mule!) and I wasn’t about to give up on the pumpkin seeds. And I am glad I held out. This pesto is absolutely fabulous! So far I am loving it on chicken tacos, but I am thinking it would be great on a nice Panini with some queso fresco, or, for that matter, just eating it with a spoon. (no, I’m not serious....well....maybe...)
So I now have a stash of pumpkin seeds in my freezer for the next time I have to have some cilantro pesto...which is now going to be a staple in my house!
Cilantro and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
2 cups (gently packed) fresh cilantro leaves and tender sprigs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoons seeded and coarsely chopped jalapeno pepper (I left the seeds in because I am bold)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat. When you hear the first seed pop, start stirring or shaking the pan continuously. The pumpkin seeds will puff up. When most of the seeds are puffed up, pour the seeds on a paper towel to cool.
In a food processor process the seeds and all of the ingredients except the olive oil until it’s finely ground. Then pour the olive oil in a smooth steady stream, until the mixture is creamy and fairly smooth.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
You see, I’ve been a slacker. Many weeks ago, I teased you with my new book of Ciao Bella gelato recipes, promising (okay, well, technically I didn’t pinky-swear) that I’d bring you a new flavor to drool over every week.
And, my dearies, I have failed you.
Summer has gotten away from me, and as I’m sure you can all relate to, we’ve been so busy that it completely escaped me.
Well, its time to rectify that.
It is my great pleasure to present to you.....Dark Chocolate Bacon Sorbet.
Yes, you heard me right. BACON.
I ran across this recipe when I was doing a little recon mission before making Chocolate Covered Bacon earlier this summer. I’ve had the recipe posted next to my stove for ages. I made a special stop in the city to get dutch processed cocoa. And yet.....I dropped the ball.
Maybe it was because every time I make bacon, it mysteriously disappears....hmmm....might have to look into that. I bet it has something to do with a pork-pilfering husband....
BUT FEAR NOT!!
The time has come. Yesterday I served up a big breakfast for my family....and I made THREE pounds of bacon. Yep, that way I was sure to have enough leftover for this recipe. Nonetheless, I still made the sorbet the same day, just in case the hubs fell prey to a cured meat craving.
I took the crispiest pieces (the recipe said 8 slices, but c’mon....I bet I doubled that) and chopped them up into crunchy bits. In the end, I decided that next time (and, oh yes, there WILL be a “next time”) I will add even more bacon. The original recipe called for “candying” the bacon, by means of dredging it in sugar and then baking it in the oven, but it also mentioned that it may have diminished the flavor of the bacon, so I chose not to candy mine. I’m a risk-taker, what can I say.....
I assembled the base for the sorbet. And let me tell you, it is so rich and intensely chocolatey, you would never in a million years guess that there is no dairy in this. And, its dark chocolate, so its good for you, too...right?
You could make this with any chocolate you like, but for me, darker is better, so I used about 70% dark chocolate.
(okay, okay, so I got distracted when I got home yesterday and its a little melty...but you know what? It sure tasted good drizzled all over those slices of bacon!)
DARK CHOCOLATE BACON SORBET
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 cups water
3 tbsp. corn syrup
6 oz. dark chocolate
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
app. 8 slices of bacon
Sift the cocoa to remove any lumps, then chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine it with the cocoa.
In a saucepan, combine 2 1/4 cups water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat.
Slowly whisk the sugar syrup into the chocolate mixture. Don’t worry if the chocolate seizes on you, just keep drizzling the syrup into it and it will smooth out. Continue whisking this mixture for about five minutes, until you think it’s smooth and silky. Cool the mixture over an ice bath (fill a bowl larger than the one your base is in with ice cubes and water. Place your bowl inside the icy bowl, and continue to whisk it until it is cool). Place your base in the refrigerator to cool completely and thicken for a few hours.
