Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oven Roasted Broccoli ~

Our new favorite way of cooking broccoli! WOOT!

Oven Roasted Broccoli
(Adapted from the recipe found here, originally attributed to Epicurious)
about 8 cups fresh broccoli florets
3 1/2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon (or more, to taste) chili paste (found in Asian foods aisle or store)
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the oil, chili paste, garlic, salt and pepper together in a small bowl or measuring cup until well blended. Place broccoli florets on a cookie sheet lined with foil and brushed with olive oil. With a spoon, drizzle some of the oil mixture on each floret, or brush each one with the mixture using a pastry brush. Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the broccoli in for another 5 to 10 minutes, checking to see when they are crisped/caramelized to your liking. You can remove them after the 20 minute roasting time, and they are good then too, but more tender. I really like the crunchiness obtained by longer exposure to the heat.




Monday, April 12, 2010

Crusty-Chewy Bread ~

I am really stinkin' excited about making bread this afternoon. After lazily blogbrowsing over the weekend and finding some really saweet cooking blogs, I ran across a recipe from Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (I'll post the links to the blogs in a few) and I was excited to try it. I mean, 5 minutes? Come on! Who wouldn't want that!

So I did it. The 5 minute prep time is just that, short and sweet. There is rising time, and a minute or so shaping time, and a rest, before baking - but those are the times to do another couple loads of laundry, surf the net, read or watch tv, or even exercise.

The blogs I visited were a sweet blog by Hannah called Honey & Jam, and a lovely blog called The Ivory Hut. I'm just posting links to the blogs, but if you want to search the recipe there, the posts are called No Knead Bread and Baking Bread Made Easy, respectively.

The ingredient list is short and sweet, and I'm just going to put this in my own words, since it's so simple.


Basic No-Knead Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large (and I do mean large) bowl, mix the water, yeast, and salt, and let it sit for a few minutes. It doesn't have to be all bubbly or all the yeast dissolved. I let it sit for probably 5 minutes. Add the flour all at once, and using a wooden spoon, mix it until there are no more streaks of flour. I muttered to myself "gotta get my hands in it" and ended up flouring my hands and kneading it for just 3 or 4 folds. lol. Kinda defeated the purpose of no-knead.

Anyway, after that, cover it and let it sit on the counter for 2 or 3 hours. Don't cover it too tightly - there's a photo on The Ivory Hut of her dough just volcano-ing out of the container, LOL. If the cover or plastic wrap is on too tightly, it wouldn't be a good thing.

After the dough has risen and started deflating a little bit, it is ready for refrigeration or for baking right then. I did both, baking one loaf and refrigerating the rest for later. Tear off a grapefruit sized chunk of dough with floured hands, and gently pull the edges into a ball. Place this on a wooden cutting board or pizza sleeve that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Let it rest for at least 40 minutes.

About 20 minutes before you want to bake, preheat the oven to 450 and place a pizza stone on the middle rack and a cookie sheet or broiler pan on the bottom rack. (These are supposed to heat for that 20 minutes too). While they heat, dust the loaf with flour, and slash the top. Slide the loaf onto the preheated stone in the oven and pour a cup of hot water in the cookie sheet. Close the oven door quickly to contain the steam, and bake for 30 - 40 minutes until beautifully browned. Let it cool before slicing, according to one poster, although I couldn't do it and had an end piece after only 10 minutes out of the oven. LOL Photobucket Photobucket

This is supposed to keep for a couple weeks in your fridge, and you tear off what you want to bake and follow the baking directions above.

Fresh baked homemade bread. Isn't it a beautiful thing?


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blackberry Jelly Lemon Bars ~

Probably the biggest success of my cooking for the Resurrection Sunday dinner was adapted from Elissa's Blackberry Jam Almond Bars. I like almond but I like lemon much, much more. If you are more crazy for the almond taste than lemon, be sure and try her recipe.

These were moist and delicious. They had a slight chewy texture and the top/edges were a little bit crispy. And the jelly that I used added a wonderful bit of sweetness in a nice bite ~ next time I make these, and I will be making them again, I'll dot even more jelly around so that I can cut the servings smaller and include jelly in each one.

Blackberry Jelly Lemon Bars
Makes a half sheet of bars

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
approx. 1 cup blackberry jelly

1 cup powdered sugar
lemon juice as needed to obtain a thick drizzle consistency - probably about 3 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a half sheet (13″x18″ rimmed sheet) with butter or nonstick spray.

Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla and lemon extract. Mix flour and salt together, and slowly add to mixer; mix until just incorporated.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Drop teaspoonfuls of jelly evenly over the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown.

Allow to cool, then cut into squares. Whisk together the powdered sugar, and lemon juice, and drizzle over the bars.



Friday, April 2, 2010

I felt like Bubba Gump for a little while ~

My eyes popped the other day at the size of the prawns my friends Rick and Toni bought from a guy who brought them up from South Louisiana. They stopped by the church fish fry fundraiser while we were prepping, so they could pick up more ice to chill the shrimp. And so they showed us. It's just what we Southerners do. Got a big deer on opening day? It's in the back of your truck as you drive around town, so you can show people. Good deal on crawfish or shrimp, from down South? Same thing. lol.

Anyway - they offered to get me some next time, and I jumped on the chance. So today I had the fragrant pleasure of putting up 10 pounds of big Louisiana prawns. :)

I kept out a few to grill, and tried a recipe I found online, with lime juice, jalapenos, onions, and garlic, and a bit of other seasonings in there too. Wasn't too crazy about it. They were worth eating, but not as tasty as I wanted. I'll keep looking...

