Archive | March, 2008

Easter Sweets (Potatoes)

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I celebrate Easter with my sister, her family and her in-laws at their family’s place outside of Groesbeck, Texas (don’t blink during the drive – you’ll miss it.) My brother-in-law’s family is seriously high energy and a lot of fun. It’s non-stop games and entertainment with lots of kids and extended family.

In all the excitement, meals can be a challenge to organize. I mean, who really wants to stop playing kickball to cook! But muster out an Easter dinner we did on Saturday night. We made ribs, so I brought some vegetables to throw on the grill (I bought them at the store since the selection was limited at the market) and made a great salad with beautiful butter lettuce, onions and carrots I picked up at the Wednesday farmers market.

But my favorite of the vegetable dishes was a sweet potato dish I made. I found this recipe several years ago on epicurious.com and it completely changed how I felt about sweet potatoes.

When I was growing up, sweet potatoes were the goopy, sweet, marshmallowy mess that you served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am not a fan of that preparation. Not until a few years ago did I find out that I like sweet potatoes – that they taste good when not drowning in goop and that they are healthy and nutritious.

This dish brings out the natural sweetness, has a spicy kick and is still healthy. It’s also easy to make so you can have it any night of the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. The sweet potatoes and cilantro came from the market; the lime and spices came from the store.

As a side note, the family did get distracted and I had already made the potatoes so they sat for a while and we served them cool. The dish actually worked pretty well as a “potato salad.” Just don’t reheat it after you put the cilantro on it because it will wilt.

Cilantro Lime Sweet Potatoes
from Gourmet Magazine

2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow baking pan. Arrange potatoes in 1 layer and roast, stirring halfway through roasting, until tender, about 25 minutes total.

Stir together cayenne, zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Whisk together lime juice and remaining tablespoon oil in a medium bowl, then add potatoes.

Sprinkle with cayenne mixture and cilantro, stirring gently to combine.

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Here comes Peter Cottontail….

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I’ve been circling the Countryside Family Farms booth for weeks thinking about the listing for rabbit. I’ve bought chickens from them, but rabbit – now that’s interesting.

I’ve had rabbit several times and always enjoyed it – the first time at Jeffrey’s in college so what’s not to love. But, I’d never cooked rabbit so that made me a little nervous. As Easter eases up on us, I decided it was time for Peter Cottontail and me to have a date.

Under strict orders to not cook the rabbit in my sister’s kitchen, I came home Sunday afternoon and started down the rabbit hole. My friend Carissa told me about a great rabbit pasta she had at Stortini recently, so I followed their lead and found a pasta recipe as well. I adapted it from a recipe from Emeril and, if I do say so myself, it was pretty tasty. I just had a serving of leftovers and it’s even good the second time around (which is really good because it makes about 8 servings, so the freezer is full.)

There are a couple of cautions with this recipe. Cut the rabbit in to pieces like you would a chicken – I even used my poultry shears. Second, if you cook the rabbit until it’s falling off the bones you are probably going to lose some bones in the sauce. I would probably cook it about 10 minutes less than I did this time so it would be easier to get the rabbit meat out with the bones.

Try it! You’ll like it! Will you eat it if I tell you it tastes like chicken?

Stewed Rabbit Ragu on Pappardelle
Adapted from a recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2002

1 (2 1/2-pound) rabbit, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows (I didn’t have this, but I had some Cajun seasoning in the cabinet so I used that. Don’t tell Emeril.)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons tomato paste (I didn’t have tomato paste so I used a can of tomatoes and it was fine)
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups veal stock (I used chicken broth because I don’t have veal stock laying around the house. If you do – go for it.)
8 ounces wild mushrooms, such as wood ear, shiitake, morel, or chanterelle, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and tops sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces pappardelle (wide flat pasta strips), or fettuccini (I used penne because I had it in the pantry.)

Season the rabbit on all sides with the Essence, then lightly dust with the flour, shaking to remove any excess. In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the rabbit and cook until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

In the fat remaining in the pan, add the onions, celery, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the red wine and veal stock and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan. Add the mushrooms, parsley, basil, and cooked rabbit and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the meat is cooked through and falls from the bones, about 2 hours.
Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and discard. Remove the rabbit and place on a cutting board and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones and shred. Return the meat to the pan and return to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the butter and stir until incorporated. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, 8 to 9 minutes. Add the pasta to the pot with the sauce. Toss to coat.

To serve, divide among pasta bowls, sprinkle with cheese and additional parsley, and serve immediately.

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup
Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

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Keep It Simple Weekend: House Burgers

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This weekend, I helped my sister with the kids and home chores while she and her mother-in-law stripped the ugliest wallpaper you have ever seen off her kitchen walls. Needless to say, this home improvement project made a huge mess in the kitchen so I had to keep the meals fairly simple.

The kids and I went to the downtown farmers market early to give the “decorators” some space. We picked up some Grouper and Amberjack from San Miguel seafoods, some beautiful asparagus from Bikurrin Farms (yea, asparagus at the market!), lettuce, onions 2 lbs of hamburger and 2 pints of strawberries. Oh, and of course a loaf of rosemary ciabbata bread from Texas French Bread. (Do you think TFB has a detox program for that stuff?)

