The pickle man

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Caramelized White Fish

I know, just when you were thinking I was only cooking desserts this summer... but don't worry, plenty of sweetness in this recipe... and also, for a dinner get-together this weekend, I will be making peach crisp (my other favorite summer dessert).

But onto the main course - caramelized white fish.  I found this recipe (and 12 other things to do to white fish) in a New York Times article.  Another flavor variation suggested was tomatoes, capers, and lemon...  But we liked this the best.

3 good things about this recipe:

1. It's flexible. You can use any white fish.  I used frozen tilapia, but will probably try catfish, flounder, whatever your grocery has that is looking fresh.  I dream about doing this to fresh red snapper.

2. It is ready in under 15 minutes.  Seriously.

3.  It is delicious. I think my husband licked his plate.  And it is different - sweet and spicy and... well, since it's ready in less than 15 minutes, you should just try it.

Start with 1/2 cup brown sugar, seasoned with salt, pepper, and red pepper.

Allow extra for tasting...

Dredge the fish in the sugar mixture...

Put the vegetable oil in a big cast-iron skillet, and place it in the oven with the broiler on Hi.  Remove from the oven when the oil is smoking.

Then, place the fish fillets in the sizzling oil... and put it back under the broiler.

after 2 minutes, flip them over...
2 more minutes, and they are finished!  (If you are using thick fillets, you may want to check the flakiness with a fork).

Condensed recipe, adapted from The New York Times

1 Tbs vegetable oil
4 thin fillets of white fish (I used previously frozen tilapia)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (although dark would probably also be wonderful)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarse, freshly ground black pepper

Garnish:  lots of fresh mint, chopped
red pepper flakes

Turn the broiler in the oven to "Hi" and position the top rack about 4 inches from the heat source.
Allow the oven to preheat for 5 minutes while you get everything else read.
Pour the oil into a large cast iron skillet (or other broiler safe dish - a glass pyrex would work).
Place the skillet in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.  Dredge both sides of each fish fillet in the mixture.  You will have to get your hands dirty - press the sugar into the fillets.

Pull the skillet out of the oven and drop the fillets in.
Place back in the oven for 2 minutes.
Pull out the skillet and flip the fillets over.
Place back under the broiler for another 2-3 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets, this might need to be a little longer - mine were very thin).

Remove from the oven, place the fish on a plate, and drizzle the pan sauce over the fish.  Top with minced mint and red pepper flakes (unless you are serving to the kids - they will do better without the garnish).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mocha Ice Cream Pie

So, it's really hot outside.  Really, really hot.  But the Under 7 crowd in my neighborhood doesn't seem to have noticed.   They are perfectly content to dance around in swimsuits or diapers (depending on age) from sun-up (I only wish that were an exaggeration) until the streetlights come on.  Meanwhile, we adults subsist on frozen beverages and frozen desserts... and, at least in my case, feel a little jealous at their spontaneity and lack of inhibition.

After my attempt to make an ice cream cake for my husband's birthday failed so miserably last week, I felt the need to try again - this time with pie... an infinitely more forgiving medium.

This is one of my favorite summer desserts - largely because it does not require me to turn on my oven in the blazing hot kitchen.  That, and it's delicious.

First, you start with an Oreo cookie crust.  It's hard to go wrong with this:
Place 25 Oreos and 1/2 stick butter in a food processor.  Let your 4 year old count.  Express amazement at his advanced counting skills. 

Grind into delicious crumbs. Allow the 4 year old to taste.

Smush the crumbs into a pie plate.  If your 4 year old is like mine, he will draw the line and getting his hands greasy and crumby - but pushing the button on the food processor is entirely delightful.

Scoop in some softened coffee ice cream (the original recipe calls for Baskin Robins Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream, but I like smooth coffee ice cream better.  Plus, one of our guests had a nut allergy.)  The Starbucks ice cream varieties are also amazing in this pie. 

Top with homemade fudge sauce Hershey's syrup - if you don't have time for fudge sauce because you have 2 kids and your four year old managed somehow (haven't solved the mystery yet) to crack a pane of glass on the front door with a plastic recorder - the kind from music class.  
Pop the pie into the freezer for a bit (while you frantically try to clean because guests are coming over).
Whip some heavy cream...

