Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long-Distance Relationship

Have you ever traveled to a distant land and fallen in love? It happened to me once. At first it was just a fling, a frivolous affair, but when I went back again, it became serious. I fell in love in Paris, with Paris. Madly, deeply, head over heals in love.

Now, long after the first passionate throes have faded into sweet memories, I still long for Paris. There is a yearning, an aching in my heart because I cannot visit my love.

Alas, I must settle on a long-distance relationship. So here's how I keep the romance alive…

French Onion Soup
Printable Recipe

4 1 ½-inch thick slices baguette
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
4 large yellow onions, julienned
¼ cup red wine
2 tablespoons ruby port
1 ½ quarts beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound shredded Gruyère

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until dry. Let cool.

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the butter and onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until caramelized.* Add the wine and port and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a heat-proof spatula. Add the broth, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the flavors come together. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the broiler. Divide the soup among 4 oven-proof soup bowls and arrange the soup bowls on a baking tray. Press 1 baguette slice cut side up into the top of each one and divide the Gruyère among them. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the Gruyère is melted and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 very generous servings.

*For information on making and using caramelized onions and everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores now.

French Onion Soup

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Salsa Series: Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa

This is the sixth post in a series on salsas.

Salsa isn’t just for corn chips any more. This was my sudden mind-blowing, earth-shattering realization. It came way back during my college days after a working interview at one very famous Southwestern restaurant. They fed me dinner—a grilled tenderloin steak smothered in a smokey salsa—in exchange for my night’s work. I had only ever eaten steak plain, and my life would never be the same. I got the job. But more importantly, I opened my eyes to the possibilities of salsa.

Salsas, whether they’re made from chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocados, or fruit, are an integral part of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. They vary from mild to medium to spicy, and they can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Salsas can function as either dip or sauce (in fact, salsa is Spanish for sauce), and they are the perfect accompaniment to everything from eggs to tacos to rice and beans. They can transform a simple grilled steak, pork chop, chicken breast, fish fillet, or even veggie into a spectacular meal. It’s no wonder that salsa has overtaken ketchup as the most popular condiment in the U.S.

But while I’m singing the praises of salsa, I want to make clear that I mean homemade, from-scratch salsa. Homemade salsa is vibrant and fresh and delicious and healthy, and it can perk up anything you put it on. (In comparison, the store-bought stuff is appallingly expensive and completely tasteless.) And if there’s a batch in the fridge, it’s sure to inspire many amazing meals.

Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa
Printable Recipe

1 small yellow onion, halved
4 jalapenos
8 large Roma tomatoes
½ bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the onion and jalapenos on a foil-lined baking tray and broil for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is lightly charred and the skin of the jalapenos is charred and blistered. Using tongs, turn the onion and jalapenos and broil another 6 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is lightly charred and the skin of the jalapenos is charred and blistered and the flesh is soft. Transfer the onion and jalapenos to a cutting board and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, arrange the tomatoes on the baking tray and broil for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the skin is charred and blistered. Using tongs, give the tomatoes a third of a turn and broil 6 to 7 minutes more, or until the skin is charred and blistered. Give the tomatoes a final third of a turn and continue to broil another 6 to 7 minutes, or until the skin is charred and blistered and the flesh is soft. Let cool to room temperature.

Chop the onion and stem and seed the jalapenos. Combine the onion, jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Makes about 5 cups. Heat level: medium/hot. If you like it hotter, add more jalapenos. This is like the salsa you'd find at any good Tex-Mex restaurant, and it's great on everything from chips to quesadillas and fajitas to breakfast tacos. If you prefer a smokier flavor, grill the onion, jalapenos, and tomatoes instead of broiling them. Keeps for several days tightly sealed in the refrigerator and freezes well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

More salsa recipes are available here.

Now, if you’re going to have great homemade salsa, you probably want some of this Guacamole to go with it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Need I say more? Probably not, but what the heck…

It calls for ingredients you probably already have on hand. It's an excuse to get out that dusty angel food cake pan. It's a cinch to whip up. It's as light as a cloud. It's pretty guilt free as far as cake goes. Oh, and did I mention it's cake?

Bake it. You know you want to.

But before I get to the recipe, a few announcements…

Check out Cooking Mistake 4: Being Afraid of Heat (on page 62) of "10 Common Cooking Mistakes…And How to Avoid Them" in the April/May issue of Clean Eating magazine for a quote from yours truly.

And if you just can't get enough of me *ahem* watch me talk about healthy cooking and Seared to Perfection in this ALX Fitness video.

Finally, registration for spring Clark College cooking classes opened recently, and there's still time to sign up for my French Bistro Favorites, Seafood Primer: Baking & Sautéing, and Seafood Primer: Searing & Frying classes. Current class listings can always be found in the Cooking Classes, Book Signings & Appearances sidebar on the right.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake
Printable Recipe

1 1/3 cups cake flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
10 room temperature large eggs, separated
1 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, ½ cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, water, oil, and vanilla. Add the yolk mixture to the cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the egg whites on medium until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and whip to soft peaks. With the motor running on high, gradually add the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Continue to whip on high to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cocoa mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Transfer to an ungreased 10-inch loose-bottom tube pan and run a skewer through the batter to eliminate air pockets. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back when pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert the pan and let the cake cool in the pan to room temperature. Run a paring knife around the inside of the cake pan and remove the sides of the pan from the cake. Run the knife around the center tube and the base of the pan and remove the base from the cake. Transfer the cake to a cake plate and dust with plenty of powdered sugar. Cut into portions and serve.

Makes 1 10-inch cake, serving 8 to 10. Tube pans are often referred to as angel food cake pans. If you happen to have one that's smaller than what's specified here, go ahead and use it but only fill it ¾ full. You can bake any excess batter in a muffin pan lined with paper liners. A hot-out-of-the-oven chiffon cake is extremely delicate and will collapse under its own weight, so it must be cooled upside down in its pan. Some tube pans feature feet on the rim to allow for easy inversion and room for air to circulate all around the cake as it cools. A tube pan without feet can be inverted over the top of a narrow-necked bottle. Cake keeps well and stays moist for several days tightly sealed at room temperature.
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