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8 posts from July 2017

07/21/2017

~ Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce~

IMG_1650I'm not proclaiming this recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm telling you it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right".

A bit about New Mexico-style red enchilada sauce:

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  Later that afternoon, I went shopping.  

IMG_2459 IMG_2481 6a0120a8551282970b017d4140e28d970cI made a small investment in some Mexican-style chili powder, and, for simplicity, I settled on one high-quality chile blend that's manufactured in New Mexico (Santa Fé Seasons via Apple Canyon Gourmet).  I added some Mexican-style oregano to my spice rack too.

Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what's in it:

CHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with and "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

End the oregano debate:  they're not the same.

MEDITERRANEAN OREGANO: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

MEXICAN OREGANO: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and Central and South America.  Sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano, it has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

IMG_17142  tablespoons neural-flavored cooking oil (avocado, corn, vegetable, etc.)

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)

4  tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder

2  tablespoons Sante Fé Seasons Chile blend (Note:  This is a blend of New Mexico red chile powder, cilantro and saffron.  If you don't want to purchase it, which I highly-suggest you do, omit it and add 1 additional tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder to this recipe.)

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon Mexican oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock (depending on what you're filling your enchiladas with:  beef, chicken or cheese)

1  tablespoon white vinegar

IMG_1601 IMG_1605 IMG_1607 IMG_1615~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucier or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, cook until the roux is thick, smooth, bubbly and short of browning, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Lower heat and whisk in the dry spices.

IMG_1617 IMG_1622 IMG_1630 IMG_1639~Step 2.  After the dry spices are added, the mixture will be, grainy, lumpy and bumpy.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisk in the beef, chicken or vegetable stock, then add the vinegar.  Adjust heat to a steady, somewhat-rapid simmer and cook, whisking frequently but not constantly, until sauce is nicely-thickened and reduced by about 1/3, 15-20 minutes.  You'll have 1 1/2 cups.

Use as directed, or, refrigerate overnight (which I recommend):

IMG_1632Some things are simply better made from scratch:

IMG_1649Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups New Mexico-Style red enchilada sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 1 quart saucier or saucepan; whisk

IMG_9033Cook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/18/2017

~ A Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler ~

IMG_1543While I adore a traditional cherry or blueberry pie (who doesn't), sometimes, especially July thru September, the months when there is so much (too much) going on in our garden, I need to speed things in order to make use of all the fresh fruits and vegetables in a timely, manner.  When it comes "short shelf life" fruits like our sour cherries and blueberries, this cobbler is my solution. All I need is four cups of one or the other or a combination of both, along with 15 minutes of hands-on time, and:  dessert is in the oven.  There's more.  In the Winter months, I can make this cobbler using frozen cherries or blueberries without any compromise in flavor or texture.

4 cups sour cherries or blueberries, or a combination of both +

IMG_15065-6 pantry staples, &, in 15 minutes: dessert is in the oven.

IMG_15024  cups pitted sour cherries or blueberries  (Note:  If you are using frozen berries, thaw them for about 45-60 minutes and use them partially-frozen, not completely thawed.)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons pure cherry extract (for cherry cobbler), or pure blueberry extract (for blueberry cobbler, or, 1 teaspoon each (for cherry-berry cobbler)

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_1510 IMG_1515~ Step 1.  If the cherries and/or blueberries are frozen, thaw them as directed above.  Place butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish a melt the butter in the microwave.  Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.  Set aside.

IMG_1517 IMG_1523 IMG_1524Step 2.  In a large bowl, stir together pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk and the extract(s).  Add milk mixture to pancake mixture.  Whisk until a thin, smooth batter forms.

IMG_1529 IMG_1531 IMG_1536 IMG_1550~Step 3.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish, right on top of the butter.  Do not stir the batter into the butter.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon/distribute the cherries and/or blueberries evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the fruit with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 40-45 minutes.  Note:  If fruit was frozen and partially-thawed, baking time will be slightly longer, 55-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the cherries and blueberries (or any fruit) will sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden brown and will spring back slightly when touched in the center.  Cool 1 hour or longer (3-6 hours) prior to serving.

Cobbler going into 350º oven to bake (40-45 minutes for freshly-picked fruit or 55-60 minutes for frozen, partially-thawed fruit):

IMG_1536Cobbler out of oven & cooling 1-6 hours prior to serving.

