Herbed Pan-Fried Pork Chop

Reblogged from More Than One More Day.Blogspot.com November 13, 2010.

I always like to try new recipes. This one is from America’s Test Kitchen, which seldom disappoints. It had good flavor without being either too salty or too oily. The only question I had was, what do I do with the crisp bacon bits?

Blended spices (or use your own blend)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sage
pinch of ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour
3 strips of bacon, chopped
4 center cut, bone-in pork chops
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Make the spice blend. Pour blended spices in a shallow pan or pie plate. You may find you will need to make another batch after two pork chops. I did. Pour flour into another pan or pie plate.

Season the pork chops. Dip each chop in the spice blend, then lightly dredge in the flour. Let the pork chops rest in a plate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry up the bacon in a large 12 inch skillet. When crisp, remove the bacon to drain but reserve the bacon fat. Start wth 1/4 cup of oil to the fat and heat until just smoking. Add more oil if necessary.

Fry the pork chops. Put each pork chop in the hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side. Mine came out over done so I would reduce that to 2-3 minutes per side instead. Drain on a greased wire rack set over a baking tray in a warm oven. Don’t discard the pan drippings.

Still no idea what to do with the bacon bits but since I was making pan fried asparagus with tomatoes and black olives, I decided to dress that up with the bacon. Ta-dah!

Pan-fried Asparagus with Tomatoes and Black Olives (and bacon bits)
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
2 -4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon bacon, chopped and fried until crisp, drained (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Trim the asparagus. Hold up one spear and snap off the end. Cut all the other spears to the same length.

Make the tomato-black olive dressing. Use the pan drippings from the pork chops to make the dressing. Over medium heat, fry the garlic in the pan drippings until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and olives. Cook until the tomatoes “spring” water and become wilted. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover with foil, and reserve.

Cook the asparagus. Rinse out the skillet and dry it with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Lay half the spears in the pan in one direction. Lay the other half in the opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium heat until the asparagus turns a bright green, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and pour the dressing on top. Top with cheese, basil, or bacon bits.

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fresh grape pie: a labor of love or never again

I love it when  big shopping malls put on a farmer’s market–you never have to break a sweat in Bangkok’s heat and you can shop for fresh food just as if you were at the “real”  market. There were all these grapes on sale for cheap so we bought red seedless grapes and these clusters of tiny blue-black grapes. I wanted to make a fresh grape cake and a grape pie. But before I get to the cake, let me mull over the grape pie a bit. It took Andy and me two days to peel a kilogram of these tiny grapes. I’m glad it wasn’t more. So this is the first and the last time I will ever bake a fresh grape pie. So let us savor this moment.

DSC04673Before it went in the oven, I had a to make a double pie crust. I used America’s Test Kitchen’s Foolproof Double Pie Crust recipe, and foolproof it isn’t to this fool. So I decided to abandon the recipe and used my own judgment. Because the dough was too wet to roll out, I added another cupful of all-purpose flour. Then it was too dry, so I added the 1/4 cup chilled vodka but skipped the 1/4 cup water. The dough was so slick it wouldn’t absorb the vodka so I had to help it out by kneading in a cup of bread flour. In for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose. I divided the dough in half and rolled one half out between two sheets of parchment paper with a little flour on the bottom sheet. I tried lining a 9-inch pie pan with half the dough.  The filling wasn’t enough to fill the pan. So I tried again–this time using an 8-inch tart pan. Just for fun, I covered the top with stars. There was just too much liquid in the filling so I tried spooning out the excess. Still, I knew there would be boil-over so I put the tart pan on a baking tray and put the whole contraption in the oven.

DSC04676Forty minutes later, I got the result. It looked all right; lightly browned, and the grape filling had boiled over the sides as I expected. Two of the stars got stained by the grape juice but apart from the looks, the pie seemed to be okay. The crust looked edible but I didn’t know if it would be flaky after adding the additional flour.

