Friday, May 30, 2008

Warm Garlic and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

You already love bruschetta, I bet. You probably already have a solid recipe for making the classic tomato, basil, and garlic first course. But, I think you could maybe love it better. You've just got to try it my way, inspired by the ristorante Via Agnese. The ingredient list doesn't extend beyond the basics; the difference is in the preparation of the garlic. A quick warming bath in olive oil gives the "stinking rose" a sweet mellowness and tempting aroma. All of the ingredients take on an extra layer of depth from a low saute. It's a particularly needed boost for less than perfect spring tomatoes. With the hefty amount of garlic in the bruschetta, you won't need to rub it on the bread-unless you want to. I never discourage ample use of garlic. I am una ragazza italiana, you know. Take my word for it-this warm garlicky version of the classic brushcetta will become a new make-at-home favorite.
Warm Garlic and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Estimated Cost: $3.50

Notes: Use your best quality Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar here; a little goes a very long way. Skimp by using a day old baguette.

1/2 thin crusty baguette

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing,

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup small tomatoes, such as cherry, halved

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1 ounce very thinly shaved Parmesan cheese

Slice baguette into thin slices. Brush with olive oil. Broil or grill until crunchy. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook for two minutes, or until very fragrant and soft. (Increase the heat a bit if the garlic seems too raw and strong.) Add tomatoes and cook for one minute, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in basil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon tomatoes and juices over bread. Sprinkle lightly with shaved Parmesan.
Coming Tomorrow:
Sunday Afternoon Lazy Lunch-Italian Ham Sandwiches
with Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

I've been yearning for fat summer tomatoes. Spring is too early for big, red, juicy ones, but when I have a craving, I can't be deterred. To satisfy my untimely yen, I turned to diminutive tomatoes, like cherry, grape, or strawberry. They sound more like pretty Popsicles than vegetables. Or are tomatoes fruit? No matter. While these little babies have greater fresh tomato flavor than prematurely picked biggies, their flavor is even more pronounced with a quick surge of high heat.

This weekend, I skewered some less than perfect cherry and strawberry tomatoes, brushed them with a light coating of olive oil and tossed them on the grill. In five minutes, they were caramelized and fragrant. I plucked a few off the skewer, succulent and sweet. Their warm juices inspired me to cobble together a quick Italian vinaigrette, starring a sprig of rosemary stolen (by my two charges/accomplices) from my neighbor's thriving bush. I'm praying that the gardener doesn't use pesticides and also for forgiveness. Between the beautiful spring weather and the charred warm tomatoes, who needs summer? Long live spring.

Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette
Estimated Cost $3.50
Notes: The broiler works well if you don't have skewers or a grill. See directions below.
1 pint small tomatoes, such as cherry
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, or crumbled feta
Thread tomatoes on skewers. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill just until softened and browned in places, turning often for about five minutes. (If using broiler, line a cookie sheet with foil. Toss tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil and broil for about five minutes, six inches from heat, watching closely.) Meanwhile, combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, red wine vinegar, and rosemary in medium bowl. Gently stir in warm tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with cheese, and garnish with rosemary.
Coming Tomorrow: Warmed Garlic and Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Root Beer Barbeque Chicken

Why you should make extra Root Beer Barbeque Sauce....
I've had a heartfelt, desperate request for "ANYTHING without bones" and Root Beer Barbeque sauce. While I felt absolutely confident that the smoky-sweet soda sauce would be smashing on chicken, I hadn't actually tried it. Now I can bear witness.

I can relate to the repulsion of eating meat off the bones. After all, I spent a couple of years as a vegetarian after doing a study abroad in Israel. With no refrigeration in the Old City meat markets, even King Henry VIII would have gone veggie. I survived and recovered, but I still think twice before sinking my teeth into a side of ribs. I think twice. Then I gobble them up.
The concept for chicken is the same as for the ribs, except I add a smidgen of olive oil to the marinade because chicken can dry out fast on the grill. I used chicken tenders, but you could use any boneless, skinless chicken you've got around; thighs, breasts, or other sultry cuts.
As a bonus, with leftover chicken and my refrigerator pickles (see yesterday's post), I packed my husband a humdinger of a sandwich: whole grain bread smeared with Caesar dressing and piled high with chicken, pickles, and romaine. In a cruel twist of fate, he left it in his work fridge before we left for a week's vacation. I'm told, by his very reliable and trustworthy coworkers, that the sandwich was in fact worth skipping vacation for.
Root Beer Barbeque Chicken
Estimated Cost: $4.00
Notes: When your store has chicken on sale ($1.77/lb at mine), cram your freezer.
2 cans root beer, divided use
1/2 cup smoky barbecue sauce
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, plus 1/4 cup more for marinade
brown sugar, if needed
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 tablespoon each paprika and garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a small saucepan, boil one can root beer until thick and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup each smoky barbecue sauce and 1/2 cup Dijon. Taste this sauce and add brown sugar if the sauce needs a little sweetness. (Notes: you should have plenty of extra sauce for dipping-just reserve half of it before spreading it on the chicken.) Meanwhile, smear chicken with Dijon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder; drizzle with olive oil. Place in zip top bag. Pour root beer over chicken, cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Grill or broil chicken, about five minutes per side, or until outside is nicely browned and inside is no longer pink.
Coming Tomorrow:
Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Food and Furthermore IV

