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Archive for the ‘Spreads’ Category

Shallot butter medallions, ready for duty.

What’s better than butter? Not much. But here’s a way to make butter better.

In a couple of my recent cooking classes we steamed fish in parchment paper. For one of them, we made this amazing shallot butter that steamed in with the fish and made it really flavorful. Lucky for everyone, it’s super easy to make this:

2 sticks (8 oz) of unsalted butter at room temperature

shallots (I used 4 medium shallots)

2 cups white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)

1/2 t sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

handful of minced fresh herbs (recipe called for parsley, but I had cilantro so I used cilantro)

Simmer the shallots and wine together in a saucepan until reduced to about a 1/4 cup or so and allow it to cool. (I stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes.) Mix your salt, pepper, herbs and shallot reduction into your butter.

Shallot butter log

To make a log out of it, spread the butter in long row on some plastic wrap, then fold the wrap over the top of it so the butter is surrounded with the wrap. Squeeze and form into a log. Twist the ends, then pick it up by the ends with both hands and spin it. That will squeeze it into a tight log and you’ll be left with twisted sealed ends on the wrap. Chill thoroughly before attempting to unwrap or cut.

To use, just pull back the wrap and cut medallions. Delicious on just about anything.

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It was a bacon smokin’ Saturday yesterday so I decided I wanted something simple for dinner – tacos. As usual, my simple dinner grew and expanded into a monster. Before the pork sides were even snugly in the smoker, the menu had become grande.

Frit-No Lay Bean Dip

I started off with bean dip. Test Subject Bill loves Frito’s bean dip. Since I’m not crazy about him eating out of cans, I found this taste-alike recipe and decided to give it a try. It was ridiculously simple. If you buy that canned crap, please try this and you’ll save not only money but score one for your health too! Bill said it was very close to the canned version (I wouldn’t know) but I had used smoked paprika instead of regular and it threw it off a bit. Lesson for next time…

I tossed together some guacamole and got my taco seasoning ready for the Nature’s Harmony ground beef. Finally, it was time for the big deal: I was going to make tortillas.

I carefully selected this recipe from Allrecipes. It was simple and had good reviews. And it calls for LARD. Not freaking Crisco or “shortening” or some other mystery sludge that will make your arteries harden up like the statue of liberty in the Day After Tomorrow. Ok, so the author’s insistence on lard is what really turned me on to this recipe.

Tortilla in pan, rolled and waiting, and ball of tortilla to-be

Anyway, I mixed up my flour and baking powder and salt. When it came to the lard, it calls for two tablespoons. Two…for four cups of flour? No way. I used four tablespoons of lard. That made me happy. The water went it and I mixed it all up, then split it up into 24 little balls. Things were getting exciting. I was ready to roll out and fry ’em up. I heated my Lodge cast iron skillet and rolled out my first tortilla.

It was reasonably round, although it took a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter. I tossed it in the hot skillet and got to work on the next, and the next. Each tortilla got flipped shortly after it bubbled up. Brown is good, black is bad. Simple enough, right? All was well until Test Subject Bill came down stairs and started looking around the kitchen.

“What are you burning?” he asked.

Husbands have lost body parts for asking that question.

Non-Smoking Tortilla

“It’s pretty smoky in here,” he continued after I completely ignored him. I looked around. He was right. Crap. The excess flour on my tortillas was falling off into the pan and…well…burning. Double crap. “You’re going to set off the smoke detector.”

At that very second the damn thing began WAILING. I understand a smoke alarm is either on or off but it was acting like it was Dante’s Inferno. Panic entered the Kung Fu Kitchen. I screamed at Bill to shut it off (which he can’t) and dashed to start opening windows. After we opened four windows and I turned the heat off the alarm shut up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a KKF first. I have never before set off the smoke alarm. And Bill is the first spouse to survive asking that question.

All limbs in tact, Test Subject Bill snags a tortilla.

Older and wiser, and with windows open, I got back to my tortillas. This time I made sure to shake off ALL excess flour and rolled them out super thin. I discovered that it was actually a good thing for them to stick to the countertop – it held them in place to get rolled out thin, and they were elastic enough to pull off without tearing. KKF is good, KKF is wise.

It took a good hour for me to make it through my 24 tortillas. I had some that were sort of round, some that were quite amoeba-like, and one that looked suspiciously like Australia. They were ugly as sin…but they tasted great! I have to agree that they really are so much better homemade than store-bought, plus you can be assured that they are made with healthful pastured lard when you do it yourself!

KKF tortilla topped with guac, bean dip, salsa and cheese!

