Wednesday, June 27, 2007

crostini with sundried tomato jam and goat cheese

In a rush so I can't write as much as I'd like, but I just had to share the wonderful dinner I had last night. I will try almost any recipe that features caramelized onions, so when I saw this recipe on Everyday Italian earlier in the week I knew I had to try it out.

It did not disappoint! The tender chunks of sun-dried tomatoes coupled with the soft, flavorful onions, all topped with cool goat cheese made for the best crostini I've had in a very long time. The jam can be used for a lot more than the crostini.

The jam added just the right amount of sweetness to my peppery tenderloin steaks, a welcomed change from my usual caramelized onions and red peppers. It also made a great breakfast on some leftover, untoasted baguette smeared with cream cheese.

To wash it all down? The lucky girl that I am, I have a generous boss who brought back a case of wine from his trip to the Oregon wine country for the office to share. A heavenly combination.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

jalapeño lemonade

Shopping in Sur La Table a few weeks ago, a package of just-add-water jalapeño lemonade mix caught my eye (remember, spice is king in my book). I flipped the box around to peruse the ingredient list and as predicted, it was chock full of sugar and additives. A quick google search reliably yielded a quick and easy recipe using only 1/2 a cup of sugar and fresh ingredients.

The result? A refreshing, slightly sweet lemonade with a bite. I only wished I had some ice cold vodka to make a cocktail!

jalapeño lemonade
recipe source
1/2 c sugar
6 1/2 c water
3/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 jalapeños stemmed, sliced with seeds

1. Make a simple syrup using the 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 c water by simmering in a saucepan until the sugar fully dissolves.

2. Mix sugar syrup with lemon juice, remaining 6 cups water and jalapeño slices.

3. Let sit several hours and strain before serving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

dancing cherries

Loving that cherries are in season right now! I snagged a huge bag of them for $5 at the market earlier this week and have been snacking happily ever since.

I wanted to take pictures of them in some small cups, and these pink-tinged ones did the trick. It was slightly amusing that these are "roly poly" cups, so they were spinning and rolling around on the table.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

zucchini ribbons and red onion salad

I couldn't resist the baby zucchini at the store today, so I came home with a huge bag full without any idea of what I'd do with them. Browsing the June issue of Everyday Food, I came across a super simple salad, using a standard dressing I use all the time but with the new-to-me trend of vegetables peeled into ribbons for the base of salads. Seems like just within the last week I've seen salad after salad featuring vegetable ribbons with everything from squashes to carrots.

Growing up we almost always had a big bowl of a similar salad in the fridge, a mix of halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion, cucumber, red wine vinegar, and lots of pepper that would only taste better the longer it marinated. I'm happy to have learned to incorporate the same flavors with a new twist from the zucchini ribbons. This time around I only used what I had on hand, so the only thing extra I added was some freshly grated romano cheese, though next time I'll also add some artichokes to make it heartier for a light meal.

zucchini salad with red onion
From June issue of Everyday Food

1 T red-wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
course salt and ground pepper
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
4 small zucchini

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion, and let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, slice zucchini into paper-thin ribbons, avoiding seeds. Add to bowl with dressing, season with salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a light meal.

Monday, June 11, 2007

habanero peppers

I admit it. I LOVE, spicy food. Growing up in a family where we bought economy-sized jars of jalapeños about as often we'd buy milk, I am no stranger to food that makes your eyes water and your nose run.

Little did I know that far away from my native Texas, I'd find not only one person, but a group of people that adore spice as much as I. One of these people, my friend Marissa, came over this past Saturday to make stuffed habanero peppers and her specialty, habanero chocolate truffles.

First, the stuffed habaneros. These were killer. Inspired by this recipe Marissa found (no surprise that she reads a blog dedicated to hot sauce!), we stuffed the fiery orange peppers with a mix of Tony's seasoned salt, lots of crushed black pepper, and cream and cheddar cheese. Going for a healthier-than-frying-option, we dipped them in panko bread crumbs and baked them at 350 for half an hour.

Wow. These were seriously spicy. We each downed four of them, plenty of water and Negra Modelo (for me!) within close reach. Not for the faint of heart, but YUM.

Marissa's habanaro chocolate truffles were divine. She didn't measure anything, but I watched: She melted a couple bags of chocolate over a double broiler, stirred in some whipping cream (hmm...seemed familiar!), then took the mixture off the heat and stirred in about a teaspoon+ habanaro powder. She chilled it until it was pliable like a dough, then rolled it into balls to later be dipped into 85% cacao melted chocolate. Heaven.

Of course, I should have pictures of all these spicy treats, no? Shame on me...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

texas hash

I'm not exactly sure where the name,"Texas Hash" comes from, nor what it's historically supposed to contain and that's ok, because Google doesn't either. A search for "Texas Hash" returned an endless list of recipes, while subsequent searches for '"Texas Hash" + History' and '"Texas Hash" + Origins' were equally disappointing.

There are probably as many recipes for Texas Hash as there are Texans, but this one that I just made...well, it's pretty much my favorite to date. I don't have much of a recipe, per se, but I can tell you what ingredients I mixed together.

An un-recipe for Texas Hash

1. Brown and crumble lean ground beef with very liberal shakes of salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, and cumin. (This combo is awesome for tacos, as well. Forget those packages of taco seasoning!) Set aside.

2. Saute chopped yellow onion and diced red pepper. Before it gets too brown, throw in some diced serrano peppers and some freshly minced garlic until it's all nicely soft and browned. Set aside.

3. Brown potatoes. I used the Ore Ida diced potato with peppers version, which worked well, though any kind of frozen or fresh diced potato would work in a pinch. Set aside.

4. Fry up an egg or two, or in my case, cook over easy.

5. Layer, or mix up, there's no right way to do it...the hashbrowns, onion/pepper mixture, seasoned ground beef, and top with egg. Finish with a generous dousing of Tapatio or your favorite hot sauce.

Equally good for breakfast or dinner!

And I'd say please excuse the messy plate in the photo, but it's not supposed to be pretty!

Friday, June 1, 2007

low-fat muffins

Last weekend's coffee stop at Cafe Lladro reminded me how cruel muffins are to nonfat ingredients. There it was, a topping-spilling-over-the-sides-homemade-looking blueberry muffin with a label "low-fat." Innocent enough, right?

Wrong! It was rubbery. It didn't crumble. And it didn't even tempt me to have more than one bite (ok, two...I give anything a second chance!). "I can do much better than that!" I foolishly thought.

Ok, so my attempt wasn't nearly as bad as the rubbery mass of so-called muffin I had at the coffee shop, but it also wasn't so great that I'd quit my job and start a muffin business tomorrow.

I've been seeing a lot about cherries lately, so when I ran across this recipe while browsing on my cell phone during my commute home on the bus one afternoon, I immediately went to the store to pick up a few ingredients and got to baking.

Of course, I wouldn't follow the instructions. A CUP of oil?!? Not in my breakfast, pass the apple sauce! Sugar? Splenda, pretty please. Egg beaters too.
You're getting the idea...

The batter was scrumptious, though it made a ton! I don't have muffin pan, so I had to buy the cheesy heart shaped ones that can be used on a cookie sheet (saves me precious cupboard space at least). I ended up filling about 20 muffin liners and 2 small round casserole dishes.

So I couldn't keep my spoon out of the batter (so good!), they baked up beautifully, but the final verdict? Meh...take 'em or leave 'em. The taste and texture was disappointing out of the oven, but they were actually a lot better cold out of the fridge the next morning. Not rubbery at all, but just not moist and crumbly like a good muffin should be.

My low-fat muffin quest continues...