Friday, August 31, 2007

Pork Chops with Country Gravy

I love, love, loooooooooove comfort food. Homemade mac-and-cheese, lasagna, meatloaf, mashed po-taters, apple cake, PB brownies, banana bread; the list goes on.

I lurve them all.

So pork chops with country gravy are right up my alley. Here, boneless pork chops are lightly coated in seasoned flour, pan-seared until golden brown, and then topped herbed gravy. I served them up with oven-roasted corn on the cob and freshly-baked dinner rolls.

Could things be more delicious? Or simple? Or wonderful? It's even a Cooking Light recipe. But the beauty is that it tastes like it came from the depths of Paula Deen's butter-rich kitchen.

Pork Chops with Country Gravy
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
1 tablespoon butter
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk (I used skim without a problem)

Place flour, salt, dried marjoram, dried thyme, and dried rubbed sage in a shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess. Reserve remaining flour mixture.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork to pan; cook on each side until browned, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.

Combine reserved flour mixture and milk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add milk mixture to pan; place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Serve with chops.

4 servings (serving size: 1 chop and 1/2 cup gravy)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 252(34% from fat); FAT 9.6g (sat 4.4g,mono 3.6g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 28.9g; CHOLESTEROL 83mg; CALCIUM 142mg; SODIUM 584mg; FIBER 0.3g; IRON 1.5mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.6g

Lorrie Hulston Corvin , Cooking Light, JUNE 2006

Thursday, August 30, 2007

La Festa al Fresco Submission: Honeyed Zucchini Muffins (or Cupcakes?) with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Once again, Lis from La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice have teamed up to host La Festa al Fresco. The event is a celebration of fresh, seasonal (and preferably local) ingredients. Such a good idea, no?

So, armed with plenty of zucchini from my neighbors' garden plus 2 lbs of fresh, raw honey from the Rochester Public Market, I set out to find a recipe that combined the two for a tasty sweet treat. And I found it!

Now here's the thing: without the frosting, these delicious little guys are in muffin territory. With the scrumptious frosting, they cross over into cupcake land with their close cousins, the carrot cakes.

Mupcakes? Cuppins? However you decide to think of 'em, they're yummy.

Thank you to Lis & Ivonne for hosting!

Honeyed Zucchini Muffins/Cupcakes? with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted)

For cakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Chinese 5-Spice powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (2 medium)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1/2 cup oil
1 cup honey, preferably of a medium to deep color/flavor
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

For frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest

Cakes: Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. (You may wind up with extra batter for about 3 more cupcakes. so you may want to prep another tin.)

In a large bowl, combine flour, 5-spice powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk together zucchini, orange zest, oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla, then pour into flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely, 1 hour.
Beat together frosting ingredients with an electric mixer at high speed until well-combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Frost tops of cooled cupcakes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vegetable Tian

Our neighbors, Chris and Shelly, are about the nicest neighbors anyone could ask for, always ready to lend a hand. Or a vegetable -- Shelly sent over two giant zucchini and an equally large summer squash on Sunday, grown in their backyard garden.

The squash & 'zuke were perfect for the Vegetable Tian recipe I'd been eyeing. It was very simple to pull together, makes a very pretty presentation, and very tasty.

From what I can tell, the big difference between a Vegetable Tian and Ratatouille is the way the veggies are prepared. Tian vegetables are thinly sliced; ratatouille vegetables are chunky. Tian is baked; ratatouille is simmered. (Technically, the ratatouille featured in Ratatouille isn't ratatouille but confit byaldi . . . say THAT 3-times fast.)

Vegetable Tian
from Martha Stewart Living, September 2007 (adapted)

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, quarted lengthwise, rinese well, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 zucchini, unpeeled, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 summer squash, unpeeled, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 small eggplant, unpeeled, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/4 dry wine (red or white)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
grated Parmesan for serving

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch gratin or round baking dish. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add leek and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Spread into baking dish.

Arrange vegetables on leek and garlic in slightly overlapping circles, alternating zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and eggplant. Top with wine, 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes. Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive and bake until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes more. Serve with Parmesan.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday Morning Food Expedition in Rochester, NY.

My friend Nancy & I knocked around Rochester this morning, hitting the Rochester Public Market, Charlie's Frog Pond and Stever's Candy. Click this link and take a look! (Photo #31 is kind of NSFW.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Black Bean and Avocado Salad

I'm still shocked this is a Weight Watchers recipe: it's casually elegant, tasty, and there's nary a "diet substitution" in sight. I can't say I detected the garlic or lime flavors on the beef, yet it remained tasty. And the salad is terrific, fresh and flavorful. For an added dimension of flavor, I roasted the corn in the oven for 45 minutes at 450-degrees F, then cut off the kernels after it had cooled.

Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Black Bean and Avocado Salad

1 pound raw lean flank steak
1 medium garlic clove(s), peeled and smashed with side of a knife
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 Tbsp jalapeno pepper(s), minced (do not touch seeds with bare hands)
1 small corn on the cob, cooked, kernels removed
1/2 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, minced (optional)
1/8 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Preheat grill to medium hot.

