Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Vicki’s Cake (Victoria Sponge Cake)

31 July 16

This is a quintessential and favorite British tea time cake. It is called the Victoria Sponge Cake because it was Queen Victoria’s favorite for high tea. When you are the Queen you get what you want. It’s good to be the Queen.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
220 gr sugar (1 cup)
2 each eggs
160 gr all-purpose flour (1 cup)
6 gr baking powder (1-1/2 tsp)
125 gr milk (1/2 cup)
4 gr vanilla extract (1 tsp)

Set your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lube an 8 inch spring form pan with unsalted butter.

If you are a masochist and doing things by hand you mix up the dry goods, cream the butter and sugar, add the dry goods, then add the wet goods. Of course, you pre-mix the flour and the baking powder. Then pre-mix the milk and the vanilla. Oh yeah, if doing by hand then you may want to use powdered sugar. It dissolves and creams a little faster.

If you are using a good mixer like a sensible person, then cream the butter and sugar until they are supple and smooth. Then add the dry stuff – flour, baking powder – and mix it in on low. Then add the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Notice – no pre-mix is necessary. You also want to be extra cautious if you use powdered sugar. It tends to go everywhere when the mixer starts. The flour and the milk sometimes do also. You might want to bump the mixer a time or two as you start. I wish Kitchenaid had a soft start. My Cuisinart hand mixer has soft start and it is wonderful.

Either way, dump the batter into the pan, bake at 400°F (200°C) until a toothpick comes out clean. This will be somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes depending on your oven. Mine tends to run around 30 minutes. Cool down still in the pan for about 10 minutes on top of a wire rack. Pop the outer ring off and, leaving the cake on the pan base, cool down completely. If you are not doing something else with the cake you can just leave it on the bottom of the pan.

You now have a proper Victoria Sponge Cake. Traditionally, you just whack and serve. If you want (and have a very steady hand), you can cut it in half and add some preserves in the middle. Apricot and raspberry are traditional (and good). Of course, you can use any preserves or other stuffing that you like. If you are like me, I think that this cake is a bit thin for cutting in half. I would cook a second cake and layer them together. Of course, you will have to shave the top of the bottom cake so the top layer will sit flat. Oh well, the cook gets the leftover top goodie. It’s good to be the cook. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on the outside if you like.

Custard is also used as a stuffer. A dollop of whipped cream has been known to be used for a topping.

As a note: a real purist would not use vanilla extract, but heat the milk and then soak a scored vanilla bean in it.

Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms with Walnut Dressing

22 July 16
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 lb mushrooms
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1 Tbs minced shallot
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp whole-grain or Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs mirin

 

Trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts and cut a cross in the base. Steam the sprouts and the mushrooms together for 8 to 10 minutes until the sprouts are tender.

Meanwhile, whisk oil, shallot, juice, mustard, walnuts, mirin. Add salt and pepper to taste if you think it needs it, but I find that it really doesn’t. Really works well with shaking in a capped jar if you’d rather do that than whisk. Sometimes whisking chopped nuts is a bit of a pill.

Drain the veggies well, rough chop and serve with the dressing.

Five Spice Fish and Garlic Spinach

3 August 15

[HERSELF SEZ: Here I am again – posting for Himself who refuses to learn how to use WordPress and relies upon me to post for him! But this IS his post!]

1 tsp grated lime peel
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
4 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp sugar
salt, pepper to taste
vegetable oil
1 lb salmon steaks
1/2 lb fresh baby spinach leaves
2 large cloves garlic, minced
nước chấm (optional)

The five spice powder is basically Chinese in origin, but this is a kinda fusion version. For me it has a bit of a Vietnamese hint to it. I’m not sure what you’d call the rest of the influences. The Chinese get a bit mystical about the whole thing and talk about five spice powder being the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty; the five fundamental taste groups of Chinese cuisine. To my simple old Western mind it has cinnamon, clove, star anise, ginger, and fennel. Whether it was some mystical blend to achieve universal harmony, or some genius with taste buds made it, or some dumb assistant cook sneezed ad dumped all the spices together is immaterial and will probably never be known. Who cares, it is good stuff. There are many variations, but when you get it at the store it will probably be something similar to the above.

