Monday, October 27, 2008

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt!

A few months ago we heard that Food and Wine magazine did a profile of Columbus local ice cream maker, Jeni. The recipes that Jeni submitted sounded great, but we did not have any way of making ice cream. Now that we have an ice cream attachment (thanks Jay and Sonja) for our stand mixer (thanks Joyce and Don), however, we decided to try making lemon blueberry frozen yogurt. This yogurt was absolutely delicious! A great combination of rich (from the dairy) tart (from the lemon) and sweet (from the fresh blueberry syrup). We put it in our deep freeze, and might have gotten in too frozen, but it becomes much more scoopable after a minute of two on the counter.

The "batter" in an ice bath

Churning away...

Finished product!

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
Recipe from Jeni

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4-ounce package unflavored powdered gelatin
2/3 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons water

  • Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of lemon juice with 2/3 cup of the sugar and the corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon gelatin.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt with the zest. Stir in the lemon juice mixture, then whisk in the cream. Set the yogurt base in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan, mix the blueberries with the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and the water. Simmer over moderate heat, until saucy, 4 minutes. Let cool.
  • Pour the lemon yogurt into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Scoop alternating spoonfuls of the yogurt and blueberry sauce into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicken Marsala

This recipe was largely stolen from a Tyler Florence recipe, and was very easy to make. I was generally happy with the outcome, but might do some things differently in the future. In particular, in this recipe, the chicken is only in the sauce for a brief period of time, not allowing much of the Marsala flavor to penetrate the chicken. In the recipe below, instead of removing the chicken, perhaps I'd simply add the bacon and mushrooms when I flip the chicken (I cooked it for about 5-minutes per side), and then continue from there. It would mean that the chicken was in the pan for as long as the Marsala was, and hopefully this would mean deeper flavor distribution.

On another note, this was our new braiser's first run, and I was generally happy with it. At first, when I was cooking the chicken, I was afraid it would burn the chicken too much or be horrible to clean. This ended up being a non-issue. The wine helped to quickly dissolve any cooked on residue (further flavoring the sauce) far better than it has on any other pan I've used.

Our beautiful new braiser (thanks Priscilla & Paul)

The chicken cooking

Looks pretty good, eh?

After cooking the bacon and mushrooms, add in the wine

At the end, the chicken gets added back in

And served over pasta (in our new pasta bowl, thanks to Kim and Evan)

Chicken Marsala

4 chicken breasts
1/4-1/2 c flour
salt & pepper
1/4 c olive oil
2 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb mushrooms, halved
1/2 c dry Marsala wine
1/2 c chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 c heavy cream

  • Pound chicken breasts flat with mallet ("meat hammer")
  • On a plate, season flour with salt and peppper
  • Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat
  • Dredge chicken in flour and fry until done, about 5-min per side, depending on size (and flatness) of chicken
  • Remove chicken from pan
  • Add bacon to pan & saute briefly over medium heat
  • Add mushrooms & saute until mostly cooked, about 5 minutes
  • Add Marsala wine & bring to boil, add chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste
  • Simmer for a minute or more to reduce sauce
  • Add butter & cream, return chicken to pan & heat for another minute
  • Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Delicious steak!

So, as many of you know, I got married last weekend. With weddings, comes gifts. Of course, many of the things we registered for were kitchen-related, and probably because everyone knows of my predilection for cooking and Z's predilection for eating, most of the kitchen-related items were purchased. Today, we (yes, WE - as in Z and I were in the same state!) started enjoying these new kitchen items, with a steak dinner. We had pan-seared strip steaks with a red wine reduction (recipe stolen from here), taking advantage of our beautiful, high quality (at least for us), non-stick cookware (thanks Rich). We also had oven-baked seasoned potato cubes and grilled vegetables. This was all served on our beautiful new dinnerware (thanks Jenny & Dominic, Shirley & Joyce, Rick, Betty, and family) and eaten with our sturdy new silverware (thanks mom & dad D). We also had wine served from our new decanter (thanks Katie). Of course, since the place is a total mess (although rapidly improving), this wonderful meal was eaten from our futon on a coffee table. This is what the meal looked like:

the lighting was horrible for this picture

Pan Seared Steak and Red Wine Reduction

Strip steak, 3/4 inch thick, warmed to room temperature(ish)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp galic powder
1 tbsp herbes de provence
1/4 tsp kosher salt
pinch of cayenne
black pepper to taste

