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The new season for the Farmers’ Market brought the beginning of a promising supply of tasty locally grown produce. Among the first delights were beautiful asparagus spears. I used the first asparagus bundle to make the following asparagus cheese tart. The recipe originated on the “What’s Gaby Cooking?” website (http://whatsgabycooking.com). It’s simple, quick to prepare, and oh, so tasty! It’s also easily adaptable to your own cheese preferences and I made a few alterations to the original recipe myself.  Give it a try before all the fresh asparagus is gone for the year.

Gorgeous and delicious!

 

ASPARAGUS CHEESE TART

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)

½ cup shredded Gruyere (I used white cheddar once instead of Gruyere)

¼ c. shredded Parmesan

1 bunch of skinny asparagus

1 T. olive oil

¼ c. minced scallions or shallots, optional

salt and black pepper

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Trim off 1 inch of the asparagus to remove the woody ends.  Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Thaw the puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper (about 30 minutes) until you can carefully unfold the two flaps. Roll out the dough slightly to seal the seams. Transfer the parchment paper and dough to a baking sheet.

4. Sprinkle half of the cheese onto the pastry. Line up the asparagus spears on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the scallions or shallots if using. Scatter the rest of the cheese on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the pastry dough is golden brown and puffy and the asparagus is roasted and cooked through.

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Sam scored a bagful of jalapenos at the farmers’ market on Saturday with dreams of a get-together chowing down on jalapenos stuffed with cheesey goodness and wrapped with bacon. We chatted with Alex and decided that nachos and mojitos would be good accompaniments and so it was on for tonight.

The jalapenos were halved, lengthwise, seeded and deveined, stuffed with cream cheese (some mixed with chives), and then wrapped with half slices of bacon. These little devils were baked in as 375 degree oven for at least a half hour until the bacon looked thoroughtly cooked and we couldn’t stand the wait. At that point we retired to the patio, mojitos in hand, to enjoy the varying heat of the peppers. These were all from the same farm, presumably the same crop of plants, but there were some that were relatively tame and others that were hotter. Luckily, there were no killers in the bunch. (That’s happened before!)

While we were waiting for the jalapenos, we prepared the nacos. A nice, thick layer of taco chips on a half sheet pan, topped with cooked and drained ground beef, refried beans, diced canned green chilies, dollops of sour cream, grated jack and cheddar cheese, minced onion, and into the oven for 15 minutes at 350, until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is hot and too tempting for words.

We dug into those babies and made short work of them, washing them down with a second mojito. Love those more than margaritas. They are the only reason I grow mint. Of course, I wind up using the mint in other ways, but in the spring when I plant my herb garden, I think of mojitos and make sure to get a nice and healthy mint plant. (Be sure to plant mint in a pot, not in the garden, or it will take over. You will have mint enough for mojitos for everyone in the neighborhood.

What a nice evening it was. Kids and dogs running around, adults enjoying adult food and beverages, the weather pleasurable, and the end of summer fast approaching. I hope your Labor Day holiday had at least one day as great as today was for us.

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While checking out some foodie blogs the other day, I ran across this tempting recipe for soup. Quick preparations and handy ingredients prompted me to make this yesterday for lunch and I’m here to tell you that it was well worth the effort.

It is a timely soup for us now; the end of summer approaches and the local farm markets are offering the bounty of nature. We have oodles of tomatoes, peppers of all colors, and more squash than we can handle. The corn has been great and if you’re lucky enough to have a few ears on hand (or a can of corn in the pantry) give this a try. It’s from “locallemons.com” – that’s local lemons. My apologies to the “locallemons.com” people for altering their recipe to suit my needs and whims.

Quick and Tasty Summer in a Bowl

Ingredients:

3 ears of corn

2 pounds of tomatoes (you can use canned if necessary)

2 1/2 T. roasted garlic (or just use raw garlic, minced)

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

2 poblano peppers

2 jalapeno peppers (I used crushed red pepper flakes about 1/4 teaspoon instead of jalapenos)

1/4 c. chopped cilantro

2 T. butter or oil (I used 1 T. of each)

sea salt

1 avocado, sliced

1 c. water or chicken broth, optional, to dilute

1/2 fresh lime, juiced


Now, here are my notes. First of all, it makes a small amount, about enough for 3 large-ish servings. If you’re feeding a crowd or aiming for leftovers, you’ll have to double or triple the recipe.

Second of all, be sure to read it all first. You must roast the peppers, first in order to skin them and render them a little tender. This is easy if you have a gas stove or grill but takes a little longer with an electric broiler unless you have one that gets blazing hot in no time flat. I don’t. But anyway, it should be no problem to get the peppers roasting while you prepare everything else.

