MoM Aug ‘09 ATK American Classics: Stuffed Tomatoes

I’m not a vegetarian, but it’s food like this that might actually sway me to become one: Stuffed Tomatoes with Parmesan, Garlic and Basil.

Stuffed Tomatoes

We’re on the final days of our August 2009 Magazine of the Month, American Classics, and I’m rounding it off with a delicious vegetarian dish that can be served as a side or main: Stuffed Tomatoes.

The recipe calls for 6 “large, ripe” tomatoes. I generally prefer tomatoes on the vine, but given only the description of “large” and nothing more, I automatically think “beefsteak” because they’re the largest that I can commonly find in my grocery store. Because I was serving only two people I halved the number of tomatoes, thinking I wouldn’t eat a whopping 6 stuffed tomatoes. Who would do that, right?

Oh, my. If only I knew then what I know now: I would have eaten a truckload!

This reminded me of my dad’s tomato plants. When I was a kid, my dad used to grow tomatoes in the backyard. As they’d ripen, he’d pick them right off the vine, quarter and sprinkle them with a little salt on top. We’d eat ’em just like that.

Similarly, our Stuffed Tomatoes are hollowed out, sprinkled with kosher salt and allowed to sit, upside down, for 30 minutes. Not only does the salt eliminate the excess moisture, but it adds a flavor that reminded me of my dad and those delicious, salted tomatoes he’d serve up as summertime snacks.

As it turns out, three beefsteak tomatoes requires the full recipe of filling — not halved. Even with the full recipe of filling I wasn’t able to fill up my tomatoes all the way. They were loosely packed to the top and, after cooking, sunk into the tomatoes a bit.

Here’s an “after baking” pic, and you can see how the filling sunk into the tomatoes:

Stuffed Tomatoes: Baked

If you like the gigantic beefsteak tomatoes, make more filling. It’s not that hard or time consuming, anyway.

Here’s another little trick: Place your tomatoes into a nonstick muffin tray to bake. The muffin tin will enable the tomatoes to retain their shape — after they come out of the oven, they will need to be eaten right away because they’ll spread and start to fall apart.

Stuffed Tomatoes 4

This above shot was taken after the tomatoes had been resting for 4 or so minutes. The tomato starts to spread a bit — which is fine, because they get cut up and inhaled pretty quickly anyway.

If you have extra fresh bread, tomatoes and basil to get rid of, you’ve gotta make these. No kidding around, these tomatoes were delicious.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Parmesan, Garlic and Basil
Adapted from American Classics

6 large firm, ripe tomatoes, 1/8 inch sliced off steam end, cored and seeded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large slice white bread, torn into quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan (note: I used Romano)
1/3 chopped fresh basil leaves
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Ground black pepper

Sprinkle inside of each tomato with salt, and then place each tomato upside down on several layers of paper towels; let stand to remove excess moisture, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about ten 1-second pulses (you should have about 3/4 cup). Toss bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil, Parmesan or Romano, basil, garlic, and pepper to taste in a small bowl; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees; line bottom of 13×9 inch baking dish with foil or coat bottoms of muffin cups with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil.

Roll up several sheets of paper towels and pat inside of each tomato dry. Arrange tomatoes in single layer in baking dish/muffin tin. Mound stuffing into tomatoes (about 1/4 cup per tomato); drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

A+. If you end up with extra tomatoes that you aren’t sure what to do with, give these stuffed tomatoes a try; they are delectable.

Scallops with Slivered Asparagus and Lemony Wine Sauce

When I saw this recipe posted over on Serious Eats last Friday, two things immediately sprang to mind:

1. Oh my God, that looks awesome.

2. The voice of Gordon Ramsay screaming, “These scallops are raw!” then beaning some poor, hapless cook with one.

See, I had never cooked scallops before so I was pretty nervous about the undertaking, but I took the plunge anyway.

Scallops with Asparagus 2

So glad I did, too. This was incredible.

The ingredients were few and simple, which is my preference with seafood. Less is more. Don’t let thick sauces get in the way.

I was also quite intrigued with the book that this dish came from: What We Eat When We Eat Alone. The title in itself is interesting because I know what I eat when I’m alone — take out, fast food, leftovers, anything I don’t have to make myself. I think a lot of people don’t cook when alone. I don’t know why that is. This past Saturday night I had the house to myself. What I could have (and should have) done was cook a food that I normally don’t get to eat when I’m cooking for my spouse (things he typically doesn’t like). But guess what I ended up doing instead? Leftovers. And eating leftovers is good because letting food go to waste is a bad practice, but I could have had fun cooking and didn’t grab the opportunity.

