Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: 375 Sensational Splenda Recipes

375 Sensational Splenda Recipes is a cookbook I ordered online when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than two years ago.
   Now it’s a cookbook that I look to for delicious and reliable recipes.
   One of the very best recipes in my collection, Chocolate Mint Cream Pie, comes from this book. It never fails to impress, and I even got an offer of marriage over it. (I wrote about that earlier this year on Recipes That Worked.)
   I often substitute equal parts of Splenda for sugar in cold drinks, cocktails and sorbets without trouble, but I’ve always been hesitant to do so in baking – it’s much trickier, getting the substitution right.
   Rather, I let an expert who has tested recipes with Splenda over and over tell me how to use it. That’s Marlene Koch, the author of the cookbook, who is a registered dietitian, cooking instructor, and nutrition educator.
   Not only does Koch employ the use of Splenda, she also ingeniously incorporates other unusual ingredients to compensate for the taste and texture provided by the absent sugar.
   For example, for two of my favorite recipes from the book, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (with cocoa powder and chocolate chips), prune purée is used in addition to Splenda to help sweeten up the cookies. I buy the prune purée in the baby food aisle at the supermarket.
   Although there are recipes for salads, dressings, marinades, condiments, dipping sauces and entrees, I turn to this book most often for baked goods, frozen desserts and drinks.
Here are some of the other terrific-looking recipes in the book:
- Cold drinks: Lemonade, strawberry lemonade, sparkling limeade, Hawaiian Fruit Punch, Citrus Splash.
- Warm drinks: Decadent Hot Chocolate, Chai Tea, Krista’s Spiced Tea, Apple Spiced Tea.
- Breakfast dishes: Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes, Apple Cinnamon Puffed Pancakes, Crispy Cornmeal Waffles.
- Muffins: Oat Bran, Banana Bran, Blueberry, Chocolate Cherry, Sour Cream Chocolate Chip, Strawberry-Filled Cinnamon, Apple Oatmeal Streusel.
- Quick breads and coffee cakes: Wholesome Banana Bread, Cranberry Orange Tea Bread, Butter Pecan Crumb Cake, Raspberry Almond Crumb Cake, S’More Crumb Cake.
- Frozen desserts: Berry Sorbet, Lemon-Lime Sorbet, Chocolate Sorbet, Double Cherry Ice Pops, Fresh Strawberry Lime Ice Pops
- Cookies: Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, Soft Sour Cream Sugar, Chocolate Brownies
- Pies: Pumpkin, Strawberry Rhubarb, Peach Custard, Key Lime, Peanut Butter, Banana Cream, Coconut Cream, Chocolate Chiffon
- Cakes: Unbelievable Chocolate Cake, Fresh Banana, Chocolate Carrot, Chocolate-Almond Torte, Orange Sunshine Cupcakes
- Cheesecake: Chocolate, Mocha Chip, Cherry Ricotta, Chocolate Peppermint, 10-Minute No-Bake Strawberry Cheese Pie
- Sweet Sauces: Raspberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Chocolate Fudge, Easy Chocolate Cream Frosting
- Cocktails: Mojito, Daiquiri, Margarita, Lemon Raspberry Slush

375 Sensational Splenda Recipes on amazon.ca

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook

This is the first of five days of reviews of terrific cookbooks on Recipes That Worked, beginning today and running to Friday, Dec. 3.

