Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cantal

Another no-recipe recipe – some night cooking, which is something I do quite often, for work lunches for the week. I would have liked to have some cream for this, but to be honest, I managed pretty well with out it. Although, some mascarpone might have been excellent. D&D_2073

I was just trying to make something that I would like with what I had on hand and here is how it went. Again not going to the grocery store at this point in the evening – which was about 11pm, or so.

8 ozs penne pasta – one of my favorite pasta shapes – always use this for mac n cheese*
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (or a shallot?)
8.5 ozs sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, but drained (save the oil!)
8 ozs Cantal cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grated
zest of lemon
Parmesan, finely grated

In a big pot, heat water to boiling with a really big handful of kosher salt. Cook penne until al dente.

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat and add onions and saute until soft, but not browned in any way.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for a bit, just to make sure they are really soft – this is key.

Add the cooked pasta and blend together. Remove from heat and add the Cantal, a semi-hard cheese from France that is slightly similar to a Cheddar. Specifically from Auvergne region of central France. Fancy French Cheese – always good.

Once the cheese is all melty, serve in a bowl with a bit of lemon zest (always a good thing with a cheesy pasta in my opinion) and a little bit of fresh Parmesan for that salty goodness.  The ratios are yours to decide.

This made great leftover lunches for about a week. And the Boy made a strange version of it for dinner one night – with eggs. I’m still not sure I understand that at all.

*no elbows for me.

Butter / Egg Usage – September 2016

8 September 2016 – Rice Krispie Treats – 3 Tbs – regular plain old rice krispie treats that I love.

9 September 2016 – Brickle Bits of Snicks – 8 Tbs / 2 large eggs – for Chad.

dd_156222 September 2016 – Rice Krispie Treats with brown butter, vanilla, and sea salt – 4 Tbs

23 September 2016 – Apple Cake – 2 large eggs

Sad, sad month of baking/cooking. Sigh. Still damn hot outside. That is our life, but I will be wearing shorts a lot longer than most of you. Just saying.

Cous Cous Salad

Well, I am doing it … again. Making the same recipes over and over because I like them. That said, it does not make for new and exciting things for this blog, but it is true to life and to me that is pretty important. This is how I cook. I make things that make me and mine happy – or sometimes, just me, happy. That is the case with this recipe. It is a combination of flavors that I love. You will also find it in the Asparagus, Red Onion, Orange Juice, White Wine butter sauce pasta. Red onions and orange juice are really amazing together.

It kind of bugs me (no, really bugs me) that I cannot find the source for this recipe – google –  can you not fix this?  Again, another recipe from my vegetarian decade and I so thought this was from The Greens Cook Book, but, alas, no. Still one of my favorite cook books.D&D_1556

1 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sultanas (or just raisins in this case)
1 medium red onion, sliced into half circles
red wine vinegar – or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans (or walnuts whatever you have)
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 cup cous cous*
1 Tbs canola oil

In a dry pan, heat nuts until they are just fragrant and slightly toasted. Remove from heat. In a small pot heat water to boil and place red onion in a heat-proof bowl. Add the hot water to the red onions for a few minutes and drain. Set aside and splash with red wine vinegar. Heat orange juice in a pot over medium heat and add sultanas. Add cous cous to the  orange juice mixture and add canola oil. Cover the pot with the lid to steam. Give it a few minutes and then fluff with a fork. Add in scallions, nuts, and red onions (w/the vinegar).  This is pretty damn amazing.

This salad, in my opinion, is great at room temperature and not bad on the cold side either. The vinegar pickles the onions and makes them crunchy and that is just lovely with the cous cous and the soft sultanas and crunchy nuts.

* I have tried this with Israeli cous cous, but prefer the Italian version – smaller, in this case, is better in my opinion.

Very Special Rice Krispie Treats

I defy anyone to not like a home-made rice krispie treat. They are great, drop dead simple, and make people happy. Those of us who bake/cook do it to make people in our lives happy. These also make me happy – so a total score!dd_1562

I had an accident once with rice krispie treats. It was probably common enough, but it made for a major advancement in my recipe. I had put my unsalted butter in a sauce pan to melt before adding the (mini) marshmallows and was not paying attention. Unbeknowst to me, I had created a light version of brown butter but went ahead with the recipe – this, people, is a game changer. No shit. Game Changer. It gives the treats a nuttiness that is simply amazing.

So then I started to think what else could I do to make these simple treat special? Well, let’s see – marshmallows are vanilla flavored so why not a bit of vanilla extract while we’re doing this – gild that damn lily. Then I think I had one of the best thoughts lately (maybe ever). What does sweet food love more than salt? Um, nothing. So after the treats were in the pan, I sprinkled them with Maldon salt. Holy Hell. Yup.

So here are the particulars … based on memory because I just kind of winged it.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz-ish bag of mini marshmallows
1 Tbs vanilla extract (the really stuff, please)
5 cups rice cereal (snap, crackle, and pop, stuff – Publix brand works really well)
2 tsp Maldon salt – or your choice of sea salt, something flaky though

Spray a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray and set aside. Melt butter in a light colored sauce pan that way you can see when it starts to get just a bit brown. Add the marshmallows and stir to start melting. When you feel in the mood add in the vanilla. Once marshmallows are melted, stir in the rice cereal and coat with marshmallows.

Dump marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and using wet hands smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the pan with Maldon salt.

Then – eat for breakfast because you know all the cool kids are doing it.

I have a bundt pan problem. There I said it.

