Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

I threw myself a birthday bash on Friday evening. It was a lot of fun planning the menu. I had mint in my CSA produce share last week. So along side the wine and beer, I had Mint Lemonade(for the non-drinkers) with a side of Vodka(for the drinkers). Here are some recipes I wanted to share because it was all so easy and delicious. And most of these recipes are ones I repeat over and over.

Bar Nuts (Union Square Cafe recipe)
2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.

Shrimp cocktail with the traditional cocktail sauce but I also made this chili lime aioli sauce to dip into as well...
Chile-lime Aioli
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1-2 habanero or other hot chile peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced

Bill Granger's Sweet Corn cakes with Avocado Salsa ( I just bought some guacamole for a shortcut but this avocado salsa is delish)
18 oz canned corn, drained (or fresh from 3 corn cobs)
1 small red onion, chopped
2 eggs
3 T cilantro, chopped
4 oz flour
1 t. baking powder
salt and pepper
veggie oil for frying
For Avocado Salsa:
2 avocados, diced
15 g. cilantro
2 T lemon or lime juice
2T scallions, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
1 dash Tabasco sauce, optional
salt and pepper

Preheat to 250
Place 2 c.corn, onion, eggs, cilantro, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in food processor until combined. Add remaining corn and stir to combine. Heat one T oil in non-stick frying pan over med to high heat. Drove 2 T of mixture per corn cake and cook in batches of three, for one minute on each side. Keep warm in oven while making the rest of your corn cakes. Serve with avocado salsa. For salsa, add all ingredients into bowl and stir very gently to combine.
And lastly I wanted to make this duck pate crudite with diced pear and caramelized onion but Whole Foods was all out. So with the caramelized onions already made and waiting at home in the frig for assembly, I found some fig jam and Maytag blue and assembled on bagel chips. It turned out really yummy.

For desserts, I made Magnolia's Banana Pudding in individual cups for my guests. Everyone wanted this recipe and I don't think I posted this on our blog yet so here it is.
Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup vanilla pudding mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 (12 ounce) box vanilla wafers
4 ripe bananas, sliced

Whisk together the water, pudding mix and sweetened condensed milk until will mixed. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. When pudding is ready, whip the heavy cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated. In a deep bowl or individual cups, layer the pudding, wafers, bananas. Repeat and end with final layer of pudding. Stick wafers on top before serving.

I also made this S'mores brownies recipe that is always a big hit for those who have to have chocolate in their dessert repertoire. Cut into 2 bite pieces and wrapped each piece with a mini cupcake/candy paper liner to dress it up a little.
From the best of cookbook
24 bite size servings
Bottom Layer
1 c. crushed graham crackers
3 T. brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Brownie Layer
4 T. unsalted butter
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt

Graham Cracker Layer
1 c. chopped graham crackers
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

2 c. mini marshmallows
1 c. coarsely chopped milk/dark chocolate bars

Preheat 350 degrees. Grease 8 in square pan or 7 x 11 and line with parchment, leaving overhang to lift the brownies out. For bottom layer, combine all ingredients. Press the bottom layer mixture into the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 10 min. For the brownie layer, melt the butter. Stir chocolate into hot butter to melt. Stir in sugar. Let cool to warm and whisk in eggs, vanilla, flour and salt. Spread the mixture over the bottom layer in the pan. For the graham cracker layer, toss the graham crackers with the melted butter and distribute over the batter. Bake for 22-24 min or until set. Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the top of brownies with marshmallows. Place under broiler for 20-60 secs or until marshmallows start to brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chopped chocolate bar. If desired, smear the choc. with a knife as it melts. Let cool to room temp. Then refrig for 20-30 min before cutting.

And of course the cubes of watermelon with a squeeze of lime juice on top was the perfect summer thirst quencher. People loved this and ignored the grapes and strawberries on my fruit platter.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Simple Dinners: Chicken Tandoori

In the spirit of simple dinners, I thought I'd share a new favorite of ours -- chicken tandoori. It takes about 15 minutes to "prepare" (the evening before) and all you have to do is bake it for 30 minutes. Not only is it ridiculously simple to make, but it also can easily be scaled up/down depending on the number of people you're feeding. We eat it with rice or naan (we like Trader Joe's frozen naan) and partially roasted onions.

2-4 # skinless chicken pieces (avoid hassle & ask the butcher to skin the meat!)
Salt & Pepper
Garlic, minced
Ginger, grated (optional)
1-1.5 cups of plain yogurt
2-3 Tbs. tandoori masala
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
Other spices to add: garam masala, cumin, coriander, chili powder

1. Make 2-3 diagonal slashes in chicken. Sprinkle S/P and lemon juice all over pieces to tenderize meat. Let sit for 20 minutes.
2. In the meantime, in small bowl, combine all the other ingredients.
3. Drain off excess lemon juice and pour yogurt marinade on top of chicken. Marinate overnight in fridge.
4. Next day, bake on oiled baking sheet at 400* for ~30 minutes (flip halfway through). You can broil the last few minutes if desired. Serve with lots of lemon wedges.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops

My sister sent me home with a couple leftover grilled pork chops the other evening. So I tried to think of a way to re-gift it for my family...Grilled Vietnamese pork chops are my favorite. I thought my kids might like it. So I marinated the leftover chops with the marinade below from epicurious. I doubled the marinade for some extra sauce. Reheated the chops on the grill just until warmed. Put the remaining marinade in a pan and heated up. Poured it over chops and served with jasmine rice. Use this marinade for your raw thinly pounded pork chops before throwing on the grill. Delish!

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt