Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Prawn Queso Dip

You want to hear about something better than Spinach Artichoke Dip?

It's Prawn Queso Fondue... or, "Shrimp Fondue with Pico de Gallo" as it's known at Ruby's Tuesdays.

We'd never been there before, but hit one at the San Jose Airport with a couple hours to kill.  I wasn't that impressed with what we were served, but really, I knew it had possibilities.  They call it fondue, but since I'm not dipping anything in boiling cheese, I am calling this a dip.

You won't be quibbling about the semantics after you taste it.

This could be the best new addition to your Football party this Fall.
It IS Football season next, right?

It's always cooking season so I never really pay attention to the sports, just the "feeding people" season, which happens to be always.

This is what I came up with tonight, using Costco pre-cooked prawns and the microwave. It was a decadent Wednesday night dinner, but hey, we were happy.  What about you?

One note:
My hubby, who thinks that a Louisiana Hot Link is its own food group, insisted on chopping up one of those spicy little numbers and adding it to a small bowl of this dip. Awesome... just saying, SO, if you have chorizo or hot links, you could add some other spicy meat to please all your chest beating neanderthal football fans. Don't over think it, just add 1-2 links and microwave it until hot.

Note #2:
You could mix up the base without heating it (everything but the prawns, hot links, whatever) ahead of time and have it in the fridge.  When ready to serve, microwave the base, then the meats, combine and serve with chips. Oh yeah...

Serves 4-8 ppl
Serve with tortilla chips, or slices of french bread.
1 1/2 cups cooked shrimp, chopped
1/2 cup cheese, grated (Any kind, but I used smoked cheddar!)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
1 med tomato, juiced squeezed out and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 tsp hot pepper sauce, like green, or red,  Tabasco
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Chop the tomato, first, squeeze the gushy insides out, then chop up the leftover meaty tomato.  It's not super important, but leaving it in might make you dip too thin. See?  The gushy insides are no longer in the tomato below...

Mince the jalapeno, green onion and cilantro.

In a ceramic bowl, or serving dish, microwave the cream cheese until hot, about 1 minute.

Mix in the sour cream, all the veggies, the seasonings and the grated cheese.

Microwave again for 1-2 to minutes. Add the prawns, and/or hot links, check it's warm enough, and if needed, microwave again for 1-2 minutes. 

Serve at once with chips.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

BLT Salad Sliders

An easy variation of a wedge salad, but easier to eat.
We've had these lots of times at Morton's Steak House from their Happy Hour menu.  
I just love these, what an incredible idea... a salad slider!  

You really can't beat the "fun factor" with a salad slider as an appetizer or a side salad.  I love the intense flavors and the casual ease of eating salad with your fingers.  I have always thought that salad eaten with your fingers tasted best for sure.

Now, one thing needed for this is a large round cookie cutter, or a biscuit cutter.  I have a cute set of 4 sizes for cutting biscuits. I've had it since I was about 18... kinda crazy thing for an 18 year to buy herself.  Anyways, having a 3" round cutter makes this work. Without one?  Well, it might be tough, but you could cut it into squares!  Why not, huh?

Serves 2-6 people

1 head of iceberg lettuce
4-5 small tomatoes, or one medium, diced
4-5 slices of crisp cooked bacon, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing

I'm not going to get to fancy on the instructions here, okay?
Peel off about 7 layers of lettuce, do it all at once, keeping them as connected as possible.

Cut into rounds; add diced tomatoes, chopped bacon, blue cheese crumbles, ending with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing.  I like to end with a grinding of fresh black pepper too. 

 This is about how thick they are.  As strange as it may be, my husband and I discussed the merits of a thick lettuce disk versus a thinner one....  somewhere between 4-7 layers of lettuce is probably perfect. My husband immediately took half from the bottom of his salad slider and used it to top the slider sandwich.  Gotta admit, it was fun to eat like that too.


