Monthly Archives: March 2013

Guacamole

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I didn’t really start loving avocados until sometime in my mid-twenties.  It was actually an avocado sushi roll and a turkey club with avocado sandwich that converted me.  And now I am officially a lover of avocado… It’s butteriness, smoothness, and it’s gorgeous color.  It’s tasty and beautiful.

There are tons of guacamole versions but I’m kind of a traditionalist.  I love the avocado on its own in big chunks with some lime and zip from a jalapeño.  I usually pair my guacamole with salsa so I prefer not to put tomatoes in mine, but feel free to add if you wish.  And I happen to love cilantro but if it’s not your fave, parsley is a nice substitute.

  • 2 avocados, skin removed and cut into chunks 
  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (I keep the seeds and ribs in but feel free to remove them)
  • 4 T. cilantro
  • plenty of salt and pepper

I take half the avocado and mash it with my fork and leave the other half in large chunks, so I get a bit of both textures.  Add lime right away because avocado oxidizes quickly and will turn brown on you before you know it.  Add remaining ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fresh Salsa

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My salsa recipe is super easy and simple.  And delicious.  During the winter months when tomatoes aren’t in season, I use grape tomatoes because they’re still sweet and flavorful.

  • 1 container grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 3-4 T. cilantro, chopped finely
  • 4 T. chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeño chopped finely (I like it spicy so I keep the seeds and ribs in, but remove them if you don’t like it as hot)
  • 1 lime – juice and zest
  • plenty of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Taste for seasoning.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

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Sometimes I get the urge for steak tacos, but I don’t always have flour tortillas on hand.  Getting them means throwing the baby in the car seat and driving to the store, which is sometimes more effort than I want to put in for dense, store-bought flour tortillas.  And you may find it contradictory as homemade tortillas take a little effort and I could probably have gone to the store and back twice in the time it takes me to make these, but truly, nothing compares to a homemade tortilla.

There’s something about getting in there with your hands.  Feeling the flour in your hands and kneading the dough until it’s perfect and soft.  Rolling out the individual tortillas is a great activity to do with the kids.  I bought my four year old daughter her own small wooden rolling pin, which she uses not only to help me roll out the discs of dough but also when we make pasta and cookies.  She loves helping in the kitchen and I love sharing those memories with her.  By the end of it, we’re both covered in flour and munching on warm tortillas and at that moment, nothing could be more perfect.

Lots of mexican restaurants make their own but many purchase them too, so there’s a really good chance that you’ve never had a really fresh tortilla.  If you’re not sure, then most likely, you’ve not yet experienced this heavenly bite.  In which case, I strongly, strongly encourage you to try making them at home.  You’ll never want to get store-bought again.  🙂

  • 3 C. flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 T. butter, room temperature (or lard or shortening)
  • 1 C. warm water (just run your tap water for a minute and it should be perfect)

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Break the butter into pieces and slowly mix into the dry mixture until it resembles corn meal.  Slowly add the water and combine with your hand.  It should feel sticky but not loose.  Turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Roll into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes (can be longer if need be.  I sometimes make the dough earlier in the day and roll it out hours later).

Cut the dough ball in half and then roll each end into a log.  Cut each in half, then half again, and then again until you make eight pieces out of each half.  Roll each piece into a ball.

Liberally flour your counter and flatten a dough ball out and then roll out to approximately the size of a salad plate or until the desired size (6-8 inches).

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Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat.  Make sure it’s good and hot.  Add one dough disc and cook until it puffs up slightly and browns and then flip (I find that chopsticks are the perfect tool).  Cook for another minute on the other side.  Remove and put on a plate, cover with a kitchen towel.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Notes:

  • You can store the leftover tortillas in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.  My daughter loves cheese quesadillas or egg wraps with the leftovers.
  • For egg wraps – scramble two eggs and pour into a buttered skillet and cook over medium heat.  Cook until the egg looks set and flip.  Cut in half and place in the tortilla and cover with cheese and fold over.  Return to pan until both sides of the tortilla are browned and the cheese is melted.

Boneless Ribeye Roast

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A boneless ribeye roast is also known as a prime rib or rib roast and it is incredible.  It’s basically a huge chunk of the best ribeye steak in roast form that is beautifully marbled and beefy in flavor.  They also come bone-in and is known as a standing rib roast.  That’s actually my preference because meat cooked on the bone is incomparable, but it is harder to find.  Rib eye is my favorite cut of beef and it is a really special occasion when we have this meal.

  • 4-5 lb. boneless ribeye roast
  • Salt and pepper for season

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Season all sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Place roast in a roasting pan, fat side up. (this allows all the fat to drip over the meat and actually helps baste it during the cooking process.)

Cook roast at 450 for 20 minutes.  Then drop the heat to 350 and cook for the balance of time.  A typical roast this size will cook for about 1 hour 15-20 minutes for medium (nice and pink on the inside).  Remove from oven, cover with foil, and rest for 15 minutes.  Slice thinly and serve!

Crispy Potato Pancake

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My daughter kindly refers to my husband, her dad, as a “french fry monster” or a “french fry guy” because he it is his preferred side in restaurants and at home.  He has yet to meet a potato he didn’t like.  I, however, am not a lover of potatoes, in any form (other than chip) – I would much rather have a nice piece of crusty bread slathered with butter or dipped in olive oil.  Or an extra serving of meat.  🙂  But when I saw Anne Burrell making this one day on her show, I was intrigued…  It looked delicious.  I could hear the crunch as she cut through it.  I could see the softness in between the two crunchy layers.  And I felt compelled that I had to try it.

