Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Great Finds: Retro Ice Crusher

In Great Finds on October 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Drinks always taste better over crushed ice. Whether it’s a coke or a cocktail, finely crushed ice adds that extra “yum” factor to beverages. Even if you don’t have an ice machine in your freezer door you can make your own crushed ice at home.  It’s easy, and the retro design of this guy makes for a cool statement piece, even in small kitchens.

With a design inspired by the 1950’s, this manual ice crusher makes both coarse and fine crushed ice. It’s not only great for drinks and cocktails, but for creating ice beds for vegetables or seafood. The slick chrome finish makes it totally appropriate on a bar or cocktail table at a party. Even cooler, it comes with a funky ice scooper for easy use!

Retro Ice Crusher by Frieling USA,  Amazon.com, $65.00

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Halloween Fun: Turning the Dial Up on Your Classic Spook Fest

In Celebrations on October 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Halloween is often brushed aside as a children’s holiday. Though as we get older it gives seems to give us license to be someone or something else for one evening.  As children, black and orange, witches and goblins, chocolate and lollipops are enough. For most adults, free candy is simply not reason to embrace the holiday.

This year take your typical garish and goolish fright-fest and turn it into an elegant and evil soiree.  A couple easy cocktails, festive hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of black fabric is all your need to turn your small space into a something far from friendly.

It Begins with an Invite

The devil is really in the details when throwing a successful party.  The tone and feeling of the event begins the moment guests receive an invitation.  You can always go the route of sending paper invitations, but evite.com and paperlesspost.com are easy, cost-effective and earth-friendly.  Each site has a number of Halloween-themed designs to choose from. Remember, this isn’t a child’s party.  Pick a theme that matches the scene you are trying to set.

Set the Scene

Halloween is all about over-the-top theatrics. Don’t be afraid to really play up the ambience. Here are some easy tips for creating the perfect Hallows Eve look:

  • Use black as your base color and work from there, adding tiny pops of dark orange, white and gold.
  • Purchase inexpensive black fabric from a craft store and use to cover table tops and wrap lamp shades for a dark and dramatic look.
  • Place groupings of black taper candles along with smaller tea candles around the space. Use as a main source of light once the party begins.
  • Create creepy tableaux out of old books, skulls, crystal balls and apothecary bottles filled with water and orange food coloring.
  • Raid the party supply store for black leaf garland and cobwebs to drape over lamps, bookshelves and tables.
  • Check out the local flower market for black tulips, burgundy calla lilies, and black roses. Use together in flower arrangements to place around.
  • Turn on televisions and have old black and white films playing on mute.  Anything Hitchcock would work brilliantly.
  • Create a spooky music mix with the help of one of I-Tunes pre-set playlists or pick your favorite Halloween jam and plug into Pandora.

What to serve

Let your menu take a cue from your setting.  Small bites, cocktails and devilish desserts are all your need to round out the evening. Here are a few menu suggestions:

Savory

Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Chicken Leg Lollipops

Skeleton Fingers

Roasted Potato Moons

Sweet

Monster Eyeballs

Brain Cookies

Bowls of Assorted Candy

Cocktails

Dark and Stormy

Blood Orange Martini

Chicken Leg Lollipops

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

24 chicken drumettes, skin on

2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups panko bread crumbs

preparation

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stand a drumette on its wide end and, holding the narrow bone at the top, use a paring knife to push and scrape the skin and meat downward to expose the bone and make a plump “lollipop” of chicken at the bottom. Repeat with the remaining drumettes. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a wide bowl or on a plate, season the flour with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge each chicken piece through the flour so it’s fully coated, tap against the bowl to shake off excess flour and set aside. Discard the flour.

In a large bowl (big enough to dredge the chicken pieces), mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne pepper and paprika. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath and then roll in the panko crumbs.

Arrange the drumettes (standing up if you can) on a rack set over a baking sheet. Roast until chicken is cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Roasted Potato Moons

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Yield: 8 appetizer servings

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

1 pound purple fingerling potatoes, cleaned, sliced 1/2 inch pieces (if not available, white fingerlings are fine)

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Toss sliced potatoes in a mixing bowl with canola oil, salt and pepper.

Place in a single layer on sheet pan and roast in oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp and fork tender.

Remove from oven. Fill a piping bag with sour cream.  Top each potato moon with a dollop of cream and sprinkle with cheese.  Serve warm.

