I own many cookbooks. Many are just eye candy - beautiful photographs and food styling - not much cooking or even inspiration comes from their pages, but there are others that I return to over and over again, always marking a new recipe or idea. It is a silent conversation I have with the author(s): "wow, goat cheese?" "Hmm...you're a smart one Mr. Flay..." You get the idea. These cookbooks are the ones that provide ideas, knowledge, tips and tricks, and inspiration. I have previously mentioned Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook especially noting that it provides a wealth of recipes on sauces, condiments, and dips. Every time I returned to this cookbook, I spent a few minutes on page 68 where Queso Fundito with Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette is found. One page for the recipe and one page for the beautiful photo. Mouthwatering!
On a recent dinner party we had, I made it, among many other things. Unfortunately, the queso was gone before I could take a photograph, but I managed to snap a picture of the vinaigrette, which I should add, is one of the best things I have ever eaten. Poblanos are fiery but also sweet and smoky. Roasting or charring them prior to blending makes them even sweeter and spicier, while the process of blending with the rest of the ingredients creates perfectly smooth vinaigrette that you will want to put on everything. It is such a simple recipe and it can be used with queso fundito, as a salad dressing, as a dip for quesadillas, which is what we did with the leftovers.
Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped*
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the poblanos, 2 tablespoons cold water, the vinegar, honey, canola oil, and salt and pepper in a blender or food processor, and puree until very smooth. This can be made up to 8 hours in advance and refrigerated.
*To roast: preheat oven to 375 F; brush peppers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; place in oven on a baking sheet and rotate until charred on all sides, about 15-17 minutes. Place in a plastic bag and let sit for 15 minutes; peel, seed, and chop.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (12 oz)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 oz fresh goat cheese, cut into 8 slices
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Corn tortilla chips for dipping
Preheat the broiler.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated Monterey Jack cheese; season with salt and pepper.
Scrape the mixture into an 8-inch cast-iron pan and place the slices of goat cheese over the top. Put the pan under the broiler and broil until the goat cheese is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the poblano vinaigrette or spoon it over the top, and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro. Serve with chips for dipping.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I have sunk in the midst of a new semester and ongoing projects. And I have been uninspired, cold, and overall under the weather. Sorry for wining, but it’s the truth, and I am sure many of you can relate. I am dreaming of spring, lazy days in the Texas heat, under the constant barbeque aroma. Not yet though.
In the meanwhile, soups have come to my rescue; numerous soups, to be more truthful, but there is something so nourishing and satiating when a piping hot bowl of soup is placed in front of you. They are also convenient lunches at the desk amidst quizzes and homework that’s to be graded. Not only do they fill my tummy, but they warm the office, and my attitude toward poor writing (not really, but let’s say it’s so).
Butternut squash soup is one of my favorites, but it is often made too sweet. Soup is not desert, unless you deliberately make a desert that’s also a soup, whatever that looks like. No. Soup is savory, warm, smooth, and if properly seasoned, it is absolutely divine. Just like this soup from Camilla Saulsbury’s Enlightened Soups cookbook. A delicious cookbook all around, but the butternut squash soup recipe stands out.
I used two different winter squashes: butternut and sweet dumpling squash, a beautiful, colorful squash that looks like a large acorn squash that has been colored by an abstract expressionist painter (or something like that – I need a review of my art history ;) ). Anyway, it was just what I needed, and I ate the leftovers at work two days in a row. I hope your week is off to a good start.
Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
5 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
6-7 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cups peeled sweet dumpling squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 ¼ teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Melt the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion and celery are tender, but not browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, squashes, sage, thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Using a submersion blender (I LOVE this tool) blend the soup until very very smooth, or if you don’t have a submersion blender, blend in a blender working in batches.
After the soup is blended, add the buttermilk and brown sugar. Stir well. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Serve with good crusty bread.
Camilla says that you can substitute four 12 oz packages frozen (thawed) winter squash pureee for the 8 cups of the fresh squash; reduce cooking time to 5 minutes.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, add a few splashes of lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for 5-7 minutes; it’s magic ;).
Monday, January 11, 2010
It has been 15 degrees here in East Texas for the past week. Our coats have been piled up by the armchair next to the door, permanent fixtures. And it's a hassle.
