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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Like anchovies? Here's a recipe for you!

I have lots of friends who turn up their noses and make awful faces at the mention of anchovies--unfortunately some of my family are included in that group. But I love anchovies, sometimes just put one on a cracker and eat it. They're good in dips, salad dressings, all kinds of things--you just have to be careful to use a sparing hand. Not usually part of my cooking technique. I was raised on the school if a little is good, a lot is better. Not true with anchovies.
But anchovies seem particularly suited to pasta sauces. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Quick spaghetti with anchovy/tomato sauce--serves two

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1.5 Tbsp. olive oil
half a small onion, chopped fine
a garlic clove, pressed
7-8 anchovy filets (about 1 can, though I've discovered you can use anchovy paste--1 tsp. equals a filet)
fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
Enough cooked linguine for two--I have one of those things with holes of graduated sizes--you stick some pasta through the hole for two and it tells you if you have enough or not.

Process tomatoes and juices until smooth. Heat oil and sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and anchovies. Boil and then simmer until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Add linguine, simmer to be sure all is heated, and stir well. The first time I made this I found I left a lot of anchovy in the bottom of the pan. Serve with Parmesan.

This can easily be doubled.

Carbonara with anchovies--serves four (or three who really like pasta and anchovies)

12 oz. linguine
1/4 c. olive oil
3 sliced garlic cloves
1 2-oz. can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
pinch of red pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano (it grows in a planter box on my porch)
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
2 large egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste
Grated fresh Parmesan

Cook pasta and drain, but keep 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat oil in skillet with garlic and anchovies and cook until anchovies come apart. Add pepper if using, lemon zest, oregano and parlsey. Add pasta, toss to coat and remove from heat.
Separately whisk egg yolks with reserved pasta water; add to pasta and return to stove, cooking over low heat and tossing until pasta is coated in a creamy sauce--probably no more than a minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan.

I know what I'm having for dinner one night this week! All you need is a green salad and crusty bread. Great meal. Disregard what they tell us about carbs and pasta and weight.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

A cooking week...and a summer chowder

It's been a cooking week--or weekend. Thursday night I made a pot of chowder and a goat cheese/wasabi appetizer to take to a friend for her birthday; Friday night an old friend came to visit and I made tuna pasties and cole slaw of red cabbage--she was astounded, said she'd never seen it that color before; Saturday night we had smoked trout salad, green bean, leek and cherry tomato salad in a buttermilk dressing, and scallops--I can't take credit for the scallops, though I cut out the recipe. Neighbor Jay cooked them, not quite according to the recipe which called for crisp crusts and brown butter sauce--we had no crust  and beurre blanc but they were quite possibly the best scallops I've ever eaten. Sent the recipe with Jay because he wants to play with it some. Tonight my chore was light--I had already sent appetizers to my daughter's house--herbed goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, scallions, crackers, and hummus. But I finished off my week of good eating with a wonderful steak, marinated with a light Cajun seasoning and cooked medium rare/rare--just the way I like it. Add a half a baked potato and it was a treat I don't often have. And I have leftover steak for tomorrow. But back to the chowder.
Chowder is not what I would normally fix on a summer night. Friend Kathie wanted us to come see her new house but didn't have the oomph to cook. I offered a wonderful smoked salmon/lemon potato salad/crème fraiche drizzle dish, to which she replied that she didn't much like salmon. Now who on earth, besides my son-in law, doesn't like smoked salmon? So then I gave her a choice--I forget what all but I was hoping she'd pick one dish. She picked a zucchini/summer squash/bacon chowder I'd never made before. Turned out to be delicious, and I will do it again. So that's my recipe for the week. I found it on the web but made my own modifications as always.

