My Blog List

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.