Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zucchini pickles steal the show of Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Dill Sauce

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Dill Sauce from Bon Appetit magazine is certainly delicious, but I’m mostly writing about the recipe because of the wondrous little side it produces.
   Left out of the recipe’s title, the crunchy zucchini pickles that are part of the resulting dish are absolutely amazing.
   The pickles take just minutes to make, and are a superb addition to any summer plate.
   They would perfect alongside burgers, hot dogs, steaks, pork chops – and, in the case of this recipe, pieces of moist pork tenderloin.
   I will surely be whipping up the zucchini pickles a few times this summer.
   This recipe appeared in the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. That seemed to me very early in the year for a grilling recipe, so I hung onto it and we tried it in May.
   Upon trying the recipe, it made sense why it was included in the March 2011 issue. The sauce for the pork tenderloin is quite heavy for a summer dish – it is more suited to cooler spring weather.
   The zucchini pickles, on the other hand, are sensational for the entire summer!
   To make the pickles, white balsamic vinegar, fresh dill, salt and water are whisked together. Thinly-sliced zucchini is added and left to marinate for 10 minutes, being tossed often. The zucchini is drained. It’s that easy!
   For the mustard-dill sauce for the tenderloin, fresh dill, Dijon mustard, honey and ½ cup water are mixed together.
   The pork tenderloin is spread with some of the mustard-dill sauce, and is then grilled for about 25 minutes. After resting for 10 minutes, it is cut into ½-inch-thick slices, and served with the remaining sauce and pickles.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Making mole (pronounced moe-lay!) sauce gets much faster thanks to delicious recipe

I wanted immediately to try Chicken with Quick Mole Sauce (click for the recipe) from Eating Well magazine when I saw the sauce called for chocolate chips and almond butter.
   These two ingredients help provide a major shortcut to the job of preparing mole sauce (pronounced moe-lay), which, according to a Wikipedia article, can normally take hours to make.
   Chili powder is also a shortcut ingredient in this recipe, as all types of mole sauces begin with roasting and grinding one or more types of chili pepper, such as ancho or poblano.
   The recipe resulted in juicy chicken bathed in a rich, dark red sauce that had an excellent flavor highlighted by cinnamon and almonds.
   The sauce is not spicy, and I think this dish could be served to children ages 12 and over.
   One tip I offer is to serve the dish with rice. The recipe produces plenty of sauce, which could be spooned over rice as well.
   Chicken with Quick Mole Sauce is very easy to make.
   Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are cooked in a skillet, then transferred to a plate.
   Canola oil, garlic, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon are added to the skillet and cooked briefly, then tomato sauce, chicken broth, mini semisweet chocolate chips and almond or natural peanut butter added and the sauce brought to a simmer.
   The chicken is returned to the skillet and the mixture is simmered until the chicken is cooked through, about five minutes more.
   The chicken and sauce is served sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies
knock it out of the park

Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies (click for the recipe), the latest dessert I’ve made from Cook’s Country magazine, are pure pleasure.
   Each brownie is a heavenly combination of rich, spongy chocolate, lined with a cream cheese and raspberry middle. There is also some raspberry jam in the brownie portion, heightening the berry-awesome experience (yes, that was extremely cheeseball of me.)
   The first time I tried a bite of these, I had to stop and savor the taste for a moment, closing my eyes and saying to my husband, “My goodness, these are good.”
   My husband agreed as he munched away on a brownie.
   I found the taste to be best the day the brownies were made and the day after. Although the brownies maintain a rich chocolate flavor and nice soft texture after that time, the taste of the raspberry middle begins to fade.
   But if you serve these to a family, they’ll disappear so quickly you won’t even need to think about a timeline.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a blog, and it is nearly exactly the same as the one I used, with the exception of one mysterious error. The second paragraph of the directions says to add oil, which doesn’t exist in the recipe ingredients, so don’t worry about it!
   The recipe for Raspberry Cream Cheese brownies can also be found in the excellent cookbook Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts.
   The recipe says to microwave the butter and chocolate in a large bowl then add the other ingredients. Rather, I microwaved them in a smaller bowl and added the butter/chocolate combination to the other ingredients.
   A filling is made by processing softened cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and egg yolk in a food processor.
   The first step in making the brownies is stirring together sugar, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
   Butter and chopped unsweetened chocolate are microwaved until melted, and ¼ cup of raspberry jam is whisked in. After a slight cooling time, this is added to the sugar mixture. A combination of flour, baking powder and and salt is whisked in to create a batter.
   Half of the batter is scraped into an eight-inch square baking plan lined with greased aluminum foil, then the filling is dolloped over and spread into an even layer. Raspberry jam that has been microwaved slightly is dolloped over the filling, and with the tip of a knife, it is swirled in. The remaining batter is spread evenly over the filling.
   The brownies are baked, 50 to 60 minutes, then left to cool for a least two hours before cutting into squares.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cucumber -- an ideal summer drink flavor

