Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recipes for a memorable Labor Day barbecue

There is less than a week to go before Labor Day, the last long weekend of the summer.
   It’s a perfect time to give those favorite summer recipes a last big hurrah before you come back to them again next year.
   Here are my recipe recommendations for a family Labor Day barbecue to send off summer in style.

Start with Herb Pita Crisps. They’re easy to make, and they’ll be gobbled up, so make sure no one spoils their appetites!

Serve Raspberry Limeade with the appetizers, and with supper. If you have a lot of people, you’ll need to make a few batches. Luckily this drink is super-simple to make, and part of it can be done in advance.

Grilled Lemon-Oregano Chicken Drumsticks are the “main dish.” This is one of my all-time favorite summer recipes. The recipe can be doubled, tripled and quadrupled as needed, and it can be marinated for as little as 30 minutes or as long as two days!

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad will make a magnificent accompaniment. You can definitely make this in advance of dinner.

Warm Bread with Garlic-Herb Butter will take up side duties admirably. Make the full recipe of butter, and make sure to have a couple of loaves on hand!

Finish things off grandly with Tunnel of Fudge Cake. It’s a favorite around here, and it might become a favorite for your family, too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil mixes oyster sauce and fresh herbs

Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil from the June 2010 issue of Cook’s Country magazine became an instant favorite when my husband and I made it.
   The recipe contains oyster sauce and Asian chili-garlic sauce, both of which, in my experience, always foretell a tasty dish.
   That’s just what we got: A delicious dish, quick to make on a weeknight and very satisfying.
   It calls for fresh basil and mint, which you can pull from an herb garden or get at a farmer’s market for the next little while, or easily get from a supermarket that stocks fresh herbs.
   Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil comes from the Cook’s Country collection of quick recipes, which has quickly become my favorite part of the magazine. I find them to be consistently delicious and reliable. Whenever I get a new issue, the first thing I do is flip to the quick recipes, the red cards in the middle of each magazine.
   The link above goes to the recipe, but requires a Cook’s Country magazine log-in to fully access it.
   Oyster sauce, water, rice vinegar and chili-garlic sauce are combined.
   Eight boneless, skinless chicken breasts are cut into pieces and cooked in a skillet.
   The chicken is taken out of the skillet, then a bell pepper cooked in it. Fresh basil, mint, fresh grated ginger, the oyster sauce mixture and the chicken are added and the mixture simmered until slightly thickened.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Plum delicious: Plum cocktails

Plum Cocktails (click for the recipe) are the perfect refresher for late summer/early fall.
   While still cooling enough to combat the lingering heat, they aren’t as wildly height-of-summer as frozen margaritas.
   They would be a great precursor to a casual dinner party.
   Not only are these cocktails delicious, they are lovely to look at, thanks to the color released by the plums.
   And plums are perfect right now, just waiting to be put to work in this seasonal drink.
   There’s one very important direction to follow in this recipe. If you don’t do it, you won’t get the fabulous red color that is part of this cocktail’s appeal.
   Make sure to add the plums to the simple syrup while it is still boiling on the stove, just as the recipe says. That way, the plums release their color. If you add them after you take the syrup off the stove, the color release won’t work properly.
   Sugar (I substituted an equal amount of Splenda) and water are cooked together, and then brought to a boil. Plums cut into wedges are added, then the mixture is taken off heat.
   The syrup is refrigerated until cold.
   Lime juice is squeezed from a wedge into a glass filled with ice, and the wedge dropped in. A quarter cup of syrup and one ounce of gin is added, and sparkling water tops off the cocktail (I use club soda instead.)
   I pop a couple of plum wedges into each cocktail before serving.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A very non-ecchhyy spinach salad

