Saturday, October 25, 2014

Texas Caviar

 Have you ever had a problem getting your kids to eat vegetables?  And, perhaps, you have this same problem with your spouse or significant other?  Maybe the problem is not their lack of love for vegetables, but in the presentation of same.  If you’re piling high the steamed broccoli and English peas next to a piece of meat and side of potatoes, why not kick things up a bit and serve them salsa instead?

This delicious Texas Caviar is full of goodness that your family will love.  How does this sound? Iron, protein, fiber, potassium (from the black-eyed peas), vitamin C and E (from the peppers), vitamins A and B6 (from the cherry tomatoes). That’s a whole lot of goodness in something they are sure to love, and you can pass this goodness off in the guise of snack food.  Genius!

It requires a bit of chopping, and needs to rest for a couple of hours for the flavors to meld, but it is well worth it to see those happy, appreciative faces.  I add it to salads for a little extra protein.  You can also cube avocado and add it just prior to serving.  It is easily adjustable to your own tastes, and very forgiving.

Texas Caviar
½ red onion, diced fine
½ green pepper, diced fine
½ red pepper, diced fine
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 can corn
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ lime
2-4 ounces low-fat Italian dressing (I used Wishbone)

Mix all ingredients together.  Cover and store in fridge for 2 (or more) hours before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread. 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cider-Brined Pork Chops in Bourbon Sauce

 I am a big fan of the other white meat and particularly when that white meat is made more tender and flavorful through the process of brining.  This time of the year with an abundance of fresh cider readily available, it’s time for cider brining and delicious roasted pork chops. This recipe is going to take a bit of planning in that the chops are at their most juicy and tender if brined overnight.  Brine is easily made, but takes some time to cool, so allow for this. The next day you pretty much have it made when it’s time for dinner.  Pop a potato into the oven before you get started with the preparation, have some English peas ready to be warmed in a nearby pan, and begin making a delicious fall meal. 

Cider-Brined Pork Chops in Bourbon Sauce
Serves 4
4 1-inch-thick brined rib chops
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup Bourbon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

To make brine:

2 cups fresh apple cider

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 allspice berries

1 bay leaf

2 cups ice water

Bring cider, salt, allspice, and bay leaf to boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat. Stir in ice water and allow to cool completely. Place chops in 9x9-inch glass baking dish. Top with brine. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove chops from brine, rinse, and pat dry.  Season chops with pepper and dust lightly with flour.

Heat olive oil in a 12 oven safe sauté pan over medium high heat.  Brown chops, on both sides, turning after 3-4 minutes.  Cover pan with oven safe lid or foil, and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes to roast.  Remove chops to a warm platter.

Sauté garlic and shallot in drippings over medium-high heat until soft (1-2 minutes).  Deglaze pan with bourbon and broth.  Stir in sugar and vinegar.  Cook to reduce by half. 

Stir in cream and add pork chops back to the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes on each side until sauce has thickened to your liking and pork chops are done. 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Italian Goulash

Originating in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, goulash is a stew comprised of meat and vegetables, and seasoned with paprika and other spices of your choice.   My version has an Italian flavor and the addition of shell pasta. I had it on the table within 40 minutes, so it’s a great meal for those busy weeknights. Experiment with what you have on hand.  No shell pasta?  Use elbow macaroni.  No dried mushrooms?  Substitute a cup of sliced criminis or button mushrooms. It is hearty and delicious, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  Mr. O-P looked at me warily when I started putting this together, he a fan of the meal comprised of foods arranged separately on the plate. One taste and it was quickly devoured.  My guess is that everyone in your family is going to love it.

Italian Goulash
Serves 4

1 pound ground chuck
½ large yellow onion, diced
½ green pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 cups mushroom water (reserved from rehydrating, or low-salt beef stock if using fresh mushrooms)
2/3 cup of your favorite marinara (I used Classico)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of cayenne
½ cup red wine
1 cup shell pasta, uncooked

Place dried mushrooms in a 2-cup measuring cup and pour 1-1/2 cups of lukewarm water over them.  Set the timer and allow soaking for 30 minutes. At this point chop your garlic and vegetables.

While mushrooms are hydrating, place beef in a 4-quart saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking it up as you do so, until no longer pink.  Stir in onion and green pepper.  Cook until the vegetables are opaque.  Drain on paper towel lined plate.

Return beef mixture to pot and add garlic, marinara, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, paprika, sugar, Worcestershire, cayenne, salt, pepper, and wine.  Bring to a boil.

Drain mushrooms through a paper towel lined fine mesh sieve.  Pour mushroom water into the pot.  Rinse mushrooms thoroughly, rough chop, and add to the pot.  Cover pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add pasta, stirring in well.  Cover pot and simmer on medium for 15 additional minutes or until noodles are done.

Turn off heat and leave on the warm burner for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve topped with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Murphy’s in a Clogher Valley Mist

I tend, as I imagine do most of you, to read seasonal cookbooks during the particular season that they reflect.  After all, it makes perfect sense.  Unfortunately, in doing so, I end up bypassing a lot of really good recipes because, during the season, I am usually too busy to make them.

