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Friday, March 28, 2008

I Loves Me Some Lima Beans!

There it sat. That lonely bag of dried lima beans; taunting me from the pantry. “Do right by me” they said. Well, I DID have all that leftover ham in the freezer, and I did have a pressure cooker after all, so I gave those purty little beans a welcome fit for a king.

I don’t know why I don’t cook dried lima beans more often. Oh yes I do; they’re a pain to cook when dried. All that soaking and simmering. Sometimes a girl has just gotta have it now! And when they’re perfect, they’re like plump little potatoes. Each bite is tender-soft, yet firm and full of flavor. Lima beans have personality.

The trick with any dried bean is to not overcook them or add too much salt and/or acidity. One technique causes the beans to split and turn into a mushy mess, and the other causes them to toughen (in my opinion). Some say it’s fine to add salt in the beginning, some say after the beans are done. I prefer to add afterwards, as it gives me more control over the entire saltiness factor. I was always taught to salt any dish after it’s done, never in the beginning or during the cooking process, as liquids condense and that can increase the salt levels. There’s nothing worse than an overly salty pot of beans. Adding any kind of acidic ingredient, such as tomatoes, should also be added at the end of cooking, as the acidity causes the beans to stop cooking. And then you’re stuck with an overly salty, tough pot of beans!

For my little darlings, I chopped up about 2 cups of precooked ham, 1 onion, 2 stalks of celery, 3 cloves of garlic. I sautéed the ham a little in my pressure cooker, added the vegetables and sautéed till soft. I added 4 cups of chicken broth, 4 cups of water, about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (This is important! Dried beans cooked without oil will cause a lot of foaming, which is a BAD thing for pressure cookers), and finally some general seasoning. Bring up to pressure, and cook for about 30 minutes, then depressurize naturally.

At the end, a few sprinkles of kosher or sea salt, and smack my booty. DAYYUM!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Food Blogger Feast

The Easter weekend, I made a wonderful meal comprising a little bit of this-and-that from some of my favorite foodie friends. Since we skipped the whole Corned Beef-n-Cabbage thing for St. Patty’s Day, we decided that it would be wonderful for Easter. Besides, we still have about 3 lbs. of ham in the freezer leftover from Christmas and believe it or not…I’ve never made Corned Beef-n-Cabbage. I know!

We had:

New England Boiled Dinner, courtesy of Simply Recipes
Cheesy Beer Bread, from the very talented Lindsey’s Luscious
Butterscotch Ice Cream, again from Lindsey’s Luscious (she had a good thing going!)
And a simple Dump Cake, which hubby even made, from the ever reliant Cooking Forum

The corned beef dinner was the bomb, as well as everything else. The bread was a little on the salty side for my tastes, plus there’s something about wheat flour that I don’t like when baking bread. It gives everything as sort of cardboardy, flat flavor. I did use fresh dill, and that was very yummy and it made a big difference with the herb taste. I think I’ll play around with the recipe and maybe substitute the wheat flour with more AP flour or even a baking mix. I’ll cut back on the salt, but Lindey’s Luscious was right; the bread would make awesome toast!

Mean Mrs. Mustard Part Deux

On that note, the corned beef cried for mustard. So, I pulled one of my little, neglected jars of Ginger Garlic mustard out of the refrigerator. What the heck, I was feeling adventurous! What a difference time makes! A few months ago, this stuff could dissolve paint, but now it’s nice and mellow, with a good flavor. I’ll have to revisit this again and this time I’ll let the mustard seeds soak a good 24 hours before I process them in the food processor.

To be continued…

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Letter from Big Wine

Dear Hyatt Vineyards Winery,

We recently discovered that you no longer ship your product to out-of-state customers. During these uncertain times, and in light of pending legislative action, we understand how difficult it must be to go that extra mile.

Thank you for making our job easier.

Sincerely,

Big Wine

The BEST Beef Enchiladas

Last night, I planned to make an enchilada recipe I found in a Cooks Illstrated "Best Of" issue. I made these, and let me tell you, these were the BEST enchiladas I've ever had! Hubby and I about licked our plates!

I cooked the meat for this in my pressure cooker, but I could easily see cooking the meat in a crockpot while you're at work or doing other things. It was a very easy recipe overall. You have to try these!

BTW, these reheat wonderfully!