Andy and I decided we had to have this a la mode, so he went out to the “corner store”–really the 7-Eleven two blocks away– and got some Bud’s vanilla ice cream. I cut into the pie and held my breath. Each slice released from the pan without sticking, and the crust was flaky as ATK had promised. But would it have true grape flavor?

DSC04680It did. The fruit was tart, because I only added 3/4 cup of sugar, so this played nicely with the sweet coldness of the vanilla ice cream. We savored every mouthful–not only because it was delicious but because we both knew I would never make this pie again. Too labor intensive for this foodie. The truth is I had never tasted a grape pie before so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like or taste like. The recipes I consulted, before deciding on the Allrecipes grape pie recipe, never explained why it was crucial to peel each grape, save the peels and mash the pulp then put the two back together again. If I ever made this pie again, and I won’t, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t peel the grapes? What if I did peel the grapes but didn’t process and strain the pulp? These are not burning questions, folks.

DSC04677
Grape Pie a la Mode with Green Tea

four-ingredient slow cooker pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw

DSC04632
pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw on whole wheat roll
DSC04563
pulled pork with caramelized onions on hamburger bun

DSC04562Allrecipes.com had this recipe that had only three ingredients in it: root beer, pork, and barbecue sauce. As root beer is a rather exotic animal in these parts, I substituted Leo beer instead. I had the beer in the pantry as well as two kinds of Beerenberg sauces that I combined–one for its tomato flavor and the other for its spiciness. So I guess you could say this is a “found” recipe rather like found poetry where you use whatever is on hand to create something new. I used pork tenderloin, which some cooks on the internet said couldn’t or shouldn’t be done as it would get dry and trashy. However, the good thing about using the tenderloin instead of pork shoulder is that the tenderloin is leaner. In addition,  allrecipes.com had already adapted this recipe for pork tenderloin and I found it quite delicious. The only special equipment needed for this recipe is a slow cooker.  Switch it on and forget it–well, almost!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 6 hours

Ingredients
2 pounds pork tenderloin
12 oz Leo beer plus half a can more (original recipe: root beer)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (omit if using root beer)
2 300ml bottles Beerenberg sauces, any flavor (original recipe: barbecue sauce)
caramelized onions for serving, optional
corn slaw for serving, optional
8 hamburger buns or medium rolls

Put the tenderloin in the slow cooker and cover with beer. Add the brown sugar and mix. Turn on the slow cooker to low and let it cook for 6 hours. After 6 hours, remove the tenderloin and shred it with two forks. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker and return the shredded pork to the cooker. Add the sauces. Heat through about 15-20 minutes on low in the slow cooker. Serve hot on hamburger buns topped with caramelized onions or corn-cabbage slaw.

Corn-Cabbage Slaw
Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 ear of corn, kernels removed from the cob or 2 cups frozen corn
1 small cabbage, shredded, about 4 cups
1 cup grape tomatoes
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cheese cubes (I used mozzarella)
1-2 jalapeños, thinly sliced on the bias, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the fresh corn in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse in cool water. Drain again. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. Top the pulled pork generously with about 1/3 cup slaw.

lemony cream cheese coffee cake

lemony cream cheese coffee cake

This is definitely a keeper. And a work in progress! The cake had a tender moist crumb with the pleasant tang of lemon throughout. The topping was crunchy, sugary, and at the same time, lemony. I think that filling needs some sweet strawberries as contrast with that tangy lemon.  I feel I need to work out the problem with the pan and then I might solve the problem of the crusty exterior.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
Serves 12-16

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes

For the Cake, have at room temperature:
2 1/4 cups (11.25 oz) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7.75 oz) plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups sour cream

For the Filling, have at room temperature:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons lemon juice

For the Topping, have at room temperature:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven 350˚F. Prepare 1 tube pan.

Cake Baker’s Note: the original recipe said to spray the pan with cooking spray. This pan should have “feet” so that it can cool upside down elevated off the counter top. In the ATK video, they were using a one-piece pan with a dark nonstick finish. I have a shiny aluminum 2 piece pan. When I unmolded it, the cake fell out of the pan because of the cooking spray. The next time I make this, I will not spray the pan.