Blue Cheese Dressing

I love blue cheese dressing for all its intenseness.
I want it to make me sit up and take notice.  This one has all the normal blue cheese intense flavors with plenty of lemon, pepper and other things to make it just right. 
This is so much better than anything you would buy already made, but probably not any cheaper when you account for having to buy the blue cheese crumbles. This is an easy thing to make, but I do understand usually just buying it.
Think of things you can do with homemade blue cheese dressing besides the obvious salad dressing:
  • Dressing for BLT Sliders
  • Dip for Spicy Boneless Chicken Tenders, or Hot Wings
  • Dip for fresh cut veggies
  • Side sauce for your grilled steak
  • Mix with chopped broccoli, red onions, walnuts and any other veggies that appeal to you for a yummy crunchy salad.
  • Baked chicken breasts; First, brown the chicken, place in a baking pan, top with a little (or a lot...) blue cheese dressing and bake at 350 until cooked through.  You could broil it quickly to get a bit of browness to the dressing.This would be great cut up and tossed in a salad too!
Makes about 2 1/2 cups of dressing (easily to halve for a smaller batch)

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup sour cream, if you want thick dressing)
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Mix the mayonnaise and the buttermilk (or sour cream) together, then adding in everything else, mixing well and adding the blue cheese crumbles last.  

This is even better on day TWO, so it's best to plan ahead, but I must admit I was perfectly happy with the flavors on the night I made it right before dinner.

Keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge... maybe more.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Martini

I don't often get martini inspiration from a places with names like Herb's Tavern, but it actually happened so I figured I should fess up.  Herb's is a dive bar, I mean dive in the nicest way, in the beautiful San Juan Islands, in Friday Harbor.  It's the kind of place where a bicycle hangs from the ceiling, festooned with the undergarments of happy women (I'm assuming by the size of some of them...) patrons. No matter, the food is good, the service great, the cold beer selection on tap is vast and a strangely artistic shooter menu, all at the same time close to the marina, or ferry dock.  I won't say how it all progressed to the "shooter menu" but with our party of 10; it did.

The original drink was served in a small rocks glass, or "shooter" and, of course, intended to be downed in one gulp. Now really, I don't condone that, even if you are only walking to a boat in the nearby marina.  I tend to be a sip, sip, sip girl myself. 

The bartender/server is always there and tends to be very persuasive when suggesting an "after dinner drink, monsieur".  He nicely told me what he made it with. This is my interpretation.

Make two martinis

4 jiggers pineapple juice
3 jiggers cupcake, or vanilla, vodka
1 jigger half n' half
1/4 jigger (about 2-3 tsp) grenadine syrup
A "float" of Amaretto Almond liqueur

Garnish- Maraschino cherry and a pineapple wedge

Mix the pineapple juice, the vodka and the half and half together in an ice filled shaker.  Shake, Shake, Shake.  Pour into a martini glass, and add a bit of grenadine, which will promptly sink to the bottom of the glass.  Pour a small amount of Amaretto to the top of the glass and garnish with pineapple wedge and a cherry.

Serve at one.

If you must shoot your beverages, do it with these darling little martini glass shooters...

Need some other drink ideas?  Here's some other favorites:
Blackberry Raindrop Martini
Coconut Water Martini
Honey Badger Martini

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Strawberry Habanero Jam

It's strawberry season!  It really doesn't last that long for fresh local berries in season.  I know you can get them almost year round trucked in from other, warmer places.  But nothing compares with fresh, local berries.

I do buy them at local farmer's markets, but must admit I buy them at Costco in the big 4 lb pack of organic berries for $5.99.  It's just kind of hard to argue with that.  The thing I have learned, is you better buy them and then use them quick.  Strawberries are highly perishable, and there is nothing I hate more than waking up in the morning to yesterday's purchase of berries all molding on your counter!!!

I have made two batches of this jam in the last couple weeks.  The first was a bit of an experiment, and I did it without added pectin, and guess what?  I had about 6 jars of Strawberry Habanero SAUCE... not bad I guess, but not what I had in mind.  I had even canned them and processed them in a water bath, hoping eternally that it would miraculously thicken over night.  Nope... so I did it again. 
Opened up my newly canned jars, dumped it into a stock pot again and washed all the jars and got new tops ready to go... oh yeah,, and added 3 oz of the liquid pectin.  Success, and wow, was that yummy! So yummy, I needed to make more if I was going to share this.  I briefly thought about not sharing the second batch, but that just ain't nice, ya know?

(Ummm... I forgot the SUGAR... geez, and this is an awful picture!)

