Archive for February, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan

spaghetti squashLet’s talk about spaghetti squash, one of the eight wonders of the food world and really easy to cook. The one thing you’ll notice when you go to buy one is that they are all about the same size. That makes cooking them really easy.

The first thing you want to do is pierce the squash. Most recipes tell you to pierce them on all sides about an inch apart using a fork. Personally, I prefer to pierce them using a knife. The outside skin is really thick and tough when they are not cooked and I think using a knife works best.

Butter is used on the squash after it is cooked. I generally use the soft butter in a tub rather than squares. It’s a lot easier to mix.

This recipe calls for Parmesan Reggiano. People always ask what is the difference between regular Parmesan and Parmesan Reggiano. Simply stated, if it is regular Parmesan, it does not have to be made in Italy. There is a flavor difference as well. The Reggiano is nuttier and — how shall I say it — cheesier.  It also melts easier. I use both versions of Parmesan all the time for various recipes and meals, and I love them both. Try them side by side. You will understand once you do this.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash

1 cup water

4-5 tbsp butter

1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan Reggiano

Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the squash on all sides with a knife. Place in a baking pan with 1 cup of water on the bottom. Bake for 1-1/2 hours.

When done, remove the pan from the oven. You will cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds. This will, of course, require you to remove some of the squash as well. Trust me. It won’t be much. Then, use a fork to scrape the squash from the skin. It will look like spaghetti (hence the name).

Put the squash in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. I use rainbow pepper (which is black, white and pink). Add 4-5 tbsp of soft butter (I like the butter that is made with Canola or Olive Oil) and the Parmesan cheese.

Mix well and serve.

It’s amazingly good.

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Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin

Seared Pork Tenderloin (1)I have a love-hate thing with pork tenderloin. If it’s not cooked just right, it can be pretty dry. Also, it is not as flavorful as other (cheaper) cuts of pork. Frankly, I love pork butt (also referred to as Boston Butt). It’s flavorful, although more fatty than tenderloin. I don’t have a problem with that. Why? Because it has tons more flavor. However, pork tenderloin can be delicious if cooked properly. Now, I’m not saying you can’t bake it in the oven. You definitely can, but the recipe I’m about to provide here doesn’t call for oven baking. This is a bit of a twist on that recipe.

The pan-cooking recipe calls for pork bouillion. Goya sells this product. The box will probably have the name “carnitas” on the front. That’s what you want.

I’m not going to lie to you. You can bake this in the oven. In the event that you prefer that, I’m going to provide you with an alternative cooking method that calls for oven baking. If you want to use the oven method, you’re going to want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and you are not going to slice your tenderloin before placing it in the oven. For the oven method, you are also going to need a reliable meat thermometer.

Remember, if you’re cooking for more than two people, you can simply double the recipe.

Ingredients for Searing Rub

4 cloves of garlic, cut in half

1-1/2 lb pork tenderloin

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp Demerara sugar

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, with the exception of the olive oil.

Ingredients for Cooking Sauce

1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp Sriracha

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp lime zest

1/4 cup pork (carnitas) bouillion

1 tsp honey

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until completely mixed.

Directions

The firs thing you want to do is peel the garlic and cut it in half. Poke holes in the tenderloin at even intervals and place the garlic pieces deep into the pork.

Mix the chili powder, lime juice, soy sauce and sugar together in a small bowl. Be sure to pat the tenderloin dry, then season with salt and pepper. Use your fingers to massage the chili-lime rub on all sides of the pork tenderloin.

Now it’s time to sear the tenderloin. Put an oven-proof skillet on high heat and add the 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Sear the rubbed tenderloin on all sides. This should take about a total of two minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and slice the tenderloin into 1-inch pieces. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the cooking sauce, and place the tenderloins in the cooking sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. That should do it.

Oven Cooking Method Directions

The reason I told you to use an oven-proof skillet is so that you do not have to transfer the pork to another pan. After searing the tenderloin, add the cooking sauce to the pan, and place the cooking thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Place the pan into the oven and bake until the thermometer reads 160 degrees. That will take about 20-25 minutes. It is important that you baste the tenderloin at least four times during the baking process to ensure that it does not become dry.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven and loosely tent under aluminum foil for about 5 minutes before slicing.

 

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Pan-Seared Spicy Rib-Eye Steak

rib eye steakI’ll be honest with you, I don’t eat much beef. But it’s not because I don’t want to. My partner doesn’t like the texture of beef. And she definitely doesn’t like the whole “rare” thing. This is good, though, because moderation is important when eating red meat. You have to remember that pork and lamb are also considered red meats when planning your menu for the week. So, when I make this dish, I am really in the mood for it and I enjoy it thoroughly. For those who are purists and do not like the spicy aspect of this dish, I provide an alternative.

This can also be made using sirloin strip steak, but I find rib-eye more tender, so it’s my beef cut of choice. You can use either bone-in or boneless. If you want to make a pretty presentation and cut and fan the steak on a plate, use boneless. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious.

