Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taco Salad with baked tortilla chips

I wasn't sure if I should blog about this one.  It's so simple, it's kinda stupid. But, I think baked tortilla chips are a really good thing to know how to make, and if you don't already have this down, it's worth a try.  I hardly ever have a bag of tortilla chips handy when I want to make taco salad, and I usually don't want to keep them around anyway because they aren't always low in points.

I had some 4-inch white corn tortillas in my fridge that I've been using for soft tacos and fajitas.  Turns out they make really good chips too, and 12 of them (3 tortillas worth) equals only 1 WW Point.  It's a little more than a Point because of the little bit of oil I bake them with, but that's not bad!

For my salad I used green leaf lettuce, chopped tomato, canned kidney beans (drained and rinsed), a little queso fresco, cilantro, and some sliced Ailsa Craig onion.  This is a type of onion that tastes good raw, like you would want for a hamburger.  Of course I had some Chipotle Yumm! Sauce on the side.

Baked Tortilla Chips
(I think I got this recipe idea from someplace, but I honestly can't remember where.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

If using 4-inch corn tortillas, cut into quarters.  If using 6-inch tortillas, cut into 6 triangles.

Drizzle a baking sheet with a little grape seed or vegetable oil.  Spread it out so it evenly coats the pan in a very thin layer.  Arrange the tortilla pieces on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Put about a tablespoon of the oil into a small dish.  Using a pastry brush, dab each chip with a tiny bit of oil and spread it out over the chip.  This is very tedious, but it helps to be sure you are only using a small amount of oil per chip.  If you don't care about the chips being low fat, just drizzle the top of the chips with oil and spread it out evenly over the chips.

Sprinkle the chips with a little kosher salt.  If you have it, sprinkle some paprika or smoked paprika over them too.

Bake the chips for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are as crispy as you want them.  Keep in mind that they will become a little more crisp as they sit on the pan even after you take them out of the oven.  I like mine with a slight chewiness to it right out of the oven, then after they've sat for a couple minutes, they are perfect.  You can figure out what works best for you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Clean out the Fridge Night: Cheese Soufflé

Sounds intimidating and fancy right?  Not at all!

I have made this twice in the last couple months and find that it's a great way to use up extra dairy products in my fridge.  We get our milk, butter, eggs, and cheese from a local dairy farm that does not homogenize (they do pasteurize), so the shelf life on the products is significantly shorter than regular grocery store dairy.  So, if at the end of the week we have a lot of milk, cheese, and/or eggs still around, I need get to make something like this for dinner!  We have small portions alongside a big salad to keep it healthy.

I'd never had cheese soufflé before, so I don't know the "proper" taste and texture, I just know that we thought mine were pretty awesome.  The first time I made them, I used crumbled blue cheese, and the second time I used garlic/onion cheese.  Both were excellent, especially in combination with freshly grated Parmesan.  I even used nonfat milk both times and it still had a nice rich flavor.  I think the proper texture is just supposed to be light and kind of creamy, which it was.  The first time I didn't beat my egg whites very well (my hand mixer didn't touch the bottom of the bowl so some didn't get whipped at all), so the second time I used my standing mixer and the result was much better, though I didn't actually see a difference in the end product.

If you have individual ramekins, those are fun, but it will work just fine in a deep baking dish.

These deflate pretty quickly after you remove them from the oven, so have the rest of your dinner on the table so you can eat them right away.  Even flattened, they still make good leftovers the next day.

Cheese Souffle
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
serves 4-6

Note: If using individual ramekins (1 1/2 to 2 cups), the cooking time may be reduced by as much as half.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed until hot to the touch (about a minute in an average microwave)
6 eggs, separated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated or crumbled cheddar, Jack, Roquefort, Emmental, and/or other cheese

If baking right away, turn the oven temp to 375 F (give the oven plenty of time to get hot.  Use this time to separate your eggs and grate your cheeses).  Use a little of the butter to grease a 2-quart soufflé, other deep baking dish, or 4-6 ramekins (wait on these steps if you not going to bake the soufflé right away).

