Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken Marbella

My friend Nancy is the original Wonder Woman. After getting in at 1 a.m. from a weekend getaway, she snatched a few hours’ sleep, put in a full day at the office, and still gave a dinner party Monday evening! My friend Nancy is also smart. With a great main course, she served a purchased appetizer, heat-and-thaw mashed potatoes from her freezer, a salad mix with a simple balsamic dressing, and a purchased dessert. Rarely, have I been to a better dinner party, and rarely - given her hectic schedule - have I seen a more relaxed host. What was that great main course, I asked?
“You know - it’s that old Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook,” Nancy said. Indeed, the 30-year-old book is justifiably famous (you can still find used copies in online bookstores, Dollinks), but I wasn’t familiar with the recipe. All I can say is that I’ve missed 30 years of marvelous cooking, because this was one of the finest chicken recipes I’ve ever tasted. 
Eating it immediately transported me to the south of Spain, where I slowly enjoyed every morsel of this delectable dish as I watched the Mediterranean, winking in the sun.
Reality check: I’ve never been to Spain! I’ve never seen the Mediterranean! But that was the feeling I took from this outstanding dish that is marinated in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs, and baked with brown sugar and white wine. Here’s the recipe Nancy used, with a photo I borrowed from a California food blog:

That blog, Simply Recipes, is one of the best family blogs on the Internet. Please check it out! Nancy marinated the chicken pieces all day. The site reports that marinating the ingredients for 2-to-3 hours also works well. I have slightly modified Simply Recipes recipe. Simply Recipes, in turn, reports that its staff modified the recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook. But that’s what cooking is all about - creativity!
This recipe requires extra time for marination
Chicken Marbella:
½ head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
2 tbsp. dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ c. red wine vinegar
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. pitted prunes (Nancy substituted dried apricots)
8 large pitted Spanish green olives, cut in half (Nancy used black olives, as well)
¼ c. capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
5 lb. chicken thighs and breasts, bone in, skin on (the original recipe calls for 2 quartered chickens, 2-½ lb. each, bone-in, skin-on)
¼ c. brown sugar
½ c.white wine
2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (see Note)
In a large bowl, combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans. Spoon marinade evenly over chicken. Sprinkle chicken parts with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake 50-to-60 min., basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thighs, pricked with a fork at their thickest point, lose their pinkness and juices run clear. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter (Nancy used a large, deep casserole and left the pan juices - later spooned over mashed potatoes - in the dish). Serves 5-to-8.
Note: Use parsley sparingly, so the elements of this dish can take center stage.
- With thanks to The Silver Palate Cookbook and

Chicken Marbella
- Photo with thanks to

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Smoked Salmon Salad with Scallops

My friends who live in Australia also live in my heart: I truly miss them! Don, Bev, Jenny, Meredith, Christine, Helen, Dee, Patrick, Lyn … this satisfying summer salad is for you, Dollinks! For sure, you’ll find it refreshing on a hot day! My friends who live in Canada and the U.S. live in my heart, as well. It may not be summer in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where You Live, but the noodles in this simple salad are just the thing to fill you up on a cold winter’s day! I had a fat chunk of hot-smoked salmon and four large scallops in my freezer; that’s how I came to make this. Substituting leftover roast beef would be delicious, too. Depending on your serving size, this salad does nicely for lunch or dinner.
Smoked Salmon Salad with Scallops:
½ lb. (250 g) thin chow mein-style noodles
¼ c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. fresh ginger root, slivered
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. chili flakes
1 c. julienned (matchstick size) carrots
1 c. fresh snow peas, ends snipped
1 red bell pepper (“capsicum”), cut lengthwise into strips and halved
½-to-¾ lb. chunk of smoked salmon
4-to-6 large scallops or 12 small scallops
¼ c. toasted sesame seeds
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles, cooking just until tender (with the noodles I used, this took about 2 min.). Drain. Rinse noodles under cold running water until well chilled. Drain well and set aside. In a large bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger root, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, and chili flakes. Snip cooked noodles roughly in half. Add to bowl and toss well. In a pot of boiling water, cook julienned carrots and whole snow peas until tender-crisp, exactly 1 min. Rinse under cold running water. Drain and blot with paper towel. Add to noodles. Steam smoked salmon and scallops just until cooked through, about 5 min. Cut salmon into coarse chunks; quarter large scallops or use small scallops whole. Add warm seafood to salad, tossing to combine well. Transfer to salad bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serves 6 for lunch and 4 for as a main course for dinner.

