Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quickie Corn Chowder

I have said before that a little ingenuity is often a necessary ingredient in the kitchen. When making this particular corn chowder recipe (sent to me by my cousin, her source unknown), I was reminded of my own adage. As I set up all my ingredients on the counter to start cookin' I realized I had plum forgot to pick up sweet onions along with my other ingredients that afternoon! It was later in the evening and I didn't have the near temerity to go outside again. But what to do? After some thought, I sliced a huge clove of garlic into thirds and threw in three slices of crisply tart green apples to rally forth some sweetness. It was a marvelously successful idea! This "brothy" chowder needed a little thickening to my way of thinking too. So, at the end, I pureed a can of corn that I had on hand with a touch of its own liquid and stirred it back into the pot and let the whole thing simmer before I availed myself to the full, fine flavor of summer!

Summer Corn and Golden Potato Chowder
Makes 4 to 6 servings

(My suggestions in italics)

4 Tbsp. butter (I used Smart Balance dairy free, low sodium 'butter' which worked like a charm)
5 cups fresh corn kernels; reserve two cobs (I only had two ears so the aforementioned can of corn helped tremendously to thicken, but optional of course)
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large sweet onion, diced (about two cups)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 large Yukon gold potato, diced (I shamelessly used whole canned potatoes which saved time and work, even as I quickly diced them. I threw the taters in at the end just to warm them up)
3/4 cup half-and-half (I don't know about you, but I need to lighten up! Carnation evaporated skim milk worked out very well as more than an ample substitute)

1. Melt butter in a small stockpot over medium heat. Add corn kernels, thyme sprigs, diced onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until corn is tender but not browned.
2. Stir in broth (I only used three cups) and diced potato (or wait until the end if potatoes are canned). Increase heat to high; add reserved corn cobs (great idea to add body!), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Discard cobs and thyme stems. (Also fish out the large pieces of garlic and apples here, if you like)
3. Process 1/2 cup of corn mixture in a blender until smooth. Return processed mixture to stockpot, and stir in half-and-half. Serve immediately. (A garnish of fresh basil and dill is suggested but I just topped with grinds of black pepper and salt, to taste)

Do enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beet Tahini Dip

I found this recipe in the pages of the Aug./Sept. 2015 issue of Saveur--however, truth be told, I've found little else in the publication over the recent year. Pity. But anyway, surely, somewhere on this blog I've compared beets to Steinbeck's rich red earth, and here, this quick, ridiculously simple mixture makes the most of summer's bounty. I cut the recipe in half for just me, but below is the whole deal with my thoughts in italics. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Beet Dip
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 lb. beets, trimmed, and cook until tender, about 1 hour. I used a package of beets already peeled and cooked, as that's what I had on hand, sparing a hot stove top! And as I only had a 1/4 lb. at that, I added slivers of a crisp green apple to add body. Drain and peel the beets, then transfer to a blender along with 1/2 cup tahini, 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 garlic cloves, and 3 ice cubes. Season with salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and 1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts. I didn't use those as I don't much care for them.  Chill at least 20 minutes and serve with pita bread as suggested or snack crackers, such as Tam Tams. Do drizzle with a good olive oil, garnish with some chopped beets (try chopped walnuts too!) and a few stiff grinds of black pepper or a sprinkling perhaps of cumin.

Thanks to Saveur for the inspiration, despite its apparent, largely unsatisfying period of transition.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ham Loaf for Everybody!

Okay, this dish was really just for Baby and me (with a simple side salad of greens and plenty of leftovers). Although the tasty little nugget might appear to be absolutely lurid and revolting, it was quite good and could certainly warrant being served at a cocktail party for a number of people as suggested by Arlene's Dahl's cookbook, No Time For Cooking! from 1961. We were assisted by a delicious pre-made potato salad with bacon from Fresh Direct. Couldn't have been easier as we stuffed the goods mixed with gelatin into our Le Creuset terrine to make it extra fancy and then let it chill in the refrigerator until firm and ready to be unmolded.

Also, as the cover indicates, "full-color photos, including Arlene at home." They are preternaturally colored and filled with explosively outrageous table settings.

I started to go hog-wild with the molds and also made what I called an Jell-O Aquarium World in a small copper mold replete with Berry-Blue Raspberry Jell-O, Swedish fish, mini-marshmallows for rocks, whipped cream for waves and crushed vanilla wafers for the surrounding sand. It was all quite hilarious, kids could help and would love it. We did.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cindy Wilson's Corn Bread with Sweet Potato

Sure, we know Cindy Wilson from The B-52's can sing the heck out of any song, but did you know our beloved gal (a.k.a. the Queen of Las Vegas, who taught us a few things about hero worship and how to dance this mess around) can cook too? I recently stumbled across a yellowed fan club news letter with crinkly edges (c. 1982 when the 'Mesopotamia' album came out) featuring her corn bread dish. I can't help but imagine that this would be an ideal side for any summer barbecue next to a platter of grilled chicken and cole slaw or to warm you in the winter with collards, baked beans and a homey meatloaf. Or any time you have a mind too! The recipe is above but I also included it below, in the event you can't read the keys from the old typewriter used!

