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25 posts from April 2011

04/29/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (4/29/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 I did indeed get up at 3:00AM this morning to watch The Royal Wedding.  As the old Beatles song goes (to the best of my recollection): "Got up, got out-ta bed, dragged a comb across my head.  Went downstairs to have a cup...", and, for me it was to watch BBC America's broadcast of this magnificent event. If you think this is crazy, I understand completely, BUT, having been a 3:00AM participant in the wedding of Prince Charles and the beloved Lady Di thirty-something years ago, this was one wedding I was not going to miss.  Without getting all blubbery, it was a most amazing event, exhibiting the perfect balance between royal pomp and circumstance and understated class I have ever witnessed.  With all the ugliness that is going on in current events these days, it was wonderful to leave it all behind for a few hours and partake in a fairytale with a happy ending... kitchen therapy at its best!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday.  I fulfilled all of your requests by posting my recipes for lamb and ham, which do go hand-in-hand together at Easter time, as well as posted recipes for what to make with the leftovers!  

~ Succulent Boneless Roast Lamb w/Creamy au Jus & Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes ~, which can be found in Categories 3, 11 & 19, plus a recipe for leftover lamb:

~ Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w/Lemon-Mint Mayo ~, found in Categories 2 & 20.

~ Handling Ham(s):  Choose What's Right for You ~, found in Categories 15 & 16, along with:

~ "A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! ~, found in Categories  3, 11, 12 & 20, plus a recipe for leftover ham:

~ A Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup ~, found in Categories 2, 10 & 22.

To view a short video/slideshow of each of the recipes:

Download Succulent Boneless Leg of Lamb w_Creamy au Jus & Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes-Medium_3

Download Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w_Lemon-Mint Mayo-Medium

Download _A, B, C_, That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be!-Medium_2

Download Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup-Medium

Kitchen Encounters had one extremely flattering comment and a request from a Facebook reader, which I will happily comply with.

PICT1824  C.  Cheryl says:  Melanie, please share the picture of your Russian Easter Pysanky eggs, the one you posted on Facebook, with your blog readers.  I know it is not food, but it is art, and you are one very talented artist in both departments!

Q.  Cheryl asks:  Melanie, would you consider doing a blog post teaching us how to make your eggs?  I've never seen anything like this before and I would love to know more.

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  When I posted that picture on Facebook on Good Friday, I was overwhelmed by the response it got, and, you Cheryl are not the only person who asked for a blog post about making them.  I am determined to do it, but I cannot promise it in a week or two, meaning:  while this is doable, it will take me quite a bit of time to do it right.  It will be a post that I will work on in my spare time, and it might take a couple of months before it is done.  But I assure you:  "So it shall be written, so it shall be done." ~ Ramses II

Have a nice weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary, Photos and Videos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/27/2011

~ A Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:09) ~

PICT2013 Kitchen Encounters is wrapping up April by putting the leftover Easter ham and ham bone to very good use.  This absolutely delicious bean soup recipe is one you are not going to want to miss.  There really are no new twists to be had on a great bean soup recipe, so, I just posted the one Melanie's Kitchen has been getting rave reviews on for many years now.  I make a big batch of this every year, then freeze a lot of it, to serve at picnics and barbecues all Summer long!

To read my recipe, with all of its step-by-step photos:

~ A Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup ~ can be found in Categories 2, 10 or 22.

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup-Medium

I can't wait to watch The Royal Wedding this coming Friday and right after that, Kitchen Encounters will be looking forward to posting recipes for May's Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day and Memorial Day holidays!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

~ A Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup ~

PICT2018I don't make this soup after the Easter holiday just because it is the perfect use for the leftover ham, not to mention the flavorful ham bone.  I make it because I love it and so does my entire family.  I always make a big batch of it too.  I portion and freeze it, to have on hand all year long. If you have a big enough pot, you should consider doing the same.  That being said, for your convenience, I have written my recipe to be easily cut in half or quartered!

PICT2020While this soup is comfort food at its best on a cold winter evening, some of my fondest memories of bean soup are eating it (out of a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon) on summer evenings at church picnics, backyard barbecues, block parties, family reunions and my father's workplace's annual company clambake.  These are all reasons why you'll find me serving it at my summer picnics, including over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  They always served it with Nabisco saltine crackers too, which got crumbled into the soup and  thickened the broth, making it yummier with each bite.  Nowadays, I use Nabisco soup crackers -- they save on crumbling time!   

The bean soup of my childhood is what I modeled my recipe after:  a slightly-thick broth loaded with chunks of smoky-flavored ham, potatoes, carrots and celery.  My recipe differs from this slightly, in that:  instead of using just dried or canned white beans, I purchase premixed, one-pound bags of dried bean soup mix, sometimes labeled as "fifteen bean soup mix".  The manufacturer's of these mixes make it very convenient for me to add a lot of different textures, color and flavor to my soup by combining dried:  black beans, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans, great northern beans, baby lima beans, large lima beans, pinto beans, green split peas, yellow split peas, black-eyed peas, red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils and cranberry beans. Some manufacturers also include a seasoning packet in the package, which I discard in exchange for using my own spices.  I choose to buy these premixed bags of beans, because I average using about two pounds of mix per year (which makes 16 quarts of bean soup), but, feel free to buy one-half or one pound of each item on the above "bean" list and mix them yourself!

PICT1925 Before you make the soup you must address the soaking of the beans.  

2  pounds prepackaged, dried, fifteen bean blend, discard seasoning packets

2  teaspoons red pepper flakes

4  quarts cold water

~ Step 1.  Place beans in a large colander and sift through them with your fingertips.  Remove anything that looks foreign:  little twigs or stones sometimes make their way into the bag.  Under cold running water, thoroughly rinse the beans. 

PICT1941~ Step 2.  Transfer the rinsed beans to an 8-quart stockpot, add four quarts of water and the red pepper flakes.  I do not soak my beans overnight. Instead I use my own method of quick-soaking, which works like a charm every time:

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~ Step 3.  Bring the bean mixture to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat and vigorously simmer for exactly 3 minutes.

Every 1 minute of simmering beans is equivalent to 3 hours of soaking them.  

(Note:  The alternative to this method is to soak the beans in 4 quarts of lukewarm water, 12 hours or overnight, in the covered stockpot.)  

Remove beans from heat, cover and set aside for 3 hours.  During this three hour period of time, prep the following ingredients for the soup broth:

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1  fully-cooked ham bone (You can still make bean soup if you cooked a boneless ham, so if you don't have a ham bone, don't fret.)

2-4  pounds 1/2"-3/4" cubes of fully-cooked ham

1-1 1/2 pounds thick-sliced bacon, diced

1  pound each:  diced yellow or sweet onion and celery

1-2  ounces minced garlic cloves

 

8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, or canned broth

8  cups beef stock, preferably homemade, or canned broth

8  cups liquid reserved from soaked beans

4  medium-sized bay leaves

2  teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1-3  teaspoons sea salt, to taste

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

PICT1966 ~ Step 4.  Place the diced bacon in the bottom of an 18-quart stockpot and fry the bacon over medium-high heat until very crisp, about 10-12 minutes. (Note:  If you are making a smaller batch of soup, fry the bacon in the bottom of whatever size stockpot you are using.)  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the drippings and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

PICT1968 ~ Step 5.  Add the diced onion, celery and minced garlic to the hot bacon drippings in the bottom of the stockpot.  Adjust heat to saute. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

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~ Step 6.  Return the drained bacon to the sauteed vegetables.  

Using a large slotted spoon, transfer all of the soaked beans to the stockpot.

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~ Step 7.  Add the ham bone, bay leaves, thyme leaves, salt (to taste) and pepper.

Note:  The amount of salt you add will depend upon your stock/broth.  I almost always make my soups using my homemade stocks, which I have seasoned accordingly, so when I make this soup, I only add about 1 teaspoon of additional salt.

Add the chicken stock and beef stock, along with 8 cups of liquid from the pot of beans.

Why do I add both chicken and beef stock?  Because it is a great balance of flavor.  In this soup recipe, using all chicken stock is a bit too "light-flavored", while all beef stock is a bit too "heavy-flavored".  This is the perfect compromise!

Bring to a boil over high heat, partially cover the pot and adjust heat to simmer gently for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While the broth is simmering:

~ Step 8.PICT1980  Peel and slice 5 pounds of carrots, into 1/4" coins, then...

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... peel 5 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes and slice them into 1/2"-3/4" cubes.

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~ Step 9.  After the broth has simmered for 45-60 minutes, add the coined carrots, cubed potatoes and ham cubes to the simmering liquid.  Partially cover, adjust heat to simmer gently and continue to cook an additional 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This last step is optional, but this surprise ingredient adds a nice burst of texture to the soup:

PICT1997 ~ Step 10.  Stir 2, 16-ounce bags of frozen corn into the simmering soup.  Return the soup to a simmer and continue to cook, about 15-20 additional minutes.

Technically, the bean soup is now ready to serve, however, as it goes with many soups or stews, it is actually better if removed from the heat, covered and allowed to steep for an hour or two or overnight (overnight is best).  Serve immediately, then:

Portion remaining soup into food storage containers and freeze.  I like to freeze my soup in 2-quart size containers, which are perfect for 4-6 servings of soup any time of the year!

PICT2028 Hearty Fifteen Bean, Ham & Vegetable Soup:  Recipe yields 16 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  colander; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 18-quart stockpot w/lid; paper towels; large slotted spoon; vegetable peeler; soup ladle

Cook's Note:  This soup really does freeze perfectly.  That being said, when reheating it, be prepared to add a bit of extra chicken stock or broth, as the beans continue to absorb liquid if soup is stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/25/2011

~ "A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:37) ~

PICT1912 Kitchen Encounters and me, Melanie, are now trying to unwrap ourseslves around the Easter holiday, and that means that today is "organize and eat the leftovers day"!

Joe and I really enjoyed our traditional Russian Orthodox feast and holiday with my mom and Dad. Everyone ate way too much but it was worth every calorie.  Our menu included ham, holupki (stuffed cabbage rolls), kielbasa, pirogi, paska bread and pickled eggs, followed by nut and poppyseed rolls for dessert.  These are all traditional family recipes that I promise I will be posting in the future!

In between all of this cooking, I worked really hard to get my ham recipe posted for you, along with a very detailed guide to choosing ham... just in the nick of time for Easter Sunday too.  I was thrilled when my mom said, "this is the best ham I have eaten in years"!  To view a short video/slideshow:

Download _A, B, C_, That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be!-Medium_2

To read my posts:

~ Handling Ham(s):  Choose What's Right for You ~ can be found in Categories 15 & 16;

~ "A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! ~ can be found in Categories 3, 11, 12 & 20.

Tomorrow it will be back to business as usual here in Melanie's Kitchen, but for tonight Joe and I are looking forward to just relaxing and some great leftovers!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/24/2011

~ "A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! ~

6a0120a8551282970b01538e17e98c970b-800wiIt is Easter Sunday and when I think of Easter I think of ham.  I'm fifty-five years old and I've never spent an Easter Sunday without ham on the table.  I'm pretty sure that even when I was a babe in arms someone was mashing up ham on Easter Sunday and feeding it to me!

IMG_6206Happy Easter!  Ham it up w/my foolproof recipe!!!

6a0120a8551282970b014e880406bf970d-800wiHam was something my grandmother and mother always made and I never gave it much thought until I got married and had to start making it myself.  If you've never shopped for or prepared a ham before, it can be a very confusing, intimidating and downright shocking experience!  

Don't expect to just saunter into the grocery store and say "I'd like one ham please". There are so many different brands, types and cuts of ham, in order to make the right choice, you must be armed with the right information.  To take the mystery out of it for you, yesterday I posted a guide for ~ Handling Ham(s):  Choose What's Right for You ~, which you can read in Category 15.

Today I am posting my tried-and-true, absolute favorite, really easy recipe for preparing ham... did I forget to mention it is also foolproof?  This is simply (literally simple) the best method for baking ham I have ever encountered, and here at Kitchen Encounters I have encountered a lot of methods.  It is moist, flavorful and slices beautifully.  Everytime I serve it, someone asks how I "do" it.  My reply is, " It's as easy as A, B, C (allspice, bay leaves and cloves)!"

PICT18451  Fully-Cooked, Bone-In, Whole, Fresh/Uncured or Cured, Smoked Ham, 14-18 pounds.  This is a 14-pound fresh/uncured smoked ham.)

Water

16  Whole Allspice

8  Whole Bay Leaves

16  Whole Cloves

PICT1852 ~ Step 1.  Place the allspice, bay leaves and cloves in a large roasting pan and add about 1/2" of water.  Place the roasting rack in the pan and place the ham on the rack.  Tightly cover and seal the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  If the foil rips or tears, start over. There can be no air holes in the foil.

PICT1864 ~ Step 2.  Bake on lower third of preheated 350 degree oven 12 minutes per pound.  No matter what size the ham is, 14-20 pounds, cook it for 12 minutes per pound.

Remove from oven and let rest, 1-8 hours prior to slicing and serving hot, warm or at room temperature. Do not remove or break the foil seal during this rest period.  To serve the ham cold: after the rest period, remove the foil, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate ovenight.

PICT1876 ~ Step 3.  Transfer the ham from the pan to a large carving board.  Begin slicing, across the grain, into slices of desired thickness.  I think ham tastes best when sliced thin.

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~ Step 4.  Continue slicing, following the line of the ham and working your way around the bone. This can be intimidating at first, but, once you cut a few slices, you'll see just how easy it is.  As I slice, I place the pretty slices on a platter and set bits, pieces and chunks aside on the carving board.  I store those in the refrigerator (sometimes I pop them in the freezer), along with the bone, to make ham and bean soup!

Click on the Related Article links below to get a few of my other "ham it up" ideas!

IMG_6200"A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be!:  Recipe yields 12-24 servings, depending upon the size of the ham.

Special Equipment List:  large roasting pan w/roasting rack insert; heavy-duty aluminum foil; large carving board; carving knife or chef's knife; carving fork

Potatoes Gratin #1-a (Intro Picture Closeup)Cook's Note:  Wrap leftovers in the refrigerator and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.  My flavorful ham is fantastic in omelettes for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or chopped into dinner casseroles, not to mention my recipe for ~ A Hearty Fifteen Bean Ham & Vegetable Soup ~ found in Categories 2 & 22!

Extra Cook's Note:  For a super-wonderful accompaniment to my tender and moist ham, try my recipe for ~ Perfect Potatoes au Gratin (Scalloped Potatoes) ~, found in Category 4!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/23/2011

~ Handling Ham(s): Choose What's Right for You ~

PICT1833Ham is the cut of meat from a hog's hind leg, generally from the middle of the shank bone to the hipbone.  The length of the cut varies with each producer.  Unprocessed ham is referred to as fresh, uncured ham, which is like getting a "very large pork roast".  But, before being sold to the American consumer, even fresh hams go through a curing process, or, a method of preservation using a combination of salt, natural flavorings and spices, without the addition of nitrites or nitrates, and cold smoking.  In the case of what is referred to as a "commercial cure", sodium nitrite, salt and sugar are mixed with water, to form a brine or curing solution, which is then pumped into the ham.  After several days, the cured/cooked pork is washed and smoked, after which it is referred to as a cured ham.  These preservation/curing processes kills bacteria and transform the flavor and texture from that "very large pork roast" into what we refer to generically as:  ham (and also apply to bacon)!

PICT1841 For novice and experienced cooks alike, selecting and cooking a ham, to say the least, can be very confusing.  Faced with choosing between a fresh ham, canned ham, city ham, country ham, etc., tends to make a shopper want to skip the ham counter completely.  If you really are totally clueless (and I don't mean this in a derogatory way), meaning: you've never purchased or cooked a ham and don't have a recipe to tell you what to buy, ask the butcher behind the meat counter.  It goes without saying, a ham needs to be in your price range, and the longer it takes to cure a ham, the more expensive it is going to be.  Also, hams come in all sizes, up to 20 pounds, which is great if your getting a big crowd for Easter, but if it's just you and your spouse, you're going to be looking at leftovers for a very, very long time, so, consider size carefully. Lastly, time restrictions play a part.  Fully-cooked hams, canned hams and some spiral cut hams require no further cooking and can be sliced or served cold, or, briefly reheated, sliced and served warm.  If your work week doesn't cooperate with your cooking schedule, consider these as good options for you.  All of this being said: if you are cooking a specific ham recipe, choose the ham that particular recipe instructs you to use and don't make any substitutions based upon any of the above information!

Canned Hams are self-explanatory.  The beginner/novice cook, more often than not will prepare one of these as his/her introduction to ham cookery.  These hams are literally "formed" from bits and pieces of meat held together with a gelatin mixture.  Simply follow the manufacturer's instructions on the can, add an uncomplicated, homemade or bottled glaze/sauce and serve a tasty, glorified version of deli-style meat.  In fact, preparing a canned ham will save you a lot of money vs. deli-meat, so, if  you buy a lot of deli-ham for your family, a canned ham is a economical option.  Warning:  It is easy to assume that if something comes in a can you don't have to refrigerate it, but this is not always the case.  Most canned hams require refrigeration so be sure to read and follow these instructions as well.  That being said, if you choose one that does not require refrigeration, it is an ideal food item to take along on your next camping trip.

968800_622297424465790_913913406_nCity Hams (also referred to as urban hams) are wet-cured hams. Almost all mass-produced hams sold in our markets and grocery stores today are of this type.  They are injected with a salt-water solution, cured, then lightly-smoked in order to return them to their original weight, or the weight they lost through dehydration during the smoking process.  If sugar is added to the curing mix, they are sometimes labeled sugar-cured ham.  The length of time a ham is cured affects the final flavor, and most hams for the American consumer have a mildly-cured.  The length of time a ham is smoked varies greatly depending on the desired result, and most hams for the American consumer are lightly-smoked.  Hams for the gourmet palate are more heavily smoked, the process lasting a month or more, using specialty woods (such as apple, hickory and maple) and exotic ingredients (such as juniper berries and sassafras bark).  Hams labeled "water-added", also injected then smoked, retain a larger portion of the injected solution, lessening the flavor, yet at the same time increasing the cost.  Wet-cured hams, with or without sugar and/or water added require cooking or baking, according to the recipe's specific instructions, prior to serving.

