Archive for October, 2011

October 21, 2011

Jalapeño Corn Spoon Bread

I discovered corn spoon bread at a family Thanksgiving my junior year of high school.  How I could go 16 years of my life without knowing about this delicacy is beyond me.  My family was invited over to a friend’s house, and Meghan made her special recipe.  I didn’t even know what it was until it came out of the oven warm and steaming.  Similar to a thick pudding texture, this sweet, creamy dish is a welcomed partner to steak, chili, pork chops, ribs… ok, pretty much anything.

This corn bread meets corn chowder under the alias of spoon bread, is something that I happily mound on my plate knowing it’s both healthy and sweetly delicious.  This is a great substitute to your traditional mashed potatoes, yams, parsnips, root vegetables and other purees that serve as the piles to sop up everything delectable that runs off our main courses before our forks can catch it.  To offset the sweetness of the corn, I add onions and jalapenos to give a mild spice.  I’ve modified the original recipe, but the staples are still there.  Thanks Meghan, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can whole can corn undrained (no salt added)
  • 1 can creamed corn (no salt added)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 jalapeños, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 package corn bread (jiffy)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Combine sour cream, butter and egg in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth
  • Add the remaining ingredients, corm, onion, jalapeno, jalapeño power and corn bread and mix with a wooden spoon
  • Spray a 9” pan with cooking spray
  • Place on center rack in oven and cook for 1 hour
  • Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving, it will be very very hot!

THANK YOU MEGHAN!  This one’s for you!

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October 18, 2011

Yellow Chicken Curry with Vegetables

You might be interested to know that curry is not a spice. In fact, there are several definitions out there designed to describe curry’s various combinations of piquant flavors, with many of these relying on origin just as much as how it’s used in the kitchen.  The important thing to remember is that it’s a blend of spices that can be selected and mixed by hand or purchased as curry powder to get the exact level of heat, spice or mellow warmth you’re looking for.  In my quest for the perfectly mild, yet also spicy curry, I began working on my own concoction.

My yellow curry can be altered to suit a spicy palette or toned down for those who prefer a mild heat, either way it’s depth of flavor and fragrant bouquet of spices will have you craving Indian more often.  I prefer a rich, velvety sauce with lots of meat and vegetables that offers up a variety of textures and flavors.  I use big chunks of carrots and cauliflower that soften as they simmer and absorb all the flavors of the cooked spices.  The rich flavor and velvety quality of the curry is perfectly paired with freshly steamed jasmine rice; you can’t help but go back for seconds.  Just adjust the amount of cumin and red pepper flakes to change the level of heat, either way you’ll get a traditional Indian curry worthy of being  part of your menu.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. dehydrated jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeno, finely chopped (include seeds if you want more heat)
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 2 10 oz. cans light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Raita

  • 1 pint plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (1/2 medium lime)

Method

You’ll start this recipe by cooking the chicken in a mixture of spices, similar to the ones that you will use in the sauce.  This gives the chicken way more flavor than if you just dropped it in at the end

  • Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet at medium heat
  • Add paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers and cumin to the hot oil and slowly cook the spices.  This will bring out all the deep flavors and give you a great base for the chicken.  Use the spice amounts listed in the top part of the ingredients under “chicken”
  • Let the spices cook for about 1-2 mins until aromatic
  • Drop chicken in the pan and let cook for about 6 mins. You don’t need to worry about cooking the chicken through, you just want to coat all sides with the spices and oil and slightly brown the pieces.  Carefully toss until everything is coated and the outside is golden
  • Remove from pan and leave in bowl for later
  • No need to wipe out or rinse the pan, just add in the oil and continue cooking on medium heat
  • Add oil and spices: paprika, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dehydrated jalapeño peppers, cumin and salt and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic
  • Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and bay leaves stir to evenly coat the onions.  Cook on medium for 10 minutes, you don’t want the onions to turn brown, you want them translucent (it’s called “sweating”)
  • Once the vegetables cook down, add tomato paste, coconut milk, and carrots.  Stir in new ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer on low heat.  Leave for 20 minutes to let all the flavors meld.
  • While the curry flavors develop, it’s time to make the raita.
  • In a medium bowl, add yogurt, mint, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice and bell pepper.  Mix well, cover with saran wrap and leave in the fridge until dinner
  • Add chicken and cauliflower continue to simmer for another 20-30 mins.
  •  Serve over rice with a side of Puppodums and raita.