On to the goodies:

Mix up the marinade: lime peel, juice, five spice powder, sugar, a splash of oil (about a teaspoon), salt and pepper to taste. Put the fish and the marinade in a dish or plastic bag, whichever you like for soaking, and let it soak in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Don’t go too long as citrus will prematurely cook seafood to the detriment of the final taste.

Crush or mince the garlic into one to two teaspoons of oil and dump over the spinach. Mix it up with your hands. What you want to do is wilt the spinach, so it isn’t necessary to stem it before using. If you like the old fashioned way you can wilt the spinach in a skillet or some such. The easy way is to nuke it on high for 2 minutes or so. That works nicely, and it is hard to goof up.

You should have decided ahead whether to grill, use a contact grill, or pan fry. Whatever your choice, it should be ready to go at this point. We like pan fried in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and a little sesame oil for flavor. A nice crust can be had without drying it out if you keep the heat up and the time down to about 3 minutes a side or whatever works for you. If you grill give about 4 minutes a side covered. Toss any leftover marinade. While you cook the fish is really the best time to wilt the spinach if you are using the microwave method.

Serve the fish on a bed of spinach. It doesn’t need anything else, but if you a feeling in a Vietnamese mood serve a little nước chấm (1) (2) on the side.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

BBQ Sauces

29 July 15

[Herself is publishing this (as usual!)]

No real directions needed! Just mix ’em up and heat ’em up.

01 – Big Daddys Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce
1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs liquid smoke (hickory flavoring)

02 – St. Louis Barbecue Sauce
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs yellow mustard
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne

03 – Classic BBQ Rib Sauce
2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup minced onion
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs water
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne
fresh ground pepper to taste

04 – Kansas City Rib Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cayenne

05 – Memphis Barbecue Sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbs minced garlic
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs prepared mustard
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs mild chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne (optional)

06 – Best Odds Pulled Pork Sauce
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup hot water
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne

07 – Piedmont Barbecue Sauce
1-1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

08 – Mustard Sauce
1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp cayenne

09 – North Carolina BBQ Chicken Sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs butter
2 tsp salt
1/4 Tbs hot pepper sauce

10 – Jack Daniel’s Rib Glaze
1 cup Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

11 – Columbia Gold Barbecue Sauce Recipe
2 cups prepared yellow mustard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
3 Tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp chipotle Tabasco sauce or you favorite hot sauce
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules or 1 cube
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp celery seed
3 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

12 – East Carolina Barbecue Sauce
2 cups cider vinegar (you can cut this in half if you think it will be too vinegary for you)
2 Tbs molasses
1 Tbs ground dry mustard
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs Worcestershire
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tsp cornstarch

13 – East Carolina Kiss & Vinegar Barbecue Sauce & Mop
1-1/2 cups of distilled vinegar
1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tbs sugar (white, light brown, or dark brown)
1 Tbs salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp finely ground black pepper

14 – MTR (Himself) KC Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup white wine or some decent vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tbs black worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs white worcestershire sauce
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves minced fresh garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
about 20 grinds black pepper

Experiment! Enjoy!

Ecuadorian Salsa

16 May 14

After trying the original recipe we had found, and then adjusting the recipe through several trials, we found this variation to be our top preference. It is a raw, rather than cooked, salsa, and is just delicious. Himself does the rough-chopping and dicing, while Herself sits at the table and uses the food processor.