Makes about 4 pint jars, or 8 8 oz. jars

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced and slightly crushed
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
2 large habanero chilies, stemmed and seeded, then minced
7 cups white sugar
3 oz packet of Liquid Pectin

Wash, hull and slice the berries. Hulling is just a fancy name for taking off the tops, in case you were wondering.

I used my food processor to slice my berries with the slicier attachement, which made short work of that job.  It doesn't matter if it mushes them up a bit.

Next, get ready to chop up the habaneros.  Be careful these will hurt if you touch you eyes, ears, nose or anything else....
When you are done chopping, wash everything TWICE to make sure you have gotten it all off your hands and utensils.

I used a bag to cover my hand while I chopped them up.  I minced them up in the food processor (now with the chopper blade in the bottom) and added them to the berries and the sugar in a 6 qt stockpot.  

Over medium high heat, mix the sugar, berries and the habaneros until the sugar melts and the jam comes to a full rolling boil.  Add the liquid pectin (I used Certo) and bring back to a rolling boil for ONE MINUTE.  This is important.  Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. Ladle into hot jars and process as you normally do...

I'm not going to tell you all how to can jams, because this site does a great job.

Here's another recipe I do for regular Strawberry jam (without pectin).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Basil Sea Salt

Basil Salt?
What a brilliant idea... but I have to say, I did get the idea from a recent issue of the Food Network magazine and was immediately ready to go somewhere with this.
It's so simple, it's hardly a recipe at all.
I used the basil salt on fresh tomatoes, but think of all the options you could use it on: flank steak, french fries, pastas, bruschetta, chicken breasts, fish fillets. Go for it...

The possibilities are staggering for using this technique on other herbal salts.... Cilantro Salt, Rosemary Salt, Oregano Salt, Chive Salt, Chili Salt, Cumin Salt... start making your own custom mixed seasoning salts in flavors you like.  

I think this would be a great way to use some of the fresh herbs  you have now, and get ready for holiday gift giving.  Wouldn't a small jar filled with custom salts be a fun gift to give, or get?

Makes about 1 cup
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup sea salt, or kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

In a food processor, mix the basil with the salt until they are well mixed, about 2 minutes pulsing in the processor and the salt is bright green.  Spread on a large baking sheet (best to have small sides on your pan) and bake at 225 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the salt is fully dry.

Let cool and package in an airtight container.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Singapore Fruits

Shown: Dragonfruit (with pink skin and small seeds) ramboutan, mangosteen, mango and watermelon

I didn't eat the Durian... I would have.... maybe, but I never got the opportunity.
Some of the locals described it as delicious, but "like eating custard while sitting on the toilet".  Another told me she only eats it by herself with plastic bags on her hands, then brushes twice and flosses when she's done eating it.  Ick....

One of the best parts of business travel is staying at nice hotels. If I ever go back to Singapore, I am going to stay at  The Conrad again.  It's the step up brand of Hilton hotels.  I loved everything about it, but especially the sheets and the fresh fruit in my room.   

Everyday there were four types of fruit on a cool white china plate that looked like a painter's palette. Right next to the plate was little colorful pamphlet that told you a little about the fruits.  Yes, the selection did include a selection of apples, pears and oranges, in beautifully perfect mini sizes, but there were also some interesting things that I had never had, or seen, before.  Another fantastic detail that the hotel included?  A luxurious bright yellow polka dot damask napkin and fruit knife to enjoy it with. Talk about nice touch, I loved it. I really wanted to take that plate and napkin home... but that's just not right, now is it?

Not all of these fruits appeared in my room, but were enjoyed on the breakfast buffet which included selections from Europe, America, Japan, India and Chinese selections.  I loved the variety, but I happen to be a pretty adventurous eater, even in the morning. 

My favorite new fruit?


Wow, I had heard of it, but never tried. In fact, when I grabbed one from the breakfast buffet one morning, I didn't eat it but threw it in my tote and carried it around for a day before eating it. 

Luckily, It's pretty sturdy with a very thick skin. 

Once you get through the fibrous outside, you find a white, juicy fruit in little sections, almost like a white tangerine. 

Tangy and sweet.... like the best of a lychee, mango and a strawberry.
I could eat a bunch of these.  One thing the skin is quite dark red and tends to stain hands and clothes, so be careful!

