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The Cookbook Junkie

Dang It’s Hot!

 

By Gini Rainey

Living in Texas during the summer can be quite a challenge for someone who grew up just a couple hundred miles south of the Canadian border.  I don’t believe I will ever get acclimated to the heat here.  I came close at one point, before I had a heat stroke in Puerto Vallerta, but that’s another story!

This week we are lucky enough to be facing some record temperatures and I can honestly say that as many times as I told myself during the chilly winter temperatures we had this past winter how much I would appreciate those days in the summer…those thoughts have totally been wiped out thanks to the 100°-plus weather we’ve been blessed with recently.

Growing up it seemed like we had a lot of hot days in Minnesota, and while we didn’t have air-conditioning, we managed to stay semi-cool most of the time.  It was always great fun to run through the water-sprinkler or find a shady place to play a quiet game or two.  One of my favorite things to do was grab a book and climb about half way up one of our apple trees. Not only had this tree been gracious enough to grow a couple of branches that actually crossed each other and made a great sitting spot, but it usually had some yummy apples just ripe for the picking.

My mom would get around the heat of the kitchen by baking apple dumplings (from the benevolent apple tree) early in the day and making great salads for dinner that were a welcome relief after the heat of the day dissipated.  One of my favorites she would make was a macaroni and shrimp salad that still works well today in the Texas heat.  In fact, I just finished making one for dinner this evening.

Although I haven’t been able to find the tiny little macaroni “o’s” like she would use (the lighter pasta goes well with the shrimp), today I cooked a 1 pound box of Barilla® Ditalini in 6 cups salted water until al dente.  While the pasta was

cooking, I diced half a medium white onion, 3 stalks of celery, 2 avocados, and 3 hard boiled eggs.  When the pasta was cooked, I drained it and rinsed thoroughly with cold water to reduce the temperature and poured it into a large serving bowl along with the diced ingredients.  I then put a cup of Miracle Whip® (I’m sorry, all of you dyed-in-the-wool mayonnaise users, but Miracle Whip® adds a needed zing to this salad), 3/4 cup of milk, ½ teaspoon freshly ground green peppercorns, and ¼ teaspoon salt (feel free to adjust your seasonings) into a covered jar and shook to blend.  I folded the dressing into the salad along with a pound of small steamed shrimp and it is now refrigerating until I serve it later today with a tomato cucumber salad and fresh baked rolls.  Dessert?  What else but a frozen Key Lime pie! Now if that isn’t good summer eating, well then I don’t know what is!

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Books

Artists in the Kitchen

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By Gini Rainey

I have many passions in my life, mostly leaning toward my right brain, but after working for over 25 years as a business manager/owner, my left brain seems to have shoved a lot of those passions to the side, but trust me – they’re still there!  So, when I come across a cookbook that has wonderful recipes that are paired up with amazing works of art from the National Gallery of Art, you can be sure this is one book I had to have. 

With notable chefs such as Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters creating dishes and menus to compliment the art of Matisse, Pissaro, and Gauguin, to name a few, you can only imagine what a lovely and creative book this must be. 

While using paintings of the obvious subjects, such as Vollon’s Mound of Butter and Jean Simeon Chardin’s Still Life with Game for inspiration, I think the recipes that truly intrigue me are from the chefs who viewed such paintings as Raoul Dufy’s The Basket and Mary Cassatt’s Afternoon Tea Party, let their imaginations run wild and came up with what might have been in the basket or what Cassatt might served at her Tea Party. 

Pablo Picasso’s Le Gourmet was the inspiration for Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Sauce that would make a delicious topping for a bread pudding or a dish of Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla ice cream. To make the sauce, combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup, and 2 ½ tablespoons Scotch whisky in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the mixture just begins to smoke and turns an amber color.  Meanwhile, place 1 ¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream in another large saucepan, split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape its seeds into the and then add the pod.  Add 1 cup of butter and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

When the sugar mixture reaches the proper color, immediately stop its cooking by whisking in the cream mixture in small amounts, waiting a few seconds between additions to prevent it from boiling over.  Once all the cream mixture is incorporated, simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.  Whisk in ½ cup of butter until combined.  The sauce will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  To reheat, place the sauce in a bowl over simmering water.  If desired, add some toasted pecans or add a dash of sea salt to taste, and wow, you have got something really yummy going on there. 

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Blogs

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

By Gini Rainey

Today’s blog entry was written by my “Guest Writer”  who, every so often, sends something along to me that is press worthy.  Today’s blog is pretty darn good!

Why did the chicken cross the road?  So he could be a part of today’s feature dish, Capellini with Sausage, Lemon and Basil.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself; I’ll deal with that bird in a moment.

Today, I’m reviewing Flying Sausages, Flying Sausages, written by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly and published in 1995 by Chronical Books, is  a very interesting cookbook about how to make fresh poultry sausages and all the things that you can do with them.  “Wait a second,” I can hear you now – “my Uncle Frank used to make sausage; it was a messy affair with lots of grinding and stuffing and meat hanging in a cooler for months.”  Nope, that was your Uncle Frank and his cured pork – this is completely different.  For one thing, Frank’s sausages required the use of nitrate curing salts, then stuffing into casing and drying for weeks or months.  The chicken and turkey sausages described here are fresh; you’ll just mix uncooked ground chicken (buy it pre-ground or you can do it in your food processor) with fresh herbs.  These can be used as-is (made into patties or balls) or stuffed into sausage casings.  Your fresh sausages can be frozen or used immediately.  Either fresh turkey or chicken can be used in any of these recipes; turkey give a slightly deeper flavor.