1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp flour
3/4 cup red wine

  • Mix top ingredients (minus steak) on a large plate
  • Place steak onto herb mixture and coat both sides
  • Preheat large skillet over medium heat, add steaks
  • Cook steaks ~4-minutes per side
  • Remove steaks and let rest
  • Add shallot and garlic to pan and saute briefly
  • Add flour, to form a roux
  • Add wine, making sure to loosen any meat/herb remains
  • Simmer on medium heat to reduce liquid, until desired consistency is obtained (can add more wine or stock to thin out the reduction, add more flour or cornstarch to thicken)
  • Drizzle reduction over meat and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Camera

Now that I have a new camera, I've begun playing around with it. Mostly, I've been shooting mundane objects, such as my watch (on a table), or blurry objects like Nizhoni quickly approaching me. However, last night, when I was mowing my yard, I noticed something odd about a pine(ish) tree in the front yard. From a distance, it looked sorta like it had dew on it.

However, upon closer inspection (i.e., when I had to mow under the tree), I noticed that it has these little purple berry sort of things.

Now, I know this isn't food, but I was curious if anyone knew the variety of this tree?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quick Beef Stew

Well, well, well... a paycheck comes, and with it (not literally) a new camera. To celebrate my new picture-taking device (that I'm gradually learning how to use) I decided to cook a meal that has not yet been blogged about. Actually, I've made this dish a few times in the past month. It started when I had some frozen sirloin that I wanted to do something with. So, I looked up recipes online, and found several I liked. The one I am presenting (that I'm calling "quick beef stew") was largely inspired by a Rachel Ray recipe, but was modified slightly based on what I had in the kitchen (and felt like doing). Since I've made it a few times now, I've tried several different variations. I'm presenting the one I made this time, but it can certainly be tweaked to suit your needs.

The cast of characters

Since I was only cooking for myself, the amounts below would need to be adjusted to suit most situations. This is probably enough to satisfy two adults (I had leftovers with a little extra after that.

After adding the wine, but before the broth (I think)

The finished product

Quick Beef Stew

1/2 lb beef sirloin, cubed
1-clove garlic, minced
4-5 mushrooms, sliced (I did relatively thick slices)
1/2 red onion, cut into large cubes
2-slices bacon, cubed
red wine
broth (I used chicken)
1-2 tbsp. flour
salt, pepper, & "other spices" to taste

  • Saute bacon over medium heat until cooked; remove bacon, keep bacon grease
  • Raise heat to medium high and brown beef (in the bacon fat)
  • Add garlic, mushroom, and onions. Saute until "sweaty"
  • Add flour, stirring regularly to create a paste (less than 1-minute)
  • Add red wine (1/2+ cup ), and stir, until a thick gravy forms
  • Add back bacon pieces; add salt and pepper and other spices (I used herbes de provence this time, but have also used just rosemary and thyme, and to be honest, it would probably be fine with just the salt and pepper).
  • Add broth until slightly thinner than your desired consistency
  • Simmer, covered, for about 20-minutes
  • Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A treatise on marinades

Well, while I'm in the picture-less world that I currently live in, I figure I can write something cooking-related that does not require pictures. Specifically, I'd like to provide a few guidelines I've observed and employed when marinating meat (you marinate something, the something you marinate with is a marinade). I've been meaning to do something along these lines for a while, so I figure why not now?

