Ok, I'm admitting it right here. I love the Food Network. Do they choose me for a candidate on the Next Food Network Star with my sparkly personality and awesome hair? No. Do they realize what they passed up? Probably not. But I don't hold grudges. (Correction. I hold one. You know who you are.) So, I'm folding laundry, hanging out one Saturday morning, and onto FN comes Trisha Yearwood- right after my beloved Pioneer Woman, and I must have lost the remote or something, because I let it stay on. While I find her considerable condescending and bitchy (we dislike the thing in others that we see in ourselves) she was making this interesting recipe, and I put down the laundry and paid attention. It was oven-fried chicken. In her Southern-type drawl, Trisha explains that her recipe is perfectly delicious, perfectly good for you, perfectly easy. Um. I'll be the judge of all that. She takes some chicken parts, all boneless, and soaks them in a good amount of buttermilk. Then, she takes some corn flakes and makes her personal trainer crush them up in a Ziplock baggie. Nice diversion. Less squats for you, Trisha. After that, she rolls the chicken in the corn flakes, puts them on a parchment paper-lined tray, sprays them with a little olive oil spray (no- that was me) and tosses them into a 400 degree oven until they are done. Pfft, I thought. Then I tried it. Um. Delicious. I may have made a little Sriracha sauce to go on mine, but they would be equally good with honey mustard or BBQ. Ok, Trisha. I'll give you this one.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Caprese salad. Something so simple, yet so mind-blowingly flavorful it sorta takes one by surprise. My good friend Amy, one of my SuperTasters, claims this as her favorite salad. Personally, I know it's because the cheese to veggie ratio is pretty high, and she's all about the cheese. A nice fresh buffalo mozzarella, juicy, ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Classically, that's it. No more. Then comes the Queen, mucking it all up....
Hey, it was dinner, there was company coming and I didn't feel like going to the store. So it became- dinner-with-whatever-I had-in-the-house. Not a new thing around here. But for company? Yes, unheard of. But I took a deep breath and a good look around. Rice paper wrappers. Caprese ingredients. Hmmm...... An idea was born. More like an international bastard of flavors and techniques was born. Of my cooking chops. Caprese Spring Rolls. Take that, fusion cooking. Take that, indeed. First, I whipped up a pesto with the usual culprits, toasted pine nuts, garlic, basil, parmesan chunks and olive oil. I sliced the tomatoes and mozzarella into strips. Rolled them in the rice paper wrappers. Said a prayer in Italian and served up the chopsticks. It was refreshing and delicious.
If that's not conventional enough for you, there is always the more traditional pizza- but this one is again a bit of a twist. Not quite Caprese or Margherita (sorry, Queen... Margherita, that is.) Pesto, fresh plum tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella all cooked on a homemade dough- no fusion confusion here. Very red, white and green, more Italian than I can ever hope to be. Buon appetito, amici.
Posted by Queen of Cuisine at 12:00 AM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Yes, yes I did make these. And I made the jam as well. All of it from scratch- no cheating brownies, either. My inspiration here was born from being asked to bring some dessert to a party, and a need to do something new and different. The jam, if I haven't explained on this blog already (I can no longer distinguish from what's on FB and what's on here) has pink peppercorns in it. Stop it, don't say "yuck!" It's fabulous. Pink peppercorns are by nature, much more mild than black, and the surprising peppery crunch in the midst of strawberries, chocolate and sweet cheesecake is enough to make your mouth happy. Very, very happy. Want to give it a try? Here's what I did:
Strawberry Jam (Make this the day before you make the brownies so it sets up properly.)
Slice one quart of strawberries, put them in a heavy saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Turn the heat on medium, give it a stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add in 1/2 tablespoon of whole pink peppercorns and one whole cinnamon stick. Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer-mode and let it bubble until it is thick and the strawberries break down a bit. Once it's looking good and syrupy- it will NOT look like jam until it's chilled, set it off the heat for 8 minutes. Not 7, not 9. I'm totally kidding. 8-12 minutes is fine- just so it's a little cooled because now you'll add a teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir that butter in and don't stop until it's all melted. The jam will get glossy and thicker while you do this because butter is, well, it's magic. Transfer your jam to a pristinely clean jelly jar and allow it to cool. If you have ANYONE in the house, get out the electric bug swatter. You'll need it, especially if you want it for the next day. NOTE: You can easily double this recipe. You probably should.
Allow 8 oz. of cream cheese to come to room temperature. Place that in a standing mixer and beat it until fluffy. Add an egg, 1/3 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and the zest of one lemon. Mix that up until all smooth. Set this aside while you prepare the brownies.
