Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Home Cook's Legacy

We all want to create something that lasts, something that outlives us and can be passed on from generation to generation. The ingredients we use in our day-to-day cooking can't fit that bill because food is impermanent. Meals are eaten, and life goes on. For the man or woman who loves to create meals for their loved ones, this causes a conundrum. Creating lacquered versions of each of every meal we cook just isn't practical.

Two important women in my life opted to put together cookbooks instead. My Nana Vidal authored one called Everything But... Filet Mignon. My Grandma Shook wrote Recipes: Remember These?. I cherish both; they contain recipes that were (and are) family favorites. Even if you didn't personally know either woman, reading her cookbook would tell you a lot about her. When I look for inspiration, I need go no further.

One day, I'll write my own cookbook for the up and coming cooks in my own little family. It might never be published, and that's okay. I put a lot of myself into my cooking. All I'm looking to do is share the love. In the meantime, I'll do that by cooking yummy food for the people I care about.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Marinated Bean Salad

Simple to assemble, and easily keeps in your 'fridge for a week-- This salad has it all. Use it as a dip for chips, a zippy topping for your leafy greens, and more!

- 1 pound of cooked black beans
- 1 pound of cooked black eyed peas
- 1 jalapeño, diced
- 1 pound of cooked corn
- 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar

How To Make It
1) Combine sugar in a pot with oil and vinegar, and bring to a boil.
2) After dissolving the sugar, let the mixture cool. 
3) Put the beans, black eyed peas, celery, onion, jalapeño and corn in a container that has a good tight lid and pour the liquid over it. Give it all a stir and put in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
4) Before serving, drain off as much needed and keep the unused salad in the oil mixture.

Note: Oil may solidify or get cloudy in the refrigerator. If this happens, simply set the on your counter and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sangria O'Leib

Have you ever made sangria? It's a very versatile drink, and like most of the recipes I share here you'll find that it has layers of flavor and is simple to prepare. So, grab your prettiest pitcher, some summer spirit, and get stirring!

- 1 bottle red wine
- 1 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 cups of sliced, chopped, or chunked fruit (no peel or seeds): Take your pick-- Oranges, tangerines, strawberries, peaches, mango, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple, or watermelon.
- 2 TBSP sugar, white or brown
- 1 shot brandy, triple sec, gin, or rum
- 2 cups ginger ale or sparkling juice

How To Make It
1) Pour wine, orange juice, and lime juice into your pitcher.
2) Toss it the fruit.
3) Add the sugar and spirits and stir all together.
4) Chill overnight.
5) Add ginger ale or sparkling juice just before serving. Salud!

Panna Cotta With Raspberry Coulis

I've been meaning to make panna cotta for months now. "Panna cotta" literally translates to "cooked cream" in Italian. Doesn't that sound divine? Add a little sugar, vanilla, et cetera, and you have yourself a dessert. If you're a vegetarian, you might find yourself in a bit of a pinch, however, when you find that gelatin is also on the traditional ingredient list. But, have no fear: Agar agar is here!

Agar agar is a 100% vegetarian gelatin made of seaweed. It's odorless, tasteless, and perfect for thickening desserts without using animal bones. I use the product at this link, and more information about using agar agar in cooking can be found here.

For the panna cotta you'll need...
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP agar agar flakes
- 2 tsp vanilla

For the raspberry coulis you'll need...
- 6 ounces raspberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 TBSP water

How To Cook It
The panna cotta...
1) Combine the panna cotta ingredients in a pot on your stove over low heat.
2) Stir frequently and bring to a simmer.
3) Cook on low (do not allow the liquid to boil!) as the agar agar dissolves and remove from heat.
4) Rinse four small bowls under cold water. Don't dry if you're planning on unmolding your dessert later.
5) Spoon your panna cotta into the bowls. They'll each need to hold about a half cup serving.
6) Allow to cool and set in the refrigerator for three or more hours, and serve.

The raspberry coulis...
1) Rinse the berries, and drain well.
2) Put in a pot with the water and sugar. Stir to combine.
3) Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
4) Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender.
5) Allow your coulis to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to drizzle over your panna cotta.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Chilly Grapes

Don't you just love frozen treats during the hot days  of summer? They can make you feel cool and refreshed on the stickiest of afternoons. Ice cream, popsicles, gelato, frozen yogurt, mmmmmm.... Who needs dinner?

If I could, I'd eat large quantities of ice cream every day. But when I'm of a mind to eat well and nourish my body, I reach for my stash of frozen grapes.

If you haven't already discovered this tip on your own, I urge you to try it for yourself. Grapes contain a lot of water. When frozen, their insides turn into a delicious juice sorbet. And, little round containers of fruity sorbet I can eat without a spoon? Right up my alley!

How To Freeze 'Em
1) Wash grapes and pat dry.
2) Lay out in a single layer on a freezer safe baking sheet or casserole dish.
3) Allow to freeze overnight and store in a container of your choice.