Friday, February 26, 2010

Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for another delicious recipe. This is a truly decadent tart, the vegetables take a back seat to a tasty triumverate of cheeses. Mascarpone, Gruyère, and Parmesan, oh my!

I first read this recipe last week. I knew I had to have truffle salt to do it justice. My sister has a jar and has raved about it. I immediately called Williams Sonoma, but they were out of stock. So much for instant gratification, I had to order it online. It was finally delivered on Wednesday. Thursday's dinner was planned.

I realized early in my preparations that this was going to be time consuming, so we served the boys an early dinner of Mac and Cheese (which I refuse to buy anymore but it magically shows up in the cabinet when hubby and the boys go to the grocery store unchaperoned).

Sous chef and I enjoyed a late dinner while catching up on the horrors of the Top 24 on American Idol. I limited myself to one small slice of tart, sous chef had seconds. I reheated another small slice for lunch on Friday and noticed the mustard more than I did the night before. I love what the truffle salt brought to this, a little does go a long way in providing an earthy layer of flavor. A worthy investment at $28 a bottle!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kid's Choice: BLT Salad

The boy's requested BLT's this week. My first thoughts were to just make sandwiches and come up with something interesting to serve on the side. The more I thought about it, I realized I didn't want a sandwich for dinner, so I did a bit of research and came across this recipe for the salad.

I was worried the news of a salad would elicit groans from the kids, but I was pleasantly surprised. They thought it sounded good.

The salad was very easy to prepare. I did not cook the bacon in the oven for two reasons. I had only a tiny scrap of parchment and it saved time to do it on the stove so that I could do the croutons in the oven at the same time. The dressing is delicioius, next time I'd like to add some crumbled blue cheese. The croutons hold up well once the salad is dressed. My husband came home from class close to two hours after we ate and the croutons still had some crunch. I kept the bacon separate.

This is one of my cats, Mimi. I think she can smell bacon from a mile away, she loves it. Mimi is a very spoiled kitty, but not so spoiled that she has her own spot at the dinner table! Thankfully, she didn't manage to eat off of my plate and she was shooed away after I snapped her photo.

Orzo with Shrimp, Chèvre, and White Wine

Tuesday night was a hectic one in our house. My sous chef had a paper and presentaion due on Wednesday and my third grader had a biography project on Thomas Jefferson to finish. I had to come up with a meal I could prepare sans sous chef. Since I have made this shrimp dish many times, I figured I could handle it. I ended up having to tear the sous chef away from his studies to clean the shrimp. I hate doing it and he needed a break anyway!

I made one minor change to the recipe, I used Chèvre instead of Feta and I top the dish with the cheese before I put it in the oven instead of when it comes out. The more mild flavor and softer texture of the cheese was nice. In the past I have omitted or lessened the crushed red pepper for the sake of the kids, this time I used the full amount. Amazingly, there were no "This is too spicy" whines.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Vietnamese Weekend Part 2

The Vietnamese adventure continued on Sunday night. I had wanted to make the Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Stir-Fry (Mang Tây Xào Nâm Hu'o'ng) on Saturday, but failed to realize that dried shiitakes need to soak for a long time. I'm glad I waited, the asparagus paired so nicely with a steak. We had our warmest day in what feels like months, yesterday, and marked it by firing up the grill!

I'm very excited I've found another way to get the kids to eat asparagus!

1 1/2 lbs asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips

Flavoring Sauce:
1/2 t. sugar
1 1/2 t. fish sauce
1 generous T. oyster sauce
2 t. canola oil
1 1/2 T. water

1 1/2 T. canola oil

Bring a large saucepan filled with salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and parboil for about 1 minute, or until just tender but still firm. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. Have the mushrooms cut and ready to cook.

To make the flavoring sauce, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, oil, and water and stir to disolve the sugar. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, or until heated through. Raise the heat to medium-high. Give the flavoring sauce a stir to recombine, then add to the pan and stir to distribute evenly. When only a little sauce is visible, after about 1 minute, transfer to a plate and serve.

We ended the weekend with this creamy, delicious Coconut Sorbet (Kem Nu'ó'c Côt Dù'a). Yum! This was a hit with everybody.