Add coffee liqueur to the whipping cream (along with 1/3 cup powdered sugar) (and yes, I did serve this to children. 1/10 of 2 tablespoons of 5% alcohol did not slow ours down in the slightest)  - you can always leave this part out, or replace it with espresso powder or a tablespoon or so of coffee...

Finally, put the whipped cream on the pie and garnish with cocoa powder or (to up the Mexican ante a little) ground cinnamon...
Put the pie back in the freezer until 15 minutes before you are ready to serve.
as you might be able to tell from this cross-section, I did not put enough chocolate sauce between the ice cream and the whipping cream, but there is always next time... 

Easy and ohhh so yummy.  Can definitely be made a day in advance!

Adapted from Mocha Ice Cream Cups in Celebrations on the Bayou

25 Oreos
1/2 stick softened butter (it's OK to microwave this to get it soft)
1/2 gallon coffee ice cream, minus a few spoonfuls
Chocolate fudge sauce, or, in a pinch, Chocolate Syrup
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons Khalua or other coffee liqueur

In a food processor, combine the Oreos and the softened butter.  Press the moistened crumbs into a pie shell.  Meanwhile, allow the ice cream to soften slightly.  Spoon as much ice cream as you can fit into the pie shell - I had less than 1 cup remaining in the container.  Top with fudge sauce (if you have time to make it - the recipe at the bottom of the profiteroles recipe found here is a great one ) OR Hershey's syrup - a good amount.  Freeze for 1-2 hours.

In the bowl of a mixer, whip the heavy cream on high until soft peaks form.  Add the powdered sugar (this will keep it from melting like it does when you use granulated sugar) and the Khalua.
Top the pie with the whipping cream and put it back in the freezer.
Garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, OR (I tried this for the first time last night), cinnamon.

Remove this from the freezer about 15 minutes before you plan to serve it; it will make cutting and serving much easier.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie (Dough)

I know, just in time for swimsuit season... but seriously, when my kids get out of the pool, they are STARVING!  So I mixed up a batch of these.  I roll them into a log and put them in the fridge, and then they operate just like slice-n-bake... or use a scooper and freeze them.

  And you are never more than 15 minutes away from warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven deliciousness.

But let's be honest.  Although (when baked) these cookies are the PERFECT mix of crispy and chewy, melty, gooey, (why did I make these again!)... they are more often consumed in their doughy state.  Chocolate chip cookie dough = heaven.  Just ask my babysitters!

** A quick notes/ updates on this recipe: after two years, this is still one of my favorite go-to recipes, and these can be found in my freezer right now.  But I forgot to include something in the original recipe -- if you ARE going to bake the cookies, they are so much better if you chill them first (either 30 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the fridge, minimum).

And... it's similar to the one on the back of the Nestle package, but it uses a yolk instead of an extra egg, and it reverses the ration of brown and white sugars, completely changing the texture of the cookie into something more amazing.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup butter, softened or melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325.
Put the butter in a mixer and mix on high until fluffy.  Add sugars and mix on high for 2-3 minutes.
Add the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk.  Beat until light and creamy.  Add the salt, soda, and flour.  Mix until JUST combined.
Mix in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough - either in the fridge (if you don't want to scoop it first), or use a small ice cream scoop to drop the cookies onto a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and freeze them.

After the dough is cold, place the cookies about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. 

Bake at 325 for 12 minutes or so (times will vary depending on the size of each cookie - you want a brown rim around the bottom edge).

To store:
1. To refrigerate (lasts 1 week, if you're that lucky).  Shape into a log.  Roll up in plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator OR
2. To freeze (lasts up to 6 months, although again they have never made it that long in my house).  Scoop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Remember that these cookie balls can be closer to each other - freezing cookie dough does not make it spread.
Flash freeze for 30 minutes.  Store in a zip-top bag in the freezer.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven.  Put in the frozen cookies.  You may need to flatten them after the first 5 minutes of baking, and they will probably take longer to cook - 15 minutes or so.

