Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Non-Recipe Post

In a previous post today I mentioned how much I hate cilantro.  I really do.  I think it's revolting.  Then I found this website...and so I've decided to add it to my blog. Why? Because we must abolish this herb...this poisonous asp of the kitchen...before it takes over all of our food.

Yucky Cilantro
I Hate Cilantro

Glorious Guacamole

Having been born in Southern Cali, I love all things Hispanic.  Well, that isn't true. I don't like menudo (the band or the dish) and Tejano music is horrid.  With that being said, I love Guacamole.  It is a simple dish that so many people complicate.  I approach the loveliness that is Guacamole with the same principle as someone pouring milk into cereal.  Only use milk with cereal you will (my poor Yoda reference). You don't need to add 15 ingredients into your cereal to make it better, right? The same goes for Guacamole.

What You'll Need:

2-3 Haas Avocados (ripe*)
1/2 cup finely shredded Colby jack cheese
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup salsa
1 tsp lemon juice

I am one of those people who doesn't like chunky salsa. So what I do is pour the amount I'll need for the guacamole into a small cup and blend it up with my hand blender. If you have a food processor you can use that.
Cut the Avocados into 4's and place into a medium bowl (remove that seed and throw it away...or try to grow a tree from it! oh, and this may seem obvious...but just to be sure...that thick skin should be thrown away too).
Mash the avocados up with a potato masher or a fork until it reaches a creamy consistency.
At this point I add the pepper, cheese, sour cream, lemon juice and salsa. Mix all of this well and then add the salt to taste.  You'll want it to be mildly tasting of the salsa, but not overpowering. The beauty of avocado is that you can add a little to it and it will boost the creamy nutty flavor of it very well.  Some people like to add cilantro to their guacamole. I abhor cilantro. It is an over powering little herb and I think it should be banned from all cooking (along with mint and dill).  BUT...if you LIKE to taste nothing but cilantro...then have at it.

The lemon juice was added to the guacamole simply as an agent to prevent browning.  Avocados have a nasty habit of turning brown fast...much like apples. Lemon juice is great at slowing this down.

Serve this with your favorite Tortilla chips and enjoy your Guacamole goodness!

* If you are unsure of how to pick out a ripe avocado, just employ these simple tricks.
  • If the avocado is as hard as a rock, it isn't ripe.
  • The avocado should be slightly soft. You want the avocado to give a LITTLE when applying pressure with your fingers.
  • If the avocado gives greatly when applying pressure it is probably rotten. How to tell if you've already purchased that mushy avocado? It will be dark brown or black when you cut it open at home. Not yummy in the least.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Secret To Great Pasta Discovered!

Bob's Red Mill Semolina Flour
I think it's apparent by now that I have a mild obsession with pasta.  There are many reasons for this strange noodle compulsion of mine.  What started as an easy meal has turned into an all absorbing crusade to create the finest pasta noodle imaginable.
I'm not fooling myself. I know that I can't beat the great chefs. I know that somewhere in Italy a wrinkled old woman is laughing at my endeavor. Do I care? No. No I do not.  I have been pushing ahead in my experiments to discover what creates that special "bite" in a noodle.  What is that golden time the noodles should stay in the water.
Because I'm so obsessed with these great pasta mysterious I have fallen victim to some pretty deadly traps.  I've over cooked my pasta more than one. I've made my noodles too thin on occasion. I've forgotten salt more times than I can count. I've even *brace yourself* purchased a pasta extruder from a TV infomerical.  That machine is now living somewhere in the Charlotte Municipal Dump.  I used it once and that was enough.
Like so many of us, I failed to remember one golden rule.  Always stick with simplicity.  It was thru this, and the wonders of the Internet, that I've found that Semolina Flour is the magical secret I was hunting.  Semolina flour is made from the purified wheat middling of durum wheat.  What that exactly means, I don't know. Wiki says it, so it must be true. What I do know is that if you follow this easy recipe you'll be able to create Pasta that will satisfy the noodle Nazi in you.
Semolina Flour Goodness

What You Need:

3/4 Cup Semolina Flour
3/4 Cup Unbleached Flour (All Purpose or Bread flour are fine)
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Eggs (I prefer to use the cage free eggs)
2 Tbsp Water (more if needed)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Mix all this goodness up until you've made a well incorporated dough. If you are using a mixer like me, then this will be easy.  If you are doing this by hand, just knead the dough much like you would bread, using the heel of your hand to push in the dough.
When the dough is all mixed, cover with rag or plastic wrap and let rest 20min. Once your ready, roll out the stuff like you normally do (using a pasta machine or rolling pin if by hand).  Make sure your water on the stove is at a boil (also don't forget to salt your water!). Pasta will be done when it floats to the top.  This typically happens in 2 to 3 minutes top.