Makes about 3 cups, to serve 6

2 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
Generous pinch of salt
2 1/2 T. light corn syrup
1/2 t. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and corn syrup and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring or whisking gently, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to chill well and develop the flavor.

The mixture separates as it sits, so whisk to reblend, and then freeze in an ice cream maker.

I am notorious for not reading carefully through a recipe before I start cooking, so the chilling for 24 hours took me by surprise. We did not chill that long, the flavor was still very good. Next time I will follow the directions and see if there is a difference. It was good to bring the ice cream machine out. The bowl has been at the ready in the freezer for years!

As for my Vietnamese translations of the dishes, they may not be 100% accurate. I did the best I could, but you need special software to type all the correct accents and symbols.

A Vietnamese Weekend Part 1

This beautiful cookbook was a gift from my mother-in-law. I've looked through it many times, but have been slightly intimidated. How silly of me, the recipes are easy and the flavors wonderful.

On Saturday morning, I poured over the recipes and chose five dishes to try. We only ended up having three of them Saturday night. But not to worry, we had the other two Sunday night.

The first course was Egg, Shrimp, and Scallion Pancakes (Trú'ng Chiên Tôm). These were very tasty. We dipped them in soy sauce. The kids loved them!

Next, we enjoyed Salmon with Tomato, Dill, and Garlic Soup (Canh Riêu Cá). My husband and I loved this. My older son seemed to enjoy it, but the little one only took a couple bites.

The last dish of the night was Chicken and Ginger Simmered in Caramel Sauce (Gà Kho Gù'ng). To make this, I first had to make the caramel sauce. This is not a sweet, sticky sauce, it is actually rather savory. The recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs, for some reason Harris Teeter didn't have any. So I used breasts. I'd really like to try it again with the thighs, they are more flavorful.

1 2/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks
Chubby 2 inch peice of fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, and smashed with the broad side of a chef's knife.
3 T. caramel sauce
2 T. fish sauce
1/4 t. salt
2 T. water
1 scallion, green part only, chopped

In a small saucepan, combine the chicken, ginger, caramel sauce, fish sauce, salt, and water and stir to distribute everything evenly. Cover and bring to a strong simmer over medium heat. Stir again to break up the chicken pieces and replace the lid. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring every now and again so that all the chicken is evenly exposed to the sauce. Fragrant plumes of steam will shoot from under the lid and the contents will boil vigorously. The sauce will increase in volume as the chicken releases it's juices. If the contents threaten to boil over or the lid rattles, lower the heat.

After the 10 minutes, uncover and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce reduces and the color deepens to a rich reddish brown. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor with extra fish sauce, if necessary. Serve over rice and garnish with scallion.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Vietnamese weekend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Simple Roast Chicken

This chicken was so delicious! The skin (my favorite part) was perfectly seasoned and crisp while the meat was juicy. This recipe is courtesy of Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Bouchon. I spent some time, yesterday, exploring the websites of these restaurants and was ready to jump on a plane to California. Then I discovered there are cookbooks I can order!

I did not add the thyme to the pan juices or put the butter on the chicken. It really did not need it. Salt and pepper was enough. I think it is important to find a small organic bird, there is a difference in flavor.

Old Bay roasted sweet potatoes and greens with a french vinaigrette rounded out the plate.

Old Bay Roasted Sweet Potatoes

3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 t. Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 450°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with olive oil and Old Bay. Bake until potatoes are deep golden brown on all sides, about 30 min, flipping halfway through.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kid's Choice: Macaroni and Cheese

I considered suspending Kid's Choice this week, since five days at Disney is the ultimate kid's choice. I really wanted to serve a heaping bowl of vegetables to counteract all the sweets and chicken nuggets, but didn't feel like enduring the whining that would surely ensue. My eldest son requested Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. I decided I could work with that.