In a large bowl, add 2 1/4 cups flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add butter and sugar and lemon zest to the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add 4 eggs one at a time until well blended. Add vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined after each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour to the batter in the bowl, mixing on low speed. Add half the sour cream and blend. Add half the remaining flour and mix. Add the rest of the sour cream and beat together. Mix in the remaining flour. Remove the mixing bowl and stir by hand with a spatula to incorporate the flour. Remove 1 1/4 cups batter and set aside. Don’t wash out the mixing bowl or the paddle.

Place large dollops of the remaining 2/3 batter in the bowl into the prepared pan, evenly spreading the batter with an offset spatula.

Make the cream cheese filling. To the mixing bowl, add cream cheese, 5 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 4 teaspoons lemon juice. Mix on medium speed 1 minute until creamy. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved batter and blend.

Cake Baker’s Note: If you wish, fold  1/2 cup chopped strawberries into the cream cheese filling.

Add the filling to the top of the cake batter in dollops. Use the off set spatula to spread the filling almost to the edge. Add the last cup of batter to cover the cream cheese filling, spreading it with the offset spatula. Swirl the batter with the tip of the offset spatula using a figure eight motion while turning the pan one-quarter turn until one circuit is completed. Tap the cake pan on the counter firmly 3 times to remove air bubbles and settle the batter.

For the topping, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, with 1/2 cup slivered almonds. Use your fingers to mix the topping ingredients. Spread on top of the cake, lightly pressing the topping mixture into the batter so it won’t fall off after baking.

Bake 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. It might have crumbs on it because of the filling. Another test is to lightly press the top. It should spring back and you shouldn’t see your fingerprint in the top. Invert the cake in the pan over a rimmed baking tray with a cooling rack and cool in the pan 1 hour.  Cool in the pan 20 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle the pan to remove the sides and bottom–if it is a two-piece tube pan. It isn’t necessary to invert the pan. Cool thoroughly 1 1/2 hours before slicing and serving. If you’re not going to eat it right away, wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap airtight and store in the refrigerator. Bring the cake to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the tube pan does not have “feet” stick a funnel in the center tube and invert the pan over the funnel so the cake is elevated off the counter. Cool in the pan as directed.

lemony cream cheese coffee cake

sunday dinner

I’m in the mood to cook!

There’s still no news that power has been restored at the office. Train service has been restored to Lower Manhattan this weekend, but after a week off from work, I have all this energy that I’m using up in the kitchen.

Autumn Sweet Potato Cakes adapted from http://brokeassgourmet.com/articles/autumn-sweet-potato-cakes Taranee sent me this recipe for baked sweet potato cakes and said that I had to try this. I could not find frozen kale at the supermarket so I made do with fresh kale. We love kale so the bunch won’t go to waste. Besides kale, this recipe includes dried cranberries and caramelized onion. What a tasty way to eat vegetables.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Servings: 10-12 patties

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 3 medium garnet yams (orange sweet potatoes), peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup cooked chopped kale
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta optional
  • 1/8 cup whole wheat flour (or more, as needed)
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the sliced onions and let cook, stirring very occasionally, until the onions become brown and soft. Reserve the onions for garnish. After removing the onion, add the kale to the pan and lightly sauté until they turn bright green.
  • Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Cover a baking tray with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peeled, diced sweet potatoes and cover.
  • Let the sweet potatoes cook for about 8 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  • Drain the cooked sweet potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Mash with the back of a fork or a potato masher until mostly smooth.
  • Stir in the kale, garlic, cranberries, salt, pepper, sage, egg, goat cheese or feta (if using), and flour.  Stir gently to combine.
  • Use a quarter cup measure to scoop up the mixture and gently shake it out in a mound on the prepared tray. Gently flatten the top with a spatula. Continue scooping, shaking, flattening patties. After about three of these scoops, rinse the scoop in water so the mixture will release easily.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Flip the patties and brown on the second side, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Roasted Turnips and Carrots (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
I slightly burned the carrots but I loved the crisp sweetness anyway.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 24-30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds white turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and slivered
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, optional

