Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Smoked Salmon in Puff Pastry

Our first "big" snow was forecast for the weekend.  My dilemma was whether to stock up or keep using up what was on hand.  If you recall, I started this before Christmas and am still working my way through various items that have been on the shelf or in the freezer for quite a while.  So, the decision was made to just put fresh vegetables, fruit, milk and eggs on the grocery list.  Well, the snow amounted to less than an inch.  While I'm o.k. with that, we need more moisture before spring.

Those of you who are digging out in New England, I feel your pain--well, The Baker feels your pain since he's the one who shovels.  I hope you are all safe and warm.

This recipe came about when a box of puff pastry was unearthed in the freezer.  There was a bit of smoked salmon (not lox) left over from another dinner and, tucked in the crisper drawer, some fresh dill that came to be there from an egg salad craving a few days back.  I had to use that expensive dill that was plucked, not from the garden, but from the grocery store.

For the puff pastry shells, I used the directions on the box.  The salmon filling could be played around with a bit.  I'll certainly be making this again when dill comes back to the garden.  It is served at room temperature (except for the sour cream) and will make an ideal luncheon entrée in the summer.

Smoked Salmon in Puff Pastry Shells

17 ounces slightly defrosted puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into small dice
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice
2 Tbsp red onion finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp sour cream

Makes 8 appetizer servings or four entree servings.

1.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Smooth the pastry out.  Using a 4 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds.  Arrange the rounds on 2 parchment-covered baking sheets and space the rounds an inch apart.  Use a 3 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut rounds inside the larger rounds.  Leave them in place.  As they bake, "walls" will form creating a shallow "bowl" for the salmon.  Brush the dough with the egg.  Bake, one baking sheet at a time, until golden brown and puffed.  This will take about 12 minutes.
2.  Combine the salmon, cucumber, red onion, capers, dill and lime juice in a mixing bowl; gently mix together.  Carefully flatten the interior rounds of the baked pastry. Divide the salmon mixture evenly among the rounds.  Garnish with a dollop of the sour cream.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Just Plain Chili

If ever there was a day for a steaming bowl of chili, today is the day.  This morning, Andrew greeted me with a cup of coffee and news that the downstair's furnace is out.  Ugh!  We have both furnaces checked and serviced every autumn to try and prevent such an occurrence.  The fireplace and a space heater will have to keep us warm until a technician can come out.

This chili "guide" is basically my mother's.  It comes from my memory because she rarely wrote any recipe down.  Mother used green bell peppers but Andrew doesn't like them so I use red, orange or yellow--sometimes all three.  Mother used garlic powder.  In fact, I never saw fresh garlic in her kitchen.  She didn't like her chili to be too thick.  Neither do I.  I like to add corn if I have it.  Add more chili and cumin if you like.  Or less.  The recipe is very adaptable and very tasty.

Now to go dig out another pair of socks!!

Just Plain Chili serves 6 to 8

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, Walla Walla if possible)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
3 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 pounds ground chuck
28 oz can diced tomatoes
14 ounce can tomato sauce
1 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans and a l5 ounce can of pink kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
Salt and papper to taste

Toppings:  Seeded and chopped jalapeños, grated cheddar and/or Monterrey Jack cheese, sliced green onions, chopped avocados, fritos and sour cream.

1.  Heat in the oil in a large, heavy pan.  Add the onions and bell pepper and stir frequently until the onions are opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
2.  Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin.  Stir for one minute.  Add the ground chuck, breaking up and stirring until the meat is lightly browned, about five minutes.
3.  Add the tomatoes and their juice, tomato sauce and the beans.  Salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes.
5.  Cool and refrigerate overnight if possible.  This is a dish that improves when reheated.
6.  Serve in heated bowls and pass the toppings.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Let's see, I'm about a week post hot dog and still enjoying the memory.  I do believe that The Baker enjoyed his as well.  On that hunch, I packaged the remaining four and froze them  for both of us to savor another lunch time.  Maybe I'll even make some cole slaw to add to the Chicago-style fixings.  I might even make some fries.