Put the rest of the butter into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  When the foam subsides, stir in the flour and cook for about three minutes, until the mixture darkens, stirring constantly (It didn't look to me like the foam was going to subside in a reasonable amount of time, so after waiting a bit I just added the flour, and it was fine).  Reduce the heat to low.  Whisk in the milk a little at a time, when you have added it all the mixture should be thick.  Remove the pan from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the egg yolks, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cheeses (You can prepare this part a few hours in advance of cooking, just cover tightly and refrigerate.  Bring back to room temperature before continuing.  Turn on the oven to 375 F about an hour before you are ready to cook, so it has time to get nice and hot.)

Use an electric or hand mixer (or a whisk, if you like to do things the hard way) to beat the egg whites until fairy stiff.  Stir about a third into the base, then gently fold in the remaining whites (don't be too thorough or you'll over-mix) using a rubber spatula or your hand.  Transfer this mixture to your prepared baking dish(es).  Bake until the top is brown, the sides are firm, and center is still pretty moist.  In a large baking dish this might take about 30 minutes.  In smaller ramekins it might take 15-20.  You can use a thin skewer to check the interior, if it's still really wet looking, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.  It's not like baking a cake or brownies though; it should still be pretty moist inside.  Serve immediately.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stuffed Zucchini / Summer Squash

I had my friend Kelsi over for dinner and a movie last week.  We watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (on instant Netflix) and I made these stuffed summer squash.  She brought some Prosecco and a delicious plate of fruit.

I had this recipe in mind and hoped that we'd get a bunch of zucchini in the CSA that week, since it calls for six 5-inch zucchini.  Instead we got a variety of interesting summer squash.  I decided that they would work just fine, since they were all about the right size and zucchini is really just the popular kid in the summer squash crowd anyway.  So if you find yourself with a mix of summer squash that you're not sure what to do with, make this recipe!  Just make sure they are all about the same size so they will cook at the same rate in the oven.  

Here is what I had: one zucchini, three yellow crooknecks, half of a cocozella (green striped), and two patty pan (one green, one yellow, resembles an alien spaceship).

This recipe was very easy.  I prepped the squash right when I got home from work, and started them roasting in the oven.

I was just starting to make the stuffing when Kelsi arrived, and we were able to carry on a conversation while finishing it.  The stuffing seemed pretty forgiving; I didn't bother to use a timer for all the little steps, and when it came time to add dry white wine I realized I didn't have any, so we used a little Prosecco and it worked just fine (I secretly wonder if it was the Prosecco that made it taste so good!).  

The finished product was really tasty!  We couldn't help commenting on how good it was as we ate it, even during that very intense movie.   I was actually a little surprised at how good it was, considering that it used such simple, basic ingredients.  I did not use the Italian bread crumbs it called for (i.e., the jar you buy at the store).  I cut up some day old sourdough bread and pulsed it into crumbs in the food processor on my lunch break that day, and it felt a little too moist so I laid the crumbs out on a baking sheet to dry out for the rest of the afternoon.  By the time I needed them that night they were perfect!  You could do that a day or two in advance too, I just didn't think of it.  I added some dried oregano to make them "Italian".

It calls for a jar of diced tomatoes, with the juice reserved to add to the stuffing.  I wonder if you could use fresh tomatoes?  It seemed like the juice was important to moisten the stuffing, so it might work only if you used very ripe, juicy tomatoes.  It is the season, after all.

If it seems like a lot of oil/butter is used in this recipe, remember that you can serve it with a light salad and just have one or two boats per person.  Also, you could be very careful about how much you drizzle on the squash before you roast them.  I wasn't that careful and noticed that it was very easy to overdo it.  You could probably also get away with just one tablespoon to toast the breadcrumbs instead of two.  

Mama Elsa's Stuffed Zucchini (or other summer squash)
adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine - November/December 2005 issue
makes 12 squash boats

Serve these with a salad for a light supper or cut them into small pieces for party snacks.

Six 5-inch zucchini or a combination of other small summer squash (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (see my comment above)
5 garlic cloves, 1 crushed and 4 finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (15 ounces) drained and juice reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (or make your own from day old bread, and add some dried oregano)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Halve each squash lengthwise and hollow them out with a small scoop or spoon, reserving the squash innards in a bowl for later on.  Arrange the boats on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil.  Roast them in the oven while you prepare the stuffing.  