But the rest, I deheaded and froze. Some of them, I peeled first, some I left the shells on. And with the heads and shells, I made some fantastic shrimp stock and put it in the freezer, in anticipation of some yummy chowders and soups to come.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y'all. :)

Take the heads and shells and rinse them a couple of times in cold water. Let them drain while you peel and slice 2 large onions; slice 2 large lemons; chop 5 or 6 baby carrots (or one regular type carrot) into chunks; and chop 2 stalks of celery into chunks. Drizzle about 4 tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of a large stock pot, and heat. Add chopped/sliced veggies and lemon and the heads/shells of the shrimp, and cook it for about 5 minutes on medium high heat.


Add approximately 4 to 6 quarts of cold water to the pot, or however much it takes to cover everything by an inch or so of water, and toss in 4 bay leaves, a palm full of sea salt and a palm full of whole black peppercorns. Bring this to a strong boil, stirring occasionally, and reduce heat to medium or whatever keeps the pot at a steady simmer. Cook this way for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally to mix everything up.


Cool the cooked stock for a while, and then strain it into a big bowl or pot. Be sure to tilt the strainer and mash the solids to get all the juice out; it has a way of hiding up in those little heads and the strainer should be tilted all around to get it.


Discard the solids once strained out, and measure the stock into prepared freezer bags, labeling with the name and date. Freeze until use.


I don't know how long it keeps, but I would think it'd need to be used within 6 or 8 months, at the longest. You might want to google that.

Look at the size of those babies! And ignore my man hands. I gave up years ago on having delicate, ladylike hands. I mean, look at that thenar eminence. It's as big as the heel of a delicate lady's foot, for gosh sakes. LOL

And here are the skewers of shrimps ready to be grilled, with the marinade poured back on them until actually grilling on the rack. Like I said, they were okay, but not nearly as yummy as I wanted them to be. Back to the drawing board for grilled shrimp marinade. :)

Lee's dressing ~

I'm sure Lee would not claim this dressing, as he found it in a local-to-him magazine, from a restaurant where his family loves the salad dressing, so I guess it's not really his. But in our house, the biscuits we eat are his ('hey mom, are these Lee's biscuits? Yay!'); the fudge we make is his ('hey mom, is this Lee's fudge? Yay!'); and the chocolate chip cookies are his as well ('hey mom, are these Lee's cookies? Yay!'), even though the biscuits and cookies are actually Alton Brown's, and the fudge, it probably came off the back of a jar, if I'm remembering correctly. rofl

Anyway, this is Lee's dressing, and I don't even know the name of the place who originally makes it, but if someone needs to know, pop me a comment down there and I'll ask Lee. :)

It's a bit on the sweet side, yet rich and rather complex, imo. I tend to go for tart over sweet, but I really liked the smooth flavor of this dressing. It makes a LOT but it also halves or quarters easily. Lee says he's going to tweak it for even less sugar; when he gets it finalized, maybe I'll jump over here and update. :)

Lee's 'somewhere in Arizona' Restaurant Salad Dressing

1 quart balsamic vinegar (I'm liking it already)
1 quart olive oil
2 quarts canola oil
1 pound brown sugar (I googled and this is 2 1/4 cups)
2 yellow onions
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic (I used about 6 or 7)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Chop onion and garlic fine, and grate parmesan cheese fine. Soften brown sugar in the microwave for a few minutes, and mix sugar, onion, garlic, and cheese together in a mixer bowl.
Pour balsamic vinegar into mixing bowl and mix on low with wire whisk attachment. With mixer running (using wire whisk), slowly add the oil to the bowl and mix until emulsified. Do not refrigerate. Store in tightly lidded jars in cool spot and use within a few months (I added that last part after "do not refrigerate" lol)

This recipe makes one and one quarter gallons.




flavored vinegar ~

I've been meaning to make some of this yum for a long time, ever since I ran out a couple years ago. Decent balsamic has been satisfying my vinegar love affair, though, and I haven't given the flavored stuff much thought. But, I had a huge pile of lemons and limes due to buying extra bags at Sam's for a use that didn't materialize, and it meant the time was ripe for the vinegar project.

I thoroughly washed the 2 bottles I chose for this, and filled them with hot water. BIG HINT: choose bottles with wider mouths, especially if you have a fresh cut on your finger. More later. lol.

While that kept the bottles nice and warm, I sliced 2 lemons (thin slices) and 2 limes (slender wedges), peeled about 10 or 12 cloves of garlic, and washed the 6 stalks of rosemary I had cut from my bush. While I did all that, I had a big pot of apple cider vinegar heating to a boil on the stove. When the lemons and limes were sliced thin, I spent the next few minutes stuffing the bottles with the garlic, citrus, and rosemary. After pouring out the hot water, of course. LOL. I thought it was prettier to make the slices rather than the wedges. The whole thing about a wider mouth bottle was that with the narrow opening bottles, it squeezed out a lot of juice and wasted it, not to mention soaking my cut finger even THROUGH the bandaid, lol; so please think ahead and don't get those skinny neck bottles, no matter how cute they are or if they have an embossed wheat pattern on them. Yes it was an old whiskey bottle. lol. Yes, I drank the whiskey. But no, I don't drink any more and haven't for years. :)

Anyway. lol. Sorry about the sidetrack. When everything is stuffed in, shake it around with the bottle sideways so everything's not packed in the bottom. Get your funnel, and pour the boiling vinegar in the bottles, slowly. When it's cooled, you'll probably have to put a little more in there (doesn't have to be boiling that time) because the level of vinegar sinks a bit. Cork the cooled bottles, and let it set for a couple weeks, melding together.

Uses for this vinegar include salad dressings, sauces (a tablespoon in some homemade OR bought spaghetti sauce is divine), and whatever you'd use nice flavored vinegar for. We just like to uncork it and breathe it in a couple times a week. lol.



The one with lemons:

And the limes:

Both cooling: