Thursday, January 30, 2014

Homemade Ranch Dressing for Your Game Day Buffalo Wings!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Excerpted from The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook by Erin Coopey
I’m really picky about ranch dressing. The bottled brands just taste synthetic to me. Once you taste this tangy, herby dressing you’ll feel the same.
Yield: Makes 1 1/4 cups (295 ml)

1/3 cup (77 g) sour cream or crème fraîche (see below)
1/3 cup (75 g) homemade mayonnaise (see below) or store-bought
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons grated onion
or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic purée or pinch of garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of paprika
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, and buttermilk together until smooth and fully blended. Stir in the lemon juice, onion, garlic, chives, parsley, thyme, and paprika. Season with salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Note: The flavors of this dressing improve with a little time. If you can, try to make the recipe at least 1 hour before you plan to serve it. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Get a little culture - Crème Fraîche
If you left a glass of milk on the counter overnight, you probably wouldn’t want to drink it in the morning, right? We have a tendency to get a little freaked out about bacteria—rightly so in some cases, but in others a little bit of bacteria is a good thing.

Crème fraîche (French for “fresh cream”) is cultured cream, not just because it has a fancy French name, but rather because it’s thickened by bacterial cultures. It can range in thickness from heavy whipping cream to sour cream.

It’s very simple to make. In a small nonreactive mixing bowl, add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) buttermilk to 1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream. Stir to combine. Cover and let rest for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature. The longer you wait, the thicker it will become. When the crème fraîche reaches the desired thickness, refrigerate it for at least 24 hours before using. The finished crème fraîche can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Crème fraîche is slightly less sour than sour cream, so it can be used for all sorts of dressings, sauces, and desserts. It’s delicious plain, but you can add fresh herbs and lemon juice for an herbed cream sauce. Or add a little sugar and vanilla and spoon it over fresh berries.

Watching eggs and oil swirl together into mayonnaise seems almost like a magic trick, and it’s ready in flash!
Yield: Makes 1 cup (225 g)

2 raw egg yolks, from the freshest eggs you can find, at room temperature
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon mustard powder or Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 cup (235 ml) oil
Pinch of sugar (optional)

Place the egg yolks in a blender or mini food processor. (Because this recipe only makes 1 cup [225 g], a full-size food processor may be too big to aerate the eggs properly. I find the bowl size of my mini prep to be perfect.) You can also whisk the mixture by hand. Process or whisk the egg yolks until they are light yellow and frothy. Add the salt, mustard powder, lemon juice, and vinegar and process/whisk until blended.
With the motor running (or whisking vigorously), slowly drizzle in the oil in a very light, steady stream. Don’t stop until you have added the entire cup. When all the oil is blended, stop the motor (or take a breath), open the bowl, and taste. Add more salt and sugar, if desired. Serve after 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Tastier, Healthier, Homemade
You work hard to make dinner—choosing the best food, mastering preparation techniques, and picking the perfect recipes. But what about the unsung staples, the ingredients and condiments that build and accompany your meal? Too often, the store-bought versions are loaded with extra salt, sugar, allergens, and preservatives, and they end up bland and uninspiring. But you don’t have to limit yourself to the same tastes and the same plastic bottles. With Kitchen Pantry Cookbook you can create your own staples—fresh, delicious, and just the way you like them. Chef Erin Coopey shows you 90+ recipes and variations to personalize your pantry. You’ll never go back to the bottles.Stock your kitchen pantry with:
  • Condiments: Everything you need—Mayonnaise, Dijon Mustard, Ketchup, Steak Sauce, and more
  • Nut butters and spreads: The classics and the creative—Homemade Peanut Butter, Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, Vanilla Chai Pear Butter, and more
  • Salad dressings: All your favorites, from Balsamic Vinaigrette to Honey Mustard to Sesame Tahini
  • Stocks: The basics to have on hand, including Chicken Stock, Vegetable Stock, and Court Bouillon
  • Relishes and refrigerator pickles: Delicious and easy—Bread and Butter Pickles, Pickled Peppers, Sauerkraut, and more
  • Chips, dips, and dunks: Snacks that hit the spot, from Homemade Potato Chips with French Onion Dip to Tortilla Chips with Tomatillo Salsa

Monday, January 27, 2014

Romesco Sauce - Blasted Vegetables Part 2

When Sarah suggested that she wanted to share her recipe for blasted vegetables, I thought it would be fun to make a sauce for them.  The vegetables are rockin' on their own but sometimes you just want a little something extra. Adding the Romesco Sauce gives them subtle sophistication (and God knows, I'm always striving to be more sophisticated - LOL!).