While one of my favorite cookbooks, The New Irish Table by Irish-American culinary journalist Margaret M. Johnson, is not exactly seasonal, I tend to pull it out only during the month of March to find something appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day.  It features my kind of Irish food, namely that from pubs and bed-and-breakfasts (my favorite places to dine while traveling in Ireland), and certainly puts to rest the idea that all Irish food is bland and tasteless.  In looking for a potato recipe to accompany tonight’s dinner, I chose this one.  It was quick and easy to assemble, the not-too-fond-of-potatoes, Mr. O-P loved it, and how could I not be completely charmed by the name?

To serve, I baked it in a baking pan, as directed in the recipe, and then scooped it into warmed mini casserole dishes.

Murphy’s in a Clogher Valley Mist
Named for the Dungannon Valley where Grange Lodge, a small Georgian country house, is situated.  This recipe is from proprietor Norah Brown.

1-1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used Melissa’s Baby Ruby Gold)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 slices bacon
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup (4 ounces) Smoked Gouda, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Butter a 1-1/2 qt. baking pan.

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and let cool to the touch.  Cut each potato into four wedges.  Place the wedges, skin side down, into the prepared baking pan and toss with the butter.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  Using a slotted metal spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Pour the cream over the potatoes, sprinkle with the grated cheese, and crumble the bacon over all.  Season with salt and pepper, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cream has thickened and the cheese has melted. 

Serves 4.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spicy, Dippy, and an Ultimate Giveaway

Do you like pub grub, tavern tidbits, and bar food as much as I do?  Sure you do.  Do you like Oktoberfest?  Of course.  How about a bunch of free stuff, does that blow your skirt up?  You know it does.  And because it does, this blog post is really going to excite you.  I’m joining a host of other bloggers who are participating in the Ultimate Beer Lover’s Oktoberfest Celebration Giveaway in conjunction with the launch of award-winning author John Schlimm’s new book, The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour.  This exciting new cookbook features over 325 irresistible recipes for delicious bar bites – from Sizzling Sriracha Peanuts to Taproom Tacos to Blitzed Bean Soup.  In addition there are beer cocktails, chuggers, shots, shooters, chasers, punches, floats, and shakes.  I get exhausted just thinking about it.  Consider it as a party in a book.
Schlimm is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, Straub Brewery, beginning with his great-great-grandfather, Peter Straub, and he really knows his stuff.  The recipes in this book are not only delicious, but each is paired with three different brews, contains various dietary substitutions, and even features recipes to make ingredients within the recipes, e.g. margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, and Worcestershire sauce.  Wow.  So if you don’t have an ingredient on hand, he provides you with a recipe to make your own.  How cool is that?

I made the Spicy Friday Night Nuts and Horseradish Dipping Mustard.  Both were sensational.  In the case of the nuts, I was intrigued by the interesting selection of spices, wondering just how cloves and cinnamon were going to work in a savory snack.  As it turned out, the spices meld beautifully, made the house smell amazing, and left us with an aromatic, highly addictive snack.

Spicy Friday Night Nuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine*
4 cups pecans, almonds, unsalted peanuts, and/or walnuts**
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tabasco, or to taste
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste

Place the margarine in a 2-quart, microwave-and-over-safe pan.  Melt either in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove, and then stir in the nuts of your choice.  Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Microwave the mixture on high for 6-8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.  For a toastier flavor, spread the mixture on a baking sheet, and run the sheet under a hot broiler for 4-6 minutes, stirring once. Serve warm, or at room temperature.  Store the nuts in an airtight container lined with paper towels for up to a week. Yield: 4 cups

*I used butter
** I used pecans
The Horseradish Mustard is to die for.  I could seriously eat this stuff with a spoon.  It is designed for dipping, but I have pretty much been slathering it on everything.

Horseradish Mustard
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1-1/2 cups hot water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons dry mustard (Colman’s)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Place the bouillon cubes in a small bowl.  Add the hot water and dissolve the bouillon cubes.  Blend the cornstarch, sugar, mustard, turmeric, vinegar, and horseradish in a small saucepan.  Place over low heat, and slowly whisk in the dissolved bouillon.  Cool, stirring until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes.  Place the eggs in a bowl.  Whisk two tablespoons of the warm mixture into the eggs, then pour the egg mixture slowly into the saucepan, whisking constantly.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Let cool.  Store in sealed containers in the fridge.  Yield: 1-1/2 cups

Now for the good part, the giveaway.

The giveaway runs from October 1 to November 7.  One lucky winner will receive the Ultimate Beer Lover’s Oktoberfest Prize Pack including:

1 signed copy of The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour by John Schlimm
2 Humane Society of the U.S. T-shirts (1 male M; 1 female M)
Lucky Brand Jeans Gift Card for 1 free pair of jeans
6 Straub Brewery Pilsner Glasses
Coleman Soft Cooler with Hard Liner, in red
Weber BBQ Apron, black
1 OXO Steel Bottle Opener
Set of 2 wooden snack bowls
Set of 4 wooden coasters

Enter now, and tell all of your friends.  It is worth every ounce of effort for the cookbook alone.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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