Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cool Slide Show Program

I found a link to Slide from Adam's The Amateur Gourmet site and gave it a try. It's easy to set up an account and figure out how to make a slide show.

Here are some of the female artists on my new iPod that Eddie got me for my birthday.

Aside from holding a mind-boggling number of music tracks and photos, I can store hundreds of podcasts and listen to them anytime, anywhere. Right now, I'm listening to a lot of the Feast of Fools podcast, which comes out of Chicago. Not for the prudish, but at times it's outrageous and other times it's very informative and deep. The Ru Paul phone call from a recent episode was unbelievable.

Also of interest to all foodies should be the podcast of KCRW's Good Food hosted by the talented chef and restrauteur Evan Kleiman. I especially enjoy the weekly report from the Santa Monica farmers' market which always focuses on what's seasonal and in the markets right now. Also, recently made available for podcast is The Splendid Table hosted by Lynne Rosetto Casper.

Even if you don't download the programs for an iPod, take some time to listen to them online, either streaming or live. They're well worth it; I promise.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Potato Latkes & Applesauce

Well, it's that time of year again when I give into making latkes, in spite of the incredible mess frying them creates. After years of trying different methods, a few years back I came across a recipe in Sunset magazine, and it turned out to be the best I've found. It's a breeze to get together; grating the potatoes and onions and transferring both for 30 minutes to an ice-cold water bath, which tames the onions and extracts some of the potato starch. After draining, the mixture is squeezed dry in batches in a clean tea towel. Eggs, salt and potato starch are added, at which time it's ready to fry up in 1/3 cup portions. That's the messy and smelly part, and why I only like to do it once a year. When they're nice and browned and lacy looking, they're removed to paper towels to drain a while. They're absolutely delicious and addictive when served with Elise's adapted applesauce, a drizzle of Mexican crema or sour cream and chopped chives or thinly sliced scallion greens.

Here are the adapted recipes from Sunset and Simply Recipes.

Potato Pancakes

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes to soak potatoes
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 onion (8 oz.), peeled and halved, or 1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 tablespoons potato starch or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
About 2 cups vegetable oil

1. Using a hand grater or food processor, shred potatoes, working over a large bowl of cold water or frequently transferring shredded potatoes to water. Shred onion and add to bowl (if using green onion, reserve). Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Drain potato mixture; wipe bowl clean. Follow steps 1 and 2 at right to dry potatoes; return them to bowl.

3. Add eggs, potato starch, salt, and pepper (and green onions, if using) to bowl and mix well.

4. Pour 1/2 inch oil into a 10- to 12-inch frying pan (with sides at least 2 in. tall) over medium-high heat. When surface of oil ripples slightly, shape potato mixture into cakes, following step 3 at right. Gently slide each from spatula into hot oil, 3 to 4 pancakes per batch (do not crowd pan). Cook until edges of pancakes are crisp and well browned and undersides are golden brown (lift with spatula to check), about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until remaining sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then keep warm in a 200° oven while you cook remaining pancakes. Serve hot.

(adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 medium Fuji apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 pears, peeled, cored, chopped
juice of lemon
lemon peel strips
½ t or so of cinnamon
¼ t or so of nutmeg
¼ cup each white and brown sugar
1 cup water
good pinch salt
good splash of Calvdos

Combine all the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally. I used an immersion blender and gave it a quick zap, but left it a bit chunky.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars: Cookie or Candy?

Have you ever seen a recipe and you just had to try it because it sounded too good to pass up, and also because you're just too curious to see how it turns out? Well, this is one of those recipes. I saw it on Leite's Culinaria some time ago and tucked it away for future use. This seemed like a perfect cookie for the holidays, so I grabbed a box of saltines from the store, and everything else was already in the pantry. If you make these, be really careful when cooking the butter and brown sugar and then adding the condensed milk. It's, like, volcano hot, especially when it comes out of the oven. When it's all put together, it says to place it in the freezer for 30 minutes, but the pan is just too hot. It will defrost everything nearby. So I chilled it in the garage fridge for a while first, and then put it in the freezer. The foil came right off as directed, and cutting them along the crackers' edges was easy after letting them sit for 5 minutes or so. Yum Yum Yum!!! I'm not sure I want to share these with friends; they're just too good. I have a request from Eddie to try a batch using white chocolate, so we'll see how that goes.

Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars

1 1/4 cups butter, melted, divided
35 Nabisco Premium Saltine crackers
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
One 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
One 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted unsalted cashews, chopped medium coarse

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). To make the cookies easy to remove, line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with a sheet of foil, shiny side up, leaving a few inches hanging over the longer edges. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter onto the foil-lined pan, and brush to cover the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with the crackers (don't worry if there are small gaps).

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 cup butter and the brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, until the mixture forms a thick syrup (248°F/120°C) on a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the condensed milk until blended. Pour the mixture over the crackers, making sure all the crackers are covered.

