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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nutella Liqueur



Tax season is finally over.  Never thought it would end.  I've felt like Lucy in the chocolate factory.  Except the chocolates are to-do's following me around on my calendar.  I could only wish they were big, wonderful dark chocolate center and dark chocolate exterior truffles....

In the midst of the chaos came the email from Secret Recipe Club.  You've been assigned Manus Menus.  Cool, I'd find something easy to do.  Then, I fell in love with her pasta al forno recipe.  I must've looked at it a dozen times. The problem was that I really didn't have time to make it.  Alas, it's for a couple of weeks from now.  I can taste it right now.  Cheese, tomatoes, pasta.  MMMMM.  On I went looking for something else.  Margarita chicken wings.  Now, do those sound yummy or what???  How about a watermelon margarita?  Or fish fillets with Tahitian vanilla sauce.  Caramelized red onion and taleggio pastries.  Lamb gozleme - kind of like lamb in pita.  Tarts with cotechino - a homemade sausage.  Back through I went, looking for something quick and easy that'd work with my ingredients and time.  Ah, ha!  Nutella liqueur.

Into the pantry to dig out the Nutella.  On to the kitchen.  Where the jar of Speculoos butter from Trader Joe's was sitting.   Ok, what if we had a liqueur off?  Yup, great idea on my part.  Now, I have not one but TWO killer liqueur recipes.  We've made a lot of infused vodka recipes.  But, I've not tried liqueurs.  Now, I'll try more :-)

I might note, this is one of the few times I've left a SRC blog open the whole time I've been assigned it.  There are just a ton of recipes there I'd like to try...

What did we think of the liqueurs?  Connie preferred the Nutella.  I preferred the Speculoos.  Both were VERY good.  Here's how you make them:

Nutella or Speculoos Liqueur

Ingredients:

3/4 c Nutella (at room temperature)



1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 c heavy whipping cream
2 c vodka

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan, melt the Nutella and the sugar. 





Slowly whisk in the whipping cream then allow it to simmer for a few minutes. 




Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. 




Whisk in the vodka.  Store in the refrigerator and use within three weeks.








   

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Maple Mustard Porter Ribs with Grilled Fingerling Potatoes and Tarragon Lime Carrots



I'm feeling like I should rename this blog KateMightCook.   Feels like forever since I really dug into the kitchen and prepared a meal.  Sunday morning we finally got our hair cut.  We were both on the verge of having to buy rollers.  Connie had a fro when he was a teenager. Me, I had LONG straight hair.  It won't accept a perm and has a bountiful number of cowlicks.  Much better short at my age.  Then, we delivered a carload of stuff to the Fairview rummage sale.  The service was about ready to start so we got to sneak in the sanctuary and say hi to Mom and the rest of the MOPS crew.  Finally, we were off to the office.  Saturday our broker/dealer's website was down.  All day.  Connie needed it to prep for my appointments next week.  We were WAY behind.  So, we dug in and worked on reviews.  And worked.  And worked.  Finally, about 4:00 I said if we were going to eat the ribs before 9:00 we'd better go home.

Over the last few weeks I've bought a few new cookbooks.  Cooking with Beer, Adventures in Grilling and Simple Fresh Southern.  The first two I could pretty much make everything in.  The last, not so much.  My menu was Maple Mustard Porter Ribs from Cooking with Beer, Grilled Fingerling Potatoes from Adventures in Cooking and Braised Carrots with Tarragon and Lime from Simple Fresh Southern.

What did we think?  I think I could eat a whole rack of the ribs by myself.  They were that good.  You need to make sure the sauce has an opportunity to caramelize on the ribs.  It's just about perfect.  No, actually it is perfect.  I wouldn't change a thing.  The potatoes were very good.  A four on a scale of one to five.  They didn't get grill marks but they tasted wonderful.  The carrots were also very good.  I used a bit too much lime juice but they hit the spot.  And, the best news is that we had enough leftover for Monday night's dinner!  Now, I might note that the leftovers weren't quite as good...

Maple Mustard Porter Ribs

Ingredients
1 c porter (we used Guiness stout)
1/2 c maple syrup
3 T Worcestershire sauce (ok, I confess, I totally missed this)
2 T spicy brown mustard
1/4 t crushed red pepper
2 lbs pork baby back ribs
salt and pepper

Directions:

Combine the beer, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a strong simmer and cook until it's reduced to 3/4 cup.



