30 September 2009

Seafood Linguine

Andrew and I have been married since June 2008. Even though we now have a wedding anniversary to celebrate, I think it's fun to celebrate our "dating anniversary" too. There are so many sad days in life, don't you think it's nice to celebrate every happy occasion you can think of?

Monday marked six years that Andrew and I have been together. Instead of going out to dinner, we decided to make a dinner we both love - seafood linguine. We stalked the seafood section of our local grocery store, then put together a simple scampi sauce. The meal turned out beautifully, and the anniversary was pretty great too!

Seafood Linguine
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. sea scallops
1/2 lb. large shrimp
2 cans minced clams
1-1/2 lbs. mussels
1 lb. linguine
1 c. white wine
1 bottle clam juice
olive oil
red pepper flakes

To start, drizzle olive oil into a large saucepan. Saute onions, garlic, and red pepper over medium heat unti onions are soft. At the same time, put a large pot of salted water on to boil for your pasta.

Clean mussels by washing them and removing their beards and any loose barnacles. The nice lady at the seafood counter was kind enough to pack the mussels on ice for me, since I wasn't planning to use them until the next day.

Add wine, clam juice, and mussels to pan. Bring to a simmer and cover.

While the mussels are cooking, prepare the other seafood. Don't forget to put the pasta into your boiling water!

The sea scallops we bought were really big, so I cut each one into six small chunks.

I like canned clams. I LOVE fresh clams, but they are tough to get at a decent price here in Ohio, and honestly, it would take SO much work to get the same amount of fresh clams that you get in a can.

So anyway. Crack the two cans. Drain one. Add both cans of clams, one with juice, to the saucepan.

Andrew helped me peel and devein the shrimp. This is NOT a pretty process, so I did not photograph it for you. I'm trying to entice you with my food, not gross you out. I chopped the shrimp, then added the shrimp and scallops to the pan. These only need to cook for two or three minutes, until the shrimp turn pink and the scallops turn opaque white.

Drain the pasta whenever it's done cooking. If the timing isn't perfect, just let it sit in the colander for a moment while you finish prepping the seafood.

Pile your cooked pasta into the pan.

Get your husband, neighbor, local superhero, or weightlifting pal to lift up that super heavy pan and dump it into a large bowl. Make sure you scrape out all the onions, clams, and other yummy goodness.

Get your garlic bread ready. You can find my recipe here. If you're comfortable with the broiler, you can prep your bread in the two minutes that the shrimp and scallops are cooking and broil it while you are mixing the linguine and serving it.

All in all, it's a pretty simple recipe that yields fantastic results. If you're a seafood fan, this is one that's definitely worth adding to your list of "special occasion" menus.

28 September 2009

Buttermilk Quick Bread

There are so many food blogs out there that it's hard to keep track of all the ones I want to read and all the recipes I want to make. Sometimes, a post catches my eye, and I end up making the recipe right away. I'll see some delicious looking chicken dish, already have chicken thawed for dinner, and decide to change my plans to accomodate this new recipe I've found. However, I had never gotten up out of my chair after reading a post and gone straight to the kitchen to make a recipe. Until today.

Buttermilk Quick Bread

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large egg whites
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the dry ingredients.

**Note** Part of the reason I wanted to make this recipe was because I discovered a container of powdered buttermilk in my pantry this weekend. If you are using powdered, add the powder to the dry ingredients, then add the water when you would add the liquid ingredients.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquids. Stir gently to combine - do not overmix! You just want everything to be incorporated, not beaten to death.

Here's where Stephanie tells you to pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. Oops! I didn't realize that I packed my loaf pan and sent it to my mom's house...in Connecticut. So here I am in Ohio, debating what to do. I ended up using an 8" x 8" pan, and it worked beautifully.

Bake for 45 minutes, unless you are dumb like me and have to use an 8" x 8", in which case, bake for 35 minutes.

I allowed mine to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then removed it to a baking rack per Stephanie's instructions. I'm sorry, but I couldn't let it cool completely before I tasted it. I would be ashamed, but let's face it, hot buttermilk bread is pretty irresistible.

I decided to cut the 8" x 8" square into two rectangular "loaves" and then slice.

So, today I discovered two great new things: a new blog to enjoy in Stephanie Cooks, and on that blog, a great new recipe! Stephanie found this one in the January/February 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

If you have buttermilk powder on hand, this is the type of recipe you can pull together at the last minute when you need something for weekday breakfasts, a weekend brunch, or even to serve with chili. I love recipes that can be put together using only the contents of my pantry and everyday fridge items (eggs, butter). I honestly didn't find any fault with the buttermilk powder - some foodie purists might choose to disagree, but I thought this bread was luscious - buttery, not too crumbly, moist, and rich. *sigh* I think I need to be alone with the bread for a moment.

