Condiment

Smoked Fish Dip #2

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Here is one use of all that smoke fish I got in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan, if you haven’t been following my most recent posts).  Now this is called “Smoked Fish Dip #2” because it is my second favorite.  But it’s the one that we made and it’s still very good.  This recipe is a lot milder than my #1, which may appeal to more folks, especially if you don’t eat a lot of smoked fish.  The flavor can be a little intense, but I love that smokey goodness.  And what’s nice is that this is quick and easy to make, although you may want to let the dip sit for a little bit so that the flavors can marry a little bit.

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 oz. smoked fish (this recipe used whitefish, but use what you like)
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • a couple of dashes of hot sauce, to taste
  • 2 T. chopped chives

Coarsely chop the fish; if you like a smoother dip, chop the fish into smaller bits.  In a bowl, beat the cheese until nice and creamy.  Add the fish, salt, pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire and mix well.  Fold in the chives.  You can let this sit for an hour if you like, but it is ready to serve!

I thought using my fishing-themed salt and pepper shakers was appropriate.

Lavender Pepita Croquant

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One of the things that adds a nice touch to desserts is some croquant.  Croquant is very similar to brittle candies (like peanut brittle, for example), but the recipe is a lot simpler.  There’s no butter, or cream, or baking soda, or anything like that.  Just sugar, water, and your “feature ingredient”, which is usually sliced almonds for some reason.  But it’s fall, so I thought this would be great to try with some pepitas / pumpkin seeds.  I also wanted to add some lavender for that added twist.

When I first started considering making something like this, I thought it would be extremely difficult and laborious, but it’s really quite simple.  I realize now that I was mistakenly associating this with pulling taffy.  And if you’ve ever seen or done that, you know what I mean about laborious.  This recipe is great on its own as a candy, but it’s also nice to garnish, I don’t know, something like a Pumpkin Cheesecake (hint, hint — that’s my next post!).  Of course, this recipe does make more than enough to use as a garnish, so luckily it tastes good in its own right.  Here’s what you need:

  • 4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. pepitas
  • 1 T. lavender

1.  Line a half sheet pan with a silpat or spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan combine the sugar and water.  Over medium-high heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.  Do not stir after this point; only swirl the pan.  If a film forms on the sides of the pan, brush the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

3.  Cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until it is a light golden amber color.  Remove it from the heat and gently stir in the pepitas and the lavender.

4.  Pour onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it out quickly.  Allow to cool completely.  You can break it into pieces or before it has cooled 100% you can score it or slice it into desired shapes.  If you keep it in a dry space, this could keep for several months, but probably could last a week or so.

Notes — This batch does seem a little cloudy because I wasn’t paying attention and stirred it a little bit too much.  When you do that, crystals start to form which isn’t what you want.  I didn’t mind too much since I was breaking the croquant into very small pieces to serve as a garnish.  If you are trying to make larger sheets, take more care than I did in this batch.  A quick trick to help prevent this is to add a little corn syrup.  Without getting into too much detail chemistry-wise, corn syrup is a different type of sugar.  So when those two different sugars mix, it makes it difficult for molecules to organize and form crystals.

Garlic Confit Pesto

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Time to revisit that Garlic Confit that I had posted a little bit ago.  I just wanted to show a couple of different ways that you could use it in recipes.  This recipe is for another one of those multi-purpose sauces — pesto!  Quick fact about pesto — it comes from northern Italy (see? quick fact!).  Plus, what some folks don’t realize is that pesto really isn’t a sauce in the way that hollandaise is a sauce.  Actually, it’s more of a paste, at least the way that I do it.

Using the confit makes this sauce sweeter that regular pesto sauces.  When you use raw garlic, you get that sharpness and heat.  So you’ll need to keep that in mind when you use this recipe.  Now I don’t have a lot of exact measurements for this one; you just go for feel and texture and flavor here.  But I do try to standardize it when I can.  This time I did have a lot of fresh basil and parsley from the market, so I used a combination of the two.  But for ease of the recipe, I’ll just list the basil.  So here is about as standard as I can get it.

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 c. packed basil
  • 4 cloves of garlic confit
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 – 2 t. lemon zest
  • 1 – 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 2 T. honey
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

1.  Coarsely chop the basil and place it in a food processor, along with the garlic, walnuts, zest, and lemon juice.  Cover and pulse for several seconds to combine.