I think I’m going to check out this book. If only a dozen dishes are as fantastic as the scallops I made on Friday night, it would be a worthwhile investment.

Scallops with Slivered Asparagus and Lemony Wine Sauce
Adapted from What We Eat When We Eat Alone, by Deborah Madison

12 ounces asparagus
6 – 7 large sea scallops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, in all
1 fat scallion, white part with a little green, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoon zest (Meyer) lemon
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Splash of white wine

If the asparagus is thick, peel the stalks. Don’t bother doing that with thin asparagus. Slice them diagonally up to the tips. (If you are doing this well in advance, put the asparagus in a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.) Peel off the opaque muscle of the scallops, if any is evident, and discard. Pat scallops dry with paper towels.

When ready to cook, put up to 8 cups of water to boil for the asparagus. Add salt, then the asparagus and boil until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain them just before they’re ready as they’ll continue cooking in their heat, then return them to the pan and toss with a little of the butter and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Simultaneously, melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet. When the foam subsides, add the scallops. Cook over medium-high heat until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes, then turn and cook the second side. When done, divide the asparagus between 2 plates, then nestle the scallops on top.

Add the remaining butter, scallion, herbs, and lemon zest to the pan, allow the butter to melt and foam, then add the splash of wine and squeeze for lemon (to taste) and let it sputter and boil. After about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, add a little pepper, and spoon the sauce over the scallops and asparagus. Serve with crusty bread to capture the juices.

Be sure to spread the wine sauce over the asparagus, too — I tried keeping it to just the scallops and realized it was a missed opportunity. Mixing the asparagus with the buttery sauce was such a simple, flavorful combination that couldn’t be beat. Butter+wine+scallops? Yes, please! When I had finished up the dish, I wished I had cooked more. Putting this dish together took about 20 minutes and clean up took 5. And for price, it really can’t be beat — about $7.50 per plate. If I had used a nice bottle of wine it would have been more, but I confess I used a cheap, white cooking wine from the grocery store. Definitely next time — because there will be a next time and it will be soon.

Scallops with Asparagus

MoM Aug ‘09 ATK American Classics: Macaroni & Cheese

After making Thomas Keller’s Macaroni Gratin, putting together someone else’s Mac & Cheese felt like heresy. Granted, though they are both macaroni and cheese, comparing America’s Test Kitchen to Thomas Keller is like comparing apples to oranges. Maybe not even that close. It’s like comparing an orangutan’s butt to Mars.

Keller’s Macaroni Gratin is a light and creamy perfection with undertones of pepper and onion (that, quite honestly, cannot be omitted in this dish), creating a refined classic. Our Magazine of the Month, America’s Test Kitchen’s American Classics, takes most of our childhood memories and mashes it together into one, definitive dish that they feel is decidedly an American version. Now that I’ve been able to compare the two, I can honestly say:

Thomas Keller’s Macaroni Gratin is the deluxe Bentley of Macaroni and Cheese, the luxury automobile you can’t even afford to stand near and drool over.

America’s Test Kitchen’s Macaroni and Cheese is the 1978 Ford Station Wagon of Macaroni and Cheese, attempting refinement with faux wood panels and power windows. It’s even got that little pop-up seat in the very back. You know what I’m talking about.

I confess I’m a little disappointed in the results because I had read so many wonderful things about it lately on the internet. A couple of different websites had ripped this together and had determined there is no other mac and cheese. Unfortunately, I came to a completely different conclusion.

I think this would have been good if I had omitted one ingredient: Hot sauce. In the back of my mind I knew I shouldn’t stick it in there, but I wanted to be true to the recipe and review it as written. I don’t normally like hot sauce. Sometimes I do, but generally I don’t. So I should have known right away and that was my fault. Had I taken the hot sauce out, would it have been a good dish? Absolutely. Would it have then beaten the Bentley of Macaroni and Cheese? Not a chance. But it’s got a real homespun quality to it, and that’s why you may like it. Hot sauce enthusiasts, such as our web admin, will also enjoy. (I know you’re out there, pouring Frank’s Red Hot on everything you eat.)

