Refreshing Summer Beverage – Agua Fresca!

Ah, Summertime! Time for refreshing summer beverages and relaxation in the shade. This Summer, discover the simple pleasure of Agua Fresca.

Simple to make, tremendously refreshing, and limitless varieties.

Some varieties have pureed fruit such as cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon, others feature berries and herbs while others call for cucumber or carrot slices.

My favorite flavor is citrus so to make it, use 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange and 1 grapefruit if there is one on hand. Additionally I add herbs such as mint, basil or sage on occasion too.

This one is citrus with mint.IMG_5627

Slice the fruit into thick slices, remove any seeds and place the slices into a large pitcher.

Add the mint leaves and a small amount of sugar (or leave the sugar out entirely).

Use a wooden spoon or a muddler to gently crush the mint leaves and the fruit. All you want to do here is to start the release of juice and essential oils.

IMG_5622Fill the pitcher with water, fill another glass with ice and pour. Garnish with mint leaves and a citrus slice.IMG_5626

Prop your feet up and enjoy!

If by any odd chance you have any remaining at the end of the day, remove the fruit to store the beverage overnight. If the fruit is left in, the drink will turn quite bitter from the pith of the fruit. Sometimes you can get a second pitcher out of the fruit too.

I do hope you enjoy this version of agua fresca.IMG_5628

Raw Kale Salad – Give it a Massage!

I was reading a recipe the other day on the Food Network website regarding a Massaged Kale Salad from the Aarti Party Show.

Kale is on the edge of being overdone but this is worth exploring. Give it a try before you get sick of eating so much kale!

Kale saladPrevious thoughts had me thinking kale was too tough to eat raw. A quick saute, dip in hot oil, plunge into a hot oven or dropped into soup is how I prepared it before this recipe caught my eye.

So I tried it. Massage your kale, sounds kinky right?!

I had to come up with another way of massaging the kale as not everyone likes to have their food handled to this extent by someone else’s bare hands.

Use a dough hook instead of your hands

Use a dough hook instead of your hands

Bare hand contact can be a health issue if the person touching the food does not wash their hands correctly or is carrying some kind of germ.

While the recipe wasn’t followed, the massage technique was. The result is an addicting, tender kale salad that can be dressed in so many ways.

After massaging the kale, create your salad. All you need to add is other ingredients and the salad is already dressed.

Choose a toasted nut and a favorite fruit, fresh or dried. Add some cheese and you can go forever with the combinations that can be created as additions for this most excellent salad.

This is what I did last night:

Kale Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries and Shaved Parmesan

  • 1 pound kale
  • Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • A light sprinkle of salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Trim the stems from the leaves

Trim the stems from the leaves

Trim leaves from the stems, wash thoroughly in cool water to remove any garden friends, sand and dirt.

If the kale is very sandy or has a lot of soil on it, soak it in a deep bath of salty water. Dip and lift the kale from the water so the soil is left behind in the bottom of the soaking bowl. You may need to do this several times to get rid of all the dirt.

Chop the kale leaves small, but not too tiny; bite size is perfect.

Place the chopped kale into a bowl. Drizzle the kale with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. The amount you use depends on how much kale you use. Only use enough to lightly coat the leaves, you don’t want anything on the bottom of the bowl.

Using your hands (washed of course! and wear gloves) or in a stand mixer on low with the dough hook, massage the greens for 2-3 minutes.

You will notice the leaves changing texture, becoming more tender and turning a brighter green as well.

Peel Parmesan into the salad with a peeler.

Peel Parmesan into the salad with a peeler.

After 2-3 minutes of massage, add toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries and use a peeler to shave Parmesan into the salad.

The above amounts can be adjusted to your liking.

Try other fruits, nuts and cheese in this salad, avocado is amazing too.

Top the salad with beef, grilled chicken, shrimp or fish to make it an entrée salad.

Serve and enjoy!

eating kale saladThis salad was so good, I came back down and scarfed another bowl in the middle of the night and another after breakfast.

Now I need to go buy more kale.

DSC_0051

Pumpkin Snicker-doodles

Pumpkin Snicker-doodles are delightful. Full of rich Autumnal flavors, they are sure to please your sweet tooth craving.

