Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blackberry Cornmeal Cake

The cornmeal really sets this recipe apart. It is from Everyday Food. My one change is to add some vanilla to the batter; this gives the cake a richer flavor. Next time I will add lemon zest as well—a nice complement to the berries. Serve it warm with ice cream, of course. It is best with fresh berries, but I've been craving blackberries, but it's not time for them (the curse of working for a magazine that is currently producing our summer issues). Frozen berries worked pretty well.

Blackberry Cornmeal Cake
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 pints fresh or 1 bag frozen blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
Ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Place 1 Tbsp. butter in cast-iron skillet, and place skillet in oven to melt the butter.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter and next 3 ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
3. Pour mixture into hot skillet. Sprinkle blackberries on top; sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.
4. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Allow cake to cool, and then invert onto a serving plate. Serve warm cake with ice cream.

Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Dinner tonight was my version of cheesesteak sandwiches. I caramelized thinly sliced onion and bell pepper and then added thinly sliced leftover flank steak from last night. We had the sandwiches with Potato Chips With Garlic-Herb Cheese and leftover salad, minus the steak and blue cheese, from last night. Everything came together quickly.

Cheesesteak Sandwiches
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (I used a yellow one.), thinly sliced
1/2 lb. thinly sliced grilled flank steak
Salt and pepper
1/2 ciabatta loaf, cut in half lengthwise and widthwise
1/2 cup shredded colby-Jack cheese

1. Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot oil over medium heat 10 minutes; reduce heat to medium-low, and sauté 10 more minutes. Stir in sliced steak, and sauté 5 more minutes.
2. Scoop out insides of ciabatta pieces. Sprinkle one side with cheese; top with steak mixture, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with ciabatta pieces.
3. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve warm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grilled Steak-and-Blue Cheese Salad

One of Andy's favorite meals, especially in warm weather, is this salad. I made it for dinner tonight, a sure sign that summer is on the way. What makes it really great to me is the Homemade Croutons—bread toasted in melted butter—YUM!

Grilled Steak-and-Blue Cheese Salad
1 (1-lb.) flank steak
Salt and pepper
Chopped green leaf lettuce
3 roma tomatoes, chopped (Halved grape tomatoes are another good option until it's tomato season.)
1 cucumber, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
Crumbled blue cheese
Homemade Croutons
Balsamic Vinaigrette

1. Sprinkle steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill on grill pan for 10 to 12 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove meat from pan, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut meat in half, reserving half for another use. Cut remaining half into thin slices.
2. Combine lettuce and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide mixture among plates. Top salads with sliced steak, blue cheese, and croutons; drizzle with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Homemade Croutons
Olive oil
2 cups bread cubes (I used a half of a focaccia round.)
Salt and pepper

1. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
I put all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake to combine.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. country-style Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine vinegar and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add in olive oil, combining completely. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bacon-Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza

I've posted a few pizza combinations as recommendations for fast dinners. Tonight we had another flavor combination. Andy made dinner because I had to work late. Tonight's pizza started with Publix pizza dough. He topped it with sun-dried tomato pesto (find it on the pasta aisle, next to the basil pesto), crumbled cooked bacon, chopped fresh basil, and sliced fresh mozzarella. Yummy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tomatillo How-To

I just wanted to show y'all what a tomatillo is and how easy it is to remove its husk. When I posted the recipe for Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, several friends commented that the salsa sounded really difficult. Apparently "husk" equals hard. Well, I'm setting the record straight. I made the enchiladas again this weekend and they are definitely worth the (relatively minimal) effort! (If you're in a time crunch, ask your favorite Mexican restaurant if they will sell you tomatillo salsa. Here, LaPaz has tasty tomatillo salsa.)

Step 1: Peel back the papery husk; pull it off.

Step 2: Wash tomatillos, and cook as desired.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beef Brisket and Zucchini Cakes

Tonight we had a new recipe for Beef Brisket. Andy grew up eating brisket and loves it—it's one of his mom's specialties. I've made it once before and thought it was pretty tasty. It's also relatively inexpensive because one brisket can be used for several meals. The recipe I used tonight came from Pioneer Woman's blog. It takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. The flavor profile is similar to my m-o-l's recipe. I served it with mashed potatoes and Zucchini Cakes, which are also from Pioneer Woman. Andy was unsure about the Zucchini Cakes (think latkes without the potatoes) but was won over in the end. The recipe for the Zucchini Cakes calls for 1/2 to 3/4 cup breadcrumbs. I used Italian breadcrumbs (nice flavor); next time, though, I'll use a little less than 1/2 cup.