Cucumber, as it turns out, is a delicious flavor for a drink.
   Cucumber, Mint and Basil Soda (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine proves this.
   It tastes like cucumber in pure liquid form, and it tastes mighty fine. Plus there’s nice dashes of mint and basil, as the recipe’s name would imply.
   This non-alcoholic drink is a terrific late spring/summer refresher. It’s light and bubbly like champagne, but it’s not too sweet. Make it for a backyard barbecue, and I guarantee a hit.
   The recipe calls for soda water, but I used club soda instead, as I prefer the taste. Although it doesn’t specify to do this, make sure the club soda is nice and cold before pouring the drinks.
   A simple syrup is made by cooking sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves. This can be refrigerated until needed.
   The simple syrup is brought to a boil in a small saucepan, then is removed from the heat. Thinly-sliced cucumbers, fresh mint leaves and fresh basil leaves are added. The mixture is covered and left to steep for 30 mintes.
   The cucumber-herb syrup is strained into a jar, bowl or other type of container. If not needed right away, this syrup can also be refrigerated.
   Glasses are filled with ice cubes, and two tablespoons of syrup and ½ cup of soda are poured on top and stirred to combine. (The drinks are easily doubled with four tablespoons of syrup and one cup of soda.)
   The recipe says to make 11 more sodas, but you certainly don’t have to do this! The cucumber syrup can be refrigerated for another time and the sodas made again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pickles for your summer plate in just 20 minutes

Yummy homemade pickles in just 20 minutes — it’s true!
   I made Cucumbers with Wasabi and Rice Vinegar (click for the recipe) on the weekend, and was quite stunned at how terrific they were.
   They tasted like they’d been stewing away for months under perfect conditions.
   But all it took was cutting up some cucumbers, tossing them in a few easy-to-find ingredients and letting them sit for a few minutes.
   The pickles would make a crisp, cool side for any type of grilling creation this summer.
   The recipe calls for wasabi powder, which can be found in the Asian food section of some supermarkets.
   I was expecting the powder would create spicy heat, but it didn’t – there was more of a very slight horseradish effect instead.
   The recipe also calls for Japanese or Kirby cucumbers. Unable to find either, I used English cucumbers, which made a fine substitute.
   The recipe says to use an adjustable-blade slicer to thinly slice the cucumbers, but I was able to accomplish the task easily enough with a knife.
   There was a fun direction in the recipe: Squeeze handfuls of cucumber to release water. That’s exactly what I did – I picked up handfuls of slices and squeezed them in my palm to release excess liquid.
   Thinly-sliced cucumbers are tossed with salt and left to drain in a colander in the sink for 15 minutes, then rinsed under cold water and squeezed.
   Wasabi powder and water are stirred together and left to stand five minutes. Rice vinegar, sugar and soy sauce are added and whisked until the sugar has dissolved. The cucumbers are added and tossed well with the wasabi powder liquid.
   The cucumbers can be served right away, or chilled before serving up to one day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wondrous Panna Cotta Parfaits
with Raspberry Compote

