Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crostini with Goat Cheese and Peach-Jalapeno Jam

Last night we had some friends over, which means I got to do one of my favorite things...make snacks! I had four peaches sitting in the fridge, and I knew that a slightly spicy, sweet peach jam would be the perfect complement to some tangy chèvre.

I was right, and everyone loved the crostini. I served it along with some roasted potato bites with a homemade lemon curry mayo. That was amazing too, but I forgot to take a picture! We also had a selection of beverages, including cider, beer, and wine.
From top to bottom: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Samuel Smith's Organic Hard Cider.
Other than the homemade mayo, the crostini was definitely the big hit of the night. This recipe was super easy to put together and was just delicious! The only thing to watch out for is the boiling jam, because it splatters like crazy and sticks to your skin like magma. I have the red burn on my wrist to prove it.

Crostini with Goat Cheese and Peach-Jalapeno Jam

4 peaches, peeled and cut into chunks, then pureed in blender until mostly smooth
2 Jalapenos, seeded and diced small
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1 scant cup of sugar

1 loaf crusty bread (baguette or ciabatta)

1 4oz log chèvre

Add all of the ingredients (except the bread and cheese!) to a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stirring to combine. I recommend tasting the jalapenos to see how spicy they are. The ones I got were not spicy at all, so I added some cayenne pepper. The jalapenos did lend a nice peppery flavor to the jam, nonetheless.

Cook the jam over medium heat, and bring it to a boil. Cook it until the foam on top subsides and the jam is thick enough to stick to the back of a spoon. You can let it get as thick as you like, I would have liked to cook my for a little longer but I only had an hour and a half after I got home to clean the apartment and get all the snacks together!

Once the jam is thickened to your liking, chill it in the refrigerator.

Slice the bread about 1" thick. Brush with olive oil and toast or broil until golden and crispy on top. Spread with goat cheese while still warm, then top with peach-jalapeno jam, and garnish with some ribbons of basil.

The best part is that this morning, I made goat cheese and peach jam stuffed french toast for breakfast out of the leftovers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chopped: Lamb Shoulder Neck Slices, Horseradish, and Peach-Strawberry Shrub

After watching Chopped on the Food Network for about 4 hours in our hotel on Saturday night, Nate and I decided to have our very own CHOPPED competition at home.

Nate chose the ingredients for me, and he did NOT make things easy.

Lamb neck shoulder slices - a tough, fatty cut of lamb with barely any edible meat on it

Horseradish - raw horseradish root,very bitter and lacking the finesse of prepared horseradish

Peach-Strawberry Shrub - a syrup made from equal parts of sugar, fruit, and vinegar. It's very tart and very sweet.

We decided to not put a time limit on the meal, since it was my first challenge.

I immediately knew that I wanted to used the shrub in a viniagrette, and I decided to do a roasted fingerling potato salad. I tossed some fingerling potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then put them on a baking sheet and into a 425 degree oven. They were in the oven for about 30 minutes, and I shook the pan half way through so they wouldn't burn.

In the meantime, I had to deal with the other ingredients. The first thing that came to mind for the horseradish was making a horseradish-dijon mustard cream sauce for the lamb. I seasoned the lamb with salt and pepper and seared it in olive oil, then removed it from the pan. I sauteed some garlic cloves and a sliced shallot, then removed those from the pan as well.

While the lamb was browning, I made a viniagrette for the potato salad from the shrub, olive oil, salt, pepper, thinly sliced shallots, and chopped fresh parsley.

Back to the lamb: I added 2 TBSP of butter to the pan and let it melt, then sprinkled over 2 TBSP of flour, letting the flour cook for about 3 minutes. I gradually whisked in about 1 cup of whole milk, then added 2 TBSP dijon mustard, 2 TBSP grated horseradish, about 1/3 cup of a strong IPA (beer), 1 tsp red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, and about 1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves.

I had to make a beurre manié because the sauce wasn't thickening up enough (I think my proportion of liquid to flour was off in the beginning). After I added it, the mixture thickened to the perfect consistency. I added the lamb, garlic, and shallots back into the pan with the sauce and covered it, took the potatoes out of the oven and reduced the temperature to 325, then put the lamb in the oven.

I tossed the potatoes in a bowl with the vinaigrette, then put the bowl in the fridge.

The lamb cooked for about 35 minutes, and then the meal was ready to serve.


The best part of the meal was the potato salad. The shrub vinaigrette was tart, a little sweet, and had a nice fresh flavor from the parsley. The potatoes were firm yet creamy and the whole salad was a nice bright way to cut through the heaviness of the lamb and cream sauce.

The cream sauce was good, but the horseradish flavor was surprisingly tame after it had cooked. The trouble with fresh horseradish is that it is more bitter than the prepared kind, so using enough of the fresh root to get that hot kick, you end up adding a lot of extra bitterness to the dish, which I wanted to avoid. So, the sauce was perfectly edible, but could have used some extra zing.

The lamb neck shoulder slices were surprisingly edible when we could find bits of meat among the gristle, bone, and fat. If we made this dish again I would not choose lamb unless it was an actual chop. The lamb neck shoulder slices are clearly meant to be stewed and cooked low and slow, but this being a CHOPPED challenge we really didn't have the time for that!

All in all, it was a fun experience and we plan on doing it once a week, to help keep my culinary skills sharp!

The best part is that we actually really loved the potato salad, so now I have a new dish I can add to my repertoire.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tapas Sunday: Heirloom Tomatoes

As the summer progresses, something miraculous happens at the market... HEIRLOOM TOMATOES appear at nearly every stall. Brown, yellow, red, magenta, orange...bulbous, round, oblong...these tomatoes are incredible to look at and, best of all, incredible to eat!

