Thursday, September 30, 2010

Granola: new and improved

Have I finally found the perfect granola recipe?

My first attempt actually stuck around for a while, at least until Tara let me try her Barefoot Contessa granola that was so much more flavorful. But I soon realized that I was the only person eating it, which meant not everybody thought it was scrumptious. And that's a lot of granola for one person.

Now, I already knew that "not everybody," meaning Bryan, wasn't a big fan of coconut. But for some reason, I thought that toasting it as the recipe calls for would mask it. But it turns out he's not a child who you can hide disliked ingredients from, which I figured out after he devoured this coconut-free Maple Granola with Dried Berries from Bon Appetit.

But hey, ya gotta love that Bryan for never complaining about the food I make!

Anyway, to be honest, the Bon Appetit recipe was good but it kinda bored me. So I decided combine it with the Barefoot Contessa recipe (minus the coconut, naturally), and the results are oh so pleasing. The extracts in the Bon Appetit recipe smell fabulous when it's in the oven, and I like that it uses a lot less oil by including water with the liquids. Here's what I came up with:

Mai Ling's Granola II
5 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole raw almonds
1 c. whole raw cashews
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. hot water
1 T. vanilla extract
2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. salt
1 c. diced dried figs
1 c. diced dried apricots
1 c. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix oats, nuts and cinnamon in a 9x13 dish that's deep enough to hold all of the ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix canola oil, maple syrup, hot water, extracts and salt, then slowly stir in with the oat mixture. Mix well, then cook for about an hour, checking and stirring every 10-20 minutes. It's done when it's dry and crunchy, but not burned!

Add dried fruits (you can be real creative with this part), and allow to cool, stirring a couple of times.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tomato-Basil Soup hearkens to youth

When I was just a wee thing, one of our favorite late-night haunts was Minnie's on Lower Queen Anne. There weren't a lot of places that would take underage kids, and we were so over Denny's and Beth's. So when we stumbled across a place that served brie and a Tomato-Basil Soup that was to die for, we thought we were wearing the fanciest pants in town.

But then I went to Minnie's as an adult, and realized it was just another hole-in-the-wall that just happened to have an amazing Tomato-Basil Soup recipe. So after Heather tracked that recipe down, we never went back and it eventually closed.

Maybe this soup isn't exactly the same - I think Minnie's used a lot more butter and cream, but hey, nothing is stopping you from doing that, too, with this versatile recipe.

Tomato-Basil Soup
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 c. basil, chopped chiffonade

Heat butter in a large stockpot. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic for the last minute.

Add tomatoes, bring to a low boil and simmer for 35 minutes, covered. (I usually pulse the tomatoes in a food processor before adding them, but you can just add them whole to the pot and crush them with your spoon since you'll be blending it all later.) Stir a couple of times throughout cooking.

Remove pot from heat and let cool about 5 minutes. Puree soup in a blender in batches, then return to a new stockpot with cream and reheat. Add Parmesan and stir until melted, then add basil, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Note: This last time I accidentally used the Italian-style tomatoes with basil, and it turned out quite tasty!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tried and true Mac-n-Cheese

I let Stephen down the other day when he couldn't find our much beloved mac-n-cheese recipe on Ruining Mom's Recipes, so I decided that was the perfect excuse to whip up a batch this weekend.

This is a recipe Bryan grew up with, and Bryan and I both have had our share of ruining this recipe since we got it from Connie, oh, about a decade ago. But after bringing it to dozens of potlucks and other events, I believe we've since perfected it.

Rule No. 1: Make sure the roux (flour and butter) is thoroughly mixed before you add the milk. Rule No. 2: Bring the bechamel (after the milk is added to the flour and butter mixture) to a boil before you add the cheese, otherwise it won't thicken correctly.

Connie's Mac-n-Cheese
2-1/2 c. milk
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 t. salt
2 c. macaroni
3 c. cheddar cheese (or a combo of your favorites)

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat milk in the microwave or on the stovetop; cook the macaroni in a separate pot according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium pot, then add salt and flour and whisk until thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Add warm milk and continue to whisk until the milk comes to a boil. Turn heat off and add 2 c. cheddar cheese. When cheese is melted, add the macaroni and pour it into a casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cook for 35 minutes, until brown and bubbly on top.