Preparation

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425˚F. Put oven rack in lower-middle position.
  • Toss turnips and carrots in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  • Roast until the bottom of the turnips is golden and the carrots are browned around the edges, 12-15 minutes. Turn the turnips and carrots and continue to roast until they are tender and golden, 12-15 minutes more.
  • Sprinkle with cilantro, if using, and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Variations

  • Add 2 teaspoons garlic powder and 1 teaspoon brown sugar to the seasonings.
  • Add 1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger to the seasonings. Toss the turnips and carrots with 2 tablespoons maple syrup before serving

Wasabi and Panko Crusted Pork Tenderloin Cutlets (adapted from myrecipes.com)
To cut calories, I baked the cutlets rather than fry them.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 8 cutlets from 1 x 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver and pounded flat (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry, sake, or rice cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi paste
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preparation

  • Place panko, almond flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Mix with a fork. Place egg white in another shallow dish. Dip pork in egg white; dredge in panko mixture.
  • Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat; add pork. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork from pan; sprinkle with salt.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Combine broth, sherry, soy sauce, sugar, and wasabi in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan, scraping pan to loosen the browned bits called fond. Stir in green onions. Spoon sauce over pork.

Variation

  • Instead of frying, spray the cutlets with cooking spray and bake the cutlets 15-20 minutes in 425˚F oven or until the cutlets register 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

creamy delicious strawberry ice cream–without an ice cream maker

I don’t have an ice cream maker.

I also don’t have a microwave oven and I don’t have a television. But am I missing anything? Absolutely not! I made this ice cream using fresh cream and strawberries without an ice cream maker. It was quick and easy to make, however, the freezing part took twelve hours. So eating it requires a little patience. If you want it for dessert that evening, then make it in the morning.  Aside from the usual cream, fruit, and condensed milk, this recipe calls for some unexpected ingredients, like white chocolate chips and vodka, which you never taste in the ice cream. It wasn’t as creamy as I had hoped, and I don’t understand the alchemy let alone the chemistry of ice cream making, but it tastes just like fresh strawberry ice cream. The folks at America’s Test Kitchen call it

Magic Strawberry Ice Cream
Makes one quart

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled (1 1/2 cups) [Cook’s Note: frozen thawed strawberries can be substituted for fresh]
1/2  cup sweetened condensed milk
1 ounce white chocolate chips
1  tablespoon vodka
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, chilled

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Process strawberries in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds (puree should measure about 3⁄4 cup). Microwave sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate chips, and vodka in large bowl until chocolate melts, about 1 minute, whisking halfway through cooking. Whisk in strawberry puree, vanilla, and salt.

Cook’s Note: In lieu of a microwave, I melted the chocolate chips into the vodka and condensed milk in a double boiler. I made a double boiler out of a saucepan and a small glass mixing bowl which rested on the rim just above half a pan of water. First bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir the milk, chips, and vodka until the chips melt. The condensed milk mixture will thin. Be careful and use a pot holder to remove the hot bowl from the saucepan.

2. Using a stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk one-third of whipped cream into strawberry mixture, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream, 1 scoop at a time, until combined. Freeze in airtight container until firm, 6-12 hours, depending on the freezer. The ice cream will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks–if it lasts that long!  Serve.

Cook’s Note: I should have added I don’t have a fancy (read: Kitchenaid) stand mixer either. I used a Black and Decker hand held mixer (cost me Canadian $15.00 three years ago) with a whisk attachment to whip the cream. You’ll know you have soft peaks when you raise the beaters and the peaks just bend over.

the white queen of chili

I shouldn’t write when I’m tired! I was rushing to get the last post out because I didn’t want to forget what happened at last Saturday’s class. Not my best writing!

