Saturday, February 20, 2016

Smoked Salmon Spread

For little crostini or just eating by the spoonful, this is amazing stuff. Took 10 minutes to make. The key is to get some good smoked salmon, of course. Enjoy!

Smoked Salmon Spread
Makes about 1.5 cups - Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

About 6 oz. smoked salmon, chopped and mashed with a spoon or fork
2 shallots, minced
1 T capers, minced
3-4 fresh chives (about 1 T total), minced
1 tsp fresh dill, minced
1-2 T mayonnaise, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon, to taste
Splash of hazelnut or argan oil
Fresh ground green or black pepper and sea salt or Kosher salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Balance flavors with salt, pepper and lemon as needed. Spread on toasted baguette slices, or crackers, or scoop onto a salad of mixed greens, chopped egg and a lemon vinaigrette.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wilbur's Dill Pickles

Wilbur Wright is a great man. No, not that Wilbur Wright, the aviation pioneer. I'm talking about Wilbur Wright the nuclear engineer, outdoorsman, carpenter, and pickle maker extraordinaire. Wilbur is the grandfather of my good friend, Mason, and he is one mean pickle maker.

Every year at this time he gets the itch to make pickles. We go up to the family cabin near Grand Rapids, MN, and "put up" a few dozen quarts of cucumber pickles. We usually have a few other pickling side-shows as well, such as beets, jalapeños, northerns (pickled fish recipe coming up!) or eggs (never had a pickled egg? You're missing out!). Here is Wilbur's dill pickle recipe. It's a project, but it makes the best pickles ever!

Wilbur's Dill Pickles
Makes 5-6 quarts of pickles -- multiply the recipe as needed

Pickling Solution:
6 c. water
3 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. pickling salt (aka, canning salt)

For the Pickles:
A bushel of smallish cucumbers (look for 3-4", very fresh, firm cucumbers)
6-12 heads of fresh dill
20-25 cloves of garlic, peeled, the ends trimmed off
5-6 T pickling spice (typically coriander seed, dill seed, bay leaf, mustard seed and other spices)
Optionally: red pepper flakes, peppercorns, whole cloves

Additional Materials:
6 quart-sized jars, with rings and lids to fit. Jars and rings can be re-used, but lids must be new. You'll also need 2 large stockpots and two small saucepans.

Day 1 - Prep
Shop for your cucumbers, dill and garlic. A farmer's market is almost always the best source. A note on dill: you want dill that has gone to seed and has nice heads at the top. If on dill weed is available -- dill with soft tendrils and no seeds, it will work, but you should add an additional 1/4 tsp of dill seed to each jar during pickling.

Identify a workspace and lay out all required materials. Lay a clean towel over the area that will be used to stage the finished pickles. Carefully wash the pickling jars with soap and warm water; rinse and dry thoroughly, and place open side down on the workspace towel.

Day 2 - Pickling
Prepare a batch of the pickling solution by mixing the water, vinegar and pickling salt in a large stockpot and heating to near boiling. Fill a second large stockpot with water only, and bring it to a boil. In the mean time, rinse all of the cucumbers to remove any sand or dirt. Scrub off any stubborn dirt with a soft brush. Drain and place in a large bowl. Prep all of the garlic. Check over the dill, removing any brown or blackened bits, rinsing as needed, but taking care not to wash away the dill seed. Trim the heads from the stems.

Heat some water in a small sauce pan to boiling, and place the rings and lids in it to sterilize them and soften the rubber seal on the lids. Separate the lids from each other before placing them in the hot water, or they'll be really hard to get apart -- and hot!

Now you're ready to make pickles! Get your helpers and start by packing the jars with cucumbers (nothing else goes in yet). Place the jars in a sink or on a large sheet pan, and fill each with the boiling water from the water-only stockpot (ladle it in, or use a small saucepan as a ladle). Allow the cucumbers to blanch and heat through for 12-15 minutes.

Working quickly, pour off the hot water, and fill jars with remaining ingredients: 3-5 garlic cloves, 1-2 heads of dill, 1 T of pickling spice, plus 1/4 tsp of each of the additional spices, as desired. Now fill each jar with the pickling solution (water, vinegar and salt), leaving about 1/2" of airspace at the top. Make sure the rim of each jar is free of debris so the lids will seal. Next, drain the lids and rings (they'll be hot!), and carefully put a lid and ring on each jar. Using a towel or hot pads, tighten each ring firmly, turn the jars upside down, and arrange on the towel on your workspace. Cover the jars with a thick towel to keep them warm. Allow to cool for several hours.

