Frozen Aztec Mocha

September 30, 2007

rrcoffeebeans4.jpg

Who says coffee has to be always the same? Surprise someone you love with this classic frozen espresso from John the Vienna Coffee guy. Who knows what will happen? SAM

2 ounces freshly brewed espresso or double strength coffee
2 ounces Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa Sauce
5 ounces fresh water (more or less to adjust consistency)
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
2 ounces orange juice
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cayenne
16 ounces ice
Whipped cream and cocoa powder for garnish

Combine the coffee, cocoa sauce, water, and ice cream, blending for several seconds until smooth. Add the orange juice, cinnamon, cayenne, and ice. Garnish with whipped cream and a dash of cocoa powder.
Makes 1 glass.


Lentil-Potato Soup

September 29, 2007

rrbayleaf.jpg

When I have a long, leisurely Saturday morning, there’s nothing I like better than making soup. You can’t rush a good soup. So, pour yourself a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine, put on some music or a weekend radio program, and relax. This creamy lentil-potato is just about the most comforting soup you’ll ever eat. SAM

PS You can use butter, of course, yum!, instead of oil. But do not use red lentils. They’re perfect for some things, but they don’t have the character you need for this soup.

Lentil-Potato Soup

1 cup small dried gray-green French lentils
6 cups cold water, divided
2 large onions thinly sliced, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
1/3 cup instant polenta
1 bay leaf
2 (2-inch) sprigs fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place them in a stockpot with 3 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion. Cover, bring them to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. If the lentils are not soft after 25 minutes, they are old and will never cook properly. Throw them away and start over with a different batch.

Meanwhile, in large chef’s pan over medium heat, sweat the onions in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

While the onions are sweating, place the whole potatoes in a small saucepan with cold water to cover. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Chop roughly and set aside.

Combine the lentils, along with any pot liqueur, the onions, potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, the bay leaf, thyme, sherry, and remaining 1 1/2 cups water. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan over high heat bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil.

Stir the polenta into the soup and continue to simmer until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.


Fresh Apple Cake

September 28, 2007

rrapplegreen.jpg

This is Emily’s favorite stir-together cake. It’s so rich and moist and so full of tangy apples, you can eat it for breakfast. Wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge—if you have any left over. It’s even better the second day. Double it, if you like, and bake it in a bundt or stem pan for 1 1/2 hours. SAM

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups chopped tart fresh apples (2 medium apples)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the egg, sugars, and oil, beating with a whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger and add to the egg mixture alternately with the apples by thirds. The batter will be very stiff. Stir in the nuts and vanilla and spoon into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate.
Makes 8 servings.


Asparagus Salad

September 27, 2007

rrasparagus.jpg

You know how silly you feel when you discover something you should have known years before? That’s how I feel about raw asparagus. For years I steamed, sautéed, or roasted this great vegetable. Then one day I tasted the fresh, green crunch of asparagus just out of the garden. Amazing! Buy slender, green spears; trim and slice them. That’s all you have to do for a fabulous salad. You can even toss them with pasta, but that’s another recipe. SAM

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced shallots
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 ounces small green, uncooked asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
3 ounces cress or mixed salad greens
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

In a small glass, combine the lemon juice, mustard, honey, and shallots. Slowly add the oil, whisking until smooth. In a large salad bowl, marinate the carrots and asparagus in the lemon-mustard vinaigrette for at least 30 minutes. Add the salad greens and gently toss. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 2 servings.


Avocado Salsa

September 26, 2007

An easy end-of-summer salsa to serve to your family and friends. Use whatever chilies or peppers you like, and stock plenty of chips. This one won’t last the evening. SAM

1 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup lime juice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
4 avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/8-inch dice
2 serrano chilies, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

In a large bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, tomatoes, avocados, chilies, coriander seeds, cilantro, and salt. Cover tightly and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with chips.
Makes 8 servings.


Eggplant-Pepper Tapenade

September 25, 2007

This tapenade is so good, I eat leftovers for breakfast. Make it as hot as you like but don’t forget to wear plastic gloves or sandwich bags while seeding and slicing the hot peppers. SAM

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound peppers: poblano, chipotle, banana, or jalapeña, trimmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound Italian eggplant
2 tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 to 2 teaspoons hot curry powder, or to taste
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Sea salt to taste

In a medium chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onion and peppers in 1 tablespoon oil until soft, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant in half and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish. Add the water, cover with plastic wrap leaving one corner open for steam, and microwave on high for 8 to 9 minutes or until the skin is slightly wrinkled and begins to collapse. Microwave longer in 1- or 2-minute intervals, if necessary. Cool, still under the plastic, then gently squeeze out any excess juice and scrap the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Add the sweated onions and peppers, garlic, curry, 2 tablespoons olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse with an immersion blender until well blended or use a food processor or blender. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve with pita or flatbread.
Makes 2 cups.


Corn-on-the-Cob

September 24, 2007

Okay, after an entire summer of fabulous sweet corn from farmers’ markets, here’s the scoop on preparing Corn-on-the-Cob:

BOILED
Shuck and clean the corn, brushing away all silks. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the corn and boil until tender, 5 minutes for 1 to 2 ears, 10 minutes for 3 to 4 ears. Boiled corn is quite good. The disadvantages of boiling are that it steams up your kitchen and it leeches away some of the flavor.

Steaming, though, does seem to preserve more flavor.

STEAMING ON THE STOVE
On the stovetop, you can steam corn in a basket over boiling water. Shuck and clean the corn and place it in a steamer basket over boiling water. 10 to 15 minutes will make it tender and sweet. Again, though, you’re filling your kitchen with steam—not so good in hot climates.

Or, you can microwave corn-on-the-cob.

MICROWAVE STEAMING 1: Naked Corn
Shuck and clean 2 ears of corn and place them in a microwave-safe container twice as large as the volume of corn. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open for escaping steam. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Tilt the dish so that the corn rolls over. Microwave for an additional 3 minutes. For greater numbers of ears, check your microwave manual for times. The steamy water makes corn cooked this way very moist and tasty.

You can also microwave corn in the husks.

MICROWAVE STEAMING 2: Husked Corn
Trim the silks and any loose husks and place 2 ears in the microwave oven on top of a paper towel. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the ears over and microwave for an additional 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack until cool enough to handle. This method makes the corn drier than steaming under plastic.

MICROWAVE STEAMING 3: Husked Corn, Wrapped
Wrap 2 individual ears still in the husks in plastic wrap and place in the microwave oven. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn the ears over and microwave for an additional 3 minutes. Remove to a wire rack until cool enough to handle. This method makes the corn more moist than husked corn without the wrap, but less moist than naked corn.

It seems so easy to toss husked corn into the microwave, but the truth is I like naked steamed corn best. SAM