My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spicy Mango Chutney

"To 'put by' is an old deep-country way of saying to 'save something you don't have to use now, against the time when you'll need it.' "Putting food by is the antidote for running scared." 
~Janet Greene

 My introduction to spicy mango chutney was through trying a recipe from the New Essential NY Times Cookbook.  It was for a lemon curry chicken, and it alone is reason enough to make a batch of chutney.  I've made lots of preserves and this one was very fun and satisfying to cook up.  The recipe hails from my absolute favorite book on making preserves, 250 Home Preserving Favorites. It has the easiest and concise directions, great for anyone who is intimidated by canning, or thinks it is a daunting task.  The recipes are contemporary and for nice small batches, only 5-8 jars, which I like.  Just enough to use in a year and give away a couple of jars.  I took elements I liked from the mango chutney recipe and the mango-peach chutney one, since I didn't have quite enough mango.  
Mmmmmm, juicy mango and peaches
The result was wonderful and spot-on for what I was looking for.  I was trying to recreate the commercial product Major Grey's Spicy Mango Chutney.  The ingredient list is fantastic, and as it cooks down, the aroma created was drool-inducing.
I found it to be an extremely satisfying endeavor, and a useful finished product.  This chutney is essential in the aforementioned recipe, wonderful with grilled pork or chicken, great baked on brie and elevates a Gruyere grilled cheese to 4-star fare.  I am really hooked. 
Spicy Mango Chutney
Makes 5-6 8-ounce jars

6 cups chopped mangos (or 4 cups mangos, 2 cups chopped peeled peaches)
2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup dice red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated gingeroot (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A dash of red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
6 whole cloves

How to get the most flesh from a mango: Slice the mango before peeling.  First, stand it on it's stem end and slice along the wider sides, along the seed.  You will get two "cheeks" that flesh can be scooped from, or you can score the flesh in a grid pattern, push the skin from the bottom to "pop" pieces up, then cut the flesh from the skin in small cubes.  Cut or scrape flesh from the seed.

For the peaches:  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Drop ripe peaches in boiling water for one minute.  Scoop peaches out and drop immediately into a bowl of water with ice.  Peels should slide right off (unless they are unripe).
In a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often.

Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring often and reducing heat further as mixture thickens, for 50 - 60 minutes or until thickened.  Test for doneness: place a spoonful of chutney on a plate.  Draw small spoon through the center.  Chutney is done when no liquid seeps into the space.  Chutney will thicken more as it cools and should not be overly thick.  It should mound on a spoon, but fall gently from it.

Ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of rim.  Remove any air pockets and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding chutney; wipe rims.  Apply prepared lids and rings; tighten rings until fingertip tight.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let rest at room temperature until cool.  Check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars for up to 3 weeks.

If you have never canned before, you should get a good book on canning (I've provided a link to my favorite) and familiarize yourself with all the proper steps.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Greek Panzanella

"To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist.  The problem is entirely the same in both cases.  To know exactly how much oil to put with one's vinegar." 
~Oscar Wilde

Like most people these days, the recession has touched us and I'm making a concerted effort not to waste anything in the spirit of economy.  Last night I made some grilled garlic ciabatta rolls.  Now, I don't know about you, but when garlic bread is around I have to exert great discipline not to eat it until I explode.  We had a couple rolls leftover last night and this salad came to mind.  About a week ago I caught the Barefoot Contessa throwing one together on the Food Network.   

This is her recipe, but again, in the spirit of thrift, I substituted what I had, rather than run out and purchase more.  For instance, queen olives for calamata and vidalia for red onion.  I also added some fresh chopped parsley and basil since the garden is bursting with them.  Half an hour ago, this was my lunch and HOLY WOW, it was THAT GOOD.  I am prone to jags and am pretty sure a new one has just been launched.  Crunchy garden fresh vegetables, perfectly dressed and packed with flavor.  And that garlic bread I adore?  Re-incarnated in this salad, it was just as good.  This is a great way to use up any leftover baguette or ciabatta, and would travel really well to a picnic. I wouldn't count on leftovers.

Greek Panzanella

1 small French baguette or boule [or leftover garlic ciabatta!] cut into 1-inch cubes
kosher salt
[garlic powder]
1 cucumber, cut into chunks (peeled or unpeeled - your call)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted
[1/2 cup combined fresh parsley and basil, chopped] optional

For the viniaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt [and garlic powder].  Cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until nicely browned.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl.

Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and pour over the vegetables.  Add the feta and bread cubes and mix together lightly.  Set aside for 30 minutes to let the flavors meld and serve at room temperature.
4-6 servings.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Ultimate Diet Post

No food whatsoever.
Instead, I'll take you on a stroll through my cottage garden.  Next to my family and cooking, it is my greatest passion, but in Connecticut am limited to enjoying it from about April through September.  I'll have another recipe for you soon.  Thanks for indulging me.  You guys are the best :-)

"Gardening is a kind of disease.  It infects you, you cannot escape it.  When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed."
  ~Lewis Gannit

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Good Life Steak Salad

"Vegetarians are cool.  All I eat are vegetarians - except for the occasional mountain lion steak."
~Ted Nugent
I really just threw this together tonight, but it was so good it justified recording.  The dressing was really delicious, too.  Everyone commented on it.  Definitely worth sharing with you and making again, often.  I was thinking of making traditional blue cheese dressing, but wanted to keep it light so I decided to forgo the sour cream and convert it to vinaigrette instead.