Refrigerator Dill Pickles and more.... With such cute, wee cucumbers at our local farmer's market, and with a bit of leftover dill Memorial Day's potato salad, I was compelled to produce pickles... Refrigerator pickles are ever so much better than heat processed pickles. CRUNCH! That's the big difference, in a word. You'll also appreciate how easy and inexpensive it is to make quarts and quarts. (Scroll down to the bottom for the recipe.) I make as many as we'll need for a couple of months, and a few extra jars to share.

In fact, I just gave my pesty little brother a jar of pickles and a jar of strawberry jam. He deadpanned, "Do you think my wife is pregnant?" Although the thought was far from my mind, he does have five children and the "baby" is turning three this month. You just never know when pickles and jam might come in handy, Roy. Here are three of his girls plus one of mine. His oldest girl (top right) just cut off her braid to donate to "Locks of Love." What a gal! Furthermore, we had loads of company this weekend. We live across the street from my parents, so whoever visits them, visits us, too. (That's mostly a good thing!) I'm crazy about my nieces and nephews. Just look at that face!And furthermore, we celebrated my superhero Dad's 67th birthday. I still think he could be the President of the US, or an FBI agent, or at the very least John Wayne. Plus, he put up with me when I was a teenager. The least I can do is make his favorite chocolate mayonnaise cake. My British great grandma used to make it for him when he was a boy, chock full of dates and walnuts. (I'll pass on the recipe-if anyone wants it. Leave a request in the comment section.) It's surprisingly delicious to grown-ups, but I divide the batter in half and make some plain chocolate mayonnaise cupcakes, too-with a cute candy initial piped from vanilla melts. Actually, I don't even admit to the kids that there is mayonnaise in the cake at all. See how fun my Dad is? You've got to have a sense of humor to raise 10 kids. Especially if 8 of them are girls. And at least one of the boys (Roy) is excessively pesty.
Here's what the ex-basketball star got for his birthday. I wonder if he'll still be willing to help me practice my right hook....
Now on to those little pickles....

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Estimated cost: $5.00

Notes: The price will vary depending on the cost of your local cucumbers, but it's still going to be lots cheaper than purchasing pickles.

about 10 Kirby cucumbers, sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

fresh dill, about 10 sprigs

6 cups water

2 cups vinegar

1/4 cup salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon black pepper
Layer cucumbers, onion, and garlic in clean glass bottles. In a medium saucepan, boil water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Let cool for five minutes. Pour over cucumbers in jars to cover and refrigerate. (If you run out of liquid, just add equal parts water and vinegar.) Cucumbers will be best after one week-but I can never wait that long. Good luck!

Coming Tomorrow: Using your Root Beer Barbecue Sauce on Grilled Chicken-plus a leftover bonus

