Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Party

My husband and I are becoming notorious for our parties.  But tonight we opted for a private party for Halloween.  I made our favorite treats:  Rice Krispies Treats, caramel apples, and homemade pizza.  We opened two bottles of wine:  one red (for him) and one white (for me).  Although it's 73 degrees tonight (very warm for October in Delaware) we've had very few trick-or-treaters.  Somebody will have to eat all that leftover candy.  There's nothing like pizza, sweet treats, and a Michael Jackson cd to celebrate a Saturday night Halloween.  Good times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Paloma

My husband is an Esquire subscriber.  A few months ago, the magazine published a recipe for a drink called La Paloma.  We both enjoy a good drink, so my husband tried it out.  It went over very well.  It's now in heavy rotation at our home, especially since we purchased a big bottle of Patron on our last cruise.

The most difficult part of making this drink was finding grapefruit soda.  We ended up finding IZZE pink grapefruit soda at Target.  It's not cheap ($3 for four small cans, on sale), but it's all natural and it makes this drink a pretty shade of pink.

Citrus, especially grapefruit, is one of my favorite flavors.  I prefer my Paloma without salt, but make it both ways and decide for yourself.

La Paloma (recipe from Esquire, with commentary by me)

2 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
pinch of salt (optional)
grapefruit soda

Combine the tequila (we like Patron), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. We had a hard time finding grapefruit soda, but ended up using IZZE grapefruit from Target.  As a last resort, lemon-lime soda with a splash of grapefruit juice. My hubby likes to throw in a pinch of salt. Others (like me) omit it entirely. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I love appetizers, tapas, small bites, or whatever you call them at your house.  I enjoy trying new recipes and making a meal out of several appetizers allows me to hit my taste buds in all the right places and to get some great ideas for parties.  Last Sunday was a big game day at our house:  Eagles and Phillies.  That doesn't happen often.  We're getting into the tradition of celebrating football Sundays with a fun meal with the extended family (my mom and brother), but this week we went for a selection of appetizers:  pepperoni bread, potato skins, and baked shrimp scampi.  Maybe that doesn't go together at your house, but nibbled over the afternoon with a nice glass of sangria, it works.

The baked shrimp scampi recipe is a slight modification of Ina Garten's version in her latest cookbook, Back to Basics.  I love Ina Garten, but that's another post.  Let's just focus on the shrimp.  This recipe has a strong garlic flavor and a generous amount of butter.  That's why I love it.  I consider it restaurant-quality.  It would be great as an entree, or this portion could serve 4-6 people as an appetizer. 

I picked up a pound of shrimp from the seafood counter at Costco.  Our Costco sells "fresh" seafood every weekend.  I'll note that the Costco shrimp are already deveined, which is a great time saver.  I still had to peel the shrimp, but it was very simple. 

After peeling and butterflying the shrimp (and leaving the tails on so they looked pretty), I tossed them with olive oil, white wine, salt, and pepper.

I let the shrimp marinate for a few minutes while I prepared the topping.  I mixed together softened butter, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, egg yolk, panko bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to create a crumbly topping for the shrimp.

Then, I sprayed a pie pan with Pam and arranged the shrimp in a spiral design around the pan.  I also poured the remaining juices from the marinade over the shrimp.  (You could also arrange the shrimp with the tails up, depending on the size of your pan). 

Top the shrimp with the butter mixture. You're now ready to bake your scampi. The thing I love most about this dish is that you can prepare it up to this point a few hours in advance and have it in the fridge waiting for company to arrive.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes (until shrimp are pink and the top is browned) and serve hot. 

Baked Shrimp Scampi

1 pound (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell

1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 extra-large egg yolk
1/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a pie dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Back in 2001 I got a holiday gig wrapping gifts at Williams-Sonoma in the local mall.  I love wrapping gifts and I was a college senior looking for a diversion from the stress of applying to grad school in the post-9/11 era.  I ended up working at the store on and off for three years and during that time I acquired a lot of great kitchen equipment, including my beloved Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer. 

I've been baking since I was 8 or 9, but our family never had a "real" mixer.  I either mixed by hand or used a electric hand mixer.  By the time I started working at Williams-Sonoma I had perfected my coconut pound cake recipe and my Christmas cookies were legendary.  This mixer took things to a while new level. 