The cool part is that the Romesco Sauce is about as simple as can be as you'll see in the video.

The sauce originated in Catalonia, Spain and usually include almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and sweet dried peppers, roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onion.

Romesco Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 head of garlic roasted, see note
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) Marcona almonds
1 15oz jar roasted red bell peppers or Caratilla Piquillo Peppers, drained
2 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera, dulce)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar (My favorite is Sanchez Romante Vinegre de Jerez)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used Dauro Olive Oil)
2 tsp kosher salt or Trapani coarse sea salt
1 tbsp Italian parsley, minced

Squeeze the soft roasted garlic out of the head by gently grasping the papery skin and easing the garlic cloves into a waiting bowl. Combine the garlic and all ingredients except parsley in a food processor and process until well combined.  There should be some texture to the almonds but the sauce shouldn't be chunky.

Transfer the mixture to a storage container, stir in the parsley and cover.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: roasting garlic is simple. I slice the top off a head of garlic to expose the gloves. I place the head in a small ramekin or baking dish. Then I pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over it and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 300F until the garlic is golden and gooshie. Yes, that's the technical description. 

In addition to serving Romesco with Blasted Vegetables, try some of these suggestions!
  • Spread on toasted baguettes.
  • Use as a dipping sauce for fresh or grilled vegetables, it's particularly delicious with grilled green onions or roasted slices of red potatoes.
  • Great with grilled chicken though it is perhaps most often served with seafood including grilled fish, shrimp and scallops. If you serve with fish, try adding mince fennel fronds or mint.
  • Toss roasted fingerling potatoes with Romesco and top with some chopped parsley and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. 
If you like this recipe and want to learn more, join me for a Spanish cooking class at! By the way, in full disclosure - yes, if you click on a link and purchase any of the products listed in the recipe, I would get a little percentage of the sale. 

Blasted Vegetables - Featuring this month's Glorified Home Chef, Sarah C.

My friend, Sarah, joined me as my featured Glorified HomeChef this month. Sarah showed me how to make Blasted Vegetables. She learned the recipe from Suzzanne Myers, a registered dietitian in the Seattle. When Sarah's oldest daughter, Kiera, was a baby they were having a hard time getting her to gain weight so Suzzanne showed Sarah a few recipes to encourage Kiera to eat more. Blasted Vegetables became a favorite in their home.

The high temperature roasting causes the vegetables to caramelize and release their natural sugars so kids think they are kind of a sweet treat. The recipe is super simple, at you'll see. You are going to love them and so is your finicky eater.

Blasted Vegetables
1 large head of cauliflower
3 or 4 broccoli crowns
5 tablespoons olive oil (I used Desert Miracle Olive Oil), divided
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt or course sea salt, or to taste

Place two large rimmed baking sheets in your oven. Preheat the oven to 500F with the baking sheets inside.

Pare the outer leaves from the cauliflower. Remove the larger florets and slice into thick slices. Each slice should be attached to the stem of the floret so that it stays intact.  After you've sliced all of the florets, slice the core of the cauliflower into disks.

Place the cauliflower pieces in a large mixing bowl and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Use your hands thoroughly coat the cauliflower with oil.

Next sprinkle approximately one teaspoon of sea salt over the oiled cauliflower and stir to evenly distribute the salt.

Carefully remove one of the preheated baking sheets from the oven and spread the oiled cauliflower in a single layer over the entire pan. Try to lay the cut sides of the florets flat on the baking sheet. The more surface area, the better the carmelization on the vegetables.

Return the pan to the oven and roast until the underside of the cauliflower florets have turned a rich, golden brown,, approximately 15 minutes or longer depending on the size of the florets.

In the meantime, slice the heads of broccoli into thick floret slices, similar to the cauliflower - again trying to leave some stem attache to each floret so they don't fall apart.

Place the broccoli pieces in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Toss to coat evenly and sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of salt.

Carefully remove the other rimmed baking sheet from the oven. It's important to roast the vegetables separately because they cook at different rates. Spread the broccoli florets in a single layer over the baking sheet.

Return the pan to the oven and roast until the bottom of the broccoli florets is a rich, golden brown, approximately 12 minutes.