IMG_1550Serve slightly-warm or at room temperature:

IMG_1557With whipped cream or ice cream, your choice:

IMG_1563A  Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler:  Recipe yields 1,  8" x 8" x 2" cobbler/8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; whisk; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish

IMG_4816 2Cook's Note:  Here in my Happy Valley backyard, sour pie-cherry season ended about three weeks ago, blueberries are ripe for the picking, and peaches, both cling stone and free stone, are beginning to ripen on our trees.  While I don't freeze peaches (they don't freeze as well as cherries and blueberries -- peaches get watery and mushy), I water-bath can them in glass mason jars. My recipe for  ~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~, is a great use for them (freshly-picked or canned (even store-bought canned) -- it's divine.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/16/2017

~ Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo ~

IMG_1490Over a period of five-six years, Joe and I had occasion to be in the San Diego area once or twice a year, and, on a few of those trips, we had the pleasure of spending time at the La Costa Resort & Spa.  Along with all of the amenities and services one would expect to find at a resort and a spa, they specialized in and excelled at serving lighter and healthier cuisine without being imposing.  On one visit there, I encountered a refreshingly-fruity strawberry-mayo concoction that showed up in a tossed strawberry chicken salad with bitty bits of bacon and blue cheese -- just enough salty, organic pork fat and tangy cheese to pleasure the palate, but not enough to make one feel guilty.  I had it for lunch, with a lovely glass of wine, both of the two days we were there.

IMG_1469La Costa's salad combo was delightful, but, it was the uniquely-fruity, slightly-spicy, thick, creamy mayo-based dressing that got my attention -- it was indeed a savory, rather than sweet use for strawberries that wouldn't have occurred to me on my own (even though I do use strawberries and raspberries to make vinaigrette).  That said, it works.  A tart and sweet purée of fresh strawberries stirred into some mayonnaise, along with some cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt, is simply wonderful.  FYI:  It works great with raspberries or peeled, chopped peaches too.

Turning a superb salad into a stellar sandwich.

While I never would have come up with the idea for the salad dressing on my own, it didn't take me long to come up with the idea to transition the salad into a sandwich. Served on warm, freshly-baked biscuits, I received more than a few quizzical looks when my family and tailgate friends (even the ladies) were presented with pink mayonnaise to top their sandwiches.  That said, not a one, not once, after the first few bites, expressed anything other than the desire for a second sandwich.  Live dangerously -- give this uniquely-different sandwich combination a try.

Part One:  Making the Strawberry Mayonnaise  

IMG_1437For the strawberry mayonnaise:

1  generous cup hulled and sliced strawberries

1  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/16  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1441 IMG_1444 IMG_1448 IMG_1451 IMG_1457~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. With motor running, process to a purée, 30-45 seconds.  Add the mayonnaise, dehydrated onion, black pepper and sea salt.  With motor running, process again, until mayonnaise is thoroughly incorporated and mixture is uniform in color, 15-30 more seconds. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate, 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best), to chill and thicken.  Keep stored in refrigerator 3-4 days.

Part Two:  Making the Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits

IMG_1477For the sandwiches:

8  biscuits, preferably freshly-baked and warm, sliced in half, or, small, soft sandwich rolls, sliced in half, your choice

12  slices crisply-fried bacon (1 1/2 slices per sandwich)

3/4  cup blue cheese crumbles (one generous tablespoon per sandwich)

3/4  cup each (all tossed together in one bowl):  shredded iceberg lettuce, diced fresh strawberries, and, diced sweet Vidalia onion (a generous 1/4 cup lettuce/strawberry and onion mixture per sandwich) 

2  roasted- or poached- chicken breast halves, pulled into bite-sized pieces

strawberry mayonnaise (from above recipe)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, place 3 half-strips of bacon atop the bottom of each biscuit half, then scatter a generous tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles atop the bacon.  Top the blue cheese with a generous 1/4 cup of the lettuce, strawberry and onion mixture.  Heap a generous mound of pulled roasted or poached chicken atop the lettuce mix, then, top with the other half of the warm biscuit.  Serve each sandwich with additional strawberry-mayo to the side for dipping or drizzling.

IMG_1483Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo:  Recipe yields 2 cups strawberry mayonnaise and instructions to make 8, 3"-round biscuit sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; food processor or blender; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_7872Cook's Note:  In the event you're interested in a crispy-crunchy chicken sandwich instead, feel free to skip the roasting or poaching and try my ~ Happy-Valley-Ranch Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich ~, topped with ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~.  I guarantee, it will make you "happy".

