Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

After a months long hiatus and a new-found love of power tools has kept me from my kitchen, I figured it was only right to update before Thanksgiving with all of my favorite recipes for this grandest of eating days. This is a list of the fun CSK posts from over the past few years that should give you some inspiration for Thanksgiving. Most important...even though you are legally obligated to spend the day with your family, try to have fun!

Herb-Butter Rubbed Roasted Turkey

Starchy Sides:
Vegetables Sides:
Death by Chocolate (a great pie alternative for Chocolate lovers)

I like to keep things simple with a crisp, acidic, dry white wine with Thanksgiving dinner.  Keeps me perky and happy through the whole ordeal.  Look for a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc if you are feeling normal and a Viongier, steel aged Chardonnay, or Gewurztraminer if you are feeling feisty.  For those who like red, I also enjoy a nice, light Pinot Noir for the meal.

More importantly, I love to serve a bottle of Cava or some fruity, sparkling wine for appetizers.  It perks up the appetite and makes it feel like a special occasion.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Whole Oven Roasted Rockfish

On this very cold day, I wanted to head to the vault and bring back a little taste of summer. The Thomas family made our annual trek to Chestertown, MD last week and it was our wildest fishing year to-date. Usually we are catching little perch and anything in the less than 1/2 lb. range like CRAZY! Tons of little guys off the deck and then maybe a few 3-4 lb. catfish. Lots of fun and nice and easy. This year, the evenings were brining a strong wind from the south and a perfect balance of the tides bringing all kinds of bigger fish our way.  We caught a bunch of really beautiful rockfish, which are also known as striped bass.  They are a classic Maryland and Chesapeake fish and it was very exciting to be catching them late into the evenings.  We also hooked a 40lb. skate and my dad and mom put on a master class on pulling it in on a 10 lb. line.  It was seriously amazing stuff.  I capped off my week with a 5 lb. rockfish that I cleaned and gutted - under the extremely watchful eye of my dad - and then cooked up for my parents, Mark, and my aunt and uncle.  It was the perfect night out on the dock, beautiful sunset, and a delicious fish. To the fish!
Whole Oven Roasted Rockfish serves 6-8 people
1 5 lb. Whole Rockfish (scaled and gutted)
1 bunch dill
1 bunch parsley
2 lemons
1 small onion
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Me and my beauty!
In our house, if you want to keep it, you have to clean it yourself.
1.  When you buy a whole fish, you can ask them to scale and gut the fish.  I like to leave the head on for more flavor and the beautiful presentation. Snip the funs and tail and line a pan with foil. You want to thoroughly was the fish with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
2.  Prepare all of your ingredients, slice the onion and the lemon into circles and wash and dry the herbs.
3.  Score the skin by making vertical slices on each side.  This will help the fish cook more evenly.  Rub the fish inside and out with olive oil and then sprinkle generously with the salt and pepper.
4.  Spread out all of the onion, a few lemon slices and half of the herbs on the bottom of your pan and place the fish on top.  Place 4-5 pieces of lemon inside the fish cavity and then place the remaining pieces of lemon and the rest of the herbs on top.
5.  Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and carefully remove the foil - hot steam will be coming out.  Put the uncovered fish back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes to get a crispy skin.
6.  The fish is cooked when it is opaque, but will still be very tender and juicy.  Cooking the fish on the bone and in the skin adds lots of flavor and also makes this dish much more forgiving as far as cooking time because the fish is less likely to dry out.
7.  We served with roasted potatoes and a fresh garden salad.
And the beautiful sunset and company didn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fruity Yogurt Bomb Pops

These are the perfect dessert or little afternoon treat for summer and even more perfect for the 4th of July. They are a great balance of the sweetness from the fruit and the tart, but creamy yogurt.  On top of being delicious, they are also really healthy so you can feel good about eating more than one!  Or feeding them to your littlest party guests.  Making them is also very easy, just blending together fruit, sugar, and plain yogurt.  As far as the molds...I am not proud of this, but I do not own popsicle molds.  I have a tiny kitchen and they just haven't made the cut.  I do have mini cupcake pans, though.  And they worked out perfectly.  I actually placed a regular sized cupcake liner into my mini cupcake pans to create a big of a cylindrical mold for my pops.  Not very sturdy or perfect, but they absolutely did the trick.  What I loved most was that the liners have the texture that mimics a real Bomb Pop.  We eat with our eyes too, so I still wanted them to look semi-decent, which I think they did.
Fruity Yogurt Bomb Pops (makes about 12 1/4-cup sized pops)
2-1/3 cups plain Greek Yogurt
2 Tbs. milk
2/3 cup blueberries
2/3 cup chopped strawberries
1 lemon
1/2 cup powdered sugar (divided)
red and blue food coloring (optional)

