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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

11/11/2017

~ My Mom's Old-Fashioned Home-Canned Peach Pie~

IMG_0405The Summer peach season is long over, but, in my kitchen, that is not a reason to not bake a peach pie.  Yes, you can use canned peaches to make a peach pie, and, if the peaches are home-canned with love, the pie is just as good, if not better, than a pie made with fresh peaches. I'm not joking.  Women have been doing it for generations.  They water-bath-canned large quantities of fruits and vegetables so the family could enjoy them during the cold weather months.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09671996970dMy mother's pantry was never without home-canned peaches.  My grandmother had a green thumb, and, in her smallish, in-town back yard, for as many years as she lived there, her peach tree gifted us with some the best peaches I have ever tasted -- I'm not just saying that because she was my grandmother. The peaches were exquisite, and, she did a stunning job of canning them.  They were pretty as a picture and tasted even better -- "to the tooth" (not at all mushy) and pleasantly, not cloyingly, sweet.

I do not know if it was my grandmother, mother, or someone else of their time who came up with our family's canned peach pie recipe.  What I do know is there isn't much to it.  After all, the hard work was done up front in the canning.

Every slice is plump w/peaches, nicely-spiced, & ...

IMG_0384... a canned-peach pie is one of the easiest pies to make too.

IMG_03052   9" pie pastries for a double-crust pie, preferably homemade pie pastry (pâte brisée)

7  cups sliced or chunked, very-well-drained canned peaches (Note:  If using store-bought peaches, drain 3, 29-ounce cans packed in light syrup.  Once I drain the liquid, I put the peaches on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few minutes, to remove as much excess liquid as possible.)

2  teaspoons lemon juice

2  teaspoons pure peach extract (optional)

1/2  cup granulated sugar

5  tablespoons minute tapioca

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon salted butter, softened

1  large egg white, ideally at room temperature

additional granulated sugar, for sprinkling on top of pie prior to baking

IMG_0307 IMG_0307 IMG_0307 IMG_0307~Step 1.  Roll and fit one 9" pie pastry in the bottom of a 9" pie dish.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim it to hang slightly over the perimeter (about 1/8").  Set aside.  Thoroughly drain the peaches, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  In a medium-bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the lemon juice and peach extract too.  Using a rubber spatula, gently toss to thoroughly combine the peaches with the tapioca/sugar/spice mixture.

IMG_0326 IMG_0326 IMG_0326~Step 2.  Spoon the peach pie filling into the pie pastry, mounding it slightly towards the center. Dot the top of the pie filling with the softened butter.  Place the second pie pastry over the top, and, using the kitchen shears, trim it around the perimeter to match the overhang of the bottom pastry (about 1/8").  Using your fingertips, seal the two crusts together and form a decorative edge all the way around perimeter.

IMG_0335 IMG_0335 IMG_0335 IMG_0335~Step 3.  Using a fork, whisk egg white until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, paint the smooth surface of top crust (not the decorative edge) with egg white, then, using your fingertips, sprinkle a light coating of sugar over the glossy top.  Using the sharp tip of a knife, poke a few small holes in the top pastry (to allow steam to escape as pie bakes).  Bake on center rack of 350° oven until golden brown and bubbly, 50-55 minutes, stopping to give the pie a quarter turn every 15 minutes, to insure even browning.  Place on wire rack to cool completely, about 3-4 hours, prior to slicing.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 50-55 minutes:

IMG_0359Place on a wire rack to cool completely, 3-4 hours:

IMG_0355Slice & serve ever-so-lightly warm or at room temperature:

IMG_0379And enjoy a peachy-keen taste of Summer all year round:

IMG_0408My Mom's Old-Fashioned Home-Canned Peach Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" double-crust pie/8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; rolling pin; 9" pie dish, preferably glass; kitchen shears; cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; fork; pastry brush; sharp paring knife; wire cooling rack

IMG_4817Cook's Note:  Back in the 1990's, I was given this recipe, ~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~, from a tailgating girlfriend.  Alice hailed from Atlanta. She made no secret of the fact that she detested the sport of cooking -- which complicates things for a woman in a tailgate group like ours. That said, she participated and prepared something good each week, and, this recipe is even easier than making a canned-peach pie!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017

11/09/2017

~ Caribbean-Style Sweet Potato & Black Bean Stew ~

IMG_0295A steaming hot and hearty stew on a cold day.  Almost nothing is more comforting than it, except perhaps, enjoying it in front of a roaring fire listening to the wind howl and watching the snow flakes fall.  As a lover of sweet potatoes, I am always on the lookout for a scrumptious new way to prepare them, so, quite a few years ago, when I came across this recipe in January (amongst the pages of a in-flight-magazine on my way to a land of sunshine, palm trees and sandy beaches), I was intent on having it -- I'm the one who tore that page out of your magazine, and I'm not sorry.

IMG_0287It was a joy to add it to my recipe box along with another of my favorite cold-weather stew-type dishes, Winner-Winner Crockpot Dinner: Sweet Potato & Ground Beef Chili, and side-dishes like Maple-Smashed Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Casserole, Sweet Potato & Apple Stuffing for Poultry or Pork, and, Spicy, Crispy Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, plus, two of my signature desserts: a Seriously-Simple Sweet Potato & Apple Cobbler, and a Sophisticated Sweet Potato & Frangelico Tart.  I do adore sweet potatoes.

IMG_5635Sweet potatoes were introduced to North America when Columbus brought them from the island of St. Thomas, where this large, edible root (belonging to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet, and after cooking, it's dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato.  The darker variety (pictured here in my photograph) has a thicker, dark orange skin and vivid-orange colored center flesh.  When cooked, it has a very sweet flavor and a very tender, creamy texture. Note:  The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in all my recipes.

When buying sweet potatoes, choose firm ones without cracks or bruises.  Because I'm often planning to bake them, I pick even-sized ones so they will all cook in the same amount of time.  While they shouldn't be stored in the refrigerator, they do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.  If the temperature goes above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shrivel.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator last for about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are always eaten cooked, and, you can cook them by all the same methods you cook a potato:  bake, boil, fry, grill, roast, microwave or deep-fry.

IMG_02382  tablespoons aceite de achiote, achiote-flavored vegetable oil (vegetable oil with annatto)

1/4  teaspoon ground allspice

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1/2-3/4  teaspoons red pepper flakes

7-8  cups peeled and 3/4" diced sweet potatoes (1 3/4-2-pounds diced sweet potatoes from 2-2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes)

1 3/4-2  cups medium-diced sweet onion (8 ounces)

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  cup vegetable stock (8 ounces)

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk

1/4  cup jerk-flavored barbecue sauce, your favorite brand

2  15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained 

1  recipe for my aromatically-spiced yellow Caribbean coconut rice (Be sure to read Cook's Note below.)

fresh, chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_0242 IMG_0242 IMG_0242 IMG_0242 IMG_0257 IMG_0257~Step 1.  Place achiote oil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot over low heat.  Stir in all of the spices (ground allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic powder, sea salt and red pepper flakes), to season the oil.  Add the diced sweet potatoes and onion.  Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and cook, stirring frequently (almost constantly), until the sweet potatoes are softening and the onion is soft, 7-8 minutes.  Add and stir in the diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, coconut milk and jerk barbecue sauce.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and allow to cook, uncovered, until sweet potatoes are fully-cooked, 12-15 minutes.

IMG_0251 IMG_0251 IMG_0251 IMG_0270 IMG_0272~Step 2.  While the stew is simmering, rinse and drain the black beans.  Remove and place 3/4-1 cup of the beans on a plate.  Using a vegetable masher, mash that 3/4-1-cup portion of the beans.  Add all of the beans, whole and mashed, to the pot.  Stir well, reduce heat to simmer, slowly, for 3 minutes.  Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and, allow stew to steep for 1-1 1/2 hours.  This will allow time for the flavors to marry and the broth to thicken (the whole and mashed beans are going to absorb some of the liquid, transforming it from soupy to stew-like).

Thick & chunky, rich & nicely-spiced, steaming hot & hearty:

IMG_0293Add a scoop of rice to your bowl, ladle in some stew, &, dig in:

IMG_0297Caribbean-Style Sweet Potato Stew & Black Bean Stew:  Recipe yields 2 quarts, and, 8 very hearty servings when served over rice.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; large spoon; colander; vegetable masher

IMG_5162Cook's Note:  This rice is so good, I'm at a loss for words (imagine that) to adequately describe it.  It gets its pretty yellow color from aceite de achiote (achiote-flavored vegetable oil) and bijol seasoning.  Click here to get my recipe for ~ Aromatically-Spiced Yellow Caribbean Coconut Rice ~. Tip from Mel:  Because the stew cooks so quickly in the stockpot, I like to prep the ingredients for the rice before cooking the stew, then cook the rice during the hour the stew is steeping.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

11/06/2017

~ Caribbean-Style Pork Chops and Onions w/Sauce ~

IMG_0183Porcine arrived in the Caribbean (on the island of Cuba to be more specific) when Columbus landed in 1492.  It's been a favorite meat ever since, and, if you've ever spent time on a Caribbean island, you know there are pork dishes galore to choose from on restaurant menus, and, to eat on the beaches.  Ever heard of "Pig Beach", also known as "Pig Island", officially known as "Big Major Cay"?  Located in Exuma, an Island in the Bahamas, a colony of feral pigs roam around, swim freely, and, are fed by the locals and tourists.  One tale claims the pigs were dropped off by a group of sailors with failed plans to return.  Another story says the pigs swam to shore after a shipwreck, surviving on the the excess food that washed to shore.

IMG_0185Does pork taste better on a Caribbean island?  Yes.

IMG_0235Pork does taste better on a Caribbean island.  At first, I thought it was my imagination -- I told myself everything tastes better on an Island beach after three drinks.  Next, I assumed it had to do with their unique rubs, marinades and seasonings, which are full of garlic, herbs, spices and citrus, resulting in the super-moist, tender texture.  Then I learned that in the Caribbean, pigs are fed "palmiche", the fruit of the palm tree, which is an exceptional food for pigs, and, it indeed makes the meat more flavorful.  The majestic and stately "royal palm", which bears fruit all year long, is native to Cuba and is also their national tree.  Peasants, known as pollards, climb to the tree tops to cut off the fruit (palm nuts), which grow in big clusters.  The tenderer shoots and hearts-of-palm are used in soups, salads and all sorts of other yummy dishes as well.

IMG_4783I am not claiming to be an authority on Caribbean cooking, nor am I claiming this to be authentic -- I never ate a pork chop on any island because I was too busy feasting on their many other pork dishes, grilled shrimp and jerk chicken.  That said, I know enough about the flavor profile of their mojo-marinated pulled pork shoulder, and, I have enough of "the right stuff" on hand to be able to put together a recipe for a fine Caribbean pork chop (the way I imagine one to be -- worthy of a table in the sun under the shade of a palm tree).  The reason I decided to come up with a chop recipe today is:  it's just Joe and I for dinner -- an entire pork shoulder is simply too much food and too many leftovers for just us two.

IMG_01238  center-cut, 3/4"-thick, bone-in pork-loin-chops (Note:  The thickness of the pork chops is important.  Thinner = less cooking time.  Thicker = more cooking time.)

1/2  cup orange juice

1/4  cup lime juice

1/4  cup dry, high-quality sherry

6  garlic cloves, run through a press

1 teaspoon Cuban seasoning blend (a blend of dehydrated onion, garlic, bell pepper, oregano and cumin)

1/2  teaspoon bijol seasoning

1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper 

6  tablespoons aceite de achiote, achiote-flavored vegetable oil (vegetable oil with annatto)

1  very large sweet onion, cut into 1/4"-thick rings (12-16 ounces total onion rings)

1  recipe for my aromatically-spiced yellow Caribbean coconut rice (See Cook's Note below.)

cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_0129 IMG_0133 IMG_0137 IMG_0137 IMG_0148~Step 1.  Place the pork chops in a heavy-duty, 2-gallon-size food storage bag, then place the bag in a 13" x 9" x 2" non-reactive (not-metal) baking dish.  In a 1-2-cup measuring container, place the orange juice, lime juice and sherry. Press the garlic into the citrus juice. Stir in the Cuban seasoning, bijol seasoning, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Add the marinade to the bag in the baking dish.  Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours, "flip-flopping" the bag, whenever convenient.  Remove pork chops from refrigerator and return to room temperature, about 1 hour prior to cooking them as follows:

IMG_0151 IMG_0151 IMG_0151 IMG_0162~Step 2.  Heat oven to "warm".  Place enough achiote oil in a 16" electric skillet to thinly-coat bottom of skillet.  Heat skillet to 225º-250º.  Transfer each pork chop to the skillet, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag as you work.  Reserve marinade.  Sauté pork chops until light golden on both sides and cooked through, 7-8 minutes per side, turning only once. Transfer chops to a casserole or arrange on an oven-safe serving platter, and, place in oven.

IMG_0167 IMG_0167 IMG_0167Step 3. Add the onions to the skillet and give them a light sprinkle of additional salt and pepper.  Sauté onions until light golden, but not limp, 5-6 minutes.  Remove the onions from the skillet and arrange them on top of chops. Place the baking dish (or oven-safe platter) on center rack of preheated oven to keep warm.  

IMG_0176 IMG_0176~ Step 4.  Add the reserved marinade to the skillet. Adjust heat to a steady simmer, and stir constantly, until a slightly-thickened sauce forms, about 1-2 minutes.  Remove onion-topped chops from oven, drizzle the sauce over all and serve ASAP. 

Serve drizzled w/sauce accompanied by Caribbean Rice...

IMG_0204

... preferably, at a table, under the shade of a palm tree.

IMG_0107Caribbean-Style Pork Chops and Onions w/Sauce:  Served with rice, recipe yields 8 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  1, heavy-duty, 2-gallon size food storage bag; 13" x 9" x 2" non-reactive (not-metal) baking dish; 1-2-cup measuring container; garlic press; spoon; 2-cup measuring container; plastic wrap; 16" electric skillet

IMG_5162Cook's Note:  This rice is so good, I'm at a loss for words (imagine that) to adequately describe it.  It gets its pretty yellow color from aceite de achiote (achiote-flavored vegetable oil) and bijol seasoning -- two of the ingredients used in my pork chop recipe too.  Click here to get my recipe for ~ Aromatically-Spiced Yellow Caribbean Coconut Rice ~. Tip from Mel:  Because the pork chops cook so quickly in the skillet, be sure to prepare the rice while the pork chops are marinating.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

11/03/2017

~Aromatically-Spiced Yellow Caribbean Coconut Rice~

IMG_0093Rice is nice.  I like rice -- a lot.  Next to the earthy potato, it's one of nature's greatest gifts to my side-dish world, not-to-mention a staple food for a large part of the world's population.  Extra-long-grain white-, basmati-, jasmine-, wild-, arborio-, and, Thai-sweet-sticky- rices are staples in my pantry.  You'll also find a stash of Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice, Rice-a-Roni, and, Goya Spanish-Style Yellow Rice (all boxed-mixes complete with seasoning packets) in there too.  

IMG_5098Rice has always been a part of my life, but, growing up, my mom and grandmother didn't get too creative with it -- it was always stovetop-cooked, long-grain white, served plain, or, with brown butter and sautéd onions stirred into it.  

It was the outside world (a result of all the traveling that Joe and I have done), that contributed all the creative and exotic rice recipes to my recipe box.  That said, it was my mom who taught me how to cook  PICT3936perfect white rice on the stovetop. Mom even bought me a 4-quart stockpot with a glass lid (just like hers), which allows me to keep an eye on the cooking process (which is "half the battle" when it comes to simmering perfect rice every time).  

Fast forward to the mid-1990's, which is when I got exposed to now one of my favorite countertop appliances:  the electric rice steamer.  A Korean girlfriend, Oki Lee, brought one full of perfectly steamed rice to a tennis club fundraiser -- it changed my life.  It's indispensable to me, and, for the most part, I have transitioned all of my rice recipes from stovetop to 6a0120a8551282970b0176168db7d9970csteamer.  To make rice in an electric steamer:  using the cup/measure from steamer, place rinsed rice in steamer.  Add an equal amount of water, a 1-to-1 ratio of rice-to-water. Briefly stir, close lid and turn steamer on.  Do not uncover during steaming process.  In 18-20 minutes, perfectly cooked rice -- and, the steamer will keep it warm for several hours.  It can be used to steam other vegetables too.  Click here to learn how I steam broccoli and cauliflower in a rice steamer.

Coconut milk and aromatic spices give this rice its exotic flavor. Yellow coloring comes from achiote oil and bijol seasoning.  

IMG_5162It's an unbelievably delicious sweet & savory side-dish to all sorts of Caribbean-style pork, poultry, fish or seafood dishes.

IMG_51211  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk + enough water to total 2 1/4 cups liquid

2  cups basmati or extra-long-grain white rice

3-4  tablespoons aceite de achiote, achiote-flavored vegetable oil (vegetable oil with annatto)

1  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2  teaspoon bijol seasoning

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

1/4  teaspoon ground allspice 

2  cups finely-diced sweet onion

1  cup finely-diced red bell pepper

1  cup raisins

4-6  tablespoons minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_5136 IMG_5136 IMG_5136 IMG_5136~Step 1.  Place the rice and the coconut milk/water mixture in rice cooker and give it a stir.  Close the lid, plug steamer in and turn it on.  While rice is steaming, prepare vegetable/raisin sauté as directed below.  When rice is finished steaming, rake through it with a fork, to fluff it up.

IMG_5125 IMG_5125 IMG_5125 IMG_5125~Step 2.  In a 10" skillet, place enough oil to coat bottom, 3-4 tablespoons.  Add and stir salt, pepper, bijol seasoning, cinnamon, cumin and allspice into oil.  Heat over medium heat, then add onion, bell pepper and raisins.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to sauté, until onion and pepper are softened, but still crunch tender, and, raisins are soft and plump, 5-6 minutes.  Turn heat off.

IMG_5149 IMG_5149~ Step 3.  Transfer steamed rice to vegetable mixture in skillet.  Using a large spoon, combine thoroughly.  Serve this delightfully sweet and savory rice with, or use as a bed for, grilled or roasted Caribbean-style poultry, pork or seafood. 

Stir steamed coconut-rice into vegetable/raisin mixture:

IMG_5156Coming up next: Caribbean-Style Pork Chops & Onions:

IMG_0090Aromatically-Spiced Yellow Caribbean Coconut Rice:  Recipe yields 8 cups rice/8-16 side-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; electric rice steamer

6a0120a8551282970b017eeac6e1a6970dCook's Note:  Sometimes we cooks take the simplest of things for granted.  We intuitively know what spices, herbs, vegetables and/or fruits to add to a pot of fluffy white rice to turn it into a spectacular side-dish.  We use this inexpensive grain as a foil to stretch a meal that feeds 4 into a meal that feeds 6-8.  From region to region, even here in the U.S.A. there are different ways to cook white rice.  One of my favorites, from New Orleans is: Commander's Kitchen's Recipe for: "Boiling" White Rice.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Photos and Commentary courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/31/2017

~ Egg Noodles w/Sautéed Mushroom & Onion Sauce ~

IMG_5078A quick-to-make sautéed mushroom and onion sauce, tossed into some buttered egg noodles was a childhood favorite of mine.  Oddly, I was a child who liked mushrooms -- a lot.  "Noodles & 'shrooms", that's what we called it.  If there's an official name for it, I don't know it.  Sometimes it showed up on our dinner table tossed together in a bowl, as a simple side-dish to a roasted chicken.  Other times it was layered on a platter, as an elegant bed for "skinny" pan-fried pork chops.  Sometimes my mom sautéed the sauce in bacon fat, other times she used butter -- which I liked better.  That said, as a lover of the earthy flavor of sautéed mushrooms, I'm happy to eat this as a meatless meal with a crisp salad, a slice of crusty bread and a glass of wine anytime.

When "nothing fancy" turns out to be heaven on a plate --

IMG_5080Full of buttery, rich unctuous flavor and texture.

For the most part, sautéing is the best way to cook any type of mushrooms.  It enhances their flavor tremendously, it's easy, and, it's relatively quick too, but, rushing the process is something I don't recommend.  Mushrooms are done, when they're done.  Sautéing mushrooms with sweet onions, which get sweeter and sweeter as they cook, is an added treat.  These are two vegetables that play in perfect harmony together.  Add a splash of beef, chicken, vegetable stock or white wine, a bit of subtle spice and a fresh or dried herb -- they're simply irresistible. 

IMG_5038While this humble and rustic Eastern European peasant dish has a creamy, luxurious mouthfeel, it contains no cream or sour cream, so, don't confuse it with Germanic stroganoff-type preparations.  It contains no tomato products or grated cheeses either, so, don't confuse it with Italian mushroom-laced pasta sauces.  Traditionally, this sauce gets served with, tossed into, or, ladled atop homemade egg noodles, but, in a pinch, high-quality, store-bought egg noodles or egg-based pasta work fine -- the mushroom and onion sauce is the star of this show anyway.

IMG_50052  pounds baby/petite button mushroom caps, cleaned*, stems cut off at the base of the cap (stems can be reserved for use in vegetable stock), caps cut into 1/4"-thick slices (Note:  Purchase 2 1/2 pounds mushrooms in order to yield 2 pounds of caps.)

1 1/2  pounds 1/4"-sliced sweet onion, slices cut in half to form half-moon-shaped pieces

8  ounces salted butter (2 sticks)

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon sea salt, more or less, to taste

1/2-3/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper, to taste

1  cup white wine, your favorite, the choice is yours

fresh parsley, for garnish

IMG_4996 IMG_4999*Note: Never rinse or soak any type of mushrooms in water to clean them because: they will absorb moisture like a sponge, rendering them mushy when cooked.  If they are dirty, simply brush them (using a soft brush designed specifically for cleaning mushrooms), or, wipe them with a dampened towel or paper towel.  In the case of these baby/petite button mushrooms, they required almost no cleaning.

IMG_5001 IMG_5002 IMG_5007 IMG_5007 IMG_5007 IMG_5015 IMG_5015 IMG_5015 IMG_0080~Step 1.  Slice  mushrooms and onions as directed.  Separately, set both aside.  In 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper, to evenly season butter.  Add the onions.  Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent and beginning to show signs of caramelization, 12-15 minutes.  Add mushrooms to skillet and continue to sauté, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have lost most of their moisture, about half of their volume, almost no liquid remains in pan, and, some of the mushrooms are turning a light golden brown, 35-40 minutes.

Note:  It is not about how much time this process takes.  It is about what this mixture looks like.

IMG_5027 IMG_5027 IMG_5038~ Step 2.  Add the wine. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until a smooth, slightly-thickened white wine sauce has formed evenly on the bottom of the pan, 15-20 minutes. Remove sauce from heat, cover the skillet, and, set aside to steep, about 15-30 minutes.

IMG_5039 IMG_5039 IMG_5039 IMG_5039~Step 3.  The timing for cooking egg noodles is dependent upon whether you make them from scratch or purchase them.  Here are my guidelines for some high-quality store-bought ones:  In a 4-6-quart stockpot, cook 12-16-ounces store-bought egg noodles in 3-4 quarts boiling water that's been seasoned with 1-1/2 - 2 teaspoons sea salt, according to package directions.  Drain noodles into a colander and immediately return to the hot stockpot and return pot to the still warm stovetop.  Toss with 4-6 tablespoons salted butter and 3/4-1 teaspoon sea salt.  Toss 2 cups mushroom and onion sauce into 12-16 ounces cooked noodles.  Serve immediately.

When Eastern European 'shrooms & noodles were served:

IMG_5074There was no need for mom to call me to the table twice.

IMG_5085Egg Noodles w/Sautéed Mushroom & Onion Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 quart/4 cups mushroom and onion sauce, which is enough to sauce 2, 12-16 ounce bags of store-bought egg noodles.  Each 2 cups of sauce tossed with 1 bag cooked noodles batch will yield 4-6 meatless main-dish servings, or, 12-16 side-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet w/lid; large spoon; 4-6-quart stockpot; colander

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c800008a970bCook's Note:  Next to sautéed mushrooms, which I use in all sorts of dishes from all over the world, mushroom caps that are stuffed with all sorts of savory concoctions and baked in the oven are one of my favorite hors d'oeuvres to serve (especially around the holidays).  My recipe for ~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin ~, which is one of many stuffed mushroom recipes in my repertoire, is one that I've shared often over the the years.  Mushroom love.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/28/2017

~Crostini w/Bacon, Pickles, Chicken & Honey Mustard~

IMG_4970Write this list of five ingredients down.  Why?  Because together, they make for some stellar snack sandwiches.  Lightly-toasted French baguette slices, crisply-fried bacon, crunchy bread and butter pickles, roasted chicken breast, and, a drizzle of tangy honey-mustard salad dressing (which pulls it all together and complements each and every component perfectly).  Feel free to put a thin slice or two of soft, mellow French Brie underneath the bacon, but, no ooey-gooey melted cheese please.  These sandwiches are best with everything at room temperature.  That said, "you only get out of something what you put into", so, for the best experience possible:

This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c92e1f14970bQuick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles:

IMG_4659Hey-Honey: Pass the Honey Mustard Dressing:

IMG_3506Would You Like Amish Pasta Salad w/That?

IMG_4990Sweet & Savory Crostini & Pasta Salad.  It's what's for lunch:

IMG_4973Crostini w/Bacon, Pickles, Chicken & Honey Mustard:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many 3"-3 1/2" snack sandwiches as one wants or needs.  That said, because they're hearty, plan accordingly:  2 for me, possibly 3 for a hungrier person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; teaspoon

IMG_3586Cook's Note:  It's no secret that I love sandwiches, or that I put a lot of thought into what it put into my sandwiches.  For another one of my favorite sandwiches, which contains a few of the same ingredients as my crostini (bacon, chicken and honey-mustard dressing), plus a few classic Fall ingredients (apples, cheddar cheese, lettuce and a bit of onion too), try my recipe for Chicken Cheddar, Bacon & Apple Pita Sandwiches.  Yummy!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/26/2017

~ Amish Honey-Mustard & Pickle-Relish Pasta Salad ~

IMG_4977Walk into any Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch grocery store or a market that caters to a region with a large Amish population, then, walk up to the refrigerated deli-case.  There you'll find several traditional, high-quality side-dishes:  eggy-rich macaroni- and potato- salads, creamy cole slaw, sweet 'n sour slaw and pepper-cabbage.  Next, take a stroll down the condiment isle and gaze at the array of honey-mustard- and sweet and sour- salad dressings, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, vinegar-marinated vegetables or mustardy chow-chows (a crunchy vegetable medley in mustard sauce).  Lastly, check out the sweet treats:  streusel-topped Dutch-apple, rhubarb-streusel and shoo-fly pies, crumb cake and coffeecake, apple dumplings, and, sand-tart or snickerdoodle cookies (to name a few).  Eat your sweet and savory heart out.