For the brisket, I marinated it from Sunday till Tuesday and then cooked it Tuesday night (it took 2 hours). Then I refrigerated it again and reheated it, covered with foil, tonight at 400° for about 25 minutes. I added some barbecue sauce to the cooking liquid. That sounds like a very involved process, but it was really pretty simple. It would be a great recipe to make on a weekend and use in several meals the next week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Roasted Asparagus

This has to be the easiest side dish on the planet. It tastes like spring! We had it with tomato sauce and pasta, but it's equally good with grilled steak or chicken. My grandmother (a.k.a. Granny Hunt) used to grow asparagus in her garden because she loved it so much. However the first time she told me that she had planted it, I had to ask her to spell the name of the vegetable. She pronounced it az-per-a-gus, and I had no idea what she meant!

Roasted Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Parmesan cheese shavings

1. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a microplane grater to zest lemon over asparagus; squeeze lemon juice over top.
2. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings, if desired. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce With Chicken Sausage and Balsamic Vinegar

I'm always making different variations of tomato sauce, based on what I have in the pantry. Tonight I came up with a great flavor profile. The sausage was the chicken-roasted red pepper and garlic sausage made at Whole Foods. I combined it with some ground chuck I had in the freezer to make a meaty tomato sauce. The secret ingredient is balsamic vinegar. It doesn't have an overwhelming vinegar flavor; it just provides depth. Dinner was ready in about 45 minutes.

Tomato Sauce With Chicken Sausage and Balsamic Vinegar
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb. ground chuck
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Hot cooked pasta
Parmesan cheese shavings

1. Sauté onion in hot oil 5 minutes. Add in sausage and ground beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked and crumbled. Add in garlic, and cook 1 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, using spoon to break up tomatoes. Stir in tomato paste and next 6 ingredients. Cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes. Serve over hot cooked pasta, and top with Parmesan cheese shavings.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Honey Chicken Salad

Our niece Anna Claire's birthday party was this afternoon at the park around the corner from our house. My aunt and grandmother came in town to celebrate, so I had our family over for lunch before the festivities. This has been a crazy week at work, so I haven't had a lot of time for cooking; so whatever I served had to be super-simple. (Full disclosure: Since we returned from vacation on Sunday, I haven't been to the grocery store. I finally went this morning.) Anyway, for lunch we had Honey Chicken Salad and Grilled Potato Salad. My mom brought fruit and Mel brought cheese curls. It's been a while since I've made this chicken salad, which ran in SL about three years ago. It is outstanding! The combination of mayo and honey is just right; the honey keeps the salad from tasting too mayonnaise-y like it sometimes can. The only thing I did differently is that I used sliced almonds instead of pecans.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grilled Steak and Grilled Potato Salad

We had a wonderful vacation in Hawaii, but it's nice to be home! For dinner tonight, I used my grill pan to make top round steak and an awesome potato salad recipe that will be in the June issue of Southern Living. When the recipe is published, I'll post a link to it. It combines two of my favorite things—potatoes and bacon. You'll have to try it! Be warned: This is going to be my go-to dish for summer cookouts. It may replace last year's Blue Cheese Coleslaw.

The steak was so simple. I sprinkled both sides with grill seasoning and cooked it for about 2 minutes on each side. For the asparagus, I drizzled it with olive oil, and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. Then I grated the zest from 1 lemon over the top and squeezed lemon juice over it. I baked it at 400° for 15 minutes.

Grilled Potato Salad

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Huli Sue's, part 2

Yep, we went back tonight. Everyone except Bob tried something new. Kris and I had the Chile Verde, which was outstanding. I left my e-mail address so the chef will send me the recipe. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! Andy had the pork ribs. For an appetizer, we had chili-cheese fries. I'm usually skeptical of such dishes at restaurants (chili=Hormel in a can; yuck!), but this dish was just as outstanding as everything else we tried. Everyone ended with the Banana Cream Pie, except for me (I don't like bananas). I wish Huli Sue's would come to Alabama!

Chili-Cheese Fries

Chili Verde With Pork and Hominy

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On Top of the World

Tonight our dinner was pretty boring: beef stew and sweet corn muffins at a sheep-shearing camp at 6,000 feet elevation. However the view was fantastic. Following our dinner we drove up almost 8,000 more feet on a VERY bumpy road to the top of Mauna Kea to watch the sunset. Clouds sit on these mountains from about 6,000 to 12,000 feet. But after that you go above them. The sunset was amazing! (Yes, that's snow! It was below freezing on the mountain; earlier in the day, we were sitting out by the bay in our bathing suits. Big Island is full of contrasts.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Huli Sue's