After the sorbet base has cooled for a few hours, freeze it in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. At the last minute, funnel the bacon bits into the opening on the machine and stop the machine as soon as it is just mixed in. Your machine’s motor will protest if you let it churn too long with the chunks in it. Pour into a storage container and put it in the freezer until it reaches the desired firmness.
***I would probably save some bacon bits for garnish, also. I think it would add something to it to have the plain bacon on top as well as mixed in. This sorbet I so rich, you don’t need very much to get your chocolate fix.
There you have it, folks. Bacon....for dessert. Now, don’t despair, I still have a couple more bacon recipes to share with you, and hopefully I’ll get them up for your drooling pleasure much more quickly than I did with this one. Buon Appetito!
Monday, August 9, 2010
Well, in our house, that makes total sense, since my parents are from Cincinnati (or at least spent a good chunk of their lives there). So, being the sentimental old fool that I’m growing into, I couldn’t resist this copy when I ran across it on PaperbackSwap recently. I’ve never read the book, but I do own a copy now.
See, there is this wonderful thing in the Cincinnati area called Cincinnati Chili. Cincinnati is filled with chili parlors, and everyone has their favorite (mine, most definitely is Skyline Chili.). Cincinnati chili is an entirely different breed of chili. It is neither chunky, thick, nor spicy. It is not filled with beans and vegetables. Instead, it is thin and savory, and served over spaghetti. That's right. Spaghetti.
I have found that most people either love it or hate it, and I am definitely a lover of some good Cincinnati Chili.
That being said. Guy Fieri's feature recipe on that fateful day a few weeks ago?
There are also other options. You can have a four-way or five way, which add either beans or onions to the list, or you can choose a chili dog. If you're a true connoisseur, you will slide your oblong dish facing away from you, which makes for less "splatter" while you're slurping up your personal pile of happiness. (I have a special bowl at home, just for this purpose. I know, try to cover up your "shocked" face.)
Yes, I am a freak. This I know.
And although I know that chili may seem like an odd choice in the arrid savannah also known as "Illinois in August", I made a batch of chili. (like I said...freak. old news here.) Although my recipe is constantly evolving (kudos to my Aunt Gert, who gave me her recipe to start from many years ago when I was visiting) my Aunt Gert's recipe is one I can always fall back on, so I am including it here. If I ever get mine tweaked "just so" I'l be sure to post it as well!
2 lbs ground beef, cooked until grey 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large onion, chopped 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water 1/2 tsp cinnamon
30 oz tomato sauce 2 TBS chili powder
In spice bag or tea ball: or 2 tsp ground allspice
18 whole allspice or 3 bay leaves, (remove when done)
3 bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in 3 ½ quart crock pot. Cook on high heat for half an hour, then at least five hours on low heat. Remove spice bag.
Serve over cooked spaghetti, and top with diced onion and finely grated cheddar or longhorn cheese. Serve with oyster crackers.
I certainly can't guarantee that you'll like Cincinnati Chili, but if you want something different, give this a shot and let me know what you think!
Friday, August 6, 2010
Such was the case at my house last night.
Ty and I returned from our adventures in Baltimore on Tuesday night, and since then have been doing nothing but trying to catch up (at work and at home), CLEAN up (you know, since I cleaned the house like a raving lunatic before I left, so the house would be CLEAN when I got back, just to have my husband leave crap EVERYWHERE while I was gone, in a clear effort to drive me to the brink of insanity), and SIGN up (for school, that is. I officially registered Ty for kindergarten yesterday).
And yes, folks, after all that....momma needed a drink.
Not that this should come as a shock to any of you....
You all know how fond I am of my cocktails.
Meanwhile...for a week or so now, I have been hunting one elusive ingredient for the primo cocktail. I read on another blog recently that you can make a “cheater” sangria by mixing one bottle of cheap, dry red wine with a bottle of sparkling lemonade. You know, those nice tall bottles of Italian lemonade that call your name at World Market. Or Whole Foods. Or really, any of the fun places to shop that we....don’t....have....HERE.