1 cup diced raw carrots
1 med cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 cup diced bell pepper (preferably red or orange)
1 large onion, sweet, diced
2 each tomatoes, large, juicy deseeded and chopped
3 each garlic tooths, chopped
10 sprigs sprigs parsley (leaves only), up to — 15 sprigs to taste
Salt, freshly ground, to taste (Pink Himalayan is best)
1 cup Lime juice (Key Lime juice works really well) (yes, that is one CUP – use more or less to your taste)
1 cup Clamato juice (more or less) to taste
5 drops Tabasco sauce (more or less) to taste (optional)
4 shakes Cayenne pepper (more or less) to taste

 

CarrotsCukesBellPepOnionGarlic

CarrotsCukesBellPepOnionGarlic

1. Blend chopped tomatoes, diced onions, chopped garlic, seeded, chopped cucumber, diced carrots and diced bell pepper in a food processor to desired consistency. We like the consistency a little rough, while the original recipe called for using a blender and liquefying the ingredients. Make it however you like it. The food processor Herself likes to use is the smaller one, so each item is processed separately and then all are mixed together in a large bowl.

 

2. Mix well in a large bowl.

3. Add lime (or Key Lime) juice, Clamato juice, salt, Cayenne pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Use less Lime juice and Clamato juice if you prefer a dryer salsa.

Added Tomatoes & Parsley

Added Tomatoes & Parsley

 

4. Check seasoning and adjust. (Keep in mind that chips will be salty.)

5. Serving suggestions: serve with corn chips as an appetizer, or as a side with grilled chicken or a grilled, mild fish (like tilapia), or with grilled salmon.

Cooking Tip: Do not use Italian tomatoes, too dry.

Author Note: The original Ecuadorian Salsa recipe called for no additional liquids other than a few tsp of lime juice. The original recipe also called for smaller amounts, with all ingredients to be blended to a smooth consistency. It is a much drier salsa. It also does not call for cucumber – but we really like the flavor it imparts.

Second Author Note: The nice thing about “folk” recipes is that every family makes them a little differently, so if you want to make yours differently from this, feel free!

Mixed and Repacked Keeps well in refrigerator up to 7 days (that's as long as we have ever been able to keep it)

Mixed and Repacked
Keeps well in refrigerator up to 7 days (that’s as long as we have ever been able to keep it – we eat it too fast!)

 

Third Author Note: If you prefer cilantro, use that instead of parsley – we just don’t much like cilantro. Sometimes we substitute fresh basil from the herb garden Herself works on. Nice change of taste.

Set Out for Eating

Set Out for Eating

O YUMMM

O YUMMM

Poulet au Grand Marnier (or whatever)

12 May 14

[Herself sez: I’m posting this for the Ol’ Curmudgeon]

Yes, this is French in derivation. Yes, there is a reduction sauce involved. Simple and quick – rice takes 30 minutes – 20 cooking and 10 resting. If you start cooking the yard-bird at the same time everything will work out nicely. This is for 2 people – just do the math for more. Don’t faint – there is no butter here (well, not much) – just whipping cream and booze.

2 Tbs orange juice or half an orange – juiced and zested
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in pieces
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil and/or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 tsp ginger or 1-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbs Triple sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs whipping cream

If you’ve got a fresh orange, then juice and zest and set aside. Otherwise use orange juice (necessary) and dried orange peel (optional).

Cut up the chicken breast into 1” or thereabouts cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. In an iron or other good heavy skillet get the oil and/or butter hot and brown the chicken turning so as to get evenly done and browned. Set the chicken pieces aside.

In the same skillet on low heat cook the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir while cooking over low heat until translucent and soft. About 5 minutes or less. Add the orange flavored booze of choice – and pocketbook – and availability. Triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau all will work well. Triple sec is probably the most affordable. Anyway cook on a gentle boil while stirring and reduce volume by half.

When the volume is reduced add the cream and orange zest, or sprinkle some dried orange peel into the pan and boil for a minute, stirring the pan pretty often. Add the chicken and stir everything together – then simmer for a couple of minutes until everything is warmed through.

Serve over the bed of choice. Rice is especially good. Pasta is probably O.K. if that is what grabs your taste buds. Anything else that comes to mind is probably O.K., too.