I put my coat on just so I can get in the car, start the engine and wait for the sheet of ice to melt off the windshield. Then, hunched over, with a red nose and iced eyelashes - I imagine I am an ice queen, or maybe Rudolph - hands inside the coat sleeves, because my beautiful coat is thin and has no practical pockets, I rush back inside, grab the little boy who has been watching me out of the front window the whole time. He is smiling, happy that the car won't be cold, that he is going to see his buddies, and that I'll hold him really tight in my arms while we walk for a few seconds in the cold. It's fun and freezing. We love to look at the white breath coming out of our mouths.
However, the coat is frustrating, because the car gets warm and the coat is in the way.
People of the North, how do you endure it all winter long?
It has been beautiful though. Not much precipitation. Large blue skies and occasional high white clouds. The grass is golden, at least I think so. Upon hearing me say this, Bryan offered his thoughts:
"I'd say it's dead."
But we won't listen to him, right. The grass IS golden, the air crisp, the smell of wood lingering in the air.
I miss warm weather though and the way I know this is because, while contemplating dinner a few days ago, I decided to make it pretty simple: tortellini, white wine sauce, a light green salad. But as I started boiling the water, I thought of tomatoes, glorious summer tomatoes. To the store I went and this is what happened.
Ju befte mire!
Tortellini with Grape Tomatoes and Garlic
I used spinach and cheese tortellini, but any variation you have on hand would work fine.
12 oz package of tortellini
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of salt
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs (I had oregano and mint)
freshly ground black pepper
Parmegiano Regiano shavings
Bring 3-4 quarts of water to boil; make sure you salt the water generously and add a splash of oil. When the water comes to a rolling boil add the tortellini, stir gently and cook for about 10-11 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook stirring frequently for about 20 seconds. Make sure to not brown it.
Add the tomatoes and the sprinkle of salt. Saute for another 20-40 seconds stirring. Remove from the heat, add the black pepper and the herbs, stir, and set aside.
Carefully drain the tortellini. Place them in the saute pan with the tomato mixture. Combine thoroughly taking care to not break the little bundles.
Serve with shavings of Parmegiano Regiano and a fresh green salad.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
If you give a boy a beignet, he will want to lick the powdered sugar first.
Licking the powdered sugar will make him think of Ruidoso snow, so he will pour powdered sugar all over the floor and will want to make a snow angel.
Making a snow angel will remind him of Christmas Carols, so he will run in his room, trail of powdered sugar following, and put on his Christmas music.
Music will make him want to dance and he will.
The dancing will cause his father to come into the kitchen and join the party.
Father and son will dance on a powdered sugar floor.
Seeing the powdered sugar on his socks and hair, and hands, will remind the boy of the beignets and he will want another one, as will his father.
Jack asked me to make beignets after watching The Princess and the Frog. And this mommy could not say no. :)
Recipe found here . I added vanilla and lemon essence to the dough to give it more flavor, but otherwise, I followed the original recipe.
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon lemon essence
7 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shortening, softened
Canola oil for deep frying
An ample amount of powdered sugar for dusting
In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water; stir to dissolve and let stand for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, salt, beaten eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and lemon essence. Whisk to blend thoroughly.
Add 4 cups of the flour; beat until smooth. Add shortening and mix. Gradually blend in remaining flour.
You will get a very sticky dough. Leave it in the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
When the dough has rested the required amount, flour a clean surface, roll dough out on floured board to 1/8-inch thickness.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan; initially you will want to heat it on high heat, and as you start frying the beignets, you may have to turn the heat down a bit.
Cut rolled out dough into 2 1/2 to 3-inch squares. Deep fry at 360° for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned on both sides; make sure you don’t overcrowd the saucepan. The beignets fry pretty quickly.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
Dough can cut and frozen, separated in container with waxed paper. I froze mine and I have yet to see how the dough holds up after freezing. I will post the results in this post when I try.
This recipe yields a large amount of beignets, so either cut the recipe in half, or freeze half of the dough after cutting it.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
It snowed. We played. We rolled in the snow. We threw snowballs. Jack ate loads of snow. We snuggled under blankets in front of the fireplace. The Gathering Place, the home that Mimi and Papa built for family holidays is a good good place. We had delicious crepes for Christmas eve cooked by Bryan's French aunt Sophie, a Greenberk Smoked Turkey and other delicious fixings for Christmas lunch, and other offerings from Ruidoso.
