22 June 2010

shrimp and andouille skewers

This little skewer rocked my taste buds. And it kind of looks like a cheerful cyclops, doesn't it!It's a bit naked in this picture, since these skewers get slathered with a spicy, smoky sauce. Say that five times fast :)

I find most of my recipes via the internet, so it's not often that a magazine cover grabs my attention... but Bon Appetit's June issue did just that. They looked delicious and simple, and they were exactly that. Prep took all of 10 minutes, and the skewers were on the table in under 20. Even if they were naked, I bet they'd taste great because shrimp + andouille = winning combination. But the sauce... oh the sauce! It's smoky and spicy at the same time, perfectly suited for the shrimp and a great accent to the andouille. For Fathers Day I served this over some jambalaya style rice, and like I said before - it rocked my taste buds!

Shrimp and Andouille Skewers with Spicy Smoky Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit
3/4 C olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme, chopped
5 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper

12 6" bamboo skewers
12 extra large shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined
12 slices andouille sausage, sliced about the same thickness as the shrimp
12 grape tomatoes
12 2-layer sections of red onion, cut about the same thickness as shrimp/sausage

To make the sauce: Combine all the ingredients. Divide into 2 bowls - one to glaze before grilling, one to serve with the cooked skewers.

Soak the skewers for at least 30-60 minutes so they don't burn when grilled. Thread each skewer with a piece each of shrimp, sausage, tomato and onion (any order will do).

Heat the grill (or grill pan) to medium high. Brush skewers with the glaze (from the glazing bowl... don't cross contaminate with the serving bowl!). Grill, turning and brushing occasionally with more sauce, and cook for 6-8 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and serve with the second bowl of sauce. Mmmm smoky.

20 June 2010

sweet dessert for a sweet dad

Happy Father's Day! I'm a Daddy's Girl myself, and thus I love to celebrate this day. My dad taught me some of the best lessons of my life, one of my favorites being: if you love and enjoy something, share it with others. And I love food, thus I shared a home cooked meal with him today, and I'm sharing this with you now.Our deconstructed jambalaya dinner was on the spicier side, so dessert needed to be cool and sweet. The panna cotta topped with balsamic strawberries hit the spot. I've always loved panna cotta - it's so light and vanillay and creamy. It's like the grown up version of jello. I had no idea it was as easy to make as jello, too. Since there were 3 of us, I just split it between 3 small bowls, but this can easily be divided into 4, too.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
adapted from David Lebovitz

2 C half and half
1/4 C sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 package gelatin
3 Tbsp cold water

Lightly oil 3 small bowls.

Heat half and half, sugar, and vanilla bean caviar and bean in a pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes to let the vanilla infuse.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Pour the warm half and half mixture through a strainer (to catch the bean and any filmed milk) over the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.

Divide between the 3 bowls. Chill until firm - at least 2 hours, but can be made up to a day or two in advance.

To serve, you can either serve it in bowl, or you can run a knife along the edges, dip the bowl in some hot water to loosen, and turn out onto serving plate. Finish it with topping of choice, such as...
Balsamic Strawberries
adapted from Allrecipes.com
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced in half
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 C white sugar

Put strawberries in a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic and sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Spoon over or around panna cotta.

This would also go really well with vanilla ice cream or topped with whipped cream. I should also note that the red and white color combo makes this perfect for a valentines day dessert (especially if using a heart mold) or Christmas... or throw in some blueberries and you have a nice patriotic looking dessert, too.

19 June 2010

celebrating 25 with coconut and lime!

My Kid Brother, not to be mistaken with "Little Brother" since he's 8" taller than I am, hits his quarter century today. While he was off hang gliding during the day, I was busy playing softball making his birthday cake. Upon asking him what kind of cake he wanted, I got this text message:

Ice cream! JK, surprise me with one of your special cakes.

Special, huh. Guess that meant no box cake. (Which is a shame, because box cakes always turn out right.) Trying to steer clear of a typical chocolate or vanilla cake, I was very happy to stumble upon a recipe from Pinch My Salt. I'd had this blog bookmarked for ages now because everything looks so drool-worthy, so I'm glad to finally try out a recipe for real. This single layer cake was a winner! The creaminess of the coconut is countered by the sweet tartness of the lime glaze. Texture wise, it's tender and almost melts in your mouth even though it's not super airy. Then the sometimes chewy, sometimes crisp coconut on top adds to the experience. Once you take one bite you want another, and another, and another. And... Jeffrey loved it!

Lime and Coconut Cake for my Kid Brother's 25th
adapted from Gourmet via Pinch My Salt
1 C flaked sweetened coconut, divided
1 C butter, room temp
1 1/4 C sugar
3 or 4 limes, juiced and zested (should make about 3 tbsp lime zest and 5 tbsp juice)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 3/4 C self rising flour
3/4 C buttermilk
3/4 C powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9" round baking pan - butter the bottom and sides, line the bottom with parchment, then butter the parchment.

Mince or food process 1/2 C of the coconut. Mix with the flour and set aside. Combine the buttermilk and 2 tbsp lime juice and set aside.