The Fast Easy Fresh section of Bon Appetit is my favorite part of the magazine.
   Every month, I flip to the section first, eager to find the recipes that the Bon Appetit test kitchen has created to deliver quick and easy meals.
   I’ve found some of the most reliable recipes in the Fast Easy Fresh section – ones I turn to again and again because they are delicious and easy to make.
   The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook is a collection of 1,100 recipes that have appeared in the magazine.
   I love having this handy book nearby, because I can pick a seasonal ingredient I have on hand, look in the cookbook’s index and find a great recipe to match.
   With 1,100 recipes and over 750 pages, there is surely a recipe that will match an ingredient that you have on hand, too.
   There are sections for chilis, stews and soups; salads; sandwiches, burgers and pizza; pasta and rice; chicken and poultry; salmon and fish; shrimp and shellfish; beef, pork and lamb; potatoes, grains and beans; vegetables; breakfast and brunch; quick breads; frozen desserts; cookies, brownies, pies, tarts and easy cakes; custards, puddings and fruit desserts and drinks.
   Several of my fave Bon Appetit recipes are in the book, including Grilled Peaches with Pecorino and Proscuitto; Mixed Greens with Feta, Almonds and Blueberries; Goat Cheese and Asparagus Pizza; Chicken with Asiago, Proscuitto and Sage; Grilled Steak with Fresh Garden Herbs; Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Cherry Chutney; Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Sauce; Zucchini, Red Onion and Two-Cheese Flatbread; Summer Melon with Basil-Mint Granita; Root Beer Granita Float; Mom’s Blender Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Cream and Rum Punch with Passion Fruit and Lime.
   And there dozens more I have my eye on to try. These include:
- Winter Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette
- Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Garlic-Chili Dressing
- Green Apple and Celery Salad with Walnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette
- Warm Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad
- Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers with Fresh Dill
- Turkey and Fresh Tarragon Cheeseburgers
- Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Shallots and Goat Cheese
- Soft Tacos with Sausage and Feta
- Mocha Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans
- Sorbets: Ginger-Pear; Raspberry-Plum; Chocolate-Orange and Blackberry
- Chocolate-Cinnamon Gelato with Toffee Bits
- Butter Pecan Ice Cream Pie with Caramel Topping
- Peachy Mimosa Punch
- Vodka-Lime Cooler
- Pomegranate Mojito
- Fresh Mint and Ginger Lemonade
- Caramel-Swirl Hot Chocolate

The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook on amazon.ca

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Scene-stealing Peanut Butter &
Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Shortbread Bars (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine are like scene stealers in a movie.
   Sometimes in a film, an actor or actress will periodically march into a scene and proceed to act circles around everyone else.
   It’s the same with these shortbread bars. You could put all your heart and soul into the rest of the meal and a trickier dessert, and they’ll still show up everything else on the table.
   Everyone will want one, or two, or three of these bars.
   They’re an addictively good, family-friendly treat. Peanut butter lovers will be in heaven.
   The bars are easy to make, and they will keep well at room temperature for up to one week.
   The crust is made by mixing together melted butter, sugar, salt, flour and chopped peanuts, pressing the resulting dough into the bottom of a 13x9 inch foil-lined pan, then baking it for about 45 minutes.
   The filling is made by mixing peanut butter, melted butter, confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) and vanilla together. The recipe says to use a stand mixer but my hand mixer worked just fine. The filling is spread over the fully-cooled crust.
   The top layer, a ganache, is made by bringing heavy cream to a boil, pouring it over chopped bittersweet chocolate, letting it stand for a few minutes then stirring until it’s smooth.
   The ganache is spread over the peanut butter filling, and the bars are left at room temperature or put in the fridge to let the ganache set.
   Cut, serve, and watch Peanut Butter & Chocolate Shortbread Bars proceed to steal the food scene in your home.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Four reasons to make Braised Chicken
with Dates and Moroccan Spices