ENJOY!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Almost Smith's Bakery Cookies

We all have memories of bakeries from our childhood.  Every one of us has that "perfect" cookie we drool for throughout our adulthood. My ultimate cookie is made by Smith's Bakery in Bakersfield California.  I love them so much that I would have paid mucho dinero to have them at my wedding instead of wedding cake. Sadly, they don't ship ANYTHING.  It's probably good that they don't ship or I'd be so fat you'd see a special on me on the Discovery Health Channel.  You can't stop eating them...you'll sacrifice having normal bowel movements just to have one more bite of their sugary goodness.

Although my cookie recipe doesn't come close to the insane goodness of Smith's Bakery, it's a pretty damn good imitation.

What You'll Need:
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I like my cookies a little salty so I put in more)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the creamed mixture until dough is thick and slightly sticky.. Put dough in fridge for about 2 to 3 hours if you want to make cut out cookies. If you want to make drop cookies then just place a walnut size ball of dough onto a cookie sheet.. Place them on an unprepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.They cookies do not lose their shape.  you put a ball on the cookie sheet, you get a ball shaped cookie.
  3. Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until bottom is light brown. The cookies will look a little under done on the top, but don't worry, they really ARE done.. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks or paper towel. 
 Once the cookies are cooled it's time to do the icing.  Smith's has a very particular recipe for their icing.  It is so particular it's a secret...like..president level secret. I've searched and searched for someone who might know it and leak it me...but nothing.  The Pentagon needs to talk to Smith's about how to keep things secret.  


While this isn't as good as Smith's royal icing, it's pretty close. 


What You'll Need:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  1. In  bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar and water until the sugar is completely incorporated into the water. It shouldn't be completely smooth, but close. You may need more water, so don't freak if have to put in more. Add sparingly though. Too much water is a bad thing.
  2. Add in the light corn syrup and vanilla.  Mix this until the icing is smooth and shiny, but not too loose. You want the icing to be on the thicker side.  Add food color if you like at this stage.
I used a decorating bag and tip to do designs on the cookies, but you can spoon on a bit of you like.  I like to put the icing on the cookies when they are barely warm so that the icing will smooth out a bit.  Wait about 20minutes for the icing to set up and enjoy!

The cookies will never get hard...they stay chewy forever and the royal icing becomes hard and crunchy.  Perfect combo in my book!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy Homemade Pasta Recipe

I confess, for the first 34 years of my life (damn, I'm old) I ate store purchased pasta.  I pretended to enjoy it...but secretly I wondered how restaurants were able to get so much flavor into noodles.  Good fortune was looking down upon me when my mother-in-law gave me a pasta machine (thank you again Barbara!).  It was with this little contraption that caused me to make homemade noodles. 

What You Need:


2 1/2 cup flour (I use bread flour, but you are welcome to use all purpose flour)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Egg
1/3 cup water (more or less)

Pasta ball after 1 hour
I use a Kitchenaid mixer, but you could easily make this by hand. 
To start, put the flour into the mixing bowl and add the egg and olive oil.  Turn the mixer on 2 and let the dough hook start mixing things up.  If you are doing this by hand, then gently start incorporating all the ingredients in the bowl.  At this point start adding the water gradually.  You want to get the dough to start forming a ball.  It may take less water or maybe more.  As long as the dough forms a rough ball, you are good to go.  Even if the dough doesn't look completely moist all the way though, don't fret.  Wrap the bundle of dough in greased saran wrap and leave for on your counter about 20 minutes to an hour. 

Pasta ball cut into equal parts

If you dough is a little sticky then just add a little flour on top and keep some hand on the side so you can mix more in if needed. Once you have the dough non sticky, cut your dough into equal parts.


At this point you want to get out your pasta machine. If you don't have a machine, lightly dust your counter and rolling pin and roll the dough out as thin as you'd like the noodles to be.  When using the pasta machine, put the setting on the widest to start.  You'll want to run the pasta thru a few times on each setting.  Simply fold the dough over on itself in the first setting to blend the dough more and more until you get that nice elastic feeling.
Fold over pasta on 1st setting


Change to a smaller setting on the pasta machine after two to three times thru the machine.  Some people say not to pull or stretch the pasta as it goes thru the machine, but I do it.  It makes a longer thinner sheet. Just don't pull too much or you'll break the dough.