When the word spinach is spoken, some people say ecchhhh.
   I used to be this way as a kid. Spinach? No thank you. Get that weird green stuff away from me!
   Somewhere along the way, though, I learned to love spinach. Call it taste buds growing up, I guess.
   On Saturday, my husband and I bought some spinach at a local farmer’s market, and I fished around for a recipe to use it in.
   Luckily, I found a terrific one: Spinach Salad with Mango and Candied Pecans.
   Several people who reviewed the recipe on the epicurious.com website recommended adding goat cheese, which is not a listed ingredient.
   Though I am usually loathe to tinker around with recipes, as they have usually been tested and re-tested, so many people suggested adding it that I did.
   It was a nice addition, though my husband and I agreed the salad would probably be fine without it.
   The candied pecans and mango contribute a sweetness to counterbalance the spinach. In fact, the pecans make a lovely snack on their own!
   The salad is very easy to prepare.
   To make the candied pecans, brown sugar, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar are brought to a bubble in a skillet. The pecans are mixed in and stirred around until they are toasted and the syrup coats them evenly.
   The recipe says it takes about three minutes to get the sugar, oil and vinegar bubbling, but I found it took about two. The recipe also says it takes about seven minutes for the syrup to coat the pecans evenly and the pecans to toast, but I found it took much less time, about three minutes.
   The pecans are turned onto a sheet of foil.
   Fresh spinach, mango (I used sliced mango from a can), and the cooled pecans are combined.
   Oil and balsamic vinegar are combined to make a dressing, which is then poured over the spinach and tossed to coat.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Plum delicious: Plum Sorbet
with Black-Currant Liqueur

I can’t recommend Plum Sorbet with Black Currant Liqueur (click for the recipe) enough.
   It’s delicious and fresh, simple yet elegant.
   It’s been been a favorite since I first tried it a few summers ago. My Mom and Dad absolutely loved it when I served it to them during a visit.
   I substitute Splenda for sugar in this sorbet, and actually recommend anyone who tries it do the same.
   Splenda seems to release the fresh plum flavor more than sugar.
   You don’t need to peel the plums for the recipe, which simply adds to its ease.
   An ice cream machine is required to make the sorbet.
   Splenda and water are stirred together over medium heat to create a simple syrup, which is chilled until cold.
   Purple plums, quartered and pitted, are pureed in a food processor until smooth. After being strained, the simple syrup and ¼ cup crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur) is stirred into the plum puree.
   The mixture is spooned into an ice cream machine and processed, then covered and frozen until firm.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Plum delicious: Gingery Plum Cake

Gingery Plum Cake (click for the Recipe on the Fine Cooking website) is a rustic-looking treat with an impressive taste.
   It’s one of the desserts I chose to serve at a retirement party for my parents last August, and it got rave reviews.
   The recipe says you can substitute a pluot or apricot for the plum in the topping, but I haven’t experimented with either substitution.
   The cake is easy to make.
   Flour, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt are blended together. Butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla are blended together, and the dry ingredients and sour cream folded in.
   The batter is poured in a 9 x 2” round cake pan. (Make sure the sides are two inches high, or the cake batter may spill over during baking!)
   After 15 minutes of baking, a topping of sliced plums, grated fresh ginger, light brown sugar and flour is scattered over the batter.
   The cake is baked for another 35 to 40 minutes.
   The recipe says you can serve whipped cream with the cake if you’d like, but it’s just fine without it.

Another good dessert recipe: Malted Milk Cookie Tart

A directory of every recipe review on Recipes That Worked

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nectarine Golden Cake: Simply delicious

Nectarine Golden Cake (click here for the recipe on the epicurious.com website) is a beguilingly simple dessert.
   It’s easy to make and its appearance is unassuming (though the fan of fruit on top is lovely to look at).
   Its delicious taste, which the whole family will love, completes its charm.
   The cake even has universal meal appeal. It would work on weeknight with the family, as an afternoon snack and even dessert at a dinner party.
   The recipe calls for grated nutmug. I used ground nutmeg, the kind you find in the spice aisle, as a substitute.
   However, I used ¼ tsp of ground nutmeg rather than a straightforward substitution of ½ tsp, the called-for amount of grated nutmeg.
   Here’s how you make the cake.
   Flour, baking soda and salt are whisked together in a bowl.
   Softened butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and pure almond extract are beaten together with an electric mixer. The flour mixture is blended in until just combined.
   The batter is spread evenly in a nine-inch springform pan, and nectarines cut into wedges are scattered on top.
   Nutmeg and sugar are combined together and sprinkled over the top.
   The cake is baked, then served in its simple glory.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A pro chef's fave easy recipe:
Grilled Steak with Fresh Garden Herbs