Braised Chicken with Dates and Moroccan Spices (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine has so much going for it, I don’t quite know where to start.
   First, it’s delicious. Every bite was amazing. I had to close my eyes several times to savour the taste of juicy chicken and dates clothed in ginger and cinnamon.
   Second, it would work for a dinner party. It is impressive, but not pretentious.
   Third, it feeds six without a lot of extra work, making it a good recipe if you have guests. If you don’t have six to feed, it can easily be cut back.
   However, this is more of a dish for adults. It’s not overly spicy or anything like that, it’s just more suited to an adult palate.
   Fourth, it’s not very difficult to make, but it does take some time, particularly the part when the chicken is initially browned. If you use more than one skillet to brown the chicken, though, this process will go more quickly.
   The recipe says to serve the chicken with couscous. My husband and I served it with jasmine rice instead, and it worked beautifully.
   The recipe calls for two pounds of shallots, or 11 large shallots, for six servings. Ignore the pound measure and use the number instead – two pounds of shallots is a lot!
   Since we cut back the recipe to four servings instead of six, we also cut back the cooking time for the shallots from 18 minutes to about 10 minutes.
   We used parsley instead of cilantro.
   To make the dish, chicken pieces such as halves, thighs and drumsticks are browned in a large heavy pot, then transferred to a platter.
   Shallots, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, chicken broth and lemon juice are added and simmered until the shallots begin to soften.
   The chicken pieces are placed on top of the shallots and simmered, then both the chicken and the shallots are transferred to a platter.
   The juices left behind in the pot are boiled until slightly thickened, then pitted dates and more lemon juice are added and simmered gently for a short time. The sauce is poured over chicken, which is then sprinkled with almonds and parsley (or cilantro.)

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fast Chicken Fajitas: Quick and delicious!

Fast Chicken Fajitas (click for the recipe) from Everyday Food magazine lives up to its name.
   Fajitas can sometimes take a long time to make, especially if there is marinating or grilling involved.
   But this recipe is fast, fast, fast -- and delicious, delicious, delicious.
   My husband and I never tire of this recipe, and I’m always pleased by how well it works considering the few ingredients and little time involved.
   The secret ingredient is chili powder. It nicely seasons the chicken, but not to an overwhelming degree.
   I would say children ages 12 and up would easily be able to eat these fajitas, but skip the cilantro if you are serving it to young people.
   In fact, skip the cilantro entirely no matter who will eat the fajitas! I always do. (My husband and I don’t like it.)
   The recipe calls for chicken cutlets, but we’ve used boneless, skinless chicken breasts if these weren’t available.
   The chicken is placed on a baking sheet, rubbed with oil, sprinkled with chili powder and put under the broiler for a short time. It is thinly sliced crosswise.
   On a different baking sheet, bell peppers, red onion and garlic are tossed with oil and broiled.
   Set out chicken and peppers with tortillas, sour cream and salsa for people to assemble their own fajitas.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving recipe review

Since the beginning of November on Recipes That Worked, I have been writing about great fall and winter recipes that would work well at American Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
   I've concentrated on soups, side dishes, desserts and cocktails.
   Let's review those recipes, shall we? (No quiz at the end.)

Opening sips
Pear Sidecar
Blackberry Herb Cocktail

Soup starters
Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque
Red Pepper and Hazelnut Soup with Marinated Anchovies

Sensational side dishes
Celery Root and Apple Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Simple Two-Potato Gratin
Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme & Butter
Sauerkraut with Gin and Caraway
Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Smoked Gouda and Chives

Finishing desserts
Pecan-Chocolate Chip Pie
Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Mom's Apple Squares
Buttery Apple Cake

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Keep the neighborhood vampires away and impress your guests with Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Smoked Gouda and Chives

I love a big, steaming pile of . . . . mashed potatoes on my plate! There’s nothing quite like creamy (or fluffy) potatoes making a lovely little pillow for a piece of pork, turkey or steak.
   That’s why I’m stoked that I’ve found a killer recipe for mashed potatoes.
   If you serve it to guests, they will ask for the recipe as they wolf it down, exclaiming at its deliciousness.
   The recipe is Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Smoked Gouda and Chives (click for the recipe) from America’s Test Kitchen. The recipe I link to here is a reprint of the recipe on the mealsmatter.org website.
   I was absolutely amazed at how delicious the potatoes were when I first tried them. My husband loves them too.
   The roasted garlic is the secret ingredient. Don’t be afraid to use all 22 cloves – it will keep the neighborhood vampires away, it won’t produce an excessively strong garlic taste, and it’s essential to the recipe’s success.
   The garlic is toasted in a skillet over low heat for about 22 minutes (a minute for each clove!), and then left to stand off heat until they’ve softened. The cloves are then peeled.
   My husband and I found the 22-minute toasting time directed in the recipe wasn’t enough to produce soft cloves after the standing time. We ended up microwaving them for about five minutes, and letting them stand again.
   The potatoes (we used russet) are simmered for about 20 to 30 minutes. The potatoes are then peeled and cut into rough chunks.
   Working in batches, garlic cloves and potato chunks are put in a food mill or potato ricer and processed into a large saucepan.
   Melted butter, warm half-and-half and smoked gouda cheese are stirred in until the cheese is melted and incorporated.
   Off heat, chopped fresh chives are stirred in.
   Serve immediately in steaming piles on plates.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Bringing back the original blackberry with Blackberry Herb Cocktail