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Tuesdays with Dorie.....
This week marks my first concoction as a member of the "Tuesdays with Dorie Baking" club. Essentially, club members prepare one previously decided recipe from Baking: From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, and post about it on their blogs each Tuesday.
It's a perfect fit for my goal of "Scandalously Good Food on a Budget." Dorie's creations are worthy of any high end bakery, and yet they are still classic, homey, and affordable when made from scratch.
Pecans Sticky Buns were this week's assignment. But first, the dough-or more specifically the butter-rich brioche. I wouldn't recommend making brioche without a hand mixer, unless you have the triceps of Schwarzenegger. Three sticks of butter must be beaten in, chunk by chunk, to achieve a shiny and relaxed dough. It will need to rise and fall more often than Rome before you're ready to roll it out.
Filled, sliced, and risen again, they're ready to bake.
The pecan sticky buns bake in a thick honey and brown sugar syrup with a generous layer of pecans. I divided the dough in half and made some plain cinnamon rolls with a thick orange glaze (juice, zest, vanilla, powdered sugar)And even with the sticky buns, I made half without nuts, for those picky charges of mine.Gooey, tender, and buttery, these will be the best breakfast rolls that you ever make or eat. Promise. I had trouble deciding which one I liked better, but I think the orange rolls edged out a little advantage. Either way, these rolls are perfect for a special celebratory breakfast. Since they are time consuming, don't attempt to make them unless you know you'll be home for a few hours. But even if you leave the house in the middle of a rising (to see the new Indiana Jones), they still come out perfect!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Estimated Cost for 15: $4.50

Notes: Use only half the brioche dough to make the 15 rolls. Freeze the remaining (filled, rolled, and unsliced) for another time.

For the Glaze:
(1 cup (packed) light brown sugar,1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces,1/4 cup honey,1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces) )
For the Filling:
(1/4 cup sugar,3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar,1 tablespoon ground cinnamon,
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature)
For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).
To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.
To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.
To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glae recipe accordingly).
With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.
Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.
What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour2 teaspoons salt3 large eggs, at room temperature1/4 cup sugar3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm
What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg1 tablespoon water
To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)
Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Coming Tomorrow:
Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Monday, May 26, 2008

Penny Wise Tip

Corn on the Cob
(This tip came from Meredith Oppenlander, my magical first grade teacher, and my generous mentor teacher when I became a first grade teacher twenty years later.)
Aren't you going to be making bushels of corn on the cob this summer? I sure will be; it's a kid favorite at my house. If you're making for a huge crowd, you're going to want a mammoth pot of water for boiling the corn. But, if you're only making a few ears at a time, make it in the microwave. It's much faster than boiling water, it saves a pot of water, pot washing (Hallelujah), and it saves energy-which is the same as saving pennies, my friends.
Simply husk the corn, put it in a microwave safe dish (pie plate, 9 by 13, 2 quart casserole), add about 1/4 inch water, cover it tightly with saran wrap, zap it for five minutes, then let it rest for five. You'll have perfectly cooked, juicy corn. Dry the corn off with a dish towel and use a pastry brush to lightly coat it with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. No one will ever know that it wasn't boiled in a pot, and only you will be the wiser. And the pennywiser.
Coming Tomorrow:
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
(My First Post as a Member of "Tuesdays with Dorie" Baking Club)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Old Fashioned Walnut Cookies

To Gobble Up with Your Root Beer Freeze..... or a Tall Glass of MilkThere's a reason this delectable little treat is the most oft requested at C and H sugar. Technically, the cookie's real name is "Lenora's Walnut Specialties," but I just had to rename it. For here, anyway. I like names that describe what something really is. When a recipe has "Specialty" or "Surprise" in the title, I'm worried that there may be a hidden ingredient treasure from the 1950s, like say pickled beets or Castor oil. Descriptive titles give me a since of security; I know what I'm getting.
But back to the cookies. With only four ingredients, they're fast, easy, and completely addictive. These warm little brown sugar and toasted walnut shortbread are the perfect bitty confection to compliment the caramely tones in the root beer. Ice cream, cookies, and soda; what could possibly be wanting? Happy Memorial Day!

Old Fashioned Walnut Cookies or Lenora's Walnut Specialties
Estimated Cost: $3.50 for about 30
Notes: I made half of the cookies without nuts for my picky little ones.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus 30 whole walnuts for the tops
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in flour. Stir in nuts. Roll into 1 and 1/2 inch balls. Flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Press walnut half on top and bake for 15-16 minutes each.
Coming Tomorrow:
Prudence Pennywise Tip for Corn on the Cob

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Root Beer Freezes with Root Beer Syrup