Thirdly, you need to roast garlic and have 2 1/2 tablespoons available. I didn’t have time to do that; I was starting this at nearly 11:00 and wanted to eat at noon. No time for garlic to roast. I improvised by sauteing the garlic with the onions at the beginning. I imagine that roasted garlic would give its own unique flavor to the dish, but I didn’t miss it. Next, I added about a cup of chicken broth with the tomatoes. Why? I don’t know. It just seemed like the thing to do. Lastly, the recipe calls for jalapenos, which I didn’t have on hand. I used a sprinkling of crushed red pepper to give the soup some added heat. Jalapenos, of course, add flavor as well, so I had to go without that. I found that the poblanos leant more that enough peppery flavor, but if jalapenos float your boat, go for it.

I guess this  demonstrates my philosophy of not letting a missing ingredient get in the way of trying a new recipe. There are exceptions, of course. Baking usually requires strict adherence to the ratios of ingredients, if not the exact amounts. But to let the absence of shallots keep me from making a sauce when I have scallions would be a shame. I recognize the difference between the two and am usually able to reconcile the taste discrepancies. In this case, fresh corn would be perfect, but canned or frozen corn would hardly be taboo. In fact, I doubt if anyone could tell the difference in this soup, as rich and flavorful as it is. The end of the sermon.

1. Roast the poblano and jalapeno peppers under the broiler or over a grill until the skins are black and blistery. Let them cool for a while until you can handle them and slip off the skins,, remove the seeds and white veins and give them a rough chop.

2. Peel the tomatoes* and break them up with your hands into a bowl. (If using canned tomatoes, save the juice.)

3. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions until soft and add the raw garlic, if using raw, and cook another minute or two without browning the garlic. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook on medium heat. Now add the crushed red pepper flakes if you are using that instead of  jalapenos.

4. Mash up the peppers in a mortar and pestle, a small food processor, or with a fork or other mashing type device until they somewhat come apart. We don’t want puree, here, folks, just a further breaking down of the cell walls. Scrape all this peppery goodness into the cooking pot.

5. Next crush the corn a tad and add the broken kernels and the corn juice into the pot as well.

6. Stir in the roasted garlic, if using, and add a little sea salt to taste.

7. Cook all this for 10 to 20 minutes until it reaches the consistency you like. You can add a little water or chicken broth to dilute it a bit if it gets too thick.

8. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with a slice or two of avocado and a little drizzle of lime juice.

We had toasted bread and some cheese with this for our lunch and decided this recipe is a keeper. Give it a try. It just tastes like summer in a bowl.

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Can you stand another recipe from me for potatoes gratin, scalloped, whatever you want to call it? You probably think that we have it for dinner every other night. Actually, in the interest of saving calories, fat grams, and carbohydrates from my waistline, we, or should I say “I”, restrict ourselves to just once every other month or so. 

It’s a frequent request from the man who lives here, the one who can eat all the calories, fat grams, and carbohydrates without affecting his waistline or cholesterol count. I, on the other hand, can feel the cholesterol count go up if I even think of cheese, potatoes, butter, milk, or cream in a single bite.

Regardless of all that, I threw caution to the wind and prepared this delicious potato recipe a while ago and it was right up there among my favorite potato recipes. The addition of cabbage made it reminiscent of colcannon.  If you’ve never tasted that Irish delight, try it next year on St. Patrick’s Day. 

The origin of this dish is from Food Network’s Tyler’s Ultimate Show. I halved the recipe for the two of us and still had a bit left over. Double it to serve 6 easily.

ULTIMATE POTATO GRATIN (based on Tyler Florence’s recipe)

Notes:   I didn’t use the entire half head of cabbage; I used about a third. I also used regular bacon that I had on hand, about 4 slices. If I find myself without chives, I usually substitute some shallots, or scallions. To save calories and fat grams, use half and half or milk instead of heavy cream. Gruyere or cheddar could work instead of  the parmesan, but the taste would be different. I have occasionally used regular cabbage instead of Savoy.

 

1/2 head Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded 

1 inch piece of slab bacon, thinly sliced

1 T. butter

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/8 c. finely chopped chives

Salt and Pepper

1 lb. baking potatoes, unpeeled, thinly sliced (about 1/8″)

1 1/4 c. heavy cream 

1 c. parmesan, grated

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

2. Fry the bacon; remove from the skillet when crisp, and drain on paper towels. 

3. Add about 1 teaspoon of the butter to the bacon fat in the skillet; let it melt and add half the garlic and the cabbage. Over low heat, let the cabbage wilt slowly and mix with the garlic. Add the bacon back to the skillet along with the chives. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4.  With the remaining butter, grease the casserole or gratin dish and set aside.

5. In a large bowl, combine the sliced potatoes, half of the cream (3/4 cup), half of the parmesan (1/2 cup), and the rest of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and mix carefully with your hands. 

6. Place about half of the potatoes in the gratin dish. Sprinkle with a little more parmesan. Spoon the cabbage on top and repeat the potato layer and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

7. Cover with foil and bake one hour. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes. Let stand about 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 


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