I have a basic recipe for Mac and cheese, but last night I wanted to spice it up a bit so I made a few changes. First I made a bread crumb topping:

2 T. butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C. panko
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium low heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds then add panko and mix until coated with butter. Cook until bread crumbs are golden. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Macaroni:

2 C. uncooked Macaroni ( I use Barilla Plus for a little extra protein)
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. ground mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper (this was a new addition last night)
1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 C. milk
2 C. shredded Cheddar Cheese
small precooked ham steak, chopped
cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350° Cook Macaroni as directed on package. As Macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne, and Worcestershire Sauce. Cook over meduim low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk, heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Stir in cheese, cook and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in cooked macaroni and ham. Top with bread crumb mixture. Place quartered cherry tomatoes atop bread crumbs. Sprinkle tomatoes with a little salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

The tomatoes and breadcrumbs added some sophistication to this kid friendly staple. The cayenne was also a nice addition, subtle but nice. My youngest complained about the tomatoes and left them in the bottom of his bowl, but he ate everything else!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vacation Time

We are surprising the boys with a trip to Disney World. It is perfect timing, because I feel like a change of scenery will do me well. I'll be back to my kitchen adventures Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Les Maisons Enchantées

I have been wanting to start a collection of Brown Transferware for some time now. The ad above is on the back cover on Veranda's March issue, I was instantly intruiged.

These dishes are whimsical and beautiful. I love the way the handles look like branches. Unfortunately, I know these will never be mine. I have not been able to find pricing, but I have to assume that since a single mug at Hermès is $155 that a dinner service is well out of my price range.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dinner Last Night: Spaghetti and Meatballs

We went Italian for last night's international meal. My oldest son had a friend sleep over, so instead of trying my hand at Eggplant Parmesan, I played it safe. This is my second time making this wonderful sauce , found at Smitten Kitchen. I love that site! The sauce is basic, but delicious. I kept it simple for the kids, but I could see adding mushrooms, spinach, etc. I did have some turkey meatballs from Harris Teeter in the freezer, they were a nice addition. One of these days I will try making my own, I haven't been too successful in the past.

All three of the kids seemed to enjoy this and the garlic bread on side. They deserved their dessert! I should have whipped up some tiramisu, but I couldn't resist making these again. The kids were glad I did!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce

Thanks to my Sister-in-Law for sending me this recipe. The fish was a great success with the boys. This was only my second time preparing Tilapia, it's a nice firm, white, and flaky fish. The panko mixture crisped up nicely and had just the right amount of spice, thanks to the Old Bay. Being the Maryland girl that I am, I could sprinkle Old Bay on just about anything! The sauce was tasty also.

I served carrots and brussels sprouts as a side. As expected, the kids ate the carrots and made excuses about the brussels sprouts. No big deal, at least they tried them!

What I Want to Buy Today: Pleated Voile Duvet Cover and Shams

I could use these in every color. They are so pretty that I will fool myself into thinking they won't be a pain to iron....

Image from West Elm

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Hearty Winter Vegetable Soup and Popovers

I had one condition for dinner tonight, no meat. Sitting at my desk this afternoon, as I was trying to come up with ideas, I spotted the January issue of Martha Stewart Living in a pile of magazines and catalogs. On the cover was dinner, a chunky vegetable soup and popovers.

The soup is loaded with vegetables; leeks, carrots, celery, butternut squash, potatoes, chickpeas and escarole. Herbs and lemon juice added before serving compliment the savory flavors while the squash provides bites of surprising sweetness. Three of us loved it, my youngest son took as few bites as possible. He did manage to scarf down his popover though.

Oh, the popovers. I can't believe how beautifully they turned out. These are basically Yorkshire Puddings. The difference is they are made with butter instead of beef drippings. I make Yorkshire Puddings with rib roast at Christmas. They look like this when they come out of the oven, but, inevitably, they fall to half their height. Not these beauties, they maintained their perfect shape.

I am left with lots of leftover soup and six popovers. Can't wait until lunch tomorrow!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Day

School was closed today, I'm told there was a black ice situation on Charlotte roads this morning. It turned out to be the "I'm bored" kind of snow day, melting snow and ice made it too messy to play out side. My oldest and I played a fierce game of Electronic Battleship. He won. There's freezing rain in the forecast tonight, maybe I'll get a rematch tomorrow.