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/14/2017

~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Hellmann's vs Duke's ~

IMG_1418Mayonnaise.  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never too far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase bigger jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could (and will) eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day.  There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayonnaise-based tartar and remoulade sauces in it, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise ("mayo") from scratch too.

What's the difference between mayonnaise & salad dressing?

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c766995c970bLong ago (way, way back in time) I decided I liked Hellmann's mayonnaise better than Kraft's, and, I prefer mayonnaise to its cousin: salad dressing (Miracle Whip).  In it's simplest form, non-commercially made mayonnaise is a thick, rich and creamy mixture made from the emulsion of raw egg yolks, lemon juice (or vinegar) and vegetable oil. In 1756, the French, under Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, doc de Richelieu, captured Mahón on the Spanish-held island of Minorca.  In honor of the victory, the duc's chef created a new dressing for his master:  "Mahónnaise". (Above photo is indeed homemade mayonnaise, made by me, in less than 5 minutes, in the food processor.)

HellmannsIn 1903, Richard Hellmann emigrated from Germany to New York City, where in 1904 he married Margaret Vossberg, whose parents owned a delicatessen.  In 1905 he opened his own deli on Columbus Avenue, where he developed the first ready-made mayonnaise. He complimentary served his condiment,  in small amounts, to all his customers.  It became so popular so fast, he was soon selling it in bulk to other stores, while constantly improving the recipe to lengthen the shelf life (to avoid spoilage).  In 1913, he built a factory and began selling mayonnaise under the name "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise".  In 1920, the New York Tribune asked chefs to rate commercial "salad dressing brands" and they unanimously voted Hellmans #1, which boosted sales and made Hellman's a staple in the American kitchen.

12945457In 1933, Kraft foods, via inventor Charles Chapman, patented an emulsifying machine which allowed mayonnaise to be evenly blended with lesser expensive brands of commercial mayonnaise and more than 20 different spices, plus, sugar. The result was Miracle Whip, which made its debut at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, promising to create "salad miracles with Miracle Whip Salad Dressing".  Their "whip" was an instant success.  To make a long story short, mayonnaise is mayonnaise -- salad dressing is a blend of mayonnaise plus other things.  From a side-by-side taste test standpoint, the most obvious difference between Kraft's Miracle Whip and all commercial brands of "mayo" is its sweetness.  Both high-fructose corn syrup and sugar are the fourth and fifth ingredients, respectively, on the back of a jar of Miracle Whip.

Mr. Hellman's mayo vs Mrs. Duke's mayo.  Both rich in history.

41wLfCC6iUL._SL500_SS500_Before I delve into comparisons, which are going to leave one side or the other feeling slightly-slighted, it is worth noting that, up until recently (about three weeks recently), Duke's was not available us Yankees -- it was a "Southern thing" exclusively. That said,  I've heard enough about this iconic mayo from my Southern friends, to know enough pick up a jar the moment I came across it in one of our local grocery stores (coincidentally, shortly after Duke's started advertising on national TV -- which caught my attention and put me on the lookout for it).  I'm always open to conducting a taste test -- especially if it stands half a chance of rocking my food world.  

In 1917, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, because of the need to supplement her husband's income, started selling sandwiches for ten cents a piece, slathered with her homemade mayonnaise, to soldiers at Camp Sevier (near Greenville) -- her selection included pimento cheese, egg- and chicken- salad.  By 1919 she was selling over 10,000 sandwiches a day, soldiers were writing to her asking for her recipe (so their mother's could duplicate it), and, local grocers were selling bottles of her mayonnaise on consignment.  In order to handle the volume, she moved her operation out of her kitchen into an out-building, and, bought a delivery truck.  She also set up a small shop in the Ottaray Hotel, in downtown Greenville, where she sold dainty tea sandwiches to "the upper crust".  In 1929 she sold her recipes to C.F. Bauer, who established the first Duke's mayonnaise factory and sent her product out into the world.  As Andrew Smart, the President of Duke Sandwich Co. said, "Here's a woman, in 1917, who was an entrepreneur and a business leader -- in a time when she didn't even have the right to vote."

Mayonnaise:  It's regional.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1399< The Hellmann's ingredients list is straightforward -- as straight forward as an ingredients list for mayonnaise can be.  When I make mayonnaise, I use vegetable oil, no water, egg yolks (no whites), fresh lemon juice (not concentrate), Dijon mustard (I prefer the tang of Dijon to vinegar), sugar, salt and a pinch of pepper.

IMG_1397< The Duke's ingredients list is straightforward though slightly different.  They use whole eggs (no extra egg yolks), water + two types of vinegar (no lemon juice), no sugar, and oleoresin paprika (a natural food coloring, not a flavoring, used in orange juice, snack foods, etc. -- one of the most unique uses for it is in chicken feed, in order to give the yolks in chicken eggs a darker yellow appearance).

Taste, texture & color.  Mel's conclusions revealed.

Allow me to start by saying:  I tasted both, side-by-side, before reading either ingredients labels. No surprise here:  these are two great-tasting mayonnaises.  In fact, they taste so similar, if you are adding them to a "concoction" (macaroni- potato- tuna- or egg- salads, etc.), no one could possibly detect which one is which.  While Hellman's contains sugar, it is by no means sweet or sweeter than Duke's.  In fact, the sugar enhances the lemony flavor, which appeals to me more than vinegar -- Hellman's wins on this point.  Let's talk texture.  If you're slathering them on a slice of your favorite bread, there is a luxurious creaminess to Duke's, which is more indicative of homemade hand-whisked mayonnaise, the texture of which I suspect is due to extra oil rather than protein-rich, yellow egg yolks (which I would prefer).  Hellmann's, while indeed creamy, is aerated and slightly-gelantenous (similar to a mousse in which whipped egg whites have been folded into yolks) -- Duke's wins on this point.  As for color, while Duke's palest-of-yellow color is more attractive, it is enhanced by food coloring, so, Hellman's wins by default on this last point.

Mayonnaise:  It's personal.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1428"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/11/2017

~ Sweet, Savory & Spicy: Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney ~

IMG_1392 (1)Besides a store-bought jar of the beloved Major Grey's mango chutney, which I have on hand in my refrigerator at all times, in the Fall and Winter you will find a container of my homemade apple chutney, and, in the Spring and Summer, you will find a jar of my rhubarb-ginger chutney.  I make each one, once a year, every year, and freeze it in small containers so I'm never without this very-versatile sweet, savory and slightly-spicy flavor-boosting condiment -- it is a staple in my kitchen.  

IMG_8729 IMG_7359When I first encountered chutney, I was a young adult and it was served as a spread for cheese and crackers.  I loved it, and before long, I was using it as a topping or spread  atop small slices of toasted firm-textured bread with roasted meats and hearty cheeses (crostini), and, in my  South African grilled cheese sandwiches and Jamaican curried deviled eggs.

A bit about "Chutney":   Having its origin in India, the name comes from the East Indian word "chatni".  The chutney most of us Americans are familiar with is a preserved sweet and savory condiment containing fruit and/or dried fruit, vinegar, sugar and an array of different spices. Similar to its next of kin (jam, relish and salsa), it ranges in texture from chunky to smooth and in degree of spiciness from mild to hot.  Unlike its next of kin, chutney is  simmered low and slow for a lengthier amount of time.  In India, chutneys are commonly made and eaten fresh (originally with a mortar and pestle, nowadays a food processor), many are vegetable- rather than fruit-based and contain a wider array of ingredients (like mint or cilantro, ginger, tomatoes, yogurt or coconut milk and/or peanuts), and, are typically served as a side-dish/accompaniment to Indian curried dishes.  It's worth mention that even in India, chutneys are very diverse because Indian food varies greatly from region to region and is dependent upon locally available ingredients.

Pucker up baby:  tart rhubarb is perfect for chutney.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1e256e970bIs there a difference between green & red stalked rhubarb?

The color of rhubarb is not related to its suitability for cooking, however, the red rhubarb sold in the grocery store, unless marked "locally grown" is grown in hot houses.  I find this type of rhubarb to be a bit dry and subdued in flavor.  Outdoor varietes can vary from red, speckled with red, light pink or simply green (like mine).  Green stalked rhubarb is more robust (tart) and produces a higher yield, but, red is sure more popular with consumers.  I grew up eating green rhubarb and didn't realize it came in red until I was old enough to do my mom's grocery shopping for her.  The rhubarb we grow in our Happy Valley vegetable garden was transplanted from my father's garden, which was transplanted from his father's garden in Eastern Pennsylvania. 

No.  They are both perfectly ripe & ready to be cooked.

IMG_13091  cup apple cider vinegar

1  pound dark brown sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons pink peppercorns, lightly crushed  (Note:  These "little peppery jewels." are not peppercorns or related to a peppercorn.  Originating in Peru, they are a dried, fragile-skinned berry that Amazon rainforest natives use to make homemade pink peppercorn beer.  Because their skin is fragile, they are easily crushed with the flat side of a chef's knife, to release their delicate, fruity, peppery flavor -- pop one into your mouth for a most enjoyable nibble.)

1  15-ounce box golden raisins

1  ounce garlic paste, or fresh garlic cloves, processed in a food processor (about 1 tablespoon paste)

8  ounces ginger paste, or fresh ginger, peeled, chopped and processed in a food processor (about 8 tablespoons paste)

4  pounds green or red stalked rhubarb, trimmed of woody ends & sliced into 1/2" pieces 

IMG_1310 IMG_1313 IMG_1317 IMG_1321 IMG_1328~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot,  stir together the vinegar and brown sugar, until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the salt and peppercorns, followed by the raisins.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  If using garlic cloves and ginger root, prep them as directed, place them in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, and, using a series of 30-45 rapid-on off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-30 seconds, process to a paste.  Add the garlic paste and ginger paste to the stockpot.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  Using a large spoon, take a moment to give the mixture and thorough stir.  Adjust heat to medium-high.

IMG_1331 IMG_1333 IMG_1335 IMG_1338 IMG_1355~Step 2.  Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has lost about half of its volume and mixture is thick, 30-40 minutes. Watch carefully and stir constantly during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, as the mixture can and will scorch quickly.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set set aside to cool completely, 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Portion into 1-cup food storage containers & refrigerate...

IMG_1348... several hours or overnight, prior to serving chilled...

IMG_1366...  & freeze the balance for future chutney enjoyment:

IMG_1372Deli-ham & melted-cheese chutney-topped crostini anyone?

IMG_1384Sweet, Savory & Spicy:  Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney:  Recipe yields 10 cups. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor (optional); 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; 10, 1-cup food storage containers w/tight fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c906d115970bCook's Note:  There is a certain satisfaction in teaching people how to love food made from a misunderstood ingredient.  Rhubarb, sometimes called "the pie vegetable" is one such ingredient. Whether it's green or red stalked, a slice of old-fashioned rhubarb pie is a favorite of mine.  For those of you who like your rhubarb pie unadulterated (no strawberries please), and that includes not too much sugar: ~ Pucker-Up for a Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie ~. Give my very special Pennsylvania Deutsch recipe a try -- oh my pie! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/08/2017

~ One-Bowl Lunch on the Run: Tuna Macaroni Salad ~

IMG_1283I rarely make the time to sit down and eat lunch and almost never find the time to  go out to lunch. I prefer to munch and crunch, while working, standing in my kitchen or sitting at my computer.  For example: I am munching on some chopped cantaloupe, here at my desk, for breakfast, while writing this, at 6:30AM.  Whatever time I get my mid-day hunger attack today, I'm literally going to, "stick a fork in it":  tuna macaroni salad.  I made it yesterday, am writing about it today, and shall enjoy it, in a small bowl, as a light, satisfying, quick and tasty snack.  For me, it's just enough protein and carbohydrates to satisfy my hunger without squelching my appetite for dinner.

Nowadays, I'm mostly feeding just my husband and myself, and, since I'm typically the only person here in the afternoons, I never make a full batch of tuna macaroni salad (using an entire pound of macaroni).  I make just enough for one full, refreshingly-light Summertime meal for us two to enjoy together, and, three to four days of leftover light snacking for me. When it comes to tuna salad, macaroni salad and tuna-macaroni salad, I'd rather make it often, and eat it fresh, than make a lot and have it hang around too long.  That said, if you're feeding an entire family, do the math and turn my half batch into a full batch -- you'll end up 4 pounds/4 quarts/16 cups.

No peas please -- save 'em for your tuna noodle casserole.

IMG_12288  ounces mini-farfalle (or elbows, mafalda, shells, etc.), cooked al dente, according to package directions and well-drained

2  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked eggs, or, 3 large eggs, peeled and finely diced (Note:  I like to dice the whites and the yolks separately for a prettier presentation.)

1/2  cup peeled and small-diced carrot

1/2  cup small-diced celery

1/2  cup small-diced red onion

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise (plus additional mayonnaise, if necessary or desired)

1  12-ounce can solid-white Albacore tuna, packed in water. well-drained

IMG_1237 IMG_1244~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the macaroni, briefly stir and cook, until al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into a colander and rinse under cold running water until macaroni is cooled to below room temperature.  Allow pasta to continue to drain and "dry" (free from moisture) about 30-45 minutes.  Gently toss occasionally during this "drying" process.

IMG_1221 IMG_1231~ Step 2.  While the macaroni is drying, in the same saucepan, prepare the hard cooked eggs, drain them under cold water to cool to the touch and peel.  Open the tuna and invert can onto a paper-towel-lined plate to thoroughly drain.

IMG_1250 IMG_1253 IMG_1255 IMG_1259~Step 3.  Fine dice the egg whites, egg yolks, carrot, celery and onion as directed, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the Dijon mustard, pickle relish, celery seed, salt and pepper to the bowl and give the mixture a thorough stir.  Add and fold in the 1/2 cup mayonnaise.

IMG_1262 IMG_1266~ Step 4.  Add the now moisture-free macaroni to the bowl and gently fold it into the creamy vegetable mixture.  Using your fingers, pull the tuna into bite-sized chunks and pieces, placing it in the bowl as you work.  Gently and thoroughly fold the tuna into the macaroni salad.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors marry and mixture is well-chilled, 4-6 hours or overnight (overnight is best).  Prior to serving:  

Stir, taste & add additional mayonnaise if desired:

IMG_1276Portion into 2, 1-quart containers & refrigerate 3-4 days:

IMG_1302When hungry, scoop into snack-sized bowl & stick fork in it:

IMG_1297One-Bowl Lunch on the Run:  Tuna Macaroni Salad:  Recipe yields 2 pounds/2 quarts/8 cups.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan; colander; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 2, 1-quart-sized food storage containers w/tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1b7b703970cCook's Note:  The ~ Creamy, Chunky, Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad/Sandwich ~ is often referred to as "the mainstay of everyones childhood", or, "the lunch staple of the office generation (of which both my husband and I are a part of)." As for me, like today's recipe (tuna-mac salad), tuna salad, with a few whole wheat crackers, is another one of my weekday afternoon favorite snacks.  For the record, when referencing "classic" tuna salad, I refer to the "classic" way all of our mother's and grandmother's made it -- just the way we like it.  There is no right or wrong way to make it, except the way you like it.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/06/2017

~ How to: Make a Jucy Lucy Cheese-Stuffed Burger ~

IMG_1213A big, thick, juicy all-American cheeseburger with American or Velveeta cheese.  I kid you not, I gotta have one "my way" about once a week -- topped with lots of onions, ketchup and a few dill pickle slices.  Over the 4th of July, I decided to celebrate with exactly that, except, with a twist:  I decided to try my hand at the iconic Jucy Lucy, a nifty Midwestern invention in which the cheese gets stuffed inside the 'burger instead of placed on top of it.  The second you bite into it or slice it, the 'burger juices squirt out and a molten core of melted cheese flows like lava out onto the plate.

If you know what a Jucy Lucy 'burger is, you know the above photo is a great photograph of a fun, delicious, mess of a 'burger.  If you are trying to take a photo of the grand opening a Jucy Lucy 'burger, you should know you're only going to get one very quick shot at it.

IMG_1194The trick to making a Jucy Lucy (or a Juicy Lucy as it is sometimes spelled) is keeping the cheese contained inside the meat.  That requires meticulously sealing two thin equal-sized slightly-wider-than-normal patties of ground beef around the cheesy center.  If the patties aren't sealed securely the cheese will ooze out in spots as the 'burger cooks, instead of turning into an oozy-gooey molten cheesy center.  As for the cheese, I'm of the opinion that nothing other than processed American or Velveeta will do because they melt to free-flowing perfection -- trust me on this point.

For every Jucy Lucy cheese-stuffed 'burger:

8  ounces lean ground beef (90/10)

1  slice American or Velveeta cheese (the two authentic choices)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Part One:  Forming the patties. 

IMG_1136 IMG_1141 IMG_1148 IMG_1153~Step 1.  For each 'burger, you'll need two, even-sized, even-thickness, firmly-compacted, perfectly-formed, intact, thin, slightly-wider-than-usual patties -- it's that specific, so put your detail-oriented hat on before proceeding.  The best way to insure uniformity (which insures the 'burger cooks and the cheese melts properly), is to take all of the guess work out of it.  Using a kitchen scale, for each burger, weigh 8 ounces of lean ground beef.  When it comes to the Jucy Lucy, I get foolproof results with 90/10.  Substitute at your own risk.  Using the scale, divide the meat into 2, 4-ounce portions.  Working on a piece of parchment paper and using a 4 1/2" round pastry cutter and a tart tamper, tamp the meat to form 2, 4-ounce, 4 1/2" round, 1/3"-thick patties.

Part Two:  Stuffing & constructing the 'burgers.

IMG_1156 IMG_1160 IMG_1166 IMG_1171~Step 2.  Cut one slice of American or Velveeta cheese into 4 quarters.  If you are thinking this is not enough cheese, trust me, it is more than enough.  Stuff in more at your own risk. Stack the cheese as pictured in the center of one patty.  Gently lift and place the second patty on top of the cheese.  Carefully pick the 'burger up, and, working your way around the perimeter, use your palm as a crimping tool, to seal the edges -- avoid turning the 'burger into a fat ball.  The burger should be 2/3"-thick and 4 1/2"-round, with a slight bump in the center where the cheese is.

Part Three:  Cooking the 'burgers.    

IMG_1179 IMG_1182 IMG_1183 IMG_1187~Step 3.  Cooking the Jucy Lucy, if you followed all of my directions,  is the easy part.  That said, I do not recommend the rough and tumble, tork and jerk, flip and flop lifestyle of the charcoal or gas grill grids.  The Jucy Lucy is a 'burger that responds perfectly to a kinder, gentler broiler pan, 5 1/2"-6" under the high-dry heat of the broiler, or over medium- medium-high heat, in a nonstick skillet, on the stovetop.  I'm demonstrating the broiler today, but, feel free to substitute a skillet.  In either case, generously season the top of the 'burger with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, and, cook as follows:  Cook 8 minutes per side, turning only once, for a total of 16 minutes. During the cooking process, do not press down on the top of the 'burger for any reason.

Place on a bun & top w/your favorite condiments: 

IMG_1188Get out lots of napkins & put on a bib -- it really does squirt*:  (*Table linens were damaged in the taking of this photo.)

IMG_1210How to:  Make a Jucy Lucy Cheese-Stuffed Burger:  Recipe yields instructions to construct and perfectly-cook a super-juicy, ooey-gooey, 8-ounce molten-cheese-stuffed 'burger.

Special Equipment List:  parchment paper; kitchen scale; 4 1/2" round pastry cutter; tart tamper; disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom

PICT2209Cook's Note:  Much like the rivalry between Pat's and Geno's over the iconic Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich, two establishments, Matt's Bar and The 5-8 Club, about three miles from each other on Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis, claim to have invented the Jucy or Juicy Lucy.  As one story goes, Matt Bristol purchased a bar in the latter 1950's (naming it Matt's Bar), in which a customer, after biting into one of the previous owner's unique  PICT2218cheese-stuffed 'burgers, remarked, "wow, that's juicy lucy."    Mr. Bristol is credited with adding the 'burger to the menu, thus popularizing it.  The 5-8 Club, originally a speakeasy during the 1920's, doesn't have a particular origin story, but spells their version correctly.  The Club's staff wears shirts that read "If it's spelled right, it's done right."  Matt's Bar says, "If it is spelled right, you are eating a shameless rip-off!" 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

07/03/2017

~ Creamy Dreamy No-Bake Strawberry Key Lime Pie ~

IMG_1104Here's a pie I seldom get the opportunity to make because, after making strawberry shortcakes, a batch of strawberry preserves, and, some strawberry dessert topping, I rarely have leftover strawberries.  That said, I keep this super-simple go-to recipe in my repertoire for times when I do have a few cups of seriously-ripe strawberries at that "use 'em or lose 'em" stage.  Read on:

The combination of strawberry & key lime is delightfully grown up.