Nate and I were feeling tired after a late night with friends, so when we got home from the farmer's market, I wanted to whip up something easy and delicious. These tomatoes did just the trick...

They are best prepared as simply as possible. Slice, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

The yellow tomato was bright and tangy, while the brownish-greenish-reddish one tomato heaven. Seriously, it was probably my favorite tomato I have ever tasted, even though it was pretty ugly on the outside. 

I served them alongside some wedges of warmed fresh pita bread and a garlicky, basil-infused dip I got at a Mediterranean food stall at the market.

With a glass of freshly brewed iced tea to wash it all down, this was an incredibly refreshing, satisfying meal. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fruity White Wine Sangria

It's stone fruit season, and peaches, nectarines, and plums are at their peak, along with edible novelties like pluots, apriums, and peacotums (peach/apricot/plum crossbreed!). Last week I brought home 5 lbs of the various fruits (I got overexcited at the farmer's market), and though we almost finished them, come Friday we had a few leftovers (and really couldn't bring ourselves to eat them plain anymore).

So, armed with a chilled bottle of Pino Grigio and my trusty chef's knife, I set out to make some Sangria.

Fruity White Wine Sangria
Thanks to my neighbor for this amazing jar!

1.5 mL bottle of inexpensive Pino Grigio, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 c brandy
1/4 c triple sec
4 various stone fruits, pitted and sliced
1 green apple, cored and sliced
1 lemon, sliced and seeded
1 lime, sliced and seeded
sugar, to taste (I used about 3 Tbsp)
Club soda

Add sliced fruit, sugar, brandy, triple sec and wine to a large jar or pitcher. Stir to combine. Put in refrigerator and chill for 2-3 hours. 

To serve, put some of the fruit in a wine glass. Fill with the sangria, and top with club soda.

You can also leave out the brandy and triple sec for something a little less potent; adjust the amount of sugar accordingly. Alternatively, add more club soda to your glass to dilute the drink.

Refreshing, citrusy, and effervescent, this white wine sangria is the perfect refreshment for a hot summer day. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Padron Peppers

This tapas dish may be one of the simplest, quickest, and tastiest snacks ever made. Padron peppers (Shishito peppers can also be used) are quickly sauteed in hot olive oil until the skin blackens and blisters, then are sprinkled liberally with sea salt and served. A fun surprise? About one in ten Padron peppers is very very spicy, while the rest are mild (like Shishito peppers), earning them the nickname "Russian Roulette Peppers." This batch, which we served at our inaugural Tapas Sunday, didn't have any of the spicy buggers — so I guess we'll have to keep on making them!

Sauteed Padron Peppers

1 lb Padron or Shishito Peppers
2 Tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan until almost smoking. Add peppers and saute, turning frequently, until slightly blackened and blistered. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Patatas Bravas

Waxy, tender fingerling potatoes roasted until golden and crispy, served alongside a slightly sweet, tart, and spicy tomato based may not be 100% authentic, but this roasted Patatas Bravas recipe was delicious, and made a great addition to our first Tapas Sunday spread!

Patatas Bravas are a very traditional Spanish tapas. The more authentic recipe fries the potatoes instead of roasts them, and serves them in the sauce instead of on the side. I chose to roast the potatoes to save on the calories (and the mess!), and left the sauce separate so the potatoes would remain crispy. The sauce was so good I ended up toasting up some baguette slices so we could scoop up the leftovers. Muy Bien!

Roasted Patatas Bravas

For the potatoes:
1 lb fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

For the sauce:

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small-diced yellow onion
2 tsp olive oil
1 T flour

1 can tomato puree
1 can vegetable stock
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 T red wine
1 T white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Toss sliced fingerling potatoes with 1 T olive oil, 1/2 tsp paprika, and some salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking dish and cook for 30 minutes. Raise oven temperature to 425° and cook until golden brown and crispy on bottom.

While the potatoes are cooking:
In a medium sauce pan, saute 2 tsp olive oil, onions, and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Take care not to brown the garlic.

Add 1 T flour and stir to coat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until thickened.

Serve potatoes alongside the bravas sauce. Yum!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

I love chickpeas, and I'm always looking for new ways to cook them. Nate's not a big fan of the texture of beans, so I thought it would be fun to turn some into a crunchy, spicy snack. This recipe is really easy and makes for a great treat or part snack.

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350­°. Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Set them on a double layer of paper towel. Cover with another paper towel, and gently roll the chickpeas to dry them. Remove the top layer of paper towel and remove any loose skins from the beans. 

Put chickpeas on a large cookie sheet. Put pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes, shaking about every 10 minutes. 

Remove pan from oven. Toss chickpeas with olive oil, spices, salt and pepper, then return to oven for another 20-30 minutes or until crunchy, shaking the pan often. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tapas Sunday

In my house we have a "Pizza Friday" tradition, as I mentioned in my post White Pizza with Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Manchego. Starting this week, we have a new tradition: Tapas Sunday!

I go to the farmer's market every Sunday morning, and when I get back I am always eager to cook something up. Tapas are the perfect way to try a taste of several ingredients without depleting our supply for the week ahead.

What are tapas? Tapas are a Spanish tradition: simply prepared small snacks meant to accompany a glass of beer or wine. They're becoming increasingly popular all over the United States as well. Tapas bars offer a selection of wine, beer, and small snacks like olives, garlic shrimp, or herbed almonds.

For our initial Tapas Sunday, I made Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas, Patatas Bravas, and sauteed Padron peppers. Alongside these yummy treats we drank a slightly chilled 2009 "Tempra Tantrum," a wine blend of Tempranillo and Grenache grapes from Toledo, Spain. It's a very subtle, easy to drink red wine, and was the perfect accompaniment to our casual Sunday afternoon spread.

Stay tuned this week for the tapas recipes!