3. Bake for 10 minutes. The top will be bubbly and brown. Remove from the oven, scatter the chocolate chips over the topping, and allow them to melt for 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the surface and sprinkle with the nuts. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the nuts into the chocolate. Freeze until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes. (as made: pan is too hot to put into the freezer right away, so I put it in the garage fridge for 30 minutes, then into the freezer)

4. Remove from the freezer and invert the pan onto a clean surface (don't worry if you lose some nuts from the surface; they'll be great for topping an ice cream sundae or for adding to cookie dough). Carefully peel back the foil to reveal the soda-cracker underside of the cookies. Using a sharp knife, cut the cookies along the cracker outlines. This is easier to do when the cookies have begun to thaw slightly. Invert and cut the squares into quarters for bite-size pieces or thirds for finger-size pieces.

Recipe © 2005 by Sara Perry. All rights reserved.
© 1999–2006 Leite's Culinaria, Inc

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

Okay, I admit this was ridiculously easy. But everyone at dinner wanted the recipe, so I consider this a huge keeper and will make it again and again. This was ready, from start to finish, in about 30 minutes. No vegetable chopping, no pureeing.
It even uses canned pureed pumpkin, which I almost always have on hand. The blend of chile powders gives the soup a nice earthiness with a bit of heat too. I had a jar of Mexican crema in the fridge; so before added the grated Cheddar cheese as called form the the recipe, I drizzled over the soup a healthy spoonful of the crema. I'm not too big on cilantro, so instead of chopped, I just garnished with a couple of leaves which gave just a slight hint of the herb without overwhelming the soup's flavors.

I got this one from a three-and-a-half-fork-rated Epicurious recipe, but here's the recipe with my changes noted. Try to make it a day ahead because the ingredients taste to "raw" until they've had a chance to get to know each other a while.

The recipe yields 4 servings, but I doubled it for 8 and it was just fine.

3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream (used ½ & ½ )
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mixture)
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or chipotle chili powder) (used ½ New Mexico powder and
½ chipotle)
1/2teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
(Mexican crema or sour cream, optional)
3/4 cup (packed) grated (white) sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro (garnished with leaves only)

Bring chicken stock and whipping cream to boil in heavy medium pot. Whisk in canned pumpkin, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, coriander and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soup thickens slightly and flavors blend, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Soup can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cool. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally.) Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with optional crema. Garnish each serving with cheddar cheese and cilantro and serve.

Makes 4 (first-course) servings.
Bon Appétit
October 2000
The Watermark. Cleveland, OH

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Keeper of a Beef Stew Recipe & Rosemary Popovers

Saw a segment the other morning on the CBS Early Show on easy holiday entertaining, and a couple of the recipes were for beef stew in the electric pressure cooker and rosemary popovers. Torie Richie is one of my favorite TV chefs; a real no-fuss kind of cook, easy recipes that don't require a degree, although she and I did go to the same culinary academy in San Francisco, although in different classes.

Here are her recipes, with my changes noted. This was extremely easy with a high flavor payback for the effort. The popovers also were easy; no resting period as called for in most recipes. Just mix it up, fill the buttered popover cups and bake, starting from a cold oven. Very much worth the little effort.


3 lb. boneless stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes (started w/ chuck roast, trimmed it and cut into large chunks.)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. olive oil **
1 1/2 cups red wine (used leftover two-buck Chuck)
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb. new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3 fresh thyme sprigs
bay leaves
pinch red pepper flakes

**browned diced slab of pancetta in a bit of xvoo. Removed dice and proceeded with recipe.

In a large bowl, toss the beef with the flour, salt and pepper to coat evenly. Set an electric pressure cooker to "brown" according to the manufacturer's instructions and warm the olive oil. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef and transfer to the bowl.

Add the beef, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, tomato paste, stock and thyme and stir to combine. Add the wine to the pressure cooker and bring to a simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. (*** see notes below for change in procedure)

Cover and cook on "high" for 30 minutes according to the manufacturer's instructions. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the liquid is too thin, transfer the beef and vegetables to a serving bowl, set the pressure cooker to "brown" and cook until the liquid is reduced to the desired consistency. Pour the liquid over the beef and vegetables and serve immediately.
(thickened with a butter - Wondra mixture, aka beurre manie, and added it in bits to the hot liquid and simmered until thickened the way I wanted)

*** Added veggies back to pot. Spread with tomato paste and cooked a minute. Sprinkled w/ leftover seasoned flour and cooked another minute. Then added the wine and BTAB, and proceeded with recipe.

Serves 6. Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.


2 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs. very finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 Tbs. very finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Butter a popover pan or the wells of a 12-well muffin pan. In a bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and salt. Stir in the milk and butter. In another bowl, stir together the flour, rosemary and parsley. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, whisking until just blended. Do not overbeat. Fill each cup about half full and place the pan in a cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 425ºF and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375ºF and bake until the popovers are golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. They should be crisp on the outside. Quickly pierce each popover with the tip of a small knife to release the steam. Return to the oven for 2 minutes for further crisping, then remove and serve immediately.

Makes 12 popovers. (actually, as made this only made 6 standard-size popovers)