Med_1145608712-6If you "shop Amish", you know what to expect.  If you're a tourist, be prepared to break your budget, but not because the food is over-priced -- it's not.  You are simply not going to be able to resist wanting to take a taste of everything home with you.  Lucky me.  Not only did I grow up in the Lehigh Valley region Eastern Pennsylvania where a lot this wonderfulness takes place, I married into a family where Nana (grandmother) was Pennsylvania Deutsch.  She, like all women of her persuasion, was an incredible cook.  I was in my late teens and early twenties at the time, but even back then, I was a smart enough cookie to "take advantage" of time spent with her in her kitchen, and enjoyed learning many of her recipes.  I've done very little to make them my own.

Amish macaroni salad recipes are all on the sweet side.

IMG_4981There are plenty of recipes for Amish macaroni salad in cookbooks and on-line.  They're all good, they're all a bit different, but, they're all similar on one point:  Amish macaroni salad is on the sweet side. Nana's recipe contains all the traditional ingredients (macaroni, celery, onion and bell pepper).  That said, she didn't add diced, crunch-tender blanched carrots  (as most traditional recipes do).  She used pimentos instead.  I can only assume for their sweet, tangy flavor and pretty red color.  There's more. Nana's secret was to add honey-mustard salad dressing into the mix, and, it adds absolutely delightful flavor.  This macaroni salad is so delightful, I'm always asked:

"This macaroni salad is special." "What's your secret?"

IMG_49181  pound medium pasta shells

1  tablespoon sea salt, for adding to boiling water for pasta

6  large eggs, hard-cooked 

1  3-ounce jar chopped pimientos

1  cup each:  medium-diced green bell pepper, celery and onion

1/2 cup well-drained and diced bread and butter pickles, preferably homemade, or, high-quality store-bought 

1 1/2  cups mayonnaise

1/2  cup sour cream

1/2  cup honey-mustard salad dressing (not honey-mustard)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seed, garlic powder, paprika, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_4921 IMG_4925 IMG_4911 IMG_4913 IMG_4915 IMG_4929~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the 1 tablespoon salt.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Do not overcook.  Drain pasta into a colander and begin adding very cold tap water to cool it to room- or below-room temperature.  Give the colander a few good shakes, to remove excess moisture, then, spread pasta out on a baking pan that has been lined with a few layers of paper towels.  Set aside to "dry", meaning, not dry out, just dry of all moisture.  In a 2-quart saucepan, hard-cook the eggs -- no green rings please.  Drain the pimentos onto a small paper-towel-lined plate too.

*Note:  When chopping eggs for salads like egg, tuna- or pasta-, both of my grandmothers taught me to chop the yolk separately from the white.  It's not necessary, but it does look prettier.  

IMG_4934 IMG_4937 IMG_4938 IMG_4943~Step 2.  Transfer pasta to a large bowl.  Dice eggs, celery, bell pepper, onion and pickles*, placing them in the bowl as you work.  In a medium bowl, stir together the mayo, sour cream, honey-mustard dressing, celery seed, garlic powder, paprika, sugar, salt and black pepper.

*Note:  Because almost all Amish and Pennsylvania Deutsch women make homemade bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles, there's no need to purchase sweet pickle relish.  Finely-diced bread and butter pickles are the best sweet pickle relish you will ever taste.

IMG_4947 IMG_4952 IMG_4955 IMG_4960~Step 3.  Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the pasta mixture.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours to overnight.  Overnight is best.  Keep stored in refrigerator for 7-10 days, adding additional honey-mustard salad dressing, in small amounts, if necessary, to enhance its sweet and savory flavor and creamy texture.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Portion into 1-quart containers & store in refrigerator: 

IMG_4964Would you like a crostini w/bacon, bread & butter pickles, roasted chicken breast & honey-mustard w/your Amish pasta salad?

IMG_4973Amish Honey-Mustard & Pickle-Reslish Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields approximately 4 1/2 pounds/3 quarts/12 cups.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; colander; large baking pan; paper towels; 2-quart saucepan; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bCook's Note:  Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why? Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion.  Pennsylvania:  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/23/2017

~ The Ideal Cubano: La Ideal's Cubano Sandwich ~

IMG_4884Almost all famous sandwiches got their iconic status thanks to the working class people -- Cuba's Cubano is one such sandwich.  In the early 20th Century, vendors who were stationed inside the workplaces, sold hot meat and cheese sandwiches to the workers.  When these workers made their way to the USA, usually to regions in Southern Florida, they, like all immigrants, brought their recipes and traditions with them -- that included their institutional but beloved Cuban sandwich.

Pan-cubanoA bit about the Cubano:  Like all sandwiches, it starts with the bread. Cuban bread is light and crusty -- alot like a French bread loaf.  Cuban bakeries baked through the early AM hours and delivered the bread to customers by hanging it on a nail outside their door.  Because Cuban bread had a short shelf life, Cuban sandwiches were typically made within a few hours of receiving it.

The Cuban bread gets sliced down the middle hoagie- or submarine-style, then slathered with yellow mustard.  Thinly-sliced deli-style dill pickles, Swiss cheese and ham get layered on, followed by shards of mojo-marinated Cuban-style pulled pork roast.  Traditionally, mustard is the only condiment added (although after-the-fact, it's not unusual for some folks to add mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato).  While a Cubano can be served cold, it's almost always heated in a sandwich press (a panini grill) until the cheese is melted and the bread is grilled to golden.

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided appliance that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter. 

Much like the Philadelphia cheesesteak, Cubano enthusiasts say the most authentic version is found in the Tampa, Florida region, where the Americanized version of the sandwich is said to have originated.  Today I'm featuring the Cuban Sandwich recipe from my favorite Cuban cookbook:  Eating Cuban, written by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs, copyright 2006, and, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.  As the cover says, "120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores".  As I say, "120 Authentic, Spot-On Cuban Recipes that Work in the American Home Kitchen".  The photography is super-gorgeous as well.

While Eating Cuban is my favorite Cuban cookbook --

IMG_4812Thanks to great recipes in all seven of the cookbooks I purchased in Florida, I've been able to bring the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen. Because my experiences with Cuban cuisine are limited to trips to Miami, without them, how would I learn that "mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it's a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.

La Ideal's Cuban Sandwich.  As per Eating Cuban:

La_ideal2Located in what was once an old grocery store, La Ideal is a favorite neighborhood hangout for members of Tampa's Cuban-American community.  The scene is animated and relaxed.  Regulars chat from table to table, but the feeling is inclusive, with visitors made to feel like members of the family.  A dynamic force behind the atmosphere at La Ideal is Majito, Mario Aguila Jr. Majito's dad.  Mario Sr. moved his family to the United States from Cuba in 1966.  After ten years in New York City, the family settled in Tampa, Florida and opened La Ideal.  In 2005, Mario Sr. sold La Ideal to Luis and Juanita Tejada.  The ownership has changed, but Mojito has stayed on at the front of the house, and with Juanita in charge in the kitchen, the food is still great. Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos), toasted in a large sandwich press, are a specialty of their house.

IMG_4875For each sandwich (which can be assembled and wrapped in plastic wrap 1-2 hours prior to grilling, which is convenient if you're making them for a crowd):

1  4 1/2"-5" section of a loaf of very fresh French bread that has been trimmed of ends then cut into lengths that will accommodate panini press (Note: La Ideal's recipe uses an 8"-9" section of bread.  That said, in the home kitchen, I find a 4 1/2"-5" section to be more manageable.)

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  tablespoon mayonnaise

1  dill pickle, cut into 2 long, thin strips, or, 2-4 dill pickle chips

2  thin slices deli-style Swiss cheese

2  thin slices deli-style ham

1/2  cup pulled and diced or thinly-sliced mojo-marinated Cuban-style pork roast (3-4 ounces)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill grids on panini press

IMG_4847 IMG_4851 IMG_4852 IMG_4855 IMG_4860 IMG_4865~Step 1.  To assemble sandwiches, trim ends from bread, cut into desired sized sections, then split sections in half lengthwise.  Spread mustard on cut side of each bottom half and mayonnaise on each top half.  Layer pickle slices on top of mustard, then add 2 slices Swiss cheese, 2 slices ham, and finally, a generous pile of pulled pork.

IMG_4871 IMG_4878 IMG_4883~ Step 2.  Preheat the grill press to medium-high and when light goes on, spray grids with no-stick.  Place assembled sandwich on hot grill grids.  Place top of press directly on top of sandwich.  Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down on the sandwich for 45--60 seconds.  You are NOT trying to squish the sandwich to oblivion.  You ARE trying to put just enough pressure on it to steam and crisp the bread a bit.  Let go.  Continue to cook until crisp, golden and cheese is melted, 4-6 minutes.  Use a spatula to remove sandwich from grids and allow to rest 1-2 minutes prior to slicing and eating.

The only thing more beautiful than an assembled Cubano...

IMG_4870... is a grilled Cubano.  Patience -- let it rest a minute or two.

IMG_4879And every bite of a Cubano is an absolute delight: 

IMG_4907The Ideal Cubano:  La Ideal's Cubano Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to assemble and grill as many Cubano sandwiches as desired.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife; panini press; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bCook's Note:  Those of you who know me know I consider a high-quality, well-constructed sandwich to be the perfect, well-balanced, portion-controlled meal.  For me, a sandwich is much more than just putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread to stave off a hunger attack.  Like meal making, sandwich making requires thought, and, I consider myself to be a very thoughtful sandwich crafter.  For my own famous grilled-sandwich recipe, I invented this one just for me.  Try my recipe for ~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia Panini ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/20/2017

~ Citrusy, Garlicky & Herbaceous: Cuban-Style Mojo ~

IMG_4836My experiences with Cuban food, all good ones, are limited to a few trips to Miami. "Mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, throughout the Caribbean, depending on where you are in the Caribbean, this sauce, from place to place, is very different.  In Cuban cooking, it's a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and Seville (bitter/sour) orange juice.  Thanks to great recipes in the seven Cuban cookbooks I purchased in Florida, I've very-happily been able to bring the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen:

IMG_4812Mojo is a common marinade for Cuban-style pulled pork, pork roast, pork chops and other meats. Once you've finished marinating the meat, you simmer the marinade on the stovetop, then serve it with or atop the meat.   That said, not all recipes require marination.  Some simply require mojo.

IMG_4666To make 1 cup of Cuban mojo (which can be made ahead, stored in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave or  stovetop), to use in any Cuban recipe that requires mojo for dipping or drizzling:

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion + 2  tablespoons olive oil (not pictured in this photo)

6  tablespoons olive oil

6  tablespoons orange juice  

1/4  cup  lime juice

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro

IMG_48312  tablespoons minced, fresh mint

1  tablespoon minced, fresh oregano, no woody stems

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press 

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1/4  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon each:  fine sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

~ Step 1.  In a small bowl stir together the 6 tablespoons oil, citrus juices,  minced fresh herbs, pressed garlic and dried spices.

IMG_4731 IMG_4732 IMG_4739 IMG_4743~Step 2.  In 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until it's beginning to caramelize, 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly during the last 3-4 minutes to prevent scorching.  Add the olive oil/citrus juice mixture.  Adjust heat to a steady, rapid simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Serve atop Mojo-Marinated Cuban-Style Pulled Pork Shoulder:

IMG_4783Side-Dish -- Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice:

IMG_4823Citrusy, Garlicky & Herbaceous:  Cuban-Style Mojo:  Recipe yields about 1 cup.  Double, triple or quadruple the recipe without fail or compromise (just use an appropriate-sized saucepan).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; citrus juicer; garlic press; 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan; large spoon

IMG_7003Cook's Note:  The Carolinas hold a unique position in terms of Southern barbecue because theirs is believed to be the oldest form of American barbecue.  For a period of time I had family who lived in both North and South Carolina, so I became familiar with "their many styles" of pulled pork.  There's more.  No two cooks make their sauce the same and everybody is a critic.  ~ My Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ (Oven Method) ~ is:  my recipe, the way I like it.  It's been tailgate tested and tailgate accoladed too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

10/17/2017

~ Side-Dish: Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice ~

IMG_4820Roast requires a side-dish.  Beef, goat, lamb, poultry or pork -- it's kind of mandatory that a side or sides be served with it.  Think about it, even if you're just making sandwiches out of the roasted meat, you still want some sort of side-dish (a soup, a salad, a starch and/or a vegetable, or, something as simple as a some potato chips and a pickle).  If the roast is a dish you've been making for years, the accompaniments require little thought -- you know the options, your family's preferences, and, you choose from recipes you know.  That said, if the roast you're preparing is "foreign to you" or "new to you and yours", deciding on what to serve with it can be confounding.  I know, I had to get creative this week after I made some Cuban-style pulled pork. If I do say so myself, using what I already had on hand in my pantry, in conjunction with some of the ingredients from the pork, worked out terrific -- "my side" was in keeping with the country of origin too.

IMG_4828Pulled pork is popular in many parts of the Caribbean, and, when cooked in the traditional manner, just like throughout The Barbecue Belt here in the USA, they go:  whole hog, low and slow, over carefully-tended wood-fired heat sources for a long period of time.  That said, depending on where you are in the Caribbean, it is seasoned and/or sauced differently.   The first time I ordered Cuban-style pulled pork, which arrived in the form of their signature Cubano sandwich, I ordered it because I like pulled pork.  What I didn't know was how uniquely-different it would be from the Southern-style barbecue I was used to.  The difference between a Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich and a Cuban-style pulled pork sandwich is astounding -- the bold citrus and fresh herb flavors (in place of vinegar) were up my alley.  I knew I needed to figure out how to make it at home -- in a manner that didn't require an entire hog or building a barbecue pit.

IMG_4812My experiences with Cuban food are limited to a few trips to Miami. "Mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it's a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.  Thanks to great recipes in the seven Cuban cookbooks I purchased in Florida, I've been able to bring the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen.

IMG_4783Cuban-style pulled pork was the first Cuban recipe I tried.  I decided upon it, not just because I loved it in Miami, but because I already had a tried-and-true oven-method for making Carolina-style pulled pork. After several trips to a few Miami restaurants, I knew that a lot of Cuban food is served with yellow rice -- made yellow with the addition of annatto (an orange-red powder or food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree).  I also knew that a lot of Cuban food is also served with black beans as a side-dish.

I don't claim the following recipe to be authentic Cuban.  I claim it to be a quick and tasty way to transform Cuban pulled pork into a kid-friendly, family-style meal -- simply by using a store-bought Spanish rice mix and a can of black beans (both of which are always on hand in my American pantry).  I prepare the rice as the package directs, and, I simmer the black beans in some of the mojo from my Cuban-style pulled pork, which infuses the beans with the same flavor as the pork.

IMG_47581  8-ounce box Goya Spanish rice mix

1  15-ounce can black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed

3/4  cup mojo sauce, from pulled pork (See Cook's Note below.)

IMG_4816 (1)~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, prepare the rice as directed on box, remove from heat, cover and set aside. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and set aside.  Wash saucepan and return to stovetop.

IMG_4763 IMG_4767 IMG_4770 IMG_4771 IMG_4773 IMG_4779~Step 2.  In a small colander, under cold running water, rinse the black beans, then place them in saucepan.  Add mojo, adjust heat to simmer simmer and cook until almost no liquid remains in pan, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir beans into the rice, or, serve beans atop a bed of rice, or, serve separately and let everyone stir them together on their plate -- with Cuban-style pulled-pork, roast pork or pork chops.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves & lime wedges:

IMG_4823Side-Dish:  Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice:  Recipe yields 4 cups rice/1 1/2 cups beans/4-6 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-2-quart saucepan w/lid; 1- 2- cup measuring container; large spoon; small colander

IMG_4666Cook's Note:  Mojo is not just a marinade for Cuban-style pulled pork and other meats.  To make about 1 cup of mojo, to use in any Cuban recipe that requires mojo for dipping or drizzling:

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion + 2  tablespoons olive oil (not pictured in this photo)

6  tablespoons olive oil

6  tablespoons orange juice  

1/4  cup  lime juice

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro 

IMG_48312  tablespoons minced, fresh mint

1  tablespoon minced, fresh oregano, no woody stems

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press 

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1/4  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon each:  fine sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

~ Step 1.  In a small bowl stir together the 6 tablespoons oil, citrus juices, fresh-minced fresh herbs, pressed garlic and dried spices.

IMG_4731 IMG_4732 IMG_4739 IMG_4743~Step 2.  In 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until beginning to caramelize, 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly during the last 3-4 minutes to prevent scorching.  Add the olive oil/citrus juice mixture.  Adjust heat to a steady, rapid simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/15/2017

~ Mojo-Marinated Cuban-Style Pulled-Pork Shoulder ~

IMG_4783My experiences with Cuban food, all good ones, are limited to a few trips to Miami.  I know that "mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it specifically applies to a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.  I also must say that without more than a few well-written recipes in the seven Cuban cookbooks, that I purchased during my visits to Florida, I'd stand little chance of bringing the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen -- they've all contributed to my recipes:

IMG_4812Pulled pork is popular in many parts of the Caribbean, and, when cooked in the traditional manner, just like throughout The Barbecue Belt here in the USA, they go:  whole hog, low and slow, over carefully-tended wood-fired heat sources for a long period of time.  That said, depending on where you are in the Caribbean, it is seasoned and/or sauced differently.   The first time I ordered Cuban-style pulled pork, which arrived in the form of their signature Cubano sandwich, I ordered it because I like pulled pork.  What I didn't know was how uniquely-different it would be from the Southern-style barbecue I was used to.  The difference between a Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich and a Cuban-style pulled pork sandwich is astounding -- the bold citrus (in place of vinegar) and herb flavors were right up my alley. I knew I needed to figure out how to make it at home -- in a manner that didn't require an entire hog or building a barbecue pit.

Pork_101_final_b-fixedA bit about the pork:  "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog.  It got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butchers in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork shoulder, then packed the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies. Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, "the butt's from Boston", evolved into the cut's name "Boston butt".

IMG_4670For the meat and marinade:

1  7-8  pound bone-in Boston butt pork shoulder roast, untrimmed (do not remove fat cap)

3/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish

3/4  cup orange juice, preferably freshly-squeezed with the zest from 1 orange stirred in 

1/2  cup lime juice, preferably freshly-squeezed

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stem included is fine

1/4  cup minced, fresh mint leaves, leaves only

2  tablespoons minced, fresh oregano leaves, leaves only, no woody stems

8  large garlic cloves, run through a press 

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano leaves

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_4673 IMG_4680~ Step 1.  Prep ingredients as directed, placing in a 2-gallon Ziplock bag as you work.  Briefly toss marinade to combine, then, add pork to bag.  Seal and marinate in refrigerator overnight, stopping to flip bag over (to turn roast) as often as possible/whenever convenient.  Overnight is best.  Remove the bag from the refrigerator and return the roast and marinade to room temperature 1-2 hours.  Preheat oven to 320º-325°.

IMG_4683 IMG_4686 IMG_4690 IMG_4720 IMG_4715~Step 2.  Remove roast from bag and place it, fat-side-up, on a rack in a roasting pan.  Reseal bag and refrigerate remaining marinade until roast is out of the oven and resting.  Roast meat, uncovered on center rack of preheated oven, 7-8 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer placed several inches into the thickest part of the meat in 2-3 places reads 190°-195°.*  Remove from oven, seal pan with foil, and allow roast  cool enough to be manageable to pull with your fingertips (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Reminder from Mel:  Remove the marinade from the refrigerator during this rest period.  

*Note:  After the first 60-75 minutes of roasting, loosely place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the fat cap (after it is nicely-browned).  This will shield it from over-browning or burning.

IMG_4726 IMG_4729 IMG_4731 IMG_4732 IMG_4736 IMG_4743 IMG_4739~Step 3.  Remove and discard the foil and transfer the roast to a large carving board.  Pour the drippings from the bottom of roasting pan into a fat/lean separator.  Add the lean portion of the drippings, about 1/4 cup, to a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan.  Add 2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion to the saucepan, adjust heat on stovetop to medium- medium-high and cook until there is almost no liquid left in the bottom of the saucepan and onions are beginning to caramelize, 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly, to avoid scorching, during the last 3-4 minutes.  Add all of the marinade to the onions.  Adjust heat to a steady, rapid simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove mojo from heat.

IMG_4747~ Step 4.  Using your fingertips or a pair of meat claws designed to pull or shread meats (available on Amazon), do as follows:  Begin by pulling the roast into 5-6 large chunks and pieces that have naturally formed during the lengthy cooking process, meaning, if you tried to pick the entire roast up, it would almost naturally fall apart into 5-6 pieces.  Next, pull each chunk into large, succulent, strands, doing your best to keep them bite-sized (not small and stringy).  Some folks prefer to use a cleaver to chop the meat into pieces -- the choice is yours.  While working remove and discard any pieces of gristle, but, hang onto all the caramelized, crispy, full-flavored and fatty brown exterior bark.

Drizzle w/mojo sauce & serve w/mojo black beans & rice:

IMG_4801Side-Dish: Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice:

IMG_4804Mojo-Marinated Cuban-Style Pulled-Pork Shoulder:  Recipe yields 8+ cups pulled pork/8 servings/8 pulled-pork sandwiches/16 Cubano sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; citrus juicer; garlic press; 2-gallon Ziplock bag; roasting rack; roasting pan; instant-read meat thermometer; aluminum foil; carving board; fat/lean separator; 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan

IMG_7003Cook's Note: The Carolinas hold a unique position in terms of Southern barbecue because theirs is believed to be the oldest form of American barbecue.  For a period of time I had family who lived in both North and South Carolina, so I became familiar with "their many styles" of pulled pork.  There's more.  No two cook's make their sauce the same and everybody is a critic.  ~ My Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ (Oven Method) ~ is:  my recipe, the way I like it.  It's been tailgate tested and tailgate accoladed too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/12/2017

~ Homemade Bread and Butter Pickle Hot Dog Relish~

IMG_4694How 'bout them Yankees?  Even though my sandlot days of being the only girl (and a lefty batter) in a neighborhood of boys are a far and distant memory, I still chuckle that, when they were choosing sides way-back-when, I was always one of the first.  I couldn't throw or catch for crap, but it never seemed to matter.  I typically hit the ball head on, strong, and long, and, I ran fast.

I am typically not an avid watcher of America's favorite past-time (because college football is my gig this time each year), but, plenty of my family members are, and, it's pretty hard to ignore the chatter around the dinner table.  A lot of great baseball in general is being played this year.  While I'm by no means in a position to comment on any stats or any team, I can tell you: a hot dog with homemade B&B pickle relish atop it is a bona fide over-the-fence game-winning home run.    

So, in the event you're sitting on your grandmother's vintage bread and pickle recipe, and you want to make the pickles, but you wonder what you will do with all of them -- hot dog relish is the ticket to your tailgate.  It's not even a recipe.  Simply chop up those crunchy sweet and sour pickles, and, voila:  the best sweet pickle relish known to man- or woman-kind.  Take it from me, a gal who believes she was a hot dog in a past life.  Skip the store-bought stuff.  Hot diggity dog.

Full of mustard seed, onion & aromatic allspice & cloves:

IMG_4698Bread & butter pickles make the best quick-pickle relish ever:  

IMG_4709Homemade Bread and Butter Pickle Hot Dog Relish:  If it never occurred to you -- it's a yummy use for homemade or store-bought bread and butter pickles.  The Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs pictured in the above photos are served on potato rolls and topped with Texas-Style Chili Sauce, Gulden's brown mustard, diced-red onion & drained, diced bread & butter pickles.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_4654Cook's Note:  Quick-pickling in small batches, instead of traditional water-bath canning a great way to make short work of making bread and butter pickles.  You can have the brine made and the cucumbers sliced and in the jars in less than an hour.  Once refrigerated, they're ready to eat, and, they will stay crunchy in your refrigerator for 7-10 days.  Click here to get my recipe for ~ Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles.  Never miss the chance to enjoy a great hot dog. ~ Melanie Preschutti.

"We are all in this food world together."  ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/09/2017

~ Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles ~

IMG_4660When I was a kid, during the late Summer and Fall, my grandmother, my great aunt, and my mother used to can -- a lot.  There were days when one of their respective kitchens was filled with boxes of fresh fruits or vegetables and huge pots, and, the dining room table was lined with neat rows of freshly-sterilized mason jars -- dozens and dozens of them.  They'd start at sunrise and wouldn't stop until each one of those jars was filled.  I enjoyed those nights, snuggled in my bed, forcing myself to stay awake to hear "the pop" of each jar lid (the indicator of a proper seal).

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09671996970d PICT0196As a kid, those were fun times for me.  I found the process fascinating, but, I wasn't the one doing the work.

As an adult, while I do can a few fruits and vegetables in the traditional manner (peaches and red beets to name two), I honestly do not love the exhausting, time-consuming process -- I also do not have a sister and/or a daughter to stand by my side and help.  I much prefer quick-pickling in small batches or freezing in large quantities, if or when either process can be applied without compromise (peaches do not freeze well, and beets are best pickled or canned in the traditional manner).

What's the difference between pickling & quick-pickling?

IMG_4654Pickle comes from the Dutch=Deutsch=German word "pekel", which means "brine" (not "cucumber" as is easy enough to assume).  A brine is nothing more than a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and usually, some dry spices or fresh herbs. Depending upon the solution, pickled foods can take on all sorts of colors and flavors.  Pickled foods can be sweet, sour, sweet and sour, or spicy.  At the the whim of the cook, any of them can be piquant or pedestrian.

Pickling per se is canning.  It's easy but time consuming.  Get out the big canning pot and special utensils, boil the mason jars to sterilize them, add the appropriately-prepped fruit, vegetables or food to the jars, add the brine, immerse jars in boiling water for a designated amount of time, then, remove from the water bath and let cool until the lids "pop", which means they are properly sealed.  In the case of water-bath-canned anything, if stored in a cool, dry place, the food can last for a year or two. Pickling/canning dates back to medieval times and is how our ancestors preserved all types of food prior to refrigeration. Without refrigeration, food spoiled quickly and pickling was a means of preserving it for out-of-season use or transporting it for a long journey.

Quick-Pickling is considerably easier than traditional pickling and almost any raw or blanched vegetable can be quick-pickled.  All that's needed is a saucepan, any type of clean jars, vinegar, sugar and a few herbs and/or dry spices.  The prepped vegetables get placed in the jars, the seasoned vinegar-sugar mixture gets simmered in the saucepan for a few short minutes, then the solution (sometimes boiling hot, sometimes completely cooled, so follow the recipe on this point) gets ladled over the veggies in the jars.  The lids get placed on the jars and the quick-pickled food gets stored in the refrigerator until they get eaten or up to two weeks.  Because the shelf-life is short and the jars take up refrigerator space, quick-pickles are usually made in small batches.

What are bread & butter pickles?