Skeleton Fingers

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Yield: 8 servings

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

The delicate stalks of white asparagus looks strikingly similar to severed appendages.  A few minutes in the oven and a little seasoning, they taste wonderful and are healthy.  If you’re in a particularly festive mood, tell your guests they are the fingers from last years Halloween party attendees…

2 pounds white asparagus, rinsed and trimmed

5 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1 lemon, halved, seeded

2 tablespoons thyme, minced

3 tablespoons canola oil

preparation 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with aluminum foil.

Place asparagus on the prepared pan in a single layer and coat with canola oil.

Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 12-15 minutes until lightly brown and fork tender.

Remove from oven and garnish with lemon juice and thyme. Serve warm.

Dark and Stormy

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Yield: 1 drink

2 ounces Gosling’s or Myers’s dark rum

5 ounces ginger beer

Lime wedge

preparation

Pour rum over ice in a highball glass.  Fill to the top with ginger beer.  Garnish with a lime.

Brain Cookies

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Yield: 24 cookies

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2002 as seen on Emeril Live. 

Brain Cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts, or pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 5 drops red food coloring

About 9 drops blue food coloring

Blood Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

35 to 40 drops red food coloring

2 to 4 tablespoons milk, as needed for thinning glaze

preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Into a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Alternating with the eggs, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating well after the addition of each. Fold in the nuts, vanilla, and red and blue food coloring, being careful not to overmix the dough. (The food coloring will make the dough a grayish color, resembling the color of brains.)

Place the dough in batches in a potato ricer and push the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets in long tubes of dough. With your fingers, loosely pat and arrange the dough strands into clumps resembling brains, pushing to form 2 hemispheres and shaping into a walnut-like shape. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the “blood glaze,” in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar with the food coloring to make a thick glaze, whisking together. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is a good consistency for drizzling. Drizzle the “blood” onto the cookies and serve either warm or at room temperature.

*Photo Courtesy of FoodNetwork.com 

Monster Eyeballs

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Yield: 48 cookies
Cooking Time: 1 hour

This is a great recipe.  It’s easy and tastes delicious. I wish I thought of this one myself.  Unfortunately, I did not.  The recipe below is courtesy of Sharon Bowers and can be found in her cookbook, Ghoulish Goodies

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 (1-pound) package confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 (3-ounce) package miniature M&Ms

preparation 
Blend the peanut butter with the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. It may be easiest to use your hands.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture by teaspoons into small balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm up the eyeballs.

Put the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)

Take the sheet of balls from the refrigerator; use a fork or a toothpick to dip each one most of the way into the chocolate, leaving a round or oval opening of undipped peanut butter on top. (This opening in the chocolate will be the cornea.) Hold each ball over the chocolate to catch the drips, and then return to the wax paper, cornea side up.

Place an M&M in the center of the peanut butter cornea to make an iris. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store the eyeballs in the refrigerator or freezer and serve chilled.

*Photo courtsey of Kevin Kennefick as seen on epicurious.com

Fall Produce: Belgian Endive

In Product Spotlight on October 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The crisp, juicy texture and bittersweet flavor of Belgian Endive provides a nice contrast to other fall and winter vegetables. Belgian Endive has a graceful shape and lovely muted color, adding elegance to salads, appetizers and side dishes. It also plays well when cooked, the leaves become tender and rich with a subtle nutty flavor, it’s almost like a different vegetable.

Picking the Best

Look for endive that is snow-white with slightly yellow tips.  The leaves should be firm and show no signs of browning or wilting. Choose a head that feels more dense for its size than others.  To increase the self life of endive, store in a dark, cool place.  Wrapping the heads with paper towel and popping them in the vegetable crisper works well.  If the endive is exposed to too much light the leaves will begin to turn green and taste bitter. They are best when used within 3 days.

Preparing Belgian Endive

Belgian Endive can be eaten raw or cooked.  Before you deiced how you plan to prepare it you will want to pull off any outer leaves that look brown and wilted.  Use a damp cloth to then wipe down the rest of the head and leaves.  If you are cutting raw endive for a salad, wait until just before serving to do so, as its cut edges brown quickly.

Endive that will be grilled, broiled, or braised benefits from a quick steam first.  Simply put a few slices of lemon in the water and steam the whole head.  This should only take 5-8 minutes at most.