We used our Big Green Egg so did not follow the original recipe from here on out.  The original calls for covering a half sheet with foil, putting the ribs on the half sheet, slathering them with sauce, wrapping more foil over them and baking them at 350 for 50 minutes. Then, it has you broil the ribs with the meaty side up, slathering them with the sauce.  Instead, we grilled them.  I started them meaty side down, flipped them and flipped them again.  Each time I slathered them with sauce. 





adapted from Cooking with Beer

Grilled Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients:

3 lb fingerling potatoes (small red skins will work)
1/2 c plus 2 T white wine
olive oil
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 T whole grain mustard
2 T minced flat leaf parsley
1 T minced fresh tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise.  Cook them over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  You should be able to easily pierce them with a fork or knife, but they should not be fully cooked.  Drain them and toss them with the 1/2 c wine. 



Heat your grill.  Allow the potatoes to come to room temperature.  Meanwhile, mix the dressing ingredients:  mayonnaise, mustard, parsley and tarragon. 



Brush the  potatoes with olive oil.  Grill about 5 minutes per side.  I used a grill basket so didn't get great grill marks.  You'll do better if you grill directly on the grate.  Remove the potatoes from the grill and toss them with the dressing. 



You can serve them hot or cold.  Both are delicious!

adapted from Adventures in Grilling

Braised Carrots with Tarragon and Lime



Ingredients:

1 T olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 t kosher salt
2 lbs carrots, cut into 2-3" lengths, 1/3" in diameter
1/2 c white wine (preferably Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
leaves from three sprigs fresh tarragon
grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime

Directions:



In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  When it is shimmering, add the onions.  Cover the bottom of the pan with the onions to give them as much surface area as possible to caramelize a bit.  Sprinkle on about 1/4 t of salt.  Once the onions are lightly caramelized, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a dish.  Put the carrots and wine in the pan along with 1/4 t of salt and the pepper.  Cover the skillet and simmer the carrots for about six minutes or until they're tender.  Remove the lid and add the tarragon.  Cook the carrots until the liquid has almost evaporated.  Add in the onions, lime juice and salt and pepper.  Toss and serve.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blood Orange Mojitos, Wine Poached Pear Salad, Chicken Spiedini and Lemon Couscous



Saturday late afternoon was for shopping.  The fan on the porch broke last year while being cleaned.  Without one of its blades it made a horrid kerchunk, kerchunk sound whenever it was turned on.  The light fixture in the pantry was down to one bulb out of three.  The other two had broken off and we couldn't get our fingers in to clear the debris.  The table between our rocking chairs on the porch lost a leg last winter.  It's almost spring and we're very anxious to be able to use the porch again. In fact, as I type this I've actually got the sliding door to the porch open for the first time since last year.  YAY!   Can't get too excited though as snow is in the forecast for tonight... 

Our first stop was Tuesday Morning.  In theory we went there to look for the replacement table.  In reality, they typically have some bargain cookbooks.  Connie knew the real reason we were going there and was happy to go along with my addiction.  Hey, at least it's cookbooks and not something like shoes!  Three cookbooks later, we were on our way.  As usual I started reading one of the cookbooks as we drove around.  First up was Adventures in Grilling by Willie Cooper.

By the time we got to our last stop I'd identified three recipes to try that evening.  They were all built around a couscous recipe from Michael Symon's 5 in 5 cookbook that I totally adore.  He'd suggested chicken with the couscous so that's the recipe I was looking for.  I really wanted to fix a great dinner because it'd been a couple of weeks since we'd actually been home for a dinner and not had leftovers or been out somewhere or another for dinner. 

What did we think?  Amazing dinner.  We started with blood orange mojitos.  The recipe didn't call for stirring them up.  After Connie gave me my glass and I tasted it, I grabbed an ice cream sundae spoon and gave it a good stir.  Fabulous.  Then, we had poached pear salad.  YUM!  We rarely give fives.  Both of those were.  I'd taken a chicken spiedini recipe and treated it as a marinade.  And, I'd made the couscous.  Both were very good.  But, they were only fours.  Which is still pretty darned good in our book!

