Thursday, May 19, 2011

Corn Bread with Dried Cranberries

Hey.  Drop that.  And drop that.  No, seriously, drop everything and get your sweet little butt into the kitchen.  You need to make this.  Make this immediately.  And eat it warm.  And then even try to tell me you aren't in love with it.  I bet you can't.

It all started innocently enough.  I was reading the cookbook I bought for myself in my end-of-tax-season celebration and I saw something that would use some of the leftover buttermilk I had in my fridge.  And sure, it called for dried blueberries, but why couldn't I use the handful of dried cranberries I still had in my pantry, purchased on my very first Greenville Costco trip.

If all I needed to buy was a bag of good yellow corn meal, I was in.  And lucky for you, it all came about. 

This cornbread is delicious.  It came out of the oven and I really tried to imagine not cutting it and eating it immediately.  See, it's traveling with me to Terre Haute, IN this weekend, and I figured it'd be sweet to bring it whole.  But then I realized, in the name of food blogs everywhere, it was my duty and my honor to taste it if I was going to blog about it.  And that's my defense.  Granted, there are no excuses for the second and third I went back for.  But no one has to know about those. 
It was by the sheer grace of God that I managed to wrap the rest of it up in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  I did double layers to discourage any trickle of an idea that I could just unwrap it for another slice.  My second choice was to hide it somewhere.  Which may explain why it's already packed into my suitcase.

Ben was trying to guess what it was that I'm bringing this weekend.  Spoil the boy as I have, he is no longer surprised that I bring something homecooked, something usually sweet.  Not telling him what I'm bringing is the only element of surprise I have left.  The only hints I gave him was that in contained both butter and deliciousness.  And really, what else do you really need to know?

Two quick notes: when the butter is melting in the pan in the oven, watch it like a hawk.  It'll go from sizzling to burnt quick.  Also, when you pour the batter into the pan, some of that melted butter will come up the sides and on to the top.  I was worried about it, but as far as I can tell, didn't effect the beauty or pure deliciousness of the corn bread.  Guten Appetit! 

Corn Bread with Dried Cranberries
Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook

4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
2/3 c. (105 g.) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
2/3 c. (105 g.) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (250 ml )buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 c. (60 g.) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 degree C).

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt 2 Tbsp. of butter and set aside.  Cut up the remaining 2 tbsp. butter into a 9-inch round cake pan.  Place pan in oven until it is hot and the butter is melted and sizzling, about 3 minutes (Watch!)  Using oven mitts, rotate the pan as need to coat bottom evenly with melted butter.  Remove from oven. 

In large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center.  Pour in buttermilk, melted butter and beaten egg.  Using a wooden spoon, mix the batter just until it comes together, it's ok to have some lumps.  Do a quick chop of the cranberries and stir them in.  Spread batter evenly into the hot pan. 

Bake at 375 until "the top springs back when pressed gently in the center", about 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Best served warm.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pecan Chicken

 Well, the good news is, I am getting much better at this pan-frying thing.  The bad news is, I don’t think I’m using yummy enough recipes.  I love watching the oil bubble up around the chicken when I first put it in the cast iron.  I love the sizzle that carries on even after I’ve put it in the oven to finish up.  I love that my coating stuck this time around.

The end result was just nothing to love though.  It was good.  But it’s also something I wouldn’t make again, there was just nothing to bring you back.  I applied some lessons learned from the oatmeal chicken: less flour and more seasoning (cumin and cayenne this time) in the coating.  Less time face down in the medium hot cast iron pan.  Only 6 minutes in a 425 degree oven and it came out more juicy. 

I am going to be sad to see the pretty island cookie picture go from the top of my blog.  I guess it can’t be the first picture forever.  Instead, I tried my best to get the bubbling oil around the edges of my chicken.  Does the chicken frying all happy like in my pretty cast iron remind you of schnitzel too?  Because that is all I thought while cooking it.  Too bad it wasn’t schnitzel.  I could go for some schnitzel right now…

Pecan Chicken. 
adapted from Cooking Light Jan./Feb. 2011 edition

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. whole buttermilk
1 egg
Salt and Pepper, to season
¾ c. flour
¾ c. finely ground pecans
Additional spices as wanted (cayenne and cumin is a good start).

Combine buttermilk, egg and chicken breasts in Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 425.  Heat large oven-proof skillet over medium to medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.  Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. 

Combine flour, ground pecans and any additional spice in shallow.  Dredge chicken in mixture, shake off excess.  Add chicken to hot pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned.  Turn chicken over and place skillet in oven.  Bake at 425 for 6-8 minutes or until done. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Island Cookies

I feel as if I should preface this post with this fact: I'm cheap.

I got it in my head to make white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with coconut in them.  The idea came from a cookie I ate at work from the leftover goodies table.  I thought it was just a plain, white chocolate macadamia nut cookie.  I almost didn't eat it because I don't even like white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, but I was hungry.  And then, out of nowhere, there was coconut!  I was immediately mesmerized and jones-ing  to make my own.  It would be perfect to bring to Ben this weekend.  I was going for it.