Grilled Steak with Fresh Garden Herbs was submitted to Bon Appetit magazine by a professional chef.
   It was included in the September 2006 issue’s Fast Easy Fresh section, which was comprised of recipes that pro chefs used at home with their families.
   I can see why this recipe was a chef’s fave. It’s easy to make, so it's good for relaxing at home, yet it still possesses the innovation and elegance of a good chef’s dish.
   The recipe calls for ¾ of a cup of fresh herbs, and so is a great way to use up those garden herbs before they start to peter out. Any combination of herbs will work.
   The recipe also calls for rib-eye or skirt steaks, but my husband and I have often used New York strips instead.
   Minced shallots, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and the herbs are whisked together.
   After the steaks are grilled, the herb mixture is spooned over top.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raspberry Limeade: an easy-to-make refresher

Raspberry Limeade from Eating Well magazine is an astonishingly good drink.
   It’s refreshing, the flavors blend perfectly, and to top it all off, it’s really easy to make. It took me mere minutes to put this together.
   Fresh lime juice is combined with sugar (I substituted an equal amount of Splenda) in a pitcher.
   Fresh or thawed frozen raspberries are placed in a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, and mashed (I used a wooden spoon rather than the spatula as directed in the recipe), extracting the juice.
   Make sure to mash the heck out of the berries to get all the juice you can.
   The raspberry puree is stirred into the lime juice mixture in the pitcher.
   At this point, you can refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to serve it.
   When ready to serve, three cups of seltzer are added. I used club soda, chilled, instead.

The Raspberry Limeade recipe came from the August issue of Eating Well magazine.
   Here’s another recipe from that issue that’s well worth making: Tomato & Provolone Sandwiches.
   As I wrote in another blog post on Recipes That Worked, tomatoes and fresh tarragon make a terrific combination.
   In this recipe, tarragon is combined with mayonnaise to make a tasty spread that complements the fresh tomatoes.
   These sandwiches are so easy to make.
   Mashed garlic, mayonnaise, fresh tarragon, lemon juice, pepper and salt are combined.
   Bread slices are toasted under the broiler, then provolone cheese is placed on half of the slices and the bread toasted a little longer until the cheese is melted.
   On the other half of the slices, the tarragon-mayonnaise is spread. The tomatoes are placed on these slices, then the melted cheese bread on top.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pork tenderloin and flank steak to soothe your grilled-meat cravings

Spice-Crusted Grilled Pork Tenderloin is just as its title implies: Pork tenderloins are coated with a combination of cracked mustard seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns, then grilled.
   The recipe’s secret ingredient, though, is demerara or turbinado sugar, which adds sweetness to counterbalance the spices.
   I’ve seen both of these types of sugars available in supermarkets, but dark brown sugar can be substituted.
   The spices and sugar are combined with cornmeal. The tenderloins are coated lightly with cornstarch, dipped in egg whites and coated with the spice and sugar mixture.
   After grilling, the tenderloins are sliced and served.

