Sunday, July 22, 2007

Aunt Ellen's Portugese Clams

2 dozen small clams
1/2 lb fresh chorizo sausage (you can used dried if that is all you can find and then 1/4 lb)
1 medium onion diced
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced or crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons paparika
1 teaspoon thyme
a pinch of saffron threads
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 can chicken stock (low sodium)

When you get the clams home from the fish market, place them in some salt water (uncovered) and put in the refridgerator. It is best to keep them overnight if possible. This causes them to cleanse the sand out and they will not die. You want the salt water to taste like the sea.

When you are ready to make the portuguese clams, take the sausage out of the casing and brown in a skillet that is at least 4 inches deep or a dutch oven. After you brown the sausage, you can drain off some of the grease, but there is a lot of flavor there so leave some in the pan. In the drippings with the sausage (and if necessary add a bit of olive oil), sautee the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until soft. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, saffron and red pepper flakes. For parties, I make it to this point and set aside until I am ready to serve. (If you do it a day ahead, refridgerate). Add the chicken stock. You can let this simmer covered for a bit to let the flavors marry if you have time. If not, don't worry about it.
Remove the clams from the fridge and take them out of the salt water with you hands, being careful to leave the sand at the bottom of the bowl , and place clams in a colander. Rinse the clams and discard any that are not closed or the shells are broken.

Bring the chicken stock mixture to a boil and place the clams in the savory broth. Cover and reduce the heat to medium or medium low. You want the broth to bubble around the clams, but not cook to hard. You will want to shake the pot from time to time and when the clams have opened, they are done. This should take about 5 minutes tops.

This is delicious served over pasta as a main course or can be served as an appetizer without pasta with some focaccia on the side.

As a main course this serves 2 people, but can easily be doubled. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Roasted Tomato Sauce for Pasta

1 1/2 pints cherry (or grape) tomatos
olive oil (about 1/4 cup total)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar
Salt and Pepper
Panko bread crumbs (japenese sytle breadcrumbs) or Italian bread crumbs approx 1/2 cup but enough to cover the tomatos.
Parmesan cheese about 1/4 cup.

Cut tomaotos in half and place cut side up so they cover the bottom of a baking dish (I use a square pyrex) that you have either Pam'ed or coated with olive oil. Drizzle tomaotes with olive oil, vinegar, pinch of sugar and salt and pepper. Cover with Panko bread crumbs, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Drizzle top with a bit more olive oil.

Roast in a 400 degree over for about 35 minutes or until the breadcrumbs start to brown and the edges of the tomatoes are carmelized.

Serve over pasta or Ravioli. Yum.

Chicken in Rosemary Mustard Sauce

Quick, easy, and good. I like this with rice pilaf.
4 servings

1 tbl olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/4 cup chicken stock
1-2 tbl dijon mustard
1-2 tbl sour cream
Salt, pepper

Pound the chicken between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap until about 1/2 inch thick. If you don't have a meat pounder use a heavy pan. (You can do this ahead & refrigerate)

Salt & pepper the chicken breasts. Heat the oil & butter over medium high heat and brown them in the skillet about 3-4 minutes per side. When you turn them, sprinkle with the rosemary and add the garlic. (Don't burn the garlic or it will be bitter.) Remove from skillet and keep warm. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add the chicken stock, stirring. Add the mustard and sour cream. Add the chicken back along with the parsley and reheat over very low heat. Taste. Correct the seasonings if necessary.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Setting up your kitchen & pantry

When you move into your first apartment and start your first job it may seem like too much trouble to cook for yourself; however, if you keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with the right ingredients a quick meal is almost always possible. Here are things that you've got to have on hand to make anything. The current trend of eating out all the time is not only expensive, but also unhealthy. You don't know what's in the food and there's usually way too much of it.