IMG_4640Bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles are on the sweet end of the pickle spectrum, but not quite as sweet as sweet pickles, and, decidedly different than the sharp bite of dill pickles.  They're typically crinkle-cut sliced, which makes them ideal for topping hamburgers and a variety of sandwiches.  I often serve them as a side-dish, and, occasionally, dice them to add to salads or mince them to add to relishes.  Interestingly enough, my family never made homemade bread and butter pickles.

We lived in Eastern Pennsylvania, the land of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German-speaking people who immigrated to PA and surrounding areas, along with their many, many, pickle recipes).

Ihwx.5431a462-d5ca-41c9-b47c-74fa6bfd7bc9.500.500In the tradition of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the Wos-Wit brand has been canning delicious relishes, dressings, preserves and various garden vegetables. Beginning in the 1940's, as a small farm producing Pennsylvania Dutch products by canning the excessive vegetable bounty, the Pennsylvania Dutch label "WOS-WIT" ("what do you want") has a rich and extensive history. Originally owned by John and Dorothy Kresge, in 1983 the business was sold to Paul Zukovich, a long time farmer who now operates the canning facility on his 80 acre farm: Grouse Hunt Farms. His family continues to use all of the Kresge's original recipes. 

Wos-Wit Bread & Butter Pickles contain all the traditional ingredients and no artificial preservatives:  sliced cucumbers, vinegar, sugar, onions, red peppers, salt, tumeric and spices.

IMG_4626

For the brine mixture:

1  cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)

1  cup distilled apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2  cups granulated sugar

1/4  cup pickling or Kosher salt

1  tablespoon mustard seeds

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seeds, dry mustard, red pepper flakes and ground turmeric

8  whole allspice berries

8 whole cloves

IMG_4631 IMG_4635Step 1.  To prepare brine, stir all ingredients together in a 2-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly while prepping vegetables:

IMG_4643For the cucumber mixture:

3  pounds cucumbers, 1/4"-thick sliced into coins, preferably crinkle cut

1/2  pound small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

~ Step 2.  Prep vegetables as directed placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add all the warm-hot brine and stir.  Refrigerate for 6-8 hours, stirring frequently.

~ Step 3.  Remove bread and butter pickles from the refrigerator.  Using a slotted spoon transfer pickles to desired-sized, mason-type jars (although any type of lidded jar will work just fine), lightly-packing them into each.  Using a small ladle, add brine to the neck of each jar of pickles.  

Seal jars & keep stored in refrigerator for 7-10 days:

IMG_4662Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles:  Recipe yields enough pickles to fill 40 total ounces/8, 5-ounce mason jars were filled today.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; 2-quart saucepan; large spoon; large slotted spoon; small ladle; desired sized mason-type jars with tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01901ee05043970bCook's Note:  When I was growing up, there was almost always a jar of pickled eggs in our refrigerator.  If there wasn't, it was time to make more.  To this day, my mother's recipe for   ~ Pretty in Pink: Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Eggs ~, is one of my favorite snacks. They are made via the quick-pickling method too, and, here in my Happy Valley kitchen, I make them with our own home-grown home-canned red beets.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/07/2017

~ Nothing Fancy: Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie ~

IMG_4609The best apple pie recipes aren't fancy -- they're special.  Just put one in the oven and see what happens.  Word travels fast.  Everyone wants a slice of old-fashioned appleiscious goodness. "It's as easy as apple pie."  Truth told, that's a kind of misleading statement.  Baking a really good apple pie is not as easy as "A, B, C", "one, two three" or even "snap, crackle, pop".  Too many people think that just because they've baked an apple pie it automatically qualifies for awesome apple pie status.  It does not.  I have encountered more than a few nasty renditions:  from overcooked to undercooked, sickeningly sweet to vapid, and, soupy to pasty -- anything but the "pleasant and accommodating" experience Mark Twain painted in his 1885 novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the sequel to his 1876 novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

IMG_4608Pastry, apples, sugar & cinnamon & into the oven it went.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated over a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to apple pies, they used the apples that grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit those apples.  More often than not, they picked them off of a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  It really was a kinder, gentler time and "as easy as pie."  Pastry, apples, sugar and cinnamon and into the oven it went.  No complaints.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but, according to the experts, all apples are not created equally.  

IMG_3132"Because an apple tastes good doesn't make it pie-friendly."

PICT1581Nowadays, everybody is a critic. Experts will tell you, "just because an apple tastes good does not make it pie-friendly."  For example: My favorite eating apple is the soft-fleshed, creamy McIntosh, and, while I use them to make pies (because my grandmother made great pie with them), a quick internet search will tell you they're not ideal. My husband grows Fugi, Macintosh and Granny Smith's in our backyard -- they all taste great and do well in our Central PA climate.  Fuji's are relative newcomers to America's apple scene.  They're crisp, sweet and, similar to the Red Delicious, are best eaten raw in salads and slaws.  As for the Granny Smith, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, tart taste and crisp texture, not only is it pie friendly, it is wonderful when cooked with savory foods (like onions) or served with salty foods (like cheese). I could go on -- and on -- there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world, with about 60 of them mass grown in America.  My point is:  before you put an apple in a pie, try to find out if it is pie-friendly, or, find a recipe that makes it pie-friendly.  I'm using freshly-picked Macintosh apples today.

IMG_45272   9" pie pastries for a double-crust pie, preferably homemade pie pastry (pâte brisée)

7  cups peeled and thinly-sliced Macintosh apples, from 7-8 apples

1  tablespoon lemon juice

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/2  cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

4  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon salted butter, softened

1  large egg white, ideally at room temperature

additional granulated sugar

IMG_4531 IMG_4538 IMG_4540 IMG_4544~Step 1.  Roll and fit one 9" pie pastry in the bottom of a 9" pie dish.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim it to hang slightly over the perimeter (about 1/8").  Set aside.  Peel and slice the apples, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the lemon juice to the bowl and toss to coat the apples.  In a medium-bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  Add the sugar mixture to the apples and toss to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4547 IMG_4551 IMG_4553 IMG_4556~Step 2.  Spoon the apple pie filling into the pie pastry, mounding it slightly towards the center. Dot the top of the pie filling with the softened butter.  Place the second pie pastry over the top, and, using the kitchen shears, trim it around the perimeter to match the bottom pastry.  Using your fingertips, seal the two crusts together and form a decorative edge all the way around.

IMG_4562 IMG_4565 IMG_4568 IMG_4570~Step 3.  Using a fork, whisk egg white until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, paint the smooth surface of top crust (not the decorative edge) with egg white, then, using your fingertips, sprinkle a light coating of sugar over the glossy top.  Using the sharp tip of a knife, poke a few small holes in the top pastry (to allow steam to escape as pie bakes).  Bake on center rack of 350° oven until golden brown and bubbly, 55-60 minutes, stopping to give the pie a quarter turn every 15 minutes, to insure even browning.  Place on wire rack to cool completely, about 3-4 hours, prior to slicing.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven 55-60 minutes:

IMG_4579Place on wire rack to cool completely, 3-4 hours:

IMG_4577Slice & serve ever-so-slightly warm or at room temperature:

IMG_4600Take a bite of old-fashioned appleicious goodness:

IMG_4619Nothing Fancy:  Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" double-crust pie/8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; rolling pin; 9" pie dish, preferably glass; kitchen shears; cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; large spoon or spatula; fork; pastry brush; sharp paring knife; wire cooling rack

IMG_4589Cook's Note:  The Pennsylvania Deutsch are famous for their streusel-topped pies, and one of my all-time favorites is their Dutch Apple.  Click on the link to get my recipe for ~ Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/05/2017

~ Caprese: Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Bites ~

IMG_4506I'm crazy for caprese, and, while these caprese bite appetizers are a bit fussy to make, they're fussy in a fun way.  That said, when armed with a serrated knife and a grapefruit knife and spoon, I can hollow out the centers from about two dozen, 1" cherry tomatoes in about ten minutes (it's not rocket science).  They're fun to eat too.  Just pop the entire thing into your mouth -- all things caprese are compacted into one bite, and, there's no toothpick to throw away afterward.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd422b86970bThat said, we all have our quirks. I'm no exception.  Today's example: I love Italian dressing or vinaigrette, but I don't love creamy Italian dressing.  I don't love Balsamic dressing or vinaigrette, but I do love creamy balsamic dressing -- especially if it is mayonnaise-based. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike creamy Italian or regular balsamic dressings, I simply have my (quirky) preferences.  While I often make my own, like most folks, for convenience sake, store-bought dressings have earned a place in my kitchen.  There is always a bottle of Wishbone Light Italian dressing on the door of my refrigerator, and, for a time, I happily kept a jar of Hellmann's Balsamic Mayonnaise there too -- until they discontinued it, which caused me to come up with my own: 

IMG_3924For the balsamic & basil mayo:

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and coarsely-ground black pepper

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together all ingredients.  Refrigerate one hour (or several days -- it stays fresh a long time) prior to serving.

IMG_4520For the caprese bites:

shredded romaine lettuce leaves, to use as a stabilizing bed for the appetizers as a whole 

as many 1" cherry tomatoes as you want appetizers, hollowed out as instructed in my post ~ How to: Hollow Out Tomatoes ~ 

bocconcini (small, fresh mozzarella balls), 1 per cherry tomato

small-medium-sized, fresh, whole basil leaves, 1 per cherry tomato

balsamic mayonnaise, for dipping, drizzling or dolloping (from above recipe)

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for garnish

IMG_4486 IMG_4489 IMG_4495Step 1.  Make a bed of lettuce on a serving plate. Arrange the hollowed out tomatoes on top of the lettuce.  Place a small-medium-sized, whole basil leaf in the cavity of each tomato, allowing the pretty leaf tip to stick up straight above the rim of the tomato about 1/2".  Place one bocconcini on top of the basil leaf and gently push down on the cheese to secure it in place.  Garnish each appetizer with a dollop of balsamic mayonnaise and a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Serve same day made.

Serve ASAP or the same day they are made:

IMG_4515Caprese: Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Bites:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many appetizers as desired and 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; grapefruit knife; grapefruit spoon

IMG_3860Cook's Note:  For a variation on the same caprese theme, might I suggest you try a moist, juicy, chicken 'burger (containing diced onion, garlic and fresh basil instead of breadcrumbs).  Just click on this link to check out my recipe for ~ Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers w/Balsamic Mayo ~. They're made in a grillpan on the stovetop (so you don't have to worry about bad weather grilling days to make 'em), and, they're drizzled with my balsamic mayonnaise too. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

10/03/2017

~The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub~

IMG_4450You do not have to be Italian or Italian-American to fall in love with an ooey-gooey, cheesy-saucy meatball submarine sandwich.  That said, while meatballs can be made with any type of ground meat or poultry, when most folks dream about the perfect meatball sub, they associate it with traditional Italian-style ground beef meatballs.  That is not the case with today's recipe -- we're using ground chicken infused with lots of onion, garlic, basil, egg and fresh bread crumbs.  What does that do?  It adds moisture and full-throttle flavor to an otherwise dry, lackluster protein.  

There is no right or wrong way to make a meatball sub sandwich.  Technically speaking, all one needs is a submarine-shaped roll, sauce-simmered meatballs and a good melting cheese.  

IMG_4429I use medium-textured, Italian rolls with a thin crust.  Why?  If the meatballs (which are the star of the show) were made right, they will be moist and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  I don't want to fight with a tough, crusty roll trying to get to my delicate meatballs and melted cheese.  I try to purchase unsliced rolls so I can top-split them, and, I don't like them toasted.  Texturally, I want to effortlessly glide through a meatball sandwich with some of everything in every bite.

IMG_4389A caprese salad.  It's classic Italian, and, it's my favorite way to enjoy our Summer garden. Nothing compares to same-day-picked tomatoes and basil leaves served with fresh mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and, some freshly-ground sea salt and pepper. That said, in my food world, for most food, I can find a way to enjoy its flavors in every season, so, come Fall, a warm bowl of caprese-style spaghetti and meatballs simmered in a warm, garlicy, homemade crushed-tomato and basil sauce served with  bocconcini (small, fresh mozzarella balls) and some crusty bread is Italian-American caprese-style comfort food.  It's divine.

Whenever I make my caprese-style chicken meatballs --

IMG_4440I make my chicken caprese meatball sub sandwiches the next day.

IMG_3795For the chicken meatball mixture:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

2  cups soft fresh breadcrumbs from 3 ounces soft potato bread or rolls, or almost any type of soft white or the soft center of rustic Italian bread, torn into pieces (Note:  When making bread crumbs, 1 ounce of bread produces 1/2 cup of crumbs.  I hesitate to talk in "slices" because size and thickness varies so much from manufacturer to manufacturer.)

3/4  cup whole milk

1 1/2-2  cups plain, dry breadcrumbs

1-3 quarts tomato-basil sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand (Note:  Three quarts of sauce is enough to simmer all 3 dozen of the meatballs at the same time.  To cook in batches, plan on 1 quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.), for simmering meatballs

For each sandwich (in order of assembly):

1  6"-6"1/2" long semi-soft Italian submarine roll, preferably top-split

4  thin slices deli-style mozzarella cheese, or, 2 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese + 2 slices deli-style provolone cheese, your choice

1/4  cup (a generous 1/4 cup) 1/4"-1/2" diced fresh mozzarella cheese

1/2-3/4  teaspoon finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1  tablespoon chiffonade of fresh basil leaves, for garnish

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken pieces in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the onion, garlic and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Place in a large bowl.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_4264 IMG_4267 IMG_4273 IMG_4278 IMG_4287 IMG_4282~Step 2.  Wash and dry the processor work bowl. Place the bread in the work bowl.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the milk.  Stir to combine and set aside for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give the bread time to absorb all of the milk.  Add the bread mixture to the chicken mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula (or your hands) thoroughly combine the two mixtures.

IMG_4293 IMG_4297 IMG_4300 IMG_4304 IMG_4313~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350°.  Place the dry breadcrumbs in a shallow soup- or salad-type bowl.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure and working one-at-a-time, scoop, drop and roll each meatball around in the dry breadcrumbs until it is lightly and evenly coated.  As you work, place meatballs, side-by-side on pan. There will be about 3 dozen (36-38) standard-sized meatballs.

Note:  Even though the chicken mixture is quite sticky, the coating process is not messy.  The dry breadcrumbs keep the meat mixture from sticking to your hands while rolling them around.

IMG_4315~ Step 4.  Bake meatballs on center rack of preheated 350º oven for about 25 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 162º-165º is reached.  If you have an instant-read meat thermometer, now is the time to use it.  Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry.  That said, because I am going to simmer my meatballs in sauce, which will further cook them,  I remove them from the oven when an internal temperature of 158°-160° is reached.

IMG_4329 IMG_4330 IMG_4334 IMG_4341~Step 5.  In a 14" chef's pan, bring 3 quarts of your favorite tomato-basil sauce to a simmer over medium heat.  Add all of the meatballs to the pan.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially-cover the pan and simmer meatballs for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow meatballs to steep and absorb flavors from the sauce for 30-60 minutes.

Note:  I cooked all of my meatballs all at once today.  To cook them in batches, use a smaller pan and one quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.  To freeze meatballs, do it prior to cooking in the sauce, then, once the sauce is simmering on the stovetop, drop frozen meatballs into the simmering sauce.  When the sauce returns to a simmer, cook the meatballs as directed.

IMG_4477 IMG_4482~ Step 6.  To assemble each sandwich, split a roll short of opening it up into two pieces and place on a broiler-type pan.  Arrange 4 slices deli mozz on the roll.  Place 4 hot meatballs on top of the mozzarella.  Top meatballs with a generous 1/4 cup small-diced fresh moss and add a sprinkling of freshly-grated Parm-Regg.  Place 5 1/2"-6" under preheated broiler until cheese is bubbly and melted, about 2-3 minutes.

I believe you know how to "glide through it" it from here:

IMG_4466The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub:  Recipe yields instructions to make 3 dozen (36-38) 1 1/2"-round meatballs /8 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; appropriately-sized broiler-type pan

IMG_3860Cook's Note:  The difference between meatballs (a diminutive form of meatloaf) and any type of burger is:  bread or breadcrumbs. Meatballs contain breadcrumbs, burgers do not.  For a variation on the same caprese theme, this time a moist, juicy, chicken 'burger (containing no breadcrumbs) check out my recipe for ~ Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers w/Balsamic Mayo ~. Unlike my chicken meatballs, which are baked in the oven, they're made in a grillpan on the stovetop.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy Melanie Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/30/2017

~ Caprese Chicken Meatballs w/Mozzarella & Sauce ~

IMG_4389A Summertime caprese salad.  It's classic Italian, and, it's my favorite way to enjoy our Summer garden. Nothing compares to same-day-picked tomatoes and basil leaves served with fresh mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and, some freshly-ground sea salt and pepper. That said, in my food world, for most food, I can find a way to enjoy its flavors in every season, so, come Fall, a warm bowl of caprese-style ground chicken meatballs simmered in a warm, garlicy, homemade crushed-tomato and basil sauce served with a few bocconcini (small, fresh mozzarella balls) along with some spaghetti is Italian-American caprese-style comfort food.

IMG_4414A bit about fresh mozzarella cheese: Mozzarella is a unique Italian cheese known for its soft, moist texture and delicate, fresh taste of milk.  Traditionally it's made from the milk of the water buffalo, although cows milk versions are used more and more due to the limited amount of water buffalo milk available.  It's been made by hand in home kitchens throughout Italy for centuries.  It got popularized in the 20th Century when refrigeration escorted in refrigerated trucks that were able to deliver this delicate cheese long distances.  Fresh mozzarella is sold in various sizes, but, it's always packed in a brine. (On a personal note, while I have access to fresh buffalo milk mozzarella, I prefer the taste of the cows milk mozzarella.)

IMG_4379It's time to make some full-throttle caprese chicken meatballs:

IMG_3795For the chicken meatball mixture:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

2  cups soft fresh breadcrumbs from 3 ounces soft potato bread or rolls, or almost any type of soft white or the soft center of rustic Italian bread, torn into pieces (Note:  When making bread crumbs, 1 ounce of bread produces 1/2 cup of crumbs.  I hesitate to talk in "slices" because size and thickness varies so much from manufacturer to manufacturer.)

3/4  cup whole milk

1 1/2-2  cups plain, dry breadcrumbs

1-3 quarts tomato-basil sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand (Note:  Three quarts of sauce is enough to simmer all 3 dozen of the meatballs at the same time.  To cook in batches, plan on 1 quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.), for simmering meatballs

For serving:

1  pound spaghetti per 1 dozen meatballs, cooked al dente, as package directs, 4 servings spaghetti per pound

3  dozen bocconcini, fresh mozzarella balls about the size of cherry tomatoes, (Note:  For every meatball I serve per person, I serve one bocconcini per meatball.

minced fresh basil and fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken pieces in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the onion, garlic and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Place in a large bowl.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_4264 IMG_4267 IMG_4273 IMG_4278 IMG_4287 IMG_4291~Step 2.  Wash and dry the processor work bowl. Place the bread in the work bowl.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the milk.  Stir to combine and set aside for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give the bread time to absorb all of the milk.  Add the bread mixture to the chicken mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula (or your hands) thoroughly combine the two mixtures.

IMG_4293 IMG_4297 IMG_4300 IMG_4304 IMG_4313~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350°.  Place the dry breadcrumbs in a shallow soup- or salad-type bowl.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure and working one-at-a-time, scoop, drop and roll each meatball around in the dry breadcrumbs until it is lightly and evenly coated.  As you work, place meatballs, side-by-side on pan. There will be about 3 dozen (36-38) standard-sized meatballs.

Note:  Even though the chicken mixture is quite sticky, the coating process is not messy.  The dry breadcrumbs keep the meat mixture from sticking to your hands while rolling them around.

IMG_4315~ Step 4.  Bake meatballs on center rack of preheated 350º oven for about 25 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 162º-165º is reached.  If you have an instant-read meat thermometer, now is the time to use it.  Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry.  That said, because I am going to simmer my meatballs in sauce, which will further cook them,  I remove them from the oven when an internal temperature of 158°-160° is reached.

IMG_4329 IMG_4330 IMG_4334 IMG_4341~Step 5.  In a 14" chef's pan, bring 3 quarts of your favorite tomato-basil sauce to a simmer over medium heat.  Add all of the meatballs to the pan.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially-cover the pan and simmer meatballs for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow meatballs to steep while cooking spaghetti according to package directions.

Note:  I cooked all of my meatballs all at once today.  To cook them in batches, use a smaller pan and one quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.  To freeze meatballs, do it prior to cooking in the sauce, then, once the sauce is simmering on the stovetop, drop frozen meatballs into the simmering sauce.  When the sauce returns to a simmer, cook the meatballs as directed. 

What?  No Parmigiano-Reggiano?  No.  It's just caprese baby!

IMG_4386A whole lot of caprese-heaven on a plate:

IMG_4404Next up:  The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub.

IMG_4451Caprese Chicken Meatballs w/Mozzarella & Sauce:  Recipe yields approximately 3 dozen (36-38) 1 1/2"-round ground chicken meatballs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid

IMG_3854Cook's Note:  The difference between meatballs (a diminutive form of meatloaf) and any type of burger is:  bread or breadcrumbs. Meatballs contain breadcrumbs, burgers do not.  For a variation on the same caprese theme, this time a moist, juicy, chicken 'burger (containing no breadcrumbs) check out my recipe for ~ Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers w/Balsamic Mayo ~. Unlike my chicken meatballs, which are baked in the oven, they're made in a grillpan on the stovetop.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/28/2017

~ Seriously Special K Crispy & Chewy Sugar Cookies ~

IMG_4254Sugar cookies traditionally fall into the category of "rolled cookies" which are cut into shapes to suit your fancy and the occasion, but, they can be treated as "drop cookies" too, meaning:  they can be formed into uniform-sized balls and baked.  They can be crisp and thin or soft and thick. They should melt-in-your mouth, taste rich and buttery and have a flaky, delicate texture. Perfectly baked sugar cookies have clean edges that hold shape when baked.  They emerge from the oven just cooked through and puffy, with almost no signs of browning.  Sugar cookies require patience and love -- except for this super-easy, seriously-special recipe courtesy of:  Kellogg's Special K.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08b15209970dIt's odd, but, as a child, when all the other kids were reaching for the Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, the only two cold cereals I would eat were: Kellogg's Special K and Raisin Bran exclusively. The only hot cereal I would eat was Quaker oatmeal.  Some things never change.  All three cereals are staples in my pantry to this day. Now that you know that, it should come as no surprise that when my mom was baking cookies for me or with me,  IMG_3786quality mother-daughter time, she or we would choose (top photo) oatmeal cookies, (bottom photo) raisin bran cookies, or, these Special K sugar cookies, and, use the recipes printed on their respective boxes.  It is, in fact, how I learned to bake basic drop cookies. There's more.  The three together make a great trio on a cookie plate, and, from a nutritional standpoint, they're a step above cookies loaded with chocolates or candies.

Crispy outside, chewy inside, buttery flavor w/a salty edge:

IMG_41774  ounces Kellogg's Original Special K Cereal (about 3 cups), crushed to fine bits and pieces (about 2 cups)

1  cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

2/3  cup sugar

1  large egg, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

IMG_4166 IMG_4167 IMG_4170 IMG_4172~Step 1.  Weigh or measure the Special K cereal and place in a ziplock bag.  Seal bag, and using a small rolling pin, crush to fine bits and pieces.  Do not process to crumbs in a food processor.

IMG_4184 IMG_4187 IMG_4190~ Step 2.  Divide the crumbs in half, placing 2 ounces (about 1 cup) in a small bowl and the other 2 ounces (1 cup) in a medium bowl.  Add the flour to the medium bowl of crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.

IMG_4193 IMG_4196 IMG_4199 IMG_4202~Step 3.  In a large bowl, over high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the egg and the vanilla.  Continue to beat until creamy.

IMG_4206 IMG_4208~ Step 4.  Lower the mixer speed and blend in the flour/crumb mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl constantly with a large rubber spatula, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

IMG_4211 IMG_4215 IMG_4219 IMG_4221~Step 5.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure and working one scoop of dough at a time, drop a scoop of dough into the small bowl of crumbs and roll it around until completely coated in crumbs.  Place coated balls of dough, well-apart (2 1/2"-3"), on prepared pan.

IMG_4224 IMG_4229~ Step 6. Bale on center rack of 360°-365° oven until very lightly browned and puffed up in their centers, about 11 minutes, watching them carefully after 10 minutes so they don't over-brown*. Remove from oven and cool in pans 3-4 minutes prior to using a thin spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely, 1 hour.

* Note:  For cookies crunchy-through-to-their-centers, brown a bit more and bake for 12 minutes.

A drop-sugar-cookie that competes w/a rolled sugar cookie?

IMG_4237You betcha.  Try the recipe & judge for yourself:

IMG_4261Seriously Special K Crispy & Chewy Sugar Cookies:  Recipe yields 12-14, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: kitchen scale or 1-quart measuring container; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_8762Cook's Note: ~ "My" No-Fail Easy-to-Make Sugar Cookie Recipe ~ has been my go-to special-occasion sugar-cookie recipe since 1974. Because the recipe worked perfectly the very first time, I've never looked for another.  They've made appearances at a wide range of festive get-togethers: bridal and baby showers, weddings, and, of course, my annual Christmas and New Years Day cookie trays.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/26/2017

~Grillmarked: Thai-Inspired Hot & Sticky Honey Wings~

IMG_4148Wings and tailgate.  Tailgate and wings.  If two words ever went hand-in-hand onto the gridiron, yep, it would be those two.  If I say tailgate, you say wings, and, if there is one thing we tailgaters can't resist, it's a new wing-flavor-profile to experiment with.  I came across this one in the Parade Magazine insert of our local newspaper back in August.  Parade credits the recipe to Michael Gulotta, chef-owner of MoPho and Maypop restaurants in New Orleans.  Thank-you chef Gulotta.

IMG_4153The moment I read through the ingredients list, I knew I was gonna love this recipe.  For starters the combination of Greek-style yogurt and honey is, um, the bees knees. It's divine.  Stir in some Thai seasoning soy, fish sauce and Sriracha.  What's not to love about that trio.  Personally, I'd be willing to drink the marinade -- it is that good. Chef Gulatta cooks his outside on a gas grill, turning them frequently, while keeping the grill covered in between turns.  I did mine inside, in my grill pan, on my gas stove, uncovered.  They cooked longer, 25 minutes, but came out perfect.

Hey, Honey!  I've got a hankering for some wings!

IMG_40832  pounds, large, meaty chicken wings, about 20-24 wings (Note from Mel:  If you want to push the wing count to 3 pounds, about 30-36 wings, the marinade amount can handle it.)