Puppodums are wafer thin Indian “crackers” made with lentil flour and sometimes spices usually served at the beginning of a meal, or alongside the main dish with chutney and raita for dipping.  I LOVE THEM!  I usually eat a whole box when I make curry, I break them up and use them like a spoons.  I just can’t have curry without them, and the ones from the store are easier than making them from scratch.  I buy the Tiger brand Spicy Puppodums, spray a little oil on them, and them pop them in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Puppodum perfection!

October 17, 2011

Walnut Banana Bread

I’m not one to go for the fat-free, low-carb, no flavor recipes.  I like everything in moderation and this is a good recipe for those who want to meet in the middle, a little bit on indulgence without all the guilt.  This recipe usually calls for a stick of butter, but I decided to substitute in some other ingredients to give it the same moist consistency you’re looking for in traditional banana bread.  I’ve made more banana bread than I like to think about trying to perfect this combination, and I’ve finally found one that’s a winner.

I’m not a huge fan of bananas, but there’s something about the smell of warm nuts and toasty bread in the oven that warms my heart and has me waiting by the oven to dig in.  Spread a thin layer of honey or jam on top and settle in for some much-needed deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and lay out the chopped walnuts
  • When oven is ready, toast the nuts for 10 mins.  Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, yogurt, applesauce and mashed bananas, and vanilla.  Then add 2 eggs and mix until well blended with a whisk.
  • Gently stir banana mixture into flour mixture; do this quickly and only until the mixture is moist, if you over mix you will end up with rock hard banana bread.
  • Take the nuts you set aside and lightly dust with flour (this will help them float in the bread and not sink to the bottom)
  • Stir in nuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pan
  • Bake for 50~60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

This bread lasts for about a week if you keep it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.  I like to toast the slices after the first day and spread honey and butter on the top.  It’s also been known to be a good companion to your cup of coffee on those early Monday mornings.

October 11, 2011

Homemade Meatloaf with Peppers and Fresh Herbs

Please try to forget all the stereotypes of the classic meatloaf.  I know; it’s hard.  So to try and help I’ve come up with a recipe to help put all your fears of dense, hard, dry meat bricks to rest.  It’s a modern spin on a traditional comfort food, with a promise to deliver juicy, flavorful meatloaf, which will leave you sneaking back to the kitchen for seconds.

When I’m served a hot plate of meatloaf, I search for the steaming aroma of meat, onions and spice that reminds me Fall’s crisp air is just around the corner.  The sage gives off a woodsy, minty flavor that pairs well the fresh rosemary, which has a unique pine-like fragrant flavor balanced by a rich pungency, a combination that evokes both the forest and the sea.  The use of bell pepper and jalapeño gives the meatloaf a sweet and spicy contrast, and the hint of green specks is beautiful.  While some people might be looking for the ketchup crust or the homemade gravy, I turned to my magic ingredient.  Bacon.  Yes, I cover the loaf with bacon and let it crisp up in the oven, helping to keep the meat moist, tender and delicious.

Two tips I have before I get started.  First, don’t over mix the meat.  This is the biggest culprit for tough meatloaf.  You want to mix the ingredients into the meat, not knead it like bread or pasta.  If you’re gentle and quick with the meat, you’re meatloaf will be fluffy and juicy.  Second, I recommend cooking it on a baking sheet, not in a loaf pan.  The sides of the pan get hotter than the oven and tend to burn the edges.  Have fun with this and get your hands dirty,  it’ll be worth it.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed finely diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard (hot Coleman’s English mustard is the best)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10 oz. packet of center cut bacon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line a medium size baking sheet with foil and set aside for meatloaf
  • In a medium skillet, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño.  Sprinkle with salt and stir so the oil evenly coats all the vegetables.  Leave on medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and slightly brown.  You’re caramelizing the onions; about 10 mins.
  • Remove from heat and let cool
  • While vegetables cool, add meat, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, parsley, Worcestershire, panko, ketchup, and eggs in a large bowl
  • When vegetables are cool, add them to the large bowl and mix with hands (don’t try using a spoon, it’s time to use your hands!)
  • Mix quickly and gently, the more you mix the tougher your meatloaf will turn out (which is why you don’t want to use a spoon).  Just mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • Lay the meat on foil lined baking sheet and form into a large log
  • Take the bacon and lay slices across the meat.  This will add flavor and keep the meat moist while it bakes in the oven.
  • Bake for 110~130 mins until cooked through, check with an oven thermometer.  Internal temperature should reach 150°F.
  • When meatloaf is cooked through, turn broiler on low, and cook for 5 mins to crisp bacon.  Stay near the kitchen and keep your eye on this, it may only take 2 minutes depending on your oven, and it will happen quickly!
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  This allows the meat juices to redistribute.
  • Serve with ketchup!
October 8, 2011