Yum! Cookies!

I made last year and sent some down to Tyler. I had my culinary students make them to share with the local Ronald McDonald House, and now my son wants the recipe again. He had several friends last year who were going to another friends home for Thanksgiving and they wanted to take these pumpkin cookies.

So somehow they found a kitchen to bake in. We had an afternoon of “cooking by text” with successful results. Hopefully they had enough to take to their hostess.

This year he and his girlfriend are in apartments and have their own kitchens. They are going to cook for each other this year. I am publishing the recipe for Pumpkin Snicker-doodles, along with the method and photos so one of them can make the cookies again.

So, you don’t like pumpkin? Substitute mashed banana instead of pumpkin.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies so you may want to cut the recipe in half or just share!

Here are some reasons you should make these this afternoon:

  • They are easy
  • They taste great
  • They look impressive
  • The recipe makes a lot of cookies so there is plenty to share
  • Your house will smell wonderful all afternoon
  • You can freeze some dough to bake later
  • It’s another Pumpkin thing!

Pumpkin Snicker-doodles

Makes about 6 dozen

  • 1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 cups AP flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt

For rolling dough balls in before baking:

  • 1 cup white sugar mixed
  • 1 ½  tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl beat butter, both sugars, eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla on medium until butter is evenly incorporated into pumpkin.

In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and spices.

Fully Mixed Dough, Chill for at least 1 hour

Roll balls of the chilled dough in cinnamon sugar

Space the cookies 2″ apart on a lined sheet pan. Use parchment paper if you don’t have a silpat sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers.

Beat dry ingredients into wet until it is all mixed in.  The dough will be fluffy but very sticky.

Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons  form golf-ball sized balls with the chilled dough.

Roll balls in cinnamon sugar.

Place 2” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Flatten slightly with fingers, but not too much.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are crackled and the edges are light golden brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing to cooling sheets.

Cool cookies on a wire rack before drizzling with icing sugar.

To make icing sugar, combine 10x powdered sugar with a small bit of milk and a few drops of vanilla. Add the liquid a few drops at a time as the sugar will reach drizzling consistency quickly. Us a fork to drizzle, allow to dry before stacking cookies.

Eat and be happy!

Pumpkin Snicker doodles

In My Kitchen October 2012

I went to the new posts reader this morning and saw Celia’s new “In My Kitchen ” post  at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and was shocked at how fast time has flown by.

Yikes! It has been over 2 weeks since I have posted anything. Guess when life gets busy, things slip by without realizing how much time has slipped by unnoticed.

turnips

turnips (Photo credit: hagerstenguy)

In my kitchen were 5#’s of fresh turnips and radishes which are being turned into Pickled Turnips. The recipe came from David Lebovitz a while back. As much as I love turnips and radishes, the recipe intrigued me, so I had to try them and fell in love immediately. A post with the recipe is in the works.

Pickled Turnips

In my kitchen is a big basket of lemons and some limes. Robert uses the limes in his drinks so I need to come up with some ways of using all these lemons we over bought. So I am planning to make lemon curd, preserved lemons, lemonade, dried zest, maybe some lemon vinegar and emulsified lemon oil and Chicken Piccata.

A Basket of Lemons

Right now, they are just a basket of lemons.

I bought a lemon squeezer just because.

Lemon Squeezer

In my kitchen is a new pan! I love this new square pan from All-Clad. I am sure they call it a griddle but I sure do like it. I have used it everyday since I got it.

Square Pan

In my kitchen is my levian. It was kept in the fridge all summer. Now that the weather is cooling down, it can come back out and hang out at room temperature. It will develop a deep rich flavor this way. Typically I make bread every week. I think September was a time warp because I didn’t make bread but once, maybe twice. And now October is also flying by. Can time be measured accurately by a levain life cycle? if so, I should read and listen to what it is telling me.

A Bowl of Levain

I have two buckwheat loaves in the oven. Next is a 10-grain loaf and an olive loaf with lemon and rosemary. I look forward to making that one!