Some favorites are: Cafe Rio in downtown that serves up some of the best pizza. The crust is amazing and so are the variety of toppings. The Hummingbird Tearoom is one of the places where we stop everytime we go to Ruidoso. It's perfect for a nice lunch of soup and sandwich and a hot cup of tea. My favorite eatery this time was Casa Blanca, a Mexican restaurant that prides itself on the best green salsa, which is made strictly of Hatch chiles. It is heavenly. Their cheese chile rellenos and the green chile chicken enchilada are delicious. Although, the wait is long and the server seemed swamped with orders, it was worth it.
Another discovery was a local dairy specializing in a variety of cheeses: Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory. We sampled several cheeses: Hatch chile Jack, El Patron de Queso (tequila Jack cheese), and Kalamata Feta, among many. Brought home the Hatch and roasted garlic Jack Cheese and the Kalamata Feta Cheese. According to our cheese tour guide, the Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory Feta Cheese won 2nd place in the world contest, which is pretty impressive for a small dairy in New Mexico.
"Who won 1st place," I asked.
"The Danes" he replied, "it made the Greeks mad..."
We're back in Texas right now and will be attending a wedding for new Year's Eve. After that, back to normality...maybe :) Till then, my kitchen will be quiet. I am leaving you with some Ruidoso pictures.
I hope you have a great New Year's Eve.
Happy New Year to all of you! May you be blessed abundantly!
[snow smooch :)]
[Roswell Alien Amber Ale - A Taste Beyond...]
[snow storm approaching]
[Yes. Don't rub your eyes. It is a Le Creuset Tagine and it is mine! This is one of the many presents I got and I can't wait to play with it]
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
[Lego the puppy]
Christmas is almost here. The house is full, loud, smelling of all kinds of deliciousness, from candy to barbeque ribs. The forecast tells us that it will snow on Thursday, just in time for Christmas morning. While I don't love snow, I can't help but hope that there will be snow for Christmas, only for my little Jack who is very aware of everything right now. Last night he wanted to see the chimney, he wanted to see the smoke coming out of the chimney, he wanted to see the deer grazing by the house in hopes that Rudolph would be there.
We are having a wonderful break, and I hope that all of you are as well. Merry Christmas everyone!
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1 package (12 oz) of fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 inch slice fresh ginger
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
orange peel (a couple of pieces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Spice pack: tie them with string in cheese cloth
5 cardamom pods
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan under medium heat. Stir to combine and let simmer for about 20-35 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries have popped, lost their shape, and the sauce has thickened.
It is best to prepare one day ahead of time.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The fall semester is officially over. I have finished grading, filing, averaging…..finally. All our PhD applications are mailed out, sent into the void along with all our wishing and hoping. It was stressful but it feels good to be done with it and sit back and wait.
The streets in Nacogdoches feel lighter and it’s nice. I am ready for a break. In three days the three of us will be hopping into our car and drive to Ruidoso, New Mexico. Bryan's grandparents have a beautiful house in the mountains. Can't wait to show you.
Tomorrow our department is having a party to celebrate another semester’s end and I am thinking of bringing this delicious Hazelnut Brittle. It is so easy to make and it is wonderful to eat; the crunch of the roasted hazelnuts balances well the crunch of the sweet, and the brittle bites are perfect for a party, especially a Christmas party.
It’s good to be back. I hope you are having a great pre-holiday time and that your travels are safe, and that your time with loved ones is relaxing, energizing, and fulfilling.
Missed being here!
Adapted from a Food Everyday (December 2005) issue that I picked up at our local library for 10 cents. It’s filled with treasures :)
Nonstick cooking spray
½ cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cup roasted and chopped hazelnuts
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Spray a rimmed baking sheet and a wide metal spatula with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large glass bowl (microwave safe), combine sugar, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until sugar is moistened. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.
Stir in butter and nuts; return to microwave for about 5 minutes, until the sugar mixture is thick, bubbly, and very pale brown in color. Mixture will be very hot; use pot holders when holding or pouring.
Remove from microwave, stir in vanilla and baking soda (mixture may foam up). Immediately pour onto prepared baking sheet, spreading mixture as thinly as possible with the prepared spatula.
Let stand 20 minutes until hardened, then lift off sheet, and break brittle into bite-size pieces.