Asparagus Mushroom Pasta w/Pecorino

I just keep modifying this recipe with the hopes of perfection, but to be honest since it includes two of my favorite vegetables, asparagus and mushrooms, along with some melty cheese and some salty cheese, it starts out pretty far ahead of the game.

D&D_1340_iPhoneThis is also great left over for lunch, but you must heat it very slowly in the microwave and stir very often or heat up the oven feature on the toasted oven and put it in there to reheat. Otherwise, the sauce breaks – it still tastes good, but it is not the same.

olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*

8 ozs penne pasta
1 pound asparagus,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil and then add garlic and cook over low heat while garlic softens and flavors the oil/butter. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté on medium until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low. then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables. Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and then add a handful of freshly grated Pecorino cheese and stir again.D&D_2242

Serve with extra Pecorino and more lemon wedges for serving.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination.

When I know I am making this dish, or one similar, I usually cook the asparagus/pasta one day, typically when I’m cooking pasta for something else too. Then the bag of pasta/asparagus is ready when I’m ready for pasta. I drop in in a colander and run very hot water over it for a minute or two and let drain completely. D&D_1318

Modified several times based on a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Pecan Pie – necessary for Thanksgiving

In my family, you always got what you wanted for your birthday meal. That included dessert. In my case it was tacos with corn tortillas and all the fixing and then … guess it, and it makes to no sense at all – pecan pie. I think I might have been a very strange person when you get right down to it. Yeah, I was, and still am, strange. But at this point in life I really do not care anymore.

D&D_2326I have made the recipe for at least five years and possibly more, but I like the idea of making the custard on the stovetop before filling the crust. It is a little bit of extra security in making a pie. The custard is half way there and then you bake – lovely when it is all said and done. And there is the other requirement – the Boy always wants this for Thanksgiving and to be honest, I cannot blame him, because I do too.

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs molasses
4 Tbs unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted – Renfroes
1 – 9 inch unbaked pie shell, chilled in the pie plate for 30 minutes*

Adjust oven rack to second-lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a sauce pan, heat syrup, brown sugar, cream, and molasses oven medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter and salt and then whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.

Take pie pan out of the fridge and put the pecans in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and place in oven, but immediately reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center is slightly jiggly, somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes. Cool pie on a cooling rack for at least and hour and then set in the fridge for at least 3 hours more, but a day would be better. Bring to room temperature before slicing and serving.

D&D_2342This is lovely gooey in a non cloying way – I think it is the lack of corn syrup. Maple and molasses bring so much depth to the pie. Really do not think I will ever do anything else but this.

*Used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and it worked really well (need to figure out what to do with the other one, hm?). Just make sure you put it in a glass pie pan (Anchor) and put it in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Makes a difference. Oh, and do chill it for 30 minutes. Again, makes a difference.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country or whatever – why do they need two names after all. It is just confusing. At least to my little blonde self.

22 November 2017

Cranberry Relish

I really feel like I have been making this for 20-something years, and when I get right down to – that’s not too far off the mark. Yikes. How old am I? Well the other option is not being older (ie: dead), so I will take what I can get. More Cranberry Relish for me and my friends. And not being dead …D&D_2286

I grew up with the cranberry sauce in a can – with the funny little ridges. And do not get me wrong, I loved that stuff. No, really loved it, but this recipe was just such a lucky, fortunate fluke – sometimes you just have to take the wins where you can get them.

So many people think, ugh – horseradish, but honestly. Give it a go – even if you only do a half recipe while the fresh cranberries are on sale (at the Publix). You might just find a new favorite.

Other advantages – keeps well in the fridge for months; is excellent with other roasted meats, esp. chicken and pork; and amazingly good on the obligatory leftover turkey sandwich on white bread with bleu cheese dressing (miss you, Walt). Oh, and good on a cheese plate as well – sweet and sour with a little heat from the horseradish. I have a friend that I make this for that uses it on a peanut butter and “jelly” sandwich. O…kay. I will never do that but I am glad he does and enjoys it. To each his own.

