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Monday, September 29, 2014

A bit of this and that

I am really liking the new small plates offered at many restaurants--tapas really, though sometimes a tad more generous. Betty (my dining adventure pal) and I had dinner at Sera in Fort Worth recently and decided to split small plates of ham croquettes and lamb skewers. Delicious. But when the waiter came back I said, "I'm still hungry." He laughed and said he thought we would be. So we split a plate of roasted cauliflower and charred leeks. I'm not a huge cauliflower fan but this was small bits perfectly roast; I'm also not a fan of charred vegetables--who needs the burnt taste? But these leeks were perfectly cooked with no black on them. And it all came on a rich tomato sauce. One of the best small plates I've had in a long time. I may try to experiment and replicate that at home.
Tonight I served pulled bbq to company--it was delicious, if I do say so. The meat is easy to cook--throw it in the crockpot and make a sauce with coffee, ketchup, bacon, chili powder, paprika, etc. Reserve half the sauce, and pour the rest over the meat. Cook on medium for 9-10 hours. Then comes the hard part: pull the meat. Some pieces pull easily, others demand to be cut in chunks. Then you make a sauce of the drippings in the pot (reduced) and other things like vinegar, hot sauce, etc. Pour part over meat and let it soak in; reserve the rest to pass with the meal. As always I did it yesterday and reheated today. I've made it before but forgotten that pulling the meat is a lot of work. But it was worth it. It's a recipe from Cook's Kitchen--trying look up Slow Cooker Shredded Beef BBQ Sandwiches. Christopher Cook runs that kitchen where they try fix or six different ways of doing something and then tell you which worked best.
For dessert, Mary Helen's Mother's Coffee Cake, which I'm sure I've posted before, but here goes:
Heat oven to 350. Prepare Bundt pan by greasing thoroughly (I prefer solid shortening for this) and then sprinkling with mixture of equal parts granulated sugar and cinnamon.
Mix thoroughly,
1 box cake mix (you can use whatever flavors you like--we prefer chocolate, though if you can find a banana cake mix, that's good; I suppose vanilla would be good too, especially drizzled with a little rum; I knew a woman who did strawberry, which didn't sound good to me at all)
1 box instant pudding mix
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1-1/2 c. sour cream
4 eggs.
Batter will be stiff. Pack it into Bundt pan, smoothing as evenly as possible. Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon generously over the top.
Bake one hour. Use a skewer, etc., to test for doneness.
Now here comes the crucial part: removed from oven and let sit five minutes--NO LONGER. Slide a silver knife around outside edges and cone in the middle. Put a plate over the cake and invert. It should come out in one perfect piece. If you wait longer, half the cake stays in the pan--trust me, I've done it.
A p.s. I don't use low fat ingredients for any of this because I've come to the realization that if they take the fat out, they put something in to substitute. I'd rather eat the enemy I know.
Make a wonderfully moist cake.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New cookbook...and a cooking failure to recommend

Like desserts? Like mysteries? You've got a treat coming--the new cookbook, Bake, Love, Write: 105 Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing, edited by Lois Winston--a massive undertaking. Authors often turn to something sweet for celebration or consolation--a new book contract, a fabulous review, a negative review, a rejection. Anything be an excuse to whip up a dessert. These authors, including me, share their recipes, their concerns about writing, their writing process, and provide a glimpse into their lives. Cakes, pies, cookies, candy and more--along with words of wisdom (?) on love, life, and writing. Available on Amazon, and ebooks versions for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes.

About my cooking failure: my friend Mary Dulle is a wonderful, innovative cook, who particularly likes baking pies. She likes that so much that she taught a class in pie-baking this summer at Chautauqua and put together a cookbook for it. The other day she posted on Facebook that she had made a crustless quiche, and it looked so good several of us clamored for the recipes. In her words it sounded simple:

2 slices bacon, crisp and crumbled
1 small onion, diced
1 tomato (preferably heirloom), sliced thin and then quartered
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup shredded cheese-sharp cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, your choice
3 eggs
2/3 cup low fat milk
1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence
salt and pepper to taste 

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Cook bacon in pie plate in microwave; remove from pan, add onion to drippings and "sauté" in microwave. Layer vegetables, bacon and cheese in pie plate. Whisk eggs into milk, add seasonings, and pour over the vegetables. Bake 35-45 minutes and then let sit to set.

I went amok in several ways: forgot the corn, used scallions instead of onions, whole milk instead of low-fat, thyme because I didn't have herbs de Provence in my vast collection. I used a 9" pie plate, which Mary suggested, but I think something smaller might have worked better--my quiche was flat, more like a frittata.
But my main problem was that halfway through the baking time, I noticed my new dog was not in the yard. Went cruising the neighborhood, found him across the street from the house. He leaped into the car with a grin that said, "Oh, Mom, I'm so glad you came along just now." But by the time I got him home and crated, the quiche had probably cooked an hour. It had good flavor but not texture--flat and chewy (I like soft eggs). But with the lessons learned and barring another runaway by my escape artist, I'll try that again. Here's Mary's quiche: I'm not showing mine.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Like anchovies? Here's a recipe for you!

I have lots of friends who turn up their noses and make awful faces at the mention of anchovies--unfortunately some of my family are included in that group. But I love anchovies, sometimes just put one on a cracker and eat it. They're good in dips, salad dressings, all kinds of things--you just have to be careful to use a sparing hand. Not usually part of my cooking technique. I was raised on the school if a little is good, a lot is better. Not true with anchovies.
But anchovies seem particularly suited to pasta sauces. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Quick spaghetti with anchovy/tomato sauce--serves two

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1.5 Tbsp. olive oil
half a small onion, chopped fine
a garlic clove, pressed
7-8 anchovy filets (about 1 can, though I've discovered you can use anchovy paste--1 tsp. equals a filet)
fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
Enough cooked linguine for two--I have one of those things with holes of graduated sizes--you stick some pasta through the hole for two and it tells you if you have enough or not.

Process tomatoes and juices until smooth. Heat oil and sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and anchovies. Boil and then simmer until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Add linguine, simmer to be sure all is heated, and stir well. The first time I made this I found I left a lot of anchovy in the bottom of the pan. Serve with Parmesan.

This can easily be doubled.

Carbonara with anchovies--serves four (or three who really like pasta and anchovies)

12 oz. linguine
1/4 c. olive oil
3 sliced garlic cloves
1 2-oz. can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
pinch of red pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano (it grows in a planter box on my porch)
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
2 large egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste
Grated fresh Parmesan

Cook pasta and drain, but keep 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat oil in skillet with garlic and anchovies and cook until anchovies come apart. Add pepper if using, lemon zest, oregano and parlsey. Add pasta, toss to coat and remove from heat.
Separately whisk egg yolks with reserved pasta water; add to pasta and return to stove, cooking over low heat and tossing until pasta is coated in a creamy sauce--probably no more than a minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan.

I know what I'm having for dinner one night this week! All you need is a green salad and crusty bread. Great meal. Disregard what they tell us about carbs and pasta and weight.