For Memorial Day Dessert
When I was a teenager, my little sister Heidi had a boy...friend. He wasn't a boyfriend. He was a boy...friend. But he wanted to be a boyfriend very badly. (Pretty Heidi always had boy...friends like that.) To prove his devotion, he would try to make himself useful by running errands. Once the rest of the rowdy siblings caught on to his advantageous affections, we moved quickly. We marched him out to "Ruby's Shake Shop" almost nightly to pick up our order of 10 Root Beer Freezes. (Did I mention I'm one of 10 children?) I'm not proud of myself, but I can't promise I wouldn't do it again for the love of a good Root Beer Freeze. What is so wonderful about a Root Beer Freeze?
Well, when it comes to ice cream and root beer, most people stick to root beer floats. While they are good and comforting, they can be problematic. A blob of ice cream floating around in soda is not the easiest thing to consume. Should you use a spoon or a straw? Half the time you break your plastic spoon trying to mix up the two, and the other half of the time, you slurp up your root beer, and eat the plain scoop of vanilla.
A better solution is the "Root Beer Freeze" which is closer to a shake than a float. The blender does the heavy labor of joining soda and ice cream. But, it can still have troubles. It's tough to get the consistency of a shake, which requires very little liquid, to have enough root beer flavor to pack a punch. The solution? A combination of root beer syrup, fizzy root beer and vanilla bean ice cream.
Remember yesterday when you boiled down Root Beer Syrup to make Root Beer Barbecue Sauce? (Scroll down, my friends.) I warned you to make extra Root Beer syrup. Remember? This is why. You might as well make a jar to keep in the fridge for the summer. I'll make extra extra. If Heidi's boy friend should come around 15 years later, I'd want to be ready to make him a freeze every night for payback.
Root Beer Freezes with Root Beer Syrup
Estimated Cost: $4.00 for four
Notes: Root Beer Syrup is an excellent use for flat root beer.
If you can't wait for the Root Beer Syrup to cool down, try making a hot Root Beer Sundae.
3 cans of root beer
vanilla bean ice cream-use any brand that's on sale
In a medium saucepan, boil down two cans of root beer for about 30 minutes, or until thickened and somewhat syruppy. Cool completely. In the bowl of a blender, combine some root beer syrup, some fizzy root beer, and vanilla ice cream. (I used about 1/4 cup root beer, 1 and 1/2 cups ice cream, and 3 tablespoons syrup for each freeze. Please don't measure-you can't go wrong!) Blend. Transfer to pretty glass. Drizzle with additional root beer syrup.
Coming Tomorrow: Old Fashioned Walnut Cookies
A perfect cookie to accompany a Root Beer Freeze

Friday, May 23, 2008

Baby Back Ribs with Tangy Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

Oh, baby....
Pardon me. I meant to say Oh, baby...back ribs with Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

Sloppy, tangy, meaty indulgence. Ribs aren't your typical Monday night dinner. But you can't very well serve bowls of cereal for Memorial Day, can you? Like most special meats, these ribs are a bit pricey. To lure holiday shoppers, my grocery store had them going for $3.99/lb. I'm hopeful you can find a similar deal, or my name isn't Prudence Pennywise. (Well, actually, it isn't, but I still say you can find a good deal.)
As sinfully delicious as these are, you won't want leftovers as they don't reheat too well. Make only enought to eat in one sitting. Oh don't cry-you can make some again soon. For my family of four, I made 3 lbs. Increase the quantity significantly if you invite my littlest (in age and possibly in jean size) sister Mary Kate. She won't stand for less than half a rack to herself and at 28 she still gets cranky if underfed.
You're going to need at least 24 hours of some easy advance preparation. First, you'll mop the ribs with Dijon mustard, then coat them with a savory spice rub, cut them into sections and marinate them in a fizzy can of root beer for 12-36 hours. Still with me?
Ribs should be precooked before heading out to the grill. Some people boil them, others stick them in the crock pot; I simply bake them wrapped tightly in foil for an hour. You can do that a day ahead, too. Flexible, huh? All they require from there, is a simple high heat fizzle on the grill. If you don't have a grill, they'll do fabulously well under a broiler.