Pots, Pans, and Utensils:
2 skillets (9" and 11")
3 sauce pans small, medium, large
1 dutch oven, medium
1 colander
1 roasting pan, medium size
1 sieve
3 mixing bowls, small to large (get good-looking ones and they can double as serving bowls)
knives--medium chef's knife, paring knife, serrated bread knife
stick blender for pureeing
hand mixer
can opener
bottle opener
potato peeler
box grater
Rasp (I love mine, but it's probably not essential.)

pot holders
dish towels
dish rags--I use Handi wipes because they dry quickly and can be washed and re-used.

Canned & Dried

Canned tomatoes, whole, diced, sauce, paste
Canned chicken stock and beef stock, find the best tasting brand available
Canned beans, black, lentils, red, white (I have to have black eyed peas & baked beans as well).
Again, use the best possible brand. I like Bush Beans or Progreso.
Canned fruits that you like: I keep pineapple, peaches, pears, & apples. You can use them to make a quick fruit crisp or add to some fresh fruit for a salad or dessert.
Rice, white, brown, and arborio for risottos
Pasta, spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni, & something little for soups like macaroni
If you like lasagne, buy Barilla's lasagne no cook lasagne noodles
bread crumbs
dijon style mustard
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
olive oil, extra virgin
Flour, small bag unless you like to bake
sugar, small bag unless you like to bake
Baking powder & baking soda if you bake, otherwise don't bother
vanilla (Real) flavoring

Dried Herbs & spices:
dried oregano
dried basil
dried rosemary
dried thyme
bay leaves
pepper corns
dried, flaked chili pepper
ground cumin
chili powder

Fresh veg:
onions, yellow & red
Don't ever refrigerate onions, garlic or potatoes. They will just rot. Also, don't store potatoes and onions together.
If you like salads: lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers
Any other fresh vegetables that you like

Fresh Fruit:
Citrus fruit will keep a long time if refrigerated.
Any other fruit you like

greens beans
green peas
Any other frozen veg you like.

Be sure to take the time to freeze things in single or double portions. You don't want to have to defrost 4 chicken breasts to fix yourself 1 for dinner
Ham steak, cut or cube & freeze for soups and sauces or a quick dinner.
chorizo sausage, the dried Spanish style will keep forever and can be used for paella, soups & stews
Polish sausage, freeze it and use for jambalaya, appetizer, or baked with cabbage
Ground beef or turkey
Hot Italian sausage
boneless chicken breasts
boneless pork chops

Parmeseano Reggiano cheese
Any other cheeses you like, most keep a long time
milk (If you don't drink enough to keep fresh, look for ultra-pasteurized or evaporated milk that you can keep on your pantry shelf.

Whole wheat sandwich bread if you make sandwiches
French bread (slice & freeze for french toast, croutons, or bread crumbs)

Zucchini and Peppers

4 servings

1-2 tbl olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 zucchini or yellow squash or a mixture, in large dice
1/2-1 red, orange, or yellow pepper, in large dice
1/2 tsp each dry oregano and dry basil
salt & pepper
1 tbl fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbl fresh basil, chopped
1 tbl balsamic vinegar or more to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over high heat, add onion and peppers a, and saute until it starts to color. Add garlic, stir, add zucchini and continue to saute. Add dry oregano and basil, salt, & pepper. Stir and correct seasonings. Add fresh herbs and vinegar. Taste and correct seasonings.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chicken Picatta

Aside from pounding the chicken breasts this is a very quick and easy recipe. It doesn't hold very well. It's best to serve it right away. If you do have to hold it, add a little more chicken stock, heat, and then add the lemon juice, capers, and parsley.

This is very good served with Ama B's rice pilaf and broccoli.

4 servings

1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
flour, salt & pepper to coat the chicken
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup chicken stock
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1-3 tbl capers (optional)
juice of 1 lemon

Pound the chicken between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap until about 1/2 inch thick. If you don't have a meat pounder use a heavy pan. (You can do this ahead & refrigerate)

Salt & pepper the chicken breasts and lightly flour them. Heat the oil & butter over medium high heat and brown them in the skillet about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add the chicken stock, stirring until the sauce is the right consistency. Add the chicken back along with the parsley & capers and reheat. Add the lemon juice & taste. Correct the seasonings if necessary.