Drain hot noodles

Rinse with cold water; set aside to drain well

Save carrot tops and peelings for the stock pot!

Julienne carrots for salad

Snip ends of snow peas; saves these bits for stock pot, too!

Briefly plunge snow peas and carrots into boiling water;
blot dry with paper towel
Wash and seed red bell pepper before cutting into strips

In large bowl, combine ingredients for sauce

Add noodles and ...
Toss, toss, toss! 

In go the chilled vegetables

Chop the seafood
Add it, too!

Present with a flourish of toasted sesame seeds

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

This doesn’t happen often: A chunk of tenderloin in the freezer? I’d tucked it there after making Beef Wellington last month (Dec. 19, 2011 blog), and wondered what I might do with it. It’s winter in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live, and winter demands comfort food! I settled on Beef Stroganoff. This was the first time I’d used tenderloin to make this dish, and wow! Was it successful! The two of us gobbled it down, with extras left over for another meal. From start to finish, this recipe took less than 15 minutes.
Beef Stroganoff:
4 oz. (125 g) fettucine or any broad noodle
3 tbsp. strained bacon fat or vegetable shortening
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 lb. beef tenderloin, sliced into 1-in. chunks
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarse black pepper
10 large mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp. beef extract 
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. any commercial steak sauce such as A-1 or HP
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Boiling water
1 c. sour cream
¼ c. sherry or dealcoholyzed cooking sherry
Fresh parsley, finely chopped, or 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes, as garnish (Optional)
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettucine and cook 10 min. As pasta cooks, melt bacon fat and butter (or their smarter substitutes) on high heat in a large skillet. In a plastic bag, shake together meat chunks and combined flour and seasonings. Add flour-coated meat to sizzling fat, stir-frying until seared on all sides, about 1 min. Remove from pan and set aside. Lower heat to medium and add mushrooms, turning frequently and cooking until tender. In a glass measuring cup, combine beef extract, ketchup, steak sauce, and flour with enough cold water to combine. Top with boiling water to make 1 c. liquid. Return meat to skillet with mushrooms. Immediately stir in seasoned liquid, combining well. Cover and simmer 2 min. As meat and mushrooms simmer, combine sour cream and sherry. Reduce heat to low, combining sherried sour cream with mushrooms and meat in pan, just to heat through. Drain pasta and transfer to serving dish. Pour meat mixture over pasta, garnishing with parsley. Serves 4.

Add your choice of pasta to a large pot of boiling water

Sear seasoned, flour-coated meat over high heat

Cook until browned on all sides. Remove from pan

Lower heat to medium. Fry mushrooms until tender

Return meat to skillet, adding seasoned liquids

Combine sherry and sour cream
Drain pasta

Transfer pasta to serving dish

Quickly add sherried sour cream to mushrooms and meat

Combine well to heat through

Pour over pasta

Garnish with fresh or dried parsley

Note: Youll find other Stroganoff recipes indexed under Main Dish.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stroganoff with Meatballs

My friend Barbara is one of the world’s greatest cooks. She makes this for her husband of nearly 60 years, Ernie.
Hey, Barb! Although your recipe is delicious, Ernie’s nose is going to be out of joint when he reads tomorrow’s post about the Beef Stroganoff I make for Ron!
Stroganoff with Meatballs:    

To Prepare the Meatballs:
1 lb. lean ground beef    
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 tsp. bottled steak sauce
¼ c. fine, dry bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
In a large bowl, lightly toss ground beef with salt, pepper, steak sauce, bread crumbs and egg until well combined.  Using hands, gently shape chuck mixture into 12 balls.  Melt butter or margarine in large skillet, browning beef well.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Here's what you need! Now shape them into balls

Ready for baking, sautéing, or freezing until needed

I prefer to make meatballs on the large side

To Prepare the Sauce:
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
½ c. sliced onion
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ketchup
1 10-½ oz. can (284 mL) condensed beef broth, undiluted
1 c. dairy sour cream

Melt butter or margarine with drippings in skillet.  Sauté onion 5 min., or until translucent.  Add and sauté mushrooms until tender.  Remove from heat.  Stir in flour and ketchup, gradually adding broth. Continuing to stir, bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, simmering in open skillet for 2 min. Add previously cooked meatballs, simmering gently 10 min. or until heated through. Stir in sour cream over low heat, just to warm through. Serve over broad noodles.

