Monday, April 29, 2013

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella

This past weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to Fort Worth to attend the Fort Worth Opera.  Before you think that I have gotten all cultured on you, my sister-in-law is in the development department for the opera and she is doing her best to make me more worldly.  With her personality, charm, knowledge and love of opera, she could convert just about anyone.  Before you dismiss the idea, this opera, The Daughter of the Regiment, was not what you might think of when you hear “opera”: it was funny, in English, bright and energetic, and no one dies.  The vivaciousness from the performers permeated the audience and brought lots of laughter, applause, “bravos”, and a standing ovation at the conclusion. I am no Scott Cantrell, but even he says that it “is a hoot” and “easily the area’s most entertaining operatic experience” for 2012-13.

There is still time to take part in this year’s Opera Festival which runs through May 12.  Darren Woods, general director of the FW Opera, returns to the stage after a 16 year hiatus as the butler and his funniest and dual meaning line is “I run this place!”  Yes, you do, and you do it so well.   
Before heading to the opera, have some panzanella as part of your dinner.  This recipe was inspired by Giada De Laurentiis.  I like the addition of artichoke to the typical tomato and bread salad.  Opera and panzanella – now that’s Italian!

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella
1.      3 cups 1 1/2-inch-cubed french bread
2.      One 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (about 2 cups)
3.      2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4.      1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
5.      1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
6.      3 large red tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces (about 2 pounds)
7.      1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
8.      3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
9.      1/4 cup red wine vinegar

There are 2 ways to toast the bread and cook the artichokes: oven or grill.  I used oven for this preparation.  Oven: Preheat oven to 300.  In a bowl, toss the bread with some olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes until slightly crisp, but not super crisp like a crouton.  On a separate baking sheet, cook artichokes until golden brown on the edges, 10-15 minutes.  Grill: Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Drizzle the bread and artichoke hearts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread and artichokes until golden brown at the edges, about 6 minutes total, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bread and artichokes from the grill and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the tomatoes, olives and basil to the bowl and toss to combine.  In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, red (or white) wine vinegar, 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad.  Toss to combine and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corn Chowder

I lost it today. I mean really, embarrassed-to-admit-just-how-much I lost it.  It started 2 weeks ago with me sending 3 emails and leaving 3 messages with no action (and I was the "customer" in this situation) and I had had enough. I became the squeaky wheel (although the person on the other end of the line might characterize what I was a bit differently).  I don't actually like squeaky wheels – call ‘em whiners. It annoys me how "everyone" caters to squeaky wheels.  I really try not to be the squeaky wheel; there are other ways to achieve the same result. Until the situation necessitates that you become the squeaky wheel and suddenly things happen. Issues get resolved. I'm pretty sure this person did what I asked just to get me off the phone.  It's a little Pavlovian. I see how things got done when I was the squeaky wheel. Why would I ever be nice again?

There’s been a bit of a cold snap in Texas which means the opportunity for another soup recipe.  This is a merging of chowders from Barefoot Contessa, Paula Dean, Ree Drummond and Tyler Florence.

Corn Chowder
1.      4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
2.      1 chopped yellow onion
3.      4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4.      1/4 cup flour
5.      2 tsp kosher salt
6.      1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
7.      6 cups chicken stock
8.      2 russet potatoes (about 2 c), peeled, medium-diced
9.  6 c corn kernels, fresh (6 ears) or frozen (2 – 16 oz bags)
10.  2 c half-and-half
11.  1/2 pound (about 2 c) sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the flour, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chapman's Chocolate Pie

This past weekend was the Dallas Art Fair which features over 80 national and international art dealers and galleries exhibiting their various forms of art.  That is a lot of good art.  But what about notable lost art like Monet’s “Poppies Near Vetheuil” or Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”?  What are some other lost art forms?  Handwritten thank you notes, phone calls, invitations sent in the mail, Mapsco or pies baked with meringue top my list.

I have heard for years about this chocolate pie.  A long-time family friend has shared her grandmother's recipe and what a treasure it is.  I placed a phone call to my friend's mom to learn the intricacies of making this pie.  At the end of the call I asked her "do you refrigerate the leftover pie or can you leave it out?"  There was a long pause and she replied "well, we never have any leftovers."  Neither did we.

Chocolate Pie
1.      1 ¼ C sugar, separated (1 C for filling and ¼ c for meringue)
2.      ¼ c cocoa
3.      6 Tbsp flour
4.      1 ½ c milk, scalded
5.      3 eggs, room temperature (separated into egg yolks for filling and egg whites for meringue)
6.      1 heaping Tbsp margarine, not butter
7.      1/8 tsp salt
8.      1 tsp vanilla + a few drops
9.      Pie crust, 9 inch, regular depth (not deep dish)

Bake pie shell according to the directions on the package. 

Measure out 1 C sugar, ¼ c cocoa and 6 T flour, mix and place in the top pan of a double boiler (or in a heavy duty saucepan).  Set aside for a few minutes. 

Pour 1 ½ c of milk into a small saucepan.  Scald it which is essentially “pre-boiling.” Turn the burner on high.  When bubbles start to form on the sides of the pan, remove from heat and pour over the sugar, cocoa and flour mixture in the double boiler.  Stir until combined and not lumpy.  Cook in top of double boiler and over low heat.  Stirring continuously. 

