Serrano Steak: A Super Simple Savory Serving

Sorry for my excessive use of the s words, but this recipe was stupendous and extremely simple!

Now that I’m taking some time off for the summer and have time to cook, I’m getting more Hello Fresh boxes.  We had this recipe tonight and it was absolutely delightful.  I wanted to share it with you.

Worried about whether beef is good for you or not?  Check out this post and learn all about the health benefits of beef!

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Cheesecake

cheesecake-a-symbol-of-single-lifeMy mother is in her late 70’s and has dementia.  As a result of her poor memory, she forgets to eat and has lost a lot of weight over the years.  There’s one thing she loves, and that’s cheesecake.  So, I recently made one for her to get some calories down her throat!  If you love cheesecake, I’m going to share the recipe I used in case you’d like to try it.

Cheesecake varieties are endless–and everyone seems to think they have the best recipe.  I personally like the recipe supplied by Emeril Lagasse on www.foodnetwork.com.  It’s a good basic cheesecake that you can do other things with if you so desire.   It goes like this:
Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 1/2 cups
  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from inside of pod and reserved
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. In a mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and mix well. Press onto bottom of springform pan and bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. When completely cooled, butter the sides of the pan.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups sugar, zests, and vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Add the flour, then the eggs and yolks 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream, vanilla bean seeds, and bourbon and mix until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Wrap the pan in foil and place in a roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer cake to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate cake overnight before serving.

Variation

I was craving a fruity cheesecake when I made this one so I made a raspberry coulee to swirl in the batter before baking.  You could do the same thing with mango, blueberry, or any other fruit you have on hand.  I found the recipe for coulee on another website:

Take 6 ounces of raspberries and puree them.  Strain out the seeds and solids, and to the strained liquid add 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Heat over low heat until sugar has melted and sauce has thickened.  Let it cool.

Drizzle on top of the cheesecake batter, then drag a toothpick or skewer through it to make the “swirl” effect.  Then bake as directed.

Seafood Stew

I have a date Thursday.  My first one off of eHarmony.com   I will let you know how it goes.  Meanwhile Ib6be7992406b3473a910e5b45d149629 have done nothing much else but celebrate my birthday and cook.  I’ve already told you about the steak birthday dinner, but I haven’t told you about the special dinner I made for just me and my son on the day after my birthday:  seafood stew.  Oh my was it good on a cold windy wintery day!

I found the recipe on Pinterest and something about it just spoke to me.  Two things really got to me about it.  One is that I love shrimp, especially locally-caught fresh shrimp.  And those are plentiful around eastern North Carolina.  (This time of year they are “fresh frozen” but they are still pretty damned good.)  The other thing was that I had bought some seafood stock concentrate from my favorite little gourmet shop, Alex & Brett.  It’s the brand that sells on Amazon for about $6 per package (click here to see the most recent listing).  That’s a lot of cost for four cups of stock, but, I figured we were worth it.

The recipe is here, from FeastingAtHome.com, on my Pinterest board for shrimp recipes.   I’ll repeat it for you here and as with all things, I modified it a little to suit my tastes.  Here are the ingredients:

  • 8 oz chorizo 
  • 2 cups finely diced fennel ( one large bulb) 
  • 1 cup finely diced onion ( half a large onion) 
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly diced 
  • 2 T tomato paste 
  • 1 C dry white wine 
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock ( or a good fish stock) 
  • 1 tsp fish sauce ( leave out if using fish stock) 
  • 2 medium tomatoes- diced
  •  8 oz firm fish like halibut, talapia, mahi mahi, or salmon 
  • 1 lb mussels ( frozen are OK, but get fresh if you can)
  • 1 lb large prawns, raw, peeled and de-veined 
  • cracked pepper 
  • 1/3 C chopped flat leaf parsley 
  • 1 lemon  
  • salt if necessary 
  • 2 T olive oil 
  • Crusty Bread

Instructions:
In a large heavy bottom deep skillet or Dutch oven, brown chorizo in a little olive oil. (Remove from casing and break up or crumble into small bite size pieces). Once browned, set aside. Pour off the fat, wipe out skillet with paper towel.

In same skillet, heat 2 T olive oil on med high heat. Add fennel, stirring often for about 3 minutes. Add onion, turn heat down to med and saute both until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts turn golden. Add tomato paste. Turn heat up to high, constantly stirring, until paste darkens, about 3 more minutes. You are basically frying the paste to deepen the flavor of the dish.