The recipe I’m about telling you about today is absolutely wondrous.
   It’s an extended family favorite that I’ve made dozens of times. It always pleases when it is served.
   It’s easy to make, and works as well for a casual dinner party as it does for a weeknight.
   The recipe is Panna Cotta Parfaits with Raspberry Compote (click for the recipe).
   I made these for the first time four years ago after seeing them in Bon Appetit magazine.
   I remember distinctly my husband’s reaction when he first tasted one.
   “Mmmm, that’s good,” he said with a smile of satisfaction on his face. “They’re so awesome and creamy.”
   That they are. The velvety, creamy bottom is to die for, and it’s topped by a lovely combination of raspberries and balsamic vinegar.
   Fussy steps often seen in other panna cotta recipes, like cooking the panna cotta in a water bath and then flipping them onto a dessert plate, are absent here.
   That’s likely because the recipe was submitted to the magazine by a father and his young daughter, who often cook together.
   It’s imperative that pure vanilla extract is used in this recipe, not imitation. Vanilla provides an essential flavor to the creamy bottom.
   Rather than using champagne flutes as directed in the recipe, I simply use dessert bowls. I also skip the part about putting one raspberry at the bottom of each dessert.
   The bottoms of the parfaits are made by sprinkling gelatin over water in a small saucepan, and letting the gelatin soften, about 10 minutes.
   In a medium saucepan, ½ cup of whipping cream and ½ cup of sugar are combined and stirred over low hit until sugar dissolves. This is poured into a large bowl, and 1 ½ cups cream, sour cream and vanilla are stirred in until just mixed.
   The gelatin mixture is stirred over very low heat until the gelatin dissolves. It’s very important that the gelatin dissolves completely, or the parfaits won’t set. When the water goes from being cloudy to clear again, the gelatin has dissolved properly.
   The gelatin mixture is whisked into the cream mixture, and this is poured into bowls. The parfaits are chilled until they set, about three hours.
   For the topping, fresh raspberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar are combined in a bowl.
   The topping is spooned over the parfaits, and then these beauties are served.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Crab Salad Melts are not
greasy or dry -- they are just right

When I was a teen, one of my fave suppers was my mother’s tuna melts.
   She always did an awesome job of them: English muffins topped with a mixture of tuna, green onions and mayo, sliced tomatoes and grated mozzarella.
   But my husband doesn’t like canned tuna, so I always stayed away from trying my own version.
   When I recently saw the recipe for Crab Salad Melts (click for the recipe on the Eating Well website), I knew I had my answer. I could take trip down food memory lane that my husband would enjoy too.
   The results of the recipe were terrific. The slightly sweet crab meat was a fine topping, accentuated well by chopped celery.
   Because there isn’t a lot of mayonnaise or cheese used, the melts weren’t greasy, but they weren’t dry either -- there was just enough binding material that it was easy to put the crab mixture on the English muffins.
   They were super easy to make, too, making them an ideal weeknight dinner.
   Chopped asparagus or snow peas (we used snow peas) are cooked in the microwave, sliced thinly, and combined with crab meat, celery, red bell pepper, scallions (green onions), mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning and hot sauce.
   The mixture is spread on toasted English muffin halves, topped with shredded Swiss cheese, and broiled until the cheese is melted.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dr. Mandylove, or how I learned to stop worrying and make a pie crust (for amazing Icebox Strawberry Pie)