Almond Fish

30 September 13
    Fish
2 fillets delicate white fish
2 Tbs soft butter
2 Tbs finely minced onion
2 Tbs finely minced celery
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 grinds fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp sweet paprika
    Almond Sauce
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs slivered blanched almonds
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs parsley flakes

You’ve heard of Trout Amandine – well – this is not it – exactly. The old amandine is a breaded and fried sort of deal. This is broiled and much more delicate. The dredged in flour or whatever and fried is called meunière by the French. It means miller’s wife and is both the way of cooking and a sauce. The cooking is à la meunière. The sauce is just browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. In other words – Southern fried with lemon butter and parsley. See – it just sounds fancy and elegant in French. Trout Amandine is just trout à la meunière with an almond crusting. Other things that work wonderfully amandine are potatoes, green beans, and asparagus – I’ll write them up one of these days.

Back on topic (maybe) – this will work nicely for just about any delicately flavored fish, either fresh or salt water type. If the fish is frozen just let it thaw about halfway or so. If it is fresh just make sure things are nicely filleted.

Mince the onion and celery. The easy way is to throw it into a small food processor and hit high speed for a minute. Then add the butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika to the onion and celery and blend together well. Spread the mix over the fillets and run under a hot broiler, about 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Broil for 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky but do not overcook. You don’t want brown, just done through (barely).

While the oven magic is happening melt the rest of the butter in your small skillet, then brown the almonds. When the butter and almonds are brown but not burned remove from the heat and add the lemon.

Plate the fish, pour the almonds and liquid over them, and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

{HERSELF SEZ: I really do prefer a fish that is crispy on the edge – or, in this case, leave mine in a few more minutes – until it is at least just a little browned!}

Moron Simple Country French Soup

21 September 13

This is Anthony Bourdain’s basic French inspired country style mushroom soup. It is about as simple and moron-proof as it can get. The only thing easier is to open a can. And believe me – this is mucho better. There are only 3 very minor gotcha’s to look for. I’ll tell you that the first and worst gotcha’ is that it has to simmer for an hour, uninterrupted. The others I’ll tell you about on the way.

There are several pluses to this – not the least of which is that it tastes delicious.

6 Tbs butter
1 each onion, thinly sliced
12 oz button mushrooms, halved (if whole) or pre-sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 sprig parsley
2 oz sherry
    salt and pepper

Slice up the onion, heat up a couple of Tbs of the butter in a 3 quart saucepan, and slowly sweat the onions until they are tender and soft. Second gotcha’ – do not let the onions brown. If you do you might as well start over again.

Add the rest of the butter and the mushrooms. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and tender. A little mushroom liquid remaining is ok, you don’t have to boil it all off.

Add chicken stock and parsley. I think Bourdain recommends flat parsley, we mostly have curly and it comes out just fine. When things come to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and let her go for an hour, uncovered. The occasional stir doesn’t hurt a thing.

Here is the third gotcha: You’ve got to puree. There are a couple of ways to go here. If you’ve got a good immersion blender – go that way. You could also use a food processor. I use a blender and the gotcha is that you had better be holding the lid down with everything you’ve got and no more than ¼ full. Unless it is a really gentle start a powerful blender is going to try to lift that lid and put soup all over the kitchen ceiling, getting you and the counter and anything else in the way for fun. Trust me – hold that lid down and do batch processing.

Return the soup to the saucepan and bring it back to a simmer. Add the sherry – do use reasonably good stuff, not cooking sherry. Turn the heat off, and salt and pepper to your taste.

For the adventurous, suicidal, or knowledgeable: Yeah, sure, you can add some or all wild mushrooms. Just don’t use stuff that is really strong other than in small amounts – this is a beautiful, delicate soup and too much stout wild taste would kill it.

Maddie’s Best Ever Nut Bread

26 May 13

This is from the wonderful girl that was my first love many (many) years ago. She is right, this is pretty good stuff.

{Herself Sez: Himself has impeccable taste. Maddie is a sweetheart and VERY married for many years! :-)}

The internet is wonderful for finding and keeping in touch with people that you haven’t seen for nearly 50 years.