How to Use it

Endive is a very versatile vegetable. When raw, it’s good in salad or as an all-natural vehicle to serve with dips, spreads or even filled with items as a hors d’oeuvre.  Endive is also wonderful when cooked.  Try putting the whole head on the grill with olive oil, salt and pepper or braising in the oven.  It even tastes great when simply cut in a chiffonade and sautéed.

Incorporate Belgium Endive into You Next Meal

  • Create a healthy hors d’oeuvre by serving smoked salmon on raw Belgian endive leaves with crème fraîche and chives.
  • Toss sliced endive, orange segments, watercress and walnuts with a little balsamic vinaigrette for a wonderful fall salad.
  • Braise by cutting the endive heads in half and browning them cut side down.  Add chopped carrots, onions and celery and cook until golden brown.  Add chicken stock and simmer, covered, until tender.
  • Saute sliced endive over high-heat with a little olive oil and butter.  Add fresh baby spinach, minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Adventurous Entertaining: 10 Unique Foods to Try at Your Next Dinner Party

In Features on September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Conventional wisdom says cook what you know when having a dinner party.  This certainly makes sense if you’re hosting the boss or the in-laws, however if it’s a casual evening with good friends, why not experiment? Here’s a list of easy-to-use and interesting ingredients that will add a little whimsy to the same old dinner party meal.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are cut as soon as they begin to emerge from the ground, yielding a tender, ivory colored vegetable. Fresh shoots can be found at some Asian markets and farmer’s markets in spring and summer. Canned shoots are available in gourmet grocery stores all year. To use, add to a classic stir-fry, asian inspired soup, or sautéed spinach. Bamboo Shoot Recipes

Cloudberries

Cloudberries are most commonly found in the colder climates of New England, Canada and Scandinavia.  They resemble a raspberry with a distinct amber hue.  They’re too tart for eating out-of-hand, but make excellent jam or pie filling. Cloudberry Recipes

Farro

Part of the wheat family, Farro dates back 20,000 years ago.  Once the primary grain cultivated by Egyptians, the grain slowly lost popularity over time to higher yielding, easier to grow grains. Thanks to the efforts of some inventive Italian chefs, Farro is making a comeback.  Farro has a rich, nutty flavor and can be used in pasta, bread or as a healthy alternative to risotto. Farro Recipes

Hominy

Native to Northern America, Hominy is dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. Hominy is sold canned, ready-to-eat or dried (which must be reconstituted before eating).  It’s commonly used in Southern and Latin American cuisine as a side dish or part of a casserole. Hominy Recipes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Also known as sunchokes, jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all.  Rather, this vegetable is variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned exterior that resmebles gingeroot.  The white flesh is nutty, crunchy, sweet and best when purchased from October to March. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked by boiling or steaming and served as a side dish.  Jerusalem Artichokes also make wonderful soup. Jerusalem Artichoke Recipes

Nopales

Popular in Mexico, Nopales are oval-shaped leaves from the nopal cactus plant.  They range in color from light green to dark green and have a delicate, tart flavor, similar to green beans.  To prepare, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thorns, cut the flesh into thin strips and simmer in water until tender.  Nopales can be added to everything from salads to scrambled eggs. Nopales Recipes 

Pluots

Also known as plumcots, pluots are a cross between a plum and an apricot.  Pluots taste more like and plum than an apricot, while plumcots have more apricot flavor than plum. They are most readily available from May to October and taste great when eaten alone or baked in pies or tarts. Pluot Recipes

Quince

Dating back some 4,000 years quince has only recently gained popularity in the United States.  The yellow hued fruit looks like a cross between an apple and pear.  Inside, the flesh is hard and white with a slightly astringent, tart flavor.  Quince is not suited for eating out-of-hand, but make delicious jams, jellies and preserves. They can also be poached or braised for wonderful results! Quince Recipes

Salsify

Salsify is a long parsnip-shaped root vegetable with a taste that resembles artichoke hearts.  Although Salsify is more popular in Europe than the United States, it can be found in speciality grocery stores fall through spring. Salsify makes a wonderful side dish or used in savory pies and soups. Salsify Recipes

Yuca

A staple of African cuisine and native to South America, Yuca has a tough brown exterior that when peeled reveals a white starchy flesh similar to a potato.  Yuca can be poisonous and must never be consumed raw.  Yuca is available year around and is best when boiled, roasted or cut into thin slices and fried.  Yuca Recipes 

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