Ama B's Famous Rice Pilaf

Okay boys, this is the rice pilaf that you love. It is absolutely addictive! It's very good with any chicken dish.

Preheat oven to 350

1 Box Lipton's chicken noodle soup
3 cups of water
3/4 Cup white rice
1/2 stick butter (this can be reduced to 1 tbl)
1/2 small onion, chopped finely

Remove the boullion cubes from the 2 packets and put into the water. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve & reserve.
Saute rice in butter until brown. Add the noodles from the 2 packets and continue browning. Add the chopped onion and saute til translucent. (May be made ahead up to this point.) Move to an oven-proof dish like pyrex. Bring boullion back to the boil and add to the rice. Cover with aluminum foil and let back 35-45 minutes.

Green Beans with Tomatoes

4-6 Servings

1 tbl olive oil
1 onion, cut in half & sliced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 bag frozen Italian style green beans or equal amount of fresh, strung & snapped
1 can chopped tomatoes
salt, pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a medium size pot saute onion w/ a pinch of salt in olive oil, add garlic & saute for another minute. Add green beans and tomatoes . Season with salt,pepper,thyme,bay, & cayenne. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover w/ lid slightly ajar and let cook til tender. When done, remove from heat. Taste & adjust seasonings.

Green Beans with dill

4-6 servings

1 tbl olive oil
1 onion, cut in half & sliced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 bag frozen Italian style green beans or equal amount of fresh, strung & snapped
1 can chicken stock
salt, pepper
1 tbl dry dill weed
fresh lemon juice

In a medium size pot saute onion w/ a pinch of salt in olive oil, add garlic & saute for another minute. Add green beans and enough stock to cover beans halfway. Season with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover w/ lid slightly ajar and let cook til tender. When done, remove from heat, stir in dill weed and lemon juice. Taste & adjust seasonings.

Chicken & Dressing

6-8 servings

4-5 chicken breasts
3 cans chicken stock

1/2 pan cornbread, crumbled (you could buy or use a mix, but it can't be sweet cornbread! The best cornmeal mix is 3 Rivers)
2-4 slices white bread, torn into pieces or 1-2 cups Pepperidge Farms bread stuffing mix.
1 yellow onions,chopped
2-3stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)
1/4 pound of ham, chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 tsp thyme
3 tsp sage
salt (don't use a lot if you're using canned chicken stock)
black pepper
2 eggs
2-3 cups chicken stock

Bring stock to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Poach chicken breast in simmering chicken stock until barely done. Remove, cool, and chop meat. Reserve chicken stock.

Saute chopped veg and ham in butter, season with some of the herbs & spices. Add to breads and season with thyme,sage, salt & pepper. Add stock and taste. Correct seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well. This mixture should be really wet. If it's not, add some more stock. Place in greased casserole, and bake 1 hour,uncovered, at 350 or until browned and bubbling.

Cornbread for dressing
2 cups 3 Rivers cornbread mix
1/4 Cup Crisco
1 1/2 Cup buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 500. Mix cornbread mix, buttermilk and eggs together. Melt Crisco in iron skillet on top of stove. When hot, add to batter and beat. Add back to HOT skillet. Bake about 15 minutes, until beginning to brown on top. Turn out onto plate and slide back into pan so top side is down. Bake 5 more minutes and turn out onto plate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Saute of Fresh Okra with corn & peppers

I made this today with some fresh okra. I didn't want it to be slimy at all--just fresh tasting and somewhat crunchy. This was very good.

4 servings

1 tbl olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups okra, chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Saute onion & bell pepper in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent. Add garlic and saute for a minute. Add okra, a pinch of salt and saute til just tender. Add corn, pepper, and pinch of cayenne and saute til heated through. Taste & correct seasonings.

Lobster Tails with Chive Butter

I haven't tried this yet, but how could it be bad. Debbie pulled this off MSN Lifestyle.