All of us have encountered recipes similar to this, and you've probably even tasted them once or twice -- it originated on the box of Jell-O brand strawberry-flavored gelatin (and if memory serves me correctly, back in the 1980's, it was called "strawberry dream pie").  Back then, we had an elderly neighbor, Connie (an expert cross-stitcher), who served it to Joe and I and our boys, on her patio, on more than a few occasions -- my boys loved it.  When she and Curt moved back to their home state of Connecticut, from time-to-time my kids would ask for it, so, I "played around with it" and, oh my pie, the combination of strawberries and key lime is:  delightfully grown up.   

IMG_1040Before starting, it's important to note that my recipe yields a total of 6 3/4-7 cups of pie filling.  This means the capacity of the 9" pie dish you own needs to be confirmed and you need to plan accordingly -- if it's small, make two pies or make half the amount of filling.  To measure the capacity, use a 1-cup measure to fill the pie dish with water.  I own three brands in three sizes: 

9" round by 1 1/4" deep = 4 cups 

9" round by 1 1/2" deep = 5 cups 

9" round by 2" deep (aka "deep dish") = 7 cups

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

1  9" deep-dish graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumb crust, prepared according to my recipe's directions (Note:  Feel free to use a store-bought crust, like I did "in a pinch" today, but be aware, store-bought crusts are typically 8" in diameter with a 3 cup capacity, so, there will be pie filling left over.  Even if you make two pies, you'll still have some filling leftover.  Worry not, it's just fine -- portion the leftover pie filling into small custard cups, like I did today, and refrigerate it -- they're a fantastic dessert on their own.)

1  3-ounce box Jell-O strawberry gelatin

2  cups crushed strawberries, chilled (from 1 pound very ripe hulled and sliced or quartered strawberries)

3/4  cup boiling water

1/2  cup key lime juice

1 1/2  cups heavy or whipping cream, chilled

3/4  cup Confectioners' sugar

IMG_1050 IMG_1057~ Step 1.  Slice strawberries and place in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Using 10 rapid on-off pulses, process strawberries into small bits and pieces.  Transfer to a 2-cup measure or food storage container and refrigerate.

IMG_1061 IMG_1065 IMG_1069 IMG_1071~Step 2.  Place Jell-O in a small bowl.  In a 1-cup measuring container, bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil in the microwave.  Add boiling water to gelatin and stir until until gelatin is dissolved.  Stir in the key lime juice.  Refrigerate until gelatin is thick but not set, 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes.

IMG_1074 IMG_1081~ Step 3.  When gelatin has been in refrigerator 55 minutes, place cream in a medium bowl along with the Confectioners' sugar.  Starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer, gradually increase mixer speed to high and beat the sweetened cream to firm peaks.  Set aside and remove the 2 cups chilled crushed strawberries from the refrigerator.

IMG_1082 IMG_1086 IMG_1089 IMG_1094~Step 4.  Remove chilled and thickened gelatin from refrigerator and transfer to a large bowl.  On high mixer speed, beat until thickened and frothy, 4-5 minutes.  Remove mixer.  Using spatula incorporate all the whipped cream, followed by all the crushed strawberries, into the gelatin.

IMG_1096 IMG_1098~ Step 5.  Transfer the pie filling to prepared graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumb crust and refrigerate until well-chilled, 4 hours or overnight, prior to serving.  For clean cuts, place pie in freezer for 2 hours prior to slicing.

Chill 4 hours or overnight, then, freeze 2 hours prior to slicing:  

IMG_1115Thaw each creamy, dreamy slice 5 minutes, prior to serving:

IMG_1130Creamy Dreamy No-Bake Strawberry Key Lime Pie:  Recipe yields 2, standard-sized 9" pies/8 servings each, or, 1, 9" deep-dish pie/8-10 servings, or, 1, 8" pie/8 servings + 4 individual, 3/4-cup sized desserts, or 2, 8" pies/8 servings each + 2 individual, 3/4-cup sized desserts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 2-cup measuring container or 2-cup food storage container; 1-cup measuring container; spoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; soup-type ladle (optional)

IMG_4028Cook's Note:  "Mousse" is a fancy French term meaning  "froth" or "foam" because the technique involves incorporating whipped egg whites or whipped cream into a sweet or savory purée to give the end product its signature light, airy texture.  In the home kitchen, mousse is usually associated with an easy-to-prepare  dessert made from fruit or chocolate that is typically fortified with unflavored gelatin too.  Got strawberries?  Try my recipe for, ~ Pretty in Pink: Easy, Elegant Strawberry Mousse ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)