After a day at Hawaii Volcano's National Park, we drove to Hilo on the opposite side of the island around sunset and visited its tropical rainforest climate. Quite a contrast to the more arid side that we are staying on. For dinner, we stopped in the town of Waimea (which is also called Kamuela) at a restaurant called Huli Sue's that the excellent guidebook (Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed) we are using highly recommended. And we weren't disappointed! This is the kind of restaurant I would love to own one day. The decor is eclectic, casual, and comfortable. Best of all, the food is outstanding! You sit at picnic tables or long wooden ones with mismatched chairs. The walls are vibrant yellow and aqua, and colorful plates are hung around the dining room. There is even a red stove with gas logs. Great atmosphere! The guidebook raved about the pork ribs and banana cream pie, and we tried those items and more. Everything was terrific! (I hope we go back before we leave.) Andy and I had the fish and chips with mango salsa, Kris had the pork ribs (the meat wouldn't stay on the bone—she had to eat the meat with a fork), and Bob had a mixed barbecue plate with sausage, brisket, and pulled pork. The restaurant has three terrific barbecue sauces: Paniolo-Chipotle, Mandarin-Honey Mojo, and Crackseed (Chinese Dried Plum-Ling hi Miu). Our table's hands-down fave was the Paniolo-Chipotle. (By the way, paniolo is a Hawaiian cowboy. Don't worry, there isn't one in the sauce!) Andy and Kris LOVED the banana cream pie. I thought my vanilla milk shake was just okay, my one disappointment. This was a terrific find!

Fish and chips

Pork ribs

Mixed barbecue plate

Banana Cream Pie

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Caramel-Macadamia Nut Pull-Apart Bread

When we travel with Bob and Kris, our pattern is to cook breakfast, eat a light lunch, and then go out for a nice dinner. (Food is a top priority for us!) This morning I had originally planned to make cinnamon rolls from frozen biscuits, but they don't have frozen biscuits in Hawaii. So I was going to try the same recipe with refrigerated biscuits. However, I was afraid that after rolling them out, they might not rise. So I punted and came up with this variation on a decadent bread. Most recipes call for three cans of refrigerated biscuits and are made in a Bundt pan. Our condo didn't have one and I only had one can of biscuits, so I used a loaf pan. It was just the right size for four hungry adults.

Caramel-Macadamia Nut Pull-Apart Bread
1 can homestyle biscuits (I used Grands Homestyle Buttermilk Biscuits.)
Brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
5 oz. macadamia nuts, chopped (I used toffee-coated nuts, but plain would work equally well.)
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Cut biscuits into quarters. Sprinkle brown sugar on the bottom of a lightly greased loaf pan; top with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, half of nuts, and half of biscuit pieces. Pour half of butter over biscuits. Repeat layers once.
2. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until biscuits are done. Invert onto a serving plate. Serve warm.

Caprese Salad

For dinner tonight we decided to have something light because we have been eating a lot! We had Caprese Salad, grilled Rosemary Focaccia (Andy's job), and leftover pineapple from breakfast. Very simple and tasty! The best thing of all was that we ate on the lanai and listened to the wind through the palm trees. Paradise!

Caprese Salad
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves or dried basil (Although fresh is best, but I couldn't find it at the market today. Dried works fine.)
Salt and pepper
Garnish: kalamata olives
Grilled rosemary focaccia bread slices

1. Alternate mozzarella and tomato slices around the edge of a serving platter. (If you use fresh basil, place basil leaves between the cheese and tomato slices.) Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil, salt, and pepper. Mound kalamata olives in center, if desired. Serve with grilled bread slices.

Grilled Bread Slices
You can apply this same concept to whatever crusty bread you have on hand.
1. Brush both sides of each bread slice with olive oil. Sprinkle with ground black pepper. Grill over medium heat, turning once, until bread slices crisp and begin to brown.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Breakfast in Hawaii

When you see what we had for breakfast today, there is no doubt about where we are. Macadamia nut-cinnamon pancakes and fresh pineapple were on the menu. The pancakes were from a mix that was part of the welcome gift in our condo on Big Island. They were nothing to write home about, but the pineapple was outstanding—fresh, juicy, and golden yellow! I hope to do some real cooking while we're here. There's a cookbook in the condo kitchen called Aloha Cuisine, which should provide plenty of inspiration. This blog is all about food, but humor me for posting a picture from our 24-hour trip to O'ahu. This offers just a snapshot (pun intended) of the beauty of these islands. God's creation leaves me speechless! Look for more food posts later. Aloha!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blue Cheese-Bacon Dip

Yesterday we had a shower for a coworker who is getting married in May. Hands down, our department makes the best party food around. We love this dip because it combines three of our favorite ingredients—cream cheese, blue cheese, and bacon. It is based on a SL recipe from 2004. Here's my slight variation.

Blue Cheese-Bacon Dip
2 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
1 (4-oz.) package blue cheese, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup pecans, toasted
1/3 cup whipping cream
7 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Bagel chips, pita chips, assorted crackers, grapes

1. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. Stir in blue cheese and next 4 ingredients. Spoon mixture into individual ramekins or a small baking dish.
2. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Serve with desired crackers and grapes.