Monthly Archives: May 2009

caramelized onion dip

cramelized onion dip-finished 1

we’ve all had it. onion dip made from a packet of powdered stuff and dehydrated onions or prepared onion dip from the refrigerated case in the grocery store (my preference, consistency wise but with all manner of unpronounceable ingredients). but once you find out how easy it is to make your own from scratch, you will never go back, i promise you. unless the reason you are requiring the dip in the first place is that you have had a lot of adult beverages the night before and are really unable or unwilling to cook anything at all. this dip is made distinctively texan by the use of this special onion only available around these parts in the spring; the 1015. washington has their walla walla’s, hawaii their maui’s, georgia has their vidalia’s, and texas has their 1015’s. these are so named due to the recommended planting date of these super sweet monsters. and they are monsters–in the words of tiny elvis, “man, those are huge!” developed and introduced in the 1980’s,  the 1015 has been nicknamed the ‘million dollar baby’ dut to all the money spent developing it’s sweet flavor. not everything genetically modified is bad and here’s proof.

caramelized onion dip-1015 in bag

i LOVE the texas flag.

caramelized onion dip-1015 raw

let the caramelizing begin:

caramelized onion dip-cooking 1

melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 2

add all your chopped onions and a pinch of salt. saute over medium low heat, stirring periodically to prevent from browning too quickly. i know these are SLICED onions. i decided after this first round that chopped onions would make the dip easier to eat (no strings when it comes time to scoop with your chip). be patient, this process takes a while. but you will be rewarded by ridiculously sweet onions.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 3

are they done yet? nope. too blond.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 4

what about now? no, grasshopper. you must be patient.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 5

surely, now they are ready. almost.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 7

nope. you must bring them to the brink of disaster and then…

caramelized onion dip-cooking 8

whoa! now i see, master. my patience will be rewarded. the whole process will take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

caramelized onion dip-onions finished

mix all your other ingredients together while you are a-caramelizin’.

caramelized onion dip-dip in glass bowl

then add most of your cooled onions, reserving some for the top of the dip to impress your friends.

caramelized onion dip-onions in dip

caramelized onion dip-onions mixed in

caramelized onion dip-onions on top

caramelized onion dip-makes about 2 cups

(adapted from 101 cookbooks and multiple other sources)

2 1015 onions, chopped

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

pinch salt

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3/4 cup mexican crema (or sour cream)

1 tsp onion or garlic powder

dash cayenne or hot pepper sauce

salt & white pepper to taste

caramelize your onions as noted above. mix all other ingredients in a bowl (yogurt through salt and pepper). add most of the cool caramelized onions to the yogurt mixture, reserving a few tablespoons to pile on top for presentation. chill for at least 4 hours and up to a day or two before serving. the flavors will meld and become outrageous. best served with salty, ridged potato chips. the salt counter-balances the sweetness of the onions and the thicker chip can stand up to the hefty nature of the dip.

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tip o’ the week-bakin’ bacon!

bakin' bacon1

we all know that it ain’t that hard to make..i mean, cook bacon. put it over a heat source, don’t burn it, and you’re home free. but having the ability to cook bacon when you have a crowd for breakfast and want to spend time with them or are making several other items simultaneously makes this method of particular interest. this way of cooking bacon was introduced to me by my mother-in-law, from here on in to be known as my MIL. she is a wonderful cook, although she will tell you she is not, and she is very patient in the kitchen, which (mostly) i am not, and perhaps most importantly, she likes to drink wine with me when we are cooking together, which makes it so much fun to be in the kitchen with her. plus i get the scoop on the family secrets, which is extremely important. she is very generous, will do anything for you and when i need help understanding why houston did or did not do something, i ask about family history. she knows it ALL, let me tell you. 

MIL

here she is making bouquets for my wedding–she’s the best.

bakin' bacon3

ok, so here’s what you do. preheat your oven to 375 degrees. line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil. this is important because the grease won’t soak through and when you’re finished, you just throw away the foil and put the pan back in the cupboard. without even having to wash it, you ask? yes. amazing! and i don’t have to keep a jar of grease under my sink to help with the war effort? that’s right. whoa!

next put a baking or cooling rack on top of the foil. i happen to have one that is non-stick. this also helps in the clean-up portion of the process. lay out your bacon slices on top. i like to add freshly ground black pepper and sometimes i even add brown sugar, like my MIL does. it’s real good this way.

bakin' bacon2

then bake for about 30 minutes or so, flip bacon (i use tongs) and pepper and/or brown sugar again. put back in the oven for about 10 minutes more, depending on how you like your bacon. we like it on the crisp side around these parts.

bakin' bacon 4

the evidence. see how clean it is under that foil? oh, yeah!

disclaimer: although i have named this new feature ‘tip o’ the week’, this in no way implies that this will be a weekly feature and any reference to that fact will be disputed for the rest of eternity by myself, the author of said tips. m, kay?

