Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Halibut (and cockles) in herb broth from Martha Stewart

This is a really simple but impressive-looking and tasting dish. It calls for cockles too but I skipped them this time. Wild halibut is so delicious right now it can easily stand on its own.

Serves 4

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
3 cups fish stock (I bought Kitchen Basics' natural seafood stock (fish fumet) which is carried at Whole Foods and it worked just fine)
1 pound cockles or clams, scrubbed
4 Pacific halibut, striped bass, or Pacific cod fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds in total), skinned, bones removed
Freshly ground pepper

Cover mushrooms with boiling water. Let stand until softened, about 3 minutes. Drain and finely chopped, set aside.

Put 1/4 cup of each of the herbs into a food processor; set aside. Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons of each of the herbs, the mushrooms, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Bring stock to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat to medium-low; add cockles. Cover; cook until cockles open, about 2 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cockles to a bowl, and cover (keep heat on).

Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Add to stock. Cover; cook, carefully turning once, until center is opaque, 2 - 3 minutes per side (may be slightly longer if fillet is very thick). Using a slotted spatula, transfer fish to a plate, and cover.

Bring stock to a boil. Pour half the stock into food processor with herbs; puree (be careful with hot liquid). Add to remaining stock; pour through a fine sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on herbs; discard herbs (I just pour the food processed mixture back into the original pot with the remaining stock through a sieve - saves a bowl to wash). Divide fish and cockles among bowls. Ladle broth into bowls; top fish with reserved herb mixture.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hummingbird cupcakes from Martha Stewart

Hummingbird cake is always a non-chocolate favorite. There are many recipes out there that are largely similar except in butter and oil content. Some leave out the coconut. I opted for Martha's because I generally find her recipes to work well. She called for dried pineapple "flowers" as a garnish but they were too fussy for me (although beautiful). Truth be told, I tried to make them and failed - they never dried out enough. See Martha Stewart for details. I experimented with a couple of other garnishes instead -- store-bought dried pineapple and pecans to suggest the ingredients in the batter and sweet peas and nasturtiums I found in the farmer's market to remind of hummingbirds (plus, don't they look sweet?).

For the cupcakes (makes 24 cupcakes)

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large)
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 350°, with rack in center. Line cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture, mixing until combined. Stir in flour mixture.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with dried pineapple flowers, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

For the frosting (Makes 3 cups)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add butter, beating until incorporated.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add sugar, beating until incorporated. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

Note: Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2003

Spicy low-fat chicken patty

I make this when I'm feeling like being really virtuous. It's very healthy and full of flavor. It requires a lot of ingredients but most are pantry items. I have no idea where this recipe came from any more.

Spicy low-fat chicken patty

1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and finely chopped by hand
1/2 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or Italian parsley if you don't like cilantro)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped, peeled, fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Vietnamese chili paste
3 large eggs whites or 2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats coarsely ground in a blender or food processor
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon or lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients except lemon juice in a medium size mixing bowl and mix well. Shape into six patties.

Place a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the patties. Cook until deeply browned, about 4 minutes on each side.

Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until the patties are thoroughly cooked.

Drizzle with the lemon juice and serve immediately.

Zucchini soup recipe from Alison

This is an old recipe from a friend (I don't remember where she got it anymore) which makes a healthy, flavorful soup that's good hot or cold (I usually serve it cold). I usually add ~4x the amount of curry powder to pump up the flavor -- season as you like.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs zucchini, sliced
3/4 cup yellow onion, finally chopped
1/2 tsp curry powder (or to your taste)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish

Slice (1/4 inch thick) zucchini and saute in a large, deep pan in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add onion, cover, cook 5 minutes. Add curry, cook 1 minute. Add chicken stock, boil, and cook for 30 minutes after full boil. Puree in blender or food processor being careful not to burn yourself. Garnish and serve.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bibb lettuce salad from Thomas Keller's Bouchon

This is my new favorite salad. The recipe in the cookbook call for individually assembled salads which are quite beautiful but a little fussy. I've also done it with hand-shredded bib lettuce in a large bowl sprinkled with herbs in the same proportion noted below. The dressing recipe makes more than double what you would need for a week's worth of dressing so consider halving or even quartering the recipe.

For the salad

4 heads Bibb lettuce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
1/4 cup chervil leaves
1/2 cup House Vinagrette (see below)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Carefully cut out the core from each head of lettuce and separate the leaves, but keep each head of lettuce together; discard any tough outer leaves. Because each head of lettuce will be reassembled, the easiest way to work is with one head at a time. First, place the leaves in a bowl of cold water to refresh them and remove any dirt, then lift out and spin-dry in a salad spinner.

Place the leaves from a single head of lettuce in a bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the shallots and chives, and 1 tablespoon each of the parsley, tarragon and chervil. Then toss gently with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Repeat with the remaining heads.

For each serving, arrange the outer lettuce leaves as a base on the plate and rebuild each head of lettuce, ending with the smallest, most tender leaves.

For the vinaigrette

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups canola oil

Combine the mustard and vinegar in a blender and blend at medium speed for about 15 seconds. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of the oil. Don't be tempted to add all the oil to the blender or the vinaigrette will become too thick. It should be very creamy.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a small bowl and, whisking constantly, slowly stream in the remaining 1 cup oil. (The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Should the vinaigrette separate, use a blender or immersion blender to re-emulsify it.)

Zucchini olive oil cake from Mario Batali

This sounds a little weird but somehow zucchini and olive oil make a great combination. I've made it several times and it's always a hit - it's moist, sweet and fruity and very easy to make.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 cups of shredded zucchini
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and oil until light. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, followed by the dry ingredients, beating thoroughly to combine. Add the zucchini and walnuts.

Pour into a greased 13-inch by 9-inch cake pan.

Bake the cake 35-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top and springy to the touch in the center. Dust the top of the cake with confectioner's sugar and serve.

Spaghettoni al pesto from Barefoot Contessa Parties!

This is a wonderful, fragrant, flavorful pesto that would be equally great on fish or poultry as pasta. This recipe makes ~2 cups of pesto which is enough for at least 5 or 6 pasta dinners. Freeze in individual ice cube trays so you can pop out just the quantity you need down the road.

Recipe calls for spaghettoni but plain spaghetti or linguine work just fine (note: photo shows whole wheat linguine).

Good olive oil
Kosher salt
1 pound spaghettoni, bucatini, or spaghetti
1 to 1 1/2 cups pesto (recipe follows)
Splash some oil in a large pot of salted boiling water and add pasta. Cook the spaghettoni for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente but cooked through. Drain the pasta in a colander and toss it in a large bowl with enough pesto to coat each strand. Taste for seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature.

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis
3 tablespoons diced garlic (9 cloves) (note: watch the measurements if you don't want a very garlicy pesto -- 9 large cloves will create an intense pesto)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely puréed. Add the Parmesan and purée for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Guacamole from Barefoot Contessa courtesy of the Food Network

This makes wonderfully flavorful guacamole. You will not be able to resist eating the whole thing in one sitting. The lemon juice really keeps the avocados green and beautiful. Pump up the hot pepper sauce if you like it spicy.

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 3 cups
User Rating:

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. (I use my hands.) Immediately add the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.
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