Longan, called Lychee's little brother. These almost looked like mini Asian pears.  If you look carefully, you can see a double one in the photo.

I know they look a little like eyeballs, but they were so sweet and refreshing.  I do wish I could find some for Halloween or something.  The skin or rind of the fruit was quite stiff, and you could give it a little bit and the shell would crack right off.

Ramboutan is a spiky fruit, also very much like a lychee.  This isn't my picture, but it was so beautiful, I wanted to include it. 

You can see the picture at the top doesn't do justice to how pretty these fruits are

I had never eaten aloe vera, in fact, I wasn't aware you could even eat it!

This is a picture of the lychee (Longan or Ramboutan?) and aloe vera dessert soup that I had twice when I was there. Soup for dessert?  Perfect, light and refreshing and not too fattening either.  Apparently you can take the green skin on the aloe vera, soak a bit of the sap off and cut the leftover jelly-like interior into chunks for soup!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mango Strawberry Tequila Paletas (Popsicles)

It's supposed to over 90 degrees today, in Seattle!  
That's kind of big news for us, because as the rest of the nation was suffering in high temperatures, somebody had forgotten to start Summer in the Northwest.  Our Summer's are usually about 4 weeks long (I wish I could add a LOL here...), so really, you'd better make the most of it.

I made these yesterday, so I would be prepared for some heat today.
Good thinking, huh?

This batch makes enough to fill a six unit (mine unit is from Ikea), but I had some leftover mixture which we promptly drank as an adult smoothie in the sun.  This would make a very, very good mixed drink on a hot day too.  I only used 1/4 cup of tequila in the whole batch, which is way less than 1 Tbsp per popsicle, but you could omit it if you want something for the kiddies.  Don't add too much more booze to these, because if there is too much liquor in the there, they may not freeze up!

The latest Sunset  magazine had a great article on paleta's recently, here's some of those recipes  I think I need to try the Cucumber Chili one next.

Makes about 6-10 (depending on the size)
12 oz fresh strawberries
2 cups frozen mango chunks
1/4 cup lemon simple syrup
1/4 cup tequila (or 1/4 cup of juice)

Add all the ingredients and blend thoroughly until super smooth.  Carefully pour into the molds, filling almost to the top. Don't overfill, because liquids expand when they freeze and you don't want a mess!

Freeze for 6 hours, or overnight.  When you are ready to eat, run a little hot water over the outside of your container, it should pull right out.

I've done a paleta recipe in the past, must have been in our 2011 4 week Summer...
Lime in the Coconut Ice Pops

Roasted Salsa

I had been away for over a week, and returned to some sad old produce and some other scary things in the fridge. I decided I'd better use up the tomatoes, chilies and limes as they certainly weren't getting any better. You can see that all my chilies are getting old and little wrinkly looking...

This salsa is a lot like the restaurant, Chevy's salsa, but mine is a bit hotter.  If you aren't too into the spicy, I would only add 2 jalapenos.  

It kind of looks like I burned everything to a crisp, but it does add to the flavor to the mix. After roasting,  I carefully cut the chilies from the stem, trying to leave behind as many of the seeds as possible. For the onion,  I cut it in half (unpeeled) and grilled the cut sides.  I did finish peeling the outside of the onion skin before blending it though.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 large onion, preferably a sweet one like a Walla Walla
4 medium tomatoes
3-6 chilies, I used half jalapeno and 3 habenaros
4-5 garlic cloves
1 small bunch cilantro
3 limes
Salt, probably about 1 tsp, but to your taste

Roast the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chilies over a medium hot grill until they have a nice amount of char on them, about 5-7 minutes.  I used a skewer to easily grill the peppers and garlic, but you can do whatever you like.

I did finish peeling the outside of the onion skin before blending it though, so it's not as bad as this photo looks!

Roughly chop all the roasted veggies.  In the bottom of the blender, add the cilantro and lime juice and then top with the chopped roasted veggies.  Pulse the mixture until it is a chunky texture. Taste and add salt to your liking.

