Category Archives: Recipes

The Odd Couple: Texas Chili and Bubbles

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I made Texas-style chili (no tomatoes, no beans) for Christian and paired it with Cava De Pró. Who could have known that the balance could be so magical? The crisp, bubbly cava tempered the bold, spicy chili fabulously. Savor the flavor, y’all. (recipe credit: Homesick Texan blog)

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Recipes, Wine

Pizza Night: Bitchin’

Pizza is my new taco. While living in Austin, TX, I ate tacos at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. Tacos are divine, but only when you’re living close to the Rio Grande. Up in Richmond, tacos are more like anglicized pitas. Ew.

Thankfully, there’s pizza to temper the sting of taco withdrawal. I can enjoy authentic, warm and cheesy pizza pie from pretty much any shop in the city. When my hubby and I order out, we prefer Mary Angela’s on Cary Street or Frank’s Ristorante (their white pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, and clams is ahhhh-mazing). For dinner-and-a-movie nights, we usually grab a pre-made pizza dough from our local grocer and commence the topping-mania. Here’s our latest creation…

Pizza Pie with Ricotta, Artichokes, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Spinach

Ingredients:
1 store-bought pizza dough (fresh or frozen)
1 c. whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 c. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, julienned
1 c. fresh baby spinach
8 anchovy fillets packed in oil
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 /2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:
Preheat ceramic pizza stone in 450 degree oven (if you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use a cookie sheet while you shop online for a pizza stone). Heat olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes (do not let garlic burn). Remove from heat. On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough until it’s about 10-12 inches wide. Place dough on parchment paper. Brush dough generously with garlic olive oil. Dollop with ricotta cheese. Top with artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, anchovies, and shallots. Season with black pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Top with 1/4 c. of the Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a few more tablespoons of olive oil. Lift dough with the parchment paper and place paper on the pizza stone. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Serve with the rest of the fresh Parmesan cheese. Amen!

Too bad our dog (ehem, Orson!) ate the last two slices ;-(

WANTED: Pizza thief!

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Creamy Sage Polenta with Roasted Shiitakes, Red Onion & Valdeón

The urge to cook overtook me last Sunday. I wanted a hearty, savory, and wholesome dish.  But this culinary escapade was far more than just an impulsive experiment. In fact, many events came together to inspire this meal.

The week prior, Christian and I had purchased some Valdeón bleu cheese at Whole Foods Market. Peter Murphy, our guest at the time, can attest to the Valdeón’s overall exquisiteness relative to other bleu cheeses.

Last Saturday, I had an inkling to make cornbread, but to my dismay, I discovered that I didn’t have enough cornmeal in the pantry. So my loyal servant (read: my husband) went to fetch me some more. But now I had an excess of cornmeal! What to do, what to do? A memory of distant past soon revisited me. When I asked Chef Sean Fulford of Flat Creek Estate what the difference was between cornmeal and polenta, he promptly replied, “one’s Italian.” And with that thought in mind, I decided to revisit my apprenticeship days and attempt to recreate Sean’s creamy sage polenta.

While at the grocery store on Sunday, I noticed that the shiitakes looked particularly ravishing, so I decided to buy some.  “How to cook these?” I asked myself. And I harkened back to the good ole days of being a Food & Wine subscriber. I vaguely remembered a roasted shitake recipe with bleu cheese (I had that in the fridge!) and red onions (I could buy that real cheap!).   So, all the ingredients assembled, I racked my memory, and this is what I came up with…

Creamy Sage Polenta á la Sean with Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Red Onion & Valdeón

INGREDIENTS

For the polenta

1 ½ c. of cornmeal
1 ½ c. light cream
1 ½ c. lowfat milk
1 c. low-sodium chicken stock
¼ c. fresh sage leaves, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T. unsalted butter
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the mushrooms

1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1 red onion, sliced in ¼-inch-thick half moons
½ c. Valdeón cheese, crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

For the mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 425o F. Toss the mushrooms and red onion together with a generous amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Roast for 30 min., tossing every 10 min.  Just before serving, toss in the bleu cheese.

For the polenta

Everything good begins with butter

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Sauté the garlic and sage for 1 min. until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and milk and bring to a low boil. Add the cornmeal ½ c. at a time, whisking rapidly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until lumps have disappeared and polenta is thick and creamy. Slowly add the chicken stock until the polenta reaches the desired consistency (it should be thick and creamy, slightly less thick than mashed potatoes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, mix in Parmesan cheese.

Serve polenta topped with roasted mushrooms and a glass of red wine on the side. Indulge.

Another happy customer chez nous!