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berry hand pies

hand pies-fin blackberry

hand pies-fin strawberry

if there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that berries are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE fruit. although i do have a soft spot for my childhood favorite, pears , followed closely by the fresh figs that my friend casey (my photog mentor) gives me every summer from her elderly neighbor’s yard. then there’s also ANYTHING citrus-oh gawd, we have these grapefruit grown in south texas called ruby reds–ever heard of them? we used to buy them by the case on the side of the road. the truth is, i wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite fruit, even if threatened with bodily harm. they are all unique jewels provided by mother nature. and we all must’ve done something right in our collective past lives to deserve them.

hand pies-blackberries

this week i had the motherload of berries on hand so they are the jewels of the week. i have been working on a dough for hand pies which, curiously enough, have different crust requirements than for a regular pie. i found a very good one on smitten kitchen, of course. it is light and fluffy, but has a nice flake to the crust. but, most importantly, it holds up to being hand-held, a definite requirement for ‘hand’ pies. don’t be intimidated by all the steps. you can make the dough a day or two ahead (or a month ahead if you’ve got freezer space!) and the refrigeration steps were something i was able to do while doing the laundry–no big deal at all.

hand pies-loaded, not closed

i made a batch of strawberry and one of blackberry. both came out great. i added a tablespoon of corresponding jam to each filling, which assisted in the thickening and sweetness processes. you could use any fruit you wanted, really. except maybe melon. i don’t think that would work at all.

hand pies- fork crimp

berry hand pies-makes 20-22, depending on size

adapted from smitten kitchen and martha stewart

for the pastry:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

16 tbsp COLD unsalted butter (2 sticks, cut into pieces)

1/2 cup sour cream (i use mexican crema because i have a crush on it-the stuff in the tub, not in the bottle)

4 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:

2 cups of berries,  diced or sliced on the small side

1 tbsp flour

1-2 tbsp sugar*

2 tbsp blackberry or strawberry jam or preserves

egg wash:

1 egg yolk + 2 tbsp water

coarse or sanding sugar (i used an organic cane sugar–i like the natural color and the crunch!)

 

*more or less sugar is needed depending on how ripe or sweet your fruit is.

 

combine flour and salt in the bowl of your  food processor. add butter pieces and pulse gently for the equivalent of about 8-10 seconds. at this point, the recipe usually states to mix something until “it resembles coarse meal”. this always makes me laugh. i know what they mean, but have no idea what ‘coarse meal’ is. let me know if you do. combine sour cream, lemon juice, and ice water in a large measuring cup. with the motor running slowly add the the sour cream mixture into the food processor. do not process for more than about 30 seconds. squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers. it should not be crumbly but should just  hold together, and not feel too wet. dump onto a counter or cutting board and combine into a dough ball without overworking. divide dough in half and wrap in plastic. flatten into a disk shape and refrigerate for at least an hour. at this point dough can be frozen for up to a month.

remove dough 1 disk at a time and roll out onto a floured surface until it’s about 1/8″ thick. cut into 3-4″ rounds. i did not have a cutter and so used a pint glass. a glass with a thin rim works best. place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for about 30 minutes. repeat with remaining dough disk.

at this point, i’d like to mention how much i love my refrigerator. i have never been so pleased or impressed with a single large appliance in all of my adult life. you would not believe how much i can cram into this thing without so much as the smallest reconfiguration or fluctuation of temperature. brace yourself people, it’s a double-wide. entire farm veggie co-op delivery? oh, yeah. super over-sized pizza box? heck, yes. several open bottles of wine, 3 layer or texas sheet cakes, prepared crudite platters or smorgasboards? bring it on. thanksgiving for 15 folks and their 2 turkeys and gravies and casseroles to match? uh, huh. and 2 half sheet pans full of chillin’ hand pies (plus everything else already IN the fridge) you ask? no problema, mis amigos:

fridge-double wide!

meanwhile, prepare your filling. simply combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside. easy, huh?

spoon 1 tbsp filling onto 1 half of each round. brush edge of round with egg wash and fold it in half, pinching edges to enclose the filling inside the dough. gently press edges with the tines of a fork. i love the word ‘tines’. we are almost done-are you hanging in there? place a slit or two in the top of the pies with a small knife, then brush egg wash on top. place pies back in refrigerator for another 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating baking pans half way through baking time. i know the baking time has a large range, but i think you should pull it out of the oven when it reaches whatever your level of golden brown perfection happens to be. mine is evident in the photos above. allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack. and take half of them to your neighbor that you just wave at but have been meaning to talk to for a few years.

warning: the following mess will end up on your baking pan if you do not use parchment to line it. 