For dinner Saturday night, I marinated the fish in a Baja Lime marinade that I picked up at HEB (Anne’s organic). To keep from getting underfoot, I grilled the fish and the asparagus (used the same preparation as Ginger’s birthday dinner) and tossed an easy salad. I had never grilled Grouper before, but it was great. It was about twice as thick as the Amberjack so I had to cook it longer, but it came out tender and flaky. We drizzled a little TacoDeli green sauce on top and it was delicious.

A note about grilling fish: If you don’t have a grill plate, get one before you tackle grilling fish. It keeps the fish from sticking to the grill and you have some hope of getting the fish off the grill in one piece. You can buy a grill plate any where they sell grilling supplies.

For Sunday, we grilled house burgers for lunch. Ginger and I love house burgers, but her husband isn’t a fan, so we took advantage of his absence and grilled up some delicious hamburgers. The quality of the meat makes an enormous difference, but I like to think the Willis family twist on prepping beef (Worcestershire & Greek seasoning) for the grill helped a little too.

Photo by Sandra Ramos

Photo by Sandra Ramos

Kristi’s House Burgers
This made 5 decent-sized patties.

2 lbs ground hamburger – the meat I got at the farmers market was so fresh and such high quality that it almost look like ground sirloin
1 egg
worcestershire sauce
Cavender’s Greek seasoning (this contains salt, pepper and garlic so you shouldn’t need to add those separately)
1/3 yellow onion, diced

Combine the hamburger, egg and onion in a bowl. Add Worcestershire sauce and Greek seasoning to taste. Mix the meat with your hands – no cheating and using a spoon. Form the mixture into patties.

Grill the patties on a medium-high heat grill flipping once about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness and desired doneness. Top with cheese if desired during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Enjoy!

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Ginger’s Birthday Dinner – Lime Shrimp, Cilantro Rice & Strawberry Chocolate Angel Food Cake

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Sunday was my sister’s birthday, so in her honor, I made a special dinner. We decided we wanted shrimp to be the main course so I built a Mexican theme around the entree – lime shrimp.

I modified a few recipes to better match our current awareness of eating lower fat. Instead of a cheesy wild mushroom quesadilla, I made a wild mushroom crostini with all the same flavors, but a lot less fat. I was able to buy almost the entire meal from the market. I bought the rice, lemons, limes, asparagus and the chocolate angel food cake at Central Market.

We had a great time celebrating G’s birthday. I hope you enjoy the food as much as we did.

Menu
Wild Mushroom Crostini
Tossed green salad
Lime Shrimp
Cilantro Rice
Grilled Asparagus
Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Macerated Strawberry sauce

Wild Mushroom Crostini
One of my favorite recipes is a great Wild Mushroom Quesadilla from Cafe Annie in Houston I found the recipe eons ago in Elle magazine.  I adapted this crostini from the recipe to better fit a lower fat diet – much less cheese and a whole wheat crostini rather than a flour tortilla.

1 lb mushrooms, rinsed, patted and chopped
1 tbsp butter (you could also use olive oil, but butter has a better flavor)
salt
1/2 a baguette (I used a whole wheat baguette from Texas French Bread), sliced for crostini
1/4 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper

In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushroom and saute until softened. Add the jalapeno, thyme, pepper and salt to blend flavors.

Preheat boiler. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and top with Monterrey Jack cheese. Place the bread and cheese under the broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove the crostini from the oven and top with mushroom mixture. Serve while warm.

Lime Shrimp
Adapted from  Great Good Food by Julee Russo

1 pound large shrimp – I bought the Colossal sized shrimp from the vendor at the farmers market. They were 12 to a pound, tender and delicious.
Juice and zest of 3 limes
4 garlic cloves – finely minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Additional limes cut into wedges

In a shallow glass dish, place the shrimp, juice, zest, garlic, olive oil and pepper. Baste the shrimp and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare the grill.

Thread the shrimp on skewers. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 10 minutes, turning and basting once or until pink.

Cilantro Rice
Adapted from Cooking with Cafe Pasqual’s

2 3/4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tbsps freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
1 tsp olive oil

Put the water and salt into a heavy-bottomed, lidded 3-qt saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the rice, cover and lower the heat to very low. The rice should be ready in 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, keep covered and let it rest for 5 more minutes.

In the container of a blender or food processor, put in the cilantro, white onion, green onion, lime juice, jalapeno and olive oil. Whirl all the ingredients until incorporated, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to get a better consistency, if needed.

Using a fork, stir the cilantro mixture into the rice. Serve immediately.

Grilled Asparagus
I like a really easy grilled asparagus recipe. Clean the asparagus and put it in a shallow glass dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and squeeze lemon over it. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and then grill to desired doneness. After you pull off the grill, squeeze a little more lemon juice over it. Easy, simple, yummy.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Strawberry Sauce
I hate to bake so I bought a chocolate angel food cake from Central Market, but I did make the strawberry sauce.

2 pints of strawberries, rinsed, stemmed and cut into halves or quarters depending on how big they are
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
lemon zest

Place the strawberries in a non-reactive (glass or plastic) bowl. Mix the sugar and water together to make a simple syrup. Pour the syrup over the strawberries, add some lemon zest and stir. Let the strawberry mixture sit until the strawberries are macerated – softened and their sugars have combined with the simple syrup to make a sweet sauce. I let mine sit for about an hour.

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