1  cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style

1/2  cup honey

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

1-2  tablespoons Sriracha sauce, to taste (Note:  Chef Gulatta says Sambal chile paste can be substituted.)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill grids or grill pan

lime wedges for garnish and for squirting lime juice on wings

2-3  tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, for sprinkling on wings prior to serving + cilantro sprigs for garnish

IMG_4090 IMG_4091 IMG_4093 IMG_4097~Step 1.  In a small bowl, place the yogurt, honey, Thai fish sauce, Thai seasoning soy sauce (not Chinese soy sauce) and Sriracha.  Thoroughly stir it all together.  Place wings in a 1-gallon ziplock bag.  Add all the marinade to bag.  Close bag, toss to evenly and thoroughly coat wings in marinade and place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, turning/tossing occasionally.

Note.  Remove the wings 45-60 minutes prior to cooking them (so they are not ice cold going onto the hot grill grids).  Open the bag and using a pair of tongs, remove wings from the marinade, gently shaking all the excess marinaded off, allowing it to drizzle back down into the bag. Transfer marinade to a small bowl and set aside -- it will get used as a basting sauce.

IMG_4102 IMG_4104 IMG_4107 IMG_4111 IMG_4116 IMG_4121 IMG_4123 IMG_4126~Step 2.  Liberally spray gill pan with no-stick, place on the stovetop and heat over medium- medium-high.  Add the wings to pan, as many as will fit without crowding the pan.  Cook, regulating the heat over medium- medium-high, using a pair of tongs to turn the wings four times, about every 5 minutes, for 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes, using a pastry brush to lightly baste (dab their tops) every time you flip them over.  After 20 minutes, stop basting and spend the next 5-6 minutes turning & flipping the wings constantly, until they are nicely-browned over their entire surface area.  The entire process will take 25-30 minutes.

Garnish w/cilantro & lime wedges.  Asian broccoli slaw anyone?

IMG_4149Simply & undeniably some of the best wings I've ever eaten:

IMG_4133Grillmarked:  Thai-Inspired Hot & Sticky Honey Wings:  Recipe yields 20-24 appetizers/4-6 servings/4-6 wings per person.

Special Equipment List:  poultry shears; 1-gallon ziplock bag; outdoor gas grill or grill pan on stovetop; tongs; silicon (high-heat safe) pastry brush

IMG_0990Cook's Note:  To make my Asian Broccoli Slaw w/Honey-Sesame Dressing, in a medium bowl, place:

1, 12-ounce bag store-bought broccoli cole slaw  

For the dressing, whisk together:

1/4  cup each: vegetable oil and white rice vinegar

1  tablespoon each: sesame oil and Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons honey

Add all of the dressing to slaw, toss together and refrigerate until well-chilled  1-2 hours or overnight.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/23/2017

~ My Thai-Inspired Sesame Chicken Thigh Paillards ~

IMG_4059Once upon a time there was a woman in Happy Valley Pennsylvania who was planning to make chicken Milanese for dinner.  "In the style of Milan", it refers to a thinly-sliced and lightly-pounded protein dredged in flour, dipped in egg, then coated with breadcrumbs.  It's quickly-sautéed in butter and/or olive oil until golden. It's crispy outside, juicy and fork-tender inside, and, after squirt of lemon and a parsley garnish it's served the moment it comes out of the skillet.  It couldn't be easier, especially when cooking for just two.  I refer to it as one of my flash-in-the-pan dinners.  

IMG_7761(Italian Chicken Milanese - top photo.  Thai-style Milanese - bottom photo.)  I cook several flash-on-the-pan meals just for us two, and, we adore classic Italian Milanese.

That said, as that day progressed, I wondered if I could fuse the concept of Milanese with another cuisine? Namely, Thai-Asian.  You betcha. After I pounded the chicken thighs, I started by substituting sesame and peanut oil for butter and olive oil.  I whisked Thai seasoning soy and fish sauces into the egg mixture, instead of adding salt and pepper to the flour dredge. The decision to use IMG_4049Japanese panko breadcrumbs in place of Italian-style breadcrumbs was a no-brainer.  A garnish of lime and cilantro, instead of lemon and parsley finished my new dish off, and, I served it atop freshly-steamed jasmine rice with a side of broccoli, instead of my saffron rice which contains peas.  When we sat down to dinner, we were thrilled with our Thai-style Milanese -- complete with my homemade Thai peanut sauce  for dipping and drizzling too.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an extra step well worth the effort. I find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it takes to pound six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.

IMG_39746  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

~ Step 1.  Place the thighs between two large layers of plastic wrap and lightly pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to a thickness of more than a 1/4" and less than 1/2".

IMG_3980 IMG_3982~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of the perfectly-pounded thighs with:

Wonder Quick-Mixing flour for Sauce and Gravy (a granular flour which doesn't clump),  or, ordinary all-purpose flour

IMG_3990~ Step 3.  Allow the chicken to rest 5-10 minutes, to allow the flour time to absorb moisture from chicken.  

During this rest time, sprinkle a light layer of flour in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 12", 3-quart casserole, and, in a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, vigorously whisk together:

4 large eggs with 1  tablespoon Thai seasoning soy sauce and 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce.

IMG_3992 IMG_3996 IMG_3998 IMG_4002~Step 4.  Pick up each piece of chicken and place, floured side down in the lightly-floured casserole. Flour the second sides (now the top sides) and set aside another 5-10 minutes.  Add the whisked egg mixture to the casserole and allow the chicken to rest in the egg mixture, using a fork to stop and "flip-flop" chicken around in the eggs two-three times for 5-10 last minutes.

IMG_4011 IMG_4012 IMG_4016~ Step 5.  In each of two, shallow 9" pie-type dishes, place 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.  Place three chicken thighs in each dish and coat in crumbs, taking time, 3-5 total minutes, to stop and "flip-flop" them, 2-3-4 times, to evenly and completely coat.  Taking time to do this "right", insures the crumbs will stay in place as they sauté -- because they've absorbed lots of moisture from the egg mixture.

IMG_4019 IMG_4025 IMG_4031 IMG_4038 IMG_4034~Step 6.  In a 16" electric skillet over low heat (225°), heat 6 tablespoons peanut oil with 2 tablespoons sesame oil.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high (240°-250°). Add the cutlets to skillet.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent over-browning (which will dry them out). Season tops with freshly-ground sea salt and serve immediately.

Note:  If doubling or tripling the recipe to feed more people, transfer cooked cutlets to a wire cooling rack that has been placed on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking sheet lined with parchment in a modest 225°-230° oven (for up to 30 minutes) while continuing to dredge, dip, coat and dry.

Serve atop steamed jasmine rice w/Thai peanut sauce:

IMG_4063Garnished w/a lime wedge & a sprig of cilantro.

IMG_4072My Thai-Inspired Sesame Chicken Thigh Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 13" x 9" x 2", 3-quart casserole; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 2, 9" pie dishes; 16" electric skillet; long-handled fork and/or spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack

IMG_1616Cook's Note:  For a similar dish (a variation of the same theme without the crispy breadcrumb coating), containing white wine, capers and lemon, click into Categories 12, 20 or 26 to read my recipe ~ For those Times When Ya Just Gotta Have Piccata ~.  In Italian, "piccata" translates to "piquant" or "tangy" or "zesty", and, in the case of this recipe, a few pats of cold butter are stirred into the pan-drippings to make a tangy sauce for drizzling over the top of the finished dish.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/20/2017

~ Start Dunking: Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies ~

IMG_3767If you're one of the few, the proud and the many who adore Kellogg's raisin bran, this cookie recipe is for you.  I'm sure the recipe is a Kellogg's original too, because I remember sitting at my mother's kitchen counter the day she made them, for me, the first time.  It's odd, but, as a child, when all the other kids were reaching for the Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, the only two cold cereals I would eat were: Kellogg's Raisin Bran and Special K exclusively.  That 1960's Winter afternoon, which was a snow day off from school, we decided to experiment with something new: Raisin-Bran cookies (instead of our usual Quaker's oatmeal cookies), as printed on the box.

Trust me, these are full-throttle full-of-raisin cookies:  

Our cookies turned out great, but we both agreed they needed more raisins, so, next time around, they became double-raisin bran cookies.  It was fun, quality mother-daughter time back then, and, to this day, when I'm down to near-the-end of a box of Raisin Bran, I use the last couple of cups to treat myself to these cookies.  They're crispy around the edges with chewy centers, not overly sweet, and, perfect for dunking in a glass of milk or enjoying with my morning coffee.  If you're looking for a cookie to serve or take to a breakfast or brunch, these are indeed the ones:

IMG_3778Crunchy outside & chewy inside w/bits of bran too.

IMG_37143/4  cup salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

2/3  cup sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  cups Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup additional raisins

IMG_3716 IMG_3720 IMG_3723 IMG_3724~Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working your way up to to high speed, combine the butter, and sugars until light-colored and fluffy, about 1 full minute.  Crack in the eggs, add the vanilla, then, continue to mix until creamy, 30-45 seconds.

IMG_3728 IMG_3731 IMG_3734 IMG_3739~Step 2.  Add Raisin Bran.  With mixer on medium, while scraping down sides of bowl with spatula, thoroughly incorporate the cereal, 45-60 seconds..  Mixer will effectively chop bran flakes into smaller bits and pieces.  Lower mixer speed to low and add flour, baking soda and salt. Continue mixing and scraping bowl until flour is incorporated and a thick cookie batter forms.

IMG_3742 IMG_3746 IMG_3749 IMG_3756~Step 3.  Remove the mixer -- you won't need it anymore.  Add the raisins.  Use the spatula to fold them into the cookie dough.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place 12 balls of dough onto each of 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.

IMG_3760 IMG_3762 IMG_3773~ Step 4.  One pan of cookies at a time, bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 12-13 minutes, until puffed up through to their centers and nicely, but not overly, golden brown.  Remove pan from oven.  Using a metal spatula, immediately transfer each cookie to a wire rack to cool completely, 45-60 minutes.

Raisin Bran cookies.  I love thee.  The few, proud & many:

IMG_3786Start Dunking:  Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies:  Recipe yields 2 dozen cookies

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_5181Cook's Note:  We all agree that a muffin is at its best as soon as it can be eaten -- as soon as it has cooled enough to pick it up with your fingertips and pull it apart.  For me, a warm muffin with a slather of softened butter or cream cheese is the ideal breakfast.  Check out my recipe for ~ Make the Batter ahead: Buttermilk & Bran Muffins ~.  Make the batter ahead and bake the muffins up fresh -- the whole batch or 1-2 at a time.  FYI:  These are full of Raisin Bran and raisins too!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/18/2017

~ Balsamic Mayonnaise: The Other Italian Dressing ~

IMG_3916We all have our quirks.  I'm no exception.  Today's example:  I love Italian dressing, but I don't love creamy Italian dressing.  I don't love Balsamic dressing, but I do love creamy balsamic dressing -- especially if it is mayonnaise-based.  Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike creamy Italian or regular balsamic dressings, I simply have my (quirky) preferences.  While I often make my own, like most folks, for convenience sake, store-bought dressings have earned a place in my kitchen.  There is always a bottle of Wishbone Light Italian dressing on the door of my refrigerator, and, for a time, I happily kept a jar of Hellmann's Balsamic Mayonnaise there too.

999999-68400318217Hellmann's introduced their balsamic mayonnaise in 2013 -- a new product in celebration of their 100th anniversary.  A recent internet search revealed it was discontinued -- shocking, because the same search revealed there are a lot of folks, like me, who loved the stuff.  I even came across a discussion in an on-line "foodie chat place" where folks were attempting to duplicate the recipe.  This was not surprising, as, for those of us who loved it, there was more to it than just a basic stir together of mayo and balsamic vinegar.  Once I finished sharing my recipe with those in need, I decided to take a few moments to share it with you all too. 

Toss into salads or pasta salads, slather on subs or clubs or:

IMG_3947anything your creamy-balsamic-dressing heart desires. 

IMG_37061/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon onion powder

1/4  teaspoon dried basil (Note:  I used dried basil today.  That said, depending what I'm serving this on or with, I sometimes substitute dried Mediterranean oregano or Italian seasoning blend.

1/4-1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together all ingredients.  Refrigerate one hour prior to serving.

IMG_3711I adore it on my Caprese-Style Ground Chicken Burgers:

IMG_3854Balsamic Mayonnaise:  The Other Italian Dressing:  Recipe yields 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid.

IMG_1418Cook's Note:  If you'd like to know the history behind America's two most famous brands of mayonnaise, check out my post ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Duke's vs Hellmann's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

09/15/2017

~Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers~

IMG_3854Today is a glorious day in mid-September, but unless we get a wealth of warm weather and sunshine for at least two more weeks, it's probable that I picked the last substantive batch of our garden's tomatoes this morning -- and it's been a banner year.  While walking my basket of dew-covered beauties back to my kitchen, I passed by my last full-leafed basil plant, the one I've been saving for that celebratory "last caprese day" of the season.  Today ended up being the day.

IMG_6487While I'm always, and I mean always, in the mood for a classic caprese salad (sliced same-day-picked garden tomatoes, fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, a drizzle of fruity olive oil -- occasionally a splash of balsamic vinegar too -- freshly-ground sea salt and pepper), I reminded myself how much Joe was looking forward to my thick, juicy chile cheddar cheeseburgers w/chile-lime mayo for an early dinner on our deck tonight.  A promise is a promise, and, when a man's got cheeseburgers on his mind, it's pretty hard to change it. Then it not only rained, it poured.

The move indoors opened the topic up for discussion, which was convenient because I'd had "this caprese thing" rattling around in my head all morning.  Very diplomatically, I said, "How about chicken-burgers done in the grill pan instead.  I've got all the stuff on-hand to make them caprese-style.  We can make cheeseburgers anytime."  Joe's response:  "Sounds like a plan."  Joe likes plans.  Dinner was divine -- Joe still got a great burger and I quelled my caprese craving:

IMG_3873A moist, juicy chicken burger full of caprese flavors + a drizzle of some awesome balsamic mayonnaise = a great burger.

IMG_3795For the chicken burgers:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

16  slices deli-style mozzarella cheese, or, 8 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese + 8 slices deli-style provolone cheese, your choice

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

For the assembly and garnishes:

8  burger rolls of choice

2-3 cups shredded romaine lettuce, a generous 1/4 cup per sandwich

16-24 tomato slices, 2-3 per sandwich depending upon size of tomatoes

balsamic mayonnaise (Note:  See Cook's Note at end of recipe.)

16-24 large, whole, fresh basil leaves, 2-3 per sandwich

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken piecess in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the diced onion and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_3819 IMG_3822 IMG_3824~ Step 2.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide poultry mixture into 8, 5-ounce portions, form the portions into 3 1/2"-round x 3/4"-thick discs, placing them side-by-side on pan.  While you can form the burgers, like you would less-sticky hamburgers, using your hands, if you have a 3 1/2" food ring and a tablespoon, it'll be incredibly easy (and you won't get "sticky chicken goo" all over your fingers and palms of hands).  Cover pan with plastic wrap and partially-freeze burgers for 55-60 minutes, no longer than that.

Note:  Partially freezing the burgers makes them easy to handle when it comes time to put them on the grill pan (or on the grids of a gas grill outdoors).  Do not freeze the burgers completely. You want them just firm enough to easily lift off the parchment while maintaining their shape.

IMG_3827 IMG_3836 IMG_3842 IMG_3849~Step 3.  Spray grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place over medium heat on stovetop. Place as many chicken burgers as will comfortably fit (without crowding pan) on the grill grid. Cook, turning only once, until burgers are golden on both sides, about 13-15 minutes per side, lowering the heat if and when necessary to keep them from over-browning or burning before they cook through to their centers. Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry:  use an instant-read meat thermometer to insure burgers have reached an internal temperature of 165°.  

IMG_3914Once an internal temperature of 162°-165º has been reached, adjust heat as low as it will go, top each burger with 2 mozzarella slices, cover the grill pan and wait for cheese to melt, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

Note:  Grill pans don't come with lids.  The lid to my 16"-quart Cuisinart stockpot fits on my Cuisinart grill pan.  Can't find a lid? Cover the pan with a piece of foil.

Note:  To cook on an outdoor gas grill, preheat grill to medium.  Place burgers, side-by-side, either over indirect heat or on the upper rack of grill (if you have one).  Close lid and allow to cook 13-15 minutes.  After 13-15 minutes, open the grill lid.  Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip burgers over.  They will have firmed up and be golden brown on the first side.  Close the grill lid and continue to cook on the second side for 13-15 minutes, or, to an internal temperature of 165°.

Some assembly required:

IMG_4160Bun, shredded lettuce, burger, tomatoes, mayo & basil:

IMG_3860Pick it (or half of it) up in your mitt:

IMG_3883Savor each & every end-of-caprese-season bite:

IMG_3890Grillmarked:  Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers:  Recipe yields 8 large, hearty caprese-style chicken burgers & 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise/1 tablespoon mayo per burger.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; 3 1/2" food ring and tablespoon; grill pan w/lid; instant-read meat thermometer

IMG_3711 IMG_3706Cook's Note: To make 1/2 cup balsamic mayo, in a small bowl, stir together:

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, coarsely-ground black pepper and sea salt

Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/13/2017

~ Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry~

IMG_3692Peanut butter?  Yep.  Pulverized wok-roasted peanuts are commonly served with or in Thai food, and:  Oh my Thai -- if you love Thai food, as I do, you want this recipe in your recipe box.  If you cook Thai food, as I do, even if only on an occasional basis, I'm guessing you already have everything you need in the Asian section of your pantry and refrigerator to make this meal without making a special trip to your local Asian market.  Is this an authentic Thai recipe?  Yes and no. Yes, in that the flavors are authentic Thai.  No, in that I took a few shortcuts (mostly in the form of a can of store-bought red curry paste and some Jiff extra-crunchy peanut butter), but, nothing that a Thai cook would call me out on. Ok, perhaps a few Thai cooks would call me out, but, too bad. I'm an American gal in an American kitchen and I love Thai food.  To my Thai friends, be flattered.

IMG_3687In my food world, curries are comfort food.  Served steeping hot over or with freshly-steamed rice, they're perfect for the crisp, cold days of Fall and Winter.  Once the ingredients are prepped, which typically takes me about 30 minutes, Thai curries are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish (never a combination, but, one can be substituted for another, so feel free to do so), and they range in texture from very soupy to very thick and stewlike.  That said, they differ from other curries (like Indian and Jamaican), in that they rely upon a variety of freshly-made pulverized "wet" curry pastes rather than "dry" curry powders.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904d5f8970dNowadays, busy cooks, even Thai cooks, purchase canned curry pastes, and, the ones sold in Asian markets are of high-quality. That said, savvy Thai cooks add a few things to store-bought curry paste to brighten and personalize the flavor -- which is exactly what I've learned to do.

Today's stewlike red chicken curry recipe is a dish I was taught to make back in 1993 by a Home Economist from Thailand living in Happy Valley with her husband Fu. Kanya and I became foodie friends fast, and, over the course of two years, I had the priviledge of learning how to combine Thai ingredients to properly balance the classic four Thai flavors -- hot, sour, sweet & salty -- and serve them in authentic Thai style too.

Two time-savers: canned curry paste & peanut butter:

IMG_36292 1/2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, well-drained

6  tablespoons sesame oil

2  teaspoons curry powder

1  teaspoon powdered turmeric

1-1 1/2  4-ounce cans Thai red curry paste (Note:  Red curry paste is your heat gauge.  Use 1 can for less spice, 1 1/2 cans for medium spice, and, 2 cans for a lot of spice.  I use 1 1/2 cans.)

1 1/2  cups medium-diced red bell pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced green onion, white and light-green part only (diced yellow or sweet onion may be substituted

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well-drained, 1 generous cup

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce (Note: Thai fish sauce is the "salt" of Thailand.)

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce (Note:  Thai soy sauce differs from Chinese soy sauce, so, make sure the label reads "seasoning soy" or "Thai soy" sauce.)

2  tablespoons Thai palm sugar or light brown sugar 

4  tablespoon crunchy-style peanut butter

3/4  cups chopped, wok-roasted peanuts, from 1 cup blanched, unsalted peanuts (Note: See Cook's Note at end of post.

4-6  fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves  (Note:  I keep fresh ones in my freezer and dried ones in my pantry at all times.)

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

6  cups steamed jasmine rice (Note:  This allows 1-1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person.)

IMG_3638 IMG_3640 IMG_3645~ Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken cubes in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the well-drained water chestnuts.  Using a series of about 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely grind the chicken and rough chop the water chestnuts.  Remove from work bowl and set aside.

IMG_3652 IMG_3654 IMG_3658 IMG_3661~Step 2.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of sesame oil over 250° (medium-high on the stovetop).  Add the red curry paste, curry powder and powdered turmeric.  Using a large nonstick spoon, work the wet curry and the dry spices into the sesame oil and cook until curry paste is bubbling and fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.  Add chicken/water chestnut mixture, bell pepper, scallions and straw mushrooms.  Stir until ingredients are evenly-coated in curry and spices.

Note:  I prefer to use a 16" electric skillet to prepare this type of Thai curry dish for my family. Why?  It has the capacity to make enough to feed 6-8 people + enough surface area to produce a rather quick evaporation of liquid, which thickens the curry, and, it controls the heat perfectly too (a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides on the stovetop may be substituted).

IMG_3665 IMG_3670 IMG_3671 IMG_3684~Step 3.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes.  Add and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, seasoning soy, palm or light-brown sugar, peanut butter, kaffir lime leaves and 1/4 cup of wok-roasted peanuts.  Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and curry sauce is uniform in color, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to simmer gently but steadily, about 220°-225° (medium on the stovetop), until curry sauce is nicely thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Turn heat off, cover skillet and allow to steep while steaming rice and mincing cilantro garnish. 

"When in Rome."  A bit of Thai-style mealtime etiquette:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1eb32ea970cWe've all heard the saying, "when in Rome, do as the Romans."  It means, when in a foreign country, or, being entertained by foreigners:  respect their customs.  In Thailand, meals are served family-style.  Each dish is served in its own vessel, and, after the food is on the table, everyone sits down together.  The food is passed and it's impolite to take too much of any one item at one time, but, it's very polite to go back for seconds or thirds.  There's more.  Because Thai food is bite-sized (sliced, diced, chopped, or pulverized), you will never find a knife on a Thai table.  For a proper Thai place setting:  a plate and/or bowl, a fork and a spoon, and, a water glass.

Portion some rice in a bowl, top generously w/chicken curry, then, garnish w/a sprinkling of peanuts & cilantro: 

IMG_3686Oh my Thai -- that very first Thai-licious forkful:

IMG_7164Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry:  Recipe yields 9-10 cups thick, hearty, stewlike curry/6-8 servings.  Leftovers freeze, thaw and reheat (in the microwave) really well.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 16" electric skillet w/lid or 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides on stovetop; large nonstick spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fbcf970d 6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fc13970dCook's Note: To wok-roast the peanuts, place a thin coating of sesame oil in bottom of a wok and swirl to coat the wok a few inches up the sides -- the amount of oil will vary depending upon size of  wok. Heat over medium-high, add peanuts and stir-fry, stirring constantly, until golden, 1-2-3 minutes.  Cool and chop the nuts.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/10/2017

~ Chicken, Cheddar, Bacon, Apple & Honey Mustard ~

IMG_3586Write this list of five ingredients down.  Why?  Together, they are a stellar Fall sandwich (or salad) combination.  Piled high between two slices of bread or tossed together in a bowl, along with some thinly-sliced onion and a few greens, they constitute a complete and salivatingly satisfying meal -- savory, sweet, and ever-so-slightly-salty, with plenty of meaty protein, tangy cheese, tart fruit and crisp vegetables.  It all gets pulled together with a drizzly dressing made of honey, mustard and mayonnaise, which complements each and every component perfectly.  

I like to stuff everything into a pita pocket, but, I have been known to serve 'em up on homemade cheddar biscuits, when I've got time and am inclined to bake biscuits.  Served on either, it's an exquisite sandwich.  That said, I put some thought into the "construction", meaning:  the order in which the ingredients would be layered.  While sandwiches can be as simple as "catch-as-catch-can", "grab the stuff and out the door you run", all sandwiches are not created equal:  

Some are hot and some are cold.  Some need to be eaten ASAP and some can be wrapped and transported long distances.  Some are neat and can be picked up to eat, others are sloppy and require a knife and fork.  In the case of this sandwich, I wanted it layered in a manner that kept it from deconstructing itself as I ate it -- I wanted it to stay relatively intact to the very last bite.  

IMG_3575A great sandwich is a properly-constructed sandwich:

For each sandwich:

1  pita pocket, sliced in half to form 2 half-moon shapes

2-3  tablespoons honey-mustard dressing, a generous 1 tablespoon per half sandwich

2  slices sharp yellow cheddar cheese, sliced in half to form 4 triangles, 2 triangles per half sandwich

2  very-thin slices red onion, sliced in half to form 4 half-moon shapes, 2 half-moon shapes per half sandwich

12 thin slices poached or roasted chicken breast, 6 thin slices per half sandwich

2  slices oven roasted bacon or pan-fried bacon, each slice cut into 4 pieces per half 

6  crisp and crunchy, in-season, unpeeled and thinly-sliced, half-moon-shaped apple slices, your favorite Fall apple, 3 half-moon-shaped slices per half sandwich 

4-6 generous tablespoons shredded iceberg lettuce (or your favorite crisp greens), about 2-3 tablespoons shredded lettuce per half sandwich

additional honey-mustard dressing, preferably homemade, for dipping or drizzling

potato chips or potato salad, for accompaniment

IMG_3545 IMG_3549 IMG_3555 IMG_3559~Step 1.  Slice 1 pita pocket in half and open each half up.  Using a teaspoon or a butter knife, slather the inside, top and bottom, of each pita half, with about 1 generous tablespoon honey mustard dressing.  Cut 2 slices yellow sharp cheddar cheese in half to form 4 triangles and layer 2 pieces of cheese in the bottom each pita half.  Cut 2 very-thin slices red onion in half to form 2 half-moon shapes.  Place/distribute 2 of the half-moons, atop the cheese in each half.

IMG_3563 IMG_3569 IMG_3570 IMG_3574~Step 2.  Atop the onion, arrange 6 thin slices poached or roasted chicken breast meat in each pita half.  Atop the chicken, arrange 4 quarter-pieces bacon (1 slice bacon cut into 4 pieces).  In each pita half, arrange 3 thin half-moon shaped apples slices atop the bacon.  Atop the apples slices in each pita half, "stuff" 2-3 tablespoons shredded lettuce.  It's pretty as a picture:

Drizzle w/additional honey-mustard dressing & serve:

IMG_3596Absolutely fantastic to the very last bite: 

IMG_3616Chicken, Cheddar, Bacon, Apple & Honey Mustard:  Recipe yields instructions to construct 1 pita sandwich/2 halves per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; teaspoon or butter knife

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bCook's Note:  Those of you who know me, know I love roasted chicken, and, I truly do roast two chickens almost every week, just to have the meat on-hand for sandwiches and salads.  It's so much better than salty, store-bought deli-meat chicken. During the Fall and Winter months, I love to bake focaccia too, to have on-hand for sandwiches.  Got roasted chicken and focaccia too?  Check out my recipe for ~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia Panini ~. It's more than worth the effort.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

09/07/2017

~ Hey, Honey -- Pass the Honey-Mustard Dressing ~

IMG_3523Honey mustard.  It's one of the simplest condiments in the food world to make, and, I bow to the mustard makers that invented it.  In my kitchen, I use it as a salad dressing, a sandwich spread, a dip for vegetables, and occasionally, a glaze for baked ham.  In the '80's, when my kids were in elementary school, there was always a jar of it on my refrigerator door.  When we were traveling, if an eatery had chicken tenders and honey-mustard sauce on their list of menu options, my three boys were happy campers -- given the choice, all three of them preferred it to ranch dressing, so, that's quite an endorsement.  As for me, I love it on onion rings and Philly-style soft pretzels.

