Sunday, June 19, 2011

Over the Bounding Main!

Ahoy, Dollinks and Salty Dogs! (I never forget my canine readers ...)
This landlubber’s setting sail early this morning for a month-long absence! Ron will be crewing and I’ll be cooking as we navigate what we hope will be smooth waters around the northern tip of Vancouver Island, from there proceeding south along the ruggedly scenic West Coast. 

A friend chose and set the course for his sailboat, and we’re going along for the ride! We expect to catch crabs (in the ocean, silly!), hook a few salmon, collect mussels and prawns, and watch orcas and dolphins at play. I’ll be so busy sunning, swimming, and trying to maintain my sea legs that you won’t see another blogged recipe until mid-July. 
Wave to us from the shore! I will genuinely miss you, mateys!

PS: I hate to be blatantly self-promotional (but will be, anyway). Onboard, I'll be using a cookbook I wrote a thousand years ago (Nicole Parton's Galley Gourmet, published by Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver and Toronto; co-published by Pacific Search Press, Seattle, 1987). It's out-of-print, but you can still find used copies floating around (if you'll excuse the expression) online. If I do say so myself (and I do), it's a very good book for cooking at sea, in a motor home, or in any other small space.

Quick and Simple Salmon Fillets

I can’t go sailing without leaving you with this easy bake-or-barbecue salmon recipe! Rather than give you precise measurements, mix these ingredients to taste, and to accommodate the number you’re serving!
Quick and Simple Salmon Fillets:
A little olive oil …
A little Dijon mustard …
A little anchovy paste ...
Salmon fillets, as required
Combine first three ingredients, brushing over both sides of salmon fillets. Place fillets skin-side down in foil-lined baking pan. Bake at 400 deg. F. at 10 min. per 1-inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part. If you prefer, throw fillets on the barbecue. This is a “guy thing” … I haven't a clue how to do it! 
(Ladies! You’ll never have to lift another barbecue lid if you feign ignorance! The immortal words of the wonderful Butterfly McQueen come to mind from Gone With the Wind: “I don't know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” I've often whispered those words under my breath when it comes to washing windows, floors, doing dishes, scrubbing bath tubs ... you’ve caught my drift! It’s amazing how much work you can avoid!)
(Men! I am shocked! Shocked, I say! Imagine finding such words on my website! Fiddle-dee-dee! I would never have written this! Someone must have hacked my blog! I can't think about that now. If I do, I’ll go crazy! I’ll think about that tomorrow!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Papaya Shrimp Boats

I can’t think of a better summer lunch than these easily made Papaya Shrimp Boats served al fresco with a glass of crisp white wine. Ron pronounced them delicious! I agree.
Papaya Shrimp Boats:
½ lb. (250 g) fresh hand-peeled cooked shrimp
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried dill weed
¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 ripe papaya, halved and seeded (see Note)
2 tbsp. toasted, flaked almonds, as garnish (see Note)
Combine and refrigerate all ingredients except papaya and almonds. Slice papaya horizontally, scooping out seeds. Heap shrimp into papaya, sprinkling with almonds. Serves 2.
Note: Dried papaya seeds are an interesting addition sprinkled over fresh salad greens. They add a “peppery” taste, as well as micro-nutrients. Wash them in a sieve to separate them from the pulp before drying them on a paper towel in the sun, or dry them at room temperature for several days.