If you like to bake (or even cook) and you haven't invested in one of these, please add it to your wish list.  This baby can cream together butter and sugar to make perfect pound cakes and great cookies.  It can whip up fluffy mashed potatoes or creamy fillings for sweet potato pies.  It can knead dough for bread or pizza.  It does all of this without any of the optional attachments that can be purchased separately. 

Back in August, my Kitchen Aid had a minor mechanical problem.  After nearly 8 years of use, it failed me.  I had to resort to recipes that utilized hand mixing until I could get my life together to send the mixer to the repair shop.  I finally got it in last weekend and $75 later, it's fixed!  I'm picking up my "baby" tonight after work.  To celebrate, I'm making something tasty this weekend for the family.  I'm searching my favorite food and recipe blogs for ideas.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment!  I'm dreaming of cakes and cookies...

Friday, October 16, 2009

BLT Pasta

Months ago I received a free copy of Cuisine at Home magazine and it ended up buried under a stack of papers in our home office.  I'm a magazine queen and I have a stack of dog eared cooking magazines with recipes waiting to be scanned or filed.  I wasn't interested in another subscription.  When I finally got a chance to flip through it I ended up liking some of the recipes, including the BLT Pasta.  I know, it sounded weird to me too.  I like BLTs (without mayo) and I like pasta, but lettuce with spaghetti?  Fortunately, there is no lettuce in this recipe. 

My husband is pretty anti-vegetable.  He doesn't like peppers, onions, carrots, spinach... the list goes on and on.  I've been able to finely chop veggies and sneak them into his food, because I just can't cook without them.  He's been a good sport about eating healthier lately.  He will eat almost anything I cook, as long as the despised veggies are not clearly visible.  He ate this.  Either he was really hungry, or it was good.  I enjoyed the subtle sweetness of the tomatoes with the saltiness of the bacon.  I modified this recipe to work with my weekend leftovers:  a half pound of bacon, a pint of grape tomatoes, and a half bottle of dry Riesling.  I love the challenge of cooking from what is on hand.  The only ingredient I needed to purchase was the spinach.

This recipe is a modification of the original BLT Pasta.  My recipe yields two generous servings, which is perfect for my mini family.

BLT Pasta

1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs time
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
2 c. raw spinach
8 slices lean bacon

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook it in a large, wide skillet.

Move cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of grease.  Reduce heat to medium and add cherry tomatoes and sugar.  Sautee for five minutes, or until the tomates begin to release their liquid and break down.  Add the thyme leaves and chopped garlic to the tomates.  Add a little salt and pepper (to taste).

Add the white wine to deglaze the pan.  Be sure to scrape up all the yummy bits from the bottom.  Let the wine simmer on medium-low for 3-5 mintutes, until the wine is mostly evaoprated.  Start boiling the pasta.  You'll need to cook the pasta to an al dente texture.

Add the red wine vinegar, chicken broth, and crushed red pepper.  Turn heat to low.  Simmer the sauce until the pasta is ready.

Add the spinach to the pan of simmering sauce.

Use tongs to move the cooked pasta straight from the boiling water to the sauce pan.  Toss the pasta in the sauce, check for salt and pepper and top the completed dish with bacon. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

White Sangria

On Friday, mom and I enjoyed dinner at Ole Tapas.  I love international cuisine and I studied abroad in Spain 10 years ago, so when I heard that Ole won "Best New Restaurant" in Delaware Today, I knew I had to go.  I'll write more about Ole another day, but I will share one bit of the experience.  The food was excellent.  The drinks were disappointing.  I enjoyed authentic Spanish sangria during my trip to Spain, but I feel that the $7 I spent for a weak 6 oz. drink full of ice was just not working for me.  When I came home I decided to make a batch of my sangria.

I have a popular red sangria recipe, but I was inspired to try a white variety after tasting my friend Karen's wonderful sangria that she so generously brings to my home every time we have a party.  My version of white sangria is very citrusy and a bit tart.  If you prefer a sweeter variety, you could add 1/2 c. sugar or top the drink with Sprite before serving.  I like mine straight up over ice.