Blood Orange Mojito

Ingredients:



Serves four

20 mint leaves plus four mint sprigs
4 fl oz simple syrup (we use 2:1 sugar to water)
3 fl oz white rum
4 fl oz fresh lime juice
750 ml club soda
2 blood oranges

Directions:

Muddle the mint leaves and simply syrup in a cocktail shaker.  Be gentle and don't tear the mint leaves.  Fill highball glasses with ice.  Pour in the mint-infused simple syrup then add the rum and the lime juice.  Squeeze half a blood orange into each glass.  Stir gently and top with a mint sprig.

adapted from Grilling Adventures


Poached Pear Salad



serves 2

Ingredients:

for the poaching liquid:

1 c white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 t lavender
1 T honey
1/2 vanilla bean, halved and vanilla scraped into the mix

for the salad dressing:

1/2 light olive oil
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T champagne vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper


for the salads:

1 Bartlett or D'Anjou pear, peeled, halved and cored
arugula or watercress or spinach
blue cheese
toasted walnuts or pecans, toasted

Directions:

Combine the poaching ingredients in a medium saucepan. 


 the photo above is me scraping a vanilla bean. the background is bacon for a grilled cheese later in the week...


Cook over medium heat for ten minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the pears and poach for about 15 minutes until the pears are softened but not mushy. 



While the pears are poaching, mix everything for the dressing but the oils in a small bowl.  Whisk constantly while pouring in the oil.  When the dressing is emulsified, it's ready.  Cool the pears in the poaching liquid.  To prepare the salad, brush the pears with oil and grind black pepper over them.  (I skipped this and the grilling.)  Grill them for about two minutes on medium direct heat.  Serve sliced on a bed of greens, drizzled with dressing and topped with crumbled blue cheese and toasted nuts.

adapted from Adventures in Grilling


Chicken Spiedini



Ingredients:

1/4 c olive oil
1 T each fresh rosemary, oregano and marjoram, roughly chopped
1/4 c dry white wine
4 chicken thighs

Directions:
Stir together the olive oil and herbs. 



Make the marinade with half of the olive oil mixture and all of the white wine.  Marinate the chicken for 15-20 minutes at room temperature. 



Grill, turning once and basting with the balance of the olive oil mixture.  Remove from the grill when the internal temperature has reached 160.  Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.  Tent the meat with foil to keep it warm.

adapted from Adventures in Grilling


Lemon Couscous



Ingredients:

1 c couscous
grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 c boiling water
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1/2 c fresh mint leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Mix the first five ingredients.  Cover and let sit for five minutes. 



Add the other ingredients.  Fluff with a fork and serve

adapted from 5 in 5 by Michael Symon



Friday, February 28, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara




Spaghetti Carbonara.  Not a dish that I'd ever made.  One of my favorite bloggers, Christiane at the Mom Chef, could just about live on the stuff.  So, I kept thinking that I'd try her recipe.  Then, Connie and I took a trip south to Columbus, IN to look at some different office space for me.  I took along Michael Symon's 5 in 5 to make a list of all the recipes I wanted to try.  I might as well have copied the entire index.  Everything we've made from this cookbook has been fabulous.  Loads of flavor.  Easy.  Great weeknight cooking.

We had a pound of guanciale - aka hog jowl bacon - in the fridge. Expiration date 3/19/14.  Needed to get that used up.  There was a list of stuff to use up.  So, as I made my list of the recipes to try I kept that in the back of my mind.  Ah HA!  Classic Spaghetti Carbonara called for the guanciale.  That was going on the short list. 

It was fricking freezing out. We were leaving the office REALLY late.  Dinner was supposed to be Cuban Sandwiches.  But, I needed buns and ham.  A trip to the grocery wasn't happening.  Then, I remembered the carbonara recipe.  Perfect.  No grocery run.  Easy.  And, if it was like the rest of the recipes we'd tried, fabulous.

So, what did we think?  Nom, nom, nom.  Connie's plate was clean. I ate half of mine because I was trying really hard to be good.  This was just amazing.  The egg yolk was so silky.  We loved it.  Now, I've got to note...  the egg yolk doesn't cook fully.  You should VERY carefully wash your eggs prior to cracking them.  Use only eggs that are really fresh (we recommend Eggland's Best.)  And, make sure you're not serving them to anyone with any health issues. 