IMG_3500A bit about honey:  The earliest written reference to honey dates back to the Egyptians in 5500 B.C., but, honeybees were making honey long before historical records were written.  Only relatively recently, mid 19th Century, did sugar become available and affordable to the average Westerner.  Prior to that, it was a very expensive luxury for the wealthy, because it had to be imported over long distances. Honeybees native to Asia, were brought to the New World by the Colonists in 1622, and honey was their primary sweetening agent for tea, cakes, cookies and candies. Once it got introduced to the Native Americans, honey became a popular item to trade too.

IMG_3502A bit about mustard:  Mustard is the world's oldest manmade condiment. There are recipes for mustard that date back to 42 A.D. in Roman writings, but, it wasn't popularized until their seeds were exported to Gaul (France).  By the 13th Century, food peddlers were selling their homemade mustard concoctions all over France, and, in the 16th Century, legal protection was given to the mustard makers and their secret recipes (which varied greatly from maker to maker).  In time, a few mustard makers began experimenting with substituting green grape juice ("verjus" -- "green juice") for vinegar, which produced a milder taste we now associate with their white-wine-made Dijon.

IMG_3514A bit about honey-mustard:  It was only a matter of time before the mustard makers added a bit of honey to sweeten their Dijon a bit, to gentle it down even further.  Next, French chef's began adding their mayonnaise (a French invention) to the honey-mustard, along with other ingredients:  various herbs (basil, dill, rosemary, thyme), garlic and even chile peppers for some heat. I'd say that was the unofficial start of the honey-mustard dressing/sauce industry, and, to this day, honey mustard dressing is typically made using just three ingredients: Dijon mustard, honey, and, mayo. That said, there are many types of honey-mustard because there are many types of honey and mustard.

Three seriously basic "staple" ingredients:

IMG_3490Honey + Dijon + Mayonnaise = Honey Mustard Dressing

IMG_3495To make basic honey mustard dressing, in a 2-cup size food-storage container, whisk together:

1/4  cup honey

1/4  cup Dijon mustard

1/4  cup high-quality mayonnaise

Taste.  If you want it sweeter, whisk in more honey, by the teaspoonful, to please your palate.  You've just made honey-mustard dressing.

IMG_3497My favorite add-ins, which are entirely optional, are:

1/8  teaspoon black pepper

1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8  teaspoon paprika, or smoked paprika (if it's a smokey flavor I'm looking for occasionally)

Cover and refrigerate, for at least one hour, to allow the flavors to marry.  The dressing will thicken up a bit in the refrigerator too.

The perfect consistency to drizzle over salad or use as a dip:

IMG_3528Poached or roasted chicken chef salad anyone?

IMG_3534Hey, Honey -- Pass the Honey-Mustard Dressing:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup salad dressing or dipping sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup size food storage container w/tight fitting lid; whisk

IMG_5989Cook's Note:  No matter how easy or complicated, recipes that have a history or a lore are always on my short list of blog posts to share because, for me, they are the most fun to write.  My recipe for ~ Pretty in Pink: Thousand Islands Salad Dressing~ is one such recipe.  It's also yet another salad dressing/sandwich spread/dipping sauce that I am never without.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/05/2017

~ Butter-Rum Frosted Banana-Walnut Spice Cookies ~

IMG_3470Spice is nice, particularly in spice cakes and spice cookies, and, when Summer turns to Fall, I find myself gravitating to spiced sweet treats.  I generically refer to them as the "apple pie spices" -- you know the ones -- spice rack essentials.  They're exotic and aromatic, and, they play oh-so-well together:  allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg.  Sometimes I choose just one or two, other times I use three or four, occasionally I use all five.  That said, I'm always reminding folks to use them judiciously, as, too much of any one, is overpoweringly wrong.

These spice cookies are puffy & light, &, cake-like.  

IMG_3439They soak up milk or coffee faster than crunchy cookies.

These cake-like cookies are lightly and nicely, yet noticeable spiced.  If you're not a fan of cookies with a soft cake-like texture, move along without expressing any criticism.  For a dunker like me, a cake-like cookie soaks up my milk or coffee faster than any crunchy cookie does, and, near the tailend my beverage, it has acquired a pleasant tinge of spice -- spiced milk or coffee -- yum.

IMG_3370For the dry ingredients:

3 3/4  cups all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon baking powder

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground ginger

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place and stir together all of the above dry ingredients.  Set aside.

IMG_3379For the wet ingredients and add-ins:

1 1/2  cups sugar

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  large egg, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure banana extract

1  teaspoon butter-rum flavoring

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups fork-mashed bananas, from 3 large, over-ripe bananas (Tip from Mel:  If the bananas are not soft enough to mash easily with a fork, they are not IMG_3397ripe enough to use for banana bread, cake or cookies.)

1 3/4 cups chopped, lightly-toasted walnuts (total throughout recipe, 1 1/2 cups to add to cookies, and a generous 1/4 cup, reserved and ground, for sprinkling on finished cookies as directed below)

~ Step 2. Chop and place walnuts on a small baking pan as you work.  Place on center rack of 350º oven or toaster oven for 5-6 minutes, until lightly-toasted and fragrant.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool, 20-30 minutes.  Remove and reserve a generous 1/4 cup walnuts.

IMG_3374 IMG_3383 IMG_3388 IMG_3392~Step 3.  Using a fork, in a 2-cup measuring container, mash 3 large, peeled overripe bananas. You should have 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups mashed bananas.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, place the sugar, butter, egg and extracts.  On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the ingredients together, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Add bananas, increase mixer speed to high and thoroughly incorporate.

IMG_3399 IMG_3401 IMG_3403 2 IMG_3408~Step 4.  Lower mixer speed to medium-low.  In two parts, add the dry ingredients (the flour/spice mixture), mixing thoroughly while scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula each time. Remove the mixer.  Add the nuts and use the spatula to fold them into the cookie dough.

IMG_3422 IMG_3423 IMG_3427 IMG_3429~Step 5.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed balls of cookie dough, well apart, 12 on each of three 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.  One-pan-at-a-time, bake on center rack of 350º oven, 12-13 minutes until puffed up through to the center and lightly-browned.  Remove from oven.  Using a thin spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat this process two more times with remaining pans of cookies.  Prepare cream cheese frosting and frost/top cookies as directed below.

Remove from oven & transfer to wire rack(s) to cool...

IMG_3444... prior to frosting & topping cookies as directed below:

IMG_6408For the cream cheese frosting :

8  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

1  cup Confectioner's sugar

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

1  tablespoon milk

1/4  cup chopped lightly-toasted walnuts, reserved from above 

IMG_3447 IMG_3452~ Step 1.  In a small-capacity food processor, place the walnuts.  Using a series of of 12-15 rapid on-off pulses, followed by the motor running for 8-10 seconds, grind the walnuts to a fine-grained "sprinkleable" consistency.  Set aside.

IMG_3464 IMG_3453 IMG_3456 IMG_3462~Step 2.  Place the cream cheese, butter-rum flavoring and Confectioners' sugar in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 12-15 rapid on-off pulses, followed by the motor running for 8-10 seconds, process until it's got an ultra-smooth consistency, adding milk, by the teaspoonful, if necessary, to reach the desired consistency -- I added 1 teaspoon today.

IMG_3478~ Step 3.  Place the wire rack of cookies atop a piece of parchment or paper towels.  Using a knife, spread some frosting over the top of each cookie (do not dip the cookie top into the frosting).  While the frosting is still moist, sprinkle ground nuts over the the frosted cookies. The parchment paper or paper towels will collect the excess underneath.  Allow cookies to sit, uncovered, for several  hours, to give the frosting time to set.  

Spread frosting over tops of cookies & sprinkle w/ground nuts:

IMG_3476Fall has arrived.  Are you ready for some spice?

IMG_3482Butter-Rum Frosted Banana-Walnut Spice Cookies:  Recipe yields 3 dozen, 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 3, 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; butter knife; mini-food processor; food processor

IMG_6433 IMG_9233Cook's Note: It's never to early to start thinking about your holiday cooking baking.  For two more of my favorite lightly- and nicely-spiced cake-like cookie recipes, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas, click on the following links to my posts for:  pumpkin cookies and eggnog cookies.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

09/02/2017

~How to: Make Roasted Chicken Carcass Soup Stock~

IMG_3267As unappetizing as the two words chicken carcass sound, culinarily, those are the words that describe what's left of a boned chicken (what's left after the meat has been removed from the bones), and, truth told, whether the carcass is raw or has been roasted, there is a ton of flavor in those bones.  There's more, and this is important:  Discarding a chicken carcass without extracting the flavor from it is such a waste it should be a crime.  Whether I have raw ones (which I rarely do) or roasted ones (which I often do), even if I don't have time to "deal with them" immediately, I put them in a bag in the freezer and make a date with them for another time.  

IMG_8322One of the benefits of roasting two chickens each week, is my ability to make a lot of "roasted chicken carcass soup stock".  Yes, I really do roast two chickens almost every week.  Rotisserie chicken is not my "gig" -- I find it to be overly greasy and I don't feel well after I eat it. Instead, I choose to put two six-pound chickens on a rack in a pan in a 350º oven for two hours.  When they come out, we enjoy one hot meal (usually with gravy and mashed or roasted potatoes), and, for the rest of the week, I have leftovers for sandwiches and salads.

IMG_3084 IMG_3088 IMG_3091~ Step 1.  Carve and remove the white breast meat and dark leg/thigh meat from both roasted chickens.  Using your fingers, remove and discard as much of the roasted skin from the two carcasses.  Place the carcasses in a 16-quart stockpot.  If the chickens have been roasted as per my directions, there will be some flavorful dripping in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Pour the drippings into a fat/lean separator, add the lean portion only to the stockpot, then, discard the fat portion.

IMG_3096~ Step 2.  To the stockpot with the carcasses and drippings, add:

10  quarts cold water

1  1/2  pounds large whole, peeled yellow or sweet onions

1  1/2-2  pounds whole, peeled carrots*

3/4  pound whole celery stalks

4  tablespoons dried parsley

4  tablespoons sea salt & 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely-ground black pepper

*Note:  If this seems like a case of "carrot excess", it is.  I love lots carrots in my soup, and, since I use this stock to make soup, I cook a lot of them, all at once.  When portioning the stock into containers for the freezer, I place a few whole cooked carrots in each container.

IMG_3099 IMG_3104~ Step 3.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Unlike making soup with meat-on whole chickens or raw chicken carcasses, there will be very little of the whitish/gray foamy matter that floats to the surface.  That said, if some surfaces, use a large slotted spoon or skimmer to remove and discard it.  Adjust heat to a gentle ready simmer. Continue to simmer, uncovered for 3 hours.  The soup will have reduced quite and bit, which will render it tastily rich.  Turn the heat off, cover pot and allow soup to steep for 3 more hours.

IMG_3107~ Step 4.  There will be 7-7 1/2 quarts of perfectly-seasoned chicken-soup stock.  Ladle the stock through a fine mesh strainer into desired-sized food storage containers (for the freezer) or jars (for the refrigerator).  These are 2-quart sized containers into which some of the whole, cooked carrots have been placed.  Use immediately as directed in recipe, or, refrigerate stock for up to 1 week, or keep frozen for 6-8-12 months.

Loads of rich, roasted flavor from roasted chicken carcasses:

IMG_3086Liquid gold-- Perfect for an upcoming chilly day lunch: 

IMG_3257How to:  Make Roasted Chicken Carcass Soup Stock:  Recipe yields 7-7 1/2 quarts perfectly-seasoned chicken-soup stock.  Simply add some diced celery, onion, and/or potatoes and simmer until veggies are tender.  Add cooked homemade egg noodles and it's time to eat.

Special Equipment List:  16-quart stockpot w/lid; fat/lean separator; large slotted spoon or skimmer; soup ladle; fine mesh strainer

6a0120a8551282970b015392bcbb3e970bCook's Note:   Making chicken stock to use all year long is a big event in my kitchen.  I usually make it on one of the coldest days of the year, so that I can use the great outdoors (a secure area on my patio), to refrigerate the entire 24-quart stockpot overnight.  To get my recipe for chicken stock made with whole, meat-on-the-chickens chicken-soup stock, click this link to read my post ~ It's National Chicken Stock Day -- In Mel's Kitchen ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/31/2017

~ Say Cheese: How to Make Velveeta from Scratch ~

IMG_3351Scrootch over homemade mozzarella and ricotta -- make some extra space in the cheese section of the refrigerator.  Two days ago, my friend Teresa shared "a link to a link" for today's recipe on Facebook.  I could barely compose myself.  I,  Melanie Preschutti, almost always being of sound mind, always have, and always will be:  a Velveeta cheese lover.  Everything from its pale-orange color to its squeaky-smooth texture and tangy American-processed flavor appeals to me.  

Teresa's Facebook share couldn't have been more timely for me.  The college football season started this week, and, living in one of our nation's premier tailgating towns (State College, "Happy Valley", PA, the home of the Penn State University's Nittany Lions) I'd already proclaimed it "cheese feed week" here on Kitchen Encounters.  I immediately placed Homemade Velveeta on the top of my stack of upcoming blog posts to write, and, it is with great glee, I can report:  

IMG_3344Homemade Velveeta is everything it's "cracked" up to be.

Quoting the linked article written by P.J. Hamel (10/1/14 for the King Arthur Flour blog:  Flourish):  

"The New York Daily News reports Chef Michele Weber, of Manhattan's Upper West Side restaurant Good Enough to Eat, plows through four cases of it a week, making "Crack Dip" and her house special scrambled eggs.  Chef Ron Eyester, from Rosebud in Atlanta, uses it in his restaurant mac and cheese -- it's so creamy -- but doesn't say it on the menu description.  And, last winter, when there was a shortage of this key ingredient just before the Super Bowl, the Today show urged consumers not to resort to hoarding -- their favorite queso dip could be made with substitutes.  You've probably guessed we're talking about:  Velveeta cheese."

Pass or fail, I couldn't resist giving it a whirl today:

IMG_32956  tablespoons dry milk powder

1  1/4-ounce packet (one packet) Knox unflavored gelatin

1  cup boiling water

16  ounces mild orange cheddar cheese, shredded (Note:  I used mild shredded cheddar from a big, 5-pound bag that I purchase at Sam's Club, and, after weighing out 1 pound in a Ziplock bag, I set the cheese on the counter about 30 minutes so it would not be ice cold when I used it.)

IMG_3305 IMG_3307 IMG_3312 IMG_3313 IMG_3315 IMG_3318~Step 1.  Place milk powder and gelatin in a food processor.  Use a series of 5-6 rapid on-off pulses, to briefly combine the two.  With motor running, through the feed tube, add the boiling water in a thin stream and blend until smooth.  Immediately, open the lid, add all of the cheese, return the lid and process until ultra smooth, 20-30 seconds.

IMG_3321 IMG_3324 IMG_3329~ Step 2.  Immediately, using a large spoon or spatula, scoop and divide the mixture into and between 2, 5 3/4"L x 3 1/2"W x 2"D mini-loaf pans that have been lined with plastic wrap with a lot of excess draped over the sides of the pans.*  Gather up the excess plastic wrap and form an airtight seal across the surface of the cheese.  Refrigerate until set, 8 hours or overnight.  Overnight is best.

*Note:  I decided to use the empty cardboard box from a 2-pound block of Velveeta as my mold.  It worked perfectly, it's reusable, and it's more fun -- I even put the lid on it.

Remove cheese from refrigerator:

IMG_3331Open the box (this is so much fun):

IMG_3334Remove from box & remove plastic wrap:

IMG_3339Use a cheese wire to slice & eat, or, use as directed in recipe:

IMG_3357Tightly wrap leftovers in plastic & store in refrigerator:  

IMG_3368Say Cheese:  How to Make Velveeta from Scratch:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 pounds homemade Velveeta/2 small blocks or 1 large block.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 1-cup measuring container, 2, 5 3/4"L x 3 1/2"W x 2"D mini-loaf pans, or, the cardboard box bottom from 1, 2-pound block Velveeta cheese; plastic wrap; large spoon or spatula

IMG_3031 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09bebca1970dCook's Note: "Cheese feed week" on KE consisted of recipes for: ~ Southern Comfort: Classic Pimento Cheese Spread ~, ~ Old English Cheese Spread & Crabmeat Canapés ~, ~ Creamy Old English and Pimento Cheese Crab Dip ~. Making homemade Velveeta cheese was the perfect ending -- eternal thanks to my girlfriend Teresa.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/28/2017

~ Creamy Old English and Pimento Cheese Crab Dip ~

IMG_3275During the college football season, I add a few staples to my pantry and refrigerator lineup.  When you live in a college town, you never (and I mean never) know when you're going to need to fix a quick appetizer.  I make sure I'm never without pasteurized crabmeat in my refrigerator and Kraft Old English and Pimento Cheese spreads in my pantry.  If the doorbell rings or the fans on the couch run out of wings, I can have crab dip on the cocktail table in about five minutes.

IMG_3284Give me five minutes, I'll make you some great crab dip:

IMG_32691-pound pasteurized crabmeat, drained of any excess moisture

8  tablespoons salted butter, melted (1 stick)

1/4-1/2  teaspoon (a generous/heaping 1/4 teaspoon) garlic powder

1/4-1/2  teaspoon (a generous/heaping 1/4 teaspoon) onion powder

1  5-ounce jar Kraft Old English Cheese Spread, softened-slightly in the microwave

1, 5-ounce jar Kraft Pimento Cheese Spread

1/2  cup high-quality mayonnaise, preferably Duke's or Hellmann's

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2a5e3d2970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2a5e3ec970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c91b744e970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09beb415970d 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2a5e405970c~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, place the butter, garlic and onion powders.  In the microwave, melt the butter and set aside.  In a medium bowl, place the crabmeat, Old English cheese spread and pimento cheese spread and mayonnaise.  Drizzle in the melted butter. Using a spoon, thoroughly combine all ingredients together.  Serve immediately and/or keep stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.  Serve at room temperature.

Got leftover crab dip?  Try it hot:  

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09bec41d970dBroiled atop toasted English muffins for breakfast:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c91b82a6970bCreamy Old English and Pimento Cheese Crab Dip:  Recipe yields 4 cups dip or spread.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; spoon; 4-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid.

IMG_3031 IMG_3048Cook's Note: When I was a kid, my mom kept the Old English next to the Pimento Cheese  -- on the door of our refrigerator.  I adored them, but, was a young adult when I learned pimento cheese was Southern.  I thought it was Kraft. Live and learn -- I learned how to make my own ~ Southern Comfort: Classic Pimento Cheese Spread ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/25/2017

~ Old English Cheese Spread & Crabmeat Canapés ~

IMG_3224These appetizers were one of our Happy Valley tailgate traditions.  I fondly remember one of our members, Joan Reilly, making them for our early AM pre-tailgate tailgates -- prior to leaving for the stadium.  She and her husband Joe lived close to Beaver Stadium, and, it was not unusual for us to meet, as a group, on the cul-de-sac in front of their house, to wait for our friend with the RV to arrive from Harrisburg.  While we were all chatting and sipping Stan's Bloody Mary's, Joan would pass around a baking sheet full of her cheesy English-muffin-based crabmeat canapés.

IMG_3128Crab bites, crab melts, crab toasties, crab melt-a-ways, say-cheese appetizers, English muffin crab cakes.  These are just a few of the names you'll find associated with this vintage (circa 1970's) recipe.

All recipes for  these rely on an English muffin base and a concoction consisting of pasteurized crabmeat and Old English cheese spread.  Some recipes are baked, and others are broiled.  Mine (actually Joan's) is a combination of both.  I lightly toast the muffins first, heap them with the crab mixture, then broil them for a few short moments.  Some folks claim they can be assembled and frozen, to be baked and/or broiled at a later date, but, these "crab thingies" are so gosh darned easy to make, I've never been willing to risk compromising them by freezing.  When I was a kid, my mother kept Kraft Old English cheese spread in our refrigerator right next to their pimento cheese spread.  I like to use 1, 5-ounce jar of each to make my crabmeat canapés -- that choice is yours.

Steaming-hot & straight-out-of-the-oven --

IMG_3241What a yummy little way to start game day.

IMG_31351  1-pound can pasteurized crabmeat, drained of any excess moisture

8  tablespoons salted butter, melted (1 stick)

1/4-1/2  teaspoon (a generous/heaping 1/4 teaspoon) garlic powder

1/4-1/2  teaspoon (a generous/heaping 1/4 teaspoon) onion powder

2  5-ounce jars Kraft Old English Cheese Spread, softened-slightly in the microwave, or, 1, 5-ounce jar Old English + 1, 5-ounce jar Kraft Pimento Cheese Spread, which is my favorite

1/2  cup high-quality mayonnaise, preferably Duke's or Hellmann's

9  Thomas' English Muffins, split to form 12 pieces (Note:  I purchase 9-packs at our local Sam's Club.)

sliced grape or cherry tomato "coins", for garnish

IMG_3142 IMG_3144 IMG_3150 IMG_3154 IMG_3158~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, place butter, garlic and onion powders.  In the microwave, melt the butter and set aside.  In a medium bowl, place the crabmeat, Old English cheese spread and optional pimento cheese spread and mayonnaise.  Drizzle in the melted butter. Using a spoon, thoroughly combine all ingredients together.

IMG_3161 IMG_3168 IMG_3175 IMG_3178 IMG_3183~Step 2.  Using a serrated knife, slice muffins in half.  Don't split them with a fork. Slicing them will yield 12 even-sized halves.  Splitting them will not. In toaster or on rack of toaster oven, toast English muffin halves until nicely-browned.  Place toasted halves on baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.  Using a spoon, scoop 3 tablespoons filling onto the center of each muffin.  Use the spoon to flatten and spread the filling out across the top. Place pan of muffins, 5 1/2"-6" underneath preheated broiler, for 3 minutes, watching carefully during the last 30 seconds, as they will go from nicely-golden to horribly burned very quickly.

It's ok eat one whole too, as a breakfast or brunch entrée:

IMG_3194It's just a bigger, yummier way to start game day:

IMG_3211Old English Cheese Spread & Crabmeat Canapés:  Recipe yields 4 cups crabmeat & cheese filling,  enough to top 18 English muffin halves, and, 6 dozen bite-sized appetizers/72 bite-sized triangular-shaped pieces.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; serrated bread knife; toaster or toaster oven; 1, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan, or, 3, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans; parchment paper

IMG_3031 IMG_3048Cook's Note: As mentioned above, my mom kept the Old English next to the Pimento Cheese  -- on the door of our refrigerator.  I adored them, but, was a young adult when I learned pimento cheese was Southern.  I thought it was Kraft. Live and learn -- I learned how to make my own ~ Southern Comfort: Classic Pimento Cheese Spread ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/22/2017

~ Southern Comfort: Classic Pimento Cheese Spread ~

IMG_3031When I was a little kid, pimento cheese spread was a staple in our refrigerator -- right next to the Old English cheese spread.  I had absolutely no idea it was Southern.  I thought it was Kraft. To this day, if someone puts a jar on of the store-bought stuff on the table next to a box of Ritz crackers, I'm more than happy to sit down and dig right in.  Slather it between two slices of white bread and make me a pimento-cheese grilled-cheese sandwich and I'll follow you anywhere.

Known as "the caviar of the South, or, "Southern pâté",

IMG_2989pimento (or pimiento) cheese is a Southern thing.

Throughout my adulthood, I've had occasion to travel to various destinations in more than a few Southern states, and, whether I'm looking for it or not, more often than not, pimento cheese appears on pub grub or restaurant menus in some fashion.  Sometimes I don't even have to look or ask for it -- it shows up as a complimentary snack.  No two cooks or establishments make it the same way, some versions are better than others (I'm not a fan of those containing cream cheese), but, rare is the person who doesn't take a liking to it immediately given the chance to sample it.  

Pimentol.pictA bit about pimento cheese:  In its basic form, it consists of few ingredients:  shredded and mashed or processed yellow cheddar and/or processed cheese (like Velveeta), a jar or can of diced or sliced pimentos (a small, 2"-3" wide, 3"-4" long, red, heart-shaped, sweet, succulent pepper), high-quality mayonnaise (Duke's or Hellmann's -- more mayo than you think is necessary), Louisiana-style cayenne pepper sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce, plus, seasonings (like garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Its consistency ranges from ultra-smooth to slightly-chunky. It can be soothingly mild or spicy hot.  

It can be used to make pimento cheese sandwiches or as a spread in all sorts of sandwiches or on crackers, a dip for vegetables (its especially good scooped into a stalk of celery), mixed into deviled egg filling, added to grits, or used as a yummy topping for hamburgers or hot dogs.  

IMG_3126Pimento cheese trivia:  Fancy pimento cheese, finger-food-sized tea sandwiches (with the crusts removed from the white bread) are a signature item served at the Augusta National Golf Club at The Masters Tournament every year.  Controversy arose in 2013 when the golf club switched food suppliers and the new supplier couldn't duplicate the previous supplier's recipe, resulting in sandwiches with a markedly different taste -- it didn't happen twice.  In an episode of AMC's Breaking Bad, Mike Ehrmantraut offers a pimento cheese sandwich to Jesse Pinkman on a stakeout together.  In an episode of AMC's Breaking Bad spinoff show, Better Call Saul, Mike (Ehrmantraut) brings a pimento cheese sandwich to a bodyguard job instead of a weapon.  After binge-watching Breaking Bad in reruns (for the second time) over the past few days, I've got pimento cheese sandwiches fresh on my mind.

IMG_29956  tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise, preferably Dukes or Hellmann's with Dukes being the traditional and Southern favorite

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon Louisianna-style cayenne pepper sauce, to taste (optional)

1/2  ounce diced yellow or sweet yellow onion

1  large garlic clove

1/2  teaspoon celery salt

1/4-1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

4  ounces shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese

4  ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese, with or without Jalapeños, your choice

1  4-ounce jar pimentos, well-drained (Note:  Pimentos are sold sliced or diced, in 2-, 4- and 7-ounce jars.  A 4-ounce jar measures just shy of 1/2 cup, so, if you are measuring from a different size jar, use that amount.  A 2-ounce jar yields a generous/heaping 2 tablespoons.)