I finally did it! I made a homemade pastry pie crust.
   For years I’ve avoided making one, frightened by tales of fussiness: It’s hard to roll. You’ve got to get the ingredient temperatures and measures just right. Flaky can become easily become lardy and tough.
   This past weekend, I decided it was time to face those fears and make a pie crust, and I did so with Cook’s Country magazine's appropriately-titled "No-Fear Pie Crust" (click and scroll down for the recipe).
   It’s a press-in crust (no rolling here!) and for the most part, it was successful. Thanks to the secret ingredient of cream cheese, the dough was easy to press into place. After baking, it looked like a homemade pie crust, and it tasted very good.
   It was a tad overcooked, though, so next time I make it I will watch it more closely while baking.
   I’m glad I made the crust, and will be using the recipe for more pies in the future (lemon, raspberry, chocolate – yummy!)
   However, the true crowning achievement of my first pastry pie-making adventure was not the crust, but the filling and topping.
   I made Icebox Strawberry Pie (click for the recipe) from Cook’s Country magazine, and it was fabulous.
   It’s a luscious, cool pie packed with strawberry flavor that’s dolloped with a cream cheese/heavy cream topping.
   Pie lovers will be impressed – I guarantee it.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a recipe-sharing site, and it contains both the strawberry pie and pie crust recipes. It is exactly the same as the ones I used from Cook’s Country.
   To make the pie filling, two pounds of frozen strawberries are cooked in a large saucepan (I used a soup stock pot), being stirred constantly, for about 25 minutes, until they’ve broken up and become thick and jamlike.
   A combination of unflavored gelatin, lemon juice and water is stirred into the cooked berries along with sugar and salt, and the mixture transferred to a bowl to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
   A pound of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin, is folded into the filling. The filling is spread into a pie crust that has been baked and cooled, and the pie is refrigerated until set, about four hours.
   To make the topping, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and heavy cream (I used whipping cream) are beaten together with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
   The topping can be dolloped individually on pieces, or spread over the entire pie.
   The pie is stored in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A terrific homemade pizza crust,
created without fuss (or yeast)

I must admit I’ve stayed away from making fresh pizza crusts because of the ever-present yeast component.
   After the failure of some homemade buns a couple of years ago, I’ve stayed away from making things with yeast.
   When flipping through a Cook’s Country magazine publication recently, Skillet Suppers, I found a recipe for an alternative to a homemade pizza crust that could be made without yeast: Thin-Crust Skillet Pizza (click for the recipe)..
   The recipe promised a thin, crispy crust that could be made quickly in a food processor. The active ingredient? Beer.
   You can bet I wanted to give it a try right away.
   My husband and I made it for the first time on Sunday, and were very impressed.
   The crust was indeed thin, crispy and super easy to make. The toppings were perfect.
   Cook’s Country recommends using Newcastle Brown ale, or any other full-flavored ale, for the crust.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a blog, but the dough/crust recipe is exactly the same as the one we used.
   The combination of toppings is the one primarily offered by Cook’s Country magazine and is very likely amazing, but we tried a delicious variation of four plum tomatoes tossed with ½ tsp salt, one cup of shredded fontina cheese, ½ cup crumbled goat cheese, two ounces chopped prosciutto and ½ cup finely-chopped fresh basil.
   The dough and toppings provide comfortably for two nine-inch pizzas.
   The dough is made by combining flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor, then adding 1/3 cup beer and one tablespoon of oil slowly through the chute at the top.
   The dough is processed until it pulls away from the sides and forms a shaggy ball, about one minute (I found my dough formed three small spheres. I simply combined them into one with my hands.) The dough is covered loosely with plastic wrap and left to rest for 10 minutes.
   The dough is divided in half, and each half is rolled into a very thin nine-inch round.
   Olive oil is heated in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. A dough round is transferred to the skillet and cooked until the bottom is deep golden brown and crisp, three to four minutes (air bubbles are poked out with a fork during cooking).
   The dough is flipped and sprinkled with toppings. The heat is reduced to low and the pizza is cooked, covered, until the second side is crisp and cheeses have melted, about five minutes.
   The pizza is transferred to a cutting board, and a second is made with the other half of the dough and toppings.
   To keep the first pizza warm while the second was being made, we put it on a plate and put it into the oven at a very low heat.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fresh and speedy Soba Noodle Salad
with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