Country Hams (also labeled country-cured or country-syle) are dry-cured hams.  These higher-quality American hams use a time-honored method of dry salt-curing, which also applies to bacon.  These hams are arrived at by an interesting three-step process.  Initially, the surface is dry-rubbed with a mixture of various spices (salt, sugar, pepper, etc.), nitrates and nitrites.  They are then slow-smoked over fragrant hardwoods.  Lastly, they are hung and aged for 3-6 months, allowing the salt to saturate the meat.  This process may be repeated several times.  Hams that are aged longer, 6-12 months (with the skin left on to protect the flavor during the aging process), while often generically referred to as Smithfield Hams, must actually be cured within the colonial town of Smithfield, VA to legally earn this prestigious title.  Similar hams, hailing from Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and other parts of Virginia, add their own distinctive styles to the hams they produce.  These heavily-cured hams can be stored in a cool place for 1-2 months and require a scrubbing, then a soaking for at least 24 hours prior to cooking.  Like fine wine or cheese, once you acquire a taste for country ham, there is no turning back.

PICT1871All Hams are Cooked Hams  and are labeled as fully-cooked, partially-cooked or uncooked, meaning:  they have been been smoked to a different stage in the process.  

Fully-cooked hams have been heated during the smoking process to an internal temperature of at least 148 degrees, and are technically considered ready to eat, although in most cases taste a lot better if reheated before slicing and serving them hot or cold.  They can also be labeled "heat and serve" or "ready to eat".  Partially-cooked hams are heated during the smoking process to an internal temperature of at least 138 degrees (which kills the trichina parasite).  Partially-cooked hams, along with uncooked hams, must both be cooked prior to serving according to the directions from the manufacturer without exception.

Fresh Hams, City Hams and Country Hams are all sold in several forms including boneless (hip, thigh and shank bones removed), semi-boneless (hip and/or shank bones removed) and bone-in. Since bone contributes significant flavor to the meat during the cooking process, most gourmet ham producers leave at least some bone in.  They are are marketed in several sizes, the most popular being whole, along with half (shank or butt ends), shank, butt and center-cut slices or steaks ranging in thickness from 1/2" - 3/4".

Ham is extremely versatile.

It can be baked, boiled, broiled, grilled, sauteed and/or simmered!  

Ham it up!!!

IMG_6206"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/21/2011

~ Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w/Lemon-Mint Mayo (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:53) ~

PICT1821 Kitchen Encounters and me, Melanie, is now getting wrapped around the Easter holiday.  As promised, I am posting my recipe for lamb sandwiches, which  is a fantastic way to use up any leftover roasted lamb you may encounter over your holiday weekend.  To read my recipe for ~ Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w/Lemon-Mint Mayo ~, just click into Categories 2 or 20.  

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w_Lemon-Mint Mayo-Medium

Also as promised, I'll be moving onto my recipe for baked ham and one or two of my family's ethnic side-dishes, so please be sure to check back over the next two days!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/18/2011

~ Succulent Boneless Leg of Lamb w/Creamy au Jus & Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:19) ~

PICT1654 "We are all in this food world together", and I want to start this post by wishing all of my Jewish friends a most relaxing and joyous Seder dinner this evening!

This is going to be a very eclectic cooking week here on Kitchen Encounters, and I am starting Easter week off with my recipe for ~ Succulent Boneless Leg of Lamb w/Creamy au Jus & Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes ~, which you can find in Categories 3, 11 & 19.  To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Succulent Boneless Leg of Lamb w_Creamy au Jus & Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes-Medium_3

If you are a person who doesn't think you like lamb, or one who has never cooked lamb, I believe you will not only enjoy my commentary, I believe you will give this flavorful meat a try!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011

04/17/2011

~ Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:50) ~

PICT1710 I hail from a long line of great women who make fantastic mashed potatoes, which I consider to be one of America's favorite comfort foods. Give me a scoop of mashed potatoes next to a few slices of any type of roast meat or poultry and you'll find me scooping forkfuls of potatoes into my mouth long before I even try the entree!

I am proud to tell you that I combined my love for Yukon gold potatoes with all of the secrets both of my grandmothers and a great aunt passed on to me to come up with one of the yummiest mashed potato recipes you will ever eat!

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes-Medium

To read my recipe for ~ Mel's Cheddar 'n Mint Mashed Potatoes ~ with all of it's step-by-step instructions and photographs (not to mention tips on making mashed potatoes in general), click into Categories 4 or 12!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/16/2011

~ How to: Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:39) ~

PICT1523 Not all rice is created equal and we all know the difference between a bowl of perfectly-cooked, fluffy white rice and a bowl of overcooked mush, or worse yet, the bottom of a pot with a layer of burned rice stuck to it.  To turn your bad rice days into nice rice days:

Read my recipe for, ~ How to: Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop ~. It will give you all of my tips, step-by-step instructions and pictures.  Just click into Categories 4 & 15!

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download How to_ Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop-Medium

If you've ever had a bad rice day, or know someone who has, this recipe contains all the information you'll need for perfect rice every time!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

~ How to: Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop ~

PICT1517Sometimes we cooks take the simplest of things for granted.  We intuitively know what spices, herbs, vegetables and/or fruits to add to a pot of perfectly-cooked, fluffy white rice to turn it into a spectacular side-dish.  We instinctively use this inexpensive grain as a foil to stretch a meal that feeds a family of four into a meal that feeds six-eight.  We grew up eating it, we make it for our families, we keep it on hand in our pantries, we order it in restaurants and we don't talk about it very much.  After all... it's just rice.  Measure it, cook it, fluff it, serve it... what's to talk about!

6a0120a8551282970b0147e3abccac970b-800wiYesterday on Kitchen Encounters Friday's ~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too ~, I answered a rice cooking question from a reader. She had angst about her ability to cook white rice properly, in order to serve my recipe for ~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon Rice ~ (found in Categories 2, 11, 14 & 21) to her family for Easter.  I adequately answered her question yesterday, but I decided to take today (Saturday) to write a full-blown post centered around cooking perfect white rice on the stovetop, because:  let's all be honest with each other, we've all had bad rice days.  When I was a new cook, I knew a bit about cooking rice, because I had watched my grandmother and mother do it a lot, but I must admit, if I hadn't seen them do it and listened to some of their instructions, it wouldn't have taken me very long to experience that properly cooking rice can be a bit tricky... not hard, just tricky.

Before writing my Kitchen Encounters response to her question, I did a little research in my library.  I opened about 6-7 cookbooks to see how other writers describe cooking rice.  I was surprised to find out that most give vague directions at best:  "bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add 2 cups of rice, cover and simmer until rice absorbs all moisture".  While that statement is true, it is what's NOT said or explained that gets inexperienced cooks into trouble.  So today, with this blog post, I'm hoping to turn your bad rice days into nice rice days!!!

PICT1454 Let me start by saying that all rice is not created equal, and it has NOTHING to do with brand name. When you are buying white rice, choose the longest grain you can find, with extra long-grain being my first choice.  I didn't always know this, and apparently, this was the biggest cause for my rice problems. Then, four years ago I did a celebrity chef demonstration with/for Chef John D. Folse, CEC, AAC and author of The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.  Without going into any detail, he said to me, "if you're looking for fluffy rice, the longer the grain, the better end product." I have since schooled myself on different types of rice, which all contain different types of starch, which makes all of them cook and fluff up differently, and, they all have their place in this food world.  For instance, medium-grain white rice cooks up creamy, while short-grain white rice cooks up sticky and creamy.  In Melanie's Kitchen, there are applications for them all.  That being said, when it comes to cooking fluffy white rice, Chef Folse's comment sums it all up in a nutshell.

We cooked lots of rice that morning, which Chef was using in both his gumbo and in his jambalaya, which 100 people would be getting a tasting of, and it all came out perfectly.  Tip #1: For fluffy rice, choose the longest grain white rice available to you.

PICT1436No matter what type of rice you are cooking, rinse the rice before you cook it.  Do not soak it, rinse it, and keep the rice moving while you do. I simply place it in a colander and with cold tap water running through it, move the rice around with my fingertips until the water running out is clear.  After that I let it sit in the sink while I bring my water to a boil.  Tip #2:  Rinse the rice.

PICT0925The next bit of advice I have for you, I learned from my grandmother and mother:  For every cup of rice you are cooking, add two tablespoons of butter to the water.

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Here is my basic formula:  To cook 3 cups of white rice, (which will yield 6 cups of cooked rice), in a 4-quart stockpot, bring 6 cups of water, minus 6 tablespoons of water, to which 6 tablespoons of butter has been added, to a rolling boil, meaning:  Subtract 1 tablespoon of water for every tablespoon of butter you add. Never let your liquid go over the 1 cup rice-to-2 cups water ratio.  In fact, for really fluffy rice, you can subtract 2 tablespoons of water for every tablespoon of butter that you add.  

This sounds complicated, but it is not.  Once you do this once or twice, you will know exactly what texture you want your rice to be and will be able to control it perfectly using this method of measurement.  You can skip the butter if you want to, but I never do.  No one will ever guess you have added it, but they will wonder why your rice always tastes better than theirs does.  Beef, chicken or vegetable stock can also be used in place of water and butter, which will give your rice deeper flavor, but remember to choose what type of stock to use based upon what you are are serving the rice with, so all of the flavors complement each other.  Tip #3:  For every cup of water you use, subtract 1 tablespoon of water and add 1 tablespoon of butter.

PICT0931 I "sort of" learned this next "trick" from Chef Folse, as he insisted upon it, but I had always pretty much done it this way as per my grandmother:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the better.  This really helps to initially keep all of the grains separated.  Briefly stir the mixture and adjust the heat to a very, very gentle simmer, cover and cook for 12-16 minutes.