To Prepare the Noodles: 
8 oz. (250 g) fettucine or broad noodles
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettucine and cook 10 min. Drain, serving with meatballs and sauce. Serves 4.

Note: Youll find other Stroganoff recipes indexed under Main Dish.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scottish Oat Cakes

My secret is out! This blog is being posted late in the morning because I normally write in the evening, post-dating my blog to pop onto the Internet at 6 a.m. as I saw logs (Memo to international readers: I’m not really “sawing logs.” That is a North American expression that means I am asleep - snoring, mouth open, tonsils twisting in the breeze). So why no early morning blog post, today? 

Well! We’ve had a bit of excitement, here in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live! A major power failure that lasted 12 hours! I’d already written out today’s recipe for Scottish Oat Cakes when disaster struck - ka-blooey! I’d taken the necessary ingredients from the cupboard, and - thinking this would be a minor blip in the electrical system - proceeded to cook by candlelight, getting everything ready for the oven. My oat cakes never made it that far. 

We carried on in darkness until just a few minutes ago. I made breakfast over a butane-fired Japanese cooker (Safe and intended for indoor use! I’ll tell you about this must-have device on some future day when I blog my recipe for Sukiyaki. I love my Japanese cooker almost as much as I do Ron!).

Butane-fired Japanese cooker

Water on the boil
for instant coffee

The start of bacon and eggs: It was very dark!
These photos were taken with a flash

Bacon and eggs by candlelight

Ron likes his eggs over easy

This scattering of photos - all taken in total darkness, some with a flash, some by candlelight - will show you how things were last night and early this morning. I wrote the recipe below while we still enjoyed the luxury of electricity, and - using my battery-operated laptop - added the notes below the recipe after the power went out.

Reading my recipe by candlelight

Here is the original post: 
Gather round, lads, lassies, and bairns! It’s Robbie Burns Day! I was going to make a haggis, but the sheep escaped, so today’s nod to the Bard is all about Scottish Oat Cakes. Ron is half Scot - the bottom half, I’m sure, because he reliably informs me that Scots wear nothing under their kilts. He proudly wore his Mackenzie tartan as a lad in the Seaforth Highlanders. It was widely rumored that the Regimental Sergeant Major used to conduct inspections with ... um, a mirror attached to his swagger stick. 

Moving right along …  Egad! Lost my wee bonnie way for a moment! It’s recipe time, Dollinks! Once you’ve made these oat cakes, don’t overlook my April 16, 2011 blogged recipes for Grandma Innes’s Rolled Griddle Scones, my own Scottish Scones, Jim Lefevre’s Dropped Griddle Scones (also known as “Girdle Scones”), and my Nov. 9, 2011 blogged recipe for the same Jim’s Scottish Afternoon Tea Cake. As for the oat cakes below, I love them with a little butter and a dab of jam.
Scottish Oat Cakes:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1-½ c. large-flake rolled oats
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ c. vegetable shortening
½ c. cold water
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening using fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water, mixing in with fingers until dough clings together and can be formed into a ball. Divide dough in half. On a floured work surface, pat dough into a circle, rolling and patting as thinly as possible. Slice circle into eight triangles. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Bake 10-to-15 min., just until dough starts to brown but still remains pale. Cool in pan on wire rack. 

I added this note late last night: Well, Dollinks! In the cheerfully parsimonious spirit of the Scots (a stereotype for which I apologize), Ron and I saved a bundle tonight (“last night,” when you finally read this!) after the power to our home was cut (“You paid the bill, didn’t you?” “I thought you paid the bill!”). Naaah, it wasn’t like that! 
We have had a massive, widespread, electrical failure. A main transformer has blown on the grid that serves our community, affecting more than 4,500 homes. I’m writing these notes by candlelight, on my battery-operated laptop. We have been plunged into darkness.  
We’ve been told the electricity will take a long, long time to come back, so I’m going to pop these oat cakes into the oven in the morning, and will take a photo of the finished product then. You’ll see your blog a little later than usual, I’m afraid - and pretty soon, you won’t see it at all, as I take another hiatus from blogging to buckle down on a writing project. Not surprisingly, the photos I took as I prepared these oat cakes were duds: White flour + pale oats + white sugar + white salt + white shortening … You get the picture, Dollinks - or rather, you don’t get the picture! 
But hey! Lucky me! I’m heading to bed with a man who wears nothing under his kilt! Now where’s that Mackenzie tartan?