Zucchini, bacon, and corn chowder

Four slices bacon
1 small onion. chopped fine
1 heaping Tbsp. flour
4 cups chicken broth--use the low sodium that comes in a box
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
1 16. oz. bag frozen corn or kernels cut from four ears (frozen works just fine)
1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, cut in four pieces lengthwise and then sliced 1 inch thick
1 summer squash, trimmed and cut as the zucchini
3/4 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil, cut in small strips

Use a deep Dutch oven or soup pot. The bacon is problematical. You could fry whole until crisp and crumble later as needed, but it doesn't always crumble into tiny bits. I cut it into small pieces first--I think that would go better if the bacon was frozen or semi-frozen. At any rate, fry until crisp and remove from pot for later use. Save grease unless there is more than two Tbsp. Sauté onion in grease until soft but not browned. Add flour, still well and cook for a minute or so. Then slowly add chicken broth, a bit at a time until it is gradually incorporated. Add diced potato and cook until potato is halfway cooked. Add corn and cook until potatoes and corn are soft.
Puree 1-1/2 c. of the mixture in blender until smooth and stir back into the pot. Add squashes and cook until just tender. Four or five minutes. Stir in cream and season to taste. Top with basil for decoration.
If you want to make this ahead of time, refrigerate after squash is cooked. To serve, heat, then add cream and seasoning. Cook briefly and add basil.
I know we don't like to eat bacon grease these days but somehow it gives this a rich, creamy goodness. I'd advise against substituting.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Aunt Amy’s Giant Stuffed Hamburger

Aunt Amy is a beloved relative in New York--the Bronx to be specific--and we don't see nearly enough of her. But several of her recipes have become legendary in the family. One is a layered ice cream pie that you make in so many stages that you must start days ahead of time. Then there's one for stuffed shells and another for chicken burgers--she may not even remember some of these.
Recently I fixed Christian a birthday dinner--one of several that he enjoyed. Because he's a meat and potatoes man, I fixed Aunt Amy's Giant Stuffed Hamburger.

Aunt Amy’s Giant Stuffed Hamburger
2 Tbsp. butter
1¼ c. herbed, seasoned stuffing mix, crushed (makes about ¾ cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 3-oz. can mushrooms, drained (You could use sautéed fresh, which would be good; I omit them these days because Christian, Brandon, and Melanie think mushrooms are poison.)
⅓ c. beef broth
¼ c. sliced green onion
¼ c. toasted almonds (I put them in but didn't care for the crunch in the meat)
¼ c. snipped parsley (optional, but a nice touch)
1 tsp. lemon juice--or a little more
2 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. salt--or more to taste
Black pepper and Worcestershire to taste

Melt butter in saucepan and remove from heat. Add stuffing mix, egg, mushrooms, beef broth, onion, almonds, parsley, and lemon juice. (It’s remarkable what adding lemon or lime juice does to a variety of recipes!) Mix well and set aside.

Combine beef with salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Mix thoroughly and divide in half. On sheets of waxed paper (I have one of the few old-fashioned kitchens where there is still a roll of waxed paper), spread meat out into 8-inch circles. Spoon stuffing over one circle of meat to within 1 inch of edge. Top with second circle of meat and peel off waxed paper. Seal around edges and invert into a well-greased flat grilling basket--the kind designed for fish. Grill over medium heat about 10-12 minutes per side. Cut into wedges and serve. Makes six servings.
Don’t have a grill or it’s too cold outside? Broil it in the oven—it still tastes great. Just don’t overcook it and get it dry. And if you don't have a basket, I'm not sure what you'd do about flipping it. Me? I'd call for help.
For a side, I fixed Christians green beans. Brown three or four pieces of bacon until quite crisp; set aside. Sauté sliced scallions in bacon grease (I know, I know--it's bad for you but once in a while won't hurt). Drain and dump in a large can of green beans (about 28 oz.). Shake in cider vinegar to taste. Crumble bacon over and serve warm. This is based on my mom's wilted lettuce--I should make that soon.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kitchen Disasters and Meat Pasties

We all have disasters—the cake that doesn’t rise, the pizza that burns, something that tastes off and you don’t know why. I once made a casserole of lima beans and blue cheese—awful, but I was young and green and didn’t know any better.

The other day I made stuffed zucchini. I usually cook the zucchini, hollow it out, sauté celery and onions in butter, add the insides of the zucchini (never much), and bread crumbs. Pile it back into the zucchini shells, top with grated cheese and bake. Always good.

This time I decided to use a favorite tuna recipe.

 1 7-oz. can albacore tuna in water, drained

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar

¼ c. chopped celery

1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1/3 c. sour cream

 To make matters worse (or, I thought, better) I mixed in the zucchini insides that I had hollowed out. Baked the whole thing—maybe I should have salt and peppered the zucchini, drained it, done something—but it was bland and watery and even the cheese mixture didn’t taste as good as usual.