Tip #4:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the better.

PICT1503 This timing varies and is determined by the rapidity of your simmer.  Do not uncover or stir during the simmering process, as this disturbs the process, but I find that checking it off and on during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking is like having a good insurance policy in place. When the rice is cooked al dente, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork prior to serving.  

"Fluffing" is a process that allows steam to escape from the rice while imparting volume.  I like to refer to it as "gently raking through the rice with a fork" to remove any lumps and separate the grains.  Using a spoon or a spatula tends to mash the delicate grains so avoid that at all cost. This "fluffing" process is also applied when preparing couscous, quinoa and bulgur.  Tip #5: Remove the al dente rice from heat, allow it to rest, uncover and fluff with a fork just prior to serving.

PICT1458 Lastly, choose the right type of pot. I can't control what you have available to you in your kitchen, but for best results it should be a heavy-gauge pot with ample room for the simmering rice to gently tumble around in and expand. That doesn't mean it has to be outrageously expensive. My favorite rice cooking pot is an 18/10 stainless steel, 4-quart all-purpose stockpot, which I bought from Williams-Sonoma about 15 years ago for about $40.  

PICT1490 It has a tight-fitting, clear glass lid which is IDEAL for keeping an eye on how my rice is progressing without lifting the lid.  Three cups of rice always cooks perfectly in it each and every time.  After doing a brief search on the internet, I found my pot to be discontinued, but I did find a 4-quart Chantal stockpot with a tight-fitting glass lid on Amazon.com that I feel I could recommend as a very good alternative.  In the event you are looking to invest in a pot of this nature, its cost is presently $89.00.  Tip #6:  Choose an appropriately-sized, heavy-gauge pot with a tight-fitting lid.

6a0120a8551282970b014e87db3e17970dHow to:  Cook Perfect White Rice on the Stovetop:  Recipe yields instructions for cooking 3 cups of uncooked rice, which yields 6 cups of cooked rice.

Special Equipment List: colander; heavy-gauge, 4-quart stockpot w/tight-fitting lid; spoon; fork

Cook's Note:  Always refrigerate leftover rice.  Leftovers reheat perfectly in the microwave.  Once you have tried this method for cooking rice, I am sure you'll be experimenting with creative ways to stir all sorts of goodies into your perfectly cooked rice! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Photos, Commentary and Video/Slideshows courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/15/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (4/15/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2The past week has been downright action-packed here in Melanie's Kitchen.  Kitchen Encounters and WHVL-TV shot another cooking segment on Wednesday.  In this segment I prepared my recipe for ~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon Rice ~.  You can read this recipe in detail in Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21 of this blog, or, to view a short video/slideshow:

Download Provencal Seafood Stew w_Lemon Rice-Medium_3

To watch me on TV, tune in to WHVL's The Centre of it All show this Sunday morning at 11:30!

On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (yesterday), I cooked and posted three recipes that add up to one great Asian feast:

~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~, recipe found in Categories 3 & 13

~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~, recipe found in Categories 4 & 13

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice w/Pineapple ~, recipe also found in Categories 4 & 13

To view a short video/slideshow of each one:

Download Honey Sesame Pork w_Garlic-Ginger Sauce-Medium

Download Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute-Medium

Download Mel's %22Jazzed Up%22 Jasmine Rice w_Pineapple-Medium

Kitchen Encounters received one great question via e-mail this week, which I just LOVE, because it has to do with cooking rice (which we did a lot of this week).  For my Provencal Seafood Stew shoot, I prepared white rice on the stovetop using my conventional slow-simmer method.  For my "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice post, I prepared jasmine rice in my electric rice steamer!

PICT0993 Q.  Julia comments and asks:  I read your recipe for Provencal Seafood Stew and it seems like the perfect thing for me to serve for my company over Easter weekend.  My father-in-law loves seafood and  I just know everyone else will love it too.  I know I can manage to cook the stew correctly, but I have had bad experiences with rice in general, which makes me want to serve the stew without the rice added to it.  Can you give me any tips for cooking rice?  Is one brand better than the other?  Thanks in advance for the help Mel.  I just love your blog!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Julia, thank you so much for the great comment, question and kind words.  You are not alone with your bad rice-cooking experiences.  Let me suffice it to say, I've had some bad rice experiences myself and I am pleased to offer up a little kitchen therapy to you today.  From my own personal experience(s), here is how I recommend you cook white rice on the stovetop (these instructions do not apply to jasmine or Basmati rices, which require a slightly different approach):

PICT1454 Let me start by saying:  All rice is NOT created equal, and it has NOTHING to do with brand name. When you are buying white rice, choose the longest grain you can find, with extra long-grain being my first choice.  I didn't always know this, and apparently, this was the biggest cause for my rice problems. Then, four years ago I did a celebrity chef demonstration with/for Chef John D. Folse, CEC, AAC and author of The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.  Without going into any detail, he said to me, "if you're looking for fluffy rice, the longer the grain, the better end product." I have since schooled myself on different types of rice, which all contain different types of starch, which makes all of them cook and fluff up differently, and, they all have their place in this food world.  For instance, medium-grain white rice cooks up creamy, while short-grain white rice cooks up sticky and creamy.  In Melanie's Kitchen, there are applications for them all.  That being said, when it comes to cooking fluffy white rice, Chef Folse's comment sums it all up in a nutshell.

We cooked lots of rice that morning, which Chef was using in both his gumbo and in his jambalaya, which 100 people would be getting a tasting of, and it all came out perfectly.  Tip #1: For fluffy rice, choose the longest grain white rice available to you.

PICT1436 No matter what type of rice you are cooking, rinse the rice before you cook it.  Do not soak it, rinse it, and keep the rice moving while you do. I simply place it in a colander and with cold tap water running through it, move the rice around with my fingertips until the water running out is clear.  After that I let it sit in the sink while I bring my water to a boil.  Tip #2:  Rinse the rice. 

PICT0925 The next bit of advice I have for you, I learned from my grandmother and mother:  For every cup of rice you are cooking, add one tablespoon of butter to the water. Here is my basic formula:  To cook 3 cups of white rice, (which will yield 6 cups of cooked rice), in a 4-quart stockpot, bring 6 cups of water, minus 6 tablespoons of water, to which 6 tablespoons of butter has been added, to a rolling boil, meaning:  Subtract 1 tablespoon of water for every tablespoon of butter you add. Never let your liquid go over the 1 cup rice-to-2 cups water ratio.  In fact, for really fluffy rice, you can subtract 2 tablespoons of water for every tablespoon of butter that you add.  This sounds complicated, but it is not.  Once you do this once or twice, you will know exactly what texture you want your rice to be and will be able to control it perfectly using this method of measurement.

You can skip the butter if you want to, but I never do.  No one will ever guess you have added it, but they will wonder why your rice always tastes better than theirs does.  Beef, chicken or vegetable stock can also be used in place of water and butter, which will give your rice deeper flavor, but remember to choose what type of stock to use based upon what you are are serving the rice with, so all of the flavors complement each other.  Tip #3:  For every cup of water you use, subtract 1-2 tablespoons of water and add 1 tablespoon of butter.

PICT0931I "sort of" learned this next "trick" from Chef Folse, as he insisted upon it, but I had always pretty much done it this way as per my grandmother:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the better.  This really helps to initially keep all of the grains separated.  Briefly stir the mixture and adjust the heat to a very, very gentle simmer, cover and cook for 12-16 minutes.  This timing varies and is determined by the rapidity of your simmer.  Do not uncover or stir during the simmering process, as this disturbs the process, but I find that checking it off and on during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking is like having a good insurance policy in place. When the rice is cooked al dente, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork prior to serving.  Tip #4:  Slowly sprinkle the rice into the boiling water, the slower the sprinkle the better.  Tip #5:  Remove the al dente rice from heat, allow it to rest, uncover and fluff with a fork just prior to serving.

PICT1458 Lastly, choose the right type of pot. I can't control what you have available to you in your kitchen, but for best results it should be a heavy-gauge pot with ample room for the simmering rice to gently tumble around in and expand. That doesn't mean it has to be outrageously expensive. My favorite rice cooking pot is an 18/10 stainless steel, 4-quart all-purpose stockpot, which I bought from Williams-Sonoma about 12-15 years ago for about $40.  It has a tight-fitting, clear glass lid which is IDEAL for keeping an eye on how my rice is progressing without lifting the lid.  Three cups of rice always cooks perfectly in it each and every time.  After doing a brief search on the internet, I found my pot to be discontinued, but I did find a 4-quart Chantal stockpot with a tight-fitting glass lid on Amazon.com that I feel I could recommend as a good alternative.  If you are looking to buy a pot of this nature, its cost is presently $89.00.  Tip #6:  Choose an appropriately-sized, heavy-gauge pot with a tight-fitting lid. 

Have a rice weekend everyone... I mean... have a nice weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Photos, Commentary and Video/Slideshows courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

04/14/2011

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice w/Pineapple (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:53) ~

PICT1413While I promised to get this recipe posted yesterday, time ran a bit short because of another exciting Kitchen Encounter's shoot with WHVL-TV!

I assure you this recipe was worth waiting for and I can tell you this Asian rice dish is sure to become one of your favorites.  I hope you've enjoyed this fun, three-day posting of:

~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Ginger-Garlic Sauce ~, found in Categories 3 & 13, and,

~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~, found in Categories 4 & 13, along with today's

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice w/Pineapple ~, also found in Categories 4 & 13.