A fresh, cool noodle salad studded with cucumber, red bell pepper and carrot – this is the dreamy product resulting from Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing (click for the recipe at the Vegetarian Times website).
   It’s a versatile dish – it can eaten as a main or as a side. I commented to my husband when we first tried it that it would do well at a spring potluck or backyard party.
   And it’s so easy to make, it’s almost ridiculous. You can drag yourself home after a long day, feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck, and a scant 20 minutes later you’ll be eating something refreshing.
   People who are cooking for one will not only appreciate its speedy preparation, but the fact it’s cold and so keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.
   It’s the first recipe I’ve tried from the magazine Vegetarian Times, and I’m encouraged to try more.
   It’s a nice vegetarian version of another recipe I reviewed here on Recipes That Worked: Spicy Peanut Noodles with Ground Pork and Shredded Vegetables.
   The recipe on the Vegetarian Times website said to use “low-sodium soba noodles,” “Marantha Organic No-Stir peanut butter,” and “brown rice vinegar,” but regular soba noodles, any brand of creamy peanut butter and any type rice vinegar will work just fine.
   As always, we left the cilantro out of this recipe.
   The noodles are cooked in boiling water according to package directions, drained, and rinsed under cold water.
   A sauce is made by pureeing creamy peanut butter, rice vinegar, agave nectar or maple syrup, fresh ginger, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice and lime zest (finely-grated lemon peel) in a blender until smooth.
   The noodles and sauce are tossed with diced cucumber, sliced red bell pepper and a grated carrot.
   Serve and enjoy the salad’s cool appeal.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bitter is best for Lime-Ginger Coolers

It’s a warm afternoon, and you’re going to sit down, put your feet up and relax.
   What are you going to drink to celebrate this bit of time to yourself?
   A Lime-Ginger Cooler (click for the recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine).
   These drinks are so very refreshing, with their bubbly mix of lime juice and club soda (the recipe calls for seltzer, but I prefer the taste of club soda.)
   This is the recipe that introduced my husband and I to the wonders of bitters, an alcoholic flavoring that’s added sparingly, like hot sauce, to drinks.
   Angostura is the most commonly available variety of bitters. It can be found in liquor stores, and, we were surprised to find, supermarkets too.
   Although it’s made from gentian, a bitter herb, Angostura bitters add a refreshing tang to these coolers.
   The recipe’s suggestion of using Rose’s brand sweetened concentrated lime juice is an excellent one – it definitely elevates the drink to a sublime (pun intended) experience.
   This bottled juice is labeled "Rose's Lime Cordial" and can be found in the supermarket right beside Rose’s grenadine, which is in turn found with mixes for alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic beers and wines.
   The slices of peeled sliced ginger that are added to the drinks are not essential, however. We’ve left it out plenty of times when we didn’t have ginger around.
   To make a cooler, ice is put into an eight-ounce glass, then two dashes of bitters and two to three tablespoons of lime juice are added. This is topped with ½ cup of club soda and the drink stirred.
   Serve and celebrate spring.

A recipe for easy-to-make
Blender Chocolate Mousse, thanks to a mom

Mom's Blender Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Cream (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit is one of my all-time favorite recipes.
   The intro says the recipe is from the mother of one of the magazine’s food editors, and that makes perfect sense to me.
   The recipe has an air of a mother’s ingenuity – it’s so very easy to make and produces fabulous results.
   The mousse is smooth, creamy and delicious. It works as dessert on a weeknight or for a casual dinner party.
   The dessert is family-friendly, although it’s possible not everyone will go for the lemon cream topping. Just leave this part off if that’s the case.
   You won’t be able to eat instant pudding again after making this mousse, which is practically as simple as preparing pudding from a box but makes a far, far superior product.
   The recipe says to “whisk” whipped cream for the lemon cream topping. Be sure to use an electric mixer to do this work, even though the recipe doesn’t say so – it will make things a lot easier.
   To make the mousse, a mixture of water, sugar, and instant espresso powder or instant coffee is brought to a simmer in a medium saucepan. The mixture is poured over one cup of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips that have been placed in a blender. Egg whites are added and the mixture blended on high for one minute.
   The chocolate mixture is poured into for small bowls and chilled until firm, about two hours.
   Chilled whipping cream, lemon juice, finely-grated lemon peel and sugar are beaten with an electric mixture until soft peaks form. Spoon over the mousse and serve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pound cake gets effervescent thanks to 7Up