Baby = COOKIE MONSTER!  He loves them. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homemade White Bread

Finally, the tomatoes are ripe!

And so, today, I just had to make one of these:

And to appropriately surround my delicious bacon, lettuce, and tomato, I made my mother-in-law's bread:

From here, it was only a few short steps... 


For the bread:

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
4 cups bread or all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/3 cups water

Mix all of the ingredients.  You can use a bread machine, a mixer with a dough hook, or your hands (I've never tried that last one).  My preferred method is the bread machine on the dough cycle.

Let rise until doubled - 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Punch down the dough and divide it in half.  Place each half in a greased, floured loaf pan.  Allow to rise again for 30 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes (until nicely browned).  Let cool before slicing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring Risotto with Asparagus

Aren't these guys beautiful? (I mean the asparagus, really). 

Every food blog and food article I read seems to be obsessed with asparagus right now, so I decided to try some out... in a nice risotto.  The asparagus were wonderful.  The risotto needs work.  Or at least arborio rice.  But more about that later.  

First, I started by dicing 1/2 of a yellow onion and sauteing it in a mixture of butter and olive oil (1 tablespoon of each). 

While that was getting soft and making the kitchen smell delicious, I chopped an orange bell pepper.

My 4 year old is obsessed with orange bell pepper.  I have to hide them in the depths of the shopping bag or they don't make it out of the grocery store parking lot. 
Lest you think I exaggerate... photographic proof! 

Anyway, while the bell pepper and the onion are hanging out and getting to know each other, bring some chicken stock to a boil.  Usually, I keep homemade in the freezer, but I'm out right now.  And already I feel it is too hot to boil a chicken.  So I used this instead.  It was amazing - the first "store-bought" stock I've really been impressed with. 

And then we come to the rice.  I am still conflicted about this rice. First, for risotto, you are supposed to use arborio rice.  It's short grained and makes the dish a lot creamier.  But unfortunately, our grocery store does not stock it.  I've heard Brookshire's on Hwy 165 is the place - but it lacks the selling point of being less than a mile from my house.

Anyway, lacking the proper arborio rice, instead I tried this: 

The resulting dish, while tasty, was NOT risotto.  Not even a little bit.  More like normal, long-grained rice in a flavorful broth.  Again, I'm not knocking it.  But if your local grocery carries arborio rice, could you send me some?  K, thanks :) 

Anyway, saute the rice in the hot oil for 5 minutes or so.  It should begin to smell nutty. 
Then add 1/2 cup or so of white wine. 
And remember these guys?  Add them, too.  (Chop first, please).

Begin adding the hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time.  Cook it until all the broth is absorbed.  Repeat.  Over and over and over.  

As all of that is going on, get ready for the basil.  Ahh, the basil.
I still can't believe I grew this!  Every year, I think that about the basil.  It is the most rewarding herb I know :) 
So, to properly julienne your basil, stack the leaves, the roll them up
And make vertical cuts until you have pretty ribbons.

Once you have added all of the liquid to the rice (and tasted it to make sure it is not too crunchy and therefore in need of more liquid - if it is, just use wine or water) remove the rice from the fire.
Stir in the ribbons of basil.
Plate and top with a pile of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (no green can, I beg you!).
It is delicious!

p.s.  If your kids are anything like mine, if it is made with rice, they will eat it.  Even if they push all the "green stuff" to the side. 

Condensed recipe (adapted from the Pioneer Woman, Risotto Primavera)

5 cups low sodium Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (or whatever you have on hand - just don't expect the same creaminess)
1 1/2 cups white wine (I used Chardonnay - just nothing too sweet)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbs fresh basil, julienned
Optional other vegetables: yellow squash, mushrooms, zucchini, green peas, etc. 

In a skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter.  Add the onions.  Cook until tender (8-10 minutes).  Add the garlic.  Add the orange bell pepper and the salt.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the rice.  Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of wine.  Cook until the liquid is absorbed.  Add the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking each time until absorbed.  Add salt as necessary.  
Serve with Parmesan and basil!