NOTE:  If your mixture is too hot, you could add some more unroasted tomatoes, just chop them thoroughly before adding to the blender, so that you don't over process the whole batch trying to mix them in.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Greek Fish baked in Parchment- Simple, Fast, Healthy

This is less of a recipe, and more of a technique.  
A guideline, an idea, a mere suggestion.
Make it your own.
We've trying to eat very healthily for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because we could both stand to loose a few pounds and we eat like crazy on the weekends.  It's all about balance, you know?

I use tilapia for this dish, because I always have it on hand, in the freezer.  I like it because it's mild, easy to cook frozen and frankly,  I like it.  You could make this dish with any fish that you had on hand.  I am posting this for a wonderful co-worker who has lots of snapper and halibut in her freezer from her own personal fisherman.  This would be great with any white fish, but heck, I think that salmon would work too.

I'm including the original recipe, but I think you need to keep your options open, and add things that you have on hand that you like.  
I mean, if you Got It, Cook It.
Some suggestions that would go with this, you say? 
Okay, here you go: olives, feta, basil, goat cheese, asparagus, zucchini. 

I used parchment paper, but foil would also work for this.  I used a low bowl to prep this in, adding the parchment, the fish, the liquids and the veggies before crimping it closed.  The bowl helps keep the oil and lemon juice in the packet, and not running all over your counter, but you can do it any way you want.

This would be a great do ahead dinner party;  get it ready in the morning, store in the fridge, and throw into a hot oven about 15-20 minut3es before you want to serve it as a main course

Serves one (double or triple, or whatever needed)

1 fish fillet, I used one about 1/2 inch thick, about 7 oz.
1-2 Tbsp onion, minced small
1-2 Tbsp tomato, minced (I used a Roma)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or basil)
1/2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Lots of fresh pepper, and sea salt. (use more than you think, this is pretty mild flavors soaking up the seasoning more than you think)

Lay down a large piece of foil, or parchment, lay down the fish, top with the onions, tomato, fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon, finishing with the salt and pepper.  Crimp the edges securely, I twisted the parchment, ending with a fold over to keep it closed

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Serve at once, opening the packets at the table, if desired. 

French 76 a la Desmond's

Is it a French 75, 76 or 77?
There is a difference but they all involve champagne.

The original, The 75 was created at "Harry's New York Bar" in Paris in 1915, and was named the Soixante Quinze" (75) for the French 75mm field gun, which apparently if you drink enough of these, it will feel like you were shelled with one.  
Um... watch out, ok? 
We were thinking after drinking a couple of these, that French 76 is SO last century, and that maybe a drink called, WMD is more appropriate.

Here's the versions of this drink:
75- Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, champagne
76- Vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, champagne
77- St Germain liqueur, Vodka, lemon juice, champagne
Desmond- St Germain liqueur, Vodka, Grapefruit juice, champagne

Who is Desmond you ask?

Just the best, funniest and most charming bartender in the thriving metropolis of Edmonds, Washington.  Think "Cheers" only a much, much smaller scale, in fact, the address is 415 1/2 Main street. Yeah, it's that small.  

The bar is called "Daphne's" and holds tops about 20 people. Desmond says it holds 23, which is why he only has so many Stella beer glasses.  He has four taps at Daphne's, one for Stella Artois beer, and three spigots for wine. I know two of the spigots are for red wine, and white wine... I guess I'm going to have to do more research and get back to you. He also serves a cocktail or two, but don't even think about ordering something complicated that isn't already on the menu.  I had my first "French 76/Desmond" at Daphne's; I was smitten, both by the drink, the bar (tender) and the experience. Some place where everyone knows your  name.

I am regretting giving you the address right now, because there sure better be one of those 23 seats for me, and my honey,  when I go there next.

NOTE:  I've made this as a French 76 (with some grapefruit juice) and also as a Desmond (with the St Germain), one of us liked the French 76 and the other, the Desmond, best.  I won't admit to who liked which best.  I do have to add that the price of a bottle of St. Germain liqueur will likely shock you.... I paid $54.00, so maybe you want to try the French 76 first. 

Makes one (but maybe you should make two, to share)
1 jigger vodka
1/2 jigger St. Germain liqueur (or lemon simple syrup)
1 jigger pink grapefruit juice
2 jiggers champagne, or sparkling wine

Fill a tall glass with ice, add the vodka, St. Germain, the grapefruit juice and float the top with champagne to fill.   

Serve immediately, and often.