Normally I don’t try new recipes in mid-week but I needed to do something different. Sometimes you just have to mix it up!  It’s also an America’s Test Kitchen recipe so I can trust it to work. Because there are many ingredients and there is much cutting and chopping, I recommend prepping all ingredients before cooking. At the French Culinary Institute they call this mis en place literally “put in place.” Somehow I skipped over the garlic (imagine that! And me a garlic lover!) and had to pause the process to chop up some garlic. This recipe took about 1 1/2 hours from prepping to finish–the chicken breast version, mind you.

This white chicken chili  is a tasty recipe but I warn you, it’s hot! You can tone it down by eliminating the seeds and veins of the chilies. Oh, and if you can’t find Anaheim chilies (I couldn’t) then add an extra jalapeño and poblano chili to the ingredients, or be brave and add 3 Thai chili peppers, as I did! I served it with roasted vegetables and low-fat cornbread from a recipe on about.com .

White Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 – 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves , trimmed of excess fat and skin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3 poblano chilies (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chili peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces (I substituted 3 whole Thai chili peppers)
2 medium onions , cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, in food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. (I had very lean chicken breasts so there was only a tablespoon of liquid in the pan.) Add 1/2 the minced jalapeños, chili-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, Thai chili peppers if using, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. When cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes), shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Taste. In my first mouthful I detected the full flavor of the chilies, the fresh taste of cilantro and the tartness of lime juice, so, no,  it didn’t need salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, if you like.  Serve. I roasted vegetables so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat more than two pieces of cornbread, which keeps the carb intake low!

In another post will be the recipe for low-fat cornbread.

pepperoni pan pizza

This week the Foodie Joanie blog achieved a milestone, sort of. Two people signed up to receive e-mail notices of new blog postings. One is someone from the blogosphere, the other is Andy. I know he shouldn’t count. However he has the distinction of being an early connoisseur (and survivor) of my cooking ever since I baked him a chocolate cake from a mix for his birthday when we were in college.

This was a big week, cooking-wise, since Sandra came to show me how cooking is done in an Italian kitchen. I know now that pizza isn’t genuine Italian food but it’s such a big part of American food lore that America’s Test Kitchen decided to improve upon it. But with a Whole Foods a few blocks away that makes and sells ready-made pizza dough, it’s not hard to find a shortcut and a timesaver.

Pizza Crust
1 bag of refrigerated dough (I bought white pizza dough)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 (9″x2″) round cake pans

Let the dough come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200˚F then switch off the heat. Prepare the two cake pans. Put 3 tablespoons oil in each pan and set aside. Cut open the dough package and put the dough on a lightly floured board. Knead a couple of times and shape into a ball. Grease a large glass bowl with cooking spray, put the dough ball in it and turn it until it is coated with oil all over. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to double in size, about 1/2 an hour. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Marinara Sauce for topping
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a cold saucepan, add the oil and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pizza toppings
1 roll pepperoni sausage cut into thin rounds
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, bundled and rolled into a cigar shape and sliced thinly crosswise
Red pepper flakes for serving, optional

Put the pepperoni rounds between sheets of paper towels on a plate. Microwave for 30 seconds to draw out the oil. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 400˚F. Gently swirl the oil around the bottom of the cake pan, being careful not to get any oil on the sides. Set aside. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured board and cut the dough ball in half. Roll each half into a 7-inch circle. Drape one of the circles over the backs of your knuckles and gently stretch out the dough circle to 9 1/2 inches. The center should be thin, the edges thicker. Gently pat into a prepared pan. Don’t get any oil on the top of the crust. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it aside as you do the second crust.