Check each jar to make sure the lids have popped in, indicating a good seal. You may actually hear them popping as they cool! Store the jars upright at room temperature, or in a cool basement, for at least 10 days, but they are best after a month or more. They will keep, unopened for a year or more. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a deeply personal -- and for those of us who love it, nearly religious -- expression of baking. Whether it evokes memories of your grandma, a favorite Thanksgiving, or a hole-in-the-wall on Bourbon Street (which is the case for me), the deep nutty goodness of pecan pie seems capable of evoking deep emotions like few other desserts. Unless you just don't like pecan pie, in which case I'm very sorry for you.

I was recently asked for my own pecan pie recipe, and decided to share it here. Every recipe I've ever seen has the same few basic ingredients: corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, pecans. The differences come in nuances -- add bourbon or rum? Any brown sugar? Light or dark corn syrup? Whole pecans or chopped? The variation below is my favorite so far in my experimentations...yet it doesn't quite live up to my memory of the slice I had in that little joint on Bourbon Street...

Pecan Pie
1 prepared pie crust (use your favorite recipe)
1 egg + 1 tsp water, whisked (for brushing the crust)
2 c. pecan halves
3 large eggs
3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar (I like dark brown)
1 c. light corn syrup
5 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 T. bourbon or whiskey (use good stuff)
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for about 5-8 minutes, rotating and jiggling the baking sheet partway through. Do not let them burn. Remove the sheet from the oven and allow to cool until able to touch.

In the mean time, prepare the pie shell and line a glass pie pan, fluting the edges just above the rim of the pan. Brush lightly all over with the egg mixture.

Whisk together all remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, starting with the eggs and sugar, then adding the rest.

Break the pecans into pieces and scatter on the bottom of the pie shell. Pour the egg-sugar mixture over the pecans.

Baking time will vary based on your oven and the initial temperature of the ingredients -- may range from 35 or 40 minutes up to an hour. Test by gently nudging the pan. When it's done, the edges will be firm and the center will be mostly set, but slightly jiggly like gelatin. Rotate the pan during cooking as needed to ensure even baking.

Allow to cool until warm but not hot before serving. If completely cooled, warm slightly before serving. You can serve with ice cream or whipped cream, but I like it plain.

Passion Fruit NA Punch

It's summertime! This refreshing punch is a crowd pleaser. It's tangy and refreshing and slightly exotic. You can also "punch" it up a notch by adding a shot of whiskey and a shot of orange liqueur such as Triple Sec, Gran Marnier or Countreau to each glass before pouring in the punch.

Passion Fruit Punch
(makes about 2-1/2 liters)
1 liter club soda (chilled)
1 liter passion fruit juice (I use Ceres brand)
12 oz. frozen orange juice
1 c. ginger syrup (see below)

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Serve over ice.

For the ginger syrup: combine 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup rough-chopped ginger in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a storage container, or directly into the punch. Press excess liquid out of the ginger. Makes about 1 cup. I usually make about 3 cups at a time. It will keep, refrigerated, for a couple weeks.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Guiltless French Onion Dip

Is there anything as delicious and decadent as good French onion dip? You can eat it with anything -- potato chips, of course (Ruffles are my favorite), but pretzels and veggies are great, too. Top a baked potato with it. Dollop it onto scrambled eggs or an omelet. spread it inside a grilled cheese, or on a cold sandwich with mâche, radish and smoked turkey. The possibilities are endless.

If only it didn't have 3g of fat and 31 calories in every tablespoon! Well, now it doesn't. I've been using fat-free Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in lots of dishes, and recently created this one. It's a winner, and very simple. Greek yogurt has no fat and only 65 calories per half cup, so snack away!

French Onion Dip
(makes about 1-1/4 cups)
1 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
1 large sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
dash of olive or grapeseed oil
1 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce
salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

Put the oil, onion and about 1/4 tsp salt in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stirring very frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, cook until the onions are softening and starting to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to caramelize, stirring often. Use the moisture in the onions to scape and remove browned juices and bits that stick to the pan -- this is flavor! Keep caramelizing until the onion is deep brown but not black. Be very careful not to scorch them, or the dip will taste bitter. But also don't stop too early -- all of the flavor comes from the caramelization. This process will take about 15 minutes or more. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Put the yogurt into a food processor with the Worchestershire sauce and onions and puree thoroughly. There should be almost no visible pieces of onion left...this will take a couple minutes. Periodically stop processing, remove the lid and scrape away unblended onion and yogurt. Taste for saltiness and add more salt as needed. Transfer to a serving dish, or to a plastic container and refrigerate for up to a week.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Poached Shrimp Louisiana Style

Shrimp poached in olive oil is one of my favorite things. A bunch of my guy friends are in New Orleans this weekend, and rather than mope about not being with them, I decided to get a little taste of the south at home here in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! It looks like there's a lot to this recipe, but I did the whole thing in 30 minutes...everything cooks quickly.