To read my recipe for this delicious rice dish, with all of its step-by-step instructions and photographs, click into Categories  4 & 13.  To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Mel's %22Jazzed Up%22 Jasmine Rice w_Pineapple-Medium

If you love Asian food as much as I do, I'm pretty sure this trio of recipes is going to become one of your favorite meals!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice w/Pineapple ~

6a0120a8551282970b01538dd79147970b-800wiSometimes in Melanie's Kitchen a recipe gets developed or created because:  while cooking one food item I am presented with some wonderful "leftover" prepped ingredients that I want to find a use for.  This is one of those recipes.  After developing my Thai-Style Turkey Patties w/Grilled Pineapple Bites (a delicious appetizer which I will be posting as soon as grill-weather arrives in Happy Valley), I had some leftover cilantro, green onion, peanuts and pineapple.  I was serving my ~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Ginger-Garlic Sauce ~ (which can be found in Categories 3 & 13 and is pictured above and below) as the main course that night, to follow my yummy new appetizer. "Jazzing up" the jasmine rice I was steaming in my Zojirushi electric rice steamer (to serve with the pork), using the leftover ingredients and a couple of pantry ingredients, turned a bold experiment into a glorious, new, Thai-style rice side-dish all of its own!

PICT1435 A bit about Jasmine Rice:  Jasmine rice is a polished, long-grain, silky, white rice known for its fragrance, aroma and scent.  It was named after the sweet-smelling jasmine flower of Southeast Asia and as jasmine rice cooks, it releases its perfumy scent.  When properly cooked it is soft, white and fluffy.  Its very distinctive flavor perfectly complements all Asian fare.  

PICT1436 Prior to cooking, it should be rinsed under cold running water.  Place it in a colander and while the water is running, move it around with your fingertips until the water running through it comes out clear.  Set the colander aside and let it drain a bit, about 5-10 minutes, before cooking it.  Leftover, cold jasmine rice also makes fantastic fried rice (a recipe I'll share with you soon), so don't be afraid to steam a little extra!  

Jasmine rice is sometimes compared to Indian basmati rice, which is also a fragrant, long-grain white rice, however, basmati is aged before being sold and has a delicious, nuttier flavor.  While both rices cook the same (using less water than conventional long-grain white rice) and produce fluffy, slightly-chewy grains, I personally do not use them interchangeably.  I prefer to use jasmine rice exclusively when we are eating Asian fare and use basmati rice exclusively when I am serving Indian or Middle Eastern fare.  If you don't cook a lot of Asian food, I suggest you purchase your jasmine rice in a small quantity at the grocery store, as it is at its best if used within 6-8 months after purchasing it. This being said, for a fraction of the price, you can do as I do and purchase the rice in 5- 10- or 20-pound bags at your local Asian market.  No matter what quantity you are are purchasing, be sure that it is authentic and a product of Thailand! 

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6  cups uncooked jasmine rice, rinsed under cold running water and drained

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk, shaken or well-stirred (1 3/4 cup)

2  6-ounce cans pineapple juice (1 1/2 cups)

3 1/4  cups water

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  tablespoons Golden Mountain seasoning soy sauce or Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  cups very thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

2-4  thinly sliced Thai chile peppers, more or less, to taste

4  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

1  20-ounce can crushed pineapple, in 100% juice with no sugar added

1  cup coarsely chopped, unsalted peanuts, lightly toasted (reserve 1/4 cup for garnish)

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro (reserve 1/2 cup for garnish)

1/2"-3/4"-thick, cored and grilled pineapple slices (optional)

PICT1274 ~ Step 1.  Prep the peanuts as directed, placing them in a small baking pan as you work.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 10-15 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 3-5 minutes.  

Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, about 25-30 minutes.

PICT1279

 

~ Step 2.  Using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place rice in steamer.  Do not use a standard, Pyrex-type 1-cup measure.  Using the same measuring cup, measure and add the coconut milk, pineapple juice and lastly, water, until 6 1/2 cups of total liquid has been added to the rice. Briefly stir, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  While rice is steaming:

PICT1286 ~ Step 3.  In a 10" skillet, place the sesame oil and soy sauce.  Prep the onion, chile peppers and ginger as directed, placing them in the skillet as you work.  Over medium-high heat, saute, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are slightly cooked through and flavored by the sesame oil and soy sauce, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside until the rice completes the steaming process. When rice has finished steaming:

PICT1300 ~ Step 4.  Open the lid of the rice steamer.  Using a long-handled spoon, quickly but thoroughly fold/stir in the sauteed vegetable mixture, followed by the crushed pineapple, 3/4 cup of the toasted peanuts and 1/2 cup of the minced cilantro (reserving the remaining peanuts and cilantro for garnishing the finished dish).  

PICT1303This is a closeup picture of the stirred/folded together rice. Transfer the rice to a large serving bowl or platter and garnish with the remaining peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately.  

To "jazz up" your "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice recipe even more, and serve it in individual portions:

PICT1442 ~ Step 5.  Place a 2 1/2"-round x 1 1/4" deep ring mold on top of a 1/2"-3/4"-thick slice of grilled pineapple.

Note:  Pretty much all fruit tastes better when it has been grilled and if you don't have a grill, a grill pan will work just as well.  Grill as many slices as you want, until lovely, golden brown grill marks appear, about 1 1/2-2 minutes per side, depending upon how hot your grill or grill pan is.

Firmly pack warm rice into mold, to the very top and let rest about 30-60 seconds.  Pressing down on the rice with your fingertips, slowly lift the ring mold from the rice.  Garnish each portion with some minced cilantro and chopped peanuts:

PICT1420 Melanie's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice:  Recipe yields 16 cups or enough to accompany a full recipe of my Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce, about 1-1 1/2 cups per person.

Special Equipment List:  8" x 8" x 2" baking pan; cutting board; chef's knife; electric rice steamer; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; long-handled spoon; grill or grill pan (optional); 2 1/2" x 1 1/4"-round ring mold (optional)

Cook's Note:  When I am serving Asian food that requires serving rice as a side-dish, this is usually my first recipe choice.  Everyone just adores it.  Leftovers reheat perfectly in the microwave oven... even the grilled pineapple slices!

PICT0007Extra Cook's Note:  To make plain, steamed jasmine rice in an electric rice steamer:  using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place desired number of cups of rinsed jasmine rice in the steamer. Add an equal amount of water, or a 1-to-1 ratio of rice-to-water, + 1/2 cup (Example:  6 cups of rice/6 1/2 cups of water).  Briefly stir the rice, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  Do not uncover or stir during the steaming process.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

04/12/2011

~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:35) ~

PICT1376 It is day two of what is now being affectionately referred to as "Asian Feast Week".  Well... it is really only three days, but Melanie's Kitchen smells great and after tasting all of these wonderful flavors, I can tell you: everyone here is ready for Spring to arrive for real!  Yesterday we posted my recipe for ~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic Ginger Sauce ~, and you can find that recipe in Categories 3 & 13.

Today, as an accompaniment to the pork, we posted ~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~, and you can read the recipe in Categories 4 & 13.  To view a short video/slideshow of today's recipe:

Download Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute-Medium

Join us tomorrow for our final "Asian Feast Week" installment when I'll be posting:  ~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice & Pineapple ~, which will be found along with this one in Categories 4 & 13!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Mel's All-Purpose Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~

PICT1399 I refer to this all-vegetable side-dish as a saute rather than a stir-fry.  While both of these cooking methods are similar (because they both cook food somewhat quickly in oil over direct heat), a saute typically cooks it slightly longer.  In the case of vegetables:  a saute produces vegetables that are soft, but not mushy or overcooked; a stir-fry produces vegetables that are very crisp-tender.  While I love a good stir-fry, there are times when I believe the kinder, gentler saute suits the fare better, which is how I came to develop this recipe!

About 13-14 years ago, I was given my nextdoor neighbor's mother's recipe for ~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~, which you can find here at Kitchen Encounters in Categories 3 & 13.  I loved this dish with its sesame-soy marinated, sesame seed-topped, fork-tender pork and highly-flavored garlic-ginger sauce.  It was intuitively obvious that it should be accompanied by some sort of Asian vegetables and steamed rice, but this pork was so delicious I wanted my vegetable and rice accompaniments to be well-above ordinary! 

PICT1316 Because this pork is so tender, I decided to by-pass the stir-fry route and go with a subtly-flavored, slightly spicy vegetable saute:  a little sesame oil and soy sauce for flavor and a few diced Thai chiles for spice.  No overkill:  I wanted to make sure the flavor of each and every vegetable shined through.  

I took the time to dice the vegetables, so at serving time they would be a slightly-soft bed for all of the thin slices of pork.  When the flavorful sauce was drizzled on top, each forkful would be a mouthful of tender, juicy pork and a lot of al dente vegetables bursting with garlic-ginger flavor... and each one was.  While dicing the vegetables is extra work (as opposed to large chunks and pieces), it is time well spent, and, it is a task that can be done up to a day ahead of time!

(As for the rice dish, you'll have to check back tomorrow, when I post ~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice & Pineapple ~, which will also be found in Categories 4 & 13!)

