Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mel

For my sister's birthday, I let her decide what I will make her and her family (and Mom and A) for supper as well as what her birthday cake will be. This year she asked for Pork Dumplings, Sesame Noodles, and Blueberry Pie. We have an obsession with Pork Dumplings thanks to a family trip we took to Virginia to visit our brother, his wife, and their girls this spring. For lunch one day they took us to this restaurant that makes tasty dumplings located on Charlottesville's pedestrian mall. We really liked the dumplings, but it reminded me of this recipe for dumplings that I used so make.

After we got home, I looked up the original recipe and then started making them (it's called Make-Ahead Pork Dumplings from the March 2003 issue of Southern Living; get it from Sometimes I steam the dumplings per the recipe, but sometimes I fry them in peanut oil. Either way, they are delicious. It makes a lot, so be prepared to freeze the leftovers. This is also a great appetizers for parties. The recipe for Sesame Noodles came from the New American Cooking cookbook from Williams-Sonoma.

Instead of the usual cookie cake or ice-cream cake, Mel requested blueberry pie. The recipe, which is from a former co-worker, follows. —PHH

Vanishing Blueberry Pie
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 (9-inch) piecrust
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
4 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Mix together first 7 ingredients. Pour into prepared piecrust.
3. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes.
4. Combine softened butter and next 2 ingredients. Sprinkle over pie.
5. Bake for 10 more minutes, shielding edges of crust, if necessary, to prevent excessive browning. Serve warm with ice cream or cold.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lemon Chicken Pasta

This is a simple, light-tasting, satisfying meal that's great for a weeknight or company. My version was inspired by a recipe by Ina Garten. I usually serve it with Baby Blue Salad (get the recipe from and toasted sourdough bread with butter or olive oil.

Lemon Chicken Pasta

1 lb. chicken cutlets
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups whipping cream
3 lemons
5 oz. baby spinach or arugula, thoroughly washed
1 container grape tomatoes, halved
1 lb. hot cooked farfalle (bowtie) pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Cook in a large nonstick skillet or grill pan 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until done. Cut into thin strips.

Sauté minced shallot and garlic in hot oil in large skillet until tender. Pour whipping cream into skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until cream is slightly thickened. Stir in zest from 2 lemons and juice from 3 lemons. Add in baby spinach, tomato halves, chicken strips, and pasta; cook until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving.

Use for Garden Vegetables

My grannie plants a large garden every year (it produces more than one person could eat). As her grandchild, I am often the receiver of the abundant produce. However, it seems like it all comes in at one time. How many ripe tomatoes can A and I eat? Not enough. To use up the bounty Grannie gives me, I have begun making a roasted tomato sauce. You can make as much or as little as you want.

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil. Cut tomatoes into quarters and place on prepared pan. Depending on the number of tomatoes used, cut 1 or 2 Vidalia onions into eighths and place on pan. Add 3 or 4 garlic cloves. If you have zucchini or eggplant, slice it up and add to the pan as well. Roast veggies at 400° for 45 minutes or until very soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Allow to cool completely, divide into zip-top plastic freezer bags, and freeze. Thaw the sauce in the fridge the day you want to serve it, and heat. Serve over pasta or use it as the sauce for Chicken Parmesan. —PHH

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Look for Salad

We had oven-fried chicken and panzanella (Italian bread-and-tomato salad; pictured at left) tonight. I used chicken cutlets (great for quick cooking). The chicken and croutons for the salad can be cooked at the same time. Dinner was ready in 45 minutes (and I cleaned most of the dishes beforehand—a bonus!). This makes about four servings.

• Marinate the chicken in buttermilk with fresh rosemary for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then dredge the cutlets in a mixture of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), black pepper, ground red pepper, salt, and herbes de Provence. Cover a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil, and spray it with cooking spray or drizzle it with olive oil. Place the breaded cutlets on the prepared pan, and spray each piece of chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
• Cut sourdough or any kind of rustic bread into bite-size cubes. Cover a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil. Place bread cubes on the pan; drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until golden.
• To finish the salad, seed four tomatoes (cut off the stem end and gently squeeze the whole tomato over the sink; most of the seeds will come out). Cut the tomatoes into chunks, and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle tomatoes in bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add in 2 tablespoons minced onions and crumbled bacon (four or five cooked slices). Add in toasted bread cubes. Combine 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup olive oil; whisk until blended. Pour over tomato-and-bread mixture in serving bowl, and toss to coat.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chicken-Fried Steak

I've figured out that a lot of the food I cook is brown. It's yummy, but it's still brown. This Saturday night I made Chicken Fried Steak with Vidalia Onion Gravy from The Lee Bros. Cookbook. This cookbook is a must-have. I served the steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes and lady peas cooked with ham soup base. For dessert I made the best-ever apple pie that's on the cover of the September 2008 issue of Southern Living. It's worth the time it takes to make it. The brandy sauce is awesome with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Taste of Florida

A's favorite dessert is Key lime pie. I really like this recipe, Chocolate-Key Lime Cupcake Pies, which is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living. The photo shows my version of the original. I have also made it with a graham cracker crust instead of chocolate; both are quite tasty. You make them in muffin pans—the perfect serving size. —PHH

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Steak Supper

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday is to cook. I usually spend the entire afternoon baking and making a special dinner that we wouldn't have during the week. A. loves steak, so today I made filet mignon (on sale at Publix). The filet was served with blue cheese butter, roasted asparagus, caramelized pearl onions, and scalloped potatoes.

Essential Kitchen Tool: A few years ago, A. gave me a double-burner grill pan. This is a low-sided, rectangular-shaped pan with ridges that simulate grill marks on meat. It's great for meat, paninis, and pancakes. I used it to grill the filet which was sprinkled with salt and cracked black pepper.

• The blue cheese butter is a terrific recipe from Frank Stitt's Southern Table cookbook. It has real butter, blue cheese, and lemon zest in it.
• The asparagus is placed on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Then the zest of one lemon is sprinkled over it and the juice of the lemon is added. I toss all of this together and then lay out the asparagus in a single row. Bake at 350° for 15 or 20 minutes.
• For the scalloped potatoes, I thinly slice one Vidalia onion and four Yukon Gold potatoes (I don't peel them). Then I make a white sauce with butter, flour, and milk, and add in 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded (don't use preshredded cheese; it's too dry). Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Pour a little white sauce in bottom of baking dish; layer the potatoes, onions, and white sauce, repeating layers twice. Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, grated, and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
• Peel pearl onions; cut large ones in half or quarter so that all pieces are similar in size. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and caramelized. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.