How do I explain the cloves? This recipe is the only reason I buy ground cloves.
Definition – “the dried flower bud of a tropical tree, Syzygium aromaticum, of the myrtle family.” Means nothing, thank you dictionary.com. Oh, and “Food Lover’s Companion,” my go to food bible – again – thanks for nothing. Just spend the money and get the tiny jar of ground cloves. It is kind of like allspice in way – hard to explain, complex, but in this case, very necessary.

2 packages (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish, just drain it a bit
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Rinse cranberries, removing any that seem suspect. Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and mix until the cranberries start to burst. Simmer for a bit. Let cool completely. Mix in the horseradish and the cloves. Refrigerate.  This will keep for months. And that is an excellent thing. Because you never know when you are going to need it. Yes, need it.

Always check the horseradish and cloves before making. Usually, this is when I buy horseradish and cloves for the year. Cloves keep a little better, but you might need to add more than usual, but I have learned my lesson with the horseradish. Unless you have access to a horseradish root (lucky devil), get the freshest prepared horseradish you can – if it somewhere close to local – all the better. This is the time of year, I use horseradish a lot.

11 November 2017 – appetizer potluck at work for sweet potato ham biscuits

D&D_136318 November 2017 – gifts – Sandy, Traci, Joyce, Doug, Tony. Elaine, Josh … etc.

20 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Cranberries on sale – at the Publix right now – 2 packages for $3. Excellent. I will just keep making this for the next month for sure. There is never enough cranberry relish and never enough friends to share it with.

D&D_1389_iPhone

Me taking pictures again. Not horrible, but not great either. Rhino in the bkgd.

Source: Since 1998 or so – Southern Living, I think, or maybe not. Who knows at this point, and does it really matter if you’ve been doing it for almost twenty years?

Carrot & Raisin Salad

I have never made this for Thanksgiving, ever. I made it this because I love it even though I know neither the Boy nor the MotH likes it at all – their loss, more for me. So I made it because there would be other family members at Thanksgiving in case someone other than me might like it too. I do think that worked.

D&D_2329These are random thoughts:

I eat carrot/raisin salad for breakfast – just a couple of days in the fridge and this really is excellent. It keeps so much better than cole slaw. Cole slaw need to be made the day you are eating it and then just toss it out. That is not to say you cannot use the cole slaw mix for days and days, you just have to dress it the day you are going to eat it. This works really well, especially when serving bbq pork or sloppy joes.

Oh, and yes, breakfast because apparently I have to eat meals now. Ugh.

I have no recipe for carrot & raisin salad* – same as with cole slaw.  Let me try to explain. I peel and grate a 1 pound bag of carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Put that in a bowl. Add golden raisins – sultanas, and decided if I need more raisins. Then get out the Duke’s mayonnaise. This is where you must be careful. Too much mayo will make just a hot mess. So add the Duke’s judiciously. A little at a time – a little kosher salt now would be a good thing. Then let the whole damn mess sit refrigerated overnight and decide if you need to add something more. In my case, a couple of days later the salad needed a little more (very little) mayonnaise. Made the difference in my breakfast this week. Indeed.

Carrot Raisin Salad is always for my brother’s birthday. That’s saying a lot. I’ve said this before, probably lots, but for our birthdays growing up you got your favorite meal for your birthday. My brother’s favorite was roast beef with rice and gravy and carrot & raisin salad. Maybe it was the roast beef I made the week before Thanksgiving that made this happen, but no matter what this was a really good treat for me and the others that recognized this** on the Thanksgiving buffet.

Who writes about carrot & raisin salad? No body but me.

*Why is it called a salad – it’s like a carrot slaw with sultanas. Oh, and pineapple-ly things will never, ever, be involved in carrot/raisin salad. Ugh – just so wrong. Yes, I have very strong opinions about food. I think we all do. Well, even if we all don’t, I still do.

**Yes, it was all of us old-ish people, but they enjoyed it. Me, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law’s mother, and I think my brother-in-law too. Yes, I was looking at plates. Based on what I saw, I think they liked it.

Either way, a great breakfast for a few days at the office.