What is a marinade? A marinade is basically a flavor-inducing liquid, that can also tenderize or alter the texture (e.g., by caramelizing) of the final product. They can be used for grilling (my preferred application), baking, braising, stewing, steaming (in the case of fish) frying, or virtually any food preparation technique. However, certain marinades lend themselves to some preparations more than others. For example, a sugary marinade that is likely to caramelize when heated might be better suited for the grill or oven than for a pan-fry preparation (at least for thicker cuts of meat that would need to be fried for more than a few minutes).

What's in a marinade? Well, it depends, really. Marinades almost always have some sort of an acid, but the other ingredients can vary widely. Below are some of the more common elements I've noticed in marinades.

Acid: Adds flavor and helps with tenderizing the meat. Examples include citrus juice, vinegars, or alcohol (typically wine). Depending on the style of food, different acids might be appropriate. For example, with for stir-fry or other Asian-inspired marinades, I often use rice wine vinegar or lemon juice (note - a stir-fry sauce can sometimes be a marinade recipe with corn starch added for thickening (added at the end of cooking)). For Mexican dishes, I often use lime juice. For Italian, I often use balsamic vinegar (go lightly - it packs a lot of flavor) or lemon juice. If you're planning to de glace a meat dish using wine (e.g., when making stew), using some of the wine in the marinade is a good choice.

Fat: Perhaps not as essential as an acid, fats can still be very important in a marinade. This is because some flavors (see below) are not water soluble, and instead need to be carried into the meat by a fat (e.g., capsaisin - the spicy ingredient in hot peppers). I typically use either a neutral oil that can withstand high heat (many vegetable/grain oils qualify) or an oil that can itself impart some flavor (e.g., olive oil). The choice depends on the specific type of food (e.g., you probably wouldn't use olive oil for a stir-fry) as well as the cooking method (if you're going with a high-heat cooking method, it may be best to use an oil that can tolerate high heats).

Flavor: When it comes down to it, a marinade is often defined by the flavorings that are added. Sometimes I use combinations of herbs and spices that are tried and true (e.g., herbes de provence) and sometimes I get creative. Herbs and spices are the most obvious flavorings, but others are important to keep in mind. For example, the vinegars and fats can bring a lot of flavor, as can things like garlic and ginger or other liquids you bring into the marinade (e.g., soy or Worcestershire sauce). If you are using a pre-mixed herb/spice combination (e.g., jerk seasoning, herbes de provence), be sure to get one that doesn't contain salt. Salt certainly helps to enhance flavors, but you can add that yourself. There's no sense paying a lot of money for a flavoring that contains salt when salt is available so cheaply on its own.

Sugars: Sugars can help enhance both flavor and texture. Sugars generally caramelize at high temperatures, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your goals. If you're afraid of burning the sugars, you can marinate the meat in a sugar-less marinade, and withold some of the marinade. Then, add the sugar of your choice, and brush it on the meat toward the end of cooking. Think BBQ sauce (which typically contains a sugar, such as molasses or brown sugar) - quite often it is best added towards the end of grilling to get a nice carmalized BBQ flavor, without charring on the grill.

Putting it all together: Make your marinade in a blender or food processor to fully integrate (i.e., emulsify) hydrophillic (water soluble) and hydrophobic (fat-soluble) ingredients and to chop up ingredients like garlic, ginger, green onions, hot peppers, and so forth. Marinate your meat in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (placed into another bowl to catch any leaks) for at least 30-minutes before cooking.

Remember that different combinations of these ingredients can result in wildly different flavors. I've used lemon, lime, and orange juices for Asian and Italian dishes alike, but different "flavors" and fats can distinguish the dishes. Feel free to be creative in combining flavors. For example, I made a stir-fry the other day that used rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and corn starch for the sauce that was very good. Adding cumin, garlic, and ground up jalepeƱo peppers to lime juice and soy sauce creates a classic tex-mex flavor. Pair flavors from similar regions of the world (e.g., French wine and herbes de provence, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and ginger).

Also, marinating is not just for meat. I will often marinate fruits and vegetables that I'm planning to cook on the grill (mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, pineapple).