 

hand pies-last

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creamy asparagus risotto (or dear, spring weather-how do i love thee?)

risotto-1

for most of the country this time of year means spring. warm days, cool nights, new blossoms pushing up throught the earth, a sense of renewal spewing up from your pores. but for those of us in texas, we had that feeling about 2 months ago and have now forged on to blood-boiling heat like you would not believe. we haven’t hit 100 degrees yet, but when you factor in what temperature it “feels like”, we’re up to about 104, i think. i also think i forget to move back to california every year when this happens. but this week, and this week only, we got a reprive. the last vestige of spring is upon us and, mercifully it has been in the 80’s during the day and in the unheard-of 50’s at night.

to help celebrate this, i present to you aspargus risotto. y’all know risotto, right? that dish that you have to stand over and stir for hours on end? well, after this week it’ll be no-can-do with our weather. but if you live in a place where you won’t get arrested for startin’ up the stove after april, you should give this a whirl. it is a simple, but very satisfying meal in itself. it is also a method for which, from here on out i will provide a step-by-step guide. a method just basically means once you get, you get it, and you can substitute solids and liquids freely. as long as you stick with the rules, o’ course!

risotto-2

it is best made with a short grain, starchy rice called arborio.

risotto-3

heat your butter/olive oil combo. remember this combo not only allows you to saute at a higher heat than just with butter alone, (because oil has a higher flashpoint than butter, meaning it won’t burn as fast) but it is also a very rich combination.

risotto-4

add in your onions or shallots, saute for a few minutes, then add your rice. but whatever you do, do not brown the mixture.

risotto-5

like i did.

then add your wine–at least a decent drinking wine please. if you don’t embibe or like the flavor, you can leave this step out and just start with adding broth to the rice.

risotto-6

at this point, you’ll want to stir and stir and stir the mixture. this not only allows the wine to infuse into the rice, it also releases the starch from the rice which gives risotto it classic creaminess in the final product.

risotto-7

start adding the stock, one cup at a time and repeat the process.

risotto-8

don’t forget when you get the wine out for the risotto to go ahead and pour yourself a glass. after all, you’re already finished with all the prep work and sharp implements, so enjoy youself!

risotto-9

when the risotto is about 5 minutes away from being al dente (tender on the outside, firm to the bite on the inside), add your asparagus, or other veggie to the mix.

risotto-10

taste it to see if you like the consistency of the rice and veggies, then remove from heat. then add the reason we’re all really here, the butter and cheese.

risotto-12just look at it glisten. it should a bit loose but not too soupy. plate it up and add a drizzle of good quality olive oil, and another good helping of parmesan cheese. omg. i’m going to go make some more of this right now.

creamy aparagus risotto (serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side dish)

2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

4 tbsp butter, divided

1 cup arborio rice

4 shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped as fine as you like

1/2 c white wine

4 cups chicken or veggie stock (this is the time to get out the good stuff, the flavor of this depends greatly on your choice. hey, no pressure!)

1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends removed and reserved, sliced into 1/4 inch slices on the bias (see picture-it makes it pretty!)

1/2  cup parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

 set 4 cups stock of your choice in a small sauce pan with the woody ends of asparugus, bring to a slow simmer and remove asparagus after 3-4 minutes. leave stock on very low to keep warm.

heat oil and 2 tbsp butter in large saute pan over medium low heat. add shallot or onion and saute about 2-3 minutes until softened, but not browned, like i did. then add arborio rice and saute an additional minute or so. add white wine, if using. simmer, while stirring until wine is almost absorbed into rice. then add stock 1 cup at a time, each time stirring almost contantly until liquid is absorbed between additions. do not overcook rice. the whole process should only take about 18-20 minutes. after you have added your last cup of stock, or about 5 minutes before rice is al dente, add asparagus and stir with rest of mixture, taking care not to overcook or break apart the delicate tips. take off the heat and add remaining 2 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. gently stir until butter and cheese have melted. serve topped with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and a bit more parmesan cheese.