Beat together the butter, sugar, and half the zest until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in extract. Mix in a third of the dry ingredients, then half the wet, then a third of the dry, then the rest of the wet ingredients, and the rest of the dry. Beat until well combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake until it's golden for about 40-45 minutes (it was 38 minutes for me) or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan until warm, then turn out onto a rack and remove the parchment.

Toast the remaining coconut - spread in a pan and put in 350 degree oven for a few minutes. Watch it closesly because it can burn quickly. Make the glaze - mix the remaining 2 tbsp lime juice with the powdered sugar. After the cake is plated, poke holes all over it (I used a skewer) and pour the glaze over it. Top with the toasted coconut. (I should note that I put some untoasted coconut and toasted. I don't know if you could actually tell that both kinds were on there. Go with whichever one floats your boat.) You can end there and eat, but I didn't. To make it just a little more "special" and because I find cakes without icing to be quite odd (unless it's a coffee cake, and even that must have streusel topping), I decided to make some lime buttercream. The coconut on top was so pretty, but I wanted another indication of the lime, so I tinted the frosting green. I just piped little stars around the rim of the cake. I wouldn't ice the entire cake with it since the glaze and coconut pretty much rock on their own, but that little extra burst of creamy lime is refreshing.

Lime Buttercream Icing
adapted from MyRecipes

remaining tbsp lime juice
remaining lime zest
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp half and half
1 C powdered sugar
green food coloring (optional)

Beat the butter with the lime juice and zest. Beat in the half and half. Beat in the sugar - slowly, and tasting along the way so it gets to your desired sweetness. Blend in food coloring if using.

14 June 2010

chocolate love

Wait, did I really used "chocolate" and "love" in the same phrase? But I'm a vanilla girl! Don't worry, I haven't gone to the dark side... (get it! dark... chocolate...! *cough*) It's actually the recipient of these chocolate marshmallows that I love. It's Kayla's 6th birthday, and like her mommy (my (other) best friend Lauren), she loves chocolate. So for her birthday, she got these sticky, melt in your mouth treats.

While I still buy marshmallows from the store to whip up a quick batch of rice crispy treats, I defintiely prefer homemade ones. They're just so much fluffier and richer. They're even easy to make (if you don't count the work it takes to clean up the sticky mess hehe) and I can make it in lots of variations. I just made some vanilla ones to make some s'mores (graham cracker recipe coming soon!). And of course there are the peppermint marshmallows for Christmastime. And now... chocolate! These are more creamy and denser than those two variations, probably because chocolate as an ingredient is simply physically heavier than an extract, but the end result is rich and tender (just like my future husband will be, aw yeah). Oh, and I love how my cookie cutter created that decorative ridge - SO cute, just like Kayla, awwww!
Chocolate Marshmallows
adapted from about.com and Alton Brown
1 C ice water, divided
3 packages gelatin
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp water
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 C light corn syrup
1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C corn starch
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Special equipment: candy thermometer, and preferably a Kitchenaid or similar mixer

Place 1/2 C ice water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle gelatin over it.

In a small bowl, heat the 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp water in microwave for 1 minute. Mix the 1/3 C cocoa powder in it until smooth. Mix into the bloomed gelatin until smooth.

Combine the other 1/2 C ice water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt into a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove cover and attach candy thermometer. Continue to cook until it hits 245 degrees. Once it hits that temperature, immediately remove from heat.

Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup until completely combined. Increase the sped to high, and beat for 15-19 minutes. Add the vanilla, and beat 1-2 more minutes until combined.

While it's beating, prepare a 9"x13" pan: Combine confectioner's sugar, corn starch, and remaining cocoa powder. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Coat with some of the powder, and save the rest.

When the marshmallow is done mixing, pour into the prepared pan. Spray a spatula with some cooking spray and use it to help scrape it out of the bowl and then to smooth out the marshmallows. Coat the marshmallow with more of the confectioner sugar-corn starch-cocoa powder. Allow to set overnight.

Use a big chefs knife or pizza wheel or cookie cutter that's been dusted with more powder to cut up the marshmallows. Toss the marshmallows in the remiaining sugar-corn starch-cocoa powder. Store in an airtight container for up to a week... if they last that long!

07 June 2010

grilling time - chipotle lime chicken

Look at that fire and smoke... you can almost hear it sizzling, can't you.Somehow or other I ended up with a bunch of limes after Memorial Day weekend. So before heading to the happiest place on earth the other day, I made a plan to cook some kind of lime chicken dish. And a Bobby Flay marathon was on while I was brainstorming, so I had a major hankering to use chipotles, too. Mmmm spicy. Thus, this.

I really loved this marinade. Lots of flavor. Next time, though, I'm going to make it with chicken thighs to make it juicier. Or maybe I'll use it on a kebab. It seems like a pretty versatile recipe, and it's a definite keeper.

