Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Steamed Wontons

Now that Denise and I live more that two inches away from each other on a 12x12 U.S. map, no one is around to make me wontons regularly.* I tried it as a date dinner with the boy, and we are hooked. Seriously; we made about thirty dumplings and were still looking for more when they were gone. 

An Alton Brown recipe was my starting point, but I modified it rather a lot, particularly to use what fresh veg I had left over from other meals. I subbed that which the refrigerator yielded at the time to great effect, and added a few things I considered the original to be missing.  We paired with this with a homemade, practically drinkable dumpling sauce without which these should not be eaten.

The video instructions provided here by the inestimable Mr. Brown really make it fun to do as a project with your better half, especially if you, like myself, don't have a dedicated wonton steamer on hand. These freeze well. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Avocado Poblano Sauce

So says wiki "It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from eating capsaicin-flavored foods." Such is the case with this recipe, which capitalizes on the capsaicin naturally present in a variety of peppers.

John experiments in the kitchen, unlike me. I like to begin with a particular end in mind, whereas he likes to explore a few directions and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes his stuff great, sometimes it is regrettable (like the time he used left over Vietnamese take out black bean sauce in scrambled egg sandwiches...). This time, however, was the best, EVER.

Steak topped with Avocado Poblano Sauce, served on arugula with salted heirloom tomatoes
I have used this creamy, smoky, spicy-but-not-too-much-so, slightly sweet sauce on just about everything. It's like a really great fresh salsa combined with a really great taco sauce, topped with avocado slices...except easier. Sometimes I even add actual avocado slices to ante up the 'cado quotient. See below for a few usage ideas.

This recipe will yield about 2 cups, which, in my house, is gone in 5 days. For more info on heat measurements and chile identifications, check out this index.

2 Poblano peppers
1 New Mexico, Espanola, or Cubanelle chile (large, mild light green chile, similar to Anaheim but with thinner skin)
1 Seeded jalepeno
3 Thai or Bird's Eye chilis w/ seeds
3 Roma tomatoes
1/2 Avocado
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground chipotle powder

1. If you have sensitive skin, put on kitchen gloves. Then, de-stem all the peppers and the tomatoes.

2. Heat adjustment: the INSIDE of the peppers contain all the heat, thinks to capsaicin, which is a chemical compound found in the pith surrounding the seeds. The above recipe yields a medium-hot sauce. You may adjust up or down by including or excluding differing amounts of pepper innards.

3. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to so-hot-it-is-almost-smoking (or use a grill) and roast all prepared peppers and tomatoes. Try for a nice char on the outside, as this will lend great flavor to the sauce. Try also to keep the insides from fully cooking, as partially raw veggies will add a fresh pico-like edge.

4. Add all roasted veggies to a food processor or blender. Add avocado and blend till you reach uniform consistency--sort of a runny salsa, but really whatever you desire. Add a splash of olive oild and lime juice with the motor running. Taste for seasoning and salt, pepper, and chipotle powder to taste.

5. Experiment with myriad uses, such as topping a turkey sandwich, topping tacos, as a dip for raw veggies, or...

Pan-fry green tomatoes in olive oil, top with sauce.

Spread over baked tofu, serve with grilled vegetables.

My favorite: spoon over scrambled egg whites, top with more avocado.

Thin sauce out with sherry vinegar, toss with salad greens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kitchen Bitchin': Poppin' Fresh Must Die

There are a few things that are way too easy to make at home. Oatmeal, for one. And popcorn. But you know what? Biscuits, that's what. Biscuits are easy. Crazy easy. Like so easy your grandma could do it. Did you know that canned biscuits have been directly correlated to grandmother grave-rolling? Scientific fact.
So there are a few tricks to biscuits, not going to lie. Cold everything, for one. Ice-cold bowls, ice-cold fat (two kinds, mind you), ice-cold flour, cold-enough buttermilk. And don't over-handle the stuff (we'll talk about warm hands and gluten development later).
Um, that's it. Don't worry about the stupid rules you hear on Food Network. Thumb prints in biscuits? No. Don't do it, that's stupid. Also, why would you ever buy a biscuit cutter? Use an overturned mason jar; it's what your grandma did, and hers turned out all right, didn't they?
Also, full disclosure, this is Alton Brown's recipe. I use it because it's good, smart, and basic. Just buttermilk, butter, lard (or shortening), salt, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meatless Monday: Maximum Corniness

image via wikipedia commons

Since summer is here in a big way right now in Texas, corn is in. I love the sweetness of summer corn - I add it raw to salads so it's as sugary as it can be. I ran across a corn chowder recipe in an old Saveur years ago that recommended grating the cobs with a grater or the flat side of a knife in order to get all the corny goodness out. It made the best batch of chowder I've ever had.

Texas summer definitely means that hot soup is out, but there are so many ripe vegetables right now that it's the perfect time for pastas and giant salads. I made this up on the fly to use up our bounty and was delighted with the result. It's sweet and fragrant and bursting with flavors from everything you can get your hands on from the farmer's market.