CI Mac & Cheese

This mac and cheese is high in fat (three cans of evaporated milk, which has about twice the amount of fat as whole milk) and three kinds of cheese. Staying true to their American Classics theme, there’s a lot of processed American cheese. The creamy sauce has a little kick to it with the addition of hot sauce (which I already mentioned) and dry mustard. To top the whole thing off, a crispy, homemade bread topping is baked on top.

CI Mac & Cheese 3

Foolproof Macaroni and Cheese
From ATK’s American Classics
Serves 8 – 10

Bread Crumb Topping
3 slices hearty white sandwich bread torn into rough pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
Table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 (12-ounce cans) evaporated milk
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry mustard
8 ounces (2 cups) extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) American cheese, shredded
2 ounces (3/4 cup) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

CI Mac & Cheese 1


1. For the bread crumb topping: Pulse bread, melted butter and Parmesan in food processor until ground into coarse crumbs. Transfer to bowl.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

3. For the macaroni and cheese: Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.

4. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until foaming. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk, hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and reserved cooking water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.

CI Mac & Cheese 2

5. Transfer macaroni to 13×9-inch baking dish and top evenly with bread crumb topping. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, about 20 – 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

CI Mac & Cheese 4

If I made this again I’d omit the mustard and hot sauce, and add diced onion and fresh ground pepper to the roux. That would have fixed its problems. Unfortunately, Thomas Keller’s Bentley of Mac and Cheese is the one for me.

Strawberry Smashed Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Topping

Welcome back from the weekend — it’s Muffin Monday! Okay, I just made that up. Over the weekends I’ve been making new muffins for the work week, so it just made sense to declare Mondays “Muffin Mondays”. I have no idea how long I’ll keep to it; my ability to stick to a blog schedule hasn’t been all that stellar. My biggest fear is that I’ll eventually run out of muffins to make. Eventually I’d have to get into the bizarre kinds and I’m not so sure if I want to do that. Sometimes I like playing it safe. Case in point: Strawberry Smashed Muffins.

Strawberry Smashed Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

I like muffins, not only because they’re delicious and are easy to eat, but because they’re really quick and simple to make. Throwing together a good, easy batter takes all of 15 minutes and everything can be quickly cleaned while the muffins bake.

Berry Smashed Muffins - Batter

A multitude of berries can be used for these muffins; I selected strawberries. Raspberries would also be delicious and appropriate for anyone who is leery of lots of sweetness. The sweetness isn’t overbearing; my fear was that it would come out rather syrupy (not my favorite) but they weren’t. The cinnamon-sugar topping is very over the top in the sweetness of these muffins, so if you’re not into that, consider doing the simple streusel from the blueberry muffins. Also, these aren’t as cakey as the banana muffins I was gushing about last week, but still fluffy enough to satisfy me. The batter held up quite nicely with the berries.

The original recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I substituted with natural, unsweetened applesauce and got great results. Another good switch up on these muffins would be to half the all-purpose flour and make up the difference with wheat flour. (And obviously if you’re that worried about being health-conscious, don’t dip these in melted butter and sugar… Duh!)

Strawberry Smashed Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
Adapted from RecipeZaar / Gold Medal Rainbow Bakery children’s Cookbook

1 2/3 cups fresh strawberries (or frozen, thawed and drained)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
4 tablespoons butter, melted and warm
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 425 F. Lightly grease the bottoms of 12 regular sized muffin cups.

Slightly smash strawberries in large bowl, using fork. Alternatively, quarter strawberries and pulse in a food processor with 7 one-second pulses. Remove from processor and place in large bowl.

Stir in sugar, applesauce and eggs until mixed. Stir in other ingredients just until moistened.

Using a 1/3 measuring cup, evenly distribute batter into muffin cups. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown or toothpick poked in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of muffins from pan and take them out of the pan. Let cool for another 5 minutes.

For topping, mix together sugar and cinnamon, until cinnamon is evenly distributed throughout the sugar. Dip muffin tops lightly in melted butter, then into sugar mixture.

These are a delicious and light and the smashed berries inside are a fun treat to bite into. Here’s a photo of the insides… I went to get the camera and our illustrious web admin decided to take one of the muffins for a test drive.

Berry Smashed Muffins - Test Driven & Approved

MizzNezz’s Banana Muffins

No, this is not a repeat from last week’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. I had extra bananas in my pantry that were going brown and wanted to use them up. I did enjoy the muffins I made last week but I was searching for something different — a more scrumptious treat with a cake texture.