It would be remiss of me not to share my real birthday dinner with you.  While I sipped a glass of Pinot Grigio and watched the news, Andrew banged bustled around the kitchen preparing a feast.  He said it was a very easy meal.  While the potato was baking (and, he's mastered the art of preparing that potato with a soft, creamy inside and a crisp skin on the outside), he prepared a salad and the star of the meal--a perfectly cooked filet mignon.  Topped with a mushroom wine sauce, it was delicious.

I might mention to him that this would be a perfect Valentine's dinner.  Or maybe I should take that idea and prepare it for him.  What do you think?

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce inspired by the Chicago Tribune
Serves two

2 filet mignon steaks, about 6 ounces each, brushed with canola oil and lightly salt and pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil for pan
1 Tbsp butter
6 ounces sliced baby portabellos  (or your choice)
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

1.  Turn the oven to 500.  Place a well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven while it is preheating.  When oven is preheated, remove the pan to a burner turned on high.  Add a tablespoon of canola oil to the pan.  Add the steaks and cook for one minute on each side.   Place the skillet back in the oven for 6 minutes, turning the steaks after three minutes.  Remove from oven and placed steaks on a warm platter.  Cover and let rest while making the sauce.
2.  Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat; add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they are golden brown--about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
3.  Pour the wine into the pan, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring to deglaze the pan.  Stir in the beef broth.  Cook until the sauce is reduced by 1/2 and is syrupy.  This will take about five minutes.  Lower the heat and stir in the cream.  Return the mushrooms to the sauce and cook for another minute.  Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Didn't Eat Cake!

I had a very nice birthday.
After getting a few necessary chores out of the way,
I decided to pamper myself the rest of the day.

One book was finished and another one started.

Two dear friends called to chat.

Both boys phoned as well--the highlight of my day!

The Baker prepared a filet
smothered in a mushroom wine sauce.

I still want a hot dog!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Birthday Hot Dogs

When one has a winter birthday, celebrating long and well is important.  This year, I decided to start a little early and enjoy a rare treat on the eve of my birthday.  I wanted a hot dog.  One with all the trimmings a la Chicago style.  Hot dogs haven't been on our menu in years.  When the boys were little, we'd have the occasional hot dog lunch.  The Baker, however, isn't fond of "fillers", nitrates and nitrites.  So, I planned this far enough ahead to order all natural hot dogs from here.

You're right!  These are not hot dogs.  They are what I had for my birthday eve dinner though.  I know you think The Baker and I are on the same culinary wavelength.  Not always!  I asked him to pick up hot dog buns at the store.  Just regular hot dog buns.  He came home with Portuguese rolls.  Big, bready rolls.  When I whined lovingly stated that they wouldn't do, he explained to me how they could be cut and hollowed out a bit and..... .  No, they just wouldn't do.  The fresh hot dogs are now in the freezer for another day.  I can't wait to see what surprise dinner he will cook up for my actual birthday today.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter Reads

The temperatures are now in single digits--sometimes plus and sometimes minus.  I have long been at peace with winter.  I have long been at peace with all the seasons.  Less so with summer.  I have, however, learned to tolerate the heat and humidity as long as the air conditioning is working well.

I have a shelf of books waiting to be read.

These are first up.

Bespotted by Linda Gray Sexton
Her family's love affair with 
thirty-eight dalmatians.
(Not all at once!!)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon
I've hoarded this book since it was published!!

Providence & Rhode Island Chef's Table
Thanks Stefan and Elyssa!
We're picking out where we want to dine next visit.

A Kitchen in France
Mimi Thorisson's beautiful new cookbook.
The photography alone is worth spending an afternoon with.

As for the heavy duty reading, I'll just peruse the daily newspapers for now.  

Hope you all have some good reads for winter.