Light and nutritious, yet so satisfying, nothing else is required to round it out.  This salad tasted like the king's bounty.  Every bite was savored.  Couple that with a beautiful evening and enjoying it with loved ones on the patio next to my garden in full bloom at dusk.  Naming it The Good Life seemed only fitting.  That was the sentiment of the evening.

The Good Life Steak Salad
serves 3-4

1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove of garlic, through the garlic press
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Accent (optional)

1 flank steak (1 - 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 bottle Kikomen or Soy Vay teriyaki marinade
2 small, or 1 large head of Romaine, chopped
2 ears of fresh corn, steamed 10 minutes
1 avocado, cut in half and sliced
1 tomato, cut into chunks
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
1/3 to 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese

At least 6 hours prior to dinner (and preferably overnight), place steak in a ziploc bag with half a bottle of teriyaki marinade.
Wisk dressing ingredients together.  Stir in half of the Gorgonzola and set in the fridge.  
About 45 minutes before dinner, steam corn, drain, and set aside.  When it has cooled, use a sharp knife to slice kernels from cob. 
Grill steak to desired doneness, 12-15 minutes total.  While steak is grilling, divide salad ingredients between plates, starting with Romaine and ending with onion.  Slice steak against the grain and place slices on top of the salads.  Sprinkle with remaining Gorgonzola if desired.  Divide dressing among salads and serve.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Binghamton Spiedies

"It's all about the meat."

If you know what I'm talking about, then you must be from Binghamton New York, eaten there, or know someone from the region.  In my case, it was my maternal grandparents.  Every time we went to visit them in Binghamton, or they came to see us, we would have spiedies.  There were three things we could always count on when we visited my grandparents there; that a fresh banana cream pie would be in the fridge, that grandma would make homemade rolls and that we would have spiedies.   Back in the day they were always made with lamb (at least at our shindigs) but now we make them with beef, pork or even chicken.  Hey, Curtis almost made them with kangaroo when he was in Australia recently.  He asked me for the recipe, but it didn't pan out because there wasn't enough time.  Here's the thing;  you need to let these marinate at least 24 hours.  When I catch a good sale on lamb, I buy a leg, have the butcher cut it from the bone and then freeze the cubes in the marinade in a ziploc bag.  Two days before I want to grill them, I take them out and let them thaw in the fridge, then have a mad spiedie-fest.  Keith loves when there's extra left marinating in the fridge and he can grill them at will.

This is my own recipe that I developed over several years until the spiedies of my youth were reincarnated.  It is pretty much the holy grail of my family recipes.  If you are someone meeting our family for the first time, chances are we'll be introducing you to spiedies.  I know you're looking at the photo and saying to yourself "looks like shish-kabob to me."  WRONG!  Spiedies have a tangy, herby quality all their own.   Many foodies say the name evolved from spedini, an italian appetizer,   They are easy to make, simply requiring some thinking ahead in order to get the full 24 hours to marinate.  

Of course, if you want to get swanky, you can fly some in from Lupo'sa spiedie restaurant in Binghamton.  They sell the marinated meats or the bottled marinade.  I was given a bottle of their marinade once and it was good.


1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Fresh basil, fresh parsley and 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, all chopped to equal one cup
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large onion, minced
2 pounds fresh lamb, beef top round or chuck, pork, chicken or venison (or kangaroo!) cut in 1-inch cubes

Combine all the ingredients (except meat) in a large bowl and mix well.  Place meat in a large ziploc bag and pour marinade over.  Place in a bowl in the fridge and marinate 24 hours, squeezing and turning bag once in a while.  Thread meat on skewers, then grill until they are to your liking, 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
It is customary to serve them with soft Italian bread, and we like them with rice or pasta salad.  If you make them with lamb, serve with a mint jelly.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

"It's like peanut butter and chocolate.  Each is great, but they're better together."
~ Richard Whitehead

It's fitting that this would be the recipe for my 100th post.  It should be special after all, and peanut butter pie is something I make only for special occasions, usually Curtis coming home, since it's one of his favorites.
The recipe is from a really good restaurant in Westerly, Rhode Island called 84 High Street.  I upped the amount of cream cheese, and changed the crust from graham cracker to chocolate, but other than that, it is spot on.

The first time I made it, it really was just for the kids and I didn't even think I'd like it.  WAS I WRONG.   It is so good.  I told Audrey I was writing the post on peanut butter pie and asked if she had anything to say about it.  Her response was "I only had about 9 pieces of it, it was so good.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner!"
I've heard it likened to, well....let's keep this rated PG and just say a physiological response.
It also keeps for several days in the fridge, allowing you to make ahead with ease.  Only prerequisite:  Do you like peanut butter?  Do you like chocolate?  Do you like Reese's peanut butter cups?  Nuff said.

Peanut Butter Pie  

1 1/2 cups of crushed Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick butter, melted
Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a nine-inch springform pan and place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.  Set aside and chill.  In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Add the peanut butter and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy.  Stir in one quarter of the whipped cream to loosen the mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining whipped  cream. Spoon batter into the chilled crust and freeze for 1 hour.

Chocolate Sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the chocolate chips.  Stir the chocolate until smooth.  Let cool.  Pour the sauce onto the pie and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  Serve chilled.