Tyler gets to move back into his apartment next weekend so he will be cooking again. The “How To . . .” posts will start back again soon.

And there is another White Dinner Event on October 27 and classes resume again soon. Is it true that time speeds up as you get older? Is it time to write the November IMK already?!

Mushroom Risotto

I made mushroom risotto just to see if there could be any left over to make the risotto balls Frugal Feeding made. Only he called them Rosemary and Garlic Arancini. I suppose that is the correct Italian name for them more than “risotto balls.”

By any other name they are still just as good.

Let’s make  Mushroom Risotto and if you have any left, you can hop over to Frugals site and make the Arancini.

But first a note on how to clean mushrooms:

Think of them like little sponges. if you run them under water or (horrors!) soak them in a bowl of water to ‘clean’ them, you are water logging the poor little mushroom. The mushroom will release that water while you cook, you will not get a good color on them when cooking. Instead of saute, you will be braising them.

Instead, wipe them with a clean towel, trim the tough part of the stem (shiitake – remove the entire stem, it is tough) your are ready to go.

Portobello mushrooms can be ‘peeled’ to create a prettier mushroom. Use a spoon to scrape out the gills and then peel the lip of the mushroom to remove the top layer, peeling towards the top middle of the mushroom cap.

Save the scraps for flavoring stocks for soup or sauces.

Peeling a Portobello

Use a spoon to scrape out the gills

1 peeled Portobello and 1 not peeled ; see the difference?
Save those scraps! Freeze them.

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup arborio rice

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

1 tablespoon  fresh minced garlic

1 cup cleaned and sliced fresh mushrooms of your choice

White button and shiitake mushrooms

If you use Portobello mushrooms, be sure to clean the gills out from under the cap. They turn everything a dark, almost black color.


1 up to 1 quart of warm chicken stock

If you use a stock that has salt in it, adjust your salt flavor at the end. Salt concentrates as liquids evaporate.

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, not graded

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the mushrooms first in the same pan you will cook the risotto. This allows the mushrooms to develop that deep flavor for which mushrooms are so famous.

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 1 pound mushrooms of your choice, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil or clarified butter
  • 1 shallot sliced
  • 2 clove fresh garlic smashed and minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the pan over high heat, add oil.

Add mushrooms sliced shallots, garlic saute until they begin to develop color and start to release their juices. Add white wine to deglaze and cook until the pan is nearly dry.

Now add the rice and continue with the risotto recipe below.

Note: This is a great way to saute mushrooms for any other way you want to eat mushrooms, steak, Quiche, soup

  • Heat the chicken stock in a pot and have it nearby with a ladle.
  • In the same pan you cooked the mushrooms above, add the rice.
  • Saute for 2 minutes. Stir to coat the rice with the mushroom goodness in the pan.
  • Ladle about 8 ounces of warm stock into the rice pan.
  • Stir to combine and continue stirring until the stock has been absorbed.
  • Repeat 3 more times.
  • Taste the rice, there should be a slight bite to the grain, known as “al-dente.”
  • The last addition will be 1/2 cup white wine, stir until the wine has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the butter.
  • Adjust seasonings and serve.

Warm chicken stock, have a ladle handy

Saute the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme and wine to develop flavor in the mushrooms before adding rice. Cook down to nearly dry again.

Add rice, saute to coat the rice with oil and mushroom jus

Add warm stock and stir until absorbed

Stir until all stock has been absorbed; add more stock

Add more stock and keep stirring

I learned to make risotto the old-fashioned way; by stirring a lot. Stirring makes it creamy. There are some methods where you cook it much like you do plain rice. I don’t find the results as creamy as the stir-like-a-madman method.

Besides, it gives your arms a decent work out.

If you want to make risotto and hold it for serving later, take it only half way through the steps of adding stock. Cool it down.

When you are ready to finish, heat more stock, add the rice and finish the cooking process.

Serve immediately as risotto can get quite gluey as it cools down after it finishes cooking.

I made enough to have some leftover for the Arancini but when I went to make them, there was no leftover risotto.

So the myth continues, there is no such thing as leftover risotto.

I haven’t seen much leftover wine either.

Why is that?

Robert said to just make more risotto and make the Arancini immediately.

