Thursday, July 14, 2011

Killer Sandwiches

For many years, I thought I didn't like sandwiches.  To this day, I still can't even spell the word right on the first try; and yes, I am an English teacher.  What I soon figured out was that I don't like lunchbox cheap-o sandwiches, you know, the kind me mom used to make, two slices of cheap wheat bread, a squirt of mustard and a slice of lunch meat.  Blech.

Anyway, the other night I made these killer sandwiches, and had to immortalize them forever here, and share them with you.  Warning: the amount of brie on one of these things might put you six feet under.

Arugula, Brie, Chutney, Prosciutto and Egg Sandwich on Parmesan Ciabatta

Start your chutney:

In a skillet, saute 1/2 finely chopped onion and one clove of chopped garlic briefly in 1 T olive oil.  Add 1 large chopped tomato (heirloom is really good).  Sprinkle with salt, 1/2 T of sugar, and 2 T of white balsamic.  Simmer until the moisture evaporates and the mixture starts to caramelize.  While this is happening, you will have just enough time to do the rest of the sandwich prep.

As son as your chutney is cooking, place four sliced ciabatta rolls face down on a large buttered griddle on medium heat.  Allow to toast.

Slice up your brie so that it looks like this (although this is enough for about 6 sandwiches):

Notice I sliced it diagonally and left on all the rind for flavor.  I then cut each of the three longest slices in half. Each sandwich will need 1 and a half slices of brie.

As soon as the bread is browned, put your eggs on to fry.  I like to use ring molds to keep my eggs smaller, and I personally like to leave the yolks runny so they create a kind of sauce.  Feel free to fry your eggs the best way that works for you.  Don't forget to salt and pepper your eggs though.

As your eggs fry, stack your sandwiches:



Egg and Prosciutto





I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Potato Potato

1.  Mashed potatoes, hash browns, and potatoes au gratin are not exactly "light" fare.

2.  During the late 90's, many sweet potato farmers were on the verge of growing something else.  After all, the only time anyone ever ate sweet potatoes was on Thanksgiving when they had all the flavor boiled out of them and then were coated in a heavy layer of butter and sugar.

3.  People realized that sweet potatoes are amazing.  They taste great and they are incredibly good for you.

When I was growing up, a fairly common breakfast was sweet potatoes that had been slow baked over night.  The sugar had caramelized, the potatoes were soft.  They made an amazing breakfast!

I have done many many things with sweet potatoes over the years.  They are great cubed and par-cooked in salad.  They rock the house as a side lightly mashed with cranberries, caramelized onions and toasted pecans.  They are incredible grilled on the stove top or out on the barbecue.  At the same time, sometimes they are a bit too intensely flavored for my taste buds that day.  A couple of years ago, I was inspired: what would happen if I mixed sweet potatoes with good old fashioned russets?

Magic.  Magic happened.

Sweet potato and potato mash.  Sweet potato and potato twice baked.  Sweet potato and potato hash browns.  Sweet potato and potato au gratin.  IN-CRED-I-BLE.

So let me tell you about these dishes.  They are lower fat.  Why?  Well, so often, to make potatoes moist and delicious, what do we add?  Cream, butter, oil, milk, cheese.  These are all ingredients that I love, but they don't always love my waistline.  But when I use sweet potatoes along with regular potatoes, there is a higher level of natural moisture present.  In addition, the sweetness of the potato is heightened by the sweet potato.  The addition of the sweet potato also adds a beautiful orange color and a complexity of flavor.

Before you go off and try these, let me make a few suggestions: first, if you are going to cook them for mashed potatoes, steam them above the boiling russets.  Second, if you usually use a lot of cheese in a recipe, back WAAAAY off if you are going to add sweet potato; sauteed onion is a great addition instead.  Lastly, don't parboil your sweet potatoes, even if you are going to do so to your white potatoes; they cook faster and they don't need it.

Lastly, here is a recipe to get you started:

Twice Baked Sweet Potato-Potato

-Bake 4 Russets and 2 Sweet Potatoes
-Gently remove the potato from the skins, leaving shells from the russets behind.
-Rice the potatoes into a bowl (you can just mash them if you don't have a ricer)
-Stir in 1/4 stick melted butter, 1/2 block cream cheese, and 1/2 cup sour cream
-Re-fill the russet shells with the mixture and lightly sprinkle with cheese of your choice.
-Bake at 350-400 for about 10 minutes or until top has melted or lightly browned

Enjoy experimenting!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Apricot Berry Upside Down Cake

Who doesn't like upside down cake?  I am sure those people are out there, but not me!  I think it is fun, pretty and fairly easy too.  Have you ever made an upside down cake?  Here are the steps I took to make my upside down cake last night, and not only was it GORGEOUS, but it was delicious too.

1-- Pour 1/4 cup melted butter into the bottom of a 12 inch circular cake pan.
2-- Sprinkle a few tablespoons of brown sugar over the bottom of the pan and mix the two together.
3-- Cut 4 apricots in half, removing their pits and arranging them in the bottom of the pan.
4-- Arrange a handful of berries (I used boysenberries, but raspberries or blackberries would be excellent) around the apricots

5-- Gently pour your favorite cake batter over the top. (For my purposes, I used a white cake mix and added vanilla to the batter.
6-- Bake until the toothpick comes out clean.