Grilled Flank Steak with Charred Sweet Onion Relish is a quick-to-make weeknight meal.
   The relish, which becomes sweet because the red onions, once grilled, lose their punch, is the perfect counterpoint to the steak.
   The tip to put a skewer through the onions rounds is a good one. My husband found the technique held the onions together nicely while grilling.
   One flank steak and one red onion sliced into rounds are grilled.
   When cool enough to handle, the onion rounds are chopped coarsely, then cooked over medium heat with red wine vinegar, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Off heat, fresh parsley is stirred in.
   Serve the sliced steak smothered in the relish.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A fancy-schmancy dish that
doesn't take fancy-schmancy time

I love recipes for dishes that could be served at a dinner party but are still easy to make.
   Grilled Scallops and Nectarines with Corn and Tomato Salad (on the epicurious.com website) is just such a recipe.
   The dish is delicious, and it will impress, but you won’t feel like you’ve worked forever and a day to make it.
   I served it to my Mom and Dad when they came to visit, and they said it was as good as anything they could order in a fine restaurant.
   Dorie Greenspan, known for her baking cookbooks, created this recipe, which makes fine use of the produce of summer.
   One of the steps in making the dish is preparing a basil puree, but I really feel you can skip this (I have!) if you don’t have the time or energy to make it. It isn’t key to the recipe’s success.
   The rest of the steps are key, however.
   A dressing is made by whisking lime juice, lime peel, chili powder, and fleur de sel together in a bowl. (What the heck is fleur de sel? I tell you all about it in another blog post dedicated to the delights of this salt.)
   Fresh corn kernels and cherry tomatoes are each tossed separately with the dressing.
   Large sea scallops and nectarines cut into wedges are brushed with olive oil and grilled.
   The scallops are arranged on plates, corn is spooned around the scallops, tomatoes are scattered over the corn, then nectarines are placed “decoratively” around the scallops.
   Dressing is drizzled over the scallops, and this lovely dish is ready to serve.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tarragon and tomatoes are a
terrific match in this pasta dish

I like simple, easy and delicious recipes. And if they’re a bit unusual, too, I’ll be hooked on them for life.
   Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Tarragon (click here for the Everyday Food recipe) fits that bill.
   The tarragon adds a fresh, unexpected note to the dish, but it doesn’t seem out of place – in fact, it appears that tomatoes and tarragon were always meant to be together.
   The recipe says you can also use fresh basil, but if you make this, I strongly suggest waiting until you get your hands on some fresh tarragon and use that instead. It should be readily available this time of year in any supermarket that has a well-stocked fresh herb section.
   This is a great dish for a weeknight. It whips up quickly and makes a lot.
   I think kids and teens may just go for it, too, especially those that have been known to like something beyond the realm of mac and cheese and hot dogs.
   While the spaghetti is boiling, finely-chopped shallots are cooked in oil, and chopped beefsteak or roma tomatoes are added when the pan is taken off the heat.
   The tomato mixture is poured over the drained pasta, and chopped tarragon and Parmesan cheese are added.
   Everything is tossed together, and the pasta is served.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A recipe inspired by Twitter: Peach Grilled Cheese

This is the first blog post in which I’m going to review a recipe from another blog.
   As you likely already know, there are thousands of food blogs out there, and many of them are excellent.
   A huge number of food bloggers are people who develop their own great recipes – unlike me, who sits back and lets the great recipes roll in.
   The recipe I write about today is Peach Grilled Cheese (click here for the recipe) from the blog Macheesmo (I love that name!) Macheesmo is written by a 27-year-old man named Nick.
   Macheesmo writes that he sent out a message on Twitter looking for ingredient inspiration for a grilled-cheese sandwich recipe, and received an answer: Peaches, gruyere cheese, and arugula.
   Macheesmo went to work putting the ingredients together.
The result is a delicious sandwich the whole family will love – if you leave out the arugula, that is.
   My husband and I like arugula, and so didn’t mind its peppery bite in the sandwich.
   But children, teens and anyone who you’d put in the “picky eater” category won’t go for it.
   There’s a simple solution: Just leave the arugula out if you’re fixing this for a family.
   Macheesmo says to use very ripe peaches, which is an excellent direction. They will be soft and sweet, and blend well with the cheese.
   I cut the gruyere a little too thickly when my husband and I made this. If you make this recipe, slice the cheese thinly, perhaps even using a vegetable peeler to “shave” off pieces.
   Macheesmo used a pan to make these sandwiches, but we used a panini maker.
   We also used our favorite panini flatbread to make these, rather than rustic bread.
   Thanks to the Twitterer who responded to Macheesmo on that fateful day. Now we can all enjoy Peach Grilled Cheese sandwiches.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zucchini and mint take centre stage in pasta dish