Note: Can be made one day in advance without baking.

Variations: One of our favorite combos is to add bacon and peas. Instead of using butter, first cook 4 strips of chopped bacon, then remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, and use the grease instead of butter to make the roux. Mix the peas in when you add the macaroni to the bechamel sauce.

This dish works great with leftover ham or broccoli (or both!). Add about 2 c. chopped just before putting in the oven.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cumin sneaks into an otherwise perfect pie

I went to Mom's for dinner last night and was treated to this beautiful pie that Mom wouldn't stop bragging about because she made it from scratch. In the past, she always used refrigerated pie crusts, but she says they've gone up so much in cost that she isn't willing to pay the price anymore.

And the crust was phenomenal. And no, I didn't get the recipe (but I will!). However, I still have to share this ditty.

First of all, like all of her pies, this one was made up of what Mom had: Some apples, blackberries and the last stalk of rhubarb in her yard. But instead of buying ground cinnamon, she uses whole cinnamon sticks and grinds them herself. Except this time, the grinder had a few remnants of cumin still inside.

Being the supertaster that I am, it's all I could taste. We may as well have called it Cumin Pie! But it was in no way comparable to the Sesame Oil Cheese Cake that I made at Mom's when she recycled a vanilla extract bottle and filled it sesame oil.

As a matter of fact, it was still pretty darn near perfect. Delicious, however, might be an overstatement.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cast Iron Cornbread: "It really rocks"

Justin wasn't kidding when he shared his recipe for Cast Iron Cornbread with me and closed the e-mail with: "It really rocks."

It's nothing like the sweet, cakey cornbread Mom has always made for us -- although now she thinks she's really brilliant because she makes hers in muffin tins.

As a matter of fact, this recipe doesn't have any flour or sugar in it. But it's plenty moist and flavorful.

Cast Iron Cornbread
1/4 c. plus 2 T. canola oil
3 eggs
8 oz. sour cream
4 oz. creamed corn
1 c. corn meal (not coarse)
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Put 2 tbsp canola oil in cast iron skillet and place in oven. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix 1/4 c. oil, eggs, sour cream and creamed corn in a medium bowl. In a seperate bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients, then add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour mixture into hot skillet, and bake for 30 minutes.

(Um, I just realized that I didn't put in the 1/4 c. of oil, and it turned out perfect. Huh. Sounds like experimentation time!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Expanding my cabbage horizons

As much as I love the shipment of fresh veggies and fruits that we get every other week from Full Circle Farm, I admit it takes some planning for me to figure out how to use everything before it's too late. Especially since I don't have a clue what to do with half of the veggies.

Mom is a genius with cabbage. It shows up nearly all of her soups and stars in multiple Chinese dishes. And what can I do with cabbage? Make coleslaw. Yeah, I know, real original.

So when I got this gorgeous head of Napa cabbage this week that I hadn't planned for, I went a huntin' and found this recipe for Creamy Cabbage that was almost impossible to stop eating -- even though I royally screwed up the bechamel sauce.

See, I can do more than just ruin Mom's recipes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Keep kale on the stove a bit longer

Remember the Cheesy Orzo with Veggies I made last month that I loaded up with kale? Well, I wasn't actually honest about the end result of that dish, which although tasty, also produced some ... let's jut say intestinal issues. Kale is yummy stuff, but it's also some serious roughage that I think requires a little more time over the flames.

So when I decided to pair kale with Pork Medallions with Mushroom Gravy, I still served Cheesy Orzo but left out the veggies (which made it quite runny, by the way, so you might want to reduce the fluid amount by about 1/4-1/2 cup), and let the kale cook for about 30 minutes. Even after all that time, it still was firm!