British Bread and Butter Pudding

I’ve tried many bread and butter puddings in fancy restaurants, but I always go back to the simple homemade version I learned from my mom.  It doesn’t have fancy ingredients, or liquor, or vanilla spice, it’s just traditional pudding just like Nanny used to make.

I love the smell of the warm custard baking in the oven; it makes the whole house smell like home.  When it’s ready to take out, the crispy brown coating on the top makes me giddy, and as I spoon it out the warm steam escaping from the pudding is intoxicating.  The raisins plump up in the oven and get nice and juicy and sweet, while the bread is soft and creamy.  I like the slight crust on the top from the sugar; it’s a nice change of texture from the soft, velvety filling.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf day old bread
  • 2 cups whole milk (don’t use 2%, 1% or skim)
  • 1 3/4 cup light or heavy whipping cream (I’ve used both and I can’t tell any difference)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. for sprinkling
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick salted butter

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, and place rack in center of oven
  • Combine milk and whipping cream in large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and 1/8 cup sugar in large bowl.
  • Once the milk starts to foam, remove from heat.  Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture, to create a custard.  Add the hot milk slowly while whisking so the eggs don’t scramble, it’s called “tempering” the eggs. Set custard aside.
  • Butter a 9x9x2-inch glass-baking dish
  • Spread a thin layer of butter on both sides of each bread slice
  • Line the bottom of the baking dish with a single layer of bread.  Feel free to break up the slices or cut them to make to make it fit.  You don’t want them overlapping.
  • Sprinkle with raisins and a dusting of sugar.
  • Continue to layer bread, raisins and sugar until you fill the dish.  I don’t put a layer of raisins on the top, as they tend to dry out in the oven.  I only put a sprinkling of sugar and use all the raisins in the pudding.  Don’t worry about filing the dish, the custard will fit!
  • Slowly spoon out the custard over the bread and let it set in as you go.  Make sure you do this gradually, so the custard has time to sink in.  You should be able to use most of the custard; you may be left with about 1/4 cup, nothing to worry about.  Just fill it to the very top.
  • Let stand until some custard is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  • Place in over and bake pudding until custard thickens and begins to set, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over pudding. Broil until sugar browns, rotating baking dish for even browning and watching closely, about 2 minutes.
  • Let pudding cool slightly. Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

October 7, 2011

Sautéed Potatoes with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

I was on my own for dinner the other night, and I was feeling like a pile of hot, tasty French fries.  As I don’t have a fryer and don’t intend to get one, I went with the next best thing, sautéed potatoes with garlic and red pepper.  In the end, they turned out much better than any French fries, and for some reason I felt better about eating them, even if I did finish the whole plate!

I like my potatoes with a nice, crispy coating, but they’re still soft and creamy in the inside.  The only way to achieve this is to go low and slow.  If you brown the potatoes too quickly, they won’t get cooked in the middle, so you need a little patience.  I’ve tried par boiling the potatoes before sautéing, but they always seem to fall apart, so I just cut them up and drop them in the pan raw, that way they have a nice bite but still get cooked through.  The vibrant color of the purple potatoes will turn any sautéed potatoes into a gourmet dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. golden Yukon potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 1 lb. purple baby potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. pepper, to taste

Method

  • Rinse potatoes under cold water; drain and pat dry
  • Cut potatoes into bite size pieces, leave the skin on
  • Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat
  • Add potatoes once the oil is hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Watch the potatoes and turn frequently for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes and toss until evenly coated
  • Cover and reduce heat to low. Cool, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • Remove from heat and add parsley, stir until evenly coated
  • Add additional salt and pepper to taste
  • Let cook for a few minutes before digging in, they’ll be very hot!
October 4, 2011

Polenta with Bacon & Parmesean

This is a dish that will always remind me of home, and more importantly my mom.  She would make this for me on ‘special’ nights and to this day I’m still not sure why this was a ‘special’ dinner.  Either way, I enjoyed it and would hold off eating any snacks for the afternoon in anticipation of warm polenta topped with bacon and cheese.  This is a very easy, affordable dinner that only consists of 3 ingredients, can’t get much simpler than that!