Once upon a time, children, blackberries grew on trees, not in people’s hands.
   Honestly! I ain’t lyin’.
   There is a luscious, jewel-like berry that grows on bushes. You don’t talk into them or touch their screens – you eat them!
   They lend a delicious taste to salads, pies, tarts and drinks.
   A good way to prove to people that you’re not telling a tall tale about blackberries is by serving Blackberry Herb Cocktail (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine.
   The cocktail is a blend of the berry’s juice with a lovely hint of rosemary, topped off with Prosecco, a type of Italian sparkling white wine.
   It makes an elegant start to dinner, and would go well with appetizers.
   If you’ve had a Kir Royale before, a combination of crème de cassis (blackberry liqueur) and champagne, you’ve had something similar to this cocktail.
   But Blackberry Herb Cocktails have something the Kir Royale doesn’t – that hint of rosemary that blends in perfectly.
   These cocktails are easy to make (just as easy as operating the handheld device!)
   Fresh blackberries, sugar (I used Splenda instead), water and chopped fresh rosemary are simmered until thickened and reduced.    The mixture, now a simple syrup, is strained into a glass measuring cup, and chilled into cold.
   The recipe says to divide Prosecco among champagne flutes, then pour some syrup into each drink.
   I did just the opposite: I put some syrup in the flutes, poured in Prosecco, then gave the cocktails a stir (I poured in the Prosecco over the sink in case it foamed up.) That way, I could add more syrup to taste if I wanted.
   You can also serve the syrup with non-alcoholic fizzy drinks, too, such as club soda or ginger ale.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hop into a Pear Sidecar

According to trusty Wikipedia, a sidecar is a classic cocktail traditionally made with Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice.
   (A sidecar is also a one-wheeled car for a single passenger attached to the side of a motorcycle, but this blog entry is concerned with the cocktail.)
   The first time I tried this drink was last weekend, when I mixed up a variation on the classic recipe: Pear Sidecar (click for the recipe).
   This recipe, from Fine Cooking magazine, called for pear brandy, triple sec, lime juice and lime zest.
   I loved the Pear Sidecar – it was a lovely combination of the slight sweetness of the brandy mingling with citrus tastes from the triple sec and the lime juice. It smelled terrific, too.
   Serve it with an appetizer before dinner, and it will be a classy way to get things started.
   I ran into one problem, though, when embarking on making the Pear Sidecars. I couldn’t find pear brandy in my local liquor store!    They had discontinued Poire Williams, a common type of pear brandy.
   Looking for a substitute on the Internet, I found one that worked well: Substituting equal parts brandy and pear juice.
   So, for the recipe I linked to above, which calls for ½ cup pear brandy for two cocktails, I used ¼ cup pear juice and ¼ cup brandy.
   The recipe calls for shaking up the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. I’m a fan of leaving the cocktail in the shaker for a minute or two before straining – it seems to add just a welcome touch of water to the cocktail, mellowing out the flavors a bit.
   To make a Pear Sidecar, pear brandy or a substitution, triple sec and lime juice are combined in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. After being shaken well, the cocktail is strained into glasses (champagne flutes or martini glasses are nice). Lime zest is twisted into spirals and dropped into each glass.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A 'sauerkraut martini':
Sauerkraut with Gin and Caraway