Remove the plastic wrap. Spoon one ladleful of sauce in the center of each dough circle and spread it towards the edges, leaving a 1/2 inch border. You may need to add a little bit more of the sauce to cover the dough. I forgot to mention that you will have leftover tomato sauce. Just refrigerate the leftovers if you plan on using it up in the next three days. If not, freeze the leftovers.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the grated mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce. Spread the pepperoni on top of the cheese. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let the pizza rest for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the top with fresh basil. Slice and serve with red pepper flakes, if you like. Yum!

a hoppin’ John experiment

This recipe for Hoppin’ John from America’s Test Kitchen’s Light and Healthy  cookbook was loaded with salt. I decided to try and cut it down by using water instead of low-sodium canned broth, and to cut down on the fat and carbs by using turkey ham and bacon instead of pork.

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 (1 pound) boneless turkey ham steaks, 3/4 inch thick
6 slices turkey bacon, crisp and crumbled
2 celery ribs, minced
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
4-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (substitute 4 cups water plus 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
1 (16 oz) bag frozen black-eyed peas (instead of 2)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed
3 scallions, sliced thin

I don’t have a Dutch oven so I used my Calphalon Everyday pan to heat up the oil. Then I fried the turkey ham steaks 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, I crisped the turkey bacon in the microwave.

After removing the steaks to cool, I added the celery and onion to the oil in the pan and fried them until they were tender, about 4-6 minutes. Then I added 6 minced garlic cloves (add more or less to taste) and the fresh thyme and cooked them until they were fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then instead of the broth, I added 4 cups water and two chicken bouillon cubes for flavor, 1 bag (instead of two) frozen blackeyed peas, and the bay leaves. I let the mixture cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. When it came to a simmer, I reduced the heat to low. While the broth mixture was cooking, the ham had cooled enough. I sliced it into 1/2 inch cubes and set it aside.

After 20 minutes, I added the white rice. Now, the original method says to spread a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of the pan  resting it on top of the rice-broth mixture, then cover. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring and changing the foil twice during cooking. Then I was to remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, this did not work for me. After 20 minutes the rice was still slightly raw rather than just cooked. Either it was the pan, which doesn’t have the high sides of a Dutch oven, or it was the foil which didn’t completely seal all the edges. What I did to salvage the dish was to let it steam-cook on low heat for an additional 10 minutes instead of letting it rest.

Then I tossed in the turkey ham cubes, the scallion, and the crumbled bacon. This version of Hoppin’ John was lightly salted but not very flavorful. The turkey ham was hearty and just like pork, but the turkey bacon is a sad substitute for the real thing. My instinct, from years of cooking rice, is that it is best left undisturbed during the steaming process, and that once sealed, with the foil and the cover, it shouldn’t be opened until the cooking time is up. I will have to try this recipe again to test this theory. Or try it next time in the rice cooker. Like my foray into baking meringues and pavlovas, Hoppin’ John is a work in progress!

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Review: America’s Test Kitchen: Light and Healthy 2011

  Everything from appetizers to desserts–lightened up, as promised, by the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen. I wanted to sample a recipe from each chapter but ended up sampling most of them. The recipes were “light” if you define  light as low in fat, carbs,  and calories, as most of us do.”Healthy” though, was debatable. I was really concerned by the high sodium content of some dishes, particularly those that called for canned soup. I was under the impression that healthy meant “less processed the better.”

To sum up here are what I thought were the Cons

  • Wordy; lengthy explanations of their process but  not enough pictures of each recipe
  • Good: nutrition information told me how much fat, carbs, and calories were in each dish and its variation so I could become more aware of healthy eating habits.
  • Bad/unhealthy: high salt content of some recipes, e.g. Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Beef

And now, the Pros

  • Helpful: “Notes from the Test Kitchen,” e.g.  forming a press-in tart crust
  • No-brainer: “Notes from the Test Kitchen,” how to prevent wooden skewers from burning–cover them with foil! Now, why didn’t I think of that?
  • Best Test Kitchen Makeover: Chicken and Dumplings p.49
  • Awesome: “Notes from the Test Kitchen” on testing meat for doneness (table, p. 91)

Though I was disappointed in the amount of salt in a supposedly “healthy” cookbook, there were more pros than cons. America’s Test Kitchen recipes have been thoroughly tested and I haven’t been disappointed yet. This cookbook gets my thumbs up!