Saturday, July 09, 2011

Six years?

I can't believe it sneaked past us... a couple of days ago, the 6th anniversary of this site passed us by. Yikes, boy does time fly! I didn't actually realize it until a reader sent us an e-mail asking if we were going to make anything special for it - oops, guess not! Even though we didn't make a new dish to celebrate, I do have a couple new recipes we've made recently that are worthy of being noted. The first being what we made for this week's Wednesday Treat Day - Mini Cheesecake Tarts.

You will need a fancy pan for these, but I suppose you could always try and use a muffin tin - if you go that route, you would want to line that pan with paper liners to ensure the tarts will pop out. The almond-laced crust is lovely - crisp and nutty, but still tender to cut through with a fork. You can top the individual creamy vanilla tarts with whatever suits your fancy - we went with raspberry jam and three plump fresh raspberries on each. Blueberries are flooding the farmers' market here and I imagine a blueberry compote with some sort of lemon infusion would make a killer topping.

I'll link you directly to the site where we found the next recipe - Black Forest Ham Rolls. I have Dan's site loaded into my rss reader and saved this idea aside just as soon as I finished the post.

These cheesy spiral rolls are prepared using a homemade dough made with bread flour and one of Jeff's favorite flours - rye! To boost the flavor in the dough, butter softened onions, seasoned with caraway seeds to toast along the ride, slide into the dough to mix in with the other liquids. When the dough has rested and been stretched out, a solid layer of grainy mustard is slathered on, followed by shreds of Emmental cheese and chopped pieces of Black Forest ham.

Rolled up (à la cinnamon roll fashion) and sliced into chunky rounds, you can arrange them on the baking sheet a couple of ways - while we did them single file (about an inch or two away from one another), you could also shingle them together in two lines or a large ring. There are no measurements for the fillings, so we just followed our instincts - you don't want too much of any single ingredient as you may have a hard time rolling the log or keeping them together while slicing. Jeff and I both thought these were exceptional, especially hot out of the oven with the golden gooey cheesy oozing all over - they also reheated well, making for a snazzy lunch the next day!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Good day to play catch up...

Happy Fourth of July!

Jeff, the pups and I decided to just hang around the house today - it's pretty sticky and hot outside, so we decided to grab some movies and keep cool. I did make another batch of those Root Beer Float Cookies to snack on, but only a few - the rest will go into Jeff's PT office tomorrow morning. He's recovering well from his rotator cuff repair, but is still pretty sore with all the stretching he needs to do everyday.

I do have a couple recipes to share with you today, but we definitely did not make either of them within the past couple of weeks - the weather has been the same over that time... a blazing heat with plenty of humidity! We prepared them several weeks ago, when there was a cool(er) snap and we had a chance to breathe the fresh air flowing through the open windows. Up first was this hearty dish, a take on Pasta e Fagioli, that Jeff and I both enjoyed for not only its simplicity, but how little we had to do to get it in the pot and going!

There was a little chopping involved, but only a few celery stalks, a couple carrots, a small red onion and a trio of zippy garlic cloves. Given a chance to weep and soften, to those vegetables went in a fragrant sprig of fresh oregano, a large can of fire-roasted tomatoes, vegetable broth and what I thought was one of the key ingredients, the stocky heel from a salty wedge of Parmesan cheese! Rather than toss those edges away, I stick 'em in a bag kept in the freezer for safe keeping - the cheesy nubbins are always good to drop into all sorts of soups and stews.

As soon as the liquid hits the boiling point and begins to thicken, small pasta, ditalini in our case, are stirred in to cook through, followed by a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas to heat through. Now, if chickpeas don't make sense to you in this, by all means do a switch-a-roo with cannellini beans (which is what the original recipe called for). This was really just catering to Jeff as he doesn't much care for the softer, more creamy white bean - he thankfully doesn't have any objections to the firmer garbanzo. This dish is quite thick, but you can just as well thin it out if you like - stir in a bit of extra broth just before serving.

We happily cleaned our bowls the first night, but I wondered how it would hold up overnight for lunch the next day. The noodles were a little softer, as expected, but overall it was still pretty darn tasty as the flavors had a chance mix and mingle. I do plan on making this again, but perhaps later in the year when the temps start to take a nose dive!

The next recipe? Ancho-Chipotle Turkey Chili! Yes, another one that probably probably would have been more suited for the fall or winter, but after I read through the ingredient list with Jeff, he gave the thumbs up and said go for it! I guess I'll just close my eyes when the electric bill comes... the AC has definitely been workin' overtime!

What attracted me to this specific recipe was the use of several dried ancho chiles, rehydrated in warm stock until pliable and soft. Not that this is a radical new method, but in the times we have done this as a base enhancer to a stew or chili, we've always been more than pleased with the robust results!

Getting down to the nitty gritty of this chili involves browning a few slices of bacon (you know it's going to be good if that's how we start!), then reserving a couple tablespoons of its useful dripping to start cooking a pound of ground turkey. Once crumbled and beginning to take on some color, into the turkey meat went chopped onions, spicy chipotle in adobo, paprika, cumin and coriander. There are also a couple ingredients tossed in that some may turn their nose to - cocoa powder and cinnamon - but I highly suggest you don't leave them out! With several cloves with of minced garlic added, tomato paste joined the party - at this point, be sure to give the paste a solid minute or two to cook, while stirring. This gives it a chance to bloom, bringing the essence of tomato back to life.

With the smoky chile puree stirred in, there is one more piece to the puzzle - a bottle of Mexican-style beer! This won't make it taste boozy in the least, but the malt-y undertones make a mild appearance and work to enhance the lingering background notes. If you just don't like, or can't cook with alcohol, that's fine - I see no reason why you couldn't use stock or broth instead.

The bacon that was crispy at one point won't stay that way; rather than being used as a garnish on top, the bits are added right into the pot with the pureed chiles and beer, along with a couple scoops of red kidney beans to simmer and thicken. Not a fan of beans in your chili? Take 'em out and increase the turkey by another pound to fill out the dish. While spicy, this chili wasn't slap-you-in-the-face hot - if you'd like to turn up the fire a bit, don't remove the seeds from the chipotles. To give our tongues a break from the heat that was there, we served each bowl with a droopy dollop of sour cream on top. We left it at that, but feel free to smother the top with your favorite chili toppings!