Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pasta with Zucchini, Mint, and Feta

A quick weeknight pasta dish that celebrates glorious garden fresh zucchini. A friend gave me these cute little baby zucchini and I wanted to make something special to showcase them. This pasta is a bright and fresh summer treat that can be put together in the time it takes to boil pasta. Tender slices of zucchini, the brightness of fresh mint, and the salty crumbly feta cheese make for one perfectly balanced and delicious pasta dish. I would definitely recommend this if you have an abundance of zucchini.

Pasta with Zucchini, Mint, & Feta
Adapted from Apples for Jam
by Tessa Kiros
Serves 3-4

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small zucchini, finely sliced or about 6 baby zucchini
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed a bit
1/2 teaspoon dried mint or a tablespoon fresh diced mint
3/4 cups small cubes feta cheese
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
16 ounces pasta of your choice
olive oil, to serve
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan and add the zucchini and garlic. Saute over quite high heat until the zucchini are cooked through and golden in places. If the garlic starts to burn, sit it on top of the zucchini. Season very lightly with salt and remove from the heat. Toss in the mint, crushing it between your fingers, and add the feta and lemon juice to the pan.  

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water, following the package directions. Drain the pasta, not too thoroughly, and save a little cooking water. Toss the pasta, directly into the zucchini pan, if it fits.  If not, return it to its own pan and add the zucchini sauce. Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss quickly and thoroughly to mix it all through (add a little cooking water if necessary if it seems at all dry). Serve immediately, with Parmesan and an extra drizzle of olive oil, if you like.
Theme: August Potluck!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Herb-Rubbed Steak with Corn Saute

It's time for another Mystery Box Madness over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This time around the ten mystery ingredients were: Any Red Fruit, Corn, Tortillas, Skirt or Flank Steak, Oregano, Heavy Cream, Goat Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds, Baby or Fingerling Potatoes, and Caramel/Cajeta. We simply pick at least three of the mystery box ingredients and choose a recipe from one of our twelve IHCC chefs.

I've been loving Jacques Pepin's recipes so I chose to cook with him. I definitely wanted to chose corn since it's just coming into season so I opted for Pepin's Corn and Pepper Saute. A simple saute of bell pepper and fresh corn with butter and salt and pepper. It's a delicious way to celebrate local and seasonal produce.  To go along with the corn I made Jacques' recipe for Herb-Rubbed Steak using flank steak and oregano. The steak had a wonderful blend of herbs and spices: dried thyme, dried oregano, dried rosemary, and cayenne pepper. The dried herbs are aromatic and flavorful and the cayenne adds a nice touch of heat.

The Herb-Rubbed Steak paired perfectly with the Corn and Pepper Saute for a light summer meal. We also enjoyed this mixture inside of corn tortillas, which just happened to be another ingredient in our mystery box this month. This was a delightful and flavorful meal that I would most definitely make again.

Herb-Rubbed Steak Over Corn Saute
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

1-1/2 pounds flank steak, sliced against the grain into thin slices
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Remove all the surface fat from the steak.  The trimmed steak will weight about 1-1/4 pounds. Crush the dried herbs between your thumb and finger and mix them together with the black and cayenne pepper. Pat the mixture on both sides of the meat. When ready to cook, sprinkle the steak with the salt. Heat the oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet (cast iron for best results). When it is hot, add the meat and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the steak to the oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare. Add the chicken stock to the pan and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve with natural juices and corn saute.  This beef is also great served inside corn tortillas.

Corn and Pepper Saute
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

1 large red bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 large ears corn,husked and kernels cut off (about 3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, remove as much of the skin as you can from the red pepper. The firmer the pepper the easier it is to peel. Cut the pepper into sections at the recesses.  Remove the seeds from each section and peel off the remaining skin. Cut the pepper into 1/4-inch pieces. You should have about a cup. Heat the butter in a large skillet until hot. Add the corn and pepper pieces and saute over high heat for about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper and serve.
Themes: Mystery Box Madness August 2015

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Crepes {Lovingly Known As Rolled Pancakes}

Crepes always bring a smile to my face.  They remind me of one of my favorite memories. Memories of sleepovers with my very best childhood friends. Unforgettable memories. Those late nights full of silliness and endless laughter and those lazy mornings spent sitting at the kitchen table.

In our pajamas with our hair a mess we hadn't a care in the world, well except for one thing. We cared about our "rolled pancakes."  My best friend Joy's mom and dad were famous for their rolled pancakes, otherwise known as crepes. They would stand over the stove flipping the pancakes. As soon as one would come off the pan someone would be holding their plate out to receive it. Butter, jam, syrup, and our very favorite, the cinnamon sugar, would line the table as fillings. Rolled pancakes would be devoured by the dozen. Smiles would be had by all. 