IMG_2996 IMG_2999 IMG_3000 IMG_3003~Step 1.  In the work bowl of a small-capacity food processor, place the diced onion and garlic clove.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, process to just short of a purée, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl with a small spatula every 5-6 pulses.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate for a moment or two, to allow the paper towels to absorb excess moisture. You will have a generous tablespoon of onion and garlic mixture.  Place the pimentos on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess moisture.  Grate the cheeses and set aside.

IMG_3006 IMG_3009 IMG_3014 IMG_3016 IMG_3021~Step 2.  In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire, optional cayenne pepper sauce, celery salt and coarsely-ground black pepper.  Add the grated cheeses and well-drained pimentos.  Throughly fold and stir the mixture together, using the side of the spatula to chop up the cheeses as you work.  Transfer to a 2-cup-sized food storage container, cover, and refrigerate, 2-3 hours or overnight, prior to serving as it is, slightly chunky, or, whirring it in the food processor for a few seconds to give it an ultra-smooth consistency.

Slightly-chunky or ultra-smooth -- it's your choice:

IMG_3048This Yankee gal likes hers smooth -- slathered on a Rtiz:

IMG_3059

Southern Comfort:  Classic Pimento Cheese Spread:  Recipe yields a generous 1 1/2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small-capacity food processor; paper towels; hand-held box grater; large rubber spatula; 2-cup-sized food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b017d41db380a970cCook's Note:  Next to pimento cheese spread, there is only one cheese concoction that I can't live without.  It's another blast-from-my-past, but I think, ~ Confessions from a Port Wine Cheese Ball Lover ~, is a post you might enjoy reading. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/20/2017

~Oatmeal Peanut-Butter Milk-Chocolate-Chip Cookies~

IMG_2969At 6:30AM I took my poodles outside and turned the sprinklers in our vegetable gardens on.  As the water droplets hit the leaves, I watched as the red tomatoes, green basil, purple eggplant and other prime produce started to glisten in the early morning sun.  While walking my pooches back to the house, I decided to bake cookies today.  A girl cannot live on tomato sandwiches and caprese salad forever.  The eggplant will live to see another day too.  It's cookies I crave.

This is the paragraph where I am supposed to divulge where I got this recipe, share a personal story about it and/or report its history.  Truth told, I have no recollection of how I got it (no record of my original source).  That's easy to understand.  Having raised three boys during the 1980's, I have numerous recipes for chocolate-chip-based cookies -- us moms who volunteered to bake for elementary school fundraising bake sales exchanged our cookie recipes freely.  It happened all the time, but, back then, I had no idea I'd be writing a cooking blog someday.  Trust me.  It's an excellent recipe.  Why?  Because it is still in my file.  It's kid-tested and mother approved.

Oatmeal, peanut butter & chocolate chip: 3 favorites in 1 cookie.

IMG_29071/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1/2  cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

1/2  cup sugar

3/4  cup crunchy peanut butter

1  large egg

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1  cup unbleached-all-purpose flour

3/4  cup old-fashioned rolled oats, not instant oatmeal

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/4  teaspoon salt

1  cup milk-chocolate chips

IMG_2912 IMG_2916 IMG_2918 IMG_2922~Step 1.  In a large bowl, place butter, brown sugar, sugar, peanut butter, egg and vanilla.  On high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream ingredients together, while scraping sides of bowl down with a rubber spatula, about 1 full minute.  Lower mixer speed to medium and incorporate the flour, baking soda and salt, followed by the oatmeal, scraping down sides of bowl as you mix.

IMG_2923 IMG_2929 IMG_2932 IMG_2937~Step 2.  Remove mixer.  Using spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place balls of cooking dough, well-apart, on each of 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 340º oven, 12-14 minutes, until barely browned.  Remove from oven and cool, in pans, 3 minutes prior to using a spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Bake in 340° oven, 12-14 minutes, remove from oven & cool in pans 3 minutes, transfer to wire rack to cool completely: 

IMG_2953Crispy outside & chewy inside w/a salty edge -- perfection:

IMG_2983Oatmeal Peanut-Butter Milk-Chocolate-Chip Cookies:  Recipe yields 2 dozen, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; thin spatula; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d29456a8970cCook's Note:  For generations, we Americans have had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. Surveys unanimously and overwhelmingly place the chocolate chip cookie at the top of our all-time favorite cookie list for over three-quarters of our population, and, it all started with the all-American Toll House cookie.  Who do we thank for and what's the history behind this iconic cookie?  To find out, read my post  ~ The Original Nestlé's Toll House Cookie Recipe ~.  Trust me. I'm certain you'll find it fascinating.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/18/2017

~ Nice & Easy No-Nonsense Quick-Mix Apple Bread ~

IMG_2889Nice and easy, no-nonsense, quick-to-mix.  One bowl, a whisk and a spatula -- no mixer required. Yep.  Those words accurately sum up this recipe, and, the end more than justifies the means, meaning:  it's hard to believe something this easy can taste this divine.  While apple bread isn't the the most photogenic (brown food in general isn't), don't let its monochromatic appearance fool you.  It's dense but not heavy, has a delicately-moist crumb, and, it's bursting with apple flavor -- perfect for any Fall breakfast or brunch buffet table.  Me?  I love it toasted (on the rack of my toaster oven, not a conventional toaster) and slathered with soft, creamy butter.

IMG_2829A bit about quick bread:  "Quick bread" is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time.  It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high.  Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast.  Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda.  In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and, gives a second burst of rising power when the bread enters the hot oven.  Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt and fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening.  That said, they can be sweet or savory and contain sugar, fruits, fruit purée, vegetables, vegetable purée and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock).  The wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately, in two different bowls, then briefly stirred together just prior to baking.  FYI:  Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles -- they all fall into the quick-bread category too.

IMG_27731  cup vegetable oil

3  large eggs

1  teaspoon pure apple extract (optional)

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  cups sugar

2 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon apple pie spice

3 cups peeled and medium-diced apples, about 3, 8-10-ounce apples

Sugan 'n Cinnamon, for topping loaves

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_2774 IMG_2780 IMG_2784~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, whisk the oil, extracts and eggs together until smooth. Add the sugar and whisk again, to thoroughly combine.  Set aside 5-10 minutes, to give the sugar plenty of time to dissolve, then whisk again.

IMG_2789 IMG_2790 IMG_2793 IMG_2796 IMG_2799~Step 2.  While the oil mixture is resting, peel and dice the apples.  

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and apple pie spice.  Add half of the flour mixture to the oil mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the flour into the oil.  Add the second half of the flour and repeat, folding until the ingredients are just moistened.  A thick batter will have formed.  Fold in all of the apples.

IMG_2803 IMG_2807 IMG_2808 IMG_2815~Step 3.   Spoon and divide batter between two loaf pans that have been sprayed with no-stick. Generously sprinkle top of each loaf with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325° oven, 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place loaves, in pans, on a wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes prior to inverting them out of pans onto rack to cool 1 1/2-2 hours, prior to slicing warm or at room temperature.

Bake in 325° oven, 55-60 minutes & cool in pans 15-20 minutes prior to inverting onto wire rack to cool completely:

IMG_2810Dense but not heavy, delicately moist & slathered w/butter:

IMG_2885Nice & Easy No-Nonsense Quick-Mix Apple Bread:  Recipe yields 2 loaves, approximately 10 slices per loaf, depending upon how thick or thin loaves are sliced.

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; large rubber spatula; 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pans, preferably glass; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b017c32821725970bCook's Note:  Whether we want to admit it or not, Fall is just around the corner.  Pumpkins are synonymous with Fall, and, my husband Joe grows them in our backyard -- the little sweet "sugar pumpkins" as they are affectionately called.  If you're so inclined, check out my recipe for Joe's Favorite Roasted-Pumpkin Quick Bread.  Paired with today's apple bread, they're a dynamite duo on any breakfast or brunch table.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

08/15/2017

~ Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer) ~

IMG_2650When it comes to worldly or exotic recipes, I always do my research and my best to keep them as close to authentic as I can.  When it comes to Indian food, I always reply upon the advice of my four Indian girlfriends, and the woman who owns Krishan, Happy Valley's Indian grocery store, because you're all such good cooks.  That said, when it comes to kheer, a delicately-spiced addictively-rich rice pudding dessert, if you're one of my Indian girlfriends, you might find yourself wincing in one or two spots while reading my recipe.  Why?  While the flavors in my recipe are authentic enough and the end result divine, I've strayed off the beaten path a bit in terms of the method, because you, my Indian girlfriends, all have a slightly-different way of making it. 

IMG_2656Kheer, also called payasam (which means "milk" in Sanskrit), is one of the oldest desserts in the world, having been made in Indian and neighboring cultures for over 2000 years.  It's a pudding made by boiling ghee-toasted rice, broken wheat, tapioca or vermicelli with cardamom-and-saffron-spiced milk and white sugar, and, it's additionally flavored with plumped raisins and toasted nuts (almonds, cashews and/or pistachios).  Some cooks add cream to the milk for added richness, and, in some regions of India, they use coconut milk to make kheer.  It's perfect at the end of a spicy meal.  In India, kheer is served at festivals, temple, weddings and all special occasions.  Kheer is believed to have come from the city of Puri.  Legend says:  A man who had loaned money and rice to a poor king, took pity on the king when he couldn't repay him in time. The lender requested that the king use whatever he had and make offerings to Krishna, instead of paying him back.  In many temples today, kheer is cooked daily, as an offering to the gods.

It's time to add this American girl's kheer recipe to the internet: 

IMG_26051/2  cup basmati rice

1/4  cup golden raisins

1/4  cup nuts (slivered almonds, chopped cashews &/or chopped pistachios)

2  tablespoons salted butter

3 1/2  cups whole milk, plus 1/2-1 cup additional milk, if necessary, to control consistency

1/2  cup sugar

IMG_26071/2  teaspoon cardamom powder, or, the seeds from 2-3 green cardamom pods, processed to a powder in a spice grinder or pulverized in a mortar and pestle

(Note:  Cardamom powder is traditionally used in kheer.  That said, I am not the biggest fan of the flavor of green or black cardamom -- and if you use too much, your recipe will taste like medicine rather than food.  I have found ginger powder to be a delightful substitution.)

pinch of saffron threads, crushed

additional lightly-toasted nuts (almonds, cashews &/or pistachios), for garnish

IMG_2610 IMG_2613 IMG_2615 IMG_2618~Step 1.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Add rice, raisins and nuts of choice. Increase heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly (like a stir-fry), until rice is lightly-toasted, raisins are plump and nuts are fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.

IMG_2620 IMG_2623 IMG_2627Step 2.  In a 4-quart saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cardamom or ginger powder.  Pick up a pinch of saffron threads, whatever you can pick up in your fingertips, and crush it into the milk too.  Take a moment to stir the mixture, to dissolve the sugar.  Over medium heat, bring milk to a boil, stirring frequently.  When boiling milk, it's important to keep an eye on it as it can and will boil over quickly.  Adjust heat to simmer for 15 minutes, to allow milk to reduce by 1/4, thicken a bit, and allow the spices to work their magic.  I started out with 1" of milk in this 4-quart saucepan and now have 3/4".

IMG_2633 IMG_2636~Step 3.  Add all of the toasted rice mixture to the simmering milk mixture and give it a good stir. When the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook, uncovered and stirring almost constantly, until rice is very tender and mixture is nicely-thickened, but still a bit soupy, about 30-35 minutes.  If, for any reason, the rice is not very tender, add an additional 1/2 cup of milk and simmer another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside about 10-15 minutes, to thicken up a bit more, prior to serving warm.

Note:  Kheer can be served chilled, or it can be chilled overnight and reheated the next day.  To reheat, place 1/2 cup additional milk in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Stir kheer to the simmering milk and gently reheat, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes.

Serve kheer warm or chilled -- your choice:

IMG_2661Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer):  Recipe yields 2 cups/4, 1/2 cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  10" skillet; large slotted spoon; 4-quart saucepan

IMG_0354Cook's Note:  I don't profess to be an expert at cooking Indian food, but, thanks to my girlfriends, what I do cook is very, very good.  For another "American girl's take on an Indian classic", I think you'll enjoy my recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

08/13/2017

~ Hatch Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Tortilla Pizza ~

IMG_2720High-quality made-from-scratch crust, a fresh or slow-simmered sauce and some great melting cheese -- the three components of a well-made pizza.  I'm no slouch when it comes to making homemade pizza, it's one of my favorite past-times for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon -- especially during the football season.  That said, when I've gotta have "a slice", unfortunately, the world will only deliver the entire pie.  That's why I've come up with a few creative ways to make what I refer to as "snack pizza", aka snack-sized pizza, using pita bread, naan, or, flour tortillas.

IMG_2743Mexican-style snack pizza -- Taco Bell made me to do it.

I haven't eaten at a Taco Bell in years, but, it's worth mentioning the first time I ate a Mexican pizza was the first time I ate at a Taco Bell -- and I liked it a lot.    My personal-sized snack pizza came as a pleasant surprise.  It contained refried beans, nicely-seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, a few small-diced tomatoes and red enchilada sauce -- all sandwiched between two slightly-crispy flour tortillas.  It wasn't my choice to stop at their drive-thru window on that day, but, I must admit, it indeed inspired me to make many a Mexican snack pizza for our three boys.

IMG_2557 IMG_2385Having just finished cooking and writing two posts about New Mexico's Hatch Green Enchilada Sauce and the the ever-popular kid- and tailgate-tested New Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, I have just enough of yummy "this" and "that" leftover in my refrigerator to make a really tasty "snack pizza", just for myself, about the equivalent of "two slices of 'za."

That said, when it comes to Mexican-style flour-tortilla pizza in general, I've often made several of them at once (four will fit on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking sheet lined with parchment paper).  Once they're cut into wedges, I place 'em all on a big plate and serve 'em up as super-wonderful appetizers at cocktail or tailgate parties. They're also a great idea for a kids party.  They're fun.

Use the following recipe as a template (a guide, a method).  Pick and choose your favorite toppings -- or use what you have leftover.  Taco Bell copycat recipes use all store-bought ingredients: ground beef or chicken seasoned with Taco seasoning, a can of red enchilada sauce (or a jar of salsa), refried beans and sliced black olives, and, a bag of shredded cheddar.  Don't roll your eyes -- all kids love Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, and, secretly, almost all adults do too.

IMG_2468Note that anything that you would roll up inside a quesadilla, will work in a tortilla pizza and anything you would put on a pizza will work in a tortilla pizza -- it doesn't have to be Mexican fare.  I just happen to have leftover homemade green enchilada sauce, grated Monterey Jack jalapeño cheese, diced tomatoes and minced cilantro, plus, ground chicken filling (from the enchiladas pictured above) -- it's going to be a terrific combination.  I can't wait.

It's easy being green:  Making a 6"-round Mexican tortilla pizza.

IMG_2682For each tortilla pizza (ingredients are in "layering order"):

1  flour tortilla  

1/4  cup refried beans

1 1/2-2  tablespoons Hatch green chile enchilada sauce, preferably homemade

1/2  cup seasoned and cooked ground chicken  

6  tablespoons grated jalapeño Jack cheese  

1  flour tortilla

1 1/2-2  tablespoons Hatch green chile enchilada sauce

6  tablespoons grated jalapeño Jack cheese

1  tablespoon minced, fresh cilantro, for garnish after baking pizza

spicy avocado crema (a mixture of avocado, Mexican crema and Sriracha sauce) and lime wedges, for topping/accompaniments

IMG_1967 IMG_1970 IMG_1974~ Step 1.  Spray an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat.  Place one flour tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook, flipping the tortilla frequently (three-four times), until it is turning lightly-golden and puffing up in random spots across the surface, 1-1 1/2 minutes per side.  Repeat this process with second tortilla (or as many as you are making).

IMG_1965 IMG_2684 IMG_2685 IMG_2688 IMG_2691 IMG_2700~Step 2.  Line a pie dish with parchment paper. Place one tortilla on parchment.  Spread 1/4 cup refried beans across the surface, then spread 1 1/2-2 tablespoons Hatch green enchilada sauce atop the beans.  Sprinkle 6 tablespoons jalapeño Jack cheese over the sauce.  Distribute 1/2 cup chicken filling atop the cheese.

IMG_2693 IMG_2696 IMG_2705 IMG_2707~Step 3.  Place a second tortilla atop filling and spread 1 1/2-2 tablespoons enchilada sauce across the surface.  Distribute 6 tablespoons jalapeño Jack cheese atop the sauce. Bake on center rack of 350° oven 8-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool for 4-5 minutes prior to garnishing with minced cilantro, slicing and serving.

Bake in 350° oven 8-10 minutes & cool 4-5 minutes:

IMG_2709Garnish w/cilantro, avocado crema & lime -- eat ASAP:

IMG_2727Hatch Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Tortilla Pizza:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1, individually-sized, 6"-round Mexican tortilla pizza/1 serving/4 small wedges per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 8" nonstick skillet; 9" pie dish (for 1 pizza) or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan (for 4 pizzas); parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09b5cdd1970dCook's Note:  Flour tortillas, along with most types of flatbread, make a delicious base for pizza.  When our garden tomatoes and basil are at their peak (which is just about two weeks from now) I make a fantastic tomato-basil pita pizza to snack upon on an almost daily basis.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

08/10/2017

~ Red or Green: New Mexico-Style Enchilada Sauce ~

IMG_2599Red or green?  That's the question you'll be asked in every New Mexican restaurant.  In fact, New Mexico is the only state in the USA that has an official state question:  "Red or Green?"  I learned that on my first trip through New Mexico, and, I was further told, "if you're not asked this question in a New Mexican restaurant, you're not eating New Mexican food."  While many of us out-of-staters (who love our Mexican and Texican fare) generically refer to this type of red or green chile pepper- or powder-based sauce as "enchilada sauce", and, mistakenly assume it's reserved for enchiladas, in New Mexico, you'll learn that almost everything gets smothered in it.  You name it, the dish gets sauced.  Can't decide?  Just answer "Christmas" -- they'll bring you both.

IMG_1907Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in either a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce, or, a roasted green chile and tomatillo-based sauce.  After that, they're filled, rolled up, topped with cheese and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).

IMG_2588The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States.  The practice of rolling maize (corn) tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.

Chil"e" or Chil"i" -- know the spelling, know what's in it:

Depositphotos_1944824-Red-and-green-chili-peppersCHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with an "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

A bit about Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:

IMG_1650Red enchilada sauce, also referred to as "red chile gravy" is said to be the heart and soul of Tex-Mex cuisine, and, it isn't reserved solely for enchiladas -- it's often served with burritos, tamales and other Tex-Mex specialties.  As for its history, the rich, brownish-red flour-roux based gravy is described as neither truly Mexican nor American (it's Mexican-American).  It's said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.  Recipes for it have been in print since the early 1890's, and, by the 1900's, "enchilada sauce" was being sold in cans.

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  I went shopping for chile powder.

I don't proclaim my recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm saying it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how quick and easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right". 

A bit about New Mexico's Green Hatch Chile Enchilada Sauce:

IMG_2385In New Mexico chile peppers grow in abundance everywhere.  It's believed they were brought to NM, from Central America, by the Spanish, in the 1500's.  The most common New Mexican chile is long, narrow and picked while green and is mostly grown from much-coveted heirloom seeds.  

Hatch-chile-split"New Mexico chiles" can be from anywhere in New Mexico, and, when buying any green or red NM chiles, they're usually offered up as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot, meaning:  not as a specific variety. That said, the Hatch chile is from Hatch, a small village in the southern part of the state, and, while it's not a variety of chile pepper, both inside and outside the state of New Mexico, it's sold as a "Hatch chile". It's become so popular that every Labor Day weekend, Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, hosts the Hatch Chile Festival, which draws more than 30,000 people each year.

What's the difference between red & green enchilada sauce?

IMG_2311New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce uses red ingredients: red chiles or red chile powder and/or red tomatoes. Their green enchilada sauce uses green ingredients:  green chiles or green hatch chiles and tomatillos.  Both contain spices, garlic and/or onion, and vinegar, and, like salsa, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked.  A common misconception is:  green chile sauce is mild and red chile sauce is hot.  Not true.  Both range from mild and soothing to knock-your-socks-off hot.

TomatilloTomatillo, also called "tomate verde", means "husk tomato" with "verde" meaning "green" in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes.  It's a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden.  The fruit of the tomatillo is green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (about the size of a large, cherry tomato).  They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to  light brown.  The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican ethnic cuisine.

IMG_2303That said, here in Happy Valley, fresh tomatillos are sometimes hard to find, and, even when I find them, it's always a bit of a hassle to ask the produce manager if I can peel back the husks to insure the fruit is firm (not squishy) and ripe (green).  

In case you don't know, always look for tomatillos that have filled their husks or broken through their husks (photo to right) -- no matter their size, this means they're fully mature. Avoid tomatillos that look withered or dried out (see photo below).

IMG_2306Once you get them home, remove the husks and rinse the tomatillos off (because they will be sticky), then use them as directed (which typically requires simmering or broiling as the first step) and/or store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.  That said, high quality canned tomatillos are a staple in my pantry. They've already been simmered until soft -- all I have to do is thoroughly drain them. Speaking in approximations, I've deduced:

one 28-ounce can = 2 pounds fresh

New Mexico-style red & green "enchilada sauces" are both relatively simple to prepare w/the green sauce being more refined & requiring a tad (not much) more effort.

My green enchilada sauce starts out in the food processor, simmers on the stovetop, then, ends up back in the food processor at the end.  It's easy, it just takes more time than the 15 minutes it takes me to make red enchilada sauce.  I use chicken stock to make it, because I like green sauce served with chicken enchiladas, whereas I use beef stock in my red sauce, because I like it served with my recipes for beef and cheese enchiladas. In a stockpot:  Use beef, chicken or vegetable stock to make red or green enchilada sauce, depending on what filling you're making. 

Meet my Spicy Ground Beef Enchiladas:

IMG_1802Meet my Cheese Corn & Bean Enchiladas:

IMG_1917Meet my Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas:

IMG_2567"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/08/2017

~ New Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas ~

IMG_2557Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in either a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce, or, a roasted green chile and tomatillo-based sauce.  After that, they're filled, rolled up, topped with cheese and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).

IMG_1803The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States.  

The practice of rolling maize (corn) tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their IMG_1933original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.

IMG_1650In my Happy Valley kitchen, the two kid- and tailgate-tested favorites for my New Mexico-style Red Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas are ground beef, lots of onion and green chiles, and, grated cheese, black beans and sweet corn -- the two pair well together on the same plate too. The favorite filling for my New Mexico-style Green Hatch Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas is coarsely ground chicken, lot of onions and green Hatch chiles. There's more.  While we IMG_2385prefer our chicken enchiladas smothered in green enchilada sauce, we also prefer our green sauced-chicken enchiladas made with flour, not corn tortillas.  For authenticity sake, feel free to to use corn tortillas -- they'll turn out great.  My green enchilada sauce starts out in the food processor, simmers on the stovetop, then, ends up back in the food processor at the end.  I use chicken stock to make it, but, feel free to use beef or vegetable stock, depending upon the filling you are using.

Part One:  Making the Chicken, Onion & Green Chile Filling

IMG_2468FYI:  I make 12 cups & freeze 8 cups for two more meals.

IMG_2417For 8 cups of the chicken mixture:

2  tablespoons neutral-flavored cooking oil (avocado, canola, corn or vegetable, etc.)

3  pounds chicken tenders

12  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

16  ounces Santé Fe Seasons Hatch green chiles, hot or medium, your choice, or, canned green chiles (your favorite brand) (Note:  The Hatch green chiles I order from Apple Canyon Gourmet, are roasted and contain garlic and lime juice, instead of vinegar, which I like a lot, and, their product is far and above better than other store-bought brands.)

IMG_2420 IMG_2423Step 1.  Cut the chicken tenders into 1"-1 1/2" chunks and place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken.  Do not over process the chicken.  

Note:  My large-capacity Cuisinart DLC-X Plus food processor easily grinds 3 pounds of meat or poultry chunks in one batch.  If using a smaller food processor, grind the chicken in 2-3 batches. 

IMG_2425 IMG_2427 IMG_2430 IMG_2433~Step 2.  Place oil and chicken in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Dice the onion, adding it to pan as you work.  Add the garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Using a large spoon or spatula give the mixture a thorough stir (to incorporate onion and spices throughout).

IMG_2435 IMG_2438 IMG_2439 IMG_2441~Step 3.  Adjust heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through, onions are very soft and there is almost no liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan, about 15-18 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary so the chicken remains steamy and moist.

IMG_2445 IMG_2448 IMG_2450~ Step 4.  Turn heat off. Add and stir the green Hatch chiles into the steaming hot meat mixture. Remove from heat. There's no need to cook the chiles, they were previously cooked during the canning process.

Go ahead, take a taste, it's scrumptious:

IMG_2455Part Two:  Assembling & Baking the Enchiladas

Before starting, it's worth mention that I use 2, 8" x 8" x 2" square casserole dishes, rather than 1, 13" x 9" x 2" dish, to make 12 enchiladas.  They fit in the two pans perfectly without squeezing them to oblivion, and, they bake up perfectly.  Next.  I don't dip my corn tortillas in the sauce, which gives them a heavy coating, because my homemade sauces are bolder-flavored than watered-down store-bought versions.  After frying the tortillas, I prefer to use a pastry brush to paint them, on both sides, with the sauce.  It works nicely.  One more item.  I fry my corn or flour tortillas one-at-a-time in a small skillet, not all-at-once on a griddle -- it controls the texture better.

IMG_2473For the assembly:

12  6"-round flour tortillas

1 1/2 cups my recipe for New Mexico's Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (store-bought enchilada sauce will be a compromise)

3  cups grated jalapeño Jack cheese

no-stick cooking spray

an array of your favorite toppings (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, scallion tops, cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream and/or guacamole)

IMG_2475 IMG_1967 IMG_1970 IMG_1974~Step 1.  Spray the inside of 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes with no-stick cooking spray, then, add and evenly distribute 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of each dish.  Spray the bottom of an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick spray and place it over medium heat.  Place one flour tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook the tortilla over medium heat, flipping it over once or twice, until it is soft, pliable and starts to bubble up in random spots throughout its center, about 1 1/2-2 total minutes.  Transfer the tortilla to a plate and repeat process with remaining tortillas (spraying and cooking), stacking the warm tortillas on the plate as you work.

IMG_2481 IMG_2483 IMG_2486 IMG_2488~Step 2.  Working one-tortilla-at-a-time and using a pastry brush, generously paint both sides of tortilla with enchilada sauce. Distribute 1/3 cup ground chicken filling lengthwise across the center.  Lastly, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Jack cheese on top of the poultry.