Okay, I'm back. ::wipes away drool:: I don't trust myself alone with this bread for another day...so I sent it to work with Andrew. Hope everyone enjoys it! And for the record, I did keep two pieces for myself. Okay fine, three.

This quick bread really was easy to put together - it took me all of five minutes to mix it once I had my ingredients assembled. Another five minutes was spent looking for my loaf pan, then about 30 seconds deciding screw the loaf pan, I'll just use an 8x8. Another 30 seconds was spent inhaling two slices once the bread came out of the oven. See, I told you...it's quick.

27 September 2009

Braised Beef

This is another recipe from Samantha - when I get a recipe from her, I always know it's going to turn out delicious, and this was no exception. After being braised, the meat is incredibly tender and flavorful. You could serve it any way you like - I decided to serve it over egg noodles. You can see that I made this recipe my own by omitting ingredients that I didn't have (or that we don't care for!) - I know that Samantha's recipes are never exact, and they're usually pretty flexible in terms of measurements and required ingredients.

Braised Beef

One huge ass beef roast (Samantha's words, not mine!)
5-6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced carrot
1/2 c. diced celery (I omitted)
1/2 c. diced mushrooms (I omitted)
3 tbsp. tomato paste
Half a bottle of red wine
3 c. chicken broth (or beef if you prefer)
1 tbsp. each basil, oregano, tarragon
1/2 tsp. each rosemary and thyme (I omitted because I didn't see this line until I was retyping this recipe just now)
a bay leaf (I never have one, so I skipped it)

Season all sides of the roast with salt and pepper. Go a little heavy on the salt - you're going to need it. As Andrew said - "That's a big piece of meat!"

Heat a little bit of olive oil over high heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Sear the meat on both sides until brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add veggies and garlic and saute until onion is translucent. You may need to add a bit more olive oil - I did.

Add the tomato paste and stir.

Now, pour in the wine, chicken broth, and spices.

The original recipe calls for 2-3 cups broth - I used 2 cups to start, then ended up adding another cup to cover the beef.

Of the spices listed in the recipe, I used basil, oregano, and tarragon. I missed the line about rosemary and thyme - oops!

Add a bit more salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to a boil and taste. It should be just slightly under-salted. Yummy!

Submerge the roast in the liquid. If it is not covered, add more wine and broth until it does and reseason to taste. Cover and simmer for at least 45 minutes. The longer it simmers, the more tender the beef will be. As Samantha says, "It's done when you get tired of waiting or when it falls apart when you try to lift it."

I braised the beef for right around the recommended 45 minutes. It wasn't falling apart, but it was beautifully tender and rare. The edges were cooked all the way through, but the middle was a gorgeous bright pink.

I sliced the beef and served over buttery egg noodles. Once the noodles were cooked, I added a little bit of butter and garlic powder, Italian seasonings, salt, pepper, and parsley.

To serve, make a bed of noodles:

Then, top the noodles with the sliced beef:

Ladle the veggies and broth over the beef and noodles:

This is a hearty, comforting meal that is easy yet impressive. It's a perfect Sunday night dinner, reminiscent of Grandma's pot roast, but more flavorful and even more delicious.

25 September 2009

Throw Together Pasta: Version 2

You know I love my pasta, and you may even know that I'm good at throwing things together at the last minute. What you may not know is that I put together a random pasta dish almost every week, and it's never the same twice. I wanted to post tonight's dinner so you can get an idea of how I come up with these meals.

Unlike my last version, this throw together pasta is not vegetarian. Andrew is not a fan of meals that don't include meat, so I try to keep certain items (like bacon and shrimp) in the freezer at all times. I stick to bacon and shrimp for a few reasons: they are quick to thaw, easy to incorporate into any dish, fast-cooking, and most importantly, I like them. See, I'm a little devious that way.

Throw Together Pasta: Version Two
The Fridge & Freezer Version
6 slices raw peppered bacon, chopped
1 lb. pasta (*see note below)
12-15 frozen shrimp
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 c. fresh mozzarella, diced
1 egg
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes

To start, crisp the bacon in a large pan over medium high heat. It's okay if it doesn't get completely crispy, it will have more time to cook. I didn't need to, but depending on the quantity and type of bacon, it may be necessary to drain some of the fat.

Add the onions, peppers, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, and saute until vegetables soften.

In the meantime, put a pot of water on to boil for your pasta. I used cresti di gallo, a pasta shape that made the best mac & cheese ever - served at a restaurant I waitressed at here in Ohio. I never knew the name of the pasta shape until today, when I googled "ruffly elbow noodles" to try to find out what they were called. It didn't even say what it was on the box, so research was necessary.

