Saturday, May 30, 2009

Breaded Balsamic Grilled Tomatoes

A lot of folks don't expect this dish at a barbeque which is why I like it. What could be better than a grilled tomato with Balsamic and a Parmesan, Bread Crumb topping? It's a good accompaniment for almost any grilled dish. Tomato and Balsamic marry well together, the smoky grilled and juicy taste along with the topping is just delicious. Tonight, I had it with Marinated Tri Tip Steak. (Are ya jealous? lol)


1 (or more) large Hot House or Beefsteak Tomato
Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkling of Herbs de Provence

Slice tomato in half. Using a spoon, scoop out about 1/2 inch from the middle of the tomato. This leaves a little "well" for the balsamic and bread crumbs. Score around the inside of each tomato with a knife so that the Balsamic will seep in. Pour a tablespoon of so of the Balsamic into the well and spread it onto the surface scores as well. Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the vinegar to permeate.

Mix bread crumbs and parmesan together with a little garlic powder. Spoon the bread crumb mixture liberally over the tomatoes. Sprinkle a bit of balsamic right onto the mixture which will help adhere it. Sprinkle with Herbs de Provence. Let sit for a bit more.

Revision 1. I've had a chance to toy with this recipe a bit and to improve it. Just mix the crumbs, parmesan, garlic powder, and add all the balsamic to the mixture and mix well. The liquid helps adhere everything to the top, and the balsamic will seep in as it grilling!

Place each tomato onto a small piece of tinfoil and wrap it around the tomato, leaving the top exposed. Place on direct heat on the grill and grill for approximately 20 - 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Remove, let sit for a few minutes and eat immediately.

Know what the photo below is? It's a picture of a grill that runs out of gas 5 minutes into
grilling the tomatoes! I finished them in the oven, but can't believe I let myself run out of gas.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Creamy Potato Salad

One of the things I think you can count on, is that when you try one of my blog recipes, it's been tried and proven. Some of what I post I have made for years, some are new so I make them and make certain they will work for you. Others are recipes I make by feel or judgment so I have to try and precisely get the measurements right so it will come out correctly.

This is one of those recipes that it's a good thing I tested it out first. I'll tell you why in a moment.

That being said, this potato salad was delicious! Really, really good. Adapted from All Recipes.

Ingredients and Method:

4 - 6 medium yukon gold potatoes
3 green onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, including leaves, finely chopped
4 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup dill or sweet pickles, diced
1/4 cup pickle juice
2 hard boiled eggs, shelled, and diced
1 teaspoon salt
parsley for garnish

For the dressing:

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

Cut potatoes (skin on) in half and then each half in quarters. Bring to a boil in salted water for about 10 minutes until a fork can pierce them easily. Don't overcook as we don't want mush potato salad, do we?

Drain cooked potatoes, and let cool on a cutting board. Cut into smaller pieces until they are the size you want and toss in a bowl. Add bacon, 1 tablespoon of bacon grease, pickles, pickle juice, green onions, celery, hard boiled eggs, and salt. Toss well.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan add two beaten eggs, evaporated milk, cornstarch, sugar, mustard and mayo and slowly bring to a boil and stir another minute while it thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.

Now here's the part where my checking out the recipe comes in handy. Because the dressing part is usually TOO much for the amount of potatoes. So add more potatoes if you want, but the point is, when adding the dressing to the potatoes, measure carefully so you can make them as creamy as you want. My mistake was, I just dumped all the dressing over the potato mixture and it was just too much and very soupy. So I had to try and drain excess dressing without losing onions, and taters, and other ingredients. Not good.

So, once the dressing mixture has cooled, add it in increments to the potato mixture until it's exactly the consistency you want.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and refrigerated until fully chilled.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Char Siu Pork Tenderloin

I really enjoy cooking Pork Tenderloin. The cut is so tender, cooks so quickly, and readily lends itself to marinades and sauces. I adapted a recipe from My Recipes which uses a Char Siu marinade. Since my new favorite spice is Chinese 5 spice powder this was ideal. The pork tenderloin can be baked or grilled or even sauteed after marinating. For this rendition, I used the old gas barbeque grill. Delicious.

As for the marinade, it can be used with chicken, wings, drumsticks, pork ribs etc. Do give it a try.

Ingredients and Method:

2 tablespoons rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chinese 5-spice powder
2 tablespoons honey

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Slice pork tenderloin cross-wise into 3/4 inch pieces.

Place in plastic bag and pour marinade over, seal bag, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.

Remove tenderloin, and grill over high heat for approximately 3 - 4 minutes per side, basting with a bit of the marinade. Be careful not to overcook the tenderloin, it tends to cook very quickly. If you have a meat thermometer, remove as SOON as it registers 170 degrees.

Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake

Finally, a nice weekend in Seattle. Sunny, 70 degrees, head to the market, fresh strawberries so I can make one of my favorite desserts. Strawberry Shortcake. I like to have my strawberries over buttermilk biscuits, I like fresh whipped cream, and I especially like adding Balsamic Vinegar to the "sugaring" of the strawberries.

A simple delicious dessert.

Ingredients and Method:

20 medium size fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Wash strawberries and remove caps and pith with the end of a small spoon. Quarter strawberries and place in a bowl. Add sugar and balsamic, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Overnight is better.

Prepare buttermilk biscuits, your own recipe or try Ron's Buttermilk Biscuits from this blog.