Do you remember when you were a kid and your mom was making chocolate chip cookies and you got to lick the bowl?  I sure do.  In fact, last weekend when we went to visit our grandkids I asked their mom and dad if I could give them the beaters from the cookie dough - that'd been made with raw eggs.  They said sure.  We're pretty much that way in our house.  From everything I've read the real salmonella problems come from the shells and not the eggs themselves.  But, we all have to issue warnings....

Now, on to the recipe!

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 lb dried spaghetti (I used about half a pound)
4 T olive oil (I used about 2 T of extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 lb guanciale, cut in small dice
4 large eggs separated (I used two since we were doing two servings...)
1 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
1 c finely grated parmesan or romano cheese

Directions:

Bring 5 quarts of water and 3 T of salt to a boil in a large pot.  Cook the pasta about a minute less than the package directions.  You want it to be al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve about 1/4 c of the pasta water. 

While the pasta is cooking, cook the guanciale in a large skillet.  The original directions said it should take about three minutes.  I found it took about ten to get it nice and crispy.  The original directions also called for adding olive oil to the pan.  I was draining bacon fat like crazy...  At any rate, cook the guanciale over medium high heat until it's nice and crispy.

While that's cooking, separate the eggs and set the yolks aside.  Do not break the yolks.  Froth the whites until they're foamy.  Add in the parsley, pepper and grated cheese. 

Now, to put this together...  Do a final drain of the guanciale.  Take the skillet off the heat.  Pour the pasta water into the skillet.  Stir until you've gotten all the fond up.  Pour in the egg mixture.  Make sure you don't scramble the eggs.  Add the pasta and toss well.  Mound the pasta in pasta bowls.  Top each serving with an egg yolk. 

adapted from 5 in 5 by Michael Symon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Black Diamond BBQ



Indy just hit a new record!  For the snowiest winter on record :-(  We are all SO very tired of the snow.  Late last week I looked at our calendar and realized that the next opportunity for grocery shopping MIGHT be Sunday.  And, there wasn't time in between for much cooking.  But, we did want to eat - LOL.  So, I suggested to Connie that we stop at Black Diamond Barbecue on the way home.  It's our favorite and it's on the way home.  Super double bonus. 

We picked up beef brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, greens and green beans.  Wednesday was a feast.  Thursday and Friday weren't bad at all.

Thursday I headed south to my Columbus office.  My first appointment was at 10 and my second wasn't until 1:00.  So, I took goodies for lunch.  Then, as I was talking with Daryl and Dot during my 10 appointment, they found out that I'd never been to Shorty's.  Off to Shorty's we went.  It seems that Shorty is long gone and the place is now owned by the ladies who run the kitchen.  They specialize in pork tenderloins.  Not the platter-sized, pre-formed mell of a hesses you get all too often.  These are nice sized pieces of pork that fit on the bun.  Novel concept.  I bought an extra tenderloin to take back to Connie.  My thought was a pork-a-licious sandwich for dinner. 

We had some leftover onion buns to go with all that fabulous pulled pork.  I fried a bit of bacon with garlic and pepper sprinkled on it, toasted the buns and put together some really fun sandwiches.








Friday we had tickets to see Steel Magnolias at Civic Theatre.  It's a mere 9 miles from our home.  But, you see, the 1-2" of snow predicted was turning out to be 5".  Indy streets were a mell of a hess.  And, to top things off, it was Valentines Day.  So, we knew there'd be no running in and ordering fast at any restaurant!  Leftovers it was.  This time, I made savory French toast with some cayenne and grated Gruyere in the batter.  Then, I sautéed a diced portabella mushroom and mixed it in with some of the leftover mac and cheese.  We made open faced sandwiches like this:






Good thing we left the office a bit early and didn't make a huge production out of dinner because our short drive took 54 minutes!  The other good thing is that Civic realized a lot of folks were in the same situation we were in and held the start for about 10 minutes.  That meant we didn't miss a minute of this fabulous play.  The casting was about as perfect as you can get.  The set was just amazing.  And, the acting was great.  We absolutely loved it!!