It was easy.  And pretty.  And amazingly delicious.  It was like two layers of crispy potato chips sandwiching delicate, pillowy potatoes.  As I bit through the crunch and was met with the softness in between, it was indescribably yummy.  I modified her original recipe slightly because I wanted a little more flavor, but it’s really about the technique.  You could layer anything in this dish.  In fact, next time I make it, I’m going to try very thin layers of onion and maybe sprinkle some bacon on top.  Or maybe some extra cheese.  Or maybe scallion.  Darn, now I want some again.  🙂

  • 3 Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced very thinly with a mandolin or by hand
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine garlic and olive oil.

Coat the bottom of a 9 inch skillet (with oven proof handle) with olive oil.  Arrange potatoes in two layers in a circular fashion.  (note: if you hand sliced the potatoes, you will probably want to do only one layer).  Brush with the garlic oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange another two layers of potatoes, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until potatoes are gone.  In layers 4 and 5, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Press firmly to make sure the potato cake is compact.

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Heat skillet over medium high heat.  Cook until you hear a good sizzle and the bottom of the potatoes are light golden brown.  Remove from stove and place in oven.  Cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven.  IMPORTANT: you need to drain the oil from the bottom of the pan and it is incredibly HOT!!  Take your pan lid and drain the oil into a bowl.  With that lid (if yours has a lip to it like mine, use a large plate instead), flip the potato cake out and then gently slide it back into the pan, so now the side that used to be up is now down.  Return to oven for another 15 minutes.

Slice into wedges and serve.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

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Asparagus:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread asparagus on cookie sheets and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus and how crisp you like it.  If it’s super thin asparagus, you might even roast for only 10 minutes.

Grandma’s Chocolate Cake with Buttercream, Cream Cheese Frosting

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Whenever there’s a birthday, I think of my Grandma Wentworth, my mom’s mom.  She was kind, had a great sense of humor, and was an incredible cook.  I have so many amazing memories of she and my Grandpa, especially around the Christmas holiday.  Every Christmas, we would wake up, pose for a photo on the stairs, open presents, and eat breakfast at our house before packing up to make the 40 minute trek over to Rome, NY to spend the day with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My most vivid memories are of her in the kitchen and the delectable treats that she would create.  From seafood salad and swedish meatballs to homemade toffee topped with rich, luscious chocolate to simple ranch seasoned oyster crackers, my grandmother knew food.  I remember sitting in her kitchen, either helping or waiting anxiously for the scrumptious bites that she would create.  Her kitchen walls were lined with blue and white wallpaper with images of Nantucket.  In her window sat one of those special birdhouses with a one way mirror.  She loved birds so much and this would give her the best view of the most beautiful winged creatures.  I could watch robins come into the bird feeder box, literally one foot from my face without them ever knowing.  On one of the kitchen walls hung a display case with tiny little handcrafted, unique figurines – like handpainted plates made out of the little plastic inserts of soda bottle tops – and on the other a case with antique porcelain teacups and saucers.  I loved those teacups so much that they were gifted to me after she passed and they are waiting for me, stored in my basement to be handed to my daughter.

Although she is no longer with us, my memories of her are still brilliant and clear.  For as long as I can remember, we made her chocolate cake for every birthday and for absolutely no special event other than a hankering for something sweet and decadent.  And I have continued this tradition in my house with my family.  Sure, I’ve tried other chocolate cake recipes but none of them quite measure up and I always find may way back to this one.  It is chocolatey without being too much so, sweet but too sweet, moist but not overly — it’s perfection in a chocolate cake.

Cake: (makes a very large, two layer cake. Cut the recipe in half for one sizeable cake or to make cupcakes)

  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1 C. oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1 C. cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 C. flour
  • 1 C. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two, 9 inch baking pans.

Cream oil, sugar and eggs together.  Add buttermilk (note: substitute — place 1 T. white vinegar in a 1 C. liquid measuring cup, fill with milk to the 1 C. line.  Let sit for 5 minutes) and mix thoroughly.  Add cocoa and mix thoroughly, scraping edges of bowl.  Add vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt and combine.  Add hot water in 3 batches, alternating with 1 C. flour.  Be careful of splatter during mixing.

Pour into pans evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out cleanly.

Buttercream, Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1, 8 oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 C. confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. milk

In a mixer, combine butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar one cup at a time.  Add vanilla and mix.  Add milk last.  If it’s too stiff, add a teeny tiny drop of milk until it’s the desired consistency.  If it’s too loose, add a teeny bit of sugar.

Notes/tips:

  • If the cakes are too rounded, it will make frosting difficult.  You may want to take a bread knife to trim the bottom layer cake so it is flat.  The top layer can stay rounded.
  • Take 4 strips of waxed paper and place under the sides of the first layer.  This will help with presentation — after you frost the cake, pull out these pieces and you’ll have a clean cake platter.
  • To frost: Take 1/3 of frosting and cover first layer.  Place second layer on top.  Pour remaining frosting on top and gently work frosting out from the center and down the sides.  Get a tall glass of very hot water.  To make the frosting smooth and pretty, dip your spatula in the hot water and turn the cake platter and keep the spatula stationary.
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