I think he just wants more risotto.

Mushroom Risotto

Writing in Cookbooks

Not too long ago, another bloggerThe Ranting Chef, wrote about writing in his cookbooks. He said he didn’t write in books until recently. He came up with a great way of categorizing their favorite recipes and those recipes with the highest ratings were listed in the front of the book by a ranking system he devised.

Writing in cookbooks is a wonderful thing to do. I make notes of variations, adjustments, likes and dislikes. What works and what does not work is also clearly noted.

The only cookbooks I don’t write in are those that I consider “art” cookbooks. Even then, if I make an adjustment of note, I’ll print it along side of the appropriate text.

There is a spiral bound notebook I keep nearby in the kitchen to collect thoughts, ideas and original recipes. I keep post-it tabs on pages I want to find again and again.

My cookbooks are my tools as are my knives and micro-planes. They do you no good if you don’t use them.

Cookbooks are meant to tease you into making something you haven’t tried before. To learn a different technique, style or how to handle a new ingredient. Valuable lessons.

Not all recipes work. When first looking at a recipe, I’ll scan it for technique, style and ingredients and ingredient ratio. After all a recipe is only a mathematical ratio of ingredients with the factor of heat applied.

Many recipe writers don’t understand the complex relationship of ingredients. Considering an ingredients function: liquid, acid, fat, sweeteners etc. and how they interact, and how the ingredients relate to each is crucial for a recipe to work out. I have a text-book that has so many typos in it (shame, shame!) I am not going to use it anymore.

When we discover a recipe in class that isn’t working, we make notes about it directly in the book. Some students look at me as if I just sprouted another head when I tell them to note it “in the book”. The book is a tool and unless you use it, it won’t do you much good.

Leaning on a book  too much instead of learning the essence of the dish, a book becomes a crutch without deeper learning. Learn to scan and analyze what your recipe is trying to tell you. Notice ratio relationships, techniques and methods. Notice ingredient combinations.

Soon you will develop your own recipes and menus from looking at what you have on hand rather than depending on a book to help you decide what to cook.

Learn cooking correctly, you will use a recipe as an idea rather than follow it word for word. If you learn the five basic “Mother Sauces” you will be able to recognize the methods and techniques and be able to say to yourself ” Oh, I know how to do that, it’s a bechamel” and be able to use that as a jumping off point rather than following the recipe exactly.

Most of all, remember not all recipes work.

So, Ranting Chef, I applaud your recipe rating system.

Keep writing and making notes in those books. You won’t need to remember the recipe needs 32 ounces, not 3.

Cookbook Shelf

Cookbook Shelf (Photo credit: LollyKnit)

Thai Style “Green Sauce”

We went to “Thai Taste” for lunch the other day. On the table were several bottles of different sauces. One soy, a hot fiery red sauce and this green sauce. It was simply delicious.

We bought a pint of it to bring home, not only to enjoy over several meals, but to figure out just what is in this Thai Style Green Sauce so I could make it.

Spooning the sauce over rice gave a clear distinctive flavor of all the ingredients. The woman at the restaurant looked quite nervous when I asked her what was in the sauce. “Just jalapeno and vinegar” she said.

Right, I thought, she doesn’t want to revel her recipe.

Something that really bothers me about some cooks is how they “hoard’ their recipes, keeping them secret as if they were some precious commodity. Taking a well-loved recipe to the grave is shameful and is not viewed in a good light, in my eyes anyway.

What is the purpose of keeping recipes for well-loved dishes secret? Is it a control issue? A fear issue? I knew someone once who said they are glad to share recipes but they always leave a key ingredient out.

Why? So that someone else wouldn’t make the dish as good as they can.

That is ridiculous.

So what if someone makes the green sauce at home? I will still come eat at your restaurant. I’m not coming for your green sauce, I am coming for the other things you offer on the menu.

So here is my recipe for Thai Style Green Sauce.

Make it and share. Tell the entire world how to make it, everyone should know.