Remove seeds from ripe papaya

Heap dill-mayonnaise shrimp into papaya

Serve on their own, or alongside your favorite dish

Ginger-Spiced Tuna

I invented this Ginger-Spiced Tuna recipe one night this week when I felt like making a quick and easy dinner. Flash-frying the tuna retains the juices from the lime and ginger, flavoring the mixed greens. I served the two dishes together.  
Ginger-Spiced Tuna:
2 - 4-oz. fresh, raw ahi tuna, in 1-in. chunks
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 green onion, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1/2 fresh lime
¼ c. pickled ginger (“sushi ginger”), chopped
½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
⅛ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼  tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. tapioca starch
1 tbsp. oil, for flash-frying
Fresh mixed salad greens, undressed (see Note)
Sprinkling of fresh parsley, finely chopped (no stems), as garnish
Combine tuna, olive oil, green onion, lime juice, lime zest, and pickled ginger, mixing well. Separately combine pepper, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and tapioca starch. Add and stir into tuna mixture. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 min. Heat oil in skillet, flash-frying tuna on medium-high heat about 1 min. Spoon over mixed salad greens, sprinkling with finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
Note: For an “Asian” feel, substitute fresh bean sprouts for the lettuce. In a separate skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil and briefly stir-fry 2 c. fresh bean sprouts with 1 tbsp. each soy sauce and hoisin sauce. Heap the hot, flash-fried tuna over the bed of sprouts. Serve immediately.

Choose the freshest ingredients for the best results!

Combine tuna with citrus, olive oil, onion, ginger, and spices

Chill and marinate 30 min. Tuna and lime will start to "cook" 

Add tuna to sizzling skillet with a little oil

Flash-fry 1 min. Serve immediately

Sprinkle finely chopped parsley over tuna and mixed greens

Friday, June 17, 2011

Boston Cream Pie

As I’ve lately dedicated one or two recipes, let me send this one to the Boston Bruins, who this week took home hockey’s Stanley Cup. Let me also dedicate it to every Bostonian, whose charmingly vibrant city is exceeded only by the beauty of the state of Massachusetts.
Boston Cream Pie is a small, delicate sponge cake, split into two layers, filled with custard cream, and topped with a chocolate glaze. The cake is thought to be called a “pie” because - having no actual “cake” tins - New England’s colonists resorted to baking cakes in pie pans. The dessert’s origins lie in New York, where a version of both cake and cream filling was topped with powdered sugar. It took a Boston restaurateur to omit the sugar topping and replace it with chocolate glaze, upon which the name “Boston Cream Pie” eventually took hold.
On the assumption that some of you are novice cooks, I’ve given you very precise instructions for making this cake. I’ve also mentioned a couple of favorite kitchen gadgets I used in the process. While special tools make any job simpler, you’ll do just fine if you don’t have them. Cooking is my hobby, so I'll be the first to admit that I probably have many more tools than I need!
Boston Cream Pie:
To Prepare the Sponge Cake:
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1-½ tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
¾ c. milk
⅓ c. shortening
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
20 (yes! 20) drops of gel food coloring (see Note)

Combine and beat all ingredients

Pour into prepared pan

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease and flour 9-inch circular cake pan. Place all ingredients in mixing bowl, beating 1 min. on low speed with an electric mixer and scraping down sides of bowl. Beat 3 min. on high speed, continuing to scrape down sides of bowl each minute. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 - 40 min., until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake on rack. After 30 min., run edge of knife around cake in pan, placing rack over top of cake to gently ease from pan. Cool completely, 30 min. longer. Split cooled cake horizontally into two thin layers. See second Note

Note: You will think this is far too much food coloring. In principle, I agree. I used gel food coloring made by Wilton, the bakery specialists. Achieving even the palest shade of yellow required 20 drops. This is outrageous. In future, I’ll use a liquid or paste concentrate. Measure drop by drop or bit by bit, to achieve the light golden color that makes a classic Boston Cream Pie
My German-made
cake splitter - a
perfect cut every time!
Note: For picture-perfect layers, use a professional cake splitter. Mine is the German-made “Westmark Simplex Duo” brand. I paid $18 for it several years ago at Dean & DeLuca in New York; you’ll find it online for roughly $20 plus shipping. This is one of my favorite kitchen tools!
To Prepare the Cream Filling:
⅓ c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
Dash of salt
1-½ c. milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
As cake cools, prepare Cream Filling. Combine sugar, cornstarch or tapioca starch, and salt in medium saucepan. Whisk together milk and egg yolks. Gradually stir into sugar mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 1 min. Remove from heat. Stir several times while cooling to room temperature, Stir in vanilla while Cream Filling is still warm, but not hot. To cool Cream Filling faster, decant from cooking pot to bowl, cooling on rack. Cool to room temperature - not in the fridge.

Transfer cream filling from pot to
bowl to cool faster
Spoon filling over bottom layer

Place top layer lightly on cake - don't compress!
Cream Filling will be quite firm when it has fully cooled. Carefully spread over bottom layer to edge of cake. Gently top with second layer, being careful not to compress or “sandwich” layers together. See Note. Wipe any excess filling that oozes beyond the layers. Pop one or two tall toothpicks through assembled cake to keep top layer from sliding. Refrigerate cake while preparing Chocolate Glaze.
Note: I transport delicate cake layers into plates with another great kitchen tool - a metal spatula that fans out as three connected parts. This tool is exactly right for the job! I love it! It’s an oldie but goodie (why, thank you, Dollinks, but I’m talking about a kitchen gadget). I inherited it from my much-beloved mother-in-law, some 35 years ago.

This wonderful spatula opens ...
... as wide as a fan for cakes

To Prepare the Chocolate Glaze:
⅓ c. butter or margarine
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 c. icing sugar (“confectioner’s sugar”), sifted
1-½ tsp. vanilla
2 - 4 tbsp. boiling water
Prepare Chocolate Glaze while filled cake is cooling in refrigerator. In medium saucepan on low to medium heat, melt butter or margarine with chocolate, stirring constantly. Blend in sifted sugar, mixing well. Add vanilla. Stir in boiling water until glaze is desired consistency - still pourable, but not too thin. Stir well, pouring glaze through sieve to remove small, persistent lumps. 

Sift confectioners' sugar into
chocolate sauce on stove

Spoon glaze over top layer so it drips down sides

Decant from cooking Stir glaze several times as it cools. Glaze will thicken slightly. When chocolate has reached room temperature, pour over top of chilled cake, allowing to drip over sides randomly. Return cake to refrigerator until ready to serve. Remove toothpicks before serving. 
Note: This cake’s several steps and assembly may look daunting, but it’s tremendously simple to make! It’s just one layer of cake, split in two, so it usually goes fast. Men always ask for seconds. That’s what I like best about this delicious “pie” - no leftovers to call my name in the middle of the night!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boston’s Pride, Vancouver’s Disgrace

This is intended to be a light-hearted cooking blog, but there is nothing funny about the events following the Stanley Cup hockey finals in Vancouver Wednesday night. The Boston Bruins trounced the Vancouver Canucks 4 - 0 in the seventh and final tie-breaking game. As anyone would admit, Boston played brilliantly. While those of us cheering for Vancouver were disappointed our team lost, nothing excuses the rioting, looting, property damage, and injury to others in the hours following the game. The mob mentality that prevailed among small groups of stoned, drunk, aggressive trouble-makers has disgraced and embarrassed our city, our province, and our nation. 

We congratulate Boston for their well-deserved victory, and the Canucks for having played their best season ever. Our humiliation has nothing to do with how well either team did or didn’t play. It has everything to do with the social problems that plague major cities. The actions of a few have brought shame to many. 

I will prepare and bake a Boston Cream Pie later today. Ron will photograph it and I will post the recipe on tomorrow’s blog, as promised a few days ago. But I will do so with a heavy heart. Vancouverites can plaster over the cracks and make our city shine again, but repairing the foundation will not be as easy. We are so very sorry, and so very sad. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Spinach

This recipe makes a delightfully quick dinner! Nuff said!
Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Spinach: 

2 c. dried penne
2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves, uncooked
½ c. sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. capers, drained
⅓ c. firm or creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 - ½ c. olive oil (I used oil drained from sun-dried tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, as garnish
⅓ c. pine nuts, as garnish (see Note)
Fresh, snipped basil leaves, as garnish
Bring 4 qt. (3.8 L) salted water to a boil over high heat in large pot. Add penne, stirring occasionally and cooking 10-to-12 min. Measure and prepare remaining ingredients. Cook penne 10-to-12 min., or to what Italians call al dente (literally, “to the tooth,” or to a slightly firm consistency). When penne has finished cooking, drain but do not rinse. Return to pot. Immediately stir in all ingredients except grated Parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and basil. Continue to stir penne mixture until spinach is lightly cooked. Transfer to serving bowls. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and snipped basil. Serve at once. Serves 4.

Note: See How to Toast Nuts in Index.

Assemble and prepare ingredients

Grate Parmesan cheese .. Freshly grated is best!

Sprinkle Parmesan over penne

Snip fresh basil over all

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sophia’s Slow-Simmered Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

I dedicate this recipe to the eternally beautiful Sophia Loren, who once said: “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” Sophia and I have something in common … she, too, has a criminal past. Sophia once went to jail for not paying her taxes to Italy; in my post of June 12, I landed in the clink for publishing a purloined recipe I swore I would never, ever reveal! I’m going to hell in a grocery cart, and I know it.
Good spaghetti - the whole-wheat kind, of course! - calls for good spaghetti sauce. No, no, let me correct that! It calls for great spaghetti sauce! I’ve been in cucinas where the mustachioed cook (typically named Rosa or Mama Louisa) waddled from a kitchen in which great, steaming vats of tomato sauce simmered and bubbled and left me drooling with anticipation! And when that sauce finally arrived … well, I’m sorry to say it wasn’t nearly as good as this one!
The secret of this fine tomato sauce lies in its slow simmering. This excellent recipe makes plenty; I often freeze it for “next time.” I’ve been using this recipe since 1976, when I was a babe in swaddling clothes. The author’s probably dead! The copyright has probably expired! I'm claiming it as my own! Well, it isn't mine. The recipe originates with an 800-page Betty Crocker Cookbook I’ve had since the year “dot.” It’s a paperback, but I can’t even call it dog-earred. There’s no cover, the pages are ripped, and the thing is held together by two rubber bands. The original recipe is unexcitingly called “Italian Spaghetti,” so I've given it a sexier name in honor of the lovely and talented Sophia Loren.
Betty Crocker’s meatball recipe is the best I’ve ever tasted, so I’m also printing it. And now, I must dash into the kitchen to start and stir the sauce! 
Sophia’s Slow-Simmered Spaghetti Meat Sauce:
½ lb. extra-lean ground beef 
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ c.) 
1 large green pepper, finely diced
2 whole garlic cloves, puréed
Two 15-oz. (443 mL each) cans tomato sauce (I used a large can; Ron recycled it before I could record its size!)
Two 12-oz. (354 mL each) cans tomato paste
One 7-½ oz. (221 mL) can pitted ripe olives, drained and sliced (see Note)
Two 1-½ oz. pkg. (43 g each) powdered Italian-style spaghetti sauce with mushrooms
3 c. water
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. leaf oregano
1 large bay leaf, crumbled
Spaghetti, as needed
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil (optional)
Scramble-fry ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic on medium-low heat until meat loses its pink color and onion becomes translucent. Stir in remaining ingredients except spaghetti and Parmesan cheese. Cover. Simmer on low heat 1-½ hr., stirring occasionally. Stir in Sophia’s Meatballs. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Serve with a generous grating of Parmesan and garnish with a sprig of basil.
Sophia’s Meatballs:
1-½ lb. ground beef 
1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ c.) 
¾ c. fine dry breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. snipped parsley (fresh is best, I think!)
1-½ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
½ c. milk
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Combine all ingredients except salad oil, mixing well. Shape into balls by the tablespoon. Bake 15 min. on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Drain well and add to spaghetti during the final few minutes of cooking.

Assemble and prepare ingredients

Simmer the sauce slowly, allowing it to thicken

Add the pasta to boiling, salted water 

Add baked, drained meatballs just before done

A little Parmesan cheese ...

A glass of wine ... and Thou!