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6  tablespoons sesame oil

6  tablespoons Golden Mountain seasoning soy sauce

3  cups thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

3  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

3  cups diced green bell pepper 

3  cups diced red bell pepper

8  thinly sliced Thai chile peppers, more or less, to taste

2  tablespoons finely diced or minced garlic cloves, more or less, to taste

4  tablespoons finely diced or minced, fresh ginger, more or less, to taste

1-2  15-ounce cans straw mushrooms, well-drained and coarsely chopped

1  8-ounce can water chestnuts, well-drained and coarsely chopped

1 1/2  cups minced, fresh cilantro leaves, as few stems as possible, for garnish

PICT1312 ~ Step 1.  In a 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides, place the sesame oil and soy sauce.  Prep all of the vegetables as directed, adding them to the pan as you work, with the exception of the cilantro.  

Place the prepped cilantro in a food storage bag and refrigerate until serving time.

PICT1317 ~ Step 2.  Using a large spoon, thoroughly combine all of the vegetables, continuing to stir until they are all evenly coated in the sesame oil and soy sauce.

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~ Step 3.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft, but not overcooked, about 6 minutes...

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... Vegetables will still have most of their textural integrity and still be brightly colored.  Remove from heat.  Note:  I like to prep all of my vegetables early in the day and place them in the pan on the stovetop.  At dinner time, when the pork comes out of the oven, gets covered with foil and rests for 15 minutes, I turn the stove on and saute the vegetables.  Timing is everything!

Slice the pork as directed.  Place a large scoop of Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute on each of 8-12 warmed serving dishes, top with sliced pork and drizzle with garlic-ginger sauce.  Serve immediately:

PICT1376 Mel's All-Purpose Asian-Style Vegetable Saute:  Recipe yields 12-18 generous servings, enough to accompany a full recipe for my Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon

Cook's Note:  Leftovers keep nicely in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and reheat perfectly in the microwave.  This being said, if you are not making the full recipe for the pork, I wrote this recipe so you can easily cut it in half.  While I developed this recipe to serve with my Honey-Sesame Pork, this flavorful, versatile recipe is a great side-dish for many Asian recipes, as well as a spicy condiment to top grilled poultry or fish!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/11/2011

~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:57) ~

PICT1406 After a trip to our local Asian Market on Friday morning (today is Monday and it is after the weekend), I decided to make this meal my "weekend project".  I say "project" because I'm going to be posting this Asian feast in three parts, which is a bit more work at my end, so you have the option of cooking any part by itself and serving it with whatever you choose to.  This is a meal that will kick your Winterized tastebuds into the Spring/Summer season!

The recipes are being posted as follows:

Today:  ~ Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~, found in Categories 3 & 13

and its two accompaniments:

Tomorrow:  ~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~,  found in Categories 4 & 13

Wednesday:  ~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice & Pineapple ~, also in Categories 4 & 13.

To view a short video/slideshow of today's recipe:

Download Honey Sesame Pork w_Garlic-Ginger Sauce-Medium

Stay tuned over the next two days because:  these are recipes you are not going to want to miss!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Asian Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce~

PICT1410If you like Asian food you are going to love this recipe for pork tenderloins.  I liked it so much, I developed two other recipes to serve with it, turning it into one super-delicious Asian feast.   If you like Asian food as much as I do, I'm pretty sure this trio is going to be in your recipe file too:

~ Asian Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce ~, found in Categories 3, 4 & 13

~ Mel's Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~, found in Categories 4 & 13

~ Mel's "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice & Pineapple ~, found in Catelories 4 & 13

About 13-14 years ago, my then new nextdoor neighbor Gabriella's mother and father were visiting  she and her husband Bill.  Gabriella invited Joe and I to dinner to meet her parents: Gizella and Tibor.  It was Springtime, because I remember taking a bouquet of tulips to them and I'm pretty sure it was around Easter, because Gizella and I got into quite a discussion about making Pysanky (the traditional and intricately designed Easter eggs of Russia).  In the early 1950's, Gizella and Tebor immigrated to the United States from Hungary, settled in Connecticut and raised their family.  They were both masterful gardeners and Gizella was also a masterful cook. That evening, Gizella and Gabriella served these marvelous pork tenderloins for dinner and a day or two later, Gabriella wrote down and shared her mother's recipe with me!

These tenderloins are delicious, simple to make, and with no added prep or cooking time, you can make enough of them to have leftover to slice for fabulous sandwiches or dice for tossing into an Asian salad.  I always purchase the small, vacuum packed tenderloins that come two-to-a-pack with each tenderloin weighing in at about 1 pound.  As with all vacuum-packed meat, once I remove it from the package, I like to rinse it under cold, running water and pat in dry in paper towels before proceeding with the recipe at hand.  In my house, I plan on one tenderloin feeding three normal people or two hungry, male college students.  That being said, six tenderloins fit perfectly on a standard-size 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan, so I always make six, with leftovers being my goal, and I advise you to do the same.  You can thank me later!

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6  small, whole pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each

6-8  tablespoons minced garlic cloves, about 3-4 ounces

6-8  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger, about 3-4 ounces, peeled and coarsely chopped

1  cup Golden Mountain seasoning soy sauce, or Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  cups honey, about 24 ounces

1/2  cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

6-8 tablespoons sesame seeds

PICT1240 PICT1252~ Step 1.  In a mini-or small size food processor, place the garlic cloves.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, mince the garlic.

Place the minced garlic in a 2-gallon size food storage bag.

~ Step 2.  Repeat this process with the peeled and coarsely chopped ginger.

Place the minced ginger in the food storage bag with the garlic.

Note:  If you do not have a mini- or small-sized food processor, do not be inclined to mince the garlic and ginger together (at the same time) in a larger one.  To start with, their textures are different, but more importantly, in my opinion:  When they are processed together, they lose their "flavor identities" and turn into one odd tasting mess!

PICT1261~ Step 3.  Measure and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and brown sugar to the bag with the garlic and ginger.

Using your fingertips on the outside of the bag, "squish" the bag until the sugar is thoroughly incorporated.  

You have just made the marinade!

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~ Step 4.  Add all six of the tenderloins to the bag.  Seal the bag and place it in a large bowl, preferably one deep enough to raise the level of the marinade to cover the tenderloins completely.

Marinate the tenderloins in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.  I personally think overnight is best. Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to baking the tenderloins.

PICT1325 ~ Step 5.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with a piece of wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Line the foil with a sheet of 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" parchment paper.  If you do not have parchment paper, spray the foil with no-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds evenly over the parchment paper.

PICT1328 ~ Step 6.  Remove the tenderloins from the marinade, shaking each one gently, to allow excess marinade and chunks of garlic/ginger to drop back into the bag.  Place tenderloins, side-by-side, on baking pan.  Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over all.

~ Step 7.  Bake tenderloins on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, about 30-35 minutes, or until the desired degree of doneness is reached.  I always use an instant-read meat thermometer and remove them when they have reached 138-140 degrees.  Note:  When the tenderloins are removed from the oven, they will be covered with foil and allowed to rest for 10-15 minutes, during which time carryover heat will continue to cook them, so for perfect results, I suggest you do this my way.  While the tenderloins are roasting:

PICT1340 ~ Step 8.  Pour all of the marinade from the bag into a 3 1/2 quart chef's pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Adjust heat to simmer rapidly, until the mixture is reduced slightly, about 10-12 minutes.  During this time:  Carefully regulate and pay very close attention to the heat under the simmering sauce as this mixture can and will boil over very quickly.

PICT1350 ~ Step 9.  Turn the heat off and allow the bubbles to subside.  The sauce should be golden brown, glistening and slightly thickened (this is a sauce not a gravy).  Go ahead, give it a taste.  Delish!

Cover and let sit on still warm stovetop until tenderloins are roasted and rested as directed above.  Briefly reheat sauce at serving time.

PICT1344 ~ Step 10.  The tenderloins have been removed from the oven, rested (according to the directions above) and are now ready to slice:

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~ Step 11.  You can slice the tenderloins as thick or as thin as you like.  Personally I think they are at their best sliced very thin, 1/4"-thick or less.  

This being said, no matter what thickness you prefer...

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... Be sure to hold your knife at a 30 degree angle while slicing.  Use long, smooth strokes and Do not "saw"!

 

 

 

 

PICT1412Asian Honey-Sesame Pork w/Garlic-Ginger Sauce:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings plus leftovers for 6-8 servings and apprimately 4 cups of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; mini- or small food processor; 2-gallon size food storage bag; 1-cup measuring container; large, deep bowl; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; instant-read meat thermometer; sauce ladle

PICT1413 PICT1312Cook's Note: Leftovers of both the tenderloins and the sauce are delicious reheated or even eaten cold.  I've showed you how to serve them today as an entree, with my recipes for Asian Vegetable Saute and "Jazzed Up" Jasmine Rice & Pineapple for accompaniments (both pictured here).  Both of these recipes go great with a myriad of Asian fare!  