The BEST Beef Enchiladas
Recipe source: Cooks Illustrated

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 chuck roast, trimmed of fat & cut into large cubes (your choice of size & how much meat you want. Mine was about 2-3 lbs)
Olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup of water
½ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup chopped pickled jalapeno, minced
2 cups Mexican blend cheese
6-12 flour tortillas, your choice in size

The original recipe called for simmering the meat in a pot till shreddable; however, I made mine in my pressure cooker! This was done in 20 minutes! Of course, you could also do this on the stove or in your crockpot.

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, chili powder, cumin, sugar, and salt; set aside. Over med-high heat, brown the roast cubes in batches in the olive oil till lightly browned. Remove meat from pot and place on a plate. Add onions to pot and sauté till lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder mixture to onions and cook till fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, waterm and return meat with plate juices to pot. Bring to a simmer and cook till shreddable (about 1 ½ hours on stove, or you can do this in your crockpot). For my pressure cooker, I cooked this for 20 minutes.

When finished, remove meat from sauce with a slotted spoon. Reserve sauce. Shred meat and set aside in a bowl. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cilantro, jalapeno, and 1 cup of the cheese with the meat.

In a casserole dish (your choice of size depending on how many enchiladas you want), spoon enough of the reserved tomato sauce over the bottom to cover well (about ¼ inch). Place a couple of spoonfuls of the meat mixture in one of the flour tortillas, and roll into enchiladas (be sure to fold up the sides while you’re rolling so the filling doesn’t fall out!). Place enchiladas on top of the sauce in casserole dish, seam side down. Repeat for as many you want (this made 6 large enchiladas for us).

Spoon 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce over enchiladas then sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until browned. Serve with shredded lettuce, sour cream, fresh avocado & extra tomato sauce. Your choice!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Need of Inspiration

I’ve been slacking again, haven’t I? It’s not that I haven’t been busy, or haven’t made anything. I think I just haven’t been motivated to write or share anything exciting. Oh, I’ve been busy all right, and I’ve made w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l things, both in and out of the kitchen; I’ve just been in an inspirational slump.

So, this past weekend, I decided to make something to perk things up. Cuisine at Home had a wonderful looking tart recipe in their August 2006 issue that was just pining for some fresh Florida strawberries. And being that hubby has an incestuous attraction to tarts (no…not THOSE kind of tarts!), I decided to give it a try.

It’s a lovely custardy thing, with eggs and lemon curd, and milk, and honey. I especially liked the crust, which was more of a shortbread than a pie crust. The only thing I would change would be the jelly glaze used; I would have rather liked a citrus marmalade or jelly. I think the apple jelly didn’t do the lemon undertones justice. There’s always next time!

This is a wonderful tart to make in the dead of winter, or whenever you just need a little sunshine and inspiration!

Summer Fruit Tart with Honey-Lemon Cream and Fresh Berries
Recipe Source: Cuisine at Home, August 2006

Crust:
1 ¼ cups of all purp flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 stick of butter, cold & cubed (1/2 cup)
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white)

Filling:
Reserved egg white from crust
½ cup lemon curd (you can buy this at any grocery…or make your own!)
3 eggs
¼ cup all purp flour
3 T of cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups of whole milk
1/3 cup of honey
2 T butter
Juice of ½ lemon

Glaze:
¼ cup of jelly (apple, orange marmalade, apricot)
Juice of ½ lemon
Fresh assorted berries, about 2 cups

Crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9” tart pan with removable bottom with a nonstick spray. Process flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a food processor until combined (a few pulses). Add butter and pulse till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Dump mixture into a large bowl and blend in egg yolk with your hands (it’s easier this way). Mixture will still be very coarse/crumbly and will not clump together. Dump mixture into your tart pan and press into pan and up sides. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown. When you remove the crust from oven, take a spoon and press down on the crust as it will puff up a little. Place tart crust on cooling rack.

Filling:
Whisk reserved egg white and lemon curd together; add eggs. Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt together in separate bowl, then gradually add to lemon curd mixture. In a saucepan, bring milk and honey to a simmer over medium heat. Temper milk mixture with lemon curd mixture, then add all of lemon curd mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, stir continuously. Be sure to allow the filling to boil/bubble for 1 full minute, as it will cook off the starchy flavor from the flour and cornstarch.

Take filling off heat and add butter and lemon juice. Mix well, then pour custard into cooled crust. Cover with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill until set; about 4 hours or overnight.

Glaze:
Melt jelly and lemon juice over medium heat in a saucepan or a few seconds a microwave. Use a basting brush to brush glaze over the top of the tart. Add berries on top and brush with glaze. Enjoy!
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