Once you drop the pasta, throw your shrimp into the bacon/veggie pan, ladle in some pasta water, and put a lid on the pan. I used uncooked frozen shrimp straight from the freezer, shells on. Usually I thaw them, remove the tails, and devein them, but I was in a hurry and Andrew was hungry, so we peeled them ourselves while we ate.

While the pasta cooks, beat one egg in a small bowl.

Give the bacon/veggie mixture a stir, then dice the fresh mozzarella.

Drain the pasta - see how pretty?

Combine all ingredients in the pasta pot - the bacon/veggie mixture, the egg, the mozzarella, and the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta with the egg and evenly distribute the bacon, veggies, shrimp, and cheese.

Serve in bowls topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Andrew and I have come to love pasta night - I get to be creative, we get to use up various items in our fridge and freezer, and we always end up liking the results. Try your own throw together pasta next time you're short on time, ingredients, and ideas. Trust me, you'll like whatever you come up with.

23 September 2009

Sausage Grinders

So, if you're from Connecticut, chances are you read the title of my post and thought "yum, sausage grinders!" If you are from anywhere else, you probably read the title of my post and thought, "um, what's a grinder?" If there's one thing I've learned living in the Midwest, it's that nobody else calls it a grinder! Well, let me clear this up for you people: a grinder is also known as a hoagie, a sub, a footlong, a sandwich, and on and on!

Throughout high school and college, I worked at a pizza restaurant - Teddy's. My very first job there was as a pizza girl. My life consisted of making the pizzas and grinders, taking orders over the phone, and working the cash register. It was a fun job and we were allowed to eat pretty much whatever we wanted. Some of the most popular grinders we offered were the "parms" - chicken, eggplant, and sausage. Now, Andrew loves a good sausage sandwich, and I thought I could put together a sausage parm grinder for him that would knock his socks off.

I started out by sauteeing three peppers and two onions, sliced into hefty strips, in a little bit of olive oil. I wanted to get a good char on these veggies before I added them to the sauce, so no salt yet! Salt will cause them to start breaking down and releasing their water, which will make them take much longer to blacken up nicely.

In the meantime, I added the sausage to a pot of homemade sauce. If you don't have any in your freezer, or you don't like to make your own, use your favorite brand of *gasp* jarred sauce.

Once the veggies are soft and blackened, I add those to the sauce pot too.

Simmer away!

I let this sit on the stove for several hours, mostly because I cooked this on my lunch break and we weren't eating it until dinner time.

Now, time to prepare your sandwiches! Slice grinder rolls lengthwise, leaving the roll connected on one side. Sprinkle one side of the bread with grated mozzarella and Italian seasonings. Broil for a few moments. Try not to forget you put the rolls in the oven.

Add a sausage link to the roll, then top with peppers, onions, and sauce. Feel free to add more cheese if you want!

Andrew was really happy with his grinders. I think he was just as happy to hear someone else around here calling them grinders! Whatever you want to call them, these sandwiches are yummy, easy, and hearty enough that they can be a simple weeknight dinner when paired with a salad.

18 September 2009

Creamed Corn

Last year, I printed out a recipe from cdkitchen, planning to make their Creamed Corn for Christmas Eve dinner. I ended up making so many other dishes that I didn't need another vegetable. I've held onto the recipe all year. Having never made a creamed vegetable, it was definitely something I wanted to try. After all, it does combine three of my favorite things - cream, cheese, and corn!

I don't know if you've ever used cdkitchen, but it can be difficult to navigate. Though they have an extensive recipe collection arranged by category, the search function...stinks. I can't even find the original Creamed Corn recipe I printed out last year, so I've opted to type up the recipe for you below.

I had two ears of corn left over from earlier in the week, and I wasn't sure whether that would be enough. The recipe that serves 9 calls for three 16-oz bags of frozen corn. I wanted to third the recipe (since it was just Andrew and I eating). I chopped the kernels off the cobs and measured - sure enough, I had 16 ounces there. It's amazing how much corn is on one cob. (This does make me rethink the number of ears I eat in a sitting though.)

All right, let's get to the recipe!

Creamed Corn
serves 9

3/4 c. butter
3 tbsp. AP flour
3 - 16 ounce packages frozen corn kernels
if using fresh, 6-8 ears ought to do it
1-1/2 pt. half-and-half
1-1/2 pt. heavy whipping cream
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2-1/4 tbsp. granulated sugar (I omitted this)
1-1/2 c. grated Romano cheese (I used a 5-cheese Italian blend)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Allow this to cook for a moment to get rid of the raw flour taste, but try not to let it brown.

Add the corn, half-and-half, whipping cream, salt, and sugar if using. Stir and heat until mixture begins to thicken. I didn't want to smush the corn, so I left it in clumps - it broke up on its own in the heat of the cream.

