Friday, January 30, 2009

Roasted Peppers & Chiles

Homemade roasted peppers and chiles have a wonderful campfire character. They’re far superior to jarred roasted peppers in both flavor and texture, and their smokey goodness is delicious in everything from sandwiches and salads to soups and sauces.

For roasting, select straight-sided peppers and chiles; avoid irregularly shaped ones as they are difficult to roast evenly. Place the whole pepper directly on the grate of a gas burner and set the heat to high, so that the flame is licking the pepper. If you don’t have gas, you can use a preheated broiler. Cook the pepper, using a pair of tongs to turn it, for 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Continue until the skin is charred and blistered all over.

The flesh of the pepper will still be relatively firm at this point. Transfer the pepper to a bowl, seal with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

The steam from the pepper will finish the cooking process and loosen the skin. Once it is cool, transfer the pepper to a cutting board and use a paring knife to scrape off its skin.

Don’t worry about removing every last black speck.

This can be a bit messy, but avoid any temptation to rinse the pepper off with water, or the flavor will disappear down the drain along with the skin. But using a small bowl to collect the waste can make it more manageable.

Cut the pepper open.

Cut out the seed pod.

And then remove any remaining seeds.

The roasted pepper is now ready.

It can be used as is, julienned, diced, or pureed for a recipe.

Green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers and fresh chiles such as Anaheims and poblanos can all be roasted this way. Roasted peppers and chiles will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for several days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Now that’s some honest comfort food to fill your belly. My meatloaf is so full of flavor, that people are shocked to learn it’s made with turkey, not beef. In fact, it’s so good that it became the single best-selling item in the deli when I was the Store Chef at Wild Oats Market. Will you forgive me for bragging?

Turkey Meatloaf
Printable Recipe

Unsalted butter, for greasing the baking tray
4 large eggs
2 small yellow onions, quartered
10 to 12 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tomato paste
½ cup packed Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ¾ pounds ground turkey, preferably dark meat
3 cups panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a foil-lined baking tray. Combine the eggs, onions, garlic, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.

Mix together with the turkey and panko in a large bowl. Transfer to the baking tray and form into an even loaf.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cooked through. A meat thermometer will register 165ºF when it is cooked through. Tent with foil to keep warm, and allow to rest for about 15 minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 12. This recipe is healthy and economical in addition to being absolutely delicious. Ground beef can, of course, be substituted for the ground turkey. Leftovers make fantastic meatloaf sandwiches.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Large Pan

Always use a pan that’s large enough to avoid overcrowding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Waffle Cones

My mother and my father like to tease me because I collect cookware. My father once even went so far as to call me “the Imelda Marcos of dishes”. But my parents have a waffle cone maker, and even I don’t own a waffle cone maker.

Never mind the fact that they only have this waffle cone maker because I gave it to them as an anniversary gift, can you believe they have a fun kitchen toy that I don’t?

I just had to do something about this inequitable situation, so I got myself a waffle cone maker too.

And Mom sure does make good waffle cones. In the blink of an eye, she whipped up the batter. She puts out the cones by the numbers.

They’re fun to form.

The only tricky part is making sure that there isn’t a hole in the bottom for the ice cream to drip out of.

Make that homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

Now, I think that’s fair.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


By now, it’s old news that salsa has overtaken ketchup as the most popular condiment in the U.S. But have you ever wondered where guacamole is in the standings?

Printable Recipe

4 ripe Hass avocados
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 to 2 limes
Kosher salt

Halve, pit, and peel the avocados. Combine the avocados and garlic in a medium bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher until the desired texture. Stir in the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. To determine if an avocado is ripe, give it a squeeze—it should yield to gentle pressure. You can make the guacamole as chunky or smooth as you like. Avocados are fairly bland and need lots of lime juice and salt to bring out their flavor, so season the guacamole liberally, tasting as you go. This simple Guacamole is in the Mexican style, and it’s delicious with chips and on burgers and sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and almost any other Mexican or Southwestern food you can think of. For Tex-Mex guacamole, add a bit of minced jalapeno or Serrano chile and a couple tablespoons each of finely diced red onion, Roma tomato, and cilantro. Guacamole is best fresh, but if you do have leftovers, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to minimize browning and refrigerate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Since I was missing Texas, I decided it was time for a visit. So here I am in Texas. And when I’m in Texas, I drink margaritas.

Traditional Margarita
Printable Recipe

1 heaping cup ice cubes
1 ½ ounces silver tequila
1 ½ ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce Cointreau or triple sec
¼ teaspoon sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled margarita glass and serve immediately.

Makes 1 strong margarita. If you like, rim the glass with salt by dipping into lime juice and then immediately into kosher salt. This style of margarita is found throughout the American Southwest.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I don’t actually have to open my refrigerator for inspiration.

And there’s no need for anyone else to look inside searching for dinner.

They would be too distracted anyway.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Miss

There are certain things I miss about living in Texas. I miss the Texas peaches, and I miss the gulf shrimp. I miss the Mexican food and the abundance of cheap, authentic taquerias. I missed the Texas barbeque so bad that I had to get a smoker of my very own and learn to make it myself. And I miss being a stone’s throw away from Louisiana.

Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo with Okra
Printable Recipe

2 pounds small shrimp (41/50 count)
2 cups canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 yellow onions, diced
3 green bell peppers, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
8 to 10 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
3 pounds andouille, sliced
1 1-pound bag frozen cut okra, thawed
Cooked long grain white rice, for serving
Sliced green onions, for serving

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. Combine the shrimp shells and 3 quarts of water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until flavorful. Let cool and strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Combine the oil and flour in a very large, heavy pot. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, for 14 to 16 minutes, or until chocolate brown.

Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the bay leaves, thyme, oregano, paprika, pepper, white pepper, and cayenne. Stir in the shrimp broth and chicken broth and add the tomatoes, andouille, and shrimp. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until the flavors come together. Add the okra and simmer another 14 to 16 minutes, or until the okra is tender. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves, and skim off any fat from the surface of the gumbo. Season to taste with salt. To serve, spoon some of the rice into the center of each bowl, ladle the gumbo over the rice, and sprinkle with the green onions.

Serves an army of about 20 as a main course. The mixture of oil and flour, known as roux, thickens the gumbo. When cooked to a dark chocolate-brown color, it also adds a deep, toasty flavor. Whisk the roux constantly to avoid scorching it, but be careful as you do because it will be very hot. You can use fresh okra if it’s in season, but sauté it briefly before adding it to the gumbo. Also try adding crawfish, crabmeat, or chicken. You will need a 10-quart or larger pot for this recipe. The recipe may be cut in half, but if you’re going to the effort of making gumbo, why not make a big batch? Like all soups and stews, it actually tastes better the day after it’s made, and it freezes beautifully.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Copper Mold

Look what I got for my birthday!

My husband did really, really good this year, but he broke down and gave it to me a couple of days early. How ever did he know that this was exactly what I wanted? Hmm, could it be because I left my wish list in strategic places all around the house? I’m so excited, I’ve wanted a copper pudding mold like this for years. And I’ve already used it twice in the two days I’ve had it. The first time was a mold of my Raspberry Tart filling. My second mold consisted of a layer of chocolate mousse and a layer of coconut gelée, delicious.

Doesn’t that look festive? Only I should've put a candle on top.

Chocolate & Coconut Mold
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoon vodka
2 ¾ teaspoons gelatin
4 ounces milk
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped or scant 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces heavy cream
1 14-ounce can coconut milk

Measure 1 tablespoon of the vodka into a small bowl and slowly sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of the gelatin. Combine the milk and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a small saucepan and heat to a bare simmer. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl, add the hot milk mixture, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the gelatin mixture and vanilla. Chill over an ice bath until just beginning to thicken. Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Stir 1/3 of the cream into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining cream. Transfer the mixture to a 3-cup mold and refrigerate for about 4 hours, or until set.

Measure the remaining 1 tablespoon of vodka into a small bowl and slowly sprinkle over the remaining 1 ¾ teaspoons of gelatin. Combine the coconut milk and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a small saucepan and heat to a bare simmer. Whisk in the gelatin mixture. Chill over an ice bath until just beginning to thicken. Transfer to the mold and refrigerate for about 4 hours, or until set.

To unmold, dip the bottom of the mold into hot water for a few seconds, wipe dry, and invert onto a dessert plate.

Serves 4 to 6. If you don’t have a decorative 3-cup mold, simply use a glass or metal bowl. If you like, you can add a bit of toasted shredded coconut to the chocolate mixture just before folding in the cream. Can be made up to a day ahead of time and kept covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


My old rubber spatulas have failed me. I didn’t see it coming, but, one by one, they quit their stirring and scraping duties. Their blades broke into pieces, the last one crumbling against a rather thick chocolate cake batter. But I won’t miss them one bit because now I get to upgrade!

So what kind of rubber spatula is worthy of bringing into my kitchen? Only the commercial heat-proof kind, the kind that you get in a restaurant supply store.

They may not have a fancy brand name, and they don’t come in a rainbow of fun colors, but they also don’t have wooden handles to split and warp in the dishwasher. My favorite spats (that’s my pet name for them) are absolutely one of the most practical utensils you can have in your kitchen. The heat-resistant rubber these are made of will last a lifetime, and they’re perfect for all cooking tasks hot or cold, sweet or savory. They’re ideal for mixing thick batters and folding the most delicate egg white foams and perfect for scraping, especially for scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan when deglazing a sauce, soup, or stew. They’re such expert scrapers that, like a squeegee, they will scrape a bowl or pan so clean you hardly have to wash it. (In fact, they inspired the tale of the million dollar spatula, often told in restaurant kitchens: scraping the bowl clean using a rubber spatula will result in an extra serving of food each time, saving the restaurant countless dollars over the years.) These spats, unlike lesser models, even feature a smart little notch for catching dribbles off rims and a kickstand to keep your counters clean. And a hook at the end of the handle ensures they don’t slip down into the pot or bowl, never to be seen again.

My very favorite one is the spoonula, all this, plus it doubles as a spoon.

Very handy for transferring food from pan to plate or filling a pastry bag. The commercial heat-proof spatula, marvel of cooking utensil design, is the only one for me.
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