Now, what sends these ribs from everybody's yummy to holiday superlative, is the Root Beer Barbecue Sauce. When you taste it, you won't think "Snoopy's soda pop," but you might glow golden from your fingertips and break out in hymns of praise. You'll need to boil down a couple of cans of root beer until thick and syrupy, and then simply stir it up with smoky barbecue sauce and Dijon.
I'm warning you now-make extra. You'll want extra to dip your ribs in, some on BBQ chicken next week, some to spread on a roast beef sandwich, and some to dip your onion rings in after that. You'll also need to save some plain root beer syrup for the most sensational Root Beer Freeze possible (coming tomorrow). Don't say I didn't warn you.
Baby Back Ribs with Tangy Root Beer Barbecue Sauce
Estimated Cost: $15.00 and worth every penny
For the Syrup:
3 cans root beer
For the Sauce:
about 1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
about 1/2 cup purchased smoky barbecue sauce
For the Ribs:
3 lbs. baby back ribs
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 can root beer
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring root beer to a boil. Boil until reduced by half and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. (You'll have lots extra-plenty for root beer freezes.) In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup each dijon, barbecue sauce, and root beer syrup. Whisk until smooth and set aside.
For the ribs, cut ribs into sections-about 3-4 bones per person. Rub generously with Dijon and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, powder, and paprika. Please don't measure-just eyeball it. Let sit for 15 minutes. Place in large zip top bag and pour rootbeer over the top, zip top and refrigerate. Let marinate for 12-36 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil. Discard marinade. Wrap ribs tightly in foil and bake on cookie sheet for 60 minutes. (At this point you can refrigerate ribs again, or head directly to the grill.) Brush ribs generously with Root Beer sauce and place on preheated grill. Grill for 10-20 minutes, turning once, and basting with sauce often until ribs are nicely carmelized. (They are already fully cooked, so you are just going for that great crispy, burnt sugar coating.)
Coming Tomorrow: Root Beer Freezes with Root Beer Syrup

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Radish and Dill Red Potato Salad

Cool and Creamy Potato Salad for your Memorial Day Feast...This potato salad is a bit of a black sheep among its spudly peers. First of all, it has no mayonnaise. (Sorry, Dad-I know how you crave your Best Foods.) No pickles. No celery. No vinegar. No peeling potatoes-oh, don't you love it already? Here's what it does have: fresh and green cooling dill, smooth sour cream, spicy radishes, piquant Dijon mustard, buttery red potato bites, crisp green onions. It's crunchy, creamy, refreshing and luscious, all in the same bite. Dill makes this dish. If you can't find fresh, use good quality dried-the kind where it still smells like fresh dill, not heaps of mowed grass.

Once I made this potato salad in college for my boyfriend (now husband) and his friends, but I forgot to buy dill. It took half an hour to find some kind stranger in the apartment complex with dried dill to borrow. Why I didn't just send my boyfriend to the store is beyond me. Apparently, I waited until he was my husband before marching him off to market for forgotten items.
This time, prepared, I shelled out the $2.29 at the market for a package of fresh dill. I only used a wee bit, so next week I'm making refrigerator dill pickles.
Radish and Dill Red Potato Salad
Estimated Cost: $3.50
Notes: You can make this one day ahead. Be sure to adjust the seasonings before serving-starchy salads can become bland in the fridge.

3 lbs. red potatoes, scrubbed
about 1/2 cup thinly sliced red radishes
about 1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 and 1/2 cups sour cream (I used half light)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
about 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Cut potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Place in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes. Toss hot potatoes with radishes and onions. Add in the sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper, stirring gently. When potatoes cool down to room temperature, add in dill. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Look what's coming tomorrow...

Cucumber Salad with Lemon and Feta and Grilled Garlic Bread

First Course or Appetizers for Memorial Day Here's a lovely and light refreshing salad to provide a cool counterpoint to the spicy and smoky ribs. That's what I was intending. Except at our house, we ate every last bite of the salad before the ribs even got to the grill. I say "we." I ate the lion's share myself because I'm selfish like that when it comes to outstanding spring vegetables. My big brown-eyed little boy moped, "Aren't you going to save any for me?" It was too late at that point. (Luckily I had enough ingredients to make more. Phew.)
Although this salad is exceedingly simple, it's also utterly delicious. Spring cucumbers are so cool and fresh, and suprisingly tasty when coupled with the creamy feta and a light drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil. Though I originally planned this as a side dish, it makes one heck of an appetizer before a barbecue. Especially if you serve it with crunchy grilled garlic bread. "We" ate all that before dinner also.
Cucumber Salad with Lemon and Feta
Estimated Cost: $1.50
Notes: I sprinkled my salad and bread with some chopped parsley for a prettier presentation.
1 medium to large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
about 2 teaspoons olive oil
about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: chopped fresh parsley
Layer cucumber slices on shallow plate. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with feta cheese and salt and pepper.
Grilled Garlic Bread
Estimated Cost: $2.00
(If you don't have a grill, use an indoor grill pan or the broiler.)
Slice a thin baguette lengthwise. Brush the cut surface with olive oil. Grill on both sides until crusty and crisp. Rub the cut surface with a halved garlic clove. Sprinkle lightly with pepper. Cut into 4 inch servings.
Coming Tomorrow: Radish and Dill Red Potato Salad for Your Memorial Day Feast