Poached Shrimp Louisiana Style
(Serves 2)
10 medium-large shrimp
1 ripe roma tomato
1 jalepeno
3 small or 2 medium tomatillos
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1T sherry vinegar
Fresh thyme, leaves from about 4 sprigs
Sugar (to taste, about 1 tsp)
12-15 fresh okra
1/4 c. corn meal
1/2 tsp chili powder (make your own - look for the technique elsewhere in my blog)
1/4 tsp onion powder
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Olive oil for poaching and sauteing - a cup or a bit more

Prep the sauce: fire up the grill, lightly oil the jalapeno and tomato, and char both. Make sure the chili pepper is black all over. Place both in a bowl and lightly cover. In the mean time, husk and rinse the tomatillos, place in boiling, salted water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until they are just starting to fall apart. Gently remove with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl with the tomato and jalapeno. When the pepper has cooled enough to touch, remove the skin, cut off the stem, cut in half and remove and discard the seeds. Mince the flesh and return to the bowl. Remove the tomato skin and discard. By hand, break up the tomatillos and the tomato into small pieces.

Place the shallot and garlic in a small saute or sauce pan with a little olive oil and cook over medium low until just starting to brown. Add the tomato-tomatillo-jalapeno mixture and a little salt, plus some sugar and the vinegar. Add the thyme leaves. Cook until the sauce is starting to thicken, stirring occasionally. Taste for balance of flavors. Think about the balance of acid, sweet and salt in ketchup - you want that character, only less salt and sugar - the tomatillo and tomato flavors should still come through. At this point, also add cayenne pepper to taste. Make it as hot or mild as you like. Start with a little if you're not sure!

Meanwhile, poach the shrimps. Heat enough olive oil to cover the shrimps in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the shrimps and reduce the heat to medium-low. You are not frying the shrimp, you're poaching...keep the oil temp low enough to prevent bubbling/frying. They will cook slowly and gently - should take about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep and cook the Okra. Combine the corn meal, chili powder, onion powder, and some salt (about 1/3 tsp) and pepper (generous fresh grind) in a medium bowl. Stir together. Cut the stems off of the okra, then cut into 1/4" pieces. The slimy insides will bind with the corn meal, so toss them in as you're cutting. Stir to coat; let rest for a minute; stir to coat again; repeat a few times.

Heat about 3T of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra from the bowl and add to the pan, increasing the heat to medium-high. Fry, turning frequently, until golden brown on all sides. Remove to a warm bowl with the slotted spoon. Time this so you can plate shortly after.

To serve: place half the sauce on each of two warm plates and spread it out. Place the shrimp on top (don't drain the shrimps - remove them from the oil with tongs without shaking off excess want that flavor!), then sprinkle on the okra. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pistachio Ice Cream

I recently wanted to make Neapolitan ice cream for an Italian-themed party. Neapolitan is most often found as layered chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, but I had a vague recollection of having "fancy" Neapolitan at a restaurant when I was little, and it being made of chocolate, cherry and pistachio. I have no idea if this is real or concocted in my brain. Nonetheless, I set out to make these three flavors. I ran out of time to do the more involved work of actually layering the ice creams, so I made them in separate batches and left it to the diners to take a scoop of each. While all three came out pretty well, the pistachio was my favorite. I love pistachio ice cream, and this was as delicious as any I've had before. The secret is careful roasting of the pistachios to draw out their flavor. As with all ice creams, you will also notice the difference with free-range eggs and organic milk and cream. Enjoy!

Pistachio Ice Cream
(makes about 1 quart)
1 cup shelled, raw pistachios
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, with convection (if available). Spread the pistachios in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast the pistachios until just starting to brown - about 30 minutes. Do not let them over-brown or they will become bitter. Let cool completely.

When the pistachios are cool, place about 2/3rds of them in a food processor with all of the sugar and pulse repeatedly until they are very finely chopped. Do not over-process, or they will turn to butter. For the last 3 or 4 pulses, add the remaining pistachios (these will stay in larger pieces to give some crunch to the ice cream). Set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan heat the milk and cream over medium heat until scalded but not boiling, stirring frequently. In the mean time, whisk the egg yolks, almond extract and salt until slightly frothy. When the cream mixture is hot, remove from heat and ladle out about a cup, very slowly drizzling it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously (so as not to cook the yolks). Slowly pour this yolk mixture into the pan with the cream while stirring constantly. Add the pistachio-sugar mixture. Return to the burner and cook until a custard forms. Do not boil! The custard is ready when it thickens slightly and it coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the custard from stove and allow it to cool somewhat - so that the pan is warm but not hot to the touch. Stir regularly to avoid allowing a film to form. Either leave the mixture in the pan or transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until very cold - preferably overnight. Transfer to the basin of your ice cream maker and follow its instructions to freeze the ice cream to a thick consistency. Transfer to a plastic storage container and freeze until firm in your freezer. It will retain its flavor for several weeks if kept frozen...but it's unlikely you will need to worry about that!