Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mesculun and Cherry Salad with Warm Goat Cheese

I love goat cheese so it was a no-brainer that I try this recipe. I've always wondered how restaurants made goat cheese rounds and now that I've learned it's a snap I'm sure to put on the pounds. Now that I think of it, I've got leftover goat cheese in the fridge from a pasta salad I just made -- maybe I'll go make some "dessert" goat cheese rounds.

Anyhoo, this was a great salad. Almost just as good as the lamb rib chops (also pictured). I hope to eat a lot of it, and often. I will say that mesculun is a fancy term for "whatever greens you want to use" and bigger isn't neccessarily better when it comes to the goat cheese rounds. More rounds is better but bigger, not so much.

2 tablespoons roasted almond oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
3/4 cup sliced almonds (about 3 ounces)

1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1 11-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese, cut crosswise into 6 rounds
6 cups (packed) mixed baby greens or baby spinach
1 cup halved pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 7 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1/2 cup 2x1/4-inch strips fresh fennel bulb

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing generously with salt and pepper. Spread almonds on plate. Whisk egg and 1 tablespoon water in small bowl; sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Turn goat cheese rounds in egg mixture, then coat with sliced almonds, covering all sides. Place on rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Dressing and goat cheese rounds can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring dressing to room temperature and whisk before using.

Bake goat cheese rounds until cheese is warm but not melted, about 10 minutes.
Combine greens, cherries, and fennel in large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Divide salad among 6 plates. Place 1 cheese round on each plate and serve.

Pan-Seared Steak

What You'll Need: 
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless rib-eye or New York strip (shell) steak, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds and 2 1/2 inches thick at room temperature
coarse salt and cracked pepper
steak butter (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large cast-iron (or non-stick skillet) over medium-high until it begins to smoke. Pat steak dry with paper towels. Season each side with 1 tsp coarse salt and 1 tsp cracked pepper.
2. Cook steak in skillet over medium-high heat until a dark crust has formed, 5 - 7 minutes per side (reduce heat if meat is browning too quickly). Holding steak with tongs, quickly brown all edges, turning as necessary; lay steak flat in skillet.
3. Transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the steak registers desired doneness, 5 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate; spread with 1 tablespoon steak butter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 to 10 minutes (temperature will then rise another 5 to 10 degrees). Slice across the grain; serve with remaining steak butter. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers (great for salads) up to 2 days.

Internal temperatures (before resting): 
Rare: 115 degrees
Medium-rare: 125 degrees
Medium: 140 degrees
...I'm not giving you any more options because that's just blasphemy.

Steak butters: 
In a small bowl, mix the ingredient combination of your choice (below) with 4 tablespoons room temperature butter. Season with course salt and ground pepper.

Blue cheese: 
2 tbsp (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese
1 scallion, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced

Horseradish-Mustard (this is the one I've now made twice)
2 tbsp prepared-white horseradish (squeezed of excess liquid)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tuscan Soup

This is my favorite in our soup rotation. The potatoes, spinach, and Italian sausage are a great combination. I've make this a dozen times now and I'm still not tired of making or eating it.

6 cups chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
3 (3.5 ounce) links spicy Italian sausage
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 cup evaporated milk
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

1. Remove skin from sausage and crumble into frying pan. Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink (I strain off any grease or fat but that's optional, sometimes I rinse the meat under cold water).
2. Place meat in a large pot, add stock an potatoes. Boil until potato is cooked (about 18 - 20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes).
3. Add spinach. Continue boiling until spinach is lightly cooked.
4. Remove soup from heat, stir in evaporated milk, and season to taste. I don't add salt because even the low-sodium broth has enough to make it plenty salty.

Now I've gone and made myself hungry.

(I've also put a small picture at the bottom of the page this time because it's such a bad photo. U like my shady marketing techniques? Eh? Eh?)

Best Cookies on Earth

The ladies of Athens don't lie. These are pretty damn good cookies. (Ooh, maybe the ladies of Athens wouldn't appreciate me saying the word "Damn"?) I got this recipe from a friend who stole it from "Under the Magnolia, A Tasteful Tour of Athens" cookbook. I mix 'em up and Allen bakes 'em -- we've got division of labor worked out in the cookie department. We've also finally learned our lesson and we freeze most of the dough and just pull it out when we need a sweet treat. (Otherwise, Allen eats them all and they're gone in just a couple of days.) We also like baking them when we have friends over for dinner. They're the best cookies on earth when they're pulled out of the oven and paired with some vanilla ice cream.

2 sticks butter (or margarine)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1 (7.5 oz) package of toffee bits

Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla mixing well. Blend in flour, oatmeal, chocolate chips, cranberries and toffee bits. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly before transferring to cooling rack (or your mouth).
Unfortunately they're not as big as Allen's (unusually small) head.

Doong Goo, Mook Yee, Chow Ngau (Stir Fried Beef and Three Mushrooms)

This is another recipe I found in "The Melting Pot "cookbook. The entree is from the Chinese Kitchen section. We liked the coconut curry shrimp a bit more and have made it several times now but I do think this one is worth trying and maybe working on to get a stronger flavor. I was thrown by the metric system on this one too so maybe that's partial to blame. Otherwise, if you like mushrooms and could have fun exploring new mushrooms and combinations this is a keeper.
300g beef (sirloin or rump)...about 3/4 lb
A large handful of dried Chinese mushrooms (try the bulk aisle at CM or WF)
50g wood ear (or chestnut) mushrooms (these are thick, dried and really flavorful)...about 2 oz
2 cloves garlic
5 cm ginger....1/2 inch
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
peanut oil (or other oil for frying)
2 spring onions
100ml oyster sauce...3 1/2 ounces
1. Rinse the dried Chinese mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms and soak for 30 minutes in hot water.

2. Wash them quickly with cold water and remove any stick bits
3. Slice all the mushrooms
4. Peel and chop the garlic, ginger and the white part of the spring onion, setting aside the green part
5. Slice the beef and rub it with sesame oil and soy sauce

1. Heat the peanut oil in a wok until very hot, add the garlic, the white part of the spring onion and ginger; fry off with the Chinese mushrooms.
2. Add beef and stir fry quickly then add the other mushrooms, saute, and toss in the oyster sauce. Keep turning the mushrooms and beef so they do not overcook but get coated in sauce. Served immediately garnished with a little chopped green spring onion.

I got a little confused on her mushroom instructions and I think I combined the mushrooms when I was suppose to let them soak separately. I also didn't do a great job of measuring the mushrooms (the more the better, right?) but it turned out fine. I would like to add a little heat or a stronger flavor but I'm not sure what/how yet.