“Think of it as a sauerkraut martini,” I said to my husband as he looked skeptically at the shredded fermented cabbage simmering with gin in the soup pot.
   As my husband loves martinis, this statement seemed to lighten his pessimistic outlook a bit about Sauerkraut with Gin and Caraway (click for the recipe), an unusual recipe from the November issue of Bon Appetit that I’d wanted to try from the moment I saw it.
   However, he was never completely won over: He ate his portion, but merely said it wasn’t bad.
   But I absolutely loved it – I munched away at it, pleased as punch with the very, very slight licorice taste instilled in the sauerkraut from the gin and the caraway seeds.
   If you include the consumption of sauerkraut in your life now, whether on a hot dog, or in perogies, or when you visit grandma’s house, then I think you’ll like this recipe, too. Lovers of pickles or cabbage soup will probably embrace this as well.
   Molly Wizenberg, a Bon Appetit columnist and author of the Orangette blog, created this recipe. Sauerkraut has been a traditional Thanksgiving side dish in her family as long as she can remember.
   It’s an extremely easy dish to make, because you don’t actually have to make the sauerkraut yourself.
   Purchased sauerkraut, dry gin, and caraway seeds are simmered in a large heavy saucepan (I used a soup pot) for about half an hour. Diced chilled butter is stirred in until it is melted. Serve warm.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pecan-Chocolate Chip Pie:
Delicious even when burned!

I love recipes that are so reliable that the result is good even if something gets screwed up.
   Such is the case with Pecan-Chocolate Chip Pie (click for the recipe), a recipe from Emeril Legasse.
   The top of the pie burned, but it was still absolutely delicious.
   I followed the cooking time of one hour, but clearly I should have checked it along the way, at perhaps the 45-minute mark.
   If you bake this pie to its proper lovely golden-brown goodness, it will be even better than what I produced, I’m sure. It is a very family-friendly pie.
   There are directions on how to make a crust, but I find making pastry-style crusts quite frustrating (plus I’m lazy), and so I used a bought deep-dish pie crust and baked it before embarking on the rest of the recipe.
   The recipe calls for 100 per cent pure cane syrup. Roger’s Golden Syrup, which can be found in many supermarkets (in Canada at least!), is 100 per cent pure cane syrup.
   The cane syrup is used in a mixture that goes overtop the pecans and chocolate chips. I found I had about ½ cup extra of the syrupy mixture left over – the pie would have overflowed if I used it all!
   The pie is extremely easy to make if you go the purchased pie crust route.
   Pecan pieces and chocolate chips are scattered over the bottom of the pie crust.
   Eggs, sugar, brown sugar, pure cane syrup (golden syrup), corn syrup, vanilla, salt and melted butter are combined and poured over the pecans and chocolate chips.
   Bake (check what it looks like along the way!) and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

An elegant soup with comfort food appeal:
Red Pepper and Hazelnut Soup with Marinated Anchovies

