Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creamy Leeks with Chickpeas (and also, Pancetta)

I tried a recipe that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago for "Sauteed Leeks with Chickpeas" last night and realized that I had found the perfect autumnal side dish. Of course, what truly makes it delectable is neither leek nor chickpea, but pancetta aka italian bacon!

Note: although the recipe reminds the cook to add water often if needed to keep leeks from sticking, I had the opposite problem. If you do too, just keep the cover off the pan for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates, then re-cover.

Sauteed Leeks with Chickpeas

Adapted from Marcella Hazan

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 2-inch lengths

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 slice pancetta, about 1/2-inch thick (approximately 1/4 pound), cut into strips about 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, or 1 1/2 cups cooked drained chickpeas

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Separate layers of leek segments that will come apart easily. Place leeks in a bowl of cold water and allow to soak for at least 20 minutes. Drain well.

2. Combine oil and pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté pancetta until lightly browned. Add drained leeks and 3 tablespoons water. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until leeks become very soft and almost creamy, about 30 minutes; stir occasionally, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons water when necessary to replenish liquid in pan.

3. Add chickpeas, turning them in the leeks to mix them well. Season to taste with salt and liberal grindings of pepper. Cover, increase heat to medium, and cook for 10 more minutes; stir occasionally to make sure leeks do not stick to pan and, if necessary, add a tablespoon or 2 of water.

4. Transfer contents of pan, with any juices, to a warm serving dish. This can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead of time; keep in pan and reheat slowly on stovetop before serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chinese Meatballs

I've been working this week on a couple of recipes to submit to Better Homes and Gardens monthly contest. The category? "Not your Momma's Meatballs." Last night, I endeavored to create a meatball with Chinese take-out flavors...and was very happy with the results. This recipe will serve a post-workout, hungry twosome. You'll want to double it for four.

Chinese Meatballs
1 lb. ground pork
1/8 cup milk (any kind)
1/8 cup panko
1 egg
1/4 cup minced canned water chesnuts
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. five spice powder
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. soy sauce

Dipping Sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
sprinkling of scallions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place a silpat on a baking sheet.

Pour milk on top of panko and let sit until fully absorbed. Beat egg in medium bowl. Add salt, five spice powder, red pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce and scallions. Add pork and mix with fingers. Form meatballs (mixture should produce about 14) and place on silpat. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

While the meatballs bake, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil and lemon juice for dipping sauce. Sprinkle with leftover scallions.

Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thai Shrimp Noodle Salad

I adapted this from a Cooking Light Recipe to make it even faster. Its a great, fresh one dish meal for lunch or dinner.

4 ounces uncooked linguine
12 ounces cooked shrimp
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chile sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
4 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 1/4 cups vertically sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts, unsalted

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. While water boils remove tails from shrimp and coarsely chop. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water.

Combine juice, sugar, Sriracha, and fish sauce in a large bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pasta mixture, lettuce, and next 4 ingredients (through cilantro) to juice mixture; toss to coat. Place about 2 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 4 teaspoons peanuts.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Classic Football Eats: Hot Wings

My husband has made Alton Brown's recipe for Buffalo Wings a few times and I love eating them! One of the best parts is that they're steamed and baked, not fried, but still have that crispy skin you want. He's used a bunch of different hot sauces, but my favorite is the Bone Suckin' Sauce pictured above. Note: This is a great recipe in which to use your homemade butter!

Buffalo Wings
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007

12 whole chicken wings
3 ounces unsalted butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.

Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wow. Amazing chocolate chip cookies!

A few years ago, the New York Times ran a trio of chocolate chip cookie recipes: Flat and Chewy, Thin and Crisp and Thick and Gooey. I was looking to make a delicious and simple dessert for a group of boys watching Sunday night football with us and wanted to try something other than the cakey cookie recipe that's our household standby. I adapted Amanda Hesser's Flat and Chewy recipe to the football watching boys' delight. They come out beautifully brown with a delicious crisp on the outside and a great chew (and melted chocolate, of course) on the inside.

A perfect way to enjoy these cookies is to keep the dough chilled in the refrigerator until you get a cookie craving. Then bake a sheet at a time. They are best warm, a few minutes out of the oven.

Flat-and-Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 11.5 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or use non-stick baking sheets.

2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 minutes. While mixer is going sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. To the mixer, add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate. Chill the dough.

3. Roll 2 ½ -tablespoon lumps of dough into balls (or use a small ice cream sccop). Dough will spread -I recommend a max of 7 cookies per sheet. Chill the dough between batches. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then serve and enjoy! Makes 30 to 35 cookies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pancakes! The Dutch Way

My hubby and I jaunted to Amsterdam for the long weekend where I was so pleasantly surprised by the creative, modern cuisine. One of our favorite places was called Pancakes! Located in the adorable Nine Streets Shopping area off the Western Canal boat, the restaurant mixes traditional dutch pancakes (closer to crepes than our American pancakes) with all manner of toppings from the traditional to the inventive. It's a cheery bi-level space with a couple of outdoor tables. When we were there two little girls joyously alternated bites from pancakes twice the size of their heads with playing kiddie games provided by the restaurant.

My husband stuck with sweet toppings of strawberries and yogurt while I concocted a savory pancake of ham, camembert and mushrooms (see the pic below). Both were delicious -the real star being the actual pancake batter that was perfectly chewy in the middle and terrifically crisp at the edge. Next time you're in Amsteram, try Pancakes for a down-home, charming lunch.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Make Your Own Butter! No Churn Needed

I ran across this tutorial on how to make butter and knew I had to try it. It's so easy and fun. Perfect example of food chemistry in action. Plus, you end up with butter! So much tastier than store bought. No going wrong here.

Start by pouring approximately 2 cups of heavy cream into your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

Mix on level 5 or 6 until stiff peaks form. Scrape down sides with spatula as needed.

Lower to level 4. Clumps will form.

Butter will turn golden.

Fairly quickly, milk will separate from solids.

Turn off mixer. Pour off buttermilk and roll solids into a ball.

Squeeze liquid out of solids by kneading and using a tea towel.

Season how you like -I used sea salt.

Put into tupperware or ramekin, refrigerate and enjoy!