2.  Add the honey and red pepper and process.  Slowly incorporate the olive oil and process the sauce until smooth, being careful not to over-process (the longer you do it, the more heat is added to the mixture).

3.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cheese.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge.  Should last for a couple of weeks.  You can freeze it, and it should last for a few months.  You could freeze it in some ice cube trays to make it easier to just add a cube or two to some mashed potatoes, or pasta, or soup, or whatever you want!

Garlic Confit

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I love garlic.  There, I said it.  What’s not to love?  And what I especially love about this recipe is how simple it is.  Plus it’s so useful since it has so many applications.  You could put it in salads, really into any dish you might need, you could just spread it on some toast, or you could just get a fork and go to town.  And you could use the oil to cook, to flavor dishes, or to make a salad dressing.

The garlic takes on a nice sweetness when cooked, much like when it is roasted.  In this application though, it is much more subtle.

For those who might not know, a confit is a preparation that helps preserve food by covering it in a layer of fat or oil.  An example is duck confit where the duck is cooked in the rendered duck fat, allowed to cool while submerged, and stored in the cooled duck fat.  This preserves the meat without having to refrigerate it.  Probably has its roots back to a time when refrigeration wasn’t as common as it is today, but that’s just a guess.  Making this recipe follows the same principle.

This recipe is from Chef Thomas Keller’s book Ad Hoc.  His restaurant that folks think of is of course the world renown French Laundry.  But there is a whole group of restaurants in his portfolio, including Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bistro and Bakery.  The list of ingredients is so simple — garlic and canola oil.  That’s it!  And if you love garlic, you definitely need to add this to your basic repertoire.  I did change the amounts a little bit, just because I wanted to make a little bit more than the recipe calls for.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
  • enough canola oil to cover

1.  Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan.  Pour enough oil to completely cover immerse them in oil by about an inch.

2.  Place on medium-high heat.  Cook the garlic very gently; only small bubbles should come up through the oil when cooking, but the bubbles should not break the surface.  Adjust the heat as necessary.  Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring about every 5 or so, until tender.

3.  Remove from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil.  Store the garlic in the refrigerator in a covered container, submerged in the oil.  Should last about a week.

Gnocchi with Leeks and Crispy Basil

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It’s been one of those “what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I have in the refrigerator / pantry today” kind of days.  But this recipe started out as an inspiration; an “a-ha!” moment, if you will.  For whatever reason, I was inspired to try to make gnocchi today (and by “today” I mean the same day that I’m writing this).  No idea why. . . I’ve never made gnocchi before. . . I don’t have a wise old Italian grandmother who can teach the wonders of making my own dumplings.  But I did have a bunch of leeks and a bushel of basil from the farmer’s (or is it farmers) market.  And I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, so it all made sense.  I could make a shepherd’s pie, but I have the day off so why not try something new?

Now I know that you’re not supposed to use mashed potatoes when making gnocchi, but how different can it be?  There’s just a little extra cream and butter, maybe some garlic. . . and there are probably some recipes out there that would add all that stuff in anyway.  The only problem that I had was my lack of a ricer or a food mill, which I totally recommend that you have if you make gnocchi a lot. . . or even a little, because I had to pass all this through a mesh strainer, which was a pain!

Being a novice at this is rather evident — I could not roll it out right, mainly because I was working with a too-big piece of dough (I altered the recipe to accommodate).  So that meant that the pieces I cut were huge, which also meant that I could not shape things right.  But with all those things incorrect, it still tasted pretty good.  Now I have gone to restaurants and had some bad gnocchi — too dense, too doughy, too bland.  Much to my surprise, these were pretty light, but probably could have used a little bit more salt — I thought the mashed potatoes were salty enough.

This is another one of those things that doesn’t have as exact measurements as I would like. I kept on adding flour to the dough since it was too wet (I assume from the mashed potatoes).  But something like that would probably happen if it’s too humid outside.  This is as close as I could get it.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for the dough and rolling
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil
  • canola oil
  • zest of a lemon

1.  Into a large bowl, run the mashed potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or a sieve.  Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, salt, & pepper.  Mix the eggs with a fork, gradually adding some of the potatoes along the sides of the well.

2.  Sprinkle the flour over the top and using the fork mix to combine, being careful not to overmix.  The dough should be moist, but not wet or sticky.  If it is still wet, sprinkle flour over the top 1/4 c. at a time and work in gently.