Flying Sausages leads off with descriptions and directions to make seven basic styles of poultry sausages that are used in the ensuing recipes.   These include Southwest Green Chile (ground chicken seasoned with cumin, chili powder, cayenne, cilantro, onions and jalepeño – woudn’t that be good with migas or in tacos?), Italian style (sun dried tomatoes, fennel, wine and garlic), a North Mediterranean Arabic style (with lots of garlic, turmeric, paprika, lemon zest, and mint) and a highly seasoned Chinese Black Mushroom style (an abundance of hot pepper, mushrooms, sesame oil, soy, garlic and green onion).

One of these is the Italian Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage.  Chicken sausages have been made in Italy for generations, and the variety of cooking styles and foods available along the length of the country mean that their sausages, too, take on different flavors. There’s no absolute recipe for this; feel free to experiment and add ingredients that your family prefers.  In the north of Italy, aromatic spices, garlic and white wine flavor a more delicate sausage than is found in the south, where tomatoes, red pepper, red wine and a tablespoon of Romano cheese make a perfect accompaniment for a heavy red sauce and pasta.  We’re going to make a style from North Italy, then show how it’s used in a light, Springtime lemony pasta dish.  When you read through this recipe, you’ll realize how easy it is to put together:

Northern Italian-Style Sausage With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

3 ½ lbs raw ground chicken or turkey (preferably thigh meat, ground with skin)

½ cup white wine

½ cup chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil

3 Tablespoons chopped garlic

2 Tablespoons fennel seed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoons sugar

If you’re grinding your own meat, pulse chunks in a food processor until roughly chopped.  Add remaining ingredients to the chopped poultry in a large tub or bowl and thoroughly mix with your hands.  Form golf ball sized meatballs or patties, freeze or use immediately.

Here’s another recipe that uses the delicious fresh sausage mixture.  This is a light, Spring or Summer-inspired dish, where the fennel and tomato flavors in the sausage perfectly match the delicate lemon and basil of the sauce.  Use any type of light pasta – capellini (Italian for “little hairs”) as here, or its slightly thinner version, “capelli d’angelo,” which is – you guessed it, ‘angel hair.’  Pair this with a crisp, chilled white wine for classic Northern Italian lunch.  Also – any type of “store-bought” chicken sausage can be substituted for the home-made recipe above, but I encourage you to try your hand at the sausage-making, too and take ownership of the entire dish!

Capellini with Sausage, Lemon and Basil:

1 lb dried pasta

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ lb Italian Turkey and Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage

Zest of two lemons

5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 fresh basil leaves, shredded

5 Tablespoons fresh parsley

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

In a large skillet, sauté the sausage balls in olive oil for 4-6 minutes, breaking them up as they cook.  Add lemon zest, lemon juice, basil and parsley, and allow to cook for one minute to release the flavors.  Cook the pasta according to package directions to the al dente stage (about 5 minutes) and drain.  Then toss the sausage mixture into the pasta until well coated.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan cheese.  After a bite of this and a chilled white wine, you’ll almost be able to see the Italian Alps.

So, try your hand at making fresh poultry sausage!  I’m going to make the Arabic Mediterranean ones next and enjoy with pita bread, hummus, and thick yogurt.   I thought that Flying Sausages is an interesting read and an excellent introduction to an inexpensive and easy way to add some different spices to your cooking routine.   Who knows?  Perhaps you’ll develop some favorites of your own!

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Blogs

Smörgåsbord Is Ready!

By Gini Rainey

I’m always on the lookout for good cookbooks that are either regional, ethnic or odd, and my sister scored a direct hit at Christmas when she included a Scandinavian cookbook in my Christmas gifts.  Talk about a win-win! This year she presented me with “The ScandiKitchen” that was written by Brontë Aurell, with photography by Peter Cassidy and was published in 2015 by Ryland, Peters & Small.  Without a doubt, if reading the yummy recipes didn’t put pounds on me, the wonderful photographs did.

Whether you are of Scandinavian descent or not, this book will appeal to you on all levels.  From the hearty breakfast dishes straight through to the amazing pastries and breads, this book is a veritable compendium of all the dishes that this part of the world of cooking has to offer.  I am extremely envious of anyone who has access to fresh lingonberries and cloudberries (also known as Arctic Raspberries), because a lot of the recipes call for these tart and tangy berries, and although raspberries and cranberries can easily be substituted for them, I just know they wouldn’t be near the same.

I don’t think you would need much more for a light lunch or dinner than slices of the easy Danish Rye Bread or Seed Rye Rolls with thin slices of a rye Havarti and a chilled glass of Aquivit, followed by a light and fluffy dish of Whipped Lingonberries (vispipuuro) topped with raspberries.  Oh my, this is making me hungry!

Interestingly enough in all of my reading, I’ve found many dishes in the different cultures are very similar.  This book has a recipe for meatloaf that is close to the one I make, except theirs is wrapped in bacon strips.  And would you believe that across Sweden and Finland Crayfish Festivals are celebrated, much like we do in the South.  I will say, though, I don’t believe you will find any dishes in this area that are made with reindeer (sautéed with chanterelle mushrooms) or for lutefisk (made from aged stock fish or dried/salted whitefish and lye – trust me, I have yet to taste lutefisk that is good.)

One of the recipes that is very similar to one we have in these parts is for a breakfast open-faced sandwich that incorporates a hearty rye – or seeded rye – with avocado and eggs. First, slice two ripe avocados in half, remove the seeds, scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork in a bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Then, soft poach two large eggs and toast two slices of bread.  Spread the avocado on the slices of toast, top with some watercress, if desired, and add a teaspoon of Kalles Kaviar (available on Amazon, eBay, and believe it or not, WalMart, among other specialty stores).  Top each slice with a poached egg and season with salt and pepper.  Not only is this any easy meal to prepare for breakfast or brunch, it also tastes as good as it looks!

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