Found it.

Banana Muffins 5

These muffins are incredibly moist and soft with a sweet banana flavor, thanks to the fact that it calls for a whole 3 bananas — a great way to get rid of those brown things sitting on top of your fridge.

What falls down for me a bit is the streusel mixture that goes on top — comprising mostly of brown sugar and a little bit of butter, during the baking process it melts into the muffin and doesn’t retain its crumbly texture as well. I think the best bet is to use the streusel from the Blueberry Muffins, which is comprised of nearly equal parts sugar and flour. Add in 1/3 cup of nuts, and you’ll have the winning streusel topping.

Banana Muffins 1

These muffins are the easiest muffins yet. Dump your wet ingredients into a bowl, mix well with an electric mixer, add the dry ingredients, mix well with an electric mixer, divide into a greased, non-stick 12-cup muffin tin. Bake. Eat.

Streusel Topped Banana Muffins
Courtesy of MizzNezz / RecipeZaar

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping (as reflected in photos)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine bananas, sugar, egg and butter. Add dry ingredients and mix well, scraping the bowl with spatula as needed.

Divide batter into a greased, non-stick 12-cup muffin pan. Combine streusel in bowl and divide evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

I also want to give a special call out to MizzNezz, the RecipeZaar contributor who came up with these muffins. A few of her dishes are staples in my house, like her Chicken Tetrazzini.

Banana Muffins 3

MoM Aug ’09 ATK American Classics: Pepperoni Pan Pizza

We’re still cruising through our Magazine of the Month selection, America’s Test Kitchen’s ancillary publication of “American Classics”.

Actually, I take the “cruising” comment back. Earlier this month we were cruising. Seeing as how the month is up in two weeks and I’ve only gone through three of the recipes, cruise control is off and I’m racing to the finish line like Snake Plissken racing to the Manhattan containment wall! Save me, Lee Van Cleef!

At any rate, I’m hoping to have a total of three selections from the MoM up by the end of the week.

Sliced Pepperoni Pan Pizza

So let’s talk pepperoni pizza. I love the idea of making pizza at home, but crust is often an issue for me: If I have to purchase dough, I figure I may as well skip the whole thing and just get delivery. After going through a multitude of different pan pizza crusts, the Test Kitchen came up with one that isn’t greasy or overly doughy, and is very little effort. I made my dough entirely in my food processor and no kneading is necessary. The pizzas can be made in 90 minutes from start to finish, which isn’t bad when you’re making the dough from scratch!

Degreasing the pepperoni is also a quick and effective little trick — it’s microwaved on paper towels for 30 seconds before topping them on your pie.

Baked Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I would have added more pepperoni than what you see here, but I made a mistake and accidentally bought some perverted concoction that had been marinated in Tabasco sauce. Hoo boy, was that hot! Had this been normal pepperoni, I would have thrown on twice as much.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza – Dough
Adapted from ATK American Classics
Makes two 9-inch pizzas

1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk, warmed to 110 degrees
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Lightly grease large bowl with cooking spray. Coat each of two 9-inch cake pans with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Mix milk, sugar, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast and salt in food processor. Set machine to dough and pulse to mix dry ingredients together. In three batches, add milk mixture while pulsing the dough. After the dough comes together, turn the machine to on, and let the dough mix together until it forms a ball and is smooth (about 2 minutes). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, gently shape into a ball, and place in the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface, divide in half, and lightly roll each half into a ball. Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll and shape dough into 9 1/2-inch round and press with knuckles into oiled pan.Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm spot (not in oven) until puffy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.

Precooked Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I found that this dough was not at all difficult to work with. It doesn’t require kneading and doesn’t need a lot of flour in order to roll out. It’s not sticky, is easy to handle, and rolls out quickly without making a mess.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza – Tomato Sauce
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
table salt and ground black pepper

1 (3.5 ounce) package sliced pepperoni
3 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

While dough rises, cook oil and garlic in medium saucepan over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium, and cook until slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Put half of pepperoni on single layer on microwave-safe plate lined with 2 paper towels. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Discard paper towels and set pepperoni aside, repeat with remaining pepperoni and paper towels.