660 g sugar (3 cups)
190 g Crisco, plain (1 cup)
9 g vanilla (2 tsp)
4 ea eggs, large
630 g flour (4 1/2 cups)
11 g salt (2 tsp)
10 g baking soda (2 tsp)
((420
g water (1 3/4 cups) AND <<==
40 g buttermilk powder (1/4 cups)) <<== OR
2 cups
Buttermilk
160 g chopped walnuts (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

This method assumes a decent mixer like a Kitchenaid. You can mix by hand if you like.

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Now those who have been paying attention know that I seldom use shortening, I usually use butter. This is one of the places that you do not want butter. You would not get much, if any, lift. Your nut bread would be very dense and heavy. I think the best way to handle the Crisco is to get the bars. You probably already know the best way to measure out of a can, but I’ll review for you. If you need a cup of water or butter or anything else of a like consistency, then take a two cup measure and put in a cup of water. Begin adding the shortening until the water rises to the two cup mark. Pour off the water and you have a cup of shortening. As the philosopher said: “Eureka!” Of course, it is much easier to just weigh things.

Add the buttermilk and mix briefly. Now things will be better if you have some real buttermilk. I don’t keep it around, but I do keep a good grade of baker’s buttermilk powder. You can get it from King Arthur or your grocery may carry some. Bob’s Red Mill is a decent brand. At any rate, either use the fresh buttermilk or the powder and water. You will get a slightly lighter loaf with real buttermilk.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated. Add walnuts and mix just enough to incorporate.

Pour into three greased 9x5x3 loaf pans. I do use unsalted butter for the lube, but you can use what you like.

Bake at 350°F for one hour. Cool on a rack.

Like any other nut bread, this works well naked, spread with butter, served with ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever. Also works nicely toasted. This stuff also freezes rather nicely.

{Herself Sez: Sorry about no pictures – have to take some next time Himself makes this bread!}

Leg of Lamb with Citrus Dressing

20 April 13

{{Herself Sez: With Pascha (Orthodox Easter) approaching on May 5, 2013, I’m posting (for Himself) one of his recipes for lamb – a traditional food for Pascha. Enjoy!}}

This is a rather good variation on the normal mint-sauce roast lamb. The basic roasting of a lamb leg is not something that varies a whole lot. The main difference here is the dressing. So – let’s roast a leg.

1 leg of lamb – around 3 lbs.
1 Tbs salt
1/2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small orange, sliced
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary (or about 1 sprig fresh)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grind up the salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rosemary together with a mortar and pestle to make a rough-grained paste. Then rub the lamb all over with the spice mix. Rub gently with the olive oil, don’t rub off the spices. {If the olive oil is rubbed on first, and the spices rubbed on after that, as the roast heats up, about 90% of the spicing drips off. Also, the spices don’t have a chance to “sink into” the roast, giving up their flavor to the meat.} Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large baking pan and cover with orange and lemon slices secured by toothpicks. If you want a crustier outside then don’t cover with the orange and lemon slices. Baking time will vary, depending on your taste. Essentially, do it as you normally would if you have a preference. I use a thermometer and cook in a 375° oven until it is 155° internally. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to reabsorb the juices and stabilize temperature – it will coast up to 160°, which is medium and very nice. Since I cook by temperature, not time, oven variation is not a big factor, but I do occasionally mis-time the roast and the rest of the meal. (About 25 min a pound – give or take).

Just before the roast is ready jam the dressing together. This stuff sounds weird, and the first taste is sometimes weird – but it has one of the nicest after-tastes ever. Be prepared with some mint sauce in case someone doesn’t like this – but I think that most will find it very nice.

1 zest of a small orange – or some dried orange peel
1 zest of a small lemon – or some dried lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves – or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs salt – sea salt is good
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Just dump all the dressing ingredients into a blender and make it smooth

Slice up the roast and serve it with the dressing. You can pour the dressing over the slices or serve it on the side in small bowls for dipping. I think you will enjoy this.


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