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papas pastores

papas in bowl

in honor of a diana kennedy event i’m going to tonight, i give you papas pastores, or shepard’s potatoes, one of her recipes that i’ve been making for years. and boy, are they good. addictive, really, so go ahead and make extra ‘cos you’ll sure wish you had. these are eaten primarily as a snack in mexico, but i serve ’em with grilled steak. it is an outrageously fantastic pairing due to the freshness of the lime in the potatoes. this recipe comes from her cookbook ‘My Mexico’, which came out about 10 years ago.  i was introduced to her by my old friend jack who gave me an original print of her first book ‘The Cuisines of Mexico’, which came out in 1972. it is autographed for someone named scott. maybe i’ll take it tonight and have her cross out scott and write in steph instead! (hey, same amount of letters…).

papas-frying

for those that are not familiar with her work, diana kennedy is said to be the julia child of mexico. she also has some friends (ever heard of fonda san miguel?)and a residence in austin, so we are graced with her presence quite frequently. she is a purist, by all accounts (say ‘no more chips ‘n’ salsa’ like joan crawford says ‘no more wire hangers’), and sometimes i feel guilty when i can’t find fresh epizote or powdered tequesquite and i have to make do. i really do prefer to cook and bake without the aid of esoteric ingredients, but sometimes it’s worth it to go the extra mile when it comes to authenticity. because of her, i now know what to do with all those wrinkled peppers, spices, and other weird lookin’ sundries at my hispanic grocer.

papas-ingredients

papas pastores (serves 4 as a side dish, 6-8 as a snack)

adapted from diana kennedy

1 pound very small new potatoes*

2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 garlic clove

3 serrano chiles, finely chopped (seed and ribs removed if you prefer less picante)

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 cup water

*if potatoes are on the large size, just cut them in haves or quarters–these were grown by my good friends at copper dog farms. a bio of them is coming soon!

heat oil over medium high heat in a large heavy pan. add potatoes and sprinkle with salt, shaking pan from time to time until potatoes skins begin to wrinkle and brown. add onion, garlic, and chiles, saute 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. add cilantro and lime juice and continue sauteing for 1 minute longer. add water and cover the pan. cook over low heat until potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid has evaporated.

post script photo:

me & d

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pickled grapes

grapes-in-white-bowl

i must apoligize in advance for another post about pickled foods. and clear up the fact that my love for pickling things is not due to any recent in change medical condition on my part. i simply love sour. i’m assuming i just have way too many sour receptors located on the surface of my tongue and they can never be totally fulfilled. yes, i have a history of drinking pickle juice. and yes, i eat pickled items straight outta the jar.

grapes-colander-2

but THESE are different than all the others. these are special. these are exquisite. i know the idea of pickled grapes sounds strange, but this is a sweet brine (something i hadn’t even fathomed before!). you’re going to wanna use the freshest grapes possible in order to keep them crisp. no one likes a flaccid grape. or a flaccid anything. and be sure they are seedless. they should be fairly easy to find, but sometimes i grab seeded ones by accident because they’re next to the others. 

grapes-jars1

this will be a fun recipe to play with. you could switch up the brine, adding or deleting spices, vinegars, etc. next time, i may get all girly with it and use red wine vinegar and pink peppercorns. maybe for mother’s day?

spoon

pickled grapes (makes 2 pint-sized or 4 half pint-sized jars)

adapted from smitten kitchen, molly wizenberg

1 pound seedless grapes (red or black or a even a mix)

1 cup white wine vinegar 

1 cup granulated sugar (i used less-about 3/4 cup)

1  1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 stick cinnamon for each jar you are using (i used 4 half pint jars, 4 small sticks)

1/4 tsp salt

 

rinse and dry grapes. remove from stems and cut off very tip of stem end of each grape. this allows the brine to go well within the flesh of the grape and infuse it with it’s loveliness. place the grapes in clean, dry jars. they do not need to be sterile-these are refrigerated pickled grapes. place the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. stir a few times to be sure the sugar and salt have dissolved and remove from heat. i poured mine into another container to speed up the cooling process (and it had a spout to ease in filling the jars). when the brine has cooled to room temperature, pour over the grapes to cover. place lid on jars and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

we devoured them after about 20 hours of brining so i couldn’t tell ya how long they keep. gosh, they were so good with fresh goat cheese and some black pepper water crackers. even the 16 month old in our group could not get enough…thanks, eli!

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