Recently on Recipes That Worked, I wrote about a terrific pasta recipe that uses summer produce and herbs – Summer Garden Tortelloni.
   Here’s another excellent pasta recipe that takes advantage of the best summer has to offer: Penne with Zucchini, Fresh Herbs and Lemon Zest (click here for the recipe at the Fine Cooking magazine website).
   The recipe was created by Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian, cookbook author and TV host.
   I made this pasta dish by myself one evening, and didn’t find it at all taxing.
   It would work for a weeknight, or even a small relaxed dinner with friends.
   The zucchini, cut into half moons and cooked with chopped garlic, takes on a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
   The recipe’s secret ingredient is the fresh mint that’s added. It supplies a bright hit of taste to every bite.
   I raided my herb garden for the mint, fresh basil and fresh flat-leaf parsley that the recipe asks for, but all of these can easily be found in a supermarket that keeps a well-stocked fresh herb section.
   Whole wheat penne is boiled to al dente.
   Meanwhile, chopped zucchini and garlic are cooked in a skillet, removed from heat, and lemon zest added.
   The pasta is added, and tossed with the zucchini mixture, fresh mint, basil and parsley, and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A treat just like Grandma (or Grandpa) used to
make: Mint-Glazed Butter Thins

As much as I like recipes for new-fangled foods and tastes, I also like ones that hark back to earlier times.
   Mint-Glazed Butter Thins (click here for the recipe on the epicurious.com website) is just such a recipe.
   When I bit into one, I thought of grandmothers' (or grandfathers') kitchens everywhere, maybe about 50 years ago, with excited grandchildren waiting for a bite of the treat still baking in the oven.
   These old-fashioned cookies are delicious.
   The mint glaze perfectly enhances the flavor of the buttery cookie.
   They are easy to make, but do take a little extra time and care when putting them on the cookie sheets before they are baked.
   Sugar, butter, an egg, vanilla extract, pure peppermint extract and flour are beaten together.
   The resulting dough is shaped into balls, one level tablespoon at a time, rolled in powdered sugar, placed on a cookie sheet and pressed lightly with the bottom of a flat-bottomed cup or glass.
   Each cookie is then sprinkled with more powdered sugar, and pressed again into thin rounds. The recipe says the rounds should be 3¼ inches in diameter, but mine were about three inches wide and they turned out fine.
   While the cookies are baking, powdered sugar, peppermint extract and whipping cream are mixed together in a small bowl until smooth, with extra cream being added if glaze is too thick to spread.
   I needed to add just ½ tsp more cream than the suggested two tablespoons to make the glaze spreadable.
   You don’t want the glaze watery, as it melts a bit on the warm cookies; it just needs to be easily spreadable, about the consistency of peanut butter.
   The glaze is spread on the cookies when they come out of the oven.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A drink to impress the cocktail connoisseur: Pineapple-Basil Margaritas

Do you have a foodie friend who is tough to impress? Or a cocktail connoisseur pal who seems to have tipped every type of drink on the planet?
   I’ve got a recipe that just might surprise them: Pineapple-Basil Margaritas (click here for the recipe on the Martha Stewart Living website).
   It’s an unusual drink, as it’s not completely liquid – there are small bits of pineapple in it. Some settles to the bottom, but most of it is drunk with each sip.
   I loved this margarita. I thought the blending of the tastes of the pineapple and basil with the tequila and a bit of salt was terrific.
   With the unusual texture, however, it may not be everyone’s cup of cocktail.
   But for the right taste buds – people who don’t mind trying something different once in awhile, such as the afore-mentioned cocktail connoisseur – it will likely go over well.
   It would be ideal with fajitas, quesadillas or chicken wings.
   The first step in making the drink is preparing a simple limeade of water, limes, and superfine sugar (berry sugar or extra fine granulated sugar.) I substituted an equivalent amount of Splenda successfully.
   Pineapple chunks (I used some from a can, but you could cut your own from a whole pineapple) are blended until chopped but not pureed.
   Fresh basil is muddled with sugar in a large pitcher. Limeade, the pineapple, tequila and coarse salt are added, and the drink is stirred.
   After being refrigerated for at least an hour, the margaritas are served.
   The recipe says to fill the pitcher with ice cubes at this stage.
   It’s a good direction – the ice melting into the margarita as it is drunk helps to liquefy it a little more.
   You could also fill individual glasses with ice and pour the margarita over. That’s what I did.
   I also skipped garnishing the cocktails with pineapple chunks and fresh basil.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Checking out Jamie Oliver's
'best in the world' salad claim