Coming Friday: Tangy Root Beer Baby Back Ribs

Monday, May 19, 2008

Memorial Day Shopping List and Menu

Memorial Day is the ideal gateway to summer holiday. It's still cool enough to play tennis, have a picnic, go to the park, go on a hike, take a bike ride, play baseball, or have a lemonade stand. Memorial Day also means it's time to fire up that grill, before summer slips through your fingers. That's what my whole life is doing. If I blink when it's summer, the next thing I know it's Christmas.
I've planned an easy menu that will have you eating well, even though you'll be out and about enjoying the delicious spring weather. Get everything just about ready before you jaunt off for sundry activities. When you get home, you can have dinner on the table in a few minutes and with very little effort. Print out this menu and grocery list and follow along throughout the week.
Memorial Day Menu
Tangy Root Beer Barbecue Ribs
Radish and Dill Red Potato Salad
Cucumber Salad with Feta
Grilled Garlic Bread
Corn on the Cob
Root Beer Freezes with Root Beer Syrup
Old Fashioned Walnut Cookies (Most oft requested recipe from C and H Sugar)

Memorial Day Shopping List
Lots of Root Beer-my favorite national brand is Mug. (You'll need about 8 cans for four people- plus more if you want some just for drinking.)
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Baby Back Ribs-about 3/4-1 lb. per person for adults
Your favorite smoky BBQ sauce (I like Famous Dave's)
Dijon mustard
Garlic Powder
cucumber (1 large)
Lemon (1)
Fresh Garlic
Feta Cheese
Fresh or Good Quality Dried Dill
Walnuts (about 1 and 1/4 cup)
Green Onions
Red Potatoes (I do about 3 lbs so I can have some leftovers)
Radishes (1 bunch)
Sour Cream (16 ounces)
Corn on the Cob
strawberries (too early for watermelon yet)
Plus Staples like Olive oil, butter, sugar, flour, etc.

Food and Furthermore III

Coming Tomorrow....Memorial Day Menu and Shopping List
Years ago, a little baby girl was born. Pink, pretty, and sugary sweet. But as of last week, she is seven. Pink, pretty, and sugary sweet-with a little bit of independent spice. We're just crazy about her. Even though she made that big mess on the counter.
Because we bake almost everything from scratch, for an extra special birthday treat, she USED to ask for a boxed cake mix. It practically killed me. She wanted a colorful funfetti cake, just like all the other kids (and grown-up, kid-at-heart Uncle Jack). But now she is seven and she knows better. For the first time this year she asked pretty please for homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade chocolate frosting. It was a proud moment. I used the Devil's Food Cake recipe from The New Joy of Cooking. Make them only if you have more than an hour and you don't mind washing numerous bowls and dishes AND you love seriously, seriously good cupcakes.
Notice the tennis themed cupcakes for the party. We used the colored vanilla melts and piped the shapes onto waxed paper. These ones were for the grown ups.

This is what my little girl wanted for her birthday.
A Hawaiian, Don Ho, pearly shells, pineapple princess, purple ukulele. Now I can't keep my hands off of the darn thing. It's so fun and so easy to play and I can pretend I'm at a luau. Why am I paying money for violin and piano lessons? Forget it kids! Take up the ukulele and let's all be beach bums together.
Furthermore and speaking of expensive lessons, both of my children had a violin performance at an old folk's home.
During the performance, one of the spunky elderly gentleman shouted out, "Is that little boy for sale?" Nope. He's mine and you should have heard him play "Orange Blossom Special." On second thought, I think I really am getting my money's worth.

It's time to pass the baton for the Arte y Pico Award
Leah at A Corner of My Kitchen. I don't just envy her kitchen. I also want dinner at her house every night. I could even bring my kids! The food is fabulous and family friendly.
Veronica at Supermarket Serenade. Take a look at her blog before you buy something new at the market. She'll let you know what's best to buy and what to do with it when you get home.
Lisa at Jersey Girl Cooks. Lisa shares thoughts, insights, tips, and recipes in her creative cooking adventures.
Jenny at Picky Palate creates yummy and easy original recipes guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters
Camilla at Enlightened Cooking. Her brilliant ideas for healthy cooking are bright, fresh, and original. You'll be making mousse, ganache, cheesecake, and cookies-and you're still going to fit in your jeans.