There’s something warm and inviting about  creamy polenta when it’s fried up in a skillet.  It gets a delicate crisp coating on the outside, but the middle is smooth and creamy.  The Parmesan cheese slowly melts on top, and the crispy, salty bite from the bacon give the dish a nice change of texture.  It’s hard to imagine not liking this dish, after all it has bacon and cheese, what more could you want?  Give it a try; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients

  • 1 round of pre-cooked polenta (you can make it from scratch but I like to make life easier)
  • 1 packet of bacon, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or 1/2 cup if you love it like me)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Method

  • Preheat skillet to medium~high
  • Cut bacon into bite size pieces with scissors directly into the pan
  • Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes until the bacon is crisp
  • When the bacon is nice and crispy, use a slotted spoon to remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess oils
  • Wipe out pan with paper towel and add 1 tbsp. of olive oil and return to medium~high heat (you can also use the bacon fat instead of olive oil, your choice)
  • While pan heats up, take the round of cold polenta and slice into 1 inch thick pieces
  • Once oil is hot, carefully place the cut rounds of polenta into skillet
  • Cook for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and turn
  • Brown other side for 6-8 mins
  • Remove from pan
  • To serve, place polenta on plate, sprinkle crumbled bacon and Parmesan cheese on top
  • YUMMMMMMMMMM!

If you make Polenta from scratch, the basic ratio for polenta is 4 parts liquid to 1 part polenta. I recommend making 2 cups polenta and add a teaspoon of salt, cook as normal and then pour it into a shallow dish to set in the fridge (takes 2-3 hours).  Then slice the polenta and fry up just as you did above.

October 2, 2011

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

It’s starting to cool down (well, maybe not in Houston) but my mind-set say it’s time for Fall, and with it comes a new array of dishes for the colder weather.  Pasta is my all time go to, there is so much you can do with it and I always fee like it’s a perfectly balanced meal, especially when you add a side salad.

Instead of starting from scratch with ground pork or beef, I start with hot Italian sausage, which already has a great base of spices and seasoning.  It just needs a little doctoring up, and you have a great base for any pasta sauce.  I love the heartiness of this dish, and the spice you get from the sausage.  The auburn color of the sauce reminds me of the leaves changing in Vermont, and it pops with the addition of the fresh green basil and the creamy specks of Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 18 oz hot Italian sausage
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground back pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced with seeds and juice removed
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb. spaghetti pasta (or whatever’s your favorite)
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese (I highly urge you to buy the real stuff, not the cheese in the green can that shall remain unnamed)
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves for garnishing

Method

  • Heat medium size skillet to medium~high
  • Peel the casing off the sausage and crumble into skillet
  • Add fennel, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes
  • Brown sausage and continue to break it up with a wooden spoon into bite size pieces, it doesn’t have to be even, just break it up as much as you can.  Takes about 5-10 minutes for sausage to cook through
  • Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate, leave the oils and juices in the skillet, you’ll use this to cook the onions and garlic
  • Lower heat to medium~low and add onion, garlic salt and pepper, cook for 10 minutes (this is sweating the onions, you want them to become translucent, not brown)
  • Add canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and stir for 1 minute
  • Add bullion cube, water, sugar and cooked sausage
  • Simmer on low for 10 minutes
  • While sauce simmers, place large pot of water on high and bring to a boil for the pasta
  • Once boiling, add 1 tbsp. of salt and pasta and boil for 9 minutes, or longer depending on the type of pasta you’re using.  I like mine al dente, so I boil mine about 30-60 seconds less than what the package recommends.
  • Strain pasta
  • Add cream to sauce and stir, then remove from heat
  • Usually I would recommend stirring the pasta in with the sauce, but tonight I wanted to put it on top so you could see the vivid color and velvety consistency of the sauce
  • Top with parmesan cheese and basil
  • Repeat for seconds!

Feel free to use different sausage or mild Italian if you’re sensitive to the heat.  I don’t find this dish too spicy, but it would be for kids, so just mellow it out to match your taste.  Happy Fall!

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