Sauteed Kale
2 strips bacon, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch kale, sliced in 1/2 strips with stems in the middle
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1 c. chicken broth

Cook bacon over medium heat, then remove to paper towels. Add garlic to pan and quickly stir around, then add the kale and pepper and saute until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and let it simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes, or until it's tender to your liking. Add bacon and heat through, then serve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mai Ling's Minestrone ... for the day

Fall does more than just instill nostalgia for Oktoberfest. It also creates a need to create and devour rich, hearty soups.

Of course, Mom would prefer it if soups were a part of our daily diet, as they are in her house, where she serves soup before every meal. You see, it's not just a ritual that's done at Asian restaurants, it's actually a tradition that I believe has multiple health reasons: 1) to heat your belly and prepare it for hot, solid food, and 2) to fill your belly and keep you from overeating during the meal.

Unfortunately, there aren't actually any recipes for the soups that Mom makes. I've asked, believe me, but it just seems like she throws together whatever mishmash of vegetables, mushrooms and soup bones she has on hand. I'm sure the basic combinations come from something that once resembled a recipe or maybe just flavors she remembers from childhood, but it's going to take me some time to be able to share them with you.

So bear with me, and know that in the meantime, she's also passed on that ability to throw together a mishmash of whatever is in the refrigerator to yours truly, although right now I'm still wading through typical American fare. You're going to have to wait for the Asian soups, which are intimidating when your mom could throw down Bobby Flay with just a pair of chopsticks and some soy sauce.

I'm not sure what exactly defines a Minestrone soup, but I know they often have beans and noodles in them, so we'll just call this

Mai Ling's Minestrone
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. sliced carrot
1 c. sliced celery
4 c. chicken broth
1 14.5-oz. can Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or just use normal tomatoes and add basil and oregano)
2 frozen chicken breasts
1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans
1 15.5-oz. can garbanzo beans
1 c. dried macaroni (or other noodle of your choice)
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add onions, carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes and chicken and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a plate and shred with two forks. Meanwhile, add macaroni to soup and cook according to package directions.

When macaroni is cooked, add chicken, both cans of beans and pepper to heat through, then serve.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our own little Oktoberfest

With fall in the air, I've got Oktoberfest on the brain, which is when all I want to do is eat German food. I could wait a month for when we got to the big Leavenworth Oktoberfest festival, but to be honest I've had better luck finding authentic German food at Seattle's Feierabend than in touristy Leavenworth.

Besides, Wiener Schnitzel isn't really German, which is what I decided to make last night, even though I scoffed at the Veal Schnitzel recipe from Bon Appetit that I based it on because it used panko crumbs -- Japanese breadcrumbs. But it turns out panko makes a good Schnitzel! I paired it with German Potato Salad (recipe follows) and Cucumber Salad.

Wiener Schnitzel
2 thick pork chops, slightly frozen
1 c. milk plus 2 T., divided
1 c. flour
2 large eggs
1 c. panko
1/2 c. grated Asiago cheese
2 T. butter
1 T. canola or vegetable oil

Cut each pork chop into four thin cutlets, then arrange evenly in a glass dish. Pour 1 c. milk over the pork and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

Place flour in a shallow dish, lightly beaten eggs plus 2 T. milk in a second, and in a third the panko mixed with the Asiago.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F., and heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

Remove pork from milk and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dredge each cutlet first in flour, then in eggs and lastly in the panko mixture. Here's your assembly line.

Cook cutlets on stovetop two at a time, 3-4 minutes per side, then place in oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

German Potato Salad
2 lbs. potatoes
1 c. onion, chopped
1 t. kosher salt
6 T. apple cider vinegar
3-4 T. canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Green onions

Boil potatoes in their jackets. This takes about 50 minutes. Drain potatoes and let them sit for 20-30 minutes, until they're cool enough to handle but still hot. Peel the skins, then thinly slice the potatoes. Gently mix them with the onions. Mix salt and vinegar, pour over the potatoes, mix gently, then allow to sit in a warm place for an hour. Stir in canola oil before serving, then sprinkle with black pepper and green onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zucchini Fritters -- surprise, they're fried!