7Up, the popular soft drink, brings its bubbly effervescence to a lovely dessert, 7UP Pound Cake (click for the recipe).
   The cake has a dense-but-light sensation: It’s not crumbly, as is the case with pound cakes, but the texture isn’t as heavy as a traditional pound cake.
   And it has a divine lemon-lime taste, thanks mostly to the citrusy glaze that’s drizzled on top.
   This delicious, family-friendly cake is ideal for spring, and would be a terrific accompaniment to a cup of tea.
   Cook’s Country magazine, whose version of 7Up Pound Cake is the one I made, notes that Sprite, Mountain Dew and ginger ale could all stand in for 7Up, but Fresca won’t – it produces a cake that is pale and tough.
   Diet 7Up also isn’t a good substitute – the sugar in regular 7Up is needed to make the cake taste right.
   Be sure to use cake flour as the recipe directs. It helps produce the lightness of the cake.
   The cake can be made in a 12-inch tube or Bundt pan; I used a Bundt pan. The recipe has a directed baking time of 75 to 90 minutes. The 75-minute baking time was absolutely perfect for me – the cake came out golden and fully baked.
   The cake is easy to make. The recipe linked to above on a blog is the same one I used from Cook’s Country. It's also available in the cookbook Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts.
   Sugar, eggs, 7Up, lemon zest (finely-grated lemon peel), lime zest (finely-grated lime peel), lemon juice, lime juice and salt are blended in a food processor until smooth, then melted butter is poured slowly through the chute and the mixture is processed until incorporated.
   The eggs and 7Up liquid is transferred to a large bowl, and cake flour added in three additions.
   The batter is spread in a tube or Bundt pan, baked, cooled for a short time, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely, about two hours.
   A glaze, made from confectioners’ (icing) sugar, lemon and lime juice, is drilled over the cake. After a 15-minute setting time for the glaze, the cake can be served.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roast Chicken Legs with Lemon and Thyme:
Your oven may not like it, but your tastebuds will

Moist, juicy, tasty chicken legs and thighs are just minutes away with Roast Chicken Legs with Lemon and Thyme (click for the recipe).
   The terrific quick dish is from the late, great Gourmet magazine, which I still miss since it stopped being published in October 2009.
   It had a great “Quick Kitchen” section in every issue that was always chock-full of excellent recipes for elegant, delicious weeknight dishes.
   This recipe is one of them.
   While it produces amazing chicken in about half an hour, including prep time, this recipe is a bit of an oven killer. If you've been thinking of cleaning your oven, this is a great meal make to give you some added motivation.
   Because the chicken needs be roasted at a high heat (500 F) with the oven rack in the upper third of the oven, it does send some of the oil it’s tossed in splattering, with some possible accompanying smoke.
   This could be corrected, I’m guessing, by using a 17x12-inch pan (baking sheet size), but with higher sides than the one inch called for in the recipe. Looking online, I see such a pan exists.
   However, if you’re like my husband and I, you’ll just crack a window, and clean the oven later.This chicken is worth the bother, it’s that good.
   The leftovers even warmed up beautifully the next day in the microwave.
   Chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on, are tossed with olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then transferred to a baking pan.
   The chicken is baked 10 minutes, then four lemon slices are added to the pan. The chicken is baked for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grasshopper Pie - a dessert with a past