Chop the squash innards.  Should I stop calling them innards?  Ok, chop the squash centers.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the crushed garlic clove, the red pepper flakes, the onion and the chopped squash bits.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the squash begins to caramelize.  Finely chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.  Stir and cook until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper, and deglaze with the wine.  Cook for a minute or two until the wine evaporates.  Stir in the reserved tomato juice.  Turn the heat down to medium low and let the tomato juice cook off slowly.  

While the stuffing cooks, heat the butter and one tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic, cook for two to three minutes.  Add the breadcrumbs.  Let them lightly toast in the pan for about two minutes.  Add the cheese, parsley, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Remove from heat. 

After the liquid has almost cooked out the stuffing, stir in the bread crumb mixture and the basil, then remove from heat.  

Take the squash out the oven, but leave the oven on.  Fill each squash half with a mound of the stuffing, then put them back in the oven for about five minutes to crisp up the bread crumbs.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer Fruit Tart

How could I not buy a box of berries like this?  I love the farmer's market!

Of course I could just eat the berries right then and there, but I really wanted to bake something special with them.  Luckily, we were going to a friend's house in a few days for dinner so I asked if I could bring dessert.  I wanted to make something that really showcased the berries, leaving them as untouched as possible.  I didn't want to bury them under a crumble or pie crust.  Into my head popped the cover of a Cuisine at Home magazine from a few years ago - a beautiful summer tart.  I found the issue and read over the recipe - not too difficult, though not really something you can make the night before.  Since I had to work, Joe pretty much made the whole thing during the day.  When I got home I got to put the berries on top and dab them with glaze, which, in my opinion, was the best part.  That, and seeing our friend's reactions to it when we brought it to their house later that evening.   

This is a great dessert to bring to a dinner, a BBQ, or a party because it's just so stunning!  It's also delicious; the honey and lemon really compliment the berries.     

Summer Fruit Tart
adapted from Cuisine at Home Magazine - August 2006
Makes one 9 inch tart

Note: Since I had strawberries instead of raspberries, I hulled them and then halved or quartered them, depending on the size of the strawberry, so that they were about the same size as raspberries.   

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Minced zest of one lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cubed (1/2 cup)
1 egg yolk (reserve egg white)

For the filling:
Reserved egg white
1/2 cup purchased lemon curd
3 eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Juice of 1/2 lemon

For the glaze and berries:
1/4 cup apple or apricot jelly
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
Sprigs of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Get a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and coat it with nonstick spray.  

To make the crust: 
Process the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in a food processor until combined.  Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Blend in the egg yolk, and pulse until the dough is crumbly (it won't hold together).  Press the dough as best as you can into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.  Poke some little holes in the dough with a fork, to prevent bubbles (this is called docking).  Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until golden.  Cool completely.

To make the filling:
Add the reserved egg white and lemon curd into a bowl and mash them together.  Whisk in the other eggs.  In a second bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, and salt.  Gradually add this dry mixture to the egg mixture.  

Bring the milk and honey to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  Slowly add this milk mixture to the egg/curd mixture - doing it slowly like this is called tempering - you add the hot liquid slowly, raising the temperature of the eggs mixture so that when you heat it on the stove, the eggs don't scramble.  Once the milk is incorporated, return this mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, until it gets thick and bubbling.  Let it boil for one minute to get rid of any starchy flavor from the flour and cornstarch.  

Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and lemon juice, stir until smooth.  Pour this custard onto the cooled crust and smooth the top with a spatula.  Cover and chill until set, about 4 hours.

To make the glaze:
Melt the jelly and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat, then gently dab over the surface of the cooled tart (be sure to glaze around the rim of the crust too!).  

Scatter about 3/4 of the blueberries over the tart.  Don't really worry about how evenly they are spaced.  They will stick to the glaze.  Next, add almost all of the raspberries, and then almost all of the blackberries, to the tart.  Use the remaining berries to fill in empty spaces as needed.  Dab the berries with more glaze.  Garnish with the sprigs of mint. 

To serve, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the tart into wedges.  Some of the berries will fall off as you cut, that's ok - just spoon them back onto the slices after you plate them.      
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