4 servings

4 5-ounce fresh or frozen rock lobster tails
1/2 cup butter
2 tbls snipped fresh chives
1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
4 small lemon wedges

Thaw lobster, if frozen. Rince lobster; pat dry. Butterfly tails by using kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut lengthwise through the centers of hard top shells and meat, cutting to, but not through, bottoms of shell.

Melt butter, remove from heat and add chives & lemon peel. Remove 2 tbls of sauce.

Lightly grease the rack of a gas grill & preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Brush lobster with some sauce. Place meat side down on grill; cover and grill for 6 minutes. Turn & brush with the rest of the 2 tbls of sauce. Cover & grill for 6-8 minutes more.

Heat reserved sauce. Transfer to bowls for dipping & serve with lobster & lemon wedges.

Ceviche Style Shrimp and Avocado Tacos

This recipe comes from Cooking Light via Katie. Katie prepared this for dinner for her parents and us. It is delicious! Perfect for a hot summer day, especially since there is no cooking involved. You could serve it in martini glasses with 1 or 2 tortilla chips stuck in for a very fancy looking first course.

6 servings (2 tacos each)

1 tbl grated lime peel
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 cup chopped, seeded tomato
1 cup peeled, diced avocado (about 1)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 pound cooked peeled medium shrimp (have the fishmonger clean & cook it or use the quick thaw cooked shrimp)
12 6 inch corn tortillas

Finely grate rind from limes and juice. Place in a large bowl. Add tomato and remaining ingredients except tortillas. Toss well, cover and chill for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat tortillas according to package. Let everybody make their own tacos.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Old Fashioned Meat Loaf

Serves 4

This is the meat loaf that my mom taught me to make. Your father loves it because it doesn't have a lot of strange "stuff" in it. It's really easy and you can do it ahead--Form it and refrigerate until ready to bake or bake ahead, cover, and reheat. Don't worry too much about amounts, this is easy to improvise with. If you don't have saltines, use bread crumbs or sliced bread mushed up with milk.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 a pack of saltines, broken up (I usually break them up in the package)
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, finely minced
salt & pepper

1 can tomato sauce, to top

Mix everything, but tomato sauce together. It should be fairly soft, but still hold a shape. If it's not add some more milk or some of the tomato sauce. Form into an oval in greased baking dish.
Add some water to the pan and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

Creamy Herb Salad Dressing-low cal

This is really delicious, but low in fat and calories. You'll need a stick blender or a regular blender.

1 Cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 tbl dijon mustard
1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
skim milk to thin mixture
1 garlic clove, finely diced or put through a garlic press
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp dry basil
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup or more fresh chopped basil, parsely, and oregano

Place cottage cheese, mustard, garlic, balsamic, salt,pepper, & dry herbs in a container & blend. Taste and add more balsamic if neccessary & blend. Add skim milk to thin the mixture. Add fresh herbs and blend once more briefly. (You don't want to puree the herbs.)

It would be more fattening, but you could eliminate the fresh herbs and add a tbl of worstershire sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne and blue cheese to make a blue cheese dressing.

For a greek dressing: use lemon juice instead of balsamic, add 1 tbl or more of dill instead of basil, and add feta cheese. Omit the fresh herbs.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cuban Pork Roast

3 lb boneless pork roast

Grated rind & juice from one orange
Grated rind & juice from one lime
6 gloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
one bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano

Place roast in plastic bag with marinade & let marinate for at least 2 hours at room temp or in the refrigerator for 6 hours.

Remove meat from marinade & pat dry. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pot with a lid and brown the roast on all sides over high heat (about 4 minutes/side). Add the marinade and some sherry to the roast, lower heat, and cover. Let simmer 2-3 hours or until tender.

Remove roast to a cutting board. Mix up some sherry and 1 tbl cornstarch and thicken the sauce. Taste and correct seasoning. This is also very good if you add some orange marmalade to the sauce.

Serve with black beans & rice.