Monday, June 28, 2010

Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing

Apparently, there is a dressing like this at Cafe Rio (which I've never been to).  I got this recipe from my sister-in-law after sampling it at her house.  It was awesome.  I've seen versions of it on the internet - websites, other foodblogs, etc. 

1 pkg. ranch dressing
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. buttermilk
3 tomatillos
1 c. cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1 lime, juiced
1/8 tsp. cayenne

The Method
Peel husks from tomatillos and rinse.  Place tomatillos in small pan of water over high heat and bring to a boil.  Tomatillos are done when they begin to sink in the pan.  Remove from pan and place in blender with other ingredients.  Blend until smooth. 

Food for Thought
Use this on any Mexican or Tex-Mex dish or salad you like.  It is creamy, savory, herbaceous goodness that will truly blow your mind. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rotini with Red Pepper Ragu

No this is not something that you can pick up at the store next to the Prego.  Ragu, more than just a brand name, actually refers to an hearty Italian meat sauce that comes from northern Italy's Bologna region. 

My first memorable exprerience with roasted red peppers came when a friend and fellow foody brought me a wedge of great quiche with the most awesome romesco ever.  I have been a fool for red peppers ever since and they were my muse for this creation.  The roasted red peppers make the sauce earthy and delicious.  This is high-octane Italian flavor.  A Maserati for your mouth.  A Ferrari for your fork.  A Fiat for . . . just kidding. No Fiat comparison here.  This is good stuff.    

2 medium-large red bell peppers
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 lb. turkey burger, ground beef or Italian sausage (your preference).
5 cloves garlic, divided
¼ tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 oz. Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
5-6 leaves of fresh sweet basil

The Method
Roast peppers over direct high heat on a grill or over a gas burner until skin is charred. Remove from heat and place in paper bag for 10 minutes. Remove from bag and scrape off skin. Cut each pepper into halves and remove the pith and seeds. After draining the tomatoes, add to food processor with peppers, 3 cloves of garlic, and lemon juice and process for 30 seconds.

Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to large saucepan over medium heat. Add meat and cook until lightly browned. Finely mince two remaining cloves of garlic and add to pan and continue to cook for one additional minute. If using ground beef or sausage, drain excess fat from pan prior to adding vegetable mixture. Add sauce and reduce heat to low. While sauce simmers, add cayenne, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. of black pepper.

In a medium sized stockpot, bring water to boil over high heat and add 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Add rotini noodles and reduce to medium-high heat, maintaining boil for 3-5 minutes.

When noodles are done (but not mushy), remove from heat and drain into colander. Rinse briefly with cold water.

Grate Parmesan.  Tightly roll basil leaves together and chop into ribbons.    Plate noodles and top with a healthy dose of sauce. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan and basil. Salt and pepper to taste and try not to be too sad that you didn’t make more. Serves 4-6.

Food for Thought
You could finish an old boot or a can of Spaghetti-Os (please wait until the present food-safety issues and recall hoopla have been settled – if you buy them again at all!) with olive oil, fresh Parmesan and fresh basil and it would taste great. So put it on good food and Wowza!

A brief cold-water rinse in a colander helps to arrest the cooking process in your noodles without chilling them out too much. There are few things less appetizing than overcooked pasta – oil, cheese and herb garnish notwithstanding.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Can't Believe it's Not Kabobs

Love kabobs but hate the assembly?  This is the dish for you.  So good and perfect for Summertime. 

1 lb. package of your favorite polish sausage or poslka kilbasa
1 lb. fresh or fully thawed chicken tenders or boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large yellow onion
1 can large whole pitted black olives
1 can pineapple chunks
3/4 c. of your favorite barbecue sauce
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Fresh ground black pepper

The Method
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. 

Slice sausage into 3/4-inch medallions and chicken into 2-3 inch pieces.  Chop peppers and onion into 2 inch pieces.  Drain pineapple and olives completely.  Add barbecue sauce, lemon juice and canola oil in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Add peppers, onion, pineapple and olives to sauce mixture and toss until all produce is covered.  Remove produce from mixing bowl and add to perforated grill pan and grill over direct medium-high heat until lightly carmelized.  Add chicken and sausage to mixing bowl and toss to coat in remaining sauce mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill sausage and chicken over direct medium heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add meat and produce to large serving bowl and dig in.

Food for Thought
All grills have hot spots and cooler areas.  Move meat around and remove from grill piece by piece when done.  If you like mushrooms, they would be great to add to your batch of veggies about halfway through grilling.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Red, White and Blueberry Shortcake Stack

You don't need a patriotic holiday to eat this desert but it is definitely a summer-time treat.  Though you can use any combination of fruit you like, the combination of strawberries and blueberries both looks and tastes delicious.  This is not an original concept but this dish is one of our favorites.

For the biscuits
4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. shortening
1 3/4 c. milk
Demerara or turbinado sugar

1 lb. fresh strawberries
1 lb. fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. granulated sugar

2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. real vanilla extract

The Method
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Place berries in a colander and rinse thoroughly.  Hull and slice strawberries and place in medium mixing bowl along with blueberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice.  Lightly toss fruit mixture then cover and refrigerate. 

In a separate mixing bowl, add all dry biscuit ingredients and stir to combine.  Add shortening and cut in until crumbly.  Add milk and mix together until dough is as soft as  you can handle.  Lightly flour clean countertop and lightly knead dough (15-20 times) and roll out dough to 1 inch thickness.  Cut out biscuits with 3-4 inch cutter.  Sprinkle biscuits with demerara or turbinado sugar.  Lay biscuits out one against another on baking sheet, place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Whip heavy cream in a separate bowl, and add powdered sugar and vanilla extract just as cream begins to stiffen.  Continue to whip until stiff. 

Plate biscuits by slicing biscuits into top and bottom halves.  Top each bottom half with whipped cream and fruit, add biscuit top and repeat.  Finish each biscuit by sprinking with an additional teaspoon of raw sugar.   

Food for Thought
Demerara sugar can be purchased in the bulk foods section at Winco and similar stores.  You can find turbinado (Hawaiian source) sugar in a small box on your baking aisle.  These products form unrefined, brown, coarse granules derived from sugar cane.  They offer a bit more depth of flavor than white granulated sugar as well as a sublte textural element.

This is your basic baking powder biscuit recipe minus a bit of flour with the addition of powdered sugar.  Knowing that these biscuits were to be used in a desert application, my wife took her usual recipe and added the powdered sugar to give them a little more sweetness and, as she hypothesized, to make them lighter and fluffier.  They were beautiful golden cylinders of light, tender, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  This desert is not really that time or labor intensive but yields a great payoff in terms of 'wow-factor' for presentation and taste.  This really is summer on a desert plate.  Bring this to your next family get together and you'll be loved and hated at the same time; loved for bringing something so delicious and hated for showing off with such a beautiful and tasty treat.