Do enjoy and thanks, Cindy!
Also, Fred Schneider, the band's front man, was kind enough to share his Italian style soba noodles recipe with me personally on so check that out too!

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 medium size sweet potato (cooked and mashed)

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Sift dry ingredients together.
3. Beat egg, add wet ingredients, mix together.
4. Coat cast iron skillet with cooking oil. Put in oven to get hot. When hot, pour in batter.
5. Leave in oven about 20 minutes.
A regular baking pan can be used instead.

P.S.  To start with, I made mine with grits instead of cornmeal, as that's what we had on hand. I also made mine dairy free and it was absolutely delicious. I subbed almond milk (no dairy) with 2 TB lemon juice, for acidity, to total two cups of what was supposed to be the buttermilk, and used coconut oil instead of butter. Just great, and so moist on the inside! I also used a can of sweet potatoes and mashed them instead going through the whole cooking process. I even spread some of the left over mash as a spread for my bread, along with a drizzle of honey!

Soundtrack: Anything B-52's of course! Party Mix/Mesopotamia dual cd is a great start.

Thanks pinterest for the pic!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Salmon Mousse!

Behold the mold! I don't know what exactly possessed me to wish to possess a copper mold fashioned into the shape of a salmon. Nevertheless, I found an antique copper, tin-lined mold for a reasonable price on e-bay and set to work. The Silver Palate Cookbook, the classic kitchen necessity crafted by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, provided the recipe for a fairly simply prepared salmon mousse. The link may be found here. Otherwise, I plated my magnificent mousse with gentle, slightly salty orbs of salmon rousse roe, mache rosettes for the greenery, and half-moons of Kirby cucumber slices around the periphery of the mold. A slice of a hearty olive stuffed with pimiento served as the onlooking eye!

As the recipe suggests, refrigerate the mousse for at least four hours. If you use a "decorative" mold, as I did, invert it afterward onto your serving plate and let it rest at room temperature, about 15 minutes. When you see it start to ease out of the mold all by itself, carefully lift the mold off and adorn as you will. Do enjoy with toasty bagels as Baby and I did for a late breakfast or perhaps as a starter course for dinner. When serving at a cocktail party, suggest your guests dip in with some kettle crisps!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Derby 2015

Behold the lovely, fragrant lilacs! I do hope your Derby was fun (and profitable!) this year. I bet, as is my foolish wont, and once again, I didn't win a dime. At my party, I put out the usual spread of Martha Stewart's shrimp and grits, Benedictine sandwiches with cream cheese and cucumbers as well as sliced tomatoes sprinkled with freshly ground pepper and salt that filled flaky Pillsbury Grands biscuits. Cornbread was another addition this year and chocolate chip and sugary gingerbread cookies provided a fine finish to the race. And of course, there were mint juleps!

Here's this year's steaming stew of shrimp and grits, laced with thyme and parsley and topped with crisp bacon!

Lazy afternoon views of the table just before the guests arrived...

and more of the room, flooded with flowers!

Giddyap, everybody--and do enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tonight's Menu - Quenelles!

I'd wanted to make quenelles for years, after having once had them at an intimate summer dinner party in the back garden of a friend's apartment in Greenwich Village. Finally, having found the occasion, my own particular pale, fragrant, light fish dumplings were absolutely delicious and were served as our main course, preceded by a green salad, hosted with roasted potatoes, and followed by chocolate mousse cake. Quenelles were once served as a side dish, next to such things as seared scallops perhaps or even a steak but I think they very much stand on their own. The spongy little fellows in question here were made with pate de choux (paht ah shoe--sounds like you're sneezing, anyway it's a French thick sauce base) for substance from a Julia Child recipe. There are so many versions of this delish fish so search quenelles online for your favorite but to see the great lady at work, go here for the video or purchase a copy of The French Chef Cookbook as I did. I draped my quenelles with an impossibly easy, ingenious, really quick hollandaise sauce made in a blender, courtesy of Ina Garten. I shaped the quenelles into balls with two spoons before dropping them into barely simmering water to poach--however next time I would form them by hand, in more sturdy, cylindrical shapes. Whatever your preparation, this is an elegantly arranged, readily prepared dinner for any evening!

Tonight's Menu
Delightfully Served Two
Green Salad of Baby Lettuces (prepared a la minute, table side, with a few good sprays of squeezed lemon juice, a dose of balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground pepper and salt all tossed together)
Monkfish Quenelles (any lean fish fillets may be used) with hollandaise sauce (don't be shy on the cayenne pepper)
Roasted Potatoes (in olive oil, with salt and pepper, and topped with shredded flat leaf parsley--I used perfectly suitable canned potatoes, don't tell anybody!)
Individual Chocolate Mousse Cakes (I bought them at a local patisserie--don't tell anybody!)

Do enjoy!