When both sheet pans of vegetables are fully roasted, remove them from the oven and toss them together in a large bowl or on a serving platter.  Taste to see if you'd like to add additional olive oil or salt and serve - alone or with Romesco Sauce.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Seasonal Vegetables for Your Winter Table

I can just imagine you walking around the grocery store past anemic tomatoes, tasteless strawberries, and unripe cantaloupe thinking, "I can't wait until Spring so I can get some ripe fruits and vegetables." Don't succumb to winter vegetable doldrums. You can find produce that is at it's peak this time of year too. You just have to know what to choose.

When you think about winter fruits and vegetables, try to imagine a fruit cellar filled with hearty items designed to last until spring. Winter produce can be satisfying, comforting, and delicious. Seasonal crops include: apples, avocados, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, grapefruit, Swiss chard, kale, mushrooms, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, and watercress.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy winter vegetables:

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
Although avocados might be synonymous with sunshine and guacamole, they are actually at their best now. This salad is filled with bright flavors to liven a cold winter palate.

Using a sharp chef's knife, trim away the peel and excess membrane from a ruby red grapefruit. Carefully remove the individual segments by slicing along both sides of the separating membranes. Set grapefruit segments aside. Halve an avocado lengthwise, remove the pit and slice the fruit into lengthwise segments. (Hint: If you aren't going to assemble the salad immediately, squeeze a little grapefruit juice from the remnants of the fruit over the avocado slices to keep them from browning.) Toss 4 handfuls of watercress, or other bitter greens, with your favorite balsamic or champagne vinaigrette. Divide greens among 4 plates. Arrange avocado and grapefruit slices on top of the greens, alternating slices for color. Top with a bit of freshly cracked black pepper and serve.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta (or Bacon)

My mother used to serve mushy, bitter Brussels sprouts with a splash of Real Lemon juice. (Blicky. Sorry, Mom.) Fresh Brussels sprouts are nothing like the sour, overcooked vegetables of my childhood. If possible, buy them on the stalk.

Blanche Brussels sprouts in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Dice 4 oz. pancetta or thick-cut bacon. Sauté pancetta in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned. Add 1 minced shallot, about 1 tablespoon, and sauté until translucent. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta and shallots from the pan and set aside. Add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar to the pan and reduce until it is slightly syrupy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. When the butter is melted, return the Brussels sprouts and pancetta mixture to the pan. Toss or stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper and you are done.

Creamed Cabbage
I learned this recipe while working at The Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island after college. It's simple and tastes amazing. Try serving it with roasted pork.

Sweat 1 cup diced red onion in 2 tablespoon of butter until translucent in a large sauté pan. Mix in 1 cup heavy cream, and white pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. In the meantime, Shred or chop half a small head of green cabbage. Blanche the cabbage in boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and add cabbage to the thickened cream. Finish with a touch of cracked black pepper and serve.
What are your favorite winter vegetable recipes?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wilted Beet Greens with Bacon and Garlic

I love beets. My husband and I often buy them. Both my local green grocer and farmers market sell beets with the tops on. I imagine that many people just lop off the stems and throw them away. The fact is that beets are a member of the chard family and their greens can be used almost interchangeably in both Swiss Chard and Spinach recipes.  I sometimes chop them up and add them to lentil or white bean soups.

While rummaging around in the refrigerator for something to eat for lunch, I came across a bunch in the bottom of my crisper drawer that I had intended to use for soup but got waylaid by chili instead.  I also found an open packet of bacon, some garlic, and "voila," a recipe was born!

I was tempted to throw some goat cheese crumbles on the top (which I still think would be good) but instead enjoyed the dish plain. The wilted greens were tender but retained a slight chewy crunch.  Couple that with bacon-y, smokey goodness and a hint of garlic - mmm...

This hearty, vitamin-rich side dish would be good with almost any roasted meat. Though, on its own, it made perfect winter's day lunch.

Wilted Beet Greens with Bacon and Garlic
Serves 2 to 4

2 bunches of beet greens (approximately 6 to 8 beets worth)
4 strips bacon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Strip the beet greens from the stems and discard. Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Wash in cold water and spin or pat dry.

Meanwhile, place bacon in a cold frying pan. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is crisp and the fat  has been rendered. Remove bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel.

Add crushed garlic to the bacon fat. Lightly brown the clove on each side, approximately 1 minute total.

Stir in the beet greens and chicken stock.  Toss gently for 3 to 5 minutes until the greens have wilted and the chicken stock has evaporated. Season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Transfer to a serving dish and crumble the bacon over the top. Serve.