Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chocolate Semifreddo

Lest you think we just ate fish sauce this summer, let me reassure you we didn't by sharing this recipe.  Chocolate semifreddo.  Before making this recipe, I didn't know what a semifreddo was.  I was drawn to it because it was frozen and had the word chocolate in the title.

Semifreddo is basically a frozen mousse.  It is an Italian dish and if you are comfortable with whipping cream/beating eggs and folding things into the light airy beaten eggs/cream, it is easy to make.

We all enjoyed this.  The original recipe also included a instructions for making a chile-chocolate sauce.  I omitted that and just used a good chocolate sauce in it's place.  The cinnamon whipped cream is fabulous though, and leftovers are great in coffee!

This serves 8 - 12 depending on how thick you make the slices.

Chocolate Semifreddo
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 large egg whites
1/4 c sugar
4 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate (don't exceed 61% cacao)
2 T butter, at room temperature
1 c chilled heavy cream

1 c chilled heavy cream
1 T sugar
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla

good chocolate sauce (probably a step above Hershey's) (optional)

Line a 9x4 1/2x3 loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2" overhang.  Set aside.  Whisk the egg whites and 1/4 c sugar in a medium heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water until sugar dissolves and egg whites are warm (but not hot), about 5 minutes (this helps reduce the risk of salmonella).  Remove from heat.  Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat on medium-high speed until cool, tripled in volume, and stiff peaks form.  (Check this periodically by putting spoon into the egg whites and seeing if they will stay standing in peaks).

Stir chocolate and butter together in another heatproof bowl over the same saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool, slightly.

Beat 1 c cream in another medium bowl until medium-stiff peaks form (the peaks should just gently fall over onto themselves).  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Be careful not to over-fold.  Stop folding as soon as the mixture is smooth and of uniform color.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.  Smooth top and cover tightly with the remaining overhang of plastic wrap.  Cover tightly and freeze until firm, 3 - 4 hours.

To make the whipped cream, combine the 1 c cream, 1 T sugar, and ground cinnamon in a bowl.  Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk again, beat until soft peaks form.  Stir in vanilla and beat a little longer (don't over beat you will end up with cinnamon-vanilla butter).

To serve, uncover semifreddo and invert.  Slice, using a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry.  Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fish Sauce Fixes Everything

In the summer of Fish Sauce, I learned that indeed, a grill plus fish sauce can turn even food I don't like at all into something I eagerly anticipate.  (True story!!).  When I found this recipe in Bon Appetit in July's issue, I got excited.  It used everything we had gotten in our CSA box this week, plus the ears of corn that were sitting in the fridge, waiting to be used.

The key to everyone eating this was serving things separately.  I had a bowl with the roasted corn in it, another with the rice, a third with the herbs, and a large dish with the rest of the roasted veggies.  We picked which one foods we liked and built our own salad.  

If you grill okra, the slime will go away.  Trust me on this one.  The amount of vegetables are just recommendations, you can use as much or as little of each as you want--knowing that will affect the number of servings.  I personally use more okra, because I actually really like it.

This serves 4 - 6.

Fish Sauce Fixes Everything
adapted from Bon Appetit

12 - 15 okra pods
3 ears of corn, shucked
2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise with insides scooped out
2 bell peppers
2 long red chiles (Holland or Anaheim) (optional)
1 - 2 small eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1" slices
1 T sea salt

1 t packed light brown sugar
2 T fish sauce
1 T lime juice

2 c (loosely packed) mixed fresh herbs--I like lots of mint and cilantro and some basil

4 c jasmine rice

Get the grill fired up--to a medium hot heat.  Combine the okra, corn, zucchini, bell peppers, chiles, and eggplant in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and toss.  Grill the vegetables, turning frequently until they are crisp tender and lightly charred (about 8 minutes or so).  Place the chiles in a medium bowl and cover tightly (this will steam the chiles and release their skins, making them easier to peel).  Set the chiles aside.

Prepare the vegetables for serving.  Cut the corn off the cob, place in a large bowl.  Cut the zucchini and eggplant into irregular 1" pieces.  Either place in the same bowl with the corn (or in our case, in a separate bowl).  Trim any tough tops from the okra and cut the okra in half lengthwise and add to the other vegetables.  Set aside.

If using the chiles, scrape off the charred skin and discard.  Puree in a food processor.   Add the sugar and process until dissolved.  Stir in the fish sauce and lime juice (if not using the chiles, just combine the sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice).

To serve, scoop rice then top with the vegetables, followed by the fish sauce dressing and fresh herbs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saffron Rice

This is the best rice I've ever made in my entire life.

While that may sound a bit dramatic and superlative, it is true.  In this dish, rice is not bland but flavorful and has the perfect texture.  It pairs perfectly with the Chicken and Spinach of a month ago.

This serves 4 - 6.

