Thursday, January 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotto

My husband hates Ina Garten. Every time I have her show on, he does this great impression of her. He thinks she only lives to serve her husband Jeffrey, while he's off frequenting strip clubs on his "business trips". Personally I like her, her food looks and tastes great and she seems pretty happy. So, we will disagree about this topic, but I can't help but giggle at the thought of my 6'8" bearded husband with a bobbed brunette wig, gushing about Jeffrey in a falsetto voice.

Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

White Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies with Raspberry Sauce

A friend of mine requested some brownies. I was determined to make extra special blog-worthy brownies and I searched high and low for -the- recipe. Inspiration did not strike until I opened a cookbook that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas. "The New Texas Cuisine" by Stephan Pyles.

White chocolate brownies.. Can this be done, I thought? Would the chocolate gods strike me down? Would they even retain any brownie-ness without the.. well, without the brown?

Honestly, I can't say that they really scream brownies. But they're screamingly good. (Okay, I know you're all groaning right now, but my inner cheesiness has got to release itself once in a while.)

I had a feeling that the brownies would need an accompaniment because they are presented with hazelnut ice cream in the book. For lack of an ice-cream maker and for the love of color, I decided to make a raspberry sauce. It turns out that the brownies really needed that sauce. Without it they were still tasty, but lacked an edge.

White Chocolate Brownies
(from "The New Texas Cuisine" by Stephan Pyles)

1 c. Flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. sugar
12 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 Tblsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla or half a vanilla bean
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven t 350F. Butter and flour a 9 x9 baking pan. Sift together the flour and salt, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs at high speed until frothy. Gradually add the sugar, and beat for about 3 minutes, until thick and pale. In a double boiler, melt 7 ounces of the chocolate and gently fold into the egg mixture. Add the melted butter and vanilla, and stir well; the mixture may appear curdled. Add the flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. Fold in the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate and hazelnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted comes out not-quite clean. (I ended up baking mine for more like 30-40 minutes, so I guess the time will vary depending on the oven used.) Let cool in the pan and cut into squares. (I cut mine into 9 squares, even though the recipe said it would make 20 brownies. No need to be a brownie tease.)

Raspberry Sauce

1 c. fresh raspberries
10 oz. frozen raspberries
2 Tblsp. sugar
1 Tblsp. lemon juice

Blend ingredients together in a food processor and then strain out the seeds in a fine mesh strainer. I also put a big glug of Frangelico liquor in it to mirror the hazelnuts in the brownie.

*Edit of sudden inspiration: This would be insanely good with some white chocolate ice cream to turn it into a non-brown brownie sundae.

So what do you think, guys? Is this a travesty, or is it pure unadulterated deliciousness that cannot be bogged down with issues of cocoa butter versus cocoa solids?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tamale Casserole

After many years of dieting, lifestyle changes, and "I'll just eat healthier and eat less" resolutions, I have learned to embrace tex-mex. It's very flavorful and easily adapted to be low-fat. It can also often be made as a one-dish meal. This tamale casserole is packed with vegetables and fiber. I managed to get away with using a minimal amount of meat and it still tasted absolutely delicious. It can be easily made without meat or with a meat substitute as well.

Well, I'm still battling my fat demons, but at least I learned to cook along the way. And frankly, this blog has been great for curbing my snacking. It's kind of ironic that staring at photographs of food all day has helped me in this way. I guess that thinking about food all day is satisfying the gluttonous part of me.

Tamale Casserole
(this is a franken-recipe, created from Cook's Illustrated Skillet Tamale Pie, and Bergy's Hot Tamale Casserole from Recipezaar)

Tamale Filling:

cooking spray
1 Large onion, minced
1/2 large red pepper, chopped
2 Tblsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 Tblsp. ground cumin
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
9 oz. shredded cooked chicken
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained slightly
1lb. frozen corn
2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Tblsp. fresh cilantro, minced
pepper to taste

Cornbread Topping:

3/4 c all-purpose flour (3 3/4 oz)
3/4 c yellow cornmeal (3 3/4 oz)
3 Tblsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c buttermilk
1 large egg
2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 jalapeno, diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pre-heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the onion, red pepper, chili powder, salt and cumin and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook another 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in the shredded chicken, black beans, diced tomatoes and frozen corn and cook until heated through. Stir in the cheddar and cilantro and season to taste.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until combined.

Spoon the filling into a medium casserole dish (2-3 qt.) and then spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and minced jalapeno over the batter and bake in the oven uncovered for 25-30 minutes. The cornbread topping should be cooked through and golden brown.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seared Steak Salad with Feta Dressing, Red Peppers and Asparagus

As you can see, I like my steak rare...

After trying for a little while to come up with a witty following statement, I have decided to just get on with the entry. I am much more inclined to express myself visually than with words. I suppose this could be a tricky, since the best food blogs have amusing anecdotes or revelations in addition to photography. I can only hope that my writing skills will improve with practice... or that my photos will inspire such a reaction that you don't even notice the words surrounding them. Witty enough for you yet?

There's no set in stone recipe here. Basically, you want to oil and season your meat while pre-heating a stainless steel skillet or saute pan on Medium High. I'm sure many of you know this, but the secret to a great sear is to lay down the meat and then leave it alone. I know how tempting it is to play pretend-chef and beat your food to within an inch of it's former life with your tongs and wooden spoon, but seriously... Don't. Once the sear has reached maximum deliciousness the steak should release from the pan. Basically, if you can't pick it up easily it isn't done.

While the meat is resting, assemble your salad however you like. I used romaine lettuce, raw red pepper and some leftover blanched asparagus. The following is the recipe for the dressing. I adapted it slightly from "All About Salad & Dressings", a Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Feta Dressing

Process the following in a blender or food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed:

4 oz. Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

With the machine running, slowly pour through the feed tube and process until smooth:

2 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil.

Taste and adjust the seasonings*. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.

* After I had seared the steak, I deglazed the pan with some white wine and poured the reduced liquid in with the dressing along with the drippings from the rested meat. I can't stand wasting even a drop of flavor.

This salad was very filling, and the dressing went well with the steak and red peppers. The dressing is very tangy, so be mindful of that when you choose alternative toppings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cherry Tomato, Asparagus and Chevre Frittata

After spending countless hours obsessively reading food blogs and drooling, I have come to a few realizations.
One, I spend too much time sitting on my butt and staring at a monitor. Two, I love food. Three, I should get off said butt and create something worth staring at and drooling over.

Cherry Tomato, Asparagus and Chevre Frittata
(adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

6 Large Eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

8oz. Asparagus, cut into 1/4 in. pieces

2 oz. Chevre (goat cheese)

9 or 1o Cherry Tomatoes, halved

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet. Add the asparagus and cook until desired doneness. (I like mine slightly crunchy which takes about 5 minutes) Add the eggs and stir gently until the eggs on the bottom are set and firm, about 30 seconds. Dot the chevre and cherry tomato halves around the pan. Pull the cooked eggs back from one edge of the skillet and tilt the pan, allowing any uncooked egg to run to the cleared edge of the skillet. Be careful not to disturb the fillings too much. Repeat this process until the egg on top is mostly set but still moist. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the frittata top is set and dry to the touch, anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes depending on your oven. Run a spatula around the skillet edge to loosen the frittata and slide it out onto a serving plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.