IMG_2493 IMG_2495 IMG_2497 IMG_2501~Step 3.  Roll each enchilada up and place, seam-side-down, in baking dish.  Continue filling and rolling until six enchiladas are filled, rolled and placed side-by-side, seam-side-down, in each dish. Evenly drizzle and distribute 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the tops of enchiladas in each dish. Sprinkle a generous 1 cup of remaining grated cheese over the tops of enchiladas in each dish. Bake on center rack of 350° oven, until bubbling and cheese is melted, 18-20 minutes.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 18-20 minutes:

IMG_2519Serve ASAP w/your favorite "green stuff":

IMG_2567Go ahead, take a taste, they're scrumptious! 

IMG_2582New Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas:  Recipe yields 12 cups filling (enough to fill 36 enchiladas (I freeze 8 cups, in 2, 4-cup containers, enough for two more meals)/12 enchiladas/4-6 servings/2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon &/or spatula; large slotted spoon; 8" nonstick skillet; pastry brush; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes

IMG_2177Cook's Note:  Can't make up your mind between guacamole or Mexican crema?  Whir them up together in a food processor with a bit of Sriracha sauce and give my recipe for ~  Spicy Avocado Crema: Avocado, Crema & Sriracha ~ a try. It's luxuriously smooth, refreshingly cool, and, there's just enough vinegary spice in the Sriracha to make it addictively interesting.  Live dangerously -- cha, cha, cha!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/06/2017

~ New Mexico's Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce ~

IMG_2385Red or green?  That's the question you'll be asked in every New Mexican restaurant.  In fact, New Mexico is the only state in the USA that has an official state question:  "Red or Green?"  I learned that on my first trip through New Mexico, and, I was further told, "if you're not asked this question in a New Mexican restaurant, you're not eating New Mexican food."  While many of us out-of-staters (who love our Mexican and Texican fare) generically refer to this type of red or green chile pepper- or powder-based sauce as "enchilada sauce", and, mistakenly assume it's reserved for enchiladas, in New Mexico, you'll learn that almost everything gets smothered in it.  You name it, the dish gets sauced.  Can't decide?  Just answer "Christmas" -- they'll bring you both.

A bit about New Mexican chile (w/an "e") peppers:

RedGreenWebChile with an "e", is the fruit of the Capsicum plant and New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red and green chile peppers -- they grow in abundance everywhere and it's believed they were brought to NM, from Central America, by the Spanish, in the 1500's.  The most common New Mexican chile is long, narrow and picked while green Hatch-chile-split(similar in appearance to the Anaheim) and is mostly grown from heirloom seeds.  "New Mexico chiles" can be from anywhere in New Mexico, and, when buying any green or red NM chiles, they're usually offered up as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot, meaning:  not as a specific variety.  That said, the Hatch chile is from Hatch, a small village in the southern part of the state, and, while it's not a variety of chile pepper, both inside and outside the state of New Mexico, it's sold as a "Hatch chile".  It's become so popular that every Labor Day weekend, Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, hosts a Hatch Chile Festival, which draws more than 30,000 people each year.

"e" or "i" -- know what the spelling means & you'll know what's in it:

CHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with an "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

What's the difference between red & green enchilada sauce?

IMG_2311New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce uses red ingredients: red chiles or red chile powder and/or red tomatoes. Their green enchilada sauce uses green ingredients:  green chiles or green hatch chiles and tomatillos.  Both contain spices, garlic and/or onion, and vinegar, and, like salsa, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked.  A common misconception is:  green chile sauce is mild and red chile sauce is hot.  Not true.  Both range from mild and soothing to knock-your-socks-off hot.  

TomatilloTomatillo, also called "tomate verde", means "husk tomato" with "verde" meaning "green" in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes.  It's a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden.  The fruit of the tomatillo is green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (about the size of a large, cherry tomato).  They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to  light brown.  The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican ethnic cuisine.

IMG_2303That said, here in Happy Valley, fresh tomatillos are sometimes hard to find, and, even when I find them, it's always a bit of a hassle to ask the produce manager if I can peel back the husks to insure the fruit is firm (not squishy) and ripe (green).  

In case you don't know, always look for tomatillos that have filled their husks or broken through their husks (photo to right) -- no matter their size, this means they're fully mature. Avoid tomatillos that look withered or dried out (see photo below).  

IMG_2306Once you get them home, remove the husks and rinse the tomatillos off (because they will be sticky), then use them as directed (which typically requires simmering or broiling as the first step) and/or store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.  That said, high quality canned tomatillos are a staple in my pantry. They've already been simmered until soft -- all I have to do is thoroughly drain them. Speaking in approximations, I've deduced:

one 28-ounce can = 2 pounds fresh 

New Mexico-style red & green "enchilada sauces" are both relatively simple to prepare w/the green sauce being more refined & requiring a tad (not much) more effort.

My green enchilada sauce starts out in the food processor, simmers on the stovetop, then, ends up back in the food processor at the end.  It's easy, it just takes quite a bit more time than the 15 minutes it takes me to make red enchilada sauce.  I use chicken stock to make it, because I like green sauce served with chicken enchiladas, whereas I use beef stock in my red sauce, because I like it served with my recipes for spicy ground beef enchiladas and cheese, corn and bean enchiladas. In a stockpot:  Use beef, chicken or vegetable stock, depending on the filling.

IMG_23232  tablespoons neutral-flavored cooking oil (avocado, corn or vegetable, etc.)

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

3  large,  whole, peeled garlic cloves, smashed & minced

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy

1  14-ounce can tomatillos, well-drained

1  cup Santé Fe Seasons Hatch green chiles, hot or medium, your choice, or, canned green chiles (your favorite brand) (Note:  The Hatch green chiles I order from Apple Canyon Gourmet, are roasted and contain garlic and lime juice, instead of vinegar, which I like a lot, and, their product is far and above better than other store-bought brands.)

1  large, green jalapeño pepper, seeds and white rib sections removed, coarsely-chopped

1 cup minced cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

2  teaspoons fresh lime juice

1  14 1/2-ounce can chicken stock

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano leaves

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

IMG_2325 IMG_2327 IMG_2331 IMG_2333~Step 1.  Place the oil, diced onion and minced garlic in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté until onion and garlic are tender, about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for another full minute.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_2334 IMG_2338~ Step 2.  Place tomatillos, Hatch chiles, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, followed by the motor running for 15-20 seconds, process to a purée.

IMG_2341 IMG_2345 IMG_2352 IMG_2355~Step 3.  Stir the purée into the onion and garlic mixture in the saucier, then add the chicken stock, cumin, Mexican oregano, sugar, salt and black pepper.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, adjust heat to a steady simmer, and continue to cook until nicely thickened, 25-30 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool 25-30 minutes.

Take a taste & adjust seasoning if necessary...

IMG_2363... but you won't have to.  It's divine.

IMG_2368 IMG_2370 IMG_2377~ Step 4.  Return sauce mixture to the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  With motor running, purée, 30-45 seconds.  You will have 3 cups of New Mexico-style green chile "enchilada" sauce.  Cha-cha-cha!

Enjoy a taste of New Mexico's finest.  Chips & dip tonight -- Green Hatch Chile Chicken Enchiladas tomorrow!

IMG_2404New Mexico's Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce:  Recipe yields 3 cups "enchilada" sauce, which freezes well.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucier or stockpot w/lid; large spoon; food processor

IMG_1650Cook's Note:  I don't proclaim my recipe for ~ Easy New Mexico-Style Red Enchilada Sauce ~ easy because I make an easy version of a hard recipe.  This chile powder-based sauce is so easy to make, I haven't a clue why folks purchase any watered-down canned versions.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/03/2017

~ She's Gone Bananas: Banana-Walnut Bundt Cake ~

IMG_2131How many bananas can a gal put into a bundt cake?  Every time I bake this banana cake, I push the envelope a little farther, and, today I used the entire bunch.  Six bananas.  It yielded a total of 3 cups mashed bananas, and, the recipe, which started out using 1 3/4-2 cups, came out super-moist and full-flavored -- just perfect.  Often times, this is how recipes are developed or improved upon (by trial, error and gutsy experimentation).  That said, me thinks I'll stop improving this one.

IMG_2140The original recipe came from my mother's recipe box and I'm pretty certain she got it from her mother.  Why?  Because my grandmother, a woman who cooked her way through the depression, used oil instead of butter to bake most of her cakes (even after the depression, she still used oil). If you're thinking oil is a compromise, you're wrong.  It makes for a very moist cake.  My mom made banana cake often because dad loved bananas and all things bananas.  Mom made it in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan, so, if you'd rather a sheet cake than a bundt cake, it will work just fine.

Rather make a sheet cake?  Bake it in a 13" x 9" x 2" pan.

IMG_2054For the banana-walnut cake:

2 1/2  cups chopped walnuts, lightly toasted (total throughout recipe, 2 cups for the cake + 1 cup for the topping)

2 3/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  cups sugar

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon salt

3  large eggs

2 3/4-3 cups mashed banana purée  (from 5-6 large, very ripe, peeled and sliced bananas)

2  teaspoons pure banana extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4  cup vegetable oil

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing bundt pan

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8f38a50970bFor the cream cheese glaze & walnut topping:

4  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

2  cups confectioners' sugar

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  tablespoons milk, plus 1-2 teaspoons more, if necessary

1/2  cup lightly-toasted and finely-ground walnuts

IMG_8357 IMG_8359 IMG_8368 IMG_8369~Step 1.  Coarsely chop the walnuts.  Place nuts in a small, shallow baking pan.  Roast nuts on center rack of 350° oven, until fragrant and lightly-toasted, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  While nuts are toasting, in a medium mixing bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, purée the sliced bananas.*  Measure 3 cups of the bananas, then add and stir both extracts into the bananas.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk the eggs.

*Note:  Bananas don't need to be a smooth purée.  Small bits of fruit laced throughout is perfect.

IMG_2059 IMG_2064 IMG_2067 IMG_2070~Step 2.  In a large bowl, using a large rubber spatula, place and stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the beaten eggs, followed by the banana purée, then, using the spatula fold the mixture together until roughly moistened.  On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, add and thoroughly incorporate the vegetable oil, about 1 minute.

IMG_2073 IMG_2077 IMG_2085Step 3.  Using the rubber spatula, fold in 2 cups of the lightly-toasted chopped walnuts (set the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts aside and use as directed below).  Transfer/pour batter into a 12-cup bundt pan that has been lightly sprayed with no-stick.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and cool, in pan, 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto wire rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours.

IMG_2091 2To prepare the cream cheese glaze & walnut topping:

IMG_8410 IMG_8412 IMG_8415 IMG_8420~Step 1.  To prepare the cream cheese glaze and pecan topping, if you have a small, "mini" food processor, now is the time to use it.  Place the remaining 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts in the work bowl and using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process them to small bits and pieces.

IMG_8431 IMG_8434 IMG_8441 IMG_8445~Step 2.  In a food processor fitted with steel blade, place confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, banana and vanilla extracts and 2  tablespoon milk.  Starting with 5-10 on-off pulses and then with the motor running, process for 25-30 seconds until smooth and drizzly.  If necessary, through feed tube, add 1-2 teaspoons additional milk, until desired consistency is reached.

IMG_2100Step 3.  When the cake has cooled completely, and with the cake still sitting on the wire rack: holding your hand 4"-6" above the surface of the cake and moving it (your hand) back and forth, in a slow, steady, stream, drizzle the glaze over the cake, while turning the wire rack about 1/4" with every back-and-forth drizzle, until all the glaze is gone.  While glaze is still moist/sticky, sprinkle the nuts evenly over the top.  Allow glaze to harden a bit prior to slicing cake, 1-2 hours.

Go bananas.  Banana-walnut bundt cake.  Simply irresistible...

IMG_2107... & scrumptious from first bite to last:

IMG_2146She's Gone Bananas:  Banana-Walnut Bundt Cake:  Recipe yields 12-16-20 servings (depending upon how thick or thin you slice the cake).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; fork; whisk; 12-cup bundt pan; wire cooling rack; cake tester; mini-food processor; food processor

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27d969e970cCook's Note:  For another "fruity" cake recipe, this one containing pineapple, bananas and aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg), check of my recipe for ~ Charmingly Southern: Hummingbird (Bundt) Cake ~.  Originating in Jamaica, this cake has got a fascinating history worth reading.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/31/2017

~ Spicy Avocado Crema: Avocado, Crema & Sriracha ~

IMG_2177If you like guacamole and crema Mexicana with or on your nachos, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, etc., whirring the two together in a food processor, along with a bit of Sriracha sauce to give it some cha-cha-cha, creates a creamy-dreamy condiment you'll be craving on a regular basis.  It's luxuriously smooth, refreshingly cool, and, there's just enough vinegary spice in the Sriracha to make it addictively interesting.  While Mexican crema is becoming easier to find, in the event your grocery store doesn't carry it, feel free substitute crème fraîche or sour cream.

I whip avocado crema up in small batches, in a small-sized food processor -- no more than my family will consume in one day.  Just like your favorite guacamole recipe, because it contains avocado, it will develop the same harmless discoloration.  That said, the vinegar in the Sriracha sauce, which replaces the citric acid in lime juice, does keep it fresh looking for up to six hours.

Mexican crema (& crème fraîche) vs sour cream:

IMG_2229Let's start with: All three are basically made the same way, by adding friendly bacteria to heavy cream, and, while the process yields three dairy products, all similar enough in taste and texture be used interchangeably in this particular culinary application, they are technically different.  

Sour cream has a rather low fat content (18%-20%) and added stabilizers (proteins like gelatin and/or animal or vegetable enzymes), which gives it a tangier, more acidic taste than crema and crème fraîche.  That said, its low fat/high protein content causes it to break or curdle when heated, so, sour cream is best used in cold applications, or, stirred into a hot dish at the end.  

Mexican crema is more akin to crème fraîche, having a higher fat content (28%-30%), which naturally gives them a richer, more buttery, slightly sweeter flavor.  That said, crema, depending on where you buy it, can be found in various forms, from very viscous and spoonable, to thin and drizzly (with my experience being that even in its thickest state, it is still thinner than crème fraîche and sour cream).  Because both crema and crème fraîche have a high fat/low protein content, they're ideal for adding to simmering soups and sauces because they won't break or curdle.

IMG_22361  cup (16 tablespoons) avocado, scooped from the inside of 2 ripe Hass avocados

6  tablespoons Mexican crema (crème fraîche or sour cream may be substituted)

1  tablespoon Sriracha sauce, more or less, to taste

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_2156 IMG_2158 IMG_2163 IMG_2165 IMG_2188~Step 1.  In work bowl of a small food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the Mexican crema, the scoops of ripe avocado, the Sriracha sauce and the sea salt. 

Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, followed by allowing the motor to run for 15-20 seconds, process to a smooth, creamy purée.

Use immediately or refrigerate up to six hours as directed below:

IMG_2189 IMG_2191 IMG_2192~ Step 2.  Line the inside of a 2-cup food storage container with plastic wrap, allowing it to overlap by several inches on all sides. Add the avocado crema and pull the plastic wrap up and over the top surface of the crema to form an airtight seal.  Place the lid on the food storage container and refrigerate up to six hours.

Terrific atop my Beefy, Cheesy, Mexican Tortilla Pizza

IMG_2194Spicy Avocado Crema:  Avocado, Crema & Sriracha:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups avocado crema.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; spoon; food processor; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b017d41b52172970cCook's Note:  It's not always easy getting my family to eat their greens, but when our Happy Valley garden's cucumbers and tomatoes are ripe for the picking (like they are now), one of our favorite cool and creamy Summertime indulgences is ~ Tangy Avocado Salad Dressing a la Rick Bayless ~.  It requires a food processor and not much (but a little more) effort than avocado crema to make, but well worth it (as opposed to buying a store-bought brand).

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/29/2017

~ Beefy, Cheesy, Fully-Loaded Mexican Tortilla Pizza ~

IMG_2010I haven't eaten at a Taco Bell in years, but, it's worth mentioning the first time I ate a Mexican pizza was the first time I ate at a Taco Bell -- and I liked it a lot.    My personal-sized snack pizza came as a pleasant surprise.  It contained refried beans, nicely-seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, a few small-diced tomatoes and red enchilada sauce -- all sandwiched between two slightly-crispy flour tortillas.  It wasn't my choice to stop at their drive-thru window on that day, but, I must admit, it indeed inspired me to make many a Mexican snack pizza for our three boys.

IMG_2038Mexican-style snack pizza -- Taco Bell made me to do it.

IMG_1802After a week of cooking and blogging about New Mexico-style red chile enchilada sauce, plus two recipes for the ever-popular kid- and tailgate-tested New Mexico-style spicy ground beef, lots-of-onion and green chiles enchiladas, and, Jack cheese, black bean and sweet corn enchiladas, I have just enough of yummy "this" and "that" leftover in my refrigerator to make a really tasty "snack pizza" -- just for myself.

That said, when it comes to IMG_1917Mexican-style flour-tortilla pizza in general, I've often made several of them (four will fit on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking sheet lined with parchment paper). Once they're cut into wedges, I place 'em all on a big plate and serve 'em up as super-wonderful appetizers at cocktail or tailgate parties. They're also a great idea for a kids party as all kids love getting a personal-sized pizza.

Use the following recipe as a template (a guide, a method).  Pick and choose your favorite toppings -- or use what you have leftover.  Taco Bell copycat recipes use all store-bought ingredients: ground beef seasoned with a Taco seasoning packet, a can of red enchilada sauce (or a jar of salsa), refried beans and sliced black olives, and, a bag of shredded cheddar.  Don't roll your eyes -- all kids love it, and, at midnight, in secret, most adults do too.

IMG_1705Think of it this way, anything that you would put in a quesadilla, will work in a tortilla pizza (and it doesn't have to be Mexican fare).  I just happen to have leftover homemade enchilada sauce, grated Monterey Jack jalapeño cheese, diced tomatoes and minced cilantro, plus, meat filling and cheese filling (from the enchiladas pictured above) -- it's going to be a great combination. 

For each 6"-round Mexican pizza (ingredients are in "layering order"):

1  flour tortilla

IMG_18691/4  cup refried beans

1  tablespoon enchilada sauce

1/2  cup seasoned ground beef (Note:  I'm using 1/4 cup of both of my fillings today.)

1  flour tortilla

1  tablespoon red enchilada sauce, preferably homemade

1/4  cup grated jalapeño Jack & 2 tablespoons yellow cheddar

2 tablespoons diced tomato

1  tablespoon sliced black olives 

1  tablespoon minced, fresh cilantro or green scallion tops, for garnish after baking pizza

IMG_1967 IMG_1970 IMG_1974Step 1.  Spray an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat.  Place one flour tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook, flipping the tortilla frequently (three-four times), until it is turning lightly-golden and puffing up in random spots across the surface, 1-1 1/2 minutes per side.  Repeat this process with second tortilla (or as many as you are making).

IMG_1965 IMG_1978 IMG_1982 IMG_1983~Step 2.  Line a pie dish (or a baking sheet for multiples) with parchment paper.  Place one (or more) tortilla on the parchment.  Spread 1/4 cup refried beans across the surface, then spread 1 tablespoon enchilada sauce atop the refried beans.  Distribute 1/2 cup filling mixture atop sauce (I'm using 1/4 cup beef filling and 1/4 cup cheese filling, for a total of 1/2 cup filling).

IMG_1989 IMG_1993 IMG_1995 IMG_1997~Step 3.  Place a second tortilla atop the filling and spread 1 tablespoon enchilada sauce across the surface.  Distribute 1/4 cup jalapeño Jack cheese atop the sauce followed by 2 tablespoons yellow cheddar.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons diced tomato atop the cheese.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 8-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool for 4-5 minutes prior to garnishing with minced cilantro, slicing and serving.

Bake in 350° oven 8-10 minutes & cool 4-5 minutes:

IMG_2026Garnish w/minced cilantro, slice & eat ASAP:

IMG_2052Beefy, Cheesy, Fully-Loaded Mexican Tortilla Pizza:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1, individually-sized, 6"-round Mexican tortilla pizza/1 serving/4 small wedges per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 8" nonstick skillet; 9" pie dish (for 1 pizza) or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan (for 4 pizzas); parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09b5033b970dCook's Note:  Flour tortillas, along with most types of flatbread, make a delicious base for pizza.  When our garden tomatoes and basil are at their peak (which is just about two weeks from now) I make a fantastic tomato-basil pita pizza to snack upon on an almost daily basis.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/27/2017

~ New Mexico-Style Cheese, Corn & Bean Enchiladas~

IMG_1917Whenever we've been out of town for a few days, the moment we cross the Centre County line and are within 20-30 minutes of home, we discuss what we are most hungry for (what food we've missed the most on our trip), and, we order it, for pick up or eat in, at one of our favorite eateries. Typically, that revolves around stopping at a pizza shop, a Chinese takeout place, or, a Mexican joint.  When it comes to the latter, I'm usually ordering up a plate of seriously cheesy enchiladas.

IMG_1934Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce before being filled, rolled up and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).  In my Happy Valley kitchen, the two favorite kid- and tailgate-tested fillings for my New Mexico-style Red Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas are spicy beef, lots of onions and green chiles (pictured in the next paragraph), and, cheese, black beans and sweet corn (which I'm making today).  The two pair well together on the same plate too, so make 'em both.

IMG_1803The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States, and, the practice of rolling maize tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their original form, enchiladas were IMG_1843simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings.  

There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.

Red enchilada sauce, or "red chile gravy", is said to be the soul of Tex-Mex cuisine, and, it isn't reserved solely for enchiladas -- it's often served with burritos, tamales and other Tex-Mex specialties.  As for its history, the rich, brownish-red flour-roux based gravy is described as neither truly Mexican nor American (it's Mexican-American).  It's said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.  Recipes for it have been in print since the early 1890's, and, by the 1900's "enchilada sauce" was being sold in cans. 

 Part One:  Making the Cheese, Black Bean & Sweet Corn Filling

IMG_1853Unlike making ground beef or other meat, poultry, fish or seafood enchiladas, the filling for the cheese version is quick to make because there's no cooking of the the protein involved -- it just get folded together.  That said, it happens to be sweet corn season here in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, so, I've shaved the corn kernels off two cobs of previously-cooked corn, but, feel free to substitute well-drained canned corn, or, frozen and cooked corn with little compromise.

3  cups jalapeño Jack cheddar cheese (12 ounces)

1  15 1/2-ounce can black beans, well-drained and rinsed

1  4 1/2-ounce can green chiles, slightly- lightly- drained of excess liquid

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups sweet corn kernels, preferably shaved from 2 large previously-cooked or grilled corn cobs

1  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro, total throughout recipe (3/4 cup for filling recipe + 1/4 cup reserved for garnish)

IMG_1859 IMG_1862 IMG_1864 IMG_1866~Step 1.  Grate  cheese and reserve 1 1/4 cups for topping the filled and rolled enchiladas.  In a large bowl, using a large spatula, fold together the black beans, green chiles, corn kernels, onion and 3/4 cup of the cilantro.  Add and gently fold in the 1 3/4 cups of cheese.  Set filling aside.

IMG_1869Part Two:  Assembling & Baking the Enchiladas

Before starting, it's worth mention that I use 2, 8" x 8" x 2" square casserole dishes, rather than 1, 13" x 9" x 2" dish, to make 12 enchiladas.  They fit in the two dishes perfectly without squeezing them to oblivion, and, they bake up perfectly.  Next.  I don't dip my corn tortillas in the sauce, which gives them a heavy coating, because, my homemade sauce is bolder-flavored than watered-down store-bought versions.  After frying the tortillas, I prefer to use a pastry brush to paint them, on both sides, with the sauce.  It works nicely.  One more item.  I fry my corn tortillas one-at-a-time in a small skillet, not all-at-once on a griddle -- it controls their texture better.

IMG_1877no-stick cooking spray

12  6"-round corn tortillas

1 1/2  cups my recipe for Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce (store-bought enchilada sauce will be a compromise)

all of the cheese filling (from above recipe) + 1 cup reserved cheese

an array of your favorite toppings (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, scallion tops, cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream and/or guacamole

IMG_1723 IMG_1725 IMG_1732 IMG_1734~Step 1.  Spray the inside of 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes with no-stick cooking spray, then, add and evenly distribute 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of each dish.  Spray the bottom of an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick spray and place it over medium heat.  Place one corn tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook the tortilla over medium heat, flipping it over once or twice, until it is soft, pliable and starts to bubble up in random spots throughout its center, about 1 1/2-2 total minutes.  Transfer the tortilla to a plate and repeat process with remaining tortillas (spraying and cooking), stacking the warm tortillas on the plate as you work.

IMG_1737 IMG_1738 IMG_1879 IMG_1882~Step 2.  Working one at a time, using a pastry brush, paint both sides of tortilla with sauce.  Next, distribute a generous (heaping) 1/3 cup of the filling mixture, lengthwise across the center.

IMG_1885 IMG_1890 IMG_1896 IMG_1899~Step 3.  Roll the enchilada up and place it, seam-side-down, in baking dish.  Continue filling and rolling until six enchiladas are filled, rolled and placed side-by-side, seam-side-down, in each dish. Evenly drizzle and distribute 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the tops of the enchiladas in each dish.  Sprinkle a generous 3/4 cup of remaining grated cheese over the tops of the enchiladas in each dish.  Bake on center rack of 350° oven, until bubbling and cheese is melted, 18-20 minutes.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 18-20 minutes:

IMG_1905Scoop 'em out & serve 'em up (ASAP) w/your favorite toppings:

IMG_1907Go ahead, take a taste, they're scrumptious: 

IMG_1951New Mexico-Style Cheese, Corn & Bean Enchiladas:  Recipe yields 5 cups filling/12 enchiladas/4-6 servings/2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 8" nonstick skillet; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09b26e07970dCook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

07/24/2017

~ Spicy New Mexico-Style Ground Beef Enchiladas ~

IMG_1802Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce before being filled, rolled up and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).  In my Happy Valley kitchen, the two kid- and tailgate-tested favorites for my New Mexico-style Red Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas are ground beef, lots of onion and green chiles, and, grated cheese, black beans and sweet corn -- the two pair well together too.

The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States, and, the practice of rolling maize tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings.  There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.  

Part One:  Making the Beef, Lots-of-Onion & Green Chile Filling

IMG_1709FYI:  I make 8 cups & freeze 4 for another meal.

IMG_1658For 8 cups of the meat mixture:

3  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

12  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

4  4 1/2-ounce cans green chiles, slightly-, lightly-drained of excess liquid

IMG_1663 IMG_1665 IMG_1676 IMG_1679~Step 1.  Place the ground beef in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Dice the onion and add it to the pan as you work.  Add the garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and, using a large spoon or spatula give the mixture a thorough stir (to incorporate the onion and spices throughout the meat).  Adjust heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until meat has lost its pink color, onions are very soft and there is almost no liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.  Do not brown the meat -- cook it so it remains steamy and moist.