Chop 4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate into bits. I prefer bar chocolate over chips, which have stabilizers in them and prevent smooth melting. Place this in a microwave-safe bowl with 6 tbs) of butter. Cover with a loose-fitting lid or paper towel and heat in the microwave at 50% power until everything is MOSTLY melted- about 2 minutes or so, then stir until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melty. Do not put this directly in your face. (That was in case my Evil Step Dad tried his hand at brownies.) Add 3/4 cups of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, mix that in well, then, when it is just warm, crack in two eggs and beat them in well. Add 3/4 cups of flour, mix well. Brownie batter complete.
Preheat your oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9x9 pan. Here is where the jury is out- some recipes like to have some brownie batter on the bottom, then drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese and jam and cover with more brownie batter. I like the bulk of the brownies on the bottom, then some jam globs (sounds so tasty) and cover the whole thing with spoonfuls of cream cheese. It's totally up to you. (You'll need about a quarter to a half-cup of your strawberry jam.) Whatever you choose take a knife and make some nice swirlies on the top for drama. It's just fun.
Bake this thing for 40-45 minutes. Check that the middle isn't jiggly and it looks cooked. No toothpick- the jam will preclude anything from coming out cleanly. Let it cool completely (yea, right) before cutting and tasting. I swear- and this is from someone who isn't a big fan of the baked good- this is going to be a hit.
Posted by Queen of Cuisine at 8:21 PM
Sunday, April 21, 2013
|The elusive spring Boxer.|
|This dude is just cocky because there are no batteries in my bee-swatter.|
|Now he's just showing off.|
|Forsythia. Yes, I know the name of stuff.|
|Japanese Maple starting to bloom.|
Posted by Queen of Cuisine at 7:39 PM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I was out salmon fishing the other day, and caught a whopper. After baked salmon, poached salmon, roasted salmon, pan-fried salmon, salmon cakes, salmon croquettes and salmon pie, there was still a heck of a lot of salmon left. Certainly, this must have been Nordic Bjørn's dilemma (as I'm sure you've determined it really isn't mine) and he had to come up with a creative way to preserve his precious catch. Sure, he could have flung it into the snow next to the cowberry bush and shot glasses carved out of ice, but a bear or something certainly would have come along and scarfed down his tasty leftovers, and cowberries. (Did you ever watch "Scandinavian Cooking"? A great, but alas, short-lived show.) Inspired by my own salmon-fishing fantasy, I hunted down a recipe for gravlax- a Scandinavian preparation of raw fish. Back in the Middle Ages, the salmon (lax) was lightly salted and buried in the sand (grav) and allowed to lightly ferment. Modern gravlax recipes don't require a beach, and the fish does not ferment, as the curing takes place under refrigeration. This is good, as our now delicate, modern constitutions probably wouldn't tolerate a fermenting accident very well.
While I did not have to brave the elements to procure some salmon, I did have to parry with my own "white water," the kid behind the fish counter. I carefully inspected the salmon choices, and made my selection, a nicely-fleshed half-side of salmon. As he took it out of the case and weighed it, I said, having experienced this young man's skills before, "Please don't fold it, just wrap it as is." Once before, I had brought home a fillet, a rather large one, only to have found it folded in threes, like a business letter, and squashed for good measure. The flesh was mashed at the folds, and I was livid- it disrespected the fish, and it disrespected the cook. Don't do that. Jr. Fishmonger slapped my fish down, put a piece of paper over it, and while chatting with the grocery kid, rolled it up tightly like a cigar. Stuffed it into a plastic bag, and handed it to me. Does blood boil? Because I think it does. I said, "Thanks so much," took my Havana-style fish, and opened it right there on the ice. After unrolling it, assuring myself it was not ruined (it wasn't, yet) I rewrapped it properly, just as I learned when I was Jr. Fishmonger, and said, "That's how you wrap a piece of fish." I didn't get a response. Fishing expedition over.
Gravlax preparation is pretty easy. It's a matter of mixing a 2:1 ratio of salt and sugar (add a good grinding of black pepper) and spreading it on the fish, flesh side first. Cut the fish in half so you have two even portions and spread a generous portion of the fish, covering all the flesh.
Then take a generous heap (specific measurement) of dill, and place it on one half. Many recipes call for the dill to be chopped, but I didn't want a crazy, overwhelming dill flavor- but if you do, by all means, chop it up. Lay the other half of salmon on top, sandwiching the dill, flesh in, skin out.
Add some more of the curing mixture, and cover with more dill. Wrap the fish snugly (I know a guy who can do this for you) in plastic wrap. Place it in a dish with sides (there will be liquid loss) and weight it with a plate and a can or two. (I prefer canned tomatoes, 28 oz. Perfect size.)
Refrigerate and allow fish to cure for 3 days. Then, unwrap, scrape off cure (you can wash it off) dry the fish and let it sit, uncovered, for an hour or two in the fridge to dry a little further. Slice it very thinly on the bias and serve it with some nice dark bread and sour cream. Or cowberries and vokka from shot glasses made of ice. Just like Bjørn.
Posted by Queen of Cuisine at 9:19 AM