Add white wine and turn heat down to medium high, stirring until it mostly evaporates, about 1-2 minutes. Add chicken Stock, tomatoes, browned chorizo, and fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, taste for salt. Add cracked pepper. Add fish, simmer a couple minutes and add prawns, simmer a couple minutes, then add mussels. Remember the larger the prawns or mussels or fish pieces the longer they take to cook, so look at all your seafood ingredients and determine which will take the longest to cook, putting them in first.

Finish with a squeeze of a half a lemon and sprinkle generously with flat leaf parsley.   Serve with crusty bread.

My Modifications

Well I never follow the recipe, duh!  So here’s what I changed:

  • No fish and no mussels.  I don’t like most fish and I didn’t have access to fresh mussels.  I just used prawns and fresh clams (2 dozen clams, and a pound of prawns).  Truthfully I could have done without the clams and just been happy with shrimp, though!  Next time I think I will try to get my hands on some crab claws to go in this little concoction.
  • I went a little heavy on the wine because I had a bottle that was half gone and it was a little more than a cup.  I probably used 2 cups instead of one.  It was <hiccup> really good.  But seriously, one cup by itself was probably enough and tasted better.
  • I used sour dough bread.  I sliced it pretty thin, brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled with some fresh minced parsley flakes.  I baked it at 350 degrees until it was crunchy like a crouton and served it for dipping in the broth.

I have to give credit to the creator of this recipe.  It is really simple but inspired and very rich tasting.  I do think that expensive seafood stock helped, because it had a taste I’ve never experienced using regular old chicken stock.  I will definitely make it again!

My Favorite Tortilla Soup

Well there’s a polar vortex swirling around the country and that means it’s soup time at my house!  My favorite and most requested creation is chicken tortilla soup.  I simply love tortilla-soup-wmthis comfort food and I’m going to share my recipe with you today.  It’s easy, it’s filling, and it’s super delicious!

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced very fine
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, diced fine
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced fine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of whole coriander seed or 1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon of whole cumin seed or 1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, divided in half.  Finely chop the leaves from one half and leave the other half in tact.
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken thighs, diced into small pieces and sprinkled with salt and pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • cheese of your choice (crumbled queso fresco is great, feta works, and shredded monterey jack is another good choice)
  • sour cream
  • corn tortillas, cut into 1/2″ wide strips
  • canola oil

Steps

  • In a large stock pot heat a generous portion of olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions with a teaspoon of salt until they start to caramelize.
  • Add the garlic and stir constantly to keep the garlic from burning.  Add the peppers, and continue stirring constantly until the peppers and garlic are fragrant.
  • Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes (for a smoother soup, puree the tomatoes before adding them to the soup).
  • Turn the heat to high and get it boiling!
  • While the soup is heating up, in a frying pan on low heat toast the whole cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant.  Grind them up fine with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.  If you are using ground spices skip this step.
  • Add the spices to the soup.
  • Add the juice of one lime to the soup.
  • Add the finely chopped cilantro leaves.
  • Add the diced chicken.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and continue simmering for at least an hour.
  • While the soup is simmering, heat about 1/2″ of canola oil in a frying pan and deep fry the tortilla strips.  See my previous post on making tortilla chips.
  • Taste the soup again and again to make sure there is adequate seasoning.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls.  Sprinkle with the tortilla strips.  Garnish with cilantro, cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with more chips and the lime wedges on the side.   Other optional garnishes:  avocado chunks or slices; diced jalapeno peppers for additional heat

 

Sexier Chicken….

I ended up with a bunch of boneless chicken thighs that needed to be cooked before I leave town.  I also needed to make my son some meals to eat in my absence.  We had so much fun last week eating “Sexy Chicken.”  And thus comes my inspiration for “Sexier Chicken.”

I have a wonderful book called The Flavor Bible.  It explains which flavors go well with other flavors.  I used it for inspiration and came up with this little ditty that has turned out quite delicious…

  • 10 to 12 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • Ancho chili powder
  • Kosher salt and ground back pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Liberally season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Ancho chili powder is not really “hot” so seriously, be LIBERAL with this!

Bring 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil up to medium high heat in a 12″ skillet then sear the chicken thighs 4 or 5 at a time.  Sear thoroughly just until golden brown on both sides.  Remove the

Searing the thighs after a liberal application of salt, pepper and ancho chile powder.

Searing the thighs after a liberal application of salt, pepper and ancho chile powder.

chicken thighs and set aside on a plate.  Be sure to save the juices that collect on the plate and don’t throw them away!

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, toast until fragrant one teaspoon each of:

  • whole cumin seed
  • whole coriander seed
  • whole fennel seed
Toast whole spices (cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds).

Toast whole spices (cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds).

Then grind these toasted seeds up with a mortar and pestle and set aside.