 Here’s what you should do:

 Use 1 pkg. refrigerated biscuits

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

 Roll each biscuit into 4 in. oval and pus about 1/3 c. tuna mix on each of six biscuits. Top with remaining biscuits, pinch the edges together, and brush melted butter on the top.  Let sit a few minutes; bake 15-18 minutes @ 400. Makes six. They freeze well.

I like meat pasties, although when I posted earlier about my disaster, someone asked, “What’s a pasty?” It’s a dish we get from Wales and amounts to putting unbaked filling into circles of dough and baking—great for lunch boxes, etc. Sometime I’ll post the recipe I inherited for Nachitoches meat pies from Louisiana—spicy and good.

 But I have another almost pasty recipe I borrowed from Mystery Lovers Kitchen when Riley Adams was posting there. Riley had teen-age sons to feed and her recipes were always outstanding and filling. This is for chicken crescent rolls.

 6 oz. cooked, chopped chicken

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

½ c. chopped mushrooms

2 Tbsp. sliced green onions

1 pkg. 8 crescent rolls

1 Tbsp. melted butter

 Mix together chicken, cream cheese, mushrooms and onions. Roll out crescent rolls into rectangles and pinch perforations together to end with 4 rectangles. Put ½ of chicken mixture in the center of each of the four. Pull the dough up and over and pinch closed. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with crushed croutons. Bake 12-15 minutes in a preheated 375 oven. If they start to get too brown, cover loosely with foil the last five minutes. (My mother always cut up a brown paper sack to do this—even with Thanksgiving turkey; she claimed the heat killed any germs!). With four rectangles, you won’t feed many teenagers and many have to double the recipe.

 Thanks to Riley Adams, and if you haven’t checked out Mystery Lovers Kitchen, you really should. These days they do lots more desserts than main dishes, but I used to get some great entrees from the site.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birthday celebration and the easiest salad ever

We had a riotous, rowdy celebration of four birthdays tonight--belatedly, mine on the 22nd and neighbor Susan's on the 25th; in advance, son-in-law Christian's Aug. 6 and good friend Phil's Aug. 15 when he'll be out of town. Phil enjoyed Jacob's b'day so much that he said that was what he wanted for his birthday--toys. And he got them--a jump rope, an awful sqishy rubber spider, one of those paddles with a small ball attached (never could master that and neither could he). Mostly it was a no-gifts, have fun party--and we did. I am blessed with such wonderful friends, and a daughter who decorated the house with balloons, party favors, and a giant cut-out Darth Vader (remnant of one of Jacob's parties).
Dinner parties at my house are often potluck, as was this tonight. Neighbor Jay (the good looking one) brought his mother-in-law's spaghetti, I made a marinated vegetable salad and artichoke/cheese bread (even Christian, the non-artichoke eater, had several pieces). For appetizers Jordan brought salami, a sharp Irish cheddar, and a cheddar with rosemary plus an artichoke dip--all so good. For dessert Subie brought-at my request--Black Forest Cake. I'm in heaven--they left the one leftover piece with me.
I'm not sure when I've had more fun with this group of people. What I love about them is that they didn't know each other (with a couple of exceptions) until I brought them together and now they are close friends. Sophie was so excited she had to be let out twice before she would come in and quiet down but she finally did and was a good dog. Phil's guide dog, Santiago, always excites her beyond belief but Santiago is nine, a Lab, and all he wants when he's not working is to lie down and rest. Sophie does not understand that. She also pestered Susan's 91-year-old father with a vengeance, I guess because he was new, though he's been here before. Anyway, it was a wonderful evening.

Here's my easy marinated salad recipe:

1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 large can cut green beans (not French style), drained
1 small head broccoli, cut into tiny flowerets
A bunch of teeny tiny carrots
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

You can use whatever else you want--the original recipe left out corn and black beans but called for cauliflower (I couldn't see buying a whole cauliflower and I'm not particularly fond of it), avocado (which gets lost in the mix), and a shredded head of lettuce (which wilts and ruins the leftovers--without it, the salad is good for days).

I jar bottled salad dressing of your choice. I used Paul Newman's Own Vinaigrette. The original recipe called for Kraft Italian. If you're ambitious, you can make your own. I should have but I was also busy making artichoke/cheese bread--so good!