IMG_1682 IMG_1684~ Step 2.  Turn the heat off.  Add and stir the slightly-, lightly- drained canned green chiles into the steaming hot meat mixture.  Remove from heat.  There's no need to cook the chiles, they were already cooked during the canning process.

Go ahead, take a taste, it's scrumptious:

IMG_1687Part Two:  Assembling & Baking the Enchiladas

IMG_1716

Before starting, it's worth mention that I use 2, 8" x 8" x 2" square casserole dishes, rather than 1, 13" x 9" x 2" dish, to make 12 enchiladas.  They fit in the two pans perfectly without squeezing them to oblivion, and, they bake up perfectly.  Next.  I don't dip my corn tortillas in the sauce, which gives them a heavy coating, because my homemade sauce is bolder-flavored than watered-down store-bought versions.  After frying the tortillas, I prefer to use a pastry brush to paint them, on both sides, with the sauce.  It works nicely.  One more item.  I fry my corn tortillas one-at-a-time in a small skillet, not all-at-once on a griddle -- it controls their texture better.

For the assembly:

12  6"-round corn tortillas

1 1/2 cups my recipe for Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce (store-bought enchilada sauce will be a compromise)

3  cups grated habañero cheddar cheese

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves

no-stick cooking spray

an array of your favorite toppings (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, scallion tops, cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream and/or guacamole)

IMG_1723 IMG_1725 IMG_1732 IMG_1734~Step 1.  Spray the inside of 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes with no-stick cooking spray, then, add and evenly distribute 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of each dish.  Spray the bottom of an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick spray and place it over medium heat.  Place one corn tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook the tortilla over medium heat, flipping it over once or twice, until it is soft, pliable and starts to bubble up in random spots throughout its center, about 1 1/2-2 total minutes.  Transfer the tortilla to a plate and repeat process with remaining tortillas (spraying and cooking), stacking the warm tortillas on the plate as you work.

IMG_1737 IMG_1738 IMG_1741 IMG_1743 IMG_1745 IMG_1747 IMG_1748~Step 2.  One tortilla at a time, using a pastry brush, paint both sides of tortilla with enchilada sauce. Distribute 1/3 cup ground beef filling lengthwise across the center.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated cheese on top of the meat, followed by "a pinch" (whatever you can pick up in your fingertips) of minced cilantro.

IMG_1750 IMG_1759 IMG_1768 IMG_1772~Step 3.  Roll the enchilada up and place it, seam-side-down in baking dish.  Continue filling and rolling until six enchiladas are filled, rolled and placed side-by-side, seam-side-down, in each dish. Evenly drizzle and distribute 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the tops of the enchiladas in each dish.  Sprinkle a generous 1 cup of remaining grated cheese over the tops of enchiladas in each dish.  Bake on center rack of 350° oven, until bubbling and cheese is melted, 18-20 minutes.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 18-20 minutes:

IMG_1777Serve immediately w/your favorite toppings:

IMG_1803Go ahead, take a taste, they're scrumptious!

IMG_1843Spicy New Mexico-Style Ground Beef Enchiladas:  Recipe yields 8 cups filling (enough to fill 24 enchiladas (I freeze 4 cups for another meal)/12 enchiladas/4-6 servings/2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon or spatula; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 8" nonstick skillet; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09b26e07970dCook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2017) 

07/21/2017

~ Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce~

IMG_1650I'm not proclaiming this recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm telling you it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right".

A bit about New Mexico-style red enchilada sauce:

Red enchilada sauce, also referred to as "red chile gravy" is said to be the heart and soul of Tex-Mex cuisine, and, it isn't reserved solely for enchiladas -- it's often served with burritos, tamales and other Tex-Mex specialties.  As for its history, the rich, brownish-red flour-roux based gravy is described as neither truly Mexican nor American (it's Mexican-American).  It's said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.  Recipes for it have been in print since the early 1890's, and, by the 1900's, "enchilada sauce" was being sold in cans.

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  Later that afternoon, I went shopping.

IMG_2459 IMG_2481 6a0120a8551282970b017d4140e28d970cI made a small investment in some Mexican-style chili powder, and, for simplicity, I settled on one high-quality chile blend that's manufactured in New Mexico (Santa Fé Seasons via Apple Canyon Gourmet).  I added some Mexican-style oregano to my spice rack too.

Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what's in it:

CHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with an "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

End the oregano debate:  they're not the same.

MEDITERRANEAN OREGANO: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

MEXICAN OREGANO: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and Central and South America.  Sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano, it has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

IMG_17142  tablespoons neutral-flavored cooking oil (avocado, canola, corn or vegetable, etc.)

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)

4  tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder

2  tablespoons Sante Fé Seasons Chile blend (Note:  This is a blend of New Mexico red chile powder, cilantro and saffron.  If you don't want to purchase it, which I highly-suggest you do, omit it and add 1 additional tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder to this recipe.)

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon Mexican oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock (depending on what you're filling your enchiladas with:  beef, chicken or cheese)

1  tablespoon white vinegar

IMG_1601 IMG_1605 IMG_1607 IMG_1615~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucier or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, cook until the roux is thick, smooth, bubbly and short of browning, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Lower heat and whisk in the dry spices.

IMG_1617 IMG_1622 IMG_1630 IMG_1639~Step 2.  After the dry spices are added, the mixture will be, grainy, lumpy and bumpy.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisk in the beef, chicken or vegetable stock, then add the vinegar.  Adjust heat to a steady, somewhat-rapid simmer and cook, whisking frequently but not constantly, until sauce is nicely-thickened and reduced by about 1/3, 15-20 minutes.  You'll have 1 1/2 cups.

Use as directed, or, refrigerate overnight (which I recommend):

IMG_1632Some things are simply better made from scratch:

IMG_1649Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups New Mexico-Style red enchilada sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 1 quart saucier or saucepan; whisk

IMG_9033Cook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/18/2017

~ A Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler ~

IMG_1543While I adore a traditional cherry or blueberry pie (who doesn't), sometimes, especially July thru September, the months when there is so much (too much) going on in our garden, I need to speed things in order to make use of all the fresh fruits and vegetables in a timely, manner.  When it comes "short shelf life" fruits like our sour cherries and blueberries, this cobbler is my solution. All I need is four cups of one or the other or a combination of both, along with 15 minutes of hands-on time, and:  dessert is in the oven.  There's more.  In the Winter months, I can make this cobbler using frozen cherries or blueberries without any compromise in flavor or texture.

4 cups sour cherries or blueberries, or a combination of both +

IMG_15065-6 pantry staples, &, in 15 minutes: dessert is in the oven.

IMG_15024  cups pitted sour cherries or blueberries  (Note:  If you are using frozen berries, thaw them for about 45-60 minutes and use them partially-frozen, not completely thawed.)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons pure cherry extract (for cherry cobbler), or pure blueberry extract (for blueberry cobbler, or, 1 teaspoon each (for cherry-berry cobbler)

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_1510 IMG_1515~ Step 1.  If the cherries and/or blueberries are frozen, thaw them as directed above.  Place butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish a melt the butter in the microwave.  Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.  Set aside.

IMG_1517 IMG_1523 IMG_1524Step 2.  In a large bowl, stir together pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk and the extract(s).  Add milk mixture to pancake mixture.  Whisk until a thin, smooth batter forms.

IMG_1529 IMG_1531 IMG_1536 IMG_1550~Step 3.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish, right on top of the butter.  Do not stir the batter into the butter.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon/distribute the cherries and/or blueberries evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the fruit with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 40-45 minutes.  Note:  If fruit was frozen and partially-thawed, baking time will be slightly longer, 55-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the cherries and blueberries (or any fruit) will sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden brown and will spring back slightly when touched in the center.  Cool 1 hour or longer (3-6 hours) prior to serving.

Cobbler going into 350º oven to bake (40-45 minutes for freshly-picked fruit or 55-60 minutes for frozen, partially-thawed fruit):

IMG_1536Cobbler out of oven & cooling 1-6 hours prior to serving.

IMG_1550Serve slightly-warm or at room temperature:

IMG_1557With whipped cream or ice cream, your choice:

IMG_1563A  Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler:  Recipe yields 1,  8" x 8" x 2" cobbler/8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; whisk; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish

IMG_4816 2Cook's Note:  Here in my Happy Valley backyard, sour pie-cherry season ended about three weeks ago, blueberries are ripe for the picking, and peaches, both cling stone and free stone, are beginning to ripen on our trees.  While I don't freeze peaches (they don't freeze as well as cherries and blueberries -- peaches get watery and mushy), I water-bath can them in glass mason jars. My recipe for  ~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~, is a great use for them (freshly-picked or canned (even store-bought canned) -- it's divine.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/16/2017

~ Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo ~

IMG_1490Over a period of five-six years, Joe and I had occasion to be in the San Diego area once or twice a year, and, on a few of those trips, we had the pleasure of spending time at the La Costa Resort & Spa.  Along with all of the amenities and services one would expect to find at a resort and a spa, they specialized in and excelled at serving lighter and healthier cuisine without being imposing.  On one visit there, I encountered a refreshingly-fruity strawberry-mayo concoction that showed up in a tossed strawberry chicken salad with bitty bits of bacon and blue cheese -- just enough salty, organic pork fat and tangy cheese to pleasure the palate, but not enough to make one feel guilty.  I had it for lunch, with a lovely glass of wine, both of the two days we were there.

IMG_1469La Costa's salad combo was delightful, but, it was the uniquely-fruity, slightly-spicy, thick, creamy mayo-based dressing that got my attention -- it was indeed a savory, rather than sweet use for strawberries that wouldn't have occurred to me on my own (even though I do use strawberries and raspberries to make vinaigrette).  That said, it works.  A tart and sweet purée of fresh strawberries stirred into some mayonnaise, along with some cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt, is simply wonderful.  FYI:  It works great with raspberries or peeled, chopped peaches too.

Turning a superb salad into a stellar sandwich.

While I never would have come up with the idea for the salad dressing on my own, it didn't take me long to come up with the idea to transition the salad into a sandwich. Served on warm, freshly-baked biscuits, I received more than a few quizzical looks when my family and tailgate friends (even the ladies) were presented with pink mayonnaise to top their sandwiches.  That said, not a one, not once, after the first few bites, expressed anything other than the desire for a second sandwich.  Live dangerously -- give this uniquely-different sandwich combination a try.

Part One:  Making the Strawberry Mayonnaise  

IMG_1437For the strawberry mayonnaise:

1  generous cup hulled and sliced strawberries

1  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/16  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1441 IMG_1444 IMG_1448 IMG_1451 IMG_1457~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. With motor running, process to a purée, 30-45 seconds.  Add the mayonnaise, dehydrated onion, black pepper and sea salt.  With motor running, process again, until mayonnaise is thoroughly incorporated and mixture is uniform in color, 15-30 more seconds. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate, 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best), to chill and thicken.  Keep stored in refrigerator 3-4 days.

Part Two:  Making the Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits

IMG_1477For the sandwiches:

8  biscuits, preferably freshly-baked and warm, sliced in half, or, small, soft sandwich rolls, sliced in half, your choice

12  slices crisply-fried bacon (1 1/2 slices per sandwich)

3/4  cup blue cheese crumbles (one generous tablespoon per sandwich)

3/4  cup each (all tossed together in one bowl):  shredded iceberg lettuce, diced fresh strawberries, and, diced sweet Vidalia onion (a generous 1/4 cup lettuce/strawberry and onion mixture per sandwich) 

2  roasted- or poached- chicken breast halves, pulled into bite-sized pieces

strawberry mayonnaise (from above recipe)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, place 3 half-strips of bacon atop the bottom of each biscuit half, then scatter a generous tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles atop the bacon.  Top the blue cheese with a generous 1/4 cup of the lettuce, strawberry and onion mixture.  Heap a generous mound of pulled roasted or poached chicken atop the lettuce mix, then, top with the other half of the warm biscuit.  Serve each sandwich with additional strawberry-mayo to the side for dipping or drizzling.

IMG_1483Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo:  Recipe yields 2 cups strawberry mayonnaise and instructions to make 8, 3"-round biscuit sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; food processor or blender; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_7872Cook's Note:  In the event you're interested in a crispy-crunchy chicken sandwich instead, feel free to skip the roasting or poaching and try my ~ Happy-Valley-Ranch Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich ~, topped with ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~.  I guarantee, it will make you "happy".

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/14/2017

~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Hellmann's vs Duke's ~

IMG_1418Mayonnaise.  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never too far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase bigger jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could (and will) eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day.  There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayonnaise-based tartar and remoulade sauces in it, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise ("mayo") from scratch too.

What's the difference between mayonnaise & salad dressing?

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c766995c970bLong ago (way, way back in time) I decided I liked Hellmann's mayonnaise better than Kraft's, and, I prefer mayonnaise to its cousin: salad dressing (Miracle Whip).  In it's simplest form, non-commercially made mayonnaise is a thick, rich and creamy mixture made from the emulsion of raw egg yolks, lemon juice (or vinegar) and vegetable oil. In 1756, the French, under Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, doc de Richelieu, captured Mahón on the Spanish-held island of Minorca.  In honor of the victory, the duc's chef created a new dressing for his master:  "Mahónnaise". (Above photo is indeed homemade mayonnaise, made by me, in less than 5 minutes, in the food processor.)

HellmannsIn 1903, Richard Hellmann emigrated from Germany to New York City, where in 1904 he married Margaret Vossberg, whose parents owned a delicatessen.  In 1905 he opened his own deli on Columbus Avenue, where he developed the first ready-made mayonnaise. He complimentary served his condiment,  in small amounts, to all his customers.  It became so popular so fast, he was soon selling it in bulk to other stores, while constantly improving the recipe to lengthen the shelf life (to avoid spoilage).  In 1913, he built a factory and began selling mayonnaise under the name "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise".  In 1920, the New York Tribune asked chefs to rate commercial "salad dressing brands" and they unanimously voted Hellmans #1, which boosted sales and made Hellman's a staple in the American kitchen.

12945457In 1933, Kraft foods, via inventor Charles Chapman, patented an emulsifying machine which allowed mayonnaise to be evenly blended with lesser expensive brands of commercial mayonnaise and more than 20 different spices, plus, sugar. The result was Miracle Whip, which made its debut at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, promising to create "salad miracles with Miracle Whip Salad Dressing".  Their "whip" was an instant success.  To make a long story short, mayonnaise is mayonnaise -- salad dressing is a blend of mayonnaise plus other things.  From a side-by-side taste test standpoint, the most obvious difference between Kraft's Miracle Whip and all commercial brands of "mayo" is its sweetness.  Both high-fructose corn syrup and sugar are the fourth and fifth ingredients, respectively, on the back of a jar of Miracle Whip.

Mr. Hellman's mayo vs Mrs. Duke's mayo.  Both rich in history.

41wLfCC6iUL._SL500_SS500_Before I delve into comparisons, which are going to leave one side or the other feeling slightly-slighted, it is worth noting that, up until recently (about three weeks recently), Duke's was not available us Yankees -- it was a "Southern thing" exclusively. That said,  I've heard enough about this iconic mayo from my Southern friends, to know enough pick up a jar the moment I came across it in one of our local grocery stores (coincidentally, shortly after Duke's started advertising on national TV -- which caught my attention and put me on the lookout for it).  I'm always open to conducting a taste test -- especially if it stands half a chance of rocking my food world.  

In 1917, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, because of the need to supplement her husband's income, started selling sandwiches for ten cents a piece, slathered with her homemade mayonnaise, to soldiers at Camp Sevier (near Greenville) -- her selection included pimento cheese, egg- and chicken- salad.  By 1919 she was selling over 10,000 sandwiches a day, soldiers were writing to her asking for her recipe (so their mother's could duplicate it), and, local grocers were selling bottles of her mayonnaise on consignment.  In order to handle the volume, she moved her operation out of her kitchen into an out-building, and, bought a delivery truck.  She also set up a small shop in the Ottaray Hotel, in downtown Greenville, where she sold dainty tea sandwiches to "the upper crust".  In 1929 she sold her recipes to C.F. Bauer, who established the first Duke's mayonnaise factory and sent her product out into the world.  As Andrew Smart, the President of Duke Sandwich Co. said, "Here's a woman, in 1917, who was an entrepreneur and a business leader -- in a time when she didn't even have the right to vote."

Mayonnaise:  It's regional.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1399< The Hellmann's ingredients list is straightforward -- as straight forward as an ingredients list for mayonnaise can be.  When I make mayonnaise, I use vegetable oil, no water, egg yolks (no whites), fresh lemon juice (not concentrate), Dijon mustard (I prefer the tang of Dijon to vinegar), sugar, salt and a pinch of pepper.

IMG_1397< The Duke's ingredients list is straightforward though slightly different.  They use whole eggs (no extra egg yolks), water + two types of vinegar (no lemon juice), no sugar, and oleoresin paprika (a natural food coloring, not a flavoring, used in orange juice, snack foods, etc. -- one of the most unique uses for it is in chicken feed, in order to give the yolks in chicken eggs a darker yellow appearance).

Taste, texture & color.  Mel's conclusions revealed.

Allow me to start by saying:  I tasted both, side-by-side, before reading either ingredients labels. No surprise here:  these are two great-tasting mayonnaises.  In fact, they taste so similar, if you are adding them to a "concoction" (macaroni- potato- tuna- or egg- salads, etc.), no one could possibly detect which one is which.  While Hellman's contains sugar, it is by no means sweet or sweeter than Duke's.  In fact, the sugar enhances the lemony flavor, which appeals to me more than vinegar -- Hellman's wins on this point.  Let's talk texture.  If you're slathering them on a slice of your favorite bread, there is a luxurious creaminess to Duke's, which is more indicative of homemade hand-whisked mayonnaise, the texture of which I suspect is due to extra oil rather than protein-rich, yellow egg yolks (which I would prefer).  Hellmann's, while indeed creamy, is aerated and slightly-gelantenous (similar to a mousse in which whipped egg whites have been folded into yolks) -- Duke's wins on this point.  As for color, while Duke's palest-of-yellow color is more attractive, it is enhanced by food coloring, so, Hellman's wins by default on this last point.

Mayonnaise:  It's personal.  There's no right or wrong brand.

IMG_1428"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/11/2017

~ Sweet, Savory & Spicy: Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney ~

IMG_1392 (1)Besides a store-bought jar of the beloved Major Grey's mango chutney, which I have on hand in my refrigerator at all times, in the Fall and Winter you will find a container of my homemade apple chutney, and, in the Spring and Summer, you will find a jar of my rhubarb-ginger chutney.  I make each one, once a year, every year, and freeze it in small containers so I'm never without this very-versatile sweet, savory and slightly-spicy flavor-boosting condiment -- it is a staple in my kitchen.  

IMG_8729 IMG_7359When I first encountered chutney, I was a young adult and it was served as a spread for cheese and crackers.  I loved it, and before long, I was using it as a topping or spread  atop small slices of toasted firm-textured bread with roasted meats and hearty cheeses (crostini), and, in my  South African grilled cheese sandwiches and Jamaican curried deviled eggs.

A bit about "Chutney":   Having its origin in India, the name comes from the East Indian word "chatni".  The chutney most of us Americans are familiar with is a preserved sweet and savory condiment containing fruit and/or dried fruit, vinegar, sugar and an array of different spices. Similar to its next of kin (jam, relish and salsa), it ranges in texture from chunky to smooth and in degree of spiciness from mild to hot.  Unlike its next of kin, chutney is  simmered low and slow for a lengthier amount of time.  In India, chutneys are commonly made and eaten fresh (originally with a mortar and pestle, nowadays a food processor), many are vegetable- rather than fruit-based and contain a wider array of ingredients (like mint or cilantro, ginger, tomatoes, yogurt or coconut milk and/or peanuts), and, are typically served as a side-dish/accompaniment to Indian curried dishes.  It's worth mention that even in India, chutneys are very diverse because Indian food varies greatly from region to region and is dependent upon locally available ingredients.

Pucker up baby:  tart rhubarb is perfect for chutney.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1e256e970bIs there a difference between green & red stalked rhubarb?

The color of rhubarb is not related to its suitability for cooking, however, the red rhubarb sold in the grocery store, unless marked "locally grown" is grown in hot houses.  I find this type of rhubarb to be a bit dry and subdued in flavor.  Outdoor varietes can vary from red, speckled with red, light pink or simply green (like mine).  Green stalked rhubarb is more robust (tart) and produces a higher yield, but, red is sure more popular with consumers.  I grew up eating green rhubarb and didn't realize it came in red until I was old enough to do my mom's grocery shopping for her.  The rhubarb we grow in our Happy Valley vegetable garden was transplanted from my father's garden, which was transplanted from his father's garden in Eastern Pennsylvania. 

No.  They are both perfectly ripe & ready to be cooked.

IMG_13091  cup apple cider vinegar

1  pound dark brown sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons pink peppercorns, lightly crushed  (Note:  These "little peppery jewels." are not peppercorns or related to a peppercorn.  Originating in Peru, they are a dried, fragile-skinned berry that Amazon rainforest natives use to make homemade pink peppercorn beer.  Because their skin is fragile, they are easily crushed with the flat side of a chef's knife, to release their delicate, fruity, peppery flavor -- pop one into your mouth for a most enjoyable nibble.)

1  15-ounce box golden raisins

1  ounce garlic paste, or fresh garlic cloves, processed in a food processor (about 1 tablespoon paste)

8  ounces ginger paste, or fresh ginger, peeled, chopped and processed in a food processor (about 8 tablespoons paste)

4  pounds green or red stalked rhubarb, trimmed of woody ends & sliced into 1/2" pieces 

IMG_1310 IMG_1313 IMG_1317 IMG_1321 IMG_1328~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot,  stir together the vinegar and brown sugar, until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the salt and peppercorns, followed by the raisins.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  If using garlic cloves and ginger root, prep them as directed, place them in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, and, using a series of 30-45 rapid-on off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-30 seconds, process to a paste.  Add the garlic paste and ginger paste to the stockpot.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  Using a large spoon, take a moment to give the mixture and thorough stir.  Adjust heat to medium-high.

IMG_1331 IMG_1333 IMG_1335 IMG_1338 IMG_1355~Step 2.  Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has lost about half of its volume and mixture is thick, 30-40 minutes. Watch carefully and stir constantly during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, as the mixture can and will scorch quickly.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set set aside to cool completely, 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Portion into 1-cup food storage containers & refrigerate...

IMG_1348... several hours or overnight, prior to serving chilled...

IMG_1366...  & freeze the balance for future chutney enjoyment:

IMG_1372Deli-ham & melted-cheese chutney-topped crostini anyone?

IMG_1384Sweet, Savory & Spicy:  Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney:  Recipe yields 10 cups. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor (optional); 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; 10, 1-cup food storage containers w/tight fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c906d115970bCook's Note:  There is a certain satisfaction in teaching people how to love food made from a misunderstood ingredient.  Rhubarb, sometimes called "the pie vegetable" is one such ingredient. Whether it's green or red stalked, a slice of old-fashioned rhubarb pie is a favorite of mine.  For those of you who like your rhubarb pie unadulterated (no strawberries please), and that includes not too much sugar: ~ Pucker-Up for a Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie ~. Give my very special Pennsylvania Deutsch recipe a try -- oh my pie! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/08/2017

~ One-Bowl Lunch on the Run: Tuna Macaroni Salad ~

IMG_1283I rarely make the time to sit down and eat lunch and almost never find the time to  go out to lunch. I prefer to munch and crunch, while working, standing in my kitchen or sitting at my computer.  For example: I am munching on some chopped cantaloupe, here at my desk, for breakfast, while writing this, at 6:30AM.  Whatever time I get my mid-day hunger attack today, I'm literally going to, "stick a fork in it":  tuna macaroni salad.  I made it yesterday, am writing about it today, and shall enjoy it, in a small bowl, as a light, satisfying, quick and tasty snack.  For me, it's just enough protein and carbohydrates to satisfy my hunger without squelching my appetite for dinner.

Nowadays, I'm mostly feeding just my husband and myself, and, since I'm typically the only person here in the afternoons, I never make a full batch of tuna macaroni salad (using an entire pound of macaroni).  I make just enough for one full, refreshingly-light Summertime meal for us two to enjoy together, and, three to four days of leftover light snacking for me. When it comes to tuna salad, macaroni salad and tuna-macaroni salad, I'd rather make it often, and eat it fresh, than make a lot and have it hang around too long.  That said, if you're feeding an entire family, do the math and turn my half batch into a full batch -- you'll end up 4 pounds/4 quarts/16 cups.

No peas please -- save 'em for your tuna noodle casserole.

IMG_12288  ounces mini-farfalle (or elbows, mafalda, shells, etc.), cooked al dente, according to package directions and well-drained

2  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked eggs, or, 3 large eggs, peeled and finely diced (Note:  I like to dice the whites and the yolks separately for a prettier presentation.)

1/2  cup peeled and small-diced carrot

1/2  cup small-diced celery

1/2  cup small-diced red onion

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise (plus additional mayonnaise, if necessary or desired)

1  12-ounce can solid-white Albacore tuna, packed in water. well-drained

IMG_1237 IMG_1244~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the macaroni, briefly stir and cook, until al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into a colander and rinse under cold running water until macaroni is cooled to below room temperature.  Allow pasta to continue to drain and "dry" (free from moisture) about 30-45 minutes.  Gently toss occasionally during this "drying" process.

IMG_1221 IMG_1231~ Step 2.  While the macaroni is drying, in the same saucepan, prepare the hard cooked eggs, drain them under cold water to cool to the touch and peel.  Open the tuna and invert can onto a paper-towel-lined plate to thoroughly drain.

IMG_1250 IMG_1253 IMG_1255 IMG_1259~Step 3.  Fine dice the egg whites, egg yolks, carrot, celery and onion as directed, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the Dijon mustard, pickle relish, celery seed, salt and pepper to the bowl and give the mixture a thorough stir.  Add and fold in the 1/2 cup mayonnaise.

IMG_1262 IMG_1266~ Step 4.  Add the now moisture-free macaroni to the bowl and gently fold it into the creamy vegetable mixture.  Using your fingers, pull the tuna into bite-sized chunks and pieces, placing it in the bowl as you work.  Gently and thoroughly fold the tuna into the macaroni salad.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors marry and mixture is well-chilled, 4-6 hours or overnight (overnight is best).  Prior to serving:  

Stir, taste & add additional mayonnaise if desired:

IMG_1276Portion into 2, 1-quart containers & refrigerate 3-4 days:

IMG_1302When hungry, scoop into snack-sized bowl & stick fork in it:

IMG_1297One-Bowl Lunch on the Run:  Tuna Macaroni Salad:  Recipe yields 2 pounds/2 quarts/8 cups.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan; colander; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 2, 1-quart-sized food