I love a good pound cake. I have quite a few favorites in this category: a sour cream one, a cream cheese one, a lemon buttermilk one. Yes, I just could go on and on, I am Southern after all.

I think pound cake is a favorite for me because this is one of the few desserts the the MotH* likes. It is simple, slightly sweet, but not too sweet, and I think that appeals to him. It does not hurt that the Boy is a big fan too, as am I.

Funny, my mom used to make pound cake (or as my paternal grandmother would call plain cake)** and toast it in the toaster oven and then smear it with peanut butter. Not something I would do, no matter how much I love some peanut butter, but I understand the idea. Crunchy cake with goopy peanut butter. To each her own.

So in the next few posts, I’ll share my favorite pound cake recipes and my favorite bundt pans as well. They really are, in my opinion, works of art. And the ones I order are all Made in America. Pretty cool, right? Yes, it is Nordic Wear and it is pretty damn cool.

My first non-traditional bundt pan is one that a great friend got for me ages ago – from William-Sonoma – which I could never had afforded at that time. Since my degrees were in Art History and I focused on 17th-century French Chateaus and 18th-century British Country Houses, I had a thing for the Fleur-de-lis.dd_1524 Living here lots of people mistake my fleur-de-lis thing for a support of New Orleans, and most of the time I do not bother to correct people and I do love New Orleans a lot. But the people that know me – really know me – understand the origin of this symbol for me. And my dearest friend bought this bundt pan for me – and shared her sour cream pound cake recipe with me. We are similar in that family recipes are very important and Southern Living magazine has produced some of our favorite things to make (see: Cranberry Relish).

*Man of the House.

** I have made my grandmother’s Plain Cake recipe as an adult and it was pretty much disappointing. Just not inspiring in the least. That said, she made the most amazing fried apple pies. Yes, this conversation will continue.

 

 

Cous Cous Salad

Yep, I am so back to my vegetarian days with this recipe. I think that making the orange juice, white wine, butter sauce pasta makes me crave this too. So many similar ingredients and flavors. Although it is interesting that I have not sized this recipe down for just me and therefore I eat it for breakfast and/or lunch for about a week. Now, I use local pecans because the are just so sweet. I know I have written about this before but Renfroe’s pecans are … I am at a loss. They are stupidly, amazing, dumbly, good. I guess because I grew up with pecans from Georgia and did not understand how the season worked, nor how to store them in between that I have learned a lot. Since moving to Pensacola, I now know how local pecans work. It is a charmed world to have such amazing fresh pecans.  Once again – spoiled.

D&D_15561 cup orange juice
1/3 cup raisins or sultanas – I prefer sultanas, but will deal with raisins, easily.
1 red onion minced
1/2 cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), salted
3 scallions, diced
1 cup Cous Cous – (not israeli couscous – I have tried, but not my favorite)
Red wine vinegar
1 Tbs Canola oil

Heat orange juice over low heat until bubbly. Add raisins or sultanas and let simmer until raisins are soft. Heat a small saucepan with water to boil. Add red onions and boil for just a minute and a half. Remove from water into a bowl and cover with red wine vinegar to soak until you are finished with everything else.

Add Cous Cous to orange juice with Canola oil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand until orange juice is absorbed.

Toast pecans in a skillet with some kosher salt until fragrant. Just about a minute on medium heat.  Dice scallions. Drain red onions. Fluff Cous Cous with a fork and add red onions, pecans, and scallions.

I think next time some blanched asparagus would be a great addition. Or maybe some thawed frozen artichoke hearts – just make it a bit more substantial.

I think this is my goal – to take the things I make over and over again and develop them further, to add another dimension to them. I already have a few ideas for this – may be great – may be an random failure, but it is worth a shot. At least to me.

Maybe some salty cheese. Will have to think about that.

Chicken Salad – one of my favorite things

I seem to get into a mood for chicken salad every so often. It really is kind of dead simple, but it takes, to my mind, a bit of finesse.

I poach the chicken breasts in just plain water. I could do it with salt, peppercorns, and a bay leaf or so, but if I do that I cannot share the chicken water with the pups. I would never deny them one of their favorite things – chicken water. It is amazing how fast they (or I should say Hood) realize what I am up to. I think it takes about a nano-second. Top it off with hard boiling some eggs and dogs just about lose their minds. It is kind of fun. To make your dogs so happy, by doing something that makes you happy too. I will not wax on about how I want another German Shepherd Dog at this point, but I really really do want another. He would never be Duke, but …. yep, I will just stop right now.

D&D_1538

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No GSD will ever be better than my Big Dog. I miss you.

Back to chicken salad. I know you can make it with rotisserie chicken, but I am old school and like a poached chicken in this application. That along with a couple of hard boiled eggs*, a shallot, and some (peeled) celery. Of course Duke’s mayonnaise – a requirement in the South, a good pinch of salt and some pepper, and maybe a little lemon juice, just to brighten things up a bit. Then all you need is some fresh white bread spread with a little more Duke’s mayonnaise, and maybe another pinch of salt. That is amazing lunch.

MotH’s mom makes chicken salad with grapes and nuts and I do so love her for that, but I know the MotH and the Boy would just boycott that, even though it would be great for me. And it usually is – we share chicken salad and boiled collards. The boys just do not get it.

* The easiest way to make an excellent hard boiled egg that is still lovely (read: not green around the edge), is this: Put eggs in a pot, cover with about an inch of water and bring to a rocking boil. Then remove them from the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let sit for 13 minutes and you really have just about the best boiled eggs there are – just cover with cold water and crack them a bit against the pot and then shell. There it is – just make sure you have at least a couple for your dogs.