I was out of luck and had no plans to go to the city in the near future. I seriously considered bringing a bottle back with me on the plane, but considering that TSA felt the need to manually inspect my luggage not once, but TWICE during my trip, I’m glad I didn’t push my luck. Not that there is anything wrong with packing a bottle of lemonade (or the bottle of Muscat, or the bottle of white balsamic vinegar I already had stashed in my bag, in tightly sealed Ziploc bags), but since the TSA people apparently don’t have opposable thumbs and aren’t able to RE-seal a Ziploc bag once they’ve opened it for inspection....well, let’s just say it was probably for the best that I didn’t have anything else in there that was liable to break and spew sticky, stinky, or otherwise volatile liquids all over my other belongings.
In the famous words of my MEF (WOMAN Marine. That’s right.)
Which I did.
See, at any given time, you will find in my freezer, various containers holding lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate, and apple juice concentrate. And sometimes others. I buy a can, open it, use what I need, and put the rest in a container for later. I then use these, a spoonful at a time, in marinades, sauces, and pretty much anything else that I feel needs a little blast of flavor.
So, the next time you’ve had a rather exhausting week....and you just need a drink....now....try this.
In a glass, put a heaping spoonful of any combination of the aforementioned frozen drink concentrates.
Then, pour over that a generous helping of cheap, dry red wine.
Repeat as necessary.
Now. I am by no means implying that this is a substitute for the real thing. Having lived in Spain, I have had the real thing, and I’m kind of a stickler for authenticity on this point. I scoff at Sangrias that are sub-par, made with questionable ingredients. So, no, I’m not saying this is REALLY sangria. But, in a pinch, it does hit the spot.
Give it a try...I will ....tonight. Next time maybe I'll actually take a picture to show you....
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Also, I’m a total slacker. My tomato and pepper plants have been producing like happy little rabbits all season, and yet, there are piles of ripe fruit sitting on my kitchen counter, going uneaten. This bothers my husband. So much so, that he asked me last night, “Why do you even plant these if you’re not going to eat them?”
Well, he does have a point. It happens every year. I plant, I water, they bloom and bear fruit....and then they sit. In my defense, I do eat some of them, but I’m not as diligent as I should be about it.
What is it about planting a garden? I think it comforts me, just knowing its out there...that I’m growing something. And its not that I don’t like what I am growing. I only plant things that I know I like. I don’t know what it is....
In any case, last night the hubs made a very valid point. And, I’m going on a trip, so I need to do something with the little jewels or they’ll go bad while I’m gone.
So what did I do? Something I’ve been waiting all season for. Something I almost didn’t do because my habañeros never produced. But, with a pile of jalapeños and super chilis on my counter, something had to be done.
I made Hot Sauce.
I’ve done this before and absolutely loved it. If you have a garden and have chiles coming out your ears, this is the way to use them up, especially if you’re a chile-head like I am. The best part of this is that you can make it as hot (or, as mild....wussy) as you want.
Garden Hot Pepper Sauce
1. Gather up as many chiles as you want to use. The sauce has a better flavor if you use a variety.
2. Roughly chop them and remove the stems. No need to seed or devein.
3. Toss them all in a sauce pan.4. Cover the chiles with white vinegar (keep the vinegar handy, you might need more later).5. Simmer the contents until the chiles are very soft, about an hour (don’t inhale anywhere near your stove or you’ll lose nose hairs).6. If the vinegar level falls below the chiles, add more.
7. Remove from the heat, and pass the contents through a food mill, pressing to get as much of the flesh and juice as possible.Voila! You’re done. You can keep this in the fridge indefinitely or you can process it and have jars for later. My batch last night started with a couple of cups of chiles and a couple of cups of vinegar and yielded about a cup and a half of finished product. Check it out! Mine’s going to be HOT. Yours can be any way you want.