Score steak on one side by making shallow crisscross slashes with a sharp knife; rub garlic over cut surface of steak. Brush steak with lime juice and season with salt and pepper; set meat aside for 10 minutes to allow meat to absorb flavors.

Meanwhile, combine salad ingredients in a medium bowl; stir gently and set aside.

Grill flank steak for 5 minutes on first side; flip and grill until well-browned on outside and medium-rare inside, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Immediately remove steak from grill and set aside on a clean plate for 5 minutes for meat to reabsorb juices. Thinly slice steak across grain and serve with salad. Yields about 3 1/2 ounces of steak and 1/2 cup of salad per serving.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Faye's Monkey Bread

This recipe comes from Faye, a women whom Shane used to work with. Faye's monkey bread never failed to be appreciated -- and devoured -- when she brought it in to work.

This isn't your typical monkey bread recipe. Faye's recipe is closer to caramel cinnamon rolls, all grouped together for a delicious, sticky unravelling. For starters, the based is a comprised of pre-made cinnamon and dinner rolls. (I preferred the soft, yielding consistency of the cinnamon roll dough to the chewy, bread-like feel of the dinner rolls, so I now use solely cinnamon roll dough -- the recipe below reflects this change.) Nor is the dough rolled in cinnamon sugar, but topped with a caramel sauce and butterscotch pudding mix. (OK, I was dubious of the pudding too, but it gets completely absorbed into the caramel during baking, and adds another dimension of flavor.)

Kian, Sadie & I decided to bake some up yesterday. (Is there be a better way to spend a cool and rainy summer afternoon?) It was a really great activity; the kids were doubly invested in baking because A) they'd had monkey bread before (though not Faye's) and loved it and B) they were actively involved in the baking process.

It's sort of funny how surprised they got a little things I don't usually take notice of: the way butter looks when it melts over a medium flame, the sand-like color and texture of brown sugar, the enhancement of flavors when just a little vanilla is added, the way yeast breads double in size when they're allowed to sit in a warm, draft-free spot.

The end result baked up beautifully and looks impressive, crowned with pecans and dripping with caramel sauce. We happily pulled it apart eaten by all of us with tall glasses of milk. It's completely satisfying and very filling.

BIG thanks to Faye for sharing her recipe!

Monkey bread: after we attacked .

Faye's Monkey Bread

The only adjustment is the addition of vanilla.

1/2 cup pecans (optional)
1 package. frozen Rhodes cinnamon rolls quartered
1 pkg. instant butterscotch pudding mix (regular size, not larger size)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Liberally grease a large bundt pan. Spread pecans evenly on the bottom of the pan, and top with the frozen rolls. Sprinkle pudding mix over the rolls.

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat, stirring to prevent burning. Reduce heat to low and add brown sugar, milk, and vanilla. Continue stirring until the mixture does not separate. Pour over frozen rolls. Cover bundt pan with plastic, place in a warm, draft free place, and let rise as directed on package. Bake at 350-degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Invert onto a large plate (you may need to gently loosen the bread from the sides of the pan) and serve warm.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Birthday Celebration

No margaritas, but we still had a good time!

(If you're wondering, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth; I'm just suffering from blog malaise.)

Last Saturday, my friend Nancy came over for her birthday dinner. She was in the mood for citrus flavors and Mexican cuisine, so I made:

Sparkling Sangria Blanca (sangria blanca mix with champagne)
Damn fine Guacamole served with Santitas-brand tortilla chips
Fish tacos and fresh salsa
Spanish rice
Roasted corn, jicama, and mango salad
Easy Lemon Mousse with blueberries and shortbread
As a little party favor, Nancy took home a half dozen brown sugar chocolate chip cookies wrapped in white parchment and tied with a pretty ribbon.

At the end of the evening, we were stuffed and satisfied. Happy Birthday, Nance!

Easy Lemon Mousse

Even though I'm pretty sick of seeing Rachel Ray EVERYWHERE, her recipe for easy lemon mousse is easy and pretty tasty, though a bit looser in consistency than a regular mousse.

For a fresher, brighter flavor, buy a lemon or two to zest and then add the peel to the mousse (keep tasting until you've got the right amount).

Easy Lemon Mousse
2 packages lemon instant pudding
Milk, amount depends on pudding brand, check panel on box
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
2 rounded tablespoons sugar
1/2 pint berries, for garnish
Store bought butter cookies or shortbread rounds

In a medium bowl, stir pudding and milk and set aside. Beat whipping cream and sugar until peaks form. Add about 1/4 of the whipped cream to the pudding and gently fold it in to lighten it. Fold the remaining whipped cream into pudding and serve in small bowls or cocktail glasses on an underliner plate. Place a few berries on each dessert to garnish and serve a few cookies on the underliner plates.

Roasted Corn, Jicama and Mango Salad

Next time, I'll reduce to amount of Jicama by half and increase the amount of corn by two or three. I couldn't get enough of the taste of roasted corn in this salad -- delicious! (And, yes, I left out the cilantro...)