Add a little of the chocolate mixture to the beaten yolks of 3 eggs to warm up the eggs.  Then pour the eggs into the chocolate mixture and add in 1 heaping T margarine, 1/8 t salt and 1 t vanilla.  Cook and stir until thick and smooth.  Make sure your filling is nice and thick – it will not cook and thicken further when in the oven and you don’t want a runny pie.  Once thickened, pour into the baked pie crust.

To make the meringue, place the 3 egg whites in a mixing bowl and start to beat them with an electric mixer.  When they become frothy, gradually pour in ¼ c sugar.  When the meringue is white and forms stiff peaks, turn off the mixer.  Pour in a few drops of vanilla and mix gently with a spatula.  Spread the meringue over the chocolate filling.  Be sure to “seal” the pie by spreading the meringue to the edges of the pie and touching the crust.  Using your rubber spatula, make some peaks in the meringue but not too high or they will burn. 

Bake in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes until the meringue is browned, but not burnt.  Allow to cool.  Pie is best eaten the day that it is made.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pimento Cheese

It is the weekend of the Masters which means that I am now a single parent until about 6pm on Sunday. Supposedly the Masters is a golf tournament like no other. David was invited to attend a few years ago. Ask him about it. But first, I will give you my version. David received an invitation to attend Masters’ Sunday.  I told him that he needed to decline because we were hosting a wedding shower... at our house... for my brother.  At the party, Michael, my brother, heard about David's sacrifice and an astonished look came over his face which said “and he is still married to you?”  What would you have done?

One of the many traditions at the Masters is the pimento cheese sandwiches. If you live here in Dallas and can get to Kuby's to buy their jalapeño pimento cheese, I am not sure why you would make your own, however this is a recipe blog and you don't all live in Dallas so here is a recipe for you to try at home and a link to another recipe which I found but have not tested. I am glad that I tried it!  It is almost like being in Augusta...

Pimento Cheese
1.      1 cup grated sharp cheddar
2.      1 cup grated Monterey Jack
3.      1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
4.      1/2 cup mayonnaise
5.      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6.      1/8 t black pepper
7.      1/8 t garlic powder
8.      2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos
9.      1 teaspoon grated onion
10.  4 T (or to taste) jalapeno peppers
Using a Cuisinart, grate the cheese.  Switch the blades to the Cuisinart.  Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse until well blended.  The pimento cheese spread can be used as a dip forcrudite or as a sandwich filling.  FORE!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage

David says “it’s been a long weekend.”  Andrew responds “it’s the same number of hours every weekend, Dad.”  That’s our boy – black and white; literal; straightforward. 

At the end of a long weekend, you have to recharge for the coming week.  This soup has all the ingredients to do just that.  Travis liked it; Andrew hand picked out the onions; Elizabeth ate just the sausage – that’s a win in my book – I will make it again. 

Thanks, Kim and MC (and MC's mother-in-law), for sharing this recipe!

White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage
1.      2 (32-ounce) boxes chicken broth, divided
2.      1 lb or a 12-ounce package of sausage – the kids liked Polish; David preferred the spicy Andouille; the original recipe listed a Chicken Sausage, such as Roasted Artichokes and Olives or Spinach & Feta, sliced
3.      1 large yellow onion, diced
4.      Salt and ground black pepper to taste
5.      7 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, navy or great northern), divided (fyi - a 15.5oz can of cannellini beans = 1 1/2c of beans so 5 cans, drained and rinsed)
6.      1 bunch kale, stems and tough ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped

Heat 1/4 cup broth in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage slices and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and sausage is just browned, about 10 minutes. Add onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes more. (Add a generous splash of broth to the pot if onions begin to stick.)

Put 3 cups beans and 2 cups broth into a blender and purée until smooth; set aside.
Add remaining broth to sausage mixture in pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits.  Add kale, reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until wilted and softened, about 5 minutes.  Uncover, add remaining 4 cups of beans, bean puree, salt and pepper and simmer until hot throughout, about 5 minutes more. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Egg Salad

Spring break recap in one paragraph: check weather reports for late spring snowstorms to wreak havoc on driving conditions near the TX-NM border.  Amarillo now has a Pei Wei, Rudy’s and Cheddar’s to add to your fine, on-the-road dining choices.  The Holiday Inn in Trinidad, CO will save left behind Snoopys for pick up on the return drive home.  When hot water heater pilot lights blow out warm baths can be accomplished with enough stovetop boiled water.  Don’t follow your family down a “blue-black” ski run.  Eventually you will stop sliding down the mountain head first on your back.  Searching for the condo's lost Apple TV remote is less fun than searching for Easter eggs.  The kids impressed themselves by not throwing up once on the long car ride.  I am too old to ski and my still sore body reminds me of that.

I went on an egg hunt of my own and scored this fantastic recipe from Debbie S. via Krista.  Delicious on its own or try serving it City Café to Go style (on toasted sourdough bread with spinach, tomatoes and bacon.)

Egg Salad
1.      1/2 cup mayo
2.      4 tsp. lemon juice
3.      2 tsp. dried minced onion
4.      1/2 tsp. salt
5.      1/2 tsp. pepper
6.      12 hard boiled eggs, chopped
7.      1 cup celery, finely chopped

Combine all and chill until ready to serve.  Serves 8, 1/2 cup servings.  Enjoy!