Here’s some fair warning: This recipe creates smoke which could very well set off your smoke detectors. I made it this past Friday night and did just that, even with the windows open. The dog didn’t much like the sound but, for we humans, it’s a small price to pay for such a delicious dish.

Also, the level of “marble” in the beef is important. The more “marble” the more tender after it’s cooked.

Spicy Rub

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp Kosher or Sea salt

1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper

1 tbsp red pepper flakes (if you don’t like heat; just leave this out)

This is a simple process. Just mix all of these ingredients together. If there is any left over after you’ve rubbed it on the steak, just store it in an airtight container.

Ingredients

2 rib-eye steaks, about 1-1/2 inches thick

Spicy Steak Rub (above)

Canola oil (to coat the steak)

Directions

Remove the steak from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. Place a 12-inch cast iron skilled (or other oven-proof skillet) in the over and heat the oven to 500 degrees (hence, the smoke folks).

When the oven reaches 500 degrees, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on your stove-top range on high. Coat the steak lightly with the Canola oil and coat both sides with the spicy rub.

Place the steaks in the skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Use tongs to flip the steak and cook for another 30 seconds. Then, put the pan straight into the 500-degree oven for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, flip the steaks and cook for another 2 minutes. The steak is being cooked for “rare.” If you prefer medium rare, add 1 to 1-1/2 minutes on each side.

Remove the steak from the oven and cover with aluminum foil and allow it to sit for about 2 minutes. (While you’re waiting, wave your arms like crazy under your smoke detectors to get them to shut up.)

You can either serve the steak whole or slice thin and fan onto your plate (if you’re into presentation, of course).

Alternative to Spicy Rub

If you’re not into the whole spicy thing (which I do not understand, of course), simply sprinkle both sides of the steak before cooking with Kosher or Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If this is the way you go, I suggest serving it with a bottle of Tabasco sauce or a dipping sauce. Here’s a good one:

Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp Sriracha

1 tsp malt vinegar

Knock yourself out.

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Vanilla Bean Belgian Waffles

Belgian WafflesThe first time I ever had true Belgian waffles was in old Quebec City at this little storefront waffle place. That’s the only way I can describe it. All that was inside was a counter with stools. If we were lucky enough to find a seat, then we’d sit down. Most mornings on our trip there, we’d order them and take them with us. Most Belgian waffles call for a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but I prefer real vanilla bean. The taste is more intense, and I’m big on vanilla flavor. Generally speaking, you need about two inches of vanilla bean to replace a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but I like to use a half of a vanilla bean. I also prefer Demerara sugar to regular white sugar because of its caramel notes.

Vanilla beans are easy to use. Just start at the top and poke a hole, then slice down the middle and scrape the beans out. The beans, which are very small, do not need to be mashed. They will adhere to the knife you are using. That’s all you need to do. It isn’t rocket science. Of course, you can always use 1 tsp of vanilla extract instead. The choice is yours.

Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Demerara sugar (white is fine here also)

3-1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, separated

1-1/2 cups milk

1 cup butter, melted

1/2 vanilla bean, opened and the beans scraped out (do not do this in advance)

Directions

Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg yolks, then add milk, butter and the vanilla beans. Mix this concoction well, and do not panic if the butter appears to look lumpy after it is melted and added to the milk. This is not a problem.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not use an electric mixer. You do not want to over beat the batter.

Use an electric beater to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then fold the egg whites into the batter.

Bake waffles in a preheated waffle iron, according to manufacturer’s instructions, until golden brown. I have a non-stick waffle iron, but I generally spray it with Pam anyway to prevent the first batch from sticking. You’ll probably get about 10 waffles from this batter.

Serving

There are any number of ways to serve Belgian waffles. Of course, the way my kids like them is with warm maple syrup. However, you can serve them with confectioner’s sugar, or with berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) and whipped cream. These also make a great ice cream sandwich. Use your imagination, folks!

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New Orleans Beignets

Beignets (2)If you have been to New Orleans, but haven’t visited Café du Monde for Beignets, then you don’t know what you’ve been missing. This is a totally decadent breakfast treat. These are traditional French donuts without the hole in the middle.

The right attitude here is to serve these with a dark coffee. You can always get yourself some Community Coffee (coffee with chicory) like they serve in New Orleans. I like these with Espresso con Panna (espresso topped with whipped cream).

Ingredients

1 package of active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

4-1/2 cup self-rising flour

Oil for deep fat frying

Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, oil, sugar, nutmet, vanilla extract and egg along with 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky). Do not knead. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down. Place on a floured surface, then roll into a 16″ x 12″ rectangle. Cut into 2″ squares.

In an electric skillet, heat oil to 375°. Fry squares, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Roll warm beignets in confectioners’ sugar.

Note: This recipe makes about 4 dozen beignets. Call some friends.

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