Now back to the "I'm cheap" factor.  Did you know that that little tin of macadamia nuts on your grocer's shelf cost NINE dollars?  I just wasn't ready to spend $10 plus for a batch of cookies.  Especially one's with white chocolate.  You know, it doesn't even have any cacao in it?  And it calls itself chocolate...

So, there I am I'm standing in the nut aisle at the store, and I devise a new plan.  Keeping the white chocolate, because I already bought those earlier, and the coconut, cause that was the whole inspiration.  I could keep the island tropic thing going, sans macadamia nuts.  I had lime zest left over and frozen in my freezer.  I had a lime I could juice.  I just needed a little bit of crunch.  Hm, turbinado sugar sprinkle over top.  Then bake.  Booyah.

I toasted the coconut last night for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I mostly follow the ever trusted Nestle Tollhouse.  I took out half of the vanilla and added the juice of one tart lime.  I discovered that white chocolate chips photograph beautiful, even when the day is overcast outside. 

Coming out of the oven, they were pretty.  There were so many chips!  Warm, gooey.  And they tasted, well, they tasted like white chocolate chip cookies sans macadamia nuts.  With hints of the island.  I love that you can see the lime zest and it surprised me that the coconut wasn't more present.  But a good surprise.  The turbinado sugar on top doesn't really add anything, doesn't really take anything away.  It's a judgement call.  I would definitely make again, just maybe use double the lime.  You know, a little more lime in the coconut... and eat it all up...

Island Cookies
Adapted from Nestle Tollhouse's Recipe

1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Juice of 1 lime
Zest of 1 lime
1 large egg
2 c. White Chocolate Chips (could likely get away with less)
1 c. flaked coconut, toasted
turbinado sugar, for garnish
(And if you aren't cheap like me!)
3/4 c. chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Cream butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and lime in large mixing bowl.  Beat until creamy, then beat in egg and zest.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Add white chips and coconut (and nuts)

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and brush excess sugar from pan.  Bake for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oatmeal Crusted Chicken

 I got to break in my new cast iron skillet today.  I have officially paid in full one of my student loans and to celebrate I bought a heavy cast iron skillet.  Well that, and I wanted one, and I will use just about any excuse to buy something new that I want for my kitchen.  Tiny or not.  And because my kitchen is tiny, the skillet will evidently be living on my stovetop. 

So, we pan fried some oatmeal crusted chicken, a very simple recipe from Cooking Light's Jan/Feb edition.  The chicken breasts chilled out in some egg and buttermilk this afternoon while I ran some errands.  I then seasoned it with some salt and cayenne pepper, a small deviation from the original recipe, which I was afraid might be too bland.  Finally, it was crusted in an oatmeal and flour mixture and pan fried in my new skillet.  After I flipped it, it went in to a 425 degree oven to finish cooking. 

One thing I really need to start conditioning myself to do is to stop relying on recipes for times.  Just because the recipe said to saute on one side for 4 minutes doesn't necessarily mean that after 4 minutes in a medium high heat skillet, when I flip the chicken, the oatmeal coating will be in fact a pretty golden crisp.  Like today, when it wasn't and was a rather black burnt color instead. 

I learned my lesson with the second half of the recipe and decided to check the chicken 8 minutes into the prescribed 10 minute baking time.  Which was just about perfect, if not 30 seconds too long.  I am learning!

Overall, the chicken was good.  It wasn't a YUM, but it was much better than just ok.  Even with a burnt top coating and a bottom coating that stuck mostly to the pan.  It's a good recipe, and all the little flaws it had I think could be easily made up for in the next go round.  More cayenne pepper, or some other seasoning, would be great, maybe in the actual coating and not just on the chicken.  Maybe some Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs mixed in with the oatmeal.  That and me actually cooking, not just following the recipe minute for minute like a dummy.  I think it deserves a spot in my big green cookbook, just with a little post-it note to remind me of lessons learned. 

My little side salad was made from some ripe tomatoes that have been sitting in my fridge all red and pretty since I bought them last week at the grocery store where they seduced me, sitting all red and pretty.  I added the left over scallions I had and mixed them both up with some salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Very simple, and probably my favorite thing on my plate tonight.  But just wait until I give this chicken a proper second go round.

Oatmeal Crusted Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2011 Edition

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
cayenne pepper
2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. oatmeal (ground oats preferred)

Combine buttermilk and egg and whisk well.  Place chicken in mixture.  Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours or so.

Preheat oven to 425.  Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.  Sprinkle breasts on each side well with salt and cayenne pepper.  

Combine flour and oatmeal.  Dredge chicken in mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in large overproof skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken and saute for 3-4 minutes until coating is golden.  Flip over and put skillet in oven.  Bake at 425  for 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chipotle Scallion Butter

For any one who was observant enough yesterday to notice the pretty corn flecked with red along side the fish, and not just the horrible photography, thank you.  Now if only I didn't have to disappoint you...

I did try a new recipe yesterday, but decided to save writing about it till today.  One day of cooking, two whole posts!  That, and for as excited as I was for this butter, it kinda feel flat for me.  But I had a very fun time taking pictures of my pretty scallions!  And hey, I'm doing the best I can with my 5 year old Sony Cyber-Shot.

Scallions are one of my favorite ingredients.  They are so crisp and light and give such a crunch.  They are great raw and great cooked and great grilled.  They go from white to green and they don't make you cry when you chop them up.  Seriously, what's not to love?  

Oh yeah, the butter.  It wasn't particularly bad.  It just wasn't particularly great.  It wasn't even that particularly hard to make, I just still don't know if it's worth the extra effort for boiled corn.  

It could have used more chipotle, of course.  And although I minced and minced, the scallions could have used a little bit more.  It was hard to keep the yummy bits on the corn itself.   

I haven't given up on it quite yet.  Mostly because there's still a little glass jar full of whipped up butter in my fridge.  But also because I am holding out hope that this will taste DELICIOUS on a baked potato.  

Chipotle Scallion Butter  
adapted from

3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened         
1/4 cup minced scallions (2 to 3) 
1 tablespoon minced seeded canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest

Whip together butter, scallions, chipotles, zest, and two large pinches of salt in a small bowl.  Top on corn, potato, whatever and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cilantro-Chipotle Tilapia

 I was so excited to cook dinner when I got home today, I didn't even open the package I finally got from Amazon today containing a brand new cookbook.  This coming from the girl who will sit and read cookbooks for hours.  Do you see the love and commitment here?

Or maybe I was just hungry.  Once again, I stuck with the familiar and something that has been in my big green cookbook for awhile.  I made this dish several times over when I lived in McAllen, where cilantro was plentiful and cheap, but have touched it only once since moving to South Carolina.  I've made it so many times that I have the recipe memorized.  Which also explains why when I was wandering the grocery last Saturday, I picked up a bunch of cilantro.

Yum, cilantro.  Have you ever noticed that there are two camps when it comes to cilantro?  You either love it or hate it, there are very few, if any people straddling the fence on this one.  Julia Child, for all of her amazingness, thought it tasted like feet.  Like feet!  Julia Child!  Even more surprising, she's wrong.  Cilantro is good.  Cilantro is fantastic.  Know what makes cilantro even more fantastic?  Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce.

I could write a whole other paragraph about the wonderfulness of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  Alas, another time, another post.  But get yourself a can soon, ok?  Can you tell how much I love this recipe yet?

I won't lie to you, it doesn't come out of the oven the prettiest thing in the world.  I'm not even sure how to go about making it come out pretty.  When you pull it out from other the broiler, it'll likely be black, look burnt.  It's not!  Just wait until you break into it, the tilapia is going to be white, flaky and moist underneath.  The coating delicious, slightly cilantro-y and perfectly smokey and hot from the chipotle and cumin.  Forewarning for the faint of tongue though, the chipotles are going to pack some heat, the kind of heat that stays a bit to hang out.  You've been warned!!

Cilantro-Chipotle Tilapia

1 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. chopped canned chipotles in adobo
1 Tbsp. Water
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and Pepper
4 tilapia filets

Preheat broiler and line rack of broiler pan with foil.

Puree cilantro, oil, chipotles, water, cumin, salt and pepper until smooth.  Coat tilapia filets completely with sauce.

Broil fish 3 to 4 inches from element until just cooked through, about 6 to 9 minutes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Turkey (and Chicken) Ricotta Meatballs

It is starting to be that time in my rotation, the time when I need to start emptying my fridge in preparation of moving.  Yeah, it's two months away, but I have half of a 10 pound bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer and bottles of half full sauces and salad dressings in my fridge.  And two months to use them or throw them out.  I hate throwing food out. 

I have been wanting to try out grinding meat in my fancy dancy birthday present food processor for a little bit now.  Random, yes, but something I wanted to try.  So I started digging for recipes.  I remembered seeing chicken meatballs somewhere in my myriad of food stuff, I just had to find where.  It eventually surfaced under the alias Turkey-Ricotta Meatballs in Cooking Light's tome, Way to Cook.

As luck would have it, keeping the chicken breasts company in my freezer was some ground turkey that had been frozen for awhile.  I won't admit how long it's been there.  There was only about half a pound, so I would either have to half the recipe or grind up some chicken breasts to fill out the whole pound.  It wasn't that much of a decision. 

The cleaning out of the fridge continued as the recipe also called for half a cup of ricotta cheese, which I had left over from my muffin making mission.  With only 4 other ingredients to add to the bill, only one I had to buy, we were good to go.  There was just no downside.

The meatballs were very yummy, in a turkey/chicken meatball kind of way.  But they absolutely needed some kind of marinara sauce to be smothered with.  Which I oh-so-happened to have half an open bottle of in the fridge.  I assume the rest of the meatballs will take care of that as well.  I am almost too good at this fridge cleaning out business.   

Turkey-Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Cooking Light's Way to Cook

1 lb. ground turkey breasts
1/2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil (I want to try this with oregano instead!)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Form into 18-24 meatballs.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat skillet with cooking spray.  Add meatballs and brown on all sides (I had to do this in two batches).

Remove meatballs from skillet.  Transfer to broiler pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until done.