Let the salad sit several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Lovely evening, delicious food.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The ubiquitous onion soup dip and other retro foods

My daughter had a potluck gathering last night, and I love being included in this group of forty-year-olds (though Jordan will huffily remind me that she's not forty yet!). Being lazy, my contribution was potato chips with onion soup dip. People deride it as passé, so sixties, trite, etc. but they consume every bit of it. I actually serve it fairly often, It's so easy to make. One of Jordan's friends and I actually had a whole conversation about the whole onion soup thing.
Several years ago friends and I decided to have a retro potluck dinner--we'd serve the foods of the sixties that we remembered from growing up.
I announced I would make tuna noodle casserole, and one friend asked, "Do I really have to eat it?" I assured her mine is good...and it is. Another friend made orange Jello salad with carrots and pineapple in it--remember that? And we had two batches of onion soup dip--one made with no-fat sour cream, which we pronounced a crashing failure. This was back before we realized that if the manufacturers took the fat out, they put in something to substitute, probably worse. I always buy whole sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese, rarely buy anything low fat. Just eat less!
Back to the successful batch of onion soup dip--one man was so taken with it, he said to his wife, "This is delicious. Can you get the recipe?" She smiled smugly and said, "I think I can handle it."
Here's my tuna casserole recipe, which I really like (I also used to use it for leftover turkey):

One cup white wine
Handful of herbs--thyme, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, black pepper, savory, parsley, whatever strikes  your fancy, though I'd leave out cumin, chile powder and related spices
Egg noodles - maybe 5 oz. or so
1 7-oz. can chunk albacore tuna
1 can cream of mushroom soup--not low fat
Vegetable of choice--I like frozen green peas; use however much you want
Dash of Worcestershire
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dry mustard if you want
French fried onion rings or other crispy topping of your preference--buttered Ritz cracker crumbs are also good (nobody said this is a weight watchers' recipe)

Boil wine and herbs hard until mixture turns black. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil some egg noodles. Drain and rinse.

Mix tuna, noodles, soup, wine mixture, vegetable and seasonings. Top with topping of choice and bake until casserole is bubbly and topping is brown. 350 for about 25-30 minutes. Honest, it's good! But then, I like almost anything tuna.

As for onion soup dip
1 envelope original onion soup mix
2 cups (16 oz. container) sour cream--not lowfat or no fat
1 bag sturdy waffle potato chips

Mix soup seasonings and sour cream and chill in a bowl. Put chips in a separate bowl. Serve--and sit back and  laugh.

Note I wanted to post a cute picture of myself and my hostess-daughter from last night, but I can't get it out of regular email and into my photo file. Hence the picture of the onion soup box. Eye-catching, isn't it?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The ubiquitous zucchini

One year, in another house, we had a bumper crop of zucchini and I despaired over finding new things to do with them--you can only sauté in soy sauce so often or broil with olive oil, salt and pepper, and Parmesan. I did occasionally stuff scraped-out halves with a mixture of sautéed scallions, chopped celery, the zucchini's insides, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper, topping them with grated cheddar or Parmesan. I still do that often, and a half a zucchini makes a good dinner for me.
But lately I've been reading recipes for a variety of stuffed zucchini--Italian style with capicola, lemon, ricotta topped with marinara; a Tex-Mex with garlic, jalapeno, chipotle chili powder, Muenster, a chopped tomato, scallions and cilantro. A lemon-pasta version sounds good--tiny ditalini pasta, a shallot, cream, chicken broth, Havarti, Parmesan, an egg yolk, parsley, lemon zest and breadcrumbs.
But the recipe that caught my fancy was for crab-stuffed zucchini with crabmeat, mayonnaise, Creole mustard, Worcestersire, and cayenne with cayenne pepper and scallions for topping. If you've read much of Potluck with Judy, you know I'm a big tuna fan, and it occurred to me that I could stuff one of those zucchini in my fridge with a tuna and cheddar mixture I really like. Usually I put it into pasties, using refrigerator biscuits, putting the tuna between two halves, sealing the edges and brushing with butter before baking. But I bet it would be good with zucchini and maybe a bit more healthy.

Tuna stuffing

1 7 oz. can tuna
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 c. chopped celery
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley (about the extent of my current parsley crop)
1/3 c. sour cream

I haven't tried this yet, but I guess I'd put some extra cheddar on the top and bake. More cheese never hurt anything.