The first time I decided I wanted to make a recipe with hazelnuts, I set out in search of them in the baking aisle of supermarkets.
   When I was unable to find them there, I went to the local health food store, where a clerk kindly explained that hazelnuts are also called filberts (and the store had them).
   Aha! It was a welcome piece of info – there are filberts in the baking aisle of many supermarkets!
   Many recipes call for taking the skin off of hazelnuts (filberts), and I’m much too lazy for that.
   I look for recipes that don’t call for skinning hazelnuts, such as Red Pepper and Hazelnut Soup with Marinated Anchovies (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine.
   This is a fantastic soup. While it is elegant, it also has a comfort-food appeal with its creaminess (without a drop of cream!)
   It has a slightly zesty taste that makes one think feta cheese is lurking within, but there isn’t!
   This soup would make a lovely first course at a dinner party, or for a meal on a weeknight with salad and bread.
   The anchovy garnish that goes on top of the soup is essential to its success. My husband and I stirred the garnish into our soup before eating (slurping?), and the anchovies added a wonderful salty flavour.
   I wasn’t able to find the recipe on the epicurious.com or bonappetit.com websites, but I was able to find it on a website called happysnakes.org, and that’s what I linked to above.
   Although the soup looks like it may be complicated to make, it’s actually not.
   Three chopped red bell peppers, an onion, a tomato, dry sherry, olive oil and garlic cloves are simmered in a large heavy saucepan for about 20 minutes.
   Vegetable broth, hazelnuts, smoked paprika (McCormick offers this type of paprika), are added and simmered. A splash of sherry vinegar (we used red wine vinegar as a substitute) is added, and the soup is pureed. We used a hand blender so we didn’t have to transfer the soup to an upright blender.
   The garnish, which can be made up to two hours ahead and left at room temperature, is comprised of chopped anchovies, a shallot, chopped toasted hazelnuts, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and finely grated lemon peel.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's a doughnut; no, it's a muffin:
It's a Pumpkin Doughnut Muffin!

“So what’s doughnut-y about them?” my husband asked as I stirred together the ingredients for Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins (click for the recipe), a recipe in the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food.
   It was a good question.
   After the muffins completely cooled, we gave them a try, and found out what exactly earned them the name “doughnut muffins”: They had a soft, cakey texture nearly exactly like doughnuts, and the generous coating of cinnamon, clinging to the muffins thanks to a coating of butter, added to the effect.
   These muffins are delicious and family-friendly.
   However, they are best on the day they are made. The doughnut-y texture and taste start to fade quickly.
   To combat this, Everyday Food says the muffins can be frozen up to three months after baking and cooling, the first major step of the recipe. After reheating the frozen muffins in a 350 F oven, they will be ready for the second major step: The butter and sugar coating.
   I found I needed a little more butter for the coating than the recipe called for – about two more tablespoons.
   Be sure to use pure pumpkin pureé in this recipe, not pumpkin pie filling.
   Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins are easy to make.
   Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and allspice are whisked together in one bowl, buttermilk and pure pumpkin pureé are mixed together in a second bowl, and butter and brown sugar beaten together in a third.
   The flour mixture is beaten into the butter and brown sugar in three additions, alternating with the pumpkin mixture in two additions.
   After baking in a standard 12-cup muffin tin, the muffins cool for 10 minutes, and are then brushed with melted butter and tossed in a mixture of ground cinnamon and sugar.
   The muffins are left to cool completely.
   Serve and watch your family enjoy this doughnut-in-a-muffin!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme & Butter: Salty and delicious!

When I first came across the recipe for Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme & Butter (click for the recipe) in Fine Cooking magazine, I was intrigued because I’d never heard of this type of potato before.
   I went on a search, and found them in one local supermarket.
   Fingerling potatoes are short and stubby, and look a bit like really chubby fingers.
   And in this terrific dish, they’re absolutely divine.
   Though there is less than a teaspoon of salt in the recipe, the resulting potatoes taste salty and delicious, with the fresh thyme offering a light complimentary flavour.
   Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme & Butter are easy to make, though they need to simmer for quite a while.
   Fingerling potatoes (you don’t need to peel them!) are arranged in a single layer in a skillet, and thyme sprigs are tucked between them. Three pieces of unsalted butter, salt, and some pepper are added to the potatoes.
   Water is poured over the potatoes – just enough to almost cover them. The skillet is partially covered, and the potatoes brought to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Be patient during this step, because it can take 15 to 20 minutes to get it to a nice simmer.
   Once a simmering point is reached, simmering continues for another 25 minutes.
   The potatoes are transferred to a serving dish, and the heat is increased to high to boil the remaining liquid until it’s reduced to a buttery glaze. "Buttery glaze" are absolutely key descriptive words: You want it to be past the watery stage.
   More butter is added if desired, and then the glaze is poured over the potatoes.
   Serve immediately.

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A recipe from my 'secret weapon' drawer:
Simple Two-Potato Gratin

Simple Two-Potato Gratin (click for the recipe)* was featured in a “put-Thanksgiving-dinner-together-faster-than-the-speed-of-light” type of story in Bon Appetit magazine four years ago, and it rightly deserved a place there.
   It is easy and quick to make (though it needs to bake for quite a while in the oven).
   But what I really love about it is that it’s unbelievably delicious.
   It’s a recipe that I keep in my "secret weapon" drawer: It’s one that takes little effort yet will knock their socks off.
   *However, beware of the recipe version I linked to above on epicurious.com. Strangely, it’s missing an absolutely key instruction: Slicing the russet potatoes and sweet potatoes!
   My husband and I bought a V-slicer (or mandoline) to make this dish, as the recipe I use that’s straight from the pages of Bon Appetit magazine calls for thinly slicing the russet and sweet potatoes. This is where the recipe’s only real work comes in, as thinly slicing three pounds of potatoes isn’t something that happens instantly.
   After the potatoes are thinly sliced, they are spread in a buttered 11x7-inch baking dish, and a combination of whipping cream, chicken broth, chopped fresh sage and minced garlic is poured over them.
   After being baked for 35 minutes, the potatoes are sprinkled with Gruyere cheese, and are baked again for another 25 minutes.
   The gratin will need to rest (the poor thing will be tired from being baked so much) before serving.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

A brilliant way to use celery root:
In a salad, with apples!

Celery root – you may have seen this brown, round wizened vegetable in your local supermarket, particularly this time of year.
   You may have asked yourself: What is it?
   Also known as celeriac, celery root is a type of celery, but it looks far more like a root vegetable such as a turnip than long green sticks.
   You may also have asked yourself: What the heck to I do with it?
   Well, I’ve got a dandy recipe that uses celery root, one that will make you wonder why you never tried it before.
   It’s Celery Root and Apple Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette (click for the recipe), a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine developed by columnist Molly Wizenberg, the writer of the world’s top food blog, Orangette.
   The salad is crisp and fresh, with a lovely light vinaigrette highlighted by Dijon mustard.
   We substituted walnut oil for the hazelnut oil (this stuff is hard to find!) and the salad tasted delicious. We used a Granny Smith apple in place of the called-for Gala.
   However, don’t substitute plain celery if you can’t find celery root – you won’t get the same results! Swipe some celery root when you see it and then try this recipe.
   It’s easy to make.
   A vinaigrette is made by combining Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pressed garlic, hazelnut or walnut oil and olive oil.
   A celery root, fennel bulb and apple are cut into strips and combined, then tossed with the vinaigrette.
   The salad is served with Parmesan cheese shavings on top.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A warm and sweet soup:
Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque

Sometimes an emergency substitution causes a happy accident in a recipe.
   The first time my husband and I made Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine, we couldn’t seem to find the called-for apple cider anywhere.
   We substituted apple juice instead, and were very pleased with the results: A soup that pleases the tongue and tummy with warmth from allspice and sweetness from the apple juice.
   The next time we made the soup, we found apple cider and used it. To our surprise, the recipe didn’t work nearly as well.
   I’m officially recommending, then, that if you make this soup, substitute one cup of good-quality apple juice for the one cup of apple cider.
   I couldn’t find the Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque recipe on epicurious.com or bonappetit.com, but managed to locate it on a website called MyBargainBuddy. This is the recipe I linked to above.
   The bisque is quite easy to make.
   Peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash, onion, carrots and celery are sautéd until softened. One chopped Granny Smith apple, allspice, vegetable or chicken broth and the apple juice are added and the mixture is boiled, then simmered for about 30 minutes.
   In a blender, the soup is puréed and returned to the pot. (We use a handheld blender instead so we don’t need to move the soup around).
   Whipping cream is added to the soup and it’s heated to warm again before serving.

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