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Moroccan Hot-Smoked Sockeye Salmon with Salsa Verde

It’s never too hot to grill (even in Texas). My husband and I recently tried our hand at smoking wild salmon, and I think it turned out pretty darn good…

Step 1 – If you’re going to be smoking fish at home, always start with a very fresh fillet. I used to work at a fish market, so I know how to finagle a fishmonger into giving me the freshest fillet in the market. Here’s how it works:

Monger: How may I help you today miss?
Savvy Customer: When did the sockeye arrive at the market?
M: Yesterday.
SC: Do you have any whole fish? (Some whole fish have a longer shelf life than fillets.)
M: No, I’m sorry we’re sold out.
SC: No problem. These fillets here, do you process them in-house?
M: No, they arrive already filleted.
SC: I like the look of these in the case, but do you have any in the back that might be fresher?
M: Yes, as a matter of fact we do have some cases that arrived this morning. Let me just go to the back and fetch one for you.
SC: (smiling politely) Why thank you!
M: Here you go. You can see the harvest date right here (points to the unopened case with his index finger, opens the case, and removes a glistening, sweet-smelling fillet). How about this one?
SC: Perfect! Thanks for all your help! (secretly to herself: Damn I’m good.)

Step 2 – Rub skin-on fillet with “smoky” rub of choice and season lightly with sea salt. I used a Moroccan spice blend that my sister Caitlin brought home from her trip to Morocco last January. There’s no other way to describe it other than divine. I think I detect hints of saffron and pimentón, if you’d like to try to recreate it.

Step 3 – Prepare charcoal grill; simultaneously soak planks or logs of your choosing (cedar, pecan, mesquite, maple, etc.). Spread the hot coals evenly over the grill, then top the soaked planks. Spray the skin-side of the fillet and the grill grate liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Place the fillet in the center of the grill and close the lid. Hot-smoke for approximately 15 min. Do not over cook!

Step 4 – Move fish from grill to serving platter and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Step 4 – Slice salmon and serve with salsa verde (preferrably homemade) and cool Greek yogurt to temper the heat.

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Angel Food Cake with 7-Minute Icing and Summer Berries

Every Fourth of July my Grandma and I make an angel food cake (from a box) with 7-Minute Icing (from scratch). Fourth of July is probably the only hot holiday in Minnesota, so we take full advantage of the “summer heat” by preparing a suitable light dessert. Independence Day also happens to be my birthday, and aside from the usual “Born on the 4th of July!” comments that I get, a lot of people want to know why I want to make my own birthday cake. I think it’s less about the work (after all, I am using a cake mix) and more about the time I get to spend with my Grandma. We’ve been baking this cake since I was in high school, and it’s one of my favorite summer rituals.

Here I am a high schooler, with my traditional bday cake and my beautiful grandma Louise!

I won’t bore you with how to make a box angel food cake – the Betty Crocker package instructions are quite accurate! – but I will share a few tips we’ve learned along the way, as well as a recipe for making  7-minute icing.

The first thing you want to do when you take the cake out of the oven is to turn it upside down right away. They sell angel food cake pan “stands,” but a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce works just as well.

When the cake is fully cooled, use a knife or flat spatula to loosen the sides and remove it from the pan.

Gently remove any crumbs from the cake, as they can be a nuisance when frosting. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To make the frosting, create a double boiler out of a medium saucepan and a medium mixing bowl. Fill the saucepan with water until the level is just below the bottom of the mixing bowl (do not let the bowl sit in water). REMOVE the mixing bowl from the saucepan before you heat the water. Turn the burner on high until the water boils, then reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 egg whites, 1/3 c. water, 1 c. plus 2 T. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the mixing bowl. Once combined, place bowl over simmering water and beat mixture on low speed for about 1 minute.

Gradually increase the speed of your mixer to high, until the frosting forms stiff peaks (about 5 minutes). Be sure to periodically lift the side of the mixing bowl slightly to allow some steam to escape. You don’t want to end up like my great-aunt and have 7-Minute Icing all over your kitchen walls!

Remove mixture from heat and beat for 2 minutes more.  Gently fold in 1 T. vanilla.

Frost the cake immediately. For best results, begin frosting the cake from the top (use more than you think you’ll need)…

…then spread the extra frosting over the sides. Use a flat spatula or knife to smooth the top and sides.

For Independence Day, we decorated our cake with blueberries and fresh strawberries from my uncle Jamie’s garden.

Happy (belated) Independence Day from Chef Louise and Sous-Chef Sarah!

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Filed under Birthdays, Family, Food, Grandmothers, Holidays, Nostalgia, Recipes, Traditions