Chipotle Lime Chicken
adapted from RecipeZaar.com

1 chicken breast*
2 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 tsp adobo sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 C fresh lime juice (1 whole lime)
1/4 C olive oil
3 tbsp honey
salt and pepper

Lay the chicken between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and pound out the thicker side until the chicken is an even layer (this ensures even cooking). Whisk together the next 6 ingredients. Cover the chicken breast with half the marinade. Reserve the other half of the marindade. Refrigerate/marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Grill over medium high heat for about 3-4 min each side, basting with leftover marinade. (This can be done on an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan.) Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice on the bias. I ate it wrapped in a tortilla, but next time I'm definitely serving with Mexican rice and beans.
* The original recipe marinade makes enough for about 4 chicken breasts. I did have quite a bit leftover, but I used some of it to drizzle over the lettuce. Or I could have marinated more chicken.

06 June 2010

chicken salad

Whenever I think of salad, I think of greens topped with other veggies or maybe some meat. Or maybe a nice fruit salad as a side or dessert. But I don't think of the mayo based chicken, egg, potato or pasta salads. Salads = healthy. Mayo does not = healthy. It's a disconnect in my head that the chicken/egg/etc kinds are consdered salads. And I can probably count the cumulative number of times I've eaten any of those on both hands.

But my coworker, Mary, was kind enough to share some of her chicken salad with me the other day, and it was pretty darn good. So I figured, I should try my hand at making it, too. I looked up a ton of recipes and found that they all pretty much have this in common: chicken, mayo, lemon juice, celery. Some have nuts, others have fruit, Mary's had capers (yum). So I figured I'd wing it with that in mind, and came up with this. I love the tang the dijon brings and that the cranberries add just a teeny bit of sweetness to it. And while I still can't see it as a traditional "salad" the way my little brain thinks of salads, I do consider it tasty :-)Chicken Salad

4 oz chicken breast, cooked (approx. 1 cup)
2 tbsp light mayo
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 celery stalk, finely diced
1 tbsp onion, finely diced
1 1/2 tbsp dried cranberries, finely diced
salt and pepper

Cut the chicken breast into small pieces (or shred it). Season with some salt and pepper. Mix together the rest of the ingredients, then fold in the chicken breast.
I'll be eating this stuffed inside a whole wheat pita with some lettuce. I'm not sure how else to eat these mayo based salads other than in a sandwich of some sort... if you have any ideas, leave a comment!

03 June 2010

Piece Montee

I'm a Daring Baker! This is officially my first post for their challenges, and boy am I thrilled to be part of this. The May Daring Baker's challenge (yup I'm a couple days late, my bad) was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged us to make a piece montee, or croquembouche, based on the recipes from Peter Kump's Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. I first saw a croquembouche on some Food Network holiday special years ago, so at least I was familiar with this tower o' cream puffs. It's the first time I have heard it called a piece montee (one of these days I'm going to learn how to make the little accent marks over the e's). Piece montee literally means "mounted piece," which explains the stacking of creme filled puffs into this little cone shape. There are many ways to create this form - use an actual cone as a base, use toothpicks to keep them together, or... just stack them, like I did, using the chocolate as a glue. You can also use molten sugar to get that crunch (croquembouche = "crunch in the mouth"), but it was raining today and humidity and spun sugar don't really mesh well.

The croquembouche is made up of 3 components - the puffs (pate a choux), pastry creme filling, and the glaze. I followed the recipe for the choux and chocolate glaze exactly. I used the vanilla creme recipe and folded in some diced candied ginger. That addition was simply awesome if I do say so myself... it makes the filling's texture and flavor more interesting. I also happen to think vanilla and ginger are a match made in heaven, so I may be biased :-) I think I either didn't cook the choux long enough or added the egg too early because it was a little liquidier than I'd have liked (see next picture), but they puffed up nice and golden (see picture after that). After they cooled, I filled, glazed, then stacked them. Viola, piece montee!
One of these days I'd love to try it with the hard caramel glaze and maybe a different flavored filling, but it won't anytime soon. NoVA's summers are hot and very humid, so maybe I'll do it sometime for Christmas as a special occasion treat.

breakfast burrito... for dinner

Breakfast for dinner is always a good idea, especially when it's just for one person. Usually cereal is my breakfast for dinner of choice, but I wanted something cooked tonight. And in lieu of my recent vacation to Mexico, the obvious inspired choice was a breakfast burrito.

I had spare egg whites from a pastry creme (stand by, something special coming soon) so just added them to the whole egg and onions. Top with whatever toppings you like, fold, eat. I've also made a variation (scratch the avocados and tomatoes, include shredded chicken and corn), let it cool, then eat it the next morning for breakfast. Really easy grab and go type thing.
Breakfast Burrito

1 flour tortilla
1 egg
1 egg white
1/8 C diced onions
1 tsp olive oil
a few cherry tomatoes, diced
3-4 slices avocado
mexican cheese
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add eggs, salt, then stir, cooking to your desired doneness. Take off heat, and put on tortilla. top with cheese, tomatoes, and avocado. Wrap up like a burrito and num num num.

Additional topping ideas: black beans, queso blanco, sour cream, salsa, peppers... pretty much anything you like.