Thai Style Green Sauce

There are no quantities here, just ingredients. Make a small amount, use it and make more.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bunch Cilantro, washed
  • 1 green jalapeno pepper, remove ribs and seeds for milder heat, use 2 or more for hotter sauce
  • 2 scallions
  • small handful of both garlic and onion chives
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, sliced thin so it blends well
  • seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • fish sauce like Nam Pla

Place all the herbs, garlic and ginger into a blender. Add enough rice wine vinegar to cover. Add a generous splash of fish sauce and blend for 2-3 minutes to get it all blended together.

Taste and adjust flavors by adding more fish sauce or more vinegar.

I served this on cedar planked salmon for dinner.

Use the sauce on noodles, over rice, on grilled meats and seafood. It is very versatile and has many uses.

How do you use Thai Style Green sauce?

Hand Pies

We don’t have birthday cakes around here, we have birthday pies because we like pies better than cake. What better way to have pie than to have a hand pie?

NOTE: No innuendo intended with “hand pies”. That’s what we call them. The guys often giggle and I won’t quote a recent comment. Although they did say the hand pie was better. . .

What is a hand pie?

Cherry Hand Pies

Hand pies are small individual pies you can eat in your hand without a knife or fork or even spoon for that matter. It is highly recommended you do have a napkin.

Hand pies are sweet or savory and  filled with anything your heart desires.

If you think of savory ones like mini calzones and sweet ones like small turnovers, you will have lots of ideas on how to fill your lovely hand pies.

I had these cherries left over from another project and thought hand pies would be perfect since there wasn’t enough to make a regular sized pie.

There were several apples in the refrigerator that needed to be used so I diced and sliced them up and created some apple hand pies too.

Warm apple hand pies are a real treat, eating bite by bite, while sipping a hot cup of coffee.

Here are some Savory ideas:

  • Chicken and cheese
  • Broccoli and cheese
  • Your favorite pizza toppings
  • Spicy pork (from BBQ to Cuban style)
  • Tomato and herb
  • Black bean and corn with salsa and cheddar
  • Scrambled eggs with herbs and cheese
  • Cheese steak and grilled onions

Sweet ideas:

Any fruit pie filling from apple, cherry, blueberry and anything you can dream up.

What ever style you make, make sure you have the fillings cold.

You can buy the ready-made pie dough or you can make it. Since it is so ridiculously easy, there is no reason not to make it yourself.

Basic Pie Dough

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional for sweet pies)
  • 8 tablespoons or 1 stick or 4 ounces of butter cut into 8 pieces
  • up to 1/4 cup ice-cold water

Best method is to use a food processor. It is simple and super fast.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use an old-fashioned pastry cutter or even two knives to cut the butter into the flour.

Add the flour, salt and sugar if using to the bowl, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.

Add the water a tablespoon at a time to bring the dough together. You may need all of the water, or just some of it and if the dough feels dry, you may need to add more.

Note: Some people like to sub half of the water with vodka or white vinegar claiming it makes a very flaky crust.

Try it and you be the judge.

As long as you do not overwork the dough by kneading it or over mixing, and you can still see bits of fat in the mix, your dough should turn out flaky. Just mix the ingredients until they come together, and keep the dough cold.

You are not making bread so don’t knead!

After mixing the dough, flatten the dough into a disk, wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

To make the hand pies, roll the dough, cut desired shapes. I chose to use round cutters to make half-moon shapes. You can use whatever shape you want.

Here are a couple of filling recipes:

Cherry Hand Pie Filling

  • 1 15 oz can sweet canned Big cherries reserve juice
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons instant tapioca
  • t teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt

Re-hydrate the dried cherries in cherry juice from the canned cherries. Mix everything together in a bowl and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes for the tapioca to soften a little.

Roll out the dough, cut into shapes, egg wash, fill, fold and pinch the seams closed tightly.

Egg wash the outsides of the pies and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

Apple Hand Pie Filling

  • 1# Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced into medium dice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon instant tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to mix the juices as they develop. Make and bake the hand pies as described above.

The hardest part is keeping them around until they cool; hands come from all directions and these lovely morsels disappear almost instantly!

Cut the shapes and place the filling in the middle

Fold pies in half and pinch to seal; egg wash and sprinkle with sugar

Apple hand pies