3.  Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out the dough into a thin log, about an inch wide.  Cut the dough into 3/4 in pieces and dust with flour.  Roll the pieces over the tines of a fork.  Place the rolled pieces onto a sheet pan.

4.  Bring some water to a boil in a large stock pot.  When it comes to a boil,  generously salt the water with about 1 T. salt.  Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes; when they are done, they will float to the surface.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Prepare the crispy basil.

5.  In a small pan, put about an inch of canola oil on medium-high.  Pinch off the individual basil leaves.  Working in small batches, fry the basil in the oil; it should only take a couple of seconds.  Remove the leaves and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel.

6.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil into the drained stock pot (I didn’t want to dirty another pan).  Place on medium high and sauté the leeks.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  When tender, add the gnocchi and heat through.  Toss with the lemon zest and serve.

Notes — Alright so here’s a little history for you, for which I know you’ve been chomping at the bit.  Gnocchi is probably one of the oldest recipes out there, with some documentation dating back to the 1300s.  There is debate on the origin of the word, but most agree that it has its roots in the Middle East. . . Traditionally, this is one of those meals that help extend your budget, since you can make it from simple ingredients. . . You can make these ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator or maybe freeze them. . .

Happy Mustard Day!

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Just a quick post today about this great national holiday.  A couple of quick things to point out:  1) I don’t make my own mustard.  2) I don’t really have a recipe that uses mustard (although my dry rub recipe does have some dry mustard).  3) I love mustard, as you can tell from the mustards that I have in my refrigerator, not counting the Blue Cheese Mustard from Stonewall Kitchen that was just polished off the other day.  I totally recommend that mustard by the way.  But I digress. . . we all probably have some kind of mustard in our kitchen.  It’s a part of our everyday lives!!!. . . for the most part. . . maybe.

But back to the holiday. . . if you are somewhere near Madison, WI, you should pop on over to the National Mustard Museum in Middleton and celebrate at the festival.  Mustard from everywhere will be there — from Kaua’i, HI to Beaverton, OR to Clearwater, FL.  Unfortunately I can’t make it but I did have to order my very own 20th Annual National Mustard Day (NMD) T-shirt!  It sounds like a fun time and it looks to be a very well attended event.  So go celebrate everything mustard and eat a couple of free hotdogs.  Looks like they have some mustard custard to top everything off!

Does anyone have a recipe out there using mustard?

As a side note — today is also National Root Beer Float Day!  I am working on a cake to celebrate!

Caprese Salad with an Herb Vinaigrette

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Here’s something that I had tried to put together.  Originally I had the idea to make a Caprese Pie (which I still want to make), but alas I was fresh out of Pate Brisee.  So instead of trying to reinterpret a Caprese salad, I decided to try to switch it up a little bit.  This is a great summertime dish because prep can be so simple.  And who wants to be bogged down in a hot kitchen during the summer?  Not this guy!  The hardest thing you need to do could be just washing the veg!  Plus tomatoes are so good right now!  And when you can get a bushel of basil from the local farmer’s market for $1, it’s a match made in heaven.

Now after a little bit of research, what everyone knows as a Caprese salad really isn’t the one from Capri.  According to Epicurious, the original salad was served with arugula and dried oregano, both of which grew wild on the island.  Plus, it is served with olive oil only.  The vinegar would be detrimental to the flavor of the dish and overpower some of the more delicate notes.  My take does have an herb vinaigrette and the moscatel vinegar that I used can be a little overwhelming, but I make a nice emulsion with some basil and oregano which does help tame it a bit.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 fresh tomatoes, cut in half and sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 2 lbs. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 in. thick half rounds
  • 1/4 c. moscatel vinegar
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano), coarsely chopped.
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt & pepper, to taste

1.  In a small food processor, chop the basil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the top and blend well.

2.  While the dressing marries, arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella on the plate.  I made a circular pattern alternating the cheese and tomatoes.  In the center I put a chiffonade of some basil.

3.  Pour some of the dressing on top and you are ready to serve!  Simple!

Notes — If you like you could try using a more neutral vinegar, but I like the tartness of the moscatel. . . I think that you could add a lot of interest to this salad by using some heirloom tomatoes and different kinds of herbs like some purple basil. . . I also did a lazier version where I just coarsely chopped everything and tossed it with the vinaigrette — very rustic!