March 28, 2013

Grilled Vegetables and Red Pepper Dip

While the Internet is abuzz with pastel this & candy that, little cupcakes decorated with bunnies and gloriously shellacked hams with deep brown glazes, I am grilling vegetables.
I know, it seems I've missed the boat again... but, you see when you live far from family sometimes holiday dinners are less formal and more like "what do I feel like eating?"

The other side of this is that not everyone eats or enjoys a big hunk of ham (I know, I don't quite get it either), but to each their own and who's to say that you can't have grilled veggies alongside that burnished spiral sliced beast? 
It's all about balance anyway, isn't it?   If you have a bit of something that you reserve only for holidays, all the more reason to serve healthy options to offset the indulgence.

I recently overbought (again) at the market and ended up with enough vegetables to feed half the neighborhood.   Luckily, I had a few friends that happened to drop by!  I sent them home with containers of veggies and dip and shortly thereafter received a most delightful text proclaiming how much they loved it. 

So, I can tell you with all certainty that it has been "tested" and "approved".   You will most likely have leftover red pepper dip.  It is delicious on pasta, chicken, tossed with shrimp, pita chips... you get the picture.

Serve a wide variety of vegetables in a rainbow of colors.  I used orange and yellow bell peppers, small eggplant, asparagus, fennel, red onion, portobello mushrooms, green onions, zucchini, baby yellow squash and lemons

remove gills from underside of portobellos before grilling

Before you get started, the most important thing is to have your "mise en place" ready to go.   Before you light the grill: clean all of the vegetables, have them sliced and seasoned.   I use a spray bottle to lightly mist the vegetables with oil, that way they don't get too greasy and it's easier to control the amount of oil that goes on them.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and any other seasoning you like after they have been slicked with a little oil.
Lay everything out on sheet pans, or whatever you have to transport them from the kitchen to the grill and back.  Find the tongs, make sure the grill is clean (I say this because yours truly has done this on several occasions) and lastly enjoy the holiday!

Red Pepper Dip
1 1/2 lbs (drained weight) roasted red peppers, about 5 whole (jarred or homemade)
1/2 cup packed parsley, rough chop
1/4 cup packed basil, rough chop
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 - 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Put everything in the blender and let it rip until it looks like this.  How's THAT for easy directions?!

Make yourself a big plate!


March 21, 2013

Buttermilk Biscuits

Sometimes it's as if people are dropped into your life out of the blue.  This is the story of  one such person.  I was lucky enough to have made a connection with another food blogger and Pastry Chef.  We "met" through Facebook & Twitter.  Like many other food bloggers, we are on each others pages.  We offer support, ask questions and weigh in on life-altering discussions about butter and how best to photograph one's creations. 

During the course of a few months, we discovered how very much alike we are... although she is definitely the nicer one.  She has become my "Sissy" and this happened the day I met her in person.

I was travelling when she & her Beloved husband graciously offered their home to me for a night instead of having to stay in a hotel.  We were sitting in her kitchen and I had asked her if there was a store nearby because I was desperate to get my hands on some White Lily flour... (she remembers this part a bit differently)

As if by magic, she disappeared into a pantry and before I knew where she had gone, she was standing in front of me holding up the sought after bag of flour as if it were nothing.  She said "You mean THIS flour?!".   I couldn't believe it.   I was thrilled and I meant to do it justice with some serious biscuits.

It had sadly been sitting in my cupboard for a little while before I had gotten to it, always clearing it's throat when I opened the cupboard door.  As if it needed to remind me of its presence.  Hardly.   Finally, one day I had it set in my head to get cracking.

So, off to the store I went to grab a few things. Traditionally biscuits are made with shortening. I was against this from the start, but also curious to see how they would compare side to side against those baked with only butter.  I had the Crisco in my hand.  I.  just. couldn't. do. it.

It was as if every single cell in my body was rebelling and screaming "NOOOOOO!  Put it down & back away..."   So I did. 
I guarantee those of us that have had biscuits at a restaurant have eaten them with shortening, or worse.  And I'm certain that I liked them, but I just could NOT buy the tub of Crisco. 
So, there you have it.  Experiment aborted, but I hope I will be forgiven once you taste these biscuits.

"Sissy" Biscuits

2 c. AP flour, preferably White Lily
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 tbsp. chilled butter
3/4 c. buttermilk + extra for brushing on top

These biscuits are delicious as is or split open with a bit of honey or strawberry jam.  You could go all out and make gravy for a nice weekend breakfast or brunch or have breakfast for dinner!  Need a little herbiness?  Chop up some fresh herbs like dill and sprinkle in for extra flavor.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line sheet pan/baking sheet/cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and baking soda together.  Using a pastry blender (or your fingers) cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add buttermilk and stir in flour just until it comes together.  Dough will be sticky.
Turn out onto a floured surface, pat dough out and fold over on itself a few times to help create layers.

Pat out to desired thickness.  I did mine about 1/4 inch... too tall and they will topple over.
Using a biscuit cutter/cookie cutter/juice glass, cut out biscuits by pushing straight down.

Lay biscuits on parchment lined sheet pan and brush tops with buttermilk.
Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. 

Be sure to keep on eye on them after 6 or 7 minutes.  You may need to adjust baking time based on your oven.

March 13, 2013

The Devils (Food) Made Me Do It...

My days of tipping back green beers at a packed in like sardines Irish pub are long behind me (thankfully), but being the good Irish lass that I am, I still enjoy a bit of silliness on St. Patrick's Day and bow to the obligatory "green something".

This year, I've decided it should come in the form of a cupcake.  It's as good as any other choice and I'd take a cupcake over a green beer any day of the week.

When my brother and I were younger, we had a next door neighbor that would bring us a box of Andes candy to share.  You would have thought he gave us each a $100 bill we were so excited... as we got older, sometimes we each got our OWN box.  Now that was newsworthy.

March 08, 2013

Lentil Soup

I know what you're thinking.  Another soup recipe?  Seriously?!   In my defense, I didn't mean to... Honestly.   This bag of lentils was meant for a "higher purpose" other than another batch of soup.  I had seen a recipe in one of the numerous food magazines that arrives at this address using lentils.  It looked so good.  It was all gloss and glamour, the kind of photo that belongs tucked inside of a black plastic wrapper.  You know the kind of photo I'm talking about.  It made lentils look sexy and that my friends is no easy task.

Well, that was my intention.  And then a cold front came through.  Goodbye sexy lentils and hello lentil soup.  So you see, it really isn't my fault at all that I'm posting yet another soup recipe.  Blame Mother Nature, she can take it.

The best part of this endeavor: the soup was so good, it was inhaled before I had a chance to take a decent shot for this post.  Slight oversight, my apologies. 
The actual best part of this is that you probably have a good portion of the ingredients already and thus a trip to the store may not even be necessary (hooray!!!). 
I, on the other hand, am still in pursuit of sexy lentils so off to the store I go.  Call me if you need anything.

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed (do not soak)
2 stalks celery, small dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in small dice
1 medium-large yellow onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 can diced tomato, with juice
5 oz baby spinach or baby kale
2 quarts vegetable (or chicken) stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-large stock pot, heat oil until barely shimmering.  Add onion, celery and carrots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until starting to soften, 5 - 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add tomatoes and their juice, cook 2 - 3 minutes then add stock, bay leaves, thyme and lentils.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust if necessary, adding more salt and/or pepper if needed.   Stir to combine, cover and simmer until lentils are beginning to soften, about 15 minutes.

Add baby spinach (or kale) and stir in to wilt.  Simmer an additional 10 - 15 minutes until vegetables and lentils are soft.

picture does NOT do soup justice...