Saturday was a long day at the office.  I had LOTS of appointments the next week to prepare for.  And, I had loads to do to finish up from last week's appointments.  We had tickets to see I Love Lucy at a venue downtown.  Needless to say our first thought was to go to our dear friend, Chef Joseph's restaurant.  Then, we parked by the Murat and started hiking.  The sidewalks were barely cleared.  We were done walking.  The closest place would have to do.  It was Shiraz Wine Bar and Art Café.  Ok, so I'm going to be critical here.  Really critical.  I don't expect this place to be around long.  Initially we were the only two patrons.  The waiter said he was a friend of the owner's and was helping out so please excuse him if he was a bit rusty.  Rusty?  Both James the waiter and Patty the owner had NO clue about the wine menu.  I asked if the Pommery Pink Bubbles was sweet.  That led to a lost cause of a search.  No, they didn't have any.  Some tv show had featured it and it was way overpriced but folks wanted it...  Enough already.  I never did find out how sweet it was...  How about your Pinot Noirs?  Well, in addition to those on the menu we have this one.  We were handed a bottle plus a written explanation.  Nothing verbal.  Ok, so you really don't know what you're selling here.  We'd asked when we walked in if they had food.  Yes, tonight we actually have entrees.  Great.  So, we've got lasagna and chicken scampi.  How much are they?  I don't know, I'll have to ask the owner.  We finally found a little board with the menu.  $15 including salads.  The menu also listed a charcuterie board and olives.  By this time Patty had shown up.  So I asked her about the charcuterie board.  Well, it's whatever cheese she wants to put on it plus ham and salami and olives.  The olives sounded good.  We ordered olives and two entrees.  Pretty soon we had a bowl of olives.  Green olives.  No pimentos.  Cold green olives.  Ugh.  The breadsticks were great.  Tasted like Olive Garden's.  Oh, and what I didn't mention was that we ordered a bottle of the Pinot Noir that wasn't on the menu.  I actually got a great shot of the taste. 









Then, James poured the glasses.  And, poured.   And poured.  About twice the appropriate amount.  The kind of pour you'd like when you order a glass of wine and WANT TO GET AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.  But, not the amount you want when you've ordered a bottle of wine and want to enjoy every bit of it.  Our salads appeared.  With snow peas.  Enough snow peas for Connie and Kate and a dozen of our friends.  And, maybe their families.  It tasted like soggy salad with snow peas added in.  Before we'd even gotten through half of our salads, our entrees appeared.  The chicken scampi pasta had angel hair and rotini.  Interesting mix.  The lasagna was good.  Cold, but good.  James came back by and offered to top off our wines.  Connie said thanks but he'd handle it.  By that time I was debating how tacky it would be to tell Patty exactly what we thought.  She walked by, I opened my mouth and offered some constructive criticism.  Turns out she wants to have a wine bar but not do the food.  But, she says, Hoosiers want food.  Well, and I can tell you that having a nice appetizer menu will help sell wine.  The salad was indeed soggy salad with snow peas added in.  And, yes the breadsticks tasted like Olive Garden's.  That's where she'd gotten them.  Totally frustrating.  It was a great space with a nice wine list.  Something that Mass Ave needs.  But, what it really needs is a proprietor who wants to offer the public what they want...  Otherwise, she's out of business! 

Monday it was back to normal.  More snow.  Ice too.  Connie skipped bridge.  I had to scramble a bit for dinner.  There was still some mac and cheese.  And a serving each of collards and green beans.  I had a palmful of pulled pork.  And, ground beef to make glop for Tuesday evening.  That's when I'm teaching my Social Security class so we're at the office til about 9pm.  I figured I could use a little bag of cooked ground beef from the freezer and mix it with half of the newly browned ground beef.  That'd leave quarter pound burgers.  Ah, but they'd be a third of a pound if I added in the little bit of leftover pulled pork.  Sold.  Then, I looked at the mac and cheese and wondered about adding some blue cheese.  And, a tablespoon of browned pancetta.  That'd work. And, it did.  Connie gave the mac and cheese a five.  Me too.  And, unfortunately, thanks to a crazy afternoon I was focused on getting dinner on the table and not taking photos...  But, suffice to say - toss a bit of blue cheese in your mac and cheese.  Your taste buds will thank you.