When you are done passing the pasta thru the machine, hang the pasta to dry. If you don't have a pasta hanger (I don't) just put a tea towel over a cabinet door and hang the pasta over that.  If you have puppies, kids, or cats make sure they don't go sniffing nibbling or messing up your beautiful pasta sheets. 
Running your pasta thru machine


When you pasta is the desired thickness attach your noodle cutter attachment to the machine.  Cut your sheet of pasta in about 8 to 9 inch pieces.  Why you ask? If you put a sheet of pasta thru your machine that was 24 inches long you will get 24 inch noodles!  Kind of hard to eat!


Lay the noodles out to dry a little more on a tea towel and get your pot of water on the stove.  Add 1 Tbsp on olive oil or salt and get that water steamy and boiling.  Use a large pot of water, no any of your tiny pots.


If you don't have a pasta noodle attachment, there is an easy way to make noodles.  Roll one side like a jelly roll until you reach the middle of the sheet. Roll the other side up to meet the in the middle as well.  Cut the pasta as thin or as thick at you like. Unroll the pasta and voila! You have noodles!


When the pasta rises to the top it is done.  The longer your pasta sits in that water to mushier it will get, so don't let it sit!


Pair the pasta with an easy pasta sauce like this recipe:


Sugo Rosso

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large basil leaves, chopped

Directions

Rolled pasta if you have no machine
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin begins to split, about 1 minute. Immediately remove the tomatoes and plunge into ice water for several minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove the tomatoes from the ice water; remove and discard the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes into chunks. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth.
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; warm the crushed garlic in the oil until fragrant, being careful not to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and salt; bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir the basil through the sauce. Allow the sauce to sit for a few minutes to allow the flavor from the basil to blend into the sauce.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; warm the crushed garlic in the oil until fragrant, being careful not to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and salt; bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir the basil through the sauce. Allow the sauce to sit for a few minutes to allow the flavor from the basil to blend into the sauce. 


Of course, if you want to keep it really simple, just put some butter and Parmesan cheese on your noodles and have yourself a big plate of yummy pasta!




Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maryann's BBQ Sauce

I'm a firm believer than you can only get good BBQ flavor by making your own sauce at home.  I've been making my own sauce since high school.  In fact, most of my life has been a silent quest to find a sauce that I could commit to.  To find a sauce that would make me forget that other sauces even existed. 
While visiting Steve's aunt Maryann I was fortunate enough to have her ribs.  These ribs immediately called to me like no other had before (well, besides the ribs at Rock Bottom Cafe anyhow).  The subtle pink flesh of the pork was glazed with this BBQ goodness that made my taste buds sing.  Once I had partaken in the sweet spicy nectar on her ribs I knew I was ready to commit.  I fell in love with this sauce...and I know you will too.

What You Need:

1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar (more if like it sweeter)
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Chili Sauce
1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp Chopped Onion
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Dry Mustard
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Dash of Cayenne Pepper

Blend all of these items into a sauce pan and cook on medium low for at least 30 minutes.  The flavors become more complex the longer you wait.  This recipe will accommodate a rack of baby back ribs easily.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweet Mulled Wine

If you're anything like me, you like a glass of wine on holidays.  Nothing eases the tension of half dozen family members vying for the last piece of turkey like a good glass of vino.  My biggest complaint with wine is that it isn't sweet enough. My sweet tooth is so bad it has cavities.  I love sugar. So it isn't surprising that I'm bringing you a sweet mulled wine recipe.  The flavors are rich, sweet, and comforting...almost as comforting as the slight buzz you'll get after finishing the bottle.

What You Need:

  • 1 bottle of red wine. I prefer to use a Cabernet Sauvignon (Yellow Tail is a good choice)
  • 1 small orange or tangerine
  • 1-2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Pour the entire bottle of red wine into a pot. Set the heat to medium.  cut the orange/tangerine in half and squeeze the juice into the wine (don't worry about the seeds going into the wine, you'll strain it later).  After the juice is squeezed put the halves into the pot as well.  Add the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (this part is subjective. If you like a spicier...more harvest inspired wine, then add more cinnamon and cloves. If you like it less spicy, then add less).  When the wine is warm add the brown and white sugar, Again, add as much or as little sugar as you like.  Heat the wine until it's steaming slightly (do not boil).  Reduce heat to low and keep on the stove for at least 2 to 3 hours.  When done, pour thru a strainer into a carafe or back into the original bottle if you have a funnel.  The last bit that pours out the pot may be thick (due to the sugar).
You can drink it right away or store it in the fridge until you are ready to break out the sweet goodness.  Serve it warm or over ice.  Make sure to shake well before serving to mix the thicker sugar back into the wine.

Oh, and yeah...I know this is similar to Sangria.