White Sangria

1 bottle dry white wine (not chardonnay, try riesling, pinot dris, or chablis)
1/3 c. brandy
1/3 c. triple sec
1/3 c. orange juice
8 oz. (1 c.) pineapple juice
1/4 c. frozen lemonade concentrate
2 citrus fruits, cut into rounds (lemon, lime, orange)
maraschino cherries (for serving)
1.  Mix all ingredients (except maraschino cherries) in a 2 quart pitcher.  Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving.
2.  Serve over ice topped with maraschino cherries and citrus fruit for garnish.

A few tips on the recipe:

I purchase pineapple juice in 8 oz. cans (normally sold in packs of 8).  It costs a bit more than the large cans, but I don't normally drink pineapple juice and I hate having to store excess juice in my fridge.  With the small cans I always know that I have pineapple juice on hand for mixed drinks.

This recipe calls for a small quantity of frozen lemonade concentrate.  I store the remaining concentrate in a small, resealable container in the freezer.  It never freezes hard, so I just scoop it out as I need it for future batches of sangria.

This recipe gets better as it sits.  Please let it sit for at least 24 hours before serving.

This is a strong drink.  It goes down like citrus punch, but if you're not careful, it could take you out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Breakfast Quiche

It's the weekend!  At my house weekends equal housework, family time, and elaborate home-cooked meals.  We especially enjoy Sunday brunch and this breakfast quiche is a fun alternative to our usual pancakes, grits, corn fritters, or fried potatoes.  I also love that I can use up whatever is in the fridge in this dish.

Breakfast Quiche

1 frozen deep dish pie crust
6 eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (I've used chives, sage, parsley...)
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I prefer a blend of sharp cheddar and parmesan)
1/2 lb. cooked breakfast meat (I've used sausage, bacon, leftover holiday ham, turkey sausage...)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil.  Use a fork to poke holes all over the bottom crust.  Bake crust for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned.
2.  Wisk together the eggs, a pinch of salt, pepper, herb, breakfast meat, and 1/2 of the cheese.
3.  Pour egg mixture into partially baked pie crust and top with the remaining 1/2 cheese.
4.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until center of quiche is set and the eggs are golden brown.  Slice and serve.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

La Comida de San Antonio

Last week I spent four days in San Antonio, TX for a conference.  Yes, the workshops were great, the hotel was nice, but this is a food blog, so let's get to the good stuff... the dining!

I live in Delaware and work in New Jersey.  Until I visited Texas, I thought I'd had some decent Mexican food at our local family restaurants and even Don Pablos.  Yes, I've spent many Friday happy hours at Don Pablo's sipping on margaritas and enjoying chicken fajitas.  It's good for a chain, but it's nothing like the delicousness I experienced in San Antonio!

On our first evening in the city, my coworkers and I enjoyed the best Mexican food I've ever tasted at Rosario's.  Rosario's is not on the famous Riverwalk, and it's not technically downtown.  It was worth the short trolley ride from our hotel.  I went there twice during my trip.  The first time I had cheese enchiladas with chili con carne.  The second time I had chicken fajitas.  Both entrees were excellent.  I don't think I'll be able to enjoy a typical meal at Don Pablo's ever again.  (The food in the photo above is from Casa Rio, which was good, but not as good as Rosario's.)  Even the buffet food at the hotel was good.  We enjoyed a great $15 lunch buffet at Achiote in the Grand Hyatt.  There was an assortment of fresh salsas and guacamole and queso (spicy cheese sauce) for our tortilla chips.  We also had chicken enchiladas, carne asada, and fish tacos.  The buffet also included fresh squeezed lemonade and an impressive array of desserts.  I personally loved the pecan tart.  My after lunch cup of coffee cost a whopping $4 for a few sips, but it was good and I can't complain because lunch was so reasonable.
Of course I also took a few minutes to check out the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and some of the beautiful cathedrals in the city.  I noted some interesting differences in typical food establishments.  McDonald's didn't sell Orange Hi-C (the best soft drink ever) or breakfast sandwiches on bagels, but they did offer jalapenos as a sandwich topping.  It's the little things.
The weather was nice (generally 70-80 degrees) so I had plenty of opportunities to dine outdoors.  The Riverwalk has strolling musicians (mariachi bands) who sing and perform for tips.  Overall, a great conference and a fantastic culinary experience!
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