Sweet Potato Biscuits – a cautionary tale

Yes. It’s that time of year, again. Sweet potatoes biscuits with ham, horseradish cream, and cranberry relish. Another Thanksgiving and a new version of a sweet potato biscuit. I am still searching for some illusive thing in the sweet potato biscuit department. Will I ever find it? Not sure, but I will not stop looking until I am very satisfied with what I am baking.

Tried a new recipe – did not work, um, at all.
Source: Chowhound. Don’t make this recipe. Just saying. 8 November 2017

I am sorry. I am not satisfied. These were blah. I did like the idea of the grated frozen butter though but I am thinking I am going back to my recipe from Foster’s Market. Lord I loved that place. Maybe Sara Foster would let me open one here it the best part of Florida which is, by the way, just Lower Alabama. This is LA.

D&D_1363So here is my go-to so far. And what I will make this weekend for our Friends-giving pot luck appetizer lunch on Monday. Thank goodness is we have a three day weekend, because otherwise this would never happen especially since I have to plan for way more food than I may never make.

Sweet Potato Biscuits (easy recipe to half)

5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato – usually 1 sweet potato (roasted)
2 Tbsp. salted European butter, melted – spend the little bit extra.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato in a large measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over work this – I think it effects the rise.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once (Do not twist cutter – this is way more important than you may think, but biscuits are a bit fussy about things like this – just don’t do it. The won’t rise well if you twist.).* Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted (salted) butter – do this, yes. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Source: Foster’s Market – Foster’s is on the 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. It is a fanciful place that does so many things well. I miss it greatly, but I loved going there. Sara Foster is gifted in a way not many people are and it was a great joy to be able to frequent the shop/restaurant/coffee shop/whatever. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is the ONLY signed cookbook I have. Ms. Foster is charming, engaging, and lovely.

Made a half recipe this time, excellent as always.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits for years – a dozen or so, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two. Both recipes are now in my Thanksgiving binder, so that means something

*This year, did not bother with biscuit cutters at all and just used my # 30 disher and it worked out really well as a drop biscuit. Yeah, so much easier than rolling and cutting and whatnot. Not quite as uniform, but tasty all the same.

BBQ Braised Beef Sandwiches

This is a Cooking Light recipe from 2005 (I think). I have modified it a bit, kind of a lot, but the flavors work really well. It makes a great sandwich. And great leftovers and if you are lucky there will be some to put in the freezer for a few weeks from now and a very easy dinner – or lunch.D&D_2215

1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs McCormick Montreal blend (can’t say enough good things about this)
15 ozs can beef broth, low sodium
4 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 cup sweet hickory barbecue sauce (Bull’s Eye)
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
~~~
Rolls – French Hamburger Buns
Slaw (homemade) – see below

In a large cold pot, put 2 Tbs of oil and add sliced onions and garlic cloves. Heat on low until onions are soft but not browned. Add McCormick Montreal blend, beef broth and chuck roast (cutting it in half if necessary). It does not look like enough liquid, but we are braising people. Not boiling. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover. Simmer three hours, turning the meat every half an hour or so. This is rather forgiving.

When the beef is just falling apart, remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Shred with forks and add barbecue sauce and cranberry sauce and stir well to combine. Heat over low until heated through.

Serve on buns, or cool and refrigerate for the next day (good idea!).

Okay – now for cole slaw. Another no recipe recipe – sorry – sometimes this is just the way I cook.

Equal parts Duke’s mayonnaise and sour cream – a pinch of salt, a couple grinds of black pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Taste. Then add enough sugar to balance the vinegar – this is a total personal preference thing. Now here is where things get interesting. I always make the dressing first and then add in enough cole slaw mixture to make it – not sure how to word this – not too soupy and not to dry. Is that helpful? I think not.

D&D_2208It is, however, the way my mom made cole slaw and it works for me. Although I purchase cole slaw mix instead of shaving a whole cabbage, like my mom did. I do tend to make a bunch of small batches of slaw instead of a big bowl because, to my mind, cole slaw gets messy after a day or so. By using a small bowl, it helps with proportions and makes enough for a day or two – then you can do it all again and make more later in the week.

30 October 2017