Now that family month is over, I have no idea what to do with myself. So I guess that means I'll head back into the kitchen.

Actually, my fridge had been neglected for so long that I had to do some serious planning to use what remained, which led me to these Tender Zucchini Fritters from Bon Appetit that I knew would be ideal for the two zucchini that had gone a bit soft.

Unfortunately, I hadn't actually read enough of the recipe to understand that I would be frying dinner tonight, which was the last thing I wanted after eating every five seconds over the weekend.

And besides the added fat that I am trying to avoid, frying also proves a lesson for me every time. First, I tried using my Ferrari frying pan (a 12-inch All-Clad saute pan we got as a wedding gift), but all the yummy browned bits just stuck to the bottom. So I started over again in a nonstick and it seemed to work better. But honestly, I think it's all about the heat, just like Mom keeps telling me.

Next time, I'll just turn up the heat, real high. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Brunch at Chez Slaughter

We did a lot of eating out during the last part of "family month," while Aunt Cindy and Uncle Bart were visiting: happy hour at Maximilien, dinner at the Steelhead Diner and brunch at Kona Kitchen, just to name a few.

But everybody in the family still found time to create a home-cooked meal to remind them how the Asian side of their family shares their love. I had a lot of competition after a meal made entirely from farmers market finds by Stephen, followed by Mom's amazing pork ribs and about a dozen other dishes that Bryan and I actually missed out on because we were at what very well could have been the most beautiful wedding ever at The Golf Club at Newcastle.

I guess I have family month to thank that my brunch also was a success, namely Bryan's cousin Ryan, who gave us the most amazing smoked salmon I have ever had, which also made my Smoked Salmon Quiche unbeatable.

Smoked Salmon Quiche
9-inch pie crust (store-bought if you're smart)
4 T. butter
3 leeks, sliced thin
8-oz. cream cheese (Neufchatel works fine)
2 cups smoked salmon, broken up in bite-size chunks
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 c. nonfat half-and-half (feel free to go full fat!)
1/2 t. pepper

Prepare pie crust and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat butter in a nonstick pan. Add leeks and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add cream cheese until smooth.

Meanwhile, mix eggs, half-and-half and pepper in a large bowl. Add the smoked salmon and the leeks-cream cheese mixture and lightly mix. Slowly pour into pie crust and bake for about an hour. Check it after 45 minutes, then check it in five minute intervals until the top is lightly browned. I gotta be honest, mine wasn't quite done in the middle - but it was still delicious!

And here's the rest of the menu:
Cava Sangria from Bon Appetit
Sticky Buns (Overnight Bubble Bread from All Recipes)
Spinach & Feta Quiche (see the Mushroom-Spinach Quiche on the bottom of this post, except I used feta instead of Swiss cheese)

Yes, we waddled out of there, did some wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery, then somehow found it in us to eat again at the Red Hook Brewery just so we could enjoy the beautiful deck.

Please visit again soon! I can't guarantee the weather will be as picture perfect, but I can guarantee you'll leave with a full stomach!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back to the kitchen, with gusto

So maybe I went a little overboard last night. But I had a brief respite from what I'm now lovingly calling "family month," and I not only missed my kitchen, but I also needed to get cooking while some of my produce was in its prime.

First I made a batch of peach jam since I gave away the entire first batch that I made in July. This time I made half-pint jars, so hopefully the giving will go a little longer.

Then I decided to make up my own entree. After Bryan was talking about a Seattle P-I article about how wonderful bacon is, I decided it would be the perfect addition to the halibut that we got from Bryan's cousin in British Columbia during the first part of "family month."

It's not much of a recipe. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes so the grease coats the bottom. Flip the bacon and move it to one side, place a fillet skin-side down, and top it with half the bacon. Repeat with a second fillet, and cook in oven for about 8 minutes.

We paired it with Bob's Red Mill Polenta and Swiss Chard Gratin from Greg Atkinson's "West Coast Cooking."

And we finished the evening with Peach Cobbler, also from "West Coast Cooking." And no, I didn't get any work done last night. But we sure did eat like kings.