Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Snap peas with spaghetti and pesto

We got our first snap peas of the year at the farm this week. I picked some and brought them home with me. I love these peas just steamed until they turn bright green , about 3 minutes, then topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. Sometime I'll put a little butter on the top and let it melt over the warm peas. That's also very good although the butter isn't really necessary. Cooking them isn't even necessary. These peas taste great raw. Just snap the top of the pea off, pull off string like part that holds the pod together, and eat!

Having eaten several meals with steamed peas, today I thought I'd give them a try in some pasta. I decided to make a spaghetti with peas, pesto, and toasted pine nuts.
Serves 6
1 pound of spaghetti
6 oz cleaned snap peas
one small clove garlic, chopped finely
1/3 cup pesto
2 TBS olive oil
toasted pine nut
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot (3 quart) of salted water to a boil. Drop the cleaned peas (snapped the tops off) in the pasta water and blanch them quickly. Take them out as soon as they turn bright green about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove peas from the boiling water and place in a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process and keep the peas crisp. Place the spaghetti in the boiling water and cook according to the package. Reserve some of the pasta water. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add the peas, pesto and garlic. Saute about 1 minute, them add the pasta and about a 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water. Cook until the water is mostly evaporated about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the toasted pine nuts and the shredded Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cheesecake pops

As far back as I can remember, my mom has been making cheesecakes. ( I think I learned to make them prenatally!) It was made for company, holidays, and many special occasions. She made one with a sour cream topping and a chocolate cheesecake, which was our family favorite. Then she started making a New York Style cheesecake. It had a cookie crust and the cheesecake was tall and felt like it weighed several pound. The center of the cheesecake was so creamy it almost oozed out when cut. Once people had this cheesecake they'd ask for it again and again. At some point, while I was in high school, she started making them to sell. I usually helped her get the cheesecakes made. On one particular week-end before a holiday, she had a large order, something like 18 or 20 cheesecakes, I think. As we started making the cheesecakes, I reach over to turn on the water in the sink, it spits and sputters but no water comes out. As we're trying to figure out why we have no water, my dad walk in and informs us the a pipe has broken and he's turned the water to the house off! These things happen when you have a well and live on a farm. He promises he'll have the water on again as soon as possible. So with nothing more than a few gallon containers of water to clean up with, we made all 18 or so cheesecakes. After we finished them all, sometime later that evening, we had water again. Now that's a daring baker!
So I had no worries about making the cheesecake part of the challenge. Now scooping it out and attaching it to a stick was a different story! Although quite messy, it was a fun twist. However, I'm happy I didn't have to attempt it with no water!
Thanks Deborah and Elle for a fun challenge. Be sure to check out all the other DB'rs cheesecake pops.

Here is the recipe. It really does make about 40 pops. I dipped some into semisweet chocolate and some into white chocolate. I rolled some chopped pecans and some into finely grated chocolate. Then since they were already on a stick, I put them into a flower pot for a kind of cheesecake flower arrangement and took them to my book club.

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes. (It takes at least 45 min. I think I baked mine 50.)

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Farmer's Table

Here are a few photo's from Saturday night's Farmer's Table dinner held at our family farm. For more information about the dinner go here and read about the dinner on the farm blog.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

McQuade's Chutney

A couple of weeks ago I entered a contest hosted by BlakeMakes. I won one of the 24 jars of fig and ginger made by McQuade's Celtic Chutney's. I used the chutney last night at the farm dinner, The Farmer's Table, we hosted on our family farm. We used the chutney as part of a cheese display the our guest could nibble on while mingling. We paired the chutney with Bella Chevre's goat cheese(made right here in Alabama!) and toasted baguette slices. It was a wonderful addition to our dinner. Our guests raved. The chutney paired with the goat cheese is truly a divine combination!
I had read about McQuade's Chutney's but this was the first time I've tasted one of them. McQuade's offers a variety of chutney's with enticing flavors like; Curried Banana, Cherry,and Rhubard and Tangerine, to name just a few. I can't wait to give some these other chutney's a try. Thanks so much to BlakeMakes and McQuade's for the chutney!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mango salsa...What I did on vacation?!

While Hubs was home we took a trip to Gulf Coast. Wanting to avoid the Spring breakers as much as possible, we chose an area known as "the forgotten coast" along the Florida panhandle. This area is also known for wild caught shrimp, oysters, and numerous varieties of fish. We spent the next four days walking on the beach with the dog, eating fresh seafood, and watching the sunsets. It was total relaxation! We only ate one meal at a restaurant. The rest of the time we feasted on fresh local seafood. So good! We picked up grouper one evening and I made a mango salsa to serve along with the grilled fish. We both love mango salsa with fish. (It's also tasty with chicken.) I've been making it for so long now that I don't remember where I got the original recipe. I pretty much just eyeball all the ingredients, so this is just a basic guide.
Mango salsa
serves two
One ripe mango diced
1/2 avocado diced
1/4 cup red onion chopped
1/2 jalapeno seeded and minced
juice from half a lime
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chopped cilantro
Toss the first four ingredients together. Squeeze the lime juice over the mixture. drizzle the olive oil over and mix together gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over grilled fish or chicken.

Friday, April 11, 2008

One of the things I love best about having Hubs home is having someone to cook for and with. He likes to cook as well, so occasionally I get a meal made for me. We picked up some smoked salmon shortly after he got home. The next day I got this for breakfast. *bliss*...sigh... The next 6 months are going to be long...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ribs with Blueberry Bar-B-Que Sauce

With Hubs back home for the next couple of weeks, meat is definitely back on the menu here. Not that it was ever really off. I just don't seem to cook much meat when it's just me. So my semi-veg existence is over for the next couple of weeks. Hubs is not a fan of fruit with meat. He'll eat most anything but has always protested when I wanted to make any fruit/meat combos. Pork and a sauteed apples for example, one of my favorites. Too sweet to mix with meat was always the complaint I got from him. So when I decided to make pork ribs, which I know are a favorite, with blueberry bar-b-que sauce, I knew there would be grumbling. I had made this while he was gone for some friends and everyone raved. I knew if I could get him to forget that it's fruit and therefore sweet, he'd really like the sauce. I had some jarred BBQ sauce on stand by, just in case. As I began preparing dinner Hubs strolled in the kitchen. "What are you making" he asked. "I know you don't like the fruit/meat thing but I'm making blueberry BBQ sauce." I answered. Then I got "the face". A mixture of yuck and disappointment. "It's really good." I quickly answered "If you don't want it I've got other bar-b-que sauce right here." He was not happy about it but said he'd give it a try. He stuck a spoon in the bowl and tasted it, halfheartedly. "Wow this stuff is really good, and you know I don't like fruit with meat." I did it! I'd finally found a fruit/ meat combo that Hubs actually enjoys. He did add extra hot sauce to his but still I was thrilled he like it at all. By the end of the meal he was suggesting that I use it with other meats, like chicken. So now I have a least one fruit sauce that's acceptible, who knows this may be the start of something:)
Blueberry Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 CUPS
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeño chile, seeded
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste (I used Cholula hot sauce)
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a nonreactive saucepan. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, sugar, mustard and hot sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the blueberries and simmer over low heat, stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pass through a strainer and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temp.
I froze the first batch leftovers and they were great when I them later.