Another delicious way to serve them is on a hot sandwich.  Slice warm tenderloins and place the slices in a bowl.  Ladle just enough of warm sauce over the top to coat the sliced meat when tossed with a fork.  Place on soft-textured sesame seed rolls and enjoy!  Whether you are serving these delicious tenderloins as an entree or a sandwich, ladle some sauce into a sauceboat and serve it tableside for dipping or drizzling!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/08/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (4/8/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 April showers bring May flowers?  I sure do hope so, because April has been nothing but showers so far here in Central Pennsylvania.  Both the clock and the calendar tell me it is Spring, but because of all of the cold and damp weather, Kitchen Encounters is still working on recipes that take the chill out of the air.  During this first week of April I posted the lasagna recipe that Terrance requested at our last Culinary Q&A along with:    

 

~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna ~, found in Categories 3, 14, 19, 20 & 22

~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon Rice ~, found in Categories 2, 11, 14 & 21

~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake ~, found in Category 6

~ Homemade Boursin w/Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips ~, found in Categories 1, 11 & 20

To view a short video/slideshow of each one:

Download Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna-Medium

Download Provencal Seafood Stew w_Lemon Rice-Medium_3

Download Nana's Applesauce, Oatmeal, Raisin & Walnut Cake-Medium

Download Homemade Boursin w_Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips-Medium

Kitchen Encounters also received one great question from another one of my Facebook followers, regarding a piece of cookware that I use:

Q.  Chealsea comments and asks:  Melanie, I've noticed that in a lot of your recipes, you say to use a "14-inch chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid".  Sometimes you say that if you don't have one, we can substitute an 8-quart stockpot in its place.  What is the difference between the two?  Why do you use the chef's pan?  Where can I get a 14" chef's pan?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Chealsea, this is a loaded question!  Before we get into the chef's pan, let me start by saying I am not a proponent of buying any one particular, prepackaged set of pots and pans, unless it is a small starter set for someone who has no pots and pans to begin with. With authority, I can confidently comment on pots and pans in general because Melanie's Kitchen contains:  All-Clad, Anolon, Calphalon, Chantal, Cuisinart, Farberware, Le Creuset, Lodge Cast-Iron, an assortment of various brands of copper cookware, and a few pieces of Meyer anodized aluminum restaurant-sized pots and rondeaus.

PICT1223 The 14" chef's pan that I use so much and you see used in food pictures on my blog is at least 16-years old, was made by Calphalon, and I have two of them.  This pan has a helper  handle on one side and a long, extended handle on the other.  About a year ago I tried to buy two more, only to find out it was discontinued.  After a brief search, I found it had been replaced by what they now call a "Sauteuse" pan:

PICT1227 The 7-quart, 14", Calphalon Infused Sauteuse Pan can be found on Amazon.com for $129.00, but I found mine at chef'sresource.com for $99.00 (regularly priced at $250.00).  It is slightly smaller than the original (pictured above), but it is every bit the same workhorse of my kitchen.  I bought 4 of them for myself, 1 for my son Jess and 1 for my assistant Jeanne!  

It has two helper-handles (which they refer to as loop-handles), but the same large 14"-round base, which is exactly the reason I adore this pan.  The sauteuse's large capacity and straight, deep sides, make is the perfect vessel for sauteing, braising, poaching, simmering and easy stirring.

In some instances I do say that you can substitute an 8-quart stockpot.  For instance, while I like to make both my chili and marinara sauce in my chef's pan, an 8-quart stockpot would be a suitable alternative for them because it has the necessary total capacity to accomodate all of the ingredients. However, if you want to pan-fry 6-8 pieces of chicken or 6-8 pork chops, an 8-quart stockpot does not have a wide enough base to handle more than 3-4 pieces at a time, so it would not be a suitable alternative.

Note:  The following is a picture of mine, in which I have 8, 1 1/2" veal chops browning in my Calphalon 14" chef's pan.  I am in the process of turning them over to brown on the second side, after which I will add my homemade marinara sauce, cover the pan and braise them on the stovetop for about two hours.

Braised Veal Chops #4 (Turning Chops Oven in Progress) This pan is wonderful for sauteing large quantities of vegetables, braising shanks or chops, pan-frying chicken or meatballs, poaching salmon or seafood, simmering spaghetti sauce or chili, or, stirring a large batch of polenta or risotto.  It weighs about 9 1/2 pounds and should only be hand-washed, as the dishwasher will slowly ruin the non-stick surface. Let me finish by saying: hand-washing is a small price to pay for such a great, multi-use piece of equipment!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Photos, Commentary and Video/Slideshows courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/06/2011

~ Homemade Boursin w/Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips (A Short Video/Slideshow, 01:00) ~

PICT1215 In my opinion, every recipe file deserves at least one "go to" cheese dip or cheese spread with a special cracker or toast to accompany it.  In my opinion, it should also be quick and easy to put together as well.  I have several, but this one is my favorite.  Give me a dollop of creamy, buttery Boursin on a crisp, crunchy pita chip any day of the week!  To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Homemade Boursin w_Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips-Medium

To read my recipe with all of its step-by-step instructions and photographs, click into Category 1, 11 or 17 of this blog!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Homemade Boursin w/Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips ~

PICT1195 Boursin is technically classified as a "specialty" cheese, however, I classify Boursin as a "party cheese".  If you serve it at a party with crackers or toasts, people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, very similar to that of cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve as a snack with wine or mixed drinks.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, with Garlic & Fine Herbs being my personal favorite.  No matter which one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.  Boursin was the creation of Francois Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own personal palate.  Here's one last bit of trivia about Boursin: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  It seems that "Gournay" is the word Francois Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France and Britain using the slogan, "Du Pain, Du Vin, Du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin"!

PICT1137 Each small, 5.2-ounce wheel of Boursin comes wrapped in corrugated foil inside of a small white and green box.  If you happen to have any leftovers, store them wrapped in the original corrugated foil wrapper in the refrigerator. While it is creamy and delicious immediately, I like to remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes and serve it at room temperature! 

Making your own Boursin is easier than you might think and the advantage of doing this is:  you control your own herb blend.  There are versions of it that contain combinations of cheese, such as cream cheese, Neufchatel and/or farmer's cheese and a blend of minced, fresh herbs.  I encountered my favorite homemade version in someone elses kitchen,  a "reverse Kitchen Enounter" so to speak:  Carol is a neighbor and very close friend and confidant of mine.  One evening while Joe and I were enjoying pre-dinner drinks with she and her husband Dick, Carol served Boursin spread atop what she referred to as "gallery" pita chips.  I asked her where she bought her Boursin, as it was absolutely delightful.  She told me she made it herself, and, by the end of the evening I had a copy of her recipe!

As for Carol's "gallery" pita  chips:  During the 1980's, Carol worked at the famous National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  In 1985, Carol was one of the supervisors for the hugely popular exhibition:  "The Treasure Houses of Britain".  Throughout her career at the gallery, Carol often complimented a member of the gallery's kitchen staff on how delicious their pita chips were.  When Carol eventually retired from the gallery, the woman presented her with the pita chip recipe.  Lucky for me, Carol and Dick moved to Happy Valley and Carol presented me with that recipe too!

PICT1116For the homemade Boursin:

1/4  teaspoon each:  dried basil leaves, sage leaves and thyme leaves

1  teaspoon dried dill weed

1/2  teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1  teaspoon dried, minced garlic

1/2  teaspoon cracked black pepper

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

8  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

PICT1120 ~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, measure and combine all of the dried herbs as listed.

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~ Step 2.  In a medium mixing bowl, on lowest speed of electric mixer, thoroughly combine the butter and cream cheese.

Add the dried herb mixture, gradually increasing the mixer speed to high, continuing to beat until the herbs are thoroughly incorporated and the Boursin is smooth and creamy, about 45-60 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

PICT1146 ~ Step 3.  Transfer mixture to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate while preparing the pita chips, or overnight.

Note:  Boursin can be made several days in advance of serving and keeps nicely in the refrigerator for at least a week.  It is also noteworthy to mention that Boursin is delicious used on or in all sorts of dishes:  try adding it to an omelette for breakfast, spread on your sandwich for lunch, or dolloped on top of a steak and baked potato for dinner!

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For the parm 'n pepper pita chips:

6  6" round Thomas' Sahara pita pockets, white/unflavored (Note:  This is my favorite brand for this recipe folks, and I've tried many.)

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  generous tablespoon dried parsley flakes

cracked black pepper, for sprinkling over pita chips

finely- and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for sprinkling over pita chips

PICT1149~ Step 1.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut each of the pita breads, around its circumference, to form 2 discs.  You will have 12 total discs.

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.PICT1164  In a medium mixing bowl, on lowest speed of electric mixer, thoroughly combine the butter, garlic powder and parsley flakes. The mixture will be very soft, smooth and spreadable.

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~ Step 3.  Using a thin spatula, spread a thin but even coating of the butter mixture evenly over the "inside" (the rough side that was originally the inside of each bread) surface of each disc. 

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~ Step 4.  Using a very sharp knife, cut each disc into sixths, or six wedges.

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~ Step 5.  Arrange the wedges, side-by-side and not overlapping, on 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.  Note:  If you are using smaller pans, you'll need more pans.  Sprinkle cracked black pepper evenly over all followed by a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

PICT1191 ~ Step 6.  Bake, one pan at a time, on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, in pans, about 45-60 minutes.  Pita chips will continue to crisp up as they cool and will be very crunchy and crispy when eaten!

~ Step 7.  Remove the Boursin from the refrigerator 45-60 minutes prior to serving.  Top or spread each pita chip with a dollop or swish of Boursin and enjoy:

PICT1215Homemade Boursin w/Parm 'n Pepper Pita Chips:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of Boursin and 6 dozen pita chips.