Test Subject Bill and I enjoyed our Mexican fiesta while watching The Guild: Seasons 1 & 2
on Netflix streaming through the Blu-Ray. Well…we were able to get through most of Season 2 before Netflix started crapping out and we had to call it. However, with a yummy taco with guac and salsa I canned last summer and bean dip and a homemade flour tortilla…I was able to survive many technical difficulties!

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You know it’s a busy semester when I don’t even have time to post blogs I’ve had written for a few months….whew! But it will be over soon. In the meantime, enjoy some eggplant….

Baba Ganoush

About a week after I made the Mahkloubeh lamb I had more eggplant to use and decided to give in and try the baba ghanouj. It was something I’d thought about doing for a good while and just never got around to. I should be slapped for waiting so long. Sara’s recipe is easy and so yummy, again I ate the whole thing. Not all at once. I used more Asain eggplant as I rarely see the traditional large supermarket version of eggplant in my CSA or at the farmer’s market. 

Baba Ghanoush

 1 large eggplant ( roasted whole over a charcoal grill fire, baked in an oven until it is thoroughly cooked. )

2-3 garlic cloves

1 cup tahini

½ cup lemon juice

¼ cup vinegar

salt to taste

These amounts are approximate and the best way is to try it and taste, then balance the flavor.

Process peeled garlic, salt, and lemon juice in food processor or blender until thoroughly mixed. Take peeling off the cooked eggplant and process. Add the tahini and blend. Doing this in the food processor will leave the seeds of the egg plant whole but if the blender is used the seeds are ground up. Add vinegar and if it is too thick add water to reach the right consistency. Serve in rather flat dish with olive oil, parsley and thin radish slices for garnish. Dip pita bread.

(This same basic recipe can be used for Humus by substituting Garbanzo beans for eggplant.) 

I plan to use this version for hummus the next time I make it. YUM.

But I wasn’t satisfied leaving this tasty spread on the side. A friend of ours provided us with some wahoo fish that he caught and I thought hmmm…what if…

Usually when I go off like that it ends badly. This time, however, it turned out quite well!

Mediterranean Wahoo with Baba Ghanouj

¾ pound wahoo filets (I’m sure any similar firm-fleshed fish would also work)

2 T butter

One lemon

1 T dried oregano

Baba Ghanouj

Feta cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. (I try to bring my fish to room temp before cooking so it can cook more evenly.) Melt butter in frying pan. When pan is good and hot, add fish. Squeeze lemon halves over the fish. (Roll the lemon with your palm against the counter to get it loosened up and release more juice before cutting it in half.) Sprinkle on half the oregano. Turn fish after about 3-4 minutes depending on thickness and add the rest of the oregano. Fry another few minutes until done.

Plate with baba ghanouj and sprinkle feta cheese over all.

Wahoo with baba ganoush and veggies

I served mine with buttered green beans and carrots that I’d steamed with fresh dill. If I’d had some fresh tomatoes I would have tossed them in the pan with the fish.

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I have a lot of Norwegian ancestry. I get excited when Norway is in the news. I root for Norse athletes in the Olympics. My home town is full of “I-wegians” (Iowans of Norwegian descent) and is one of the few places where you can find lutefisk on the Sunday brunch buffet. It’s probably that lutefisk that made me run screaming in the other direction when confronted with traditional Norwegian cuisine.

But the challenge was put out there by a few of my family members to try some Norwegian food, and far be it from me to back down from a challenge. So earlier today I hit the web in search of some palatable recipes to celebrate my heritage.

Skeptical? You betcha. Lutefisk recipes? Uff da. They abound. But to my delight I did find a number of recipes that not only sounded edible, but even downright tasty. Since I had a large amount of spinach calling my name from the fridge, I decided on Spinach Soup, or Spinatsuppe.

Spinatsuppe

Spinatsuppe

I followed the recipe with a few minor exceptions. First, I halved it since there’s only two of us in the house. Second, I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. Third, I used regular pepper instead of white pepper since I was out. The recipe was deceptively simple, yet yeilded a delicate soup with really rich flavor. The hard boiled eggs on top were a little strange to me at first, but considering I love hard boiled eggs on a cold spinach salad it made sense. They were a nice touch. I would definately make this again.

This dish was too light to be a meal on its own, so I took the opportunity to make Alton

Alton Brown's Roasted Vegetable Spread

Roasted Vegetable Spread

Brown’s Roasted Vegetable Spread. This stuff is the bomb diggity. Not only is it rediculously easy, but it is TASTY. I spread it over my homemade bread, lightly toasted, and had a fantastic meal.

So the Spinach Soup definately warmed me up to some dishes from my ancestry. I’m not sold yet, but I’m definately planning on persuing more Norwegian recipes. I found some interesting ones here. More on this later.

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