Saffron Rice
from the Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

8 oz basmati rice
2 c water
2 bay leaves
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 1/2 inches)
2 T butter
10 almonds
10 cashews 
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 T plain yogurt
1 t saffron soaked in 2 T hot milk

Gently wash the rice in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear.  In a bowl, soak the rice in the water with the bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick for 30 minutes.  Drain rice and spices, reserving the water.  Set aside.

While the rice soaks, heat 1 t of butter in a small frying pan over medium heat and fry the nuts until golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.

Heat the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to sizzle, then add the ginger and a dash of salt and pepper.  Fry for 20 - 30 seconds.  Add the drained rice and spice mixture.  Stir in the yogurt and reserved water and bring to a boil.  Partially cover and simmer for 3- 5 minutes.  Fully cover the saucepan, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 6-8 more minutes.  Remove the rice from the heat.  Spread the nuts over the rice.  Drizzle with the saffron milk and let rest (off of the heat) for 15 minutes before serving.  

To serve, fluff the rice with a fork.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pimiento Cheese

I have finally figured out what to do with all the peppers that multiply in my crisper drawer so quickly.  The bell peppers never last long.  I know those have no spice and they get through into a variety of things---beans, fancy tuna salad, sloppy joes.  However, there's a whole group of peppers that show up in my box that aren't bell peppers and don't tend to have any spice.  These tend to be the longer peppers--orange or light yellow in color, occasionally red.  Every once in a while they may have a slightly mild spice, but that is rare.  I don't risk it though by cooking them in sloppy joes or other foods I know the kids I love.

Those peppers, the mystery ones with not much (any) spice become pimiento cheese.  I know this is my second pimiento cheese recipe.  This is the good recipe.....the roast your own peppers recipe with not a lot of mayo and lots of cheddar cheese.  For good measure, toasted pecans are also added.

Curtis, Isaac and I love this recipe.  M hasn't wanted to try it, so I haven't encouraged her (nope, I don't want to share).  I think I have kept J in the dark knowing about it's existence as well, because there's a good chance he'll like it, too.

Homemade Pimiento Cheese
adapted from farmhousedelivery.com/blog

1 lb grated cheddar
4 - 6 sweet peppers (the long, slender, multi-colored assortment, not bell peppers)
2 small hot peppers, minced (purely optional--I omit since Isaac likes this recipe)
1/3 c pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 - 1/2 c mayo

Roast the sweet peppers (not the spicy peppers though).  I prefer to do this on a gas grill.  Brush each pepper lightly with oil and place on hot grill.  Turn occasionally, until all sides are lightly charred.  This can also be done on the top of a gas stove (directly on the flame) or in the oven.  Once all sides are charred (will probably take 8 - 12 minutes or so on the grill, depending on how hot your grill is), place in a bowl and cover.  Allow to steam for 10 minutes or so.  With the blunt side of a knife, gently scrape charred skin off of the peppers.  Remove the seeds.  For best taste, do not rinse the peppers.  Chop the peppers.

In a medium to large bowl, combine the cheddar with the roasted, chopped sweet peppers, the minced hot peppers, pecans, and 1/4 c mayo.  Taste and add more mayo if you need a bit more (I love mayo, so I usually need a bit more...always a bit more mayo).  Season to taste with black pepper.

Serve with crackers or make into sandwich.  I like to make grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches.  It's also really good with a slice of prosciutto.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thai Chicken with Dipping Sauce

Each summer seems to have a theme.  There was the summer I made lots of Italian food, the summer I cooked a little from Julia Child's cookbook, the summer of Greek food.  If there was a way to summarize this summer, it would have to be the summer of the fish sauce.

Our family loves fish sauce.  All of us.  We fell in love with it through Vietnamese food and have continued loving it all throughout Southern Asia.

This was the perfect grilling recipe for me, because there was no messing it up.  The chicken gets charred on the grill and then cooked in the oven.  I am comfortable with cooking chicken in an oven---the grill not so much.

We loved this recipe.  I adapted the types of chicken parts used to fit our family---three leg quarters and half a split chicken breast made everyone happy.

Serves 4 -6

Thai Chicken with Dipping Sauce
adapted a bit from Food and Wine

1/4 c cilantro, finely chopped
2 T Asian fish sauce (I like 3 Crabs brand these days)
1 1/2 t black pepper
4 chicken leg quarters or any combination of leg quarters and breasts, skinned (but bone in)

1/2 t tamarind concentrate dissolved in 1 t water
1/4 c Asian fish sauce
2 T lime juice
2 t sugar
1 T water
1 small chile, seeded and minced (optional)
1/2 c cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 c cilantro, 2 T fish sauce and black pepper (if you have a mini-food processor, you can use this instead).  Coat the chicken with the cilantro fish sauce marinade and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

While the chicken marinates, light a grill and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grill the chicken over moderately high heat, turning, until charred, 12 minutes or so.  Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until cooked.

While the chicken cooks, mix together the tamarind concentrated dissolved in water, 1/4 c fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, water and chile (if using).  Just before serving, stir the cilantro into the dipping sauce.  Serve with the chicken and brown rice.