Special Equipment List:  electric mixer; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/lid; kitchen shears; thin spatula; cutting board; chef's knife; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper

Cook's Note:  No recipe file should be without at least one recipe for a great cheese spread and an accompanying toast.  I have several "go to" recipes of this nature, but I've got to say, this one is my favorite and is loved by all who taste it!  Thank you Carol!!!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/04/2011

~ Nana's Applesauce-Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut Cake (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:58) ~

PICT1106 Today was a dark, dreary day in Happy Valley with a lot of thunderstorms.  I had planned to run errands, but the pelting rain changed my mind to "stay inside" mode.  I decided to make the most of it and amused myself by baking one of my oldest recipes.  This dense, moist cake, served slightly warm tonight for dessert, made us forget all about the chilly rain.  To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Nana's Applesauce, Oatmeal, Raisin & Walnut Cake-Medium

To read my recipe with all of its step-by-step instructions and photographs, click into Category 6 of this blog!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/02/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #6: Provencal Seafood (Lobster*) Stew w/Lemon Rice ~

6a0120a8551282970b0147e3abccac970b-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Provencal Seafood (Lobster*) Stew w/Lemon Rice ~.  To get the recipe for this decadent stew, along with all of my detailed instructions and step-by-step photos, just click into Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Provencal Seafood (Lobster) Stew w/Lemon Rice

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

************

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

04/01/2011

~ Provencal Seafood Stew w/Lemon Rice (A Short Video/Slideshow, 00:58) ~

PICT0993 It's April Fools Day, but all foolin' aside, this is probably one of the best seafood stews you will ever taste.  It is just as good in the Spring/Summer as it is in the Fall/Winter.

To view a short video/slideshow:

Download Provencal Seafood Stew w_Lemon Rice-Medium_3


To read my recipe with all of its step-by-step instructions and photographs, as well as learn a little about Provencal-style cooking in general, click into Categories 2, 11, 14 or 21 of this blog!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photos and Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

~ Provencal Seafood (Lobster*) Stew w/Lemon Rice~

PICT0984 This sumptuous seafood stew, which from start to finish takes 45-60 minutes to prepare, has been served in my kitchen as a starter-course at sit-down luncheons and dinner parties, as well as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's also been served as an entree on days when I want to serve up something really special just for my family.  Sometimes I make it using vegetable stock when I have vegetarian friends dining at my table as well.  It is as enjoyable in the warmth of the Spring/Summer as it is in the chill of Fall/Winter.  It might be April Fools Day today, but all fooling aside, my stew recipe is truly a five-star start to any meal or a five-star meal itself!

A bit about Provencal:  "Provencal" is a term referring to dishes prepared in the style of Provence, a region in southeastern France that borders on the Mediterranean Sea.  Provencal cuisine is full of fresh, bold flavors, with garlic, tomatoes and olive oil being the major trademark. Anchovies/anchovy paste, olives, bell peppers, eggplant (aubergine), fennel, onions, mushrooms, squash and zucchini play prominent rolls as well.  Fruits are usually eaten as a dessert, but lemons are used as a flavoring in many of their dishes.  All sorts of fresh and dried herbs are used in Provencal cooking, with the most famous blend being Herbes de Provence, and I'll be giving you a recipe for how to make it for yourself at some point soon.  The fresh vegetables are often used in stews, like ratatouille, or salads like salad Nicoise.  And, who doesn't just love tapenade (?), a Provencal paste/spread made with olives, anchovies and capers.  Because provence borders on the Mediterranean, fish and shellfish are eaten in abundance.  That being said, my own very special recipe for bouillabaisse with its saffron-flavored broth and spicy rouille will be coming to you at some point too!

I could go on and on, but it's time to get back to my seafood stew story.  There came a day in Melanie's Kitchen when I found myself in a "punting" situation.  I had eight guests coming for a casual Kitchen Encounter and I was planning on serving my stew as a main course.  I had made the broth the night before and all of my seafood was prepped and ready to add to the stew just before they arrived.  About two hours before the party, one of my friends called to apologize and told me she and her husband wouldn't be coming because their son and his wife had decided to come for a visit.  Me being me, I immediately said, "bring them along too, it will be great to see them again."  When I got off the phone I assured myself I had plenty of food (I always make extra in case someone wants a second helping).  But, me being me again, I decided an "insurance policy" would erase any doubt I had on that subject, so:  I cooked some extra-long grain white rice and flavored it with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and black pepper.  At serving time, I place a scoop of lemon rice in the center of each bowl and ladled the stew around it.  A new twist on an old favorite was born that evening and we all had a very memorable Kitchen Encounter!

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2  pounds large shrimp (31-35 count), peeled and deveined, tails off

2  pounds small bay scallops

2, 12-16 ounce lobster tails, or, 1-1 1/2 pounds chopped lobster meat

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, the best available

6  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or olive oil

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

8  ounces diced celery

2  cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, or 1, 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth

1  bottle sweet white wine

2  28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained

6  medium-sized bay leaves

1  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1  teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2  tablespoons Pernod, a French Aperitif, more or less, to taste

1  recipe for Lemon Rice (ingredients and instructions posted below)

~ Step 1.  Remove the seafood from the refrigerator.  Peel and devein the shrimp as directed, removing the tails as you work.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the shells from the lobster tails and chop the meat into large, bite-sized pieces.  Note:  I usually freeze my shrimp shells, to make seafood stock.  In the case of the two large lobster shells, when I am making this stew, I add them to the simmering broth for flavor.  When the broth is finished I remove and discard them before adding the seafood.  This option is yours.

PICT0888~ Step 2.  Place the tomatoes in a large bowl.  Using your hands, squish them into large, bite-sized chunks and pieces.

Note:  In this picture, I am squishing a tomato for the camera.  In the real world, I keep the tomatoes submerged in the liquid while squishing them, which keeps their juices from squirting all over the place!

PICT0900 ~ Step 3.  Place the EVOO in an 8-quart, stockpot.  If you are making your broth a day in advance be sure to use a non-aluminum stockpot.

Prep the onion, celery and garlic as directed, placing them in the stockpot as you work.  Adjust the heat to saute, stirring constantly, until the onion softens, about 6 minutes.

Note:  Aluminum pots and pans are great conductors of heat, however, it is not recommended that food be stored in them for long periods of time.  Aluminum will react with and discolor some foods containing eggs, wine or other acidic ingredients, like tomatoes.  While this discoloration is not harmful, it is unattractive.

PICT0905 ~ Step 4.  Add the wine and chicken stock.  Adjust the heat to a gentle, steady simmer.

Note:  As I mentioned above, when I am making this soup for vegetarian guests, I substitute my homemade vegetable stock for my homemade chicken stock.  You can find my recipe for ~ How To:  Make A Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia ~ in Categories 14, 15 & 22.

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~ Step 5.  Add and stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, dried thyme leaves, salt and red pepper flakes.

Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Check in on it and give it a stir occasionally.

While the broth is simmering, we're going to prepare the lemon rice:

PICT09193  cups extra long-grain white rice

6  cups water, minus 6 tablespoons water

4  ounces (1 stick) salted butter, total butter throughout recipe

1  lemon, juice and zest

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

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~ Step 6.  In a 4-quart stockpot, bring the water and 6 tablespoons of the butter to a boil over high heat.

Gradually, but in a constant stream, add the rice to the boiling water. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, stirring constantly.  Cover the pot and continue to cook, until the rice is fully-cooked and has absorbed all of the liquid, about 12-16 minutes.  Do not uncover or stir.

PICT0937 ~ Step 7.  While the rice is simmering, using a microplane grater, zest the lemon.  Cut the lemon in half and strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl.

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~ Step 8.  When the rice is cooked, add and thoroughly stir all of the lemon juice, zest, the black pepper, sea salt and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter into the rice.  Cover and set aside.

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It's time to finish the soup:

PICT0959 ~ Step 9.  Add and stir the shrimp and the scallops into the gently simmering broth.   When the soup returns to a simmer:

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~ Step 10.  Add and stir in the pieces of lobster.  When the soup returns to a simmer:

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~ Step 11.  Add and stir in the lumps of crabmeat.  When the soup returns to a simmer:

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~ Step 12.  Continue to simmer until shrimp are perfectly cooked, about 2-3 additional minutes.  Cooking all of the seafood in the stew will take about 12-15 total minutes.  Stir 2 tablespoons of Pernod into the broth.  To serve, place a scoop of lemon rice ( 1/2 cup) in the center of each warmed soup bowl.  Ladle hot stew, around the rice, into each portion.  If desired, garnish each with some additional lemon zest and chopped chives.  Serve immediately:

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Provencal Seafood (Lobster) Stew w/Lemon Rice:  Recipe yields 8-10 entree servings or 12-16 starter servings and 6 cups of rice.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot w/ lid, preferably non-aluminum; large spoon; 4-quart stockpot w/lid; microplane grater; fine mesh strainer; soup ladle

PICT0953 Cook's Note:  Pernod is a yellowish, licorice-flavored liqueur similar to absinthe.  Pernod is very popular in France and is usually mixed with water, which turns it whitish and cloudy.

Extra Cook's Note:  Leftover stew reheats nicely in the microwave.  The seafood tends to get tough if reheated on the stovetop.

*To take this dish over the top: On certain occasions, I prepare it using all lobster (no other seafood):  6-8, 12-16-ounce lobster tails.  I of course, refer to this decadent meal as Provencal Lobster Stew!!!  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)