Many people know who Jamie Oliver is – the chef extraordinaire from Britain who has written many cookbooks and hosted several TV series.
   The first time I made a recipe of Jamie's was a couple of weeks ago, when my husband and I took Best Chorizo & Tomato Salad In The World (click for the recipe) for a spin.
   It’s an interesting title, and since I’ve been known to indulge in superlatives on this blog, I wanted to try the recipe.
   It turned out to be a very good salad, so perhaps it is the best in the world. My husband really liked it!
   The recipe calls for one raw chorizo sausage, roughly sliced. I found ready-sliced chorizo in the deli section of the local Superstore.
   Sherry vinegar is also a listed ingredient in the recipe. I’ve been having trouble finding that lately, and so have been using red wine vinegar as a substitute.
   Jamie suggests serving goat cheese alongside the salad, and I do too. It provides a tangy counterpoint to the chorizo.
   The recipe is written in Jamie’s conversational tone. It’s like you’re watching one of his cooking shows as you make the salad.
   However, this can sometimes result in confusing recipe instructions, so make sure you read over the recipe completely before you start.
   The chorizo is fried with garlic in olive oil, and sherry or red wine vinegar is splashed in. The chorizo is spooned over a salad of roughly chopped ripe tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, three spring onions (green onions) or a shallot, olive oil and flat-leaf parsley.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fresh produce meets pasta
with Summer Garden Tortelloni

This time of year, I’m always on the lookout for quick, easy, and delicious ways to use summer produce such as corn, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.
   And if the recipes I find use fresh herbs, that’s a bonus!
   My husband and I have a favorite recipe that fits the bill in all respects: it’s quick, easy, delicious, and uses fresh vegetables and an herb: fresh basil.
   It’s Summer Garden Tortelloni (click here for the recipe at the epicurious.com website), and we make it several times a year.
   The dish is terrific for a weeknight, and is definitely family-friendly.
   The recipe calls for dried cheese tortelloni, which, you are reading correctly, is slightly different from tortellini. Tortelloni, apparently, is the same size as tortellini, but larger.
   Naturally, then, dried cheese tortellini is a perfect substitute to tortelloni.
   (There's a Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers joke in here somewhere.)
   You’ll find dried cheese tortellini in the fresh, ready-to-go pasta section of the supermarket that often lurks near the deli meats. Olivieri is a popular brand of fresh pasta. We always use the whole wheat variety, which works wonderfully.
   Speaking of the deli, this is the best place to find prosciutto (called for in the recipe), which you may find pre-packaged with other fancy meats, or behind the deli counter.
   The recipe also calls for fresh corn, and here’s my no-fail way to de-cob corn. Place the cob (de-husked, of course!), narrower side down, in the middle tube of an angel-food cake pan. Using a knife, scrape downwards on the cob to release the kernels into the pan.
   Here’s how the dish is made.
   The tortelloni (or tortellini!) is boiled and drained.
   Proscuitto, a finely chopped garlic clove, and corn are cooked in a skillet. Two medium tomatoes are chopped.
   The pasta, corn mixture, tomatoes and fresh basil are combined and tossed.
   Voila – a garden in a dish!