Roasted Corn, Jicama and Mango Salad4 ears fresh corn, unshucked
1 large jicama, peeled and thinly julienned
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Citrus vinaigrette, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the ears of corn on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool. When the corn has cooled, shuck it and stand it on end. Using a sharp knife, run the blade down the cob to cut the kernels off. Rotate the cob and repeat until all the kernels have been cut off.

Combine the jicama, mango, red onion and cilantro in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled corn, and toss with the vinaigrette. Chill until ready to serve.

Citrus Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons sugar
Dash hot sauce
1 cup olive oil
Salt pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
In a large bowl combine the lime juice, orange juice, orange zest, sugar and hot sauce. Whisk together and slowly add the olive oil, whisking as you go. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and cilantro and whisk until combined.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Grilled Fish Tacos with fresh salsa

The marinade for the tilapia adds a subtle flavor. Kick things up with a healthy dose of salsa and a squirt of fresh lime juice.

Grilled Fish Tacos with fresh salsa

1 pound tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives/cilantro/Italian parsley leaves
Squeeze of lime juice
Ground black pepper

Combine tilapia with the rest of the ingredients. Grill (or saute) until opaque. Serve immediately on warmed flour or corn tortillas with salsa and lime juice.

Fresh salsa
Ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 to 1/2 jalepeno, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients; let sit 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Retro Recipe Challenge # 8 Submission: Coconut Custard

RRC # 8 Deadline: August 10. Check out all the details at Food Maven . MAJOR thanks to Rachel for hosting RRC#8!!!

Interested in hosting an upcoming RRC? Send me an email at LauraRebeccasKitchenATgmailDOTcom

For RRC #8, Rachel of Food Maven and Coconut and Lime saved me from food carnival burn-out. Not only did she assume the mantel of hosting duties but she devised a terrific -- if not ingenious -- theme.

"This time around, " wrote Rachel, "we will be making food that wiggles and wobbles. Think aspic, Jell-O salad, gelatin parfaits, jelly candies or even jam."

It's called "Retro Wobbles but it Won't Fall Down." Awesome idea, right? I love it.

So after much searching, and then rejecting, of recipes (go AWAY, tomato aspic!) I finally picked up my copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (originally published in 1896 under the title The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merrit Farmer) and thumbed through its pages. There, I stumbled upon a recipe my mother had made frequently when I was very young, but I hadn't tasted in years: baked custard.

The recipe is very simple to make (stir, add , stir, pour, bake), and very easy to adapt. At the last minute, I decided to make the coconut variation by tossing in a 1/2 cup of flaked coconut.

The end result is the egg custard I remember with a layer of coconut at the top. Not bad at all, but I think I'd prefer it with coconut flavor throughout the custard, not just at the top so next time, I'd add a bit of coconut extract.

Having said that, the (coconut free) custard is just as I remembered it: smooth, lightly sweet and rich. Comfort food, plain and simple -- it's so, so good.

Baked Custard (see note for adapted coconut variation)

2 egg yolks, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups very hot milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Nutmeg to taste

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Butter a 1-quart baking dish or 8 ramekins. Se a shallow pan large enough to hold the baking dish or ramekins in the oven, and fill it with an inch of hot water. Beat the yolks and eggs together just enough to blend. Stir in the sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla. Strain into the baking dish or dishes and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place into the water-filled pan and bake for about 45 minutes ; the custard is set when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

** Coconut variation: substitute 1 1/2 tsp vanilla for 1 tsp. vanilla plus 1 tsp coconut extract. After straining the custard, add 1/2 cup flaked coconut before pouring it into the baking dish(es).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hawaiian Salad

At the beginning of this summer, Jenny & I headed down to the north end of Canandaigua Lake for a picnic. We'd stopped by Wegmans to grab dinner: a sub with chips and soda for me, and roast turkey sandwich with a side of Hawaiian salad for Jen.

As we sat on our picnic blanket gazing out at the lake, she offered me a taste of the fluffy desert salad on her plate.

I'm not a big fan of ambrosia, so I took only a small forkful. And then, I proceeded to eat the rest of her salad. Fortunately, Jenny didn't mind. I don't think.

At the risk of losing friends, I knew I had to try and recreate it at home.

The pineapple flavor stands out the most, with notes of citrus and coconut poking their way through, but it's all tempered by the mellow undertones of sour cream and marshmallow.

The texture features prominently too -- it's cool and creamy, mildly crunchy and, because the fruits' acids dissolve the marshmallows a tiny bit, soft and springy. The one difference between this version and Wegmans' is that this is a bit more liquidy, probably because I used low fat sour cream. It should be noted, however, that when I first mixed all the ingredients together, the salad was downright soupy but, after an hour in the fridge, the salad thickened up.

Hawaiian Salad

20 oz. can of pineapple chunks, drained
1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 c. low fat sour cream
11 oz. can of whole segment mandarin oranges (in juice), drained

In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, coconut, marshmallows and sugar until evenly distributed. Add sour cream; mix to combine. Gently fold in oranges. (Mixture will be soupy.) Cover bowl and chill for at least an hour.