To assemble: Remove plastic wrap from dough. Ladle 2/3 cup sauce on each round, leaving 1/2 inch border around edges. Sprinkle each with 1 1/2 cups cheese and top with pepperoni. Bake until cheese is melted and pepperoni is browning around edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let pizzas rest in pans for 1 minute. Using spatula, transfer pizzas to cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Serve.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza

Other than the extra-hot pepperoni, I loved these little pizzas. I’d be proud to make these for an informal get together on a Friday night. The simple, crushed tomato sauce with garlic, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper was delicious and supported the pepperoni and cheese nicely. The pizzas do take a bit longer than a weeknight meal should (especially if you’re super hungry) but they turn out really well and are, surprisingly enough, really filling.

Our Magazine of the Month has this pizza, plus a gazillion more great American classics, so it would be well worth your while to pick up a copy. It will be on the stands until mid-October.

No, I don’t get any money to promote it, I just feel obligated to!

Making your own recipes 101: Burgers

Let me first say that I love recipes.  LOVE them.  Slavishly devoted to following them exactly in most cases.  Anything I have ever made that was really really good, was probably somebody else’s recipe.  Some people like to “tweak” recipes, and that’s fine as long as your intentions are pure.  Most of the time I find that “tweaking” something comes from some sense of self-aggrandizement instead of a desire to make the food better, and I do have a problem with that. 

But if you did want to start developing your own recipes, a good place to start is something that is about combining flavors without messing around with the internal chemistry of a dish.  Messing around with a hollandaise recipe requires knowing how the chemistry of that dish works, and that’s a 200 level course at least.  But things like stews and chilis are easier because you just concentrate on flavor.  Or burgers. 

As long as you aren’t messing around with the internal structure of the patty, burger recipes are all about putting flavors together.  Anybody can do that!  Even, say.. a ridiculously bright and adorable 10 year old!  Like say, oh I dunno, my daughter!

The Wisconsin Guys radio show and Quaker Steak and Lube had a Burger Cook Off, that my daughter entered.  And she got in the Finals!  And then she and her mom left for Montana to visit her relatives and I got stuck making the darn thing.  It was a close battle, and her entry ended up getting Second Place, only 6 points behind the winner!  I have to think that if she was there charming the judges instead of me pandering with her picture, we would have taken it hands-down.  So now, in her own words (but my spelling), Citizen Chef Jr’s recipe:

Jade’s Awesome Blue Cheese Burger

Put 3 strips of bacon in microwave for 1 1/2 min, crumble when cool.  Mix bacon and hamburger meat.  Make into patties then grill.  Mush up one avocado in a bowl.  Slice the other one.  Spread mushed up one on bun (top only!).  Apply blue cheese.  Slice tomato.  Put patty on bun with tomato and avocado.

The finished product, with and without pandering cute child photo:

burger competition 1

burger competition pic 2



~Citzen Chef

MoM Aug. ’09 – ATK American Classics: The Best Orange Sherbet

I’m normally not a huge fan of sherbet. Given the choice between ice cream and sherbet, I’d go for ice cream every time. I like fruit and all, but nothing seems to beat the luxurious creaminess of ice cream — Unless you wanted to whip up some heavy whipping cream and fold it into a really sweet blend of orange to create something that can only be described as an awesome creamsicle!!!!!!111

CI Orange Sherbet

If you couldn’t tell by my excitement and abuse of exclamation marks, I love creamsicles. For you young whippersnappers out there who don’t know what a creamsicle is — it’s a flavored ice pop on the outside and vanilla ice cream on the inside. As a kid, they were my favorite. This sherbet is a fun, refined version, and incredibly creamy no matter how long you let it sit in the freezer. After eating this amazing dessert, I will never buy another sherbet from the store. This is the way to go. There is no other.

Orange Sherbet in Ice Cream Maker

This treat comes to us by way of our August Magazine of the Month, American Classics. It’s just a sampling of what’s in the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated larger book by the same name. I like the magazine version because it’s cheaper and Cook’s Illustrated has enough of my money right now. The magazine is out on the shelves until mid-October and is filled with a ton of really delicious recipes, so head on out and pick up your copy before its too late.

Fresh Orange Sherbet
Adapted from ATK’s American Classics

1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest from 1 to 2 oranges
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups orange juice, preferably unpasteurized fresh-squeezed
3 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 to 2 lemons
2/3 cup heavy cream

1. Process zest, sugar, and salt in food processor until damp, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add orange juice and lemon juice in slow, steady stream; continue to process until sugar is fully dissolved, about 1 minute. Strain mixture through nonreactive fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in freezer until very cold, about 40 degrees, 30 to 60 minutes. (Alternatively, set bowl over larger bowl containing ice water.) Do not let mixture freeze.