Stir in the cheese. Yummy!

Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Honestly, if you don't have time to bake it, don't. There's no magic happening in the oven. If you were to turn the heat off and let the creamed corn stand on the stove uncovered for two minutes, I think the same thing would probably happen. (It would thicken!)

This, like that amazing zucchini I made recently, is another less healthy way to get your veggies. But this creamed corn would make a fantastic side dish at Thanksgiving, on your Sunday dinner table, or for any other special occasion. It's not something we'd eat often, but for our Saturday date night, served with fantastic steaks, carmelized onions, and roasted asparagus, Creamed Corn was a big hit.

16 September 2009

Vanilla-Strawberry Ice Cream

I have been wanting to make ice cream for a long time. I mentioned it a couple months ago in my vanilla bean post, but my desire to make ice cream with my KitchenAid mixer stems all the way back to two distinct life events.

Life Event #1 - Making ice cream at Girl Scout camp. You know how you put the ice cream batter in a small can inside a coffee can packed with rock salt and ice? And then you roll the can back and forth until the ice cream freezes? You know? And Life Event #2 - receiving my KitchenAid mixer and all the attachments from my grandma months before my shower and being SO excited to learn how to use each one.

I have since learned a lot about my mixer, but there's so much more to experiment with. Making ice cream all by myself was a pretty exciting thing to try, and I was so pleased with the results, I can't wait to try new ice cream flavors and fun mix-ins.

I decided to start simple: Vanilla Ice Cream. My childhood favorite, dressed up with real vanilla beans and (I later decided) studded with fresh strawberries. What a treat! Not wanting to be at all adventurous during my first try, I stuck with the vanilla ice cream recipe that came with the ice cream attachment.

Lots of egg yolks - I saved the whites for a later dessert project.

Beat those yolks 'til they cry! Or, you know, until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture fluffs up a bit.

Simmering half & half with egg yolk/sugar mixture.

Transfer half & half mixture to a mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer's bowl) and add whipping cream, vanilla extract, salt, and vanilla from one half of a vanilla bean. I used 3 teaspoons instead of the recommended 4 because I added the real vanilla.

When it was done mixing, I took out about half the ice cream, stored in an air-tight, freezer safe container, and added one cup of chopped strawberries that I had mascerated in a tablespoon of sugar to the ice cream attachment. I churned it for a few more minutes to fully incorporate all the luscious stawberry juice and the berries themselves.

This homemade ice cream was so rich and delicious, I want this to be the only kind of ice cream I ever eat. The plain vanilla is really great, but the strawberry-vanilla flavor is absolutely outrageous! The juice from the mascerated strawberries lightly flavors all the ice cream, and the chunks of frozen strawberries are little bites of fresh berry goodness. I want to try this with peaches too, but I'm afraid the season may be over.

The directions were pretty easy to follow, and since I throw everything I can in the dishwasher, the only thing to wash is the freeze bowl (which you absolutely cannot put in the dishwasher). Keep in mind that there are several steps to making ice cream, and most of them require large lapses of time for chilling. As long as you plan accordingly, you can easily churn up a batch of ice cream anytime.

At the top of the post is one yummy serving suggestion - top my Strawberry Peach Cobbler with this ice cream!

15 September 2009

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler

This recipe came to me from my friend Leslie. She mentioned a Blueberry-Peach Cobbler that sounded so good, I had to have the recipe. I bought eight (!) peaches, and by the time I was finally ready to make the cobbler, I didn't have any blueberries. I did have strawberries, so I decided to make a go of it.

The cobbler came out delicious - the dough was soft and sweet, the fruit was tender, not mushy, and I served it with my homemade Strawberry-Vanilla Ice Cream.

Strawberry Peach Cobbler

1/2 c. butter (one stick)
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. milk

2 c. peaches, peeled and sliced
2 c. strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 c. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in baking dish and melt while oven preheats. (I used my 2.2 quart Pyrex)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, 3/4 c. brown sugar, and milk. Stir gently to combine. Plop batter into pan on top of melted butter. Do NOT stir!

Add 1/2 c. brown sugar to fruit, stir gently to coat.

Pour fruit over batter.

Bake at 350 until batter rises and is golden brown. I timed this to be about 29 minutes - you may need more or less time depending on your oven, how juicy your fruit is, and how you prefer your cobbler.

This cobbler was absolutely fantastic. I had never made a dessert like this before, so I was pleased with the simplicity of the recipe and the delicious outcome. I'm glad I experimented with the strawberries - the color of the dessert was beautiful, and it really felt like one last summer fling - my two favorite summer fruits all in one dish. With brown sugar and butter! Amazing.