I would give anything to sit at that table again with all my best friends. Pj's, wild hair, messy faces and our biggest worry being whether or not we would get the next rolled pancake. Since the miles separate me from my sweet friends I go ahead and do the next best thing. I make an indulgent version of our old school rolled pancakes. I fill them with fresh strawberries and top them with a dollop of whipped cream, powdered sugar, and grated chocolate.  I take a bite and smile. In a few weeks I will be 40, but when I eat these crepes I feel like a kid again.

Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons canola oil

Fillings: Any jam or preserves, sugar, cinnamon/sugar, or chocolate. I made a strawberry filling using one pound of sliced strawberries and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I allowed the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the strawberries develop a little syrup of their own. Then I filled the crepes with the strawberries and garnished them with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar and grated chocolate.

Combine the flour, eggs, sugar, and 1/4 cup of the milk in a bowl and mix with a whisk until smooth.  (The mixture will be fairly thick.) Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk and the butter and mix until smooth.

Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch nonstick skillet with the canola oil and heat the pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add about 1/4 cup of the crepe batter and quickly tilt and move the skillet so the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan. (Work fast, or the batter will set before the bottom of the skillet is coated, and the crepe will be thicker than desired.) Cook for about 1 minute on the first side, then flip the crepe over using a fork, your fingers, or a spatula, and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side. Transfer the crepe to a plate,with the side that browned first down,so that when the crepes are filled and folded, this nicer side will be visible. Repeat with the remaining batter (there is no need to grease the skillet again), stacking the crepes.

To fill, spread each crepe with about 2 teaspoons jam or sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar or 2 teaspoons grated chocolate. Fold in half, enclosing the filling, then in half again. Eat immediately, while still warm. You can also roll them as I have.
Theme: "Reveille-toi" (Get Out Of Bed)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Ultimate Dessert: Chocolate Mousse

I will admit it. I am a lazy cook.  I like easy dishes with minimal clean up.  If I feel like the recipe involves lots of steps and I might not be able to execute it properly then I just set it aside, over and over again.  Such is the case with this Chocolate Mousse.

However, one of my main goals while cooking Pepin's recipes was to make a traditional Chocolate Mousse. Feeling determined while at the grocery store I bought the ingredients. I laid the chocolate out on the counter as a helpful reminder. I glared at that chocolate every single day for a week. I'm pretty sure it was the only time I've ever felt like chocolate was evil.

I looked at the recipe sitting on the counter and the words glared at me.  It all comes down to whisking egg yolks and sugar in a double boiler. I've tried. Lots of times. Never a success. It's as if I simple can't do it BUT, I will be so disappointed if I don't try, so...

I cracked the eggs in the bowl and rolled my eyes. I dumped the sugar in the bowl and let out sigh.  With all the attitude one could muster I whisked the mixture over a double boiler. I second guessed myself a million and one times. Of course I have no idea what the mixture was supposed to look like and by now my arm hurt so I just decide to stop. I make the whipped cream. Easy enough. I melt the chocolate. Easy as can be. I go to mix the melted chocolate with the egg yolks and the whole mixture seizes up. I'm quite sure a few obscenities came out because my husband got up and left the room. He knows if things get to this point it all goes downhill.  I add a few angry and hasty dollops to the mixture, per the instructions, and whip the tar out of the mixture. Imagine my surprise when the mixture becomes smooth. In utter shock I hurry up and fold in the whip cream as if the whole mixture will explode if I don't hurry.  I look down at the bowl. Holy cow, I actually did it. I made Chocolate Mousse!

I'm pretty sure I let out a squeal. Then I tasted it, and tasted it, and tasted it. I pretty much ate one serving straight out of the bowl. I couldn't stop. Seriously, I'm pretty sure this Chocolate Mousse is the most ultimate, luxurious, addicting dessert ever. Hey, chocolate lovers...I'm talking to you. You need to treat yourself to this dessert. It is rich with intense chocolate flavor and a smooth, almost velvety, mouth feel.  One of my favorite desserts.
Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

1/3 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
2 teaspoons cognac
Notes: I used semisweet Ghiradelli

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar and combine the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl in a skillet of hot tap water (or use a double boiler- I used a double boiler) and whisk the mixture for about 3 minutes, or until it is fluffy, smooth, and at least doubled in volume.

Beat the reserved sugar with the cream in a large chilled bowl for a few minutes, or until soft peaks form; do not overwhip. You need the cream to form soft peaks and not be overbeaten. The soft peaks is what creates the volume in the chocolate mousse.  Transfer about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream to another bowl to use as a decoration and refrigerate.

Using a rubber spatula, combine the melted chocolate and cognac with the yolk mixture. If the mixture starts to seize (which mine did) or break down, immediately stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream to smooth out the mixture. Gently fold in the (remaining) whipped cream until  incorporated. Transfer the mousse to a decorative bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

At serving time, whip the reserved 3/4 cup whipped cream until stiff peaks form.  Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and decorate the top of the mousse with the cream, or if you're a lazy cook like me, spoon dollops of the cream onto the top of the mousse and serve.
Theme: July Potluck!