Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grilled Pork Tenderloin?

I really want to try grilling pork tenderloin but I don't have a clue how to do it. Do you marinade it first? What do you marinade it in? How long do you grill it? Do you wrap it in tinfoil or put it directly on the grill? I have cooked pork tenderloin many different ways but I have yet to attempt it on the grill. Please share your ideas and recipes with me. I have a pork tenderloin in the freezer just waiting to be used! Thanks!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

my fruit stand find...

i was beyond curious when i saw a sign that said strawberry popcorn at a local fruit stand.

they were the most lovely shade of red and i begged the cashier to tell me more about them. she said the ear of corn they come from is shaped like a strawberry and they have the most beautiful red color. yes, indeed. so....

we took them home and put them in a pan with a shallow layer of olive oil. we turned the stove to high and let the oil heat up. we added some fresh minced garlic, salt and pepper and put a lid on it. at first i thought it was burning because the red kernels tend to get really dark. after it was done popping i couldn't resist some butter and parmesan cheese... it was beyond lovely, we were in love and i am off to find more to fill in glass jars and place around the kitchen...
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a royal birthday cake...

the barking orders for a birthday cake this year were chocolate double cake with chocolate frosting.
simple enough, but i hate a plain cake with plain old frosting.

i almost never eat it unless i know it was fancied up by the baker, so.....

i bought a cake mix let my mind wander.

it called for 1 1/2 cups of water. ugh, how boring. so i had some creme fraiche on hand and used 3/4 c of that and the rest water. i followed the rest of the called for ingredients and baked as directed in 2 9 inch pans. it made for the most moistalicious cake.


i thought about how good a cream cheese filling would be. so i used 1 brick of softened cream cheese, with 1/2 c of ganache frosting (recipe forthcoming) and 3/4 c powdered sugar. i put those in the blender and put them in a ziploc and froze it for a few minutes to firm it up.

the ganache..
first, might i bear my testimony of it?
okay, i love the gloss, the taste and the ease of cooking it, i love how i dream about all of the things it could go on. okay, done.

it is 2 parts chocolate to
1 part cream.
i used 2 cups of hershey's chocolate chips (milk chocolate)
1 cup heavy whipping cream.
stir with a whisk on medium heat until chocolate starts to get shiny. remove from heat and set aside.
{you can use this for cupcakes, just dip those pretty little tops in it, or a fondue dip also.}

to assemble:

cool your cakes and cut the tops off making a flat surface for the cakes to rest on top of one another without falling over.
you can see i put the cake on a square serving dish with sides so the ganache wouldn't spill over.
so, put your first cake down and clip the tip of the baggie you stored your cream cheese filling in. i piped this in a big circle and then spread it with the back of a spoon. add your second layer of cake on top of that.
{make sure both cake surfaces that were cut are facing each other. so the first cake should have the uncut surface as the side touching the plate, the bottom of the second cake should be the cut side so the top doesn't get crumbs everywhere.}
make sure the ganache isn't too hot to the touch but not too cool. about body temperature, dip your finger in to test {and lick your finger too ;)}
i spread the ganache starting in the middle of the cake, pouring it from the pan and working from the center to the edges, letting the ganache drizzle down the sides until it filled the corners of the plate. this was especially nice because it covered any crumbs or filling spills. i refrigerated it for a few minutes to help the ganache firm up a bit.

i fanned some strawberries by slicing them thin from bottom to top in 5 or 6 slices per strawberry. they sure looked pretty. and i thought this was a fabulous taste and something different. we served it with vanilla ice cream.
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Quick Summertime Dinner: Pesto Pasta Salad

What is the perfect summer recipe? Well, there are several criteria: 1) No oven involved, 2) should take no longer than the amount of time to cook pasta, and 3) should be eaten and enjoyed by all family members. A tall order indeed, but this week, I found a new favorite summer dish: Pesto Pasta Salad.

1/2 lb. penne pasta, cooked as directed and drained
1 15.5 can chickpeas, roughly chopped
1/2 of a jar of roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
12 black olives (I like kalamata), pitted and roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, thickly sliced
1/2 cup steamed green beans
1 6-oz can tuna, drained
4 tablespoons homemade or store-bought pesto
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, red peppers, olives, celery, tuna, pesto, salt, and black pepper. Divide among individual plates. Voila!

And as you read through this recipe, you may be thinking, "Ew! Tuna?!" But, give it a try. You may just fall in love with tuna in a whole new way. My first heavenly encounter with tuna in a salad was eating a Salad Nicoise at a cafe in Orange, France, and I have never looked back. Dude, it's so good.