7-- Flip onto a plate, and allow to cool.
8-- Slice with a sharp knife and serve.  I served this one with a vanilla bean whipped cream.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Honey Citrus Glazed Chicken

Ahh, summer, barbecued chicken.  Okay, I must admit, in our family we grill year round.  But I do love summer and the barbecue.  Tonight's dinner was CSA heavy.  I barbecued an organic, locally sourced, pasture raised chicken from here.  I also sauteed kale from a local farm from whom I get a box of produce a few times a month.  Lastly, I used a blood orange from a farmer in San Diego that brings up beautiful citrus and avocados twice a month.

I feel so healthy and supportive of local agriculture!  Okay, I'll stop congratulating myself now.

Anyway, on to the food!

I brined, smoked and grilled the chicken.  At the end of it's time on the grill, I coated it with this glaze:

Juice of 2 limes 
Juice of 1/2 blood orange (regular orange would be a great substitute)
1 T olive oil
2T honey
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 head of finely minced garlic

The skin was perfectly crunchy and brown, the fat was rendered, and the glaze was sweet, spicy and salty.   Mmmm. Yummy.

I even cooked the back, and here is the thing, with a 69 cent per pound chicken I wouldn't.  no way.  not worth it.  nope.  But with a pasture raised chicken, the meat is more expensive, and the best little bits of meat that are on the back have been more developed.  Not only is it worth it, the back is also delicious when the chicken has been raised right.

And as a quick afterthought, the Swiss chard was lightly sauteed in caramelized onions and dressed with the other half of that blood orange. Great side!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Biscuits or Cinnamon Rolls? Both.

For as long as I can remember, our family has enjoyed several pans of ooey gooey caramel pecan rolls every Christmas morning.  My Dad wakes up early, starts the dough, and about 10:00, out of the oven come a great big pan or two of pure heaven.

We also tend to enjoy fresh, homemade buttermilk biscuits on a fairly regular basis.  Sometimes we eat them with chicken gravy, sometimes with honey, sometimes with homemade boysenberry jam.  Any of those choices are quite tasty.

If you have never made biscuits from scratch,--really from scratch, you know, using flour and butter and buttermilk-- you really ought to give it a try.  Once you give it a try, you might be hooked.

Anyway, what does all of this biscuit talk have to do with cinnamon rolls?  Well, I recently decided to combine the two (yes I MAY have been inspired by that ever famous giggling dough-boy found in the refrigerator section at the grocery store).  I have made these a few times, and they are quite yummy.  So, here goes:

First, make biscuit dough (this is my families favorite recipe, but if this totally overwhelms you, use a mix!):

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
cut in:
1/4 cup butter
add and mix until just combined:
3/4 cup buttermilk

Gather together:
1/3 cup butter melted (I know I know it's a lot of butter, I apologize to your cholesterol and notice I said I only make these occasionally)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T and 1 T cinnamon
coarsely chopped nuts (pecans are best) if desired

Now here comes the fun part.  On a floured surface, roll out your biscuit dough into a rectangular shape about 1/4-1/3 inch thick.  

Brush the dough with a little bit of the butter.

Sprinkle the dough with a few tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 T of cinnamon.

Pour the remaining melted butter into a square glass, metal or stone baking dish (I actually use a small rectangular dish but it must be smaller than 9x13)  Sprinkle the rest of the brown sugar, the cinnamon and the nuts in the pan.

Roll the dough along the longest edge.


Cut the dough into pinwheels and arrange in the pan with space between.  This is biscuit dough, so it is rather delicate and soft. If you have any breakage just patch it together as best as you can.

Bake in a 450 degree preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  Notice how the biscuits expands as they cook, so all the spaces are filled in.

Remove from oven, and immediately invert the pan onto foil lined cook sheet.

Serve!  I hope you enjoy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Asian Lettuce Cups

My favorite favorite favorite dinner is a bunch of little bites.  Dim Sum?  Yes, thank you.  Tapas?  Count me in!  Hors d'oeuvre?  Why, yes, but of course!  In fact, for my recent belated birthday dinner, I had a spread of apetizers that would make anyone proud.  Mmmmm, yummmmmmmy!

Anyway, as I sometimes do, I chose to make a munchy kind of meal for dinner tonight.  We had cheese, spinach dip, edamame, some baked appetizers (frozen from my always fave TJ's) and shrimp cocktail.   We also had turkey and veggie lettuce cups. Now this is what I consider a pretty easy recipe with some store-bought shortcuts, so if you are a real foodie, feel free to make it more complicated if you wish ;).  I'd like to share with you how I make mine.

Chop a variety of vegetables.  I like to use 2 green onions, a small carrot, half a stalk of celery, 2 cloves of garlic, one red bell pepper and a can of water chestnuts (this is a must because of the wonderful crunchiness it adds)

Now heat a skillet  with some canola or sesame oil (I much prefer sesame), and quickly saute your veggie mix over high heat.  When the vegetables have started to soften and you start to see a little color, about 3-4 minutes, put your veggies back in the bowl they were in to begin with.

Use the same pan, already hot, to cook 1 lb of ground turkey or chicken until cooked through.

At this point, add your veggies back to the pan and pour in about 6 oz of your favorite pre-made Asian sauce (I really like general tzao's sauce from TJ's). Allow to heat through.

Put your finished filling back in your bowl to serve.  Now, take one head of iceberg or butter lettuce and take each leaf off, leaving as whole as possible. Serve alongside the filling, allowing participants to fill each lettuce cup with their desired amount of filling.

I hope you enjoy!