2. When mixture is cold, using whisk, whip cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Whisking constantly, add juice mixture in steady stream, pouring against edge of bowl. Immediately start ice cream machine and add juice/cream mixture to canister; churn until sherbet has texture of soft-serve ice cream, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Remove canister from machine and transfer sherbet to storage container; press plastic wrap directly against surface of sherbet and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours. (Can be wrapped well in plastic wrap and frozen for up to one week.) To serve, let sherbet stand at room temperature until slightly softened and instant-read thermometer inserted into sherbet registers 12 to 15 degrees.

4. Nom until you explode, or at least until you can’t get up out of your chair.

Orange Sherbet 2

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the ice cream maker I use is a Cuisinart. You can pick one up for $55.00 on, or get the newest version at William Sonoma for $59.00. No salt or ice required. Just plug it in and watch it go. I absolutely love mine.

Bobby Flay’s Throwdown Sloppy Joes, aka Neat Joes

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I had fallen in love with Bobby Flay’s Southwestern style. His smoky flavors and love of chiles spruced up with tangy ingredients are appropriate for the summer season and, since I’ve failed utterly at making some of his more artful dishes (that require a certain finesse I do not possess) I took a trip over to his website and found a recipe from his Throwdown series: Sloppy Joes.

The premise of the TV series goes like this: Bobby finds some dude or chick who allegedly makes the best of something. Bobby and his team of assistants then come up with their own version, arrive on the scene with a camera crew, and do a big cookoff (aka a “throwdown”) to see who makes the better dish. Kind of like West Side Story, but with cooking. (When you’re a Flay, you’re a Flay all the way, from your first poblano to your last dyin’ day?) Typically the dishes are really fun, homespun foods like spaghetti, lasagna, cookies, mac and cheese, the kind of food any American could get behind, and you can find the recipes either at the Food Network website or on Bobby Flay’s website.

I didn’t see the sloppy joe throwdown on television, but it looked good when I was perusing his website. Bobby’s version is actually called “Neat Joes” because they’re more of an open-faced sandwich set atop toasted, garlic-butter-smothered sourdough bread. My bread was cut into very thick slices so I could just pick it up with my hand and shovel it into my mouth, rather than negotiating with a fork. This format also makes it a great option for picnic food. Serve with some red wine and you’ve got a winner. And you’ll have to forgive the photos — it’s not easy taking a refined photograph of a sloppy joe.

Throwdown Sloppy Joes 3

I really liked the smoky flavors in this. My fear was that it was going to be really spicy, but it was actually a mix of savory and sweet. To ramp up the spice, add more chipotle to the BBQ sauce and some of the inside rib of the poblano to the meat. I didn’t really know what to expect so I only put in one minced chipotle and the sweet parts of the poblano chile.

One note before we get into this recipe. First, I didn’t cook this on a grill, I cooked this in an oven. In order to roast my chile and pepper, I did it in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I put that into the instructions in case anyone else needs to oven-roast theirs as well — it only takes a couple of minutes to do and clean up is a snap.

Throwdown Sloppy Joes, AKA Neat Joes
Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown

BBQ Sauce (or you can use 1 jar Mesa Grill BBQ Sauce)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cups ketchup
½ cup water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 diced chipotles (depending on how spicy you want it)
¼ teaspoon chile de arbol or cayenne
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons molasses
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature. Sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Sloppy Joes, AKA Neat Joes
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 lbs ground chuck (80/20)
1 cup red onion, small dice
1/2 cup small dice roasted poblano chile
2/3 cup small dice roasted red bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 1/4 cups Bobby’s Mesa Grill BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
1/4 cup water
1/4 ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro, plus more for garnish
8 pieces of buttered, garlic bread (recipe below)

1. Place oven rack in upper third and turn oven on to broil. On a lined cookie sheet, place the whole poblano chile and red bell pepper. Every 1 1/2 – 2 minutes (or when the sides of the vegetables start to roast up by turning a little brown), turn them about a quarter or third of a turn, and repeat until the outsides are roasted. Remove from the oven, turn the oven off and let the vegetables rest. As they cool, they will soften. Dice into small pieces.