And here's a picture of Orange. I posted it just to remember myself, there, eating a Salad Nicoise. Sigh.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peach Pie (my favorite)

I like to make pies quite a bit. I have made many, many pies, but peach still stands alone as my favorite. There's the sweetness of the peaches that only lasts a few weeks a year, the beautiful lattice top (or not!), and the late-summer-sit-around-the-picnic-table quality to eating peach pies, requiring any pie-eating participants to slow down, tell some stories, laugh out loud, and get that old familiar feeling that life is so good....ahhh...

We made a weekend of our late-summer peach pie by going to the orchards and picking our peaches. Some of the peaches were truly bigger than a baby's head. Have you ever heard the pregnancy descriptions of size, like during such-and-such week, your baby is the size of a walnut? Well, I think the 36th-week fetus is the size of an August Peach at Lyman Orchards. These peaches are enormous, and most branches were nearly touching the ground, being heavily burdened by the weight of these incredible peaches.

Ta da! Here it is! I opted out of the lattice crust for this one. Why? Well, one, I was feeling lazy. If I had the neat-o fluted pastry wheel from Williams Sonoma, there would be a much greater likelihood that I'd go for the lattice (hint hint husband).

But, heck, it's summer, which is meant for sipping lemonade and not fiddling in the kitchen with my pizza-cutter and a ruler to create a lattice crust. I'll save the pretty pies for Thanksgiving.

I used my favorite pie dough recipe, which I rarely stray from, it's on page 862 of The Joy of Cooking, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry could this not be good, right?!

The key element of pie crust is the temperature. I cut up 2 sticks of UNSALTED butter and stick it in the freezer. Martha says to also put the flour in the freezer, which I guess could be helpful on really humid days, but seems to be just a tad much. You know how Martha can be sometimes...

I then get 1/3 cup ice water ready to go.

Next, I put 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt in the food processor and pulse until mixed.

Then I put the butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco in the food processor, and pulse it just a few times until the butter is in pea-sized clumps.

I add the water next. This is the most tricky part of the whole process and can make or break your crust--too much water, and it's totally soggy, too little, and it's like eating flour. I remove the ice from the water, turn on the processor and stream the water in through the top until I hear what I call the crust rumble. It really is a rumbling sound that is the sound of the crust binding together. Here's what it looks like:

I take the dough out of the processor bowl and put it in 2 saran wrapped disks. I stick it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I roll out the first crust, put it in the pie dish, and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. There's kind of a tricky way I transfer the crust so it doesn't fall apart on me during the move--I roll it around the rolling pin and unroll it into the dish.

In the meantime, I made the filling. My favorite peach pie filling is also from Joy, Peach Pie on page 876:
2 1/2 pounds peaches (5 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick*)
1/2 to 3/4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch (use cornstarch for a lattice pie)
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt.
2 to 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour filling into the bottom crust and dot with butter. Roll out top crust and cover filling, sealing the edges by fluting the edges with my knuckles. And here's the big secret to a beautiful-looking crust: I always mix 2 Tb. heavy cream with an egg yolk and brush it on right before I stick it in the oven. I'm telling you, it does wonders.

If the crust seems warm and starts to stick, put it in the fridge for a half hour. If it seems nice and firmed and chilled, go ahead and slip a baking sheet underneath the pie and cook it for 30 minutes at 425. Reduce the temperature to 350 and continue to bake for 30 more minutes.

*I have tried the boiling water technique for peeling peaches, and, to me, it's all too much work, sloshing around boiling and freezing water everywhere. I find that peeling peaches with a vegetable peeler, especially when they are a touch firm is faster and less wet.

And who doesn't love a big dollop of whipped cream?! I just dump a cup of whipping cream with a 1/4 cup of sugar and a little vanilla if I think of it, and whip it in my KitchenAid on the highest setting for a minute or two. Whoop, there it is.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Southwestern Chicken Wraps

We've been really loving these wraps lately. It seems like every time we've had them we've also had impromptu guests who have also enjoyed these. Good thing it makes more than what Paul and I could eat! Try these...but be warned that they may attract visitors to your door at mealtime! :)

Oh yeah, and full credit goes to Everyday Food magazine for this one.


3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 Tbsp. chopped pickled jalapenos (find these by the green chilies at the grocery store)
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Freshly ground pepper and coarse salt

4 Sandwich Wraps (10-inch), We've used whole wheat and tomato basil but any kind is fine.
3 Cups baby spinach
3 Cups shredded, cooked turkey or chicken
1 Can (15 oz) drained and rinsed black beans
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced

Combine sour cream, jalapenos, lime juice and salt and pepper in a bowl. Spread sour cream sauce on the wraps, leaving a 2 inch border. In center of wraps, layer equal amounts of baby spinach, shredded chicken, black beans, tomato, onion, and avocado. For each wrap, fold two sides of wrap over filling, then roll tightly, ending seam side down.