Cut in half, spread liberally with strawberry mixture and juices. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Iraqi Brownies

What are Iraqi brownies? Simple, brownies I'm making that I'm sending to my daughter in Iraq. She's a flight medic and arrived in Baghdad 10 days ago. I'm preparing my first care package for her. According to the counter on my blog, she will return home in 340 days. Ugh!!!

This recipe comes from my favorite source for bread and such, King Arthur Flour. I did make some changes though. One, instead of chocolate chips, I added 2 oz. of unsweetened melted chocolate. Secondly, I added a tube of the new Starbucks Instant Italian Roast coffee, VIA Ready Brew. Simply stated, AWESOME! These brownies are thick, and rich, and chocolaty, with a coffee note, and scream for a glass of milk to be in the other hand. I would have frosted them with a light ganache but since they are being shipped overseas, she'll just have to suffer. Hah.

2 sticks butter, melted
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 oz melted unsweetened or semisweet chocolate
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 package Starbucks VIA Ready Brew instant coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour (Bread or All-Purpose is fine)

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Stir after each time to blend. Don't over melt or the chocolate will burn.

Add to bowl and add sugar and beat well. Add beaten eggs to mixture and incorporate. Add cocoa, salt, baking powder, coffee and extract and mix well.

Mix in flour.

Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan, and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cool completely, cut into squares. Serve immediately. OR, in my case, carefully package and send to Iraq in a care package.

Love you Merissa!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chinese 5 Spice Game Hen

I was reading my last posts over the last month or so and I realized I have a tendency which is to find a spice, or flavoring, and then I seem to focus on that for one or two recipes before moving on. (i.e. Smoked Paprika, Herbs de Provence, etc.) Well, now I have another one. Chinese 5 spice powder.

Chinese 5 spice powder is interesting in it's history. While it’s commonly believed that it gets it’s name because it contains 5 spices, the number actually refers to the 5 elements: wood, fire, water, earth, metal, and water. In traditional Chinese medicine, these elements manifest themselves in various parts of the human anatomy and imbalances in these elements are said to be the cause of disease.

Various herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years to restore balance to these elements which is how 5 spice powder came into being. Today it’s used in a variety of roasted and braised meat dishes, but it’s probably most recognizable in the west as the main seasoning in Char Siu (Chinese barbecued pork).

In addition, a variant on the "reason" for 5 spice is Five-spice powder encompasses all five flavors - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.

I've seen the spice called for over and over in Chinese recipes over the years, and I DO cook a bit of chinese food, but never made one that called for it. That being said, this first recipe is not a Chinese recipe. It's my old, reliable, Cornish Game Hen. Check it out. (But I bet you see some Char Siu blogged in my immediate future)

5 spice to me seems a perfect match for fowl dishes. This particular marinade yields a delicious nutty and pungent quality to the bird. Delicious.

Ingredients and Method:

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
1/4 cup oil
1 clove garlic (smashed)
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons five spice powder

Mix marinade in a bowl.

Wash game hen thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Place in ovenproof dish or pan. Spoon 1/4 cup of marinade into cavity of hen. Baste the outside of hen with marinade mixture.

Bake in 350 degree oven until meat thermometer registers 180 degrees. (About 1 hour) Every 10 minutes or so while baking, baste the bird liberally again with the marinade. You want to wind up with a nice baked patina of the 5 spice marinade when done.

Remove, let sit for 10 minutes and serve immediately.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Brown Butter Mizithra Pasta

I really enjoy making things with a long recipe that is all from scratch. I don't mind the investment of time and effort because the results are usually worth it. That being said,
I ALSO appreciate a recipe that is 3 or 4 ingredients, is made quickly, and is delicious. This is one of those recipes.

So do you like Mizithra cheese? Have you had the Brown Butter Pasta and Mizithra cheese at Spaghetti Factory? I LOVE that stuff. Haven't been to a Spaghetti Factory in a very long time though. I have from time to time made pasta at home, with butter, and lot's of Mizithra and it's good, just not AS good as Spaghetti Factory's. So over the weekend, I decided to do some research and try to figure out why.

Here's what I figured out. One, the browned butter! Duh! That's what gives it such a delicious nutty flavor. But, I didn't know exactly how to "brown" butter. I do NOW though!

Two, the cheese, don't skimp on it. Douse it in cheese, tons o'cheese. You almost can't put enough cheese on it.

Do these two things and guess what, melt in your mouth, luscious, browned butter pasta with mizithra cheese just as good, if not better than Spaghetti factory.

Ingredients and Method:

two servings sizes of Spaghetti
1/2 stick butter
6 tablespoons grated Mizithra cheese
salt and pepper to taste
parsley or basil for garnish

Cook pasta until still slightly firm (al dente) in boiling salted water. Drain.

As the pasta is cooking, in a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Do not stir. The solids will separate from the oil in the butter. (At this point the oil is clarified butter, but that's not what we want)

Continue to heat, watching until the all solids have separated and the oil turns chestnut brown in color. If the butter foams too much, stir until browned. Immediately remove from heat and let the solids sink to the bottom of the pan.

Gently pour off ONLY the browned oil portion of the butter and immediately pour over the cooked spaghetti and mix well, pour cheese all over, mix well, add garnish and serve immediately. If not cheesy enough for you, just sprinkle on more Mizithra. You can't have too much in my opinion.