“While grasshopper pie is most commonly known these days as a type of ice cream pie, it started off as a mint and chocolate chiffon pie based on a Prohibition-era cocktail,” says the introduction to Cook's Country magazine's version of Grasshopper Pie (click for the recipe). “We wanted to go retro and bring back the original chiffon version of this pie.”
   It’s a terrific version – smooth and delicious and sure to impress. This pie would fit right in at the finest bakeries and tea houses.
   The secret behind its soft-yet-firm filling is unflavored gelatin, which stabilizes the eggs and whipping cream. The lovely cool, minty flavor comes from crème de menthe and crème de cacao.
   Despite the fact the pie is easy to make, cooking with gelatin can be tricky. After having a batch of panna cotta fail to set properly a few years back, I now always make sure gelatin has fully dissolved in a cream mixture before taking it off the heat.
   The best way I know to do this is use a small pot, which helps gelatin dissolve more easily, and check the spoon you are using to stir the mixture regularly. Gelatin that is not yet fully dissolved will leave quite obvious large flecks in the liquid on the spoon. The flecks will disappear when the gelatin has dissolved.
   If you follow the directions carefully for the recipe, however, things should work fine. I found the cooking times to be about right.
   One thing that wasn’t completely right about my pie, however, was the color. Because I used clear crème de menthe, I had grasshopper pie with a white filling instead of pale green, which would have been created by green crème de menthe.
   But since the pie ultimately tasted fabulous, the color wasn’t an issue at all.
   For the crust, the recipe calls for Oreo Mint n’ Crème cookies – a variation I wasn’t able to find in the supermarket! My substitution was to use regular Oreos and add 1/8 tsp of mint extract to the crust ingredients.
   The recipe says to refrigerate the pie at least six hours or overnight. Go with overnight – a slight boozy taste in the pie filling dissipates perfectly with the longer time.
   The pie needs to be stored in the refrigerator, preferably with plastic wrap on top.
   The recipe I linked to above on a blog is exactly the same as the one I used from Cook’s Country magazine.
   The crust is a combination of Mint n’ Crème Oreos and melted butter (or regular Oreos, melted butter and 1/8 tsp. mint extract.)
   The filling is made by cooking cream on the stovestop that has gelatin, sugar, cream, egg yolks and salt in it. Crème de menthe and crème de cacao is added right before the mixture is put into the fridge to set slightly.
   Cream that has been beaten to stiff peaks is folded into the gelatin mixture, and the resulting filling is smoothed on the crust.
   The pie is refrigerated overnight before serving.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Make me! Penne with
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Sauce

As I was flipping through one of my new cookbooks, The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today's Kitchen by Chef Michael Smith, the recipe jumped off the page and said: Make me, immediately!
   It was Penne with Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Sauce (click for the recipe).
   What prompted me most to make it was Smith’s introduction to the recipe, in which he said his friends request this dish all the time.
   This intrigued me – what recipe could be so good that you’d ask a world-renown chef like Smith to make it for you as opposed to letting him surprise you with his latest magical dish?
   The second reason I was prompted to make it was how easy it looked to make.
   I was right about that. I made the dish on my own and it took about 25 minutes without rushing.
   The ingredients were also a draw: Cream cheese, fresh dill and smoked salmon. It sounded as if the dish would be like a yummy bagel in pasta form.
   I’m glad I listened to that “make me” recipe voice, because this was indeed a lovely dish.
   It would work well at a dinner party, which is what Smith suggests in his intro, but it is easy enough to make on a work night.
   We found smoked salmon in the seafood section of a local supermarket. Both fresh and frozen was available; we used fresh.
   Penne pasta (I like Catelli Smart) is boiled until al dente.
   After the pasta is drained, it’s put back in the pot. While the pasta is still steaming hot, softened cream cheese, fresh dill, green onions (scallions), the juice and zest (finely-grated peel) of one lemon, Dijon mustard and capers are stirred in until the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce.
   After the sauce forms, the smoked salmon, which has been cut into ribbons, is stirred in.
   Serve immediately

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shrimp Scampi with Green Onions
and Orzo is speedy, speedy, speedy

While I’ve written about many get-dinner-on-the-table-before-you-can-blink dishes here on Recipes That Worked, Shrimp Scampi with Green Onions and Orzo (click for the recipe) may just hold the record for a great dish in the shortest time.
   I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine about three years ago in a story about dishes that 15 minutes to make.
   They weren’t kidding – this recipe does just take a quarter of an hour to prepare.
   With my husband and I working together, it took even less time. I even had a few minutes to assemble a purchased salad and bake some ready-to-the-oven bread to go with it.
   What’s even more amazing about this dish is that it does have a risotto-like texture as the recipe’s description says, without the risotto time and effort. This is thanks to the buttery sauce that coats the orzo, a small-grain pasta that resembles rice.
   Forget takeout – this recipe has a fresh dinner on the table in less time than it takes to wait for an order or delivery!
   Orzo is boiled until tender but firm to the bite, and is drained and transferred to a large boil.
   Butter is melted in a skillet, and minced garlic, peeled, deveined large shrimp, thinly-sliced green onions (scallions) and shrimp are cooked in it. White wine and more butter is added.
   The shrimp is poured in top of the orzo. Although the recipe doesn’t say to do so, my husband tossed the orzo and the shrimp together.