Prepare the following vegetables:

  • 3 medium yellow onions, cut into very thin slivers
  • One HEAD of garlic… peel then finely mince all the cloves
  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes with juice.  (this is a great use for those tomatoes that have gotten a little “too ripe”)

In a dutch oven, add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, heat it to medium-high heat and then sautee the onions with a generous sprinkling of kosher salt.  Keep stirring the onions every minute or two, but allow them to brown and carmelize.  Once the onions are nice and tender (after about 8 to 10 minutes of cooking), add the garlic and stir rapidly for one minute, taking care not to let the garlic scorch or burn.  Then add

  • one cup of chicken stock
  • the ground up toasted spices made previously
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron

NOW…..

Put the chicken and any reserved juices in the dutch oven, spooning the onions, garlic and broth over the thighs as you add them.  “Stuff” each thigh down in the mixture so it gets coated with broth.  Once all the chicken is in the pot, put

The concoction just after tomatoes are added.

The concoction just after tomatoes are added.

all the tomatoes on top, reduce the heat to low, and cover with a lid.  Let the chicken simmer for about 15 minutes, then rearrange the pieces to make sure all are evenly coated with the broth and the tomatoes are distributed evenly throughout the mixture.  Taste, and add salt as needed.  Simmer for another 15 minutes.  Taste, and season with salt again if needed.  Then add in:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

Stir in the cilantro, and then serve the chicken, sprinkling with additional fresh cilantro for garnish.  Another lovely garnish would be pomegranate seeds.  With the tomatoes and the broth that develops in this pot you could easily serve this over rice or pasta, too.

The finished product minus the garnish.  It isn't pretty in the picture but it sure was good!!!!!

The finished product minus the garnish. It isn’t pretty in the picture but it sure was good!!!!!

I wish I’d had enough cilantro left to garnish my dish…. but I didn’t.  Oh well, it was still delicious!!!!

 

 

The Art of Salsa

Salsa (the dip, not the dance) has been one of my favorite things to eat for years and years, ever since I fell in love with Mexican food in my late teens.  I have worked on a recipe over thsalsa-2-550e years that works well for me and I’m going to share it here.  Impress that special guy you’re dating with your very own homemade salsa!

The first thing to realize about salsa is that making it is an art, not a science.  No two jalapeno peppers will have exactly the same level of heat.  And that, my friends, means that I can’t just tell you to “add 1 tablespoon of chopped jalapeno” and be done with it.  There’s a lot of tasting involved here to get this right.  And, this recipe is best made 24 hours in advance of when you want to serve it.  It allows time for the flavors to blend and develop properly.

Gather these ingredients:

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 lime

1 to 2 cloves of garlic

1 small onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 fresh jalapeno pepper

sea salt

freshly ground cracked pepper

tortilla chips

 

Put the tomatoes in a bowl.  (If you like super smooth salsa, use a food processor first to blend them up into a smooth puree.)  Juice the entire lime into the tomatoes.  Get all that lime juice out of that little sucker!

Finely mince up the garlic into the tiniest pieces you can and add it.  Chop the onion into a small dice and add it.  Finely mince up the cilantro and add it to the mixture, then stir everything together.

Cut off the stem of the jalapeno pepper, then slice the pepper lengthwise into four pieces.  Remove the pith and the seeds and set them aside.  Mince the peppers into very small pieces.  Be careful not to touch your eyes while you’re doing this or you will regret it!  DO NOT ADD IT ALL INTO THE MIXTURE.

Here is where the artsy part comes in…. start with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/4 of the chopped up jalapeno.  Add those and stir.  Then, start tasting with the chips!  If it needs more salt, add more 1/2 teaspoon at a time.  If the jalapeno isn’t strong enough, add another 1/4 of it.  Stir everything together, then taste again.  If you have added the entire pepper and it’s still not hot enough?  Try adding some of the seeds that you set aside.  (Most of the heat in peppers is found in the seeds).

One thing to remember is that raw jalapeno flavor will intensify as the flavors blend.  So if it’s “a little hot” now, it will be “more hot” tomorrow.  Keep that in mind as you decide how hot you want it.  It is sometimes best to let it sit for an hour or two, stir again, taste again, and THEN decide if it needs more jalapeno.  Just remember, you can always add more jalapeno, but you can’t take it out.

Really love hot salsa?  Then use a serrano pepper in addition to or instead of the jalapeno.

Finally, remove the salsa from the fridge one hour before serving.  It’s not really at its best when it’s ice cold.

Serve with tortilla chips.  And by the way,  homemade chips are by far and away the BEST, but that’s another recipe for another day.