2. Heat the oil over high heat in a large high-sided sauté pan until the oil begins to smoke. Add the beef, breaking it up into small pieces using a metal spatula or wooden spoon, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

3. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the poblano, bell peppers and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ancho powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the BBQ sauce, ½ cup of water and the ketchup, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the mustard, Worcestershire, honey, brown sugar and molasses, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Return the beef to the pan. Remove the cover and continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro.

4. Top slices of the garlic bread with some of the sloppy joe mixture, sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.

Okay, I know this looks like a lot of instructions — it’s a little deceiving. Start by making the BBQ sauce. All you do is throw it into a pot, let it cook, then give it a whirl in your processor. Then leave it sitting in the processor to cool while you get the beef ready. In the very end, while the beef is simmering for the last 15 minutes, you’ll toast up your bread. I did mine in the oven on the same cookie sheet I used to roast my vegetables. All in all, these joes took about 45 – 60 minutes to put together from start to finish, and was a really fun dish for a summer evening. I will definitely make this again.

Bobby Flay's Throwdown Sloppy Joes

Garlic Toast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices sourdough bread, cut ½-inch slices

1. Combine the butter and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is melted, season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let sit 5 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler. Put the bread on a baking sheet and broil until both sides until lightly golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Remove from the oven and brush with the garlic butter.

30-Minute Chicken Tagine

This weekend, I had a chance to catch up with my brother. I live at opposite ends of the country from the rest of my family, and when it comes to my brother, I don’t think there’s much farther that we could be. He’s in Southern Cali, I’m in upstate NY. Being a close family, that’s hard on me because I don’t get to see him as often as I like. I miss eating together and cooking together. Years ago, when we both lived in Seattle, I’d go over to his house and giggle at his dinner set up. Oh, you think I’m bad with my scheduled dinners, but I’ve got nothing on my little brother. On his refrigerator he clipped a little chart of what he was going to eat each day of the week, every week. Mondays, he would eat spaghetti with sauce from a jar. And not just one or two Mondays — every Monday indefinitely. He was very scheduled like that so he didn’t have to wonder what he was going to eat every day.

That was then. These days, he’s lightened up a bit. I got to talking about the Cook’s Illustrated book I’ve been going through, The Best 30-Minute Recipe, and he seemed very interested. I told him to head over here and see what I had been cooking. He said he would. I was thinking that I should give everyone a break from this cookbook, but now I have a mission — I’m not just cooking for this website, I’m cooking for my brother! It’s the best I can do, seeing as how I can’t just pop over to his house and have a BBQ.

So here’s a little something from the book. The other day, I whipped up a 30-minute version of Chicken Tagine. This one is loosely based on the tagine of Moroccan cultures, which is a braised stew cooked in a clay pot. When my modern, Americanized version was finished, I served it over a very basic couscous.

Chicken Tagine with Couscous

I liked the simplicity and heartiness of this meal and, let’s be honest, I’ll eat anything with chickpeas in it. This dish does require a little brightening, so don’t omit the cilantro. The chicken could also use a good squeeze of fresh lemon, as all it’s really getting for seasoning is salt and pepper. Our web admin felt that the chicken was a little lacking in flavor, and it didn’t occur to me until later that I should have added some bright, fresh lemon juice.

30-Minute Chicken Tagine
Adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Season chicken with salt and pepper and arrange in single layer in microwave-safe casserole dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on 50 percent power for 15 minutes.

(Note: This is the first time I’ve ever cooked meat by microwave – it was a little weird but came out a lot better than I expected.)

While chicken cooks, heat oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in onion, garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in flour and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in broth, scraping any browned bits. Stir in tomatoes, apricots and chickpeas, bring to simmer, and cook until apricots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add microwaved chicken with any accumulated juices. Cover and continue to cook until chicken is tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over chicken. Serve.

There’s a part of me that still balks at the 30-Minute Recipe deal, as if I’m cheapening my meal — especially when I go ahead and do something like cook my chicken in a microwave. It’s weird, to say the least, but I’ve actually learned some new techniques. I really believe in this book for fast meals, and would recommend it. In fact, I’m thinking I might buy the book for my brother, and possibly all my friends. They’re definitely more trustworthy and flavorful than Rachael Ray, and they’re great, basic recipes you can build on.

Chicken Tagine with Couscous

Simple Couscous
From The Best 30 Minute Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup small couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups water

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, 3 – 5 minutes. Stir in salt and water and bring to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork before serving.