Ron in full regalia

Ron sans kilt

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Banana-Fruit Salad with Walnut Cream

My mother had absolutely no interest in cooking - zip! Her most valuable kitchen appliance was a can opener. When she wasn’t caressing the keyboard to play Chopin, she pounded a mean boogie-woogie on the piano - all day, every day. Each of us has different passions, talents, interests, and skills!  

My mother’s idea of a great dessert was to open a can of fruit cocktail. What I remember best about that product was that the label showed a beautiful bowl of cubed fruit studded with bright red cherries. As anyone who ate this stuff back then will know, the can contained one cherry. All six kids in our family trolled for that cherry (By contrast, no one wanted the single chunk of glutinous fat that passed for “pork” in the then-named “Pork and Beans.” Today, the product is more accurately labelled “Beans with Pork”).

Include fresh fruit in your daily
diet: No recipe needed!
Today’s first Fruit Salad combo contains ample cherries! It’s winter in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. There are no fresh cherries or peaches available just yet, so I used fruit canned in a thin sugar syrup. Thanks to globalization, there are plenty of bananas, pears, apples, and oranges available in local shops and fruit stands. Anyone can make a basic Fruit Salad - there’s really no “recipe” for the low-calorie version - but I’m publishing a photo of a fruit salad I made yesterday as a reminder to include several servings of fruit (and vegetables, Dollinks!) in your daily diets. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, keeping you healthier longer. For those of you who may be craving a fancier, gussied-up array of fruit, this recipe for Banana-Fruit Salad with Walnut Cream is one of my favorites, served as a salad or a dessert. While I normally make this in warmer weather, this early taste of summer is delectable!
Banana-Fruit Salad with Walnut Cream:
3 bananas, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 c. fresh orange sections, rind grated and reserved for dressing
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, cored and cubed
Gently combine above ingredients. Serve with Walnut Cream on the side. Makes 4-to-6 servings.
Walnut Cream:
1 c. heavy cream
¾ c. toasted ground walnuts (see How to Toast Nuts in Index)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. grated orange rind
Whip cream as soft peaks. Fold in walnuts, sugar, and grated rind. Makes 2 cups.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dinner Party Series: Pork Hoisin

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! I’m cooking a modest and economical Pork Hoisin this evening, just for the two of us. This recipe doubles or triples very easily. For more idea for Chinese food in my Dinner Party Series, see the Index under  Chinese

This recipe requires extra time for marination

Pork Hoisin:

½ lb. pork tenderloin
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 tbsp. dry sherry, divided
2 tsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
1 tbsp. cold water
8 small green onions (“spring” onions)
3 tbsp. oil, divided
3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
¼ tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. cold water 

Remove thin sheath of fat from tenderloin. Slice pork across the grain into ¼-in. rounds; cut each round in half or into thin strips. Prepare meat marinade: Combine the soy sauce, 1 tbsp. sherry, and the cornstarch and cold water. Mix thoroughly and stir into pork. This will not seem like enough marinade; it is. 
Slice green onions lengthwise into thin strips (see Note). Cut on the diagonal into 1-½-in. lengths. Prepare stir-fry sauce for meat: Combine 1 tbsp. oil, hoisin sauce, cornstarch-water mixture, and remaining sherry. Set aside. 
Heat wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add 2 tbsp. oil. Stir-fry pork 2-to-3 min. until cooked through. Add hoisin sauce mixture, stirring until sauce starts to thicken and bubble. Just before serving, stir in green onions. Serves 2.
Note: A bean slicer does a very speedy job of slivering the green onions. This is a worthwhile tool to add to your pantry. You may need to buy it online, because I rarely see bean slicers in kitchen stores. Mine is ancient. I treasure it! 
- With thanks to The Vancouver Sun

Carefully trim sheath of fat from tenderloin

Slice meat into 1/4-in. rounds

Cut each round in half

Prepare meat marinade: Oil, hoisin, sherry, cornstarch

Marinade pork

Prepare stir-fry sauce: Soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, water
The fastest way to sliver green onions ... a bean slicer!

After slivering green onions, slice into diagonal lengths
Start to sauté strips of pork
Continue stir-frying until cooked through, 2-to-3 min.
Pour in stir-fry sauce, cooking until heated through
Add slivered onions just at the end
Pork Hoisin: Every morsel delicious!
It’s traditional to give guests and family lucky envelopes
containing money. These 
gold coins are chocolate-filled.
As you celebrate Chinese New Year, celebrate life!