Monday, August 29, 2011

Jen's Lethal Watermelon Margaritas. Because it's Monday. And Irene's gone.

My sister is known for her cocktails. She recently made these margs for my niece's birthday party (for the adults.) I have to admit I'm not the biggest watermelon fan in the world but these were so fresh and clean I fell head over heels in love with them.

Mix up a batch and keep chilled in a carafe buried in a tub of ice for people to serve themselves.

Jen's Lethal Watermelon Margaritas
*It should be mentioned that my sister gave this recipe to me from memory while on her second margarita... Luckily with any cocktail recipe you can always shift things around to taste - or at the very least 'fix' it with sparkling water if it's too sweet or add Sprite or simple syrup if it's too tart/strong.

2 cups fresh lime juice
2 cups pureed fresh (seedless) watermelon
1 cup orange liquor (Grand Marnier or Patron Orange Liqueur)
2 cups silver tequila
lime wedges for garnish

Mix and keep chilled up to 4 hours ahead of serving. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Salmon over Shallot and Blue Cheese Grits with Balsamic Glaze

I didn't expect to love this combination so much. It may be my new favorite. Reducing balsamic vinegar is like trying to raise a child from start to finish in 15 minutes. If you leave it alone for half a second, it will scorch and become unusable so keep a watchful eye. The upside is when reduced correctly and poured over the blue cheese grits and salmon, it is pure magic.

Salmon with Balsamic Glaze over Shallot and Blue Cheese Grits
Serves 4.

Glaze, via Giada Delaurentiis:
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed or chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard and garlic to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thick, about 12 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE IT ALONE AS IT CAN BURN AND BECOME A STICKY, RUINED MESS IN SECOND. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Shallot and Blue Cheese Grits:
2 TB butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
3/4 cup quick grits
1/2 cup packed blue cheese
2 TB Parmesan
2 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Fresh thyme, from 3 stalks
Salt and pepper

In a medium lidded pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots, sauteing for 5 minutes or just until softened and becoming pink. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook, stirring every so often for 7-8 minutes until the grits have cooked and absorbed the liquid. Reduce the heat to low if not already on low, and stir in the blue cheese, parmesan, cream cheese, oregano and thyme. Once melted in and blended, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Four 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets, skinned
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the salmon on the baking sheet. Drizzle both sides of the salmon with the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast until the salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

To serve, add grits to a plate to make a 'bed' for the salmon. Add the salmon over the top and drizzle with the glaze letting the grits absorb the excess. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gale Robb's Caramelita Bars...

Via my new dear friend Claire via her dear friend Hilary Sanborn. Hooray friends!

Gale Robb’s Caramelita Bars

2 (14 oz) bags Kraft caramels (or new melt pellets)
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ c butter, at room temp
2 cups flour
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ tspn salt
2 cups regular oatmeal
1 (12 oz) pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9x14” brownie pan with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick spray.

In a double broiler melt caramels with heavy cream on low – stir until incorporated and smooth. Set aside. In a separate mixer or large sturdy bowl with a hand held mixer, combine butter with flour - adding the flour gradually, then the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal.

Take ½ of the butter/oatmeal mixture and gently pat into lined pan with your hands or a nonstick spatula. Bake @ 350 degrees 8-10 min. Remove from oven. While still hot, evenly sprinkle with the chocolate chips on top. Bake 2 minutes then spread the chips with a knife or offset spatula. Once spread, pour the caramel mixture evenly over. Crumble rest of the oatmeal mix evenly over on top. Bake another 15 min. Let cool completely before slicing.

Spicy Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kabobs in Warm Pita

Heinous picture time! My apologies for being too impatient and lazy to learn the art of the lens. This looks like a gaping demon mouth for Christ's sake. But onwards and upwards. Lamb haters - don't click away. This marinade would be equally good with chicken or beef. Unless you love lamb (like me) in which case you know that could never be true...

But whatever meat you fancy, this marinade will make it juicier, more flavorful and more awesome. I've always wanted to be in a band called "More Awesome" but that's besides the point. Anyway, with meat this flavorful you don't even need to make a sauce or accompaniment. Just let it rest after grilling, accumulating all those magical juices, then de-skewer and cradle it up in warm pita and sprinkle with crumbled feta. If you have any patience left, chop up some green onions and flat leaf parsley to gild the lily.

Spicy Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kabobs in Warm Pita
* Austin residents - the best naan bread can be found at the Farmers Market at Barton Creek Mall at the Indian food vendor stand. SOOO good!

7 oz Greek yogurt, full or low fat okay
2 green onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 inch knob fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
Large handful flat leaf parsley, minced
1 medium lime, zested and juiced
1 jalapeño, chopped (seeds and veins optional)
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1 lb cubed lamb

Naan or pita bread, wrapped in foil and warmed in a low oven.
Feta cheese, for serving.
Chopped green onions and flat leaf parsley, for serving.
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least two hours.

In a large ziploc bag, mix together the yogurt, shallot, ginger, garlic, parsley, lime juice and zest, jalapeno, spices, salt and pepper. Add the lamb and turn around to make sure every piece is well coated.

Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight, removing from the fridge a half hour before grilling. Remove the lamb from the marinade and skewer. Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill pan to medium. Spray with nonstick spray. Once the grill or grill pan has heated up (you shouldn't be able to hold your hand within a couple inches of it for more than a few seconds), add the skewers and grill for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium.

Remove and let rest for 10 minutes lightly tented with foil before deskewering and serving in warm pita or naan with feta, chopped green onions, and flat leaf parsley.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mustard and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Black Pepper, Coriander, and Thyme

Please tell me you own a mortar and pestle. Not only are they perfect for cracking spices and making marinades but they're also invaluable "I've had a bad day" therapy devices. You just mentally insert someone's face inside and go to town. It's genius. The crunch, crunch, crunch of whole spices getting obliterated underneath your hands...divine.

But enough about me and my psychosis. You don't own one, you say? Let's fix that:

Buy me!

Anyway this marinade makes me so, so happy. It's like Jesus slather for meat. I even over cooked the hell out of my pork last night and it still came out tender. And the leftovers - cold on a sandwich the next day? I'm slapping myself right now.

You probably could make this without a mortar and pestle (grind the spices in a spice grinder, mush the garlic with the back of a spoon and whip it all together) but it won't be near as gratifying as crunching and mushing and mashing together your own little witches potion. But then again you might not be as easily entertained as I am.

Mustard and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Crushed Black Pepper, Coriander and Thyme
* This would also be fantastic with beef tenderloin or as a chicken marinade.

2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the back of a knife
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablepsoon olive oil
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 nice sized pork tenderloin

Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns, coriander, dried thyme and oil, then mix and crush the seeds and pepper as much as possible creating a nice paste (you don't need to mash every single seed - just crush as many as you can.) Add the dijon and salt mixing in until well blended.

Transfer the marinade to a large ziploc. Add the tenderloin, flipping it around in the bag to make sure it's well coated. Seal and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Remove 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a medium rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Remove the pork from the bag and scrape off any excess lumps or big chunks and excess liquid.

Roast at 375 for 25 minutes, then raise the heat to 425 and cook another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, lightly tented with foil before slicing and serving.