1. Start with three bowls:  one with blueberries, one with your chopped strawberries and one with the 2-1/3 cups of plain yogurt. Add 1 Tbs. sugar to the strawberries and stir through.  Add 1 Tbs. sugar to the blueberries and mash up a bit with the spoon to release the juices.  Add 2 Tbs. of sugar and 2 Tbs. milk to the plain yogurt and stir through.
 2.  Allow the fruit to sit and absorb the sugar for about 10 minutes.
 3.  Prepare your cupcake tins or your popsicle molds.
 4.  Using a blender, blend the blueberries with 2/3 cup of the yogurt and add a few drops of blue food coloring (if you want).   Do the same with the strawberries and another 2/3 cup yogurt and red food coloring.
5.  Add the juice and zest of one lemon to the remaining 1 cup of yogurt along with another 1 Tbs. sugar.
 6.  Now you are ready to assemble.  Add the blueberry first and freeze for 5-10 minutes so that it really sets and your colors won't run together.
 7.  Follow the same for the lemon and then the strawberry layers.  Once you add the strawberry, also stick in your popsicle sticks.
 8.  Allow to freeze 3-4 hours or overnight.
 9.  Remove the foil wrap when you are ready to eat.
 These would be great for cheering on Team USA as they did a stellar job representing for our country at the World Cup!
 Or just for breakfast on your way to work.

One Year Ago: Salmon Sliders
Two Years Ago: Strawberry Pecan Salad
Three Years Ago: Pickles in a Barrel
Four Years Ago: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Peach Habanero Sauce

Monday, June 30, 2014

Eating at the World Cup - Manaus Part One

One major highlight of our trip to Brazil was a little 1,800 mile jaunt into the Amazon Jungle to the city of Manaus.  There are no roads into Manaus and the city is accessible only by plane and riverboat.  We opted for the plane and when we were descending into the Amazon, we really get a sense just how massive the jungle and the river really are.  Obviously I KNOW that they are huge, but the decent into the city leaves no doubt that this is truly one of the wonders of the world.
On our first night in Manaus, we went to the delicious and highly recommended Restaurant Banziero.  Under the direction of award winning local chef, Felipe Schaedler, we enjoyed one of our favorite meals in Brazil.  Being so deep in the jungle, Manaus is known for the amazing local fish, fruits, and vegetables that are nearly impossible to export.  I knew we were in for a very local treat that we would never be able to get anywhere else in the world.When you first arrive in many restaurants in Brazil, you receive a small mug or cup of Caldinho.  It is a thick soup or broth that is either made with black beans or with some kind of seafood.  We'd already come to love caldinhos, so we knew we were in love when they immediately brought the steaming mug to our table.  This version was a thick seafood soup made with tucupi, jambu and fresh shrimp.  Tucupi is a yellow sauce that is extracted from wild manioc root that grows in the Amazon Jungle and the jambu is a local fruit.  This dish was perfectly seasoned and absolutely hit the spot after a long day of travel.  
They also brought some limes and homemade spicy pepper sauce to accompany the caldinho so that you could adjust the acidity and spice to your own preference.
Obviously the first thing we did after chugging our caldinhos was order the national drink of Brazil: Caipirinhas.  If your country is going to have a national drink, it should always be as good as this.  Fresh lime, sugar, and locally made sugar cane liquor.  Muddled together simply and perfectly to create a balanced and delicious drink.  At Banzeiro we got a version with kiwi fruit and we were not disappointed.
Kelaine opted for the fantastic graviola juice, which we all loved.
Since we'd eaten a lot of fried foods already, our bodies were craving something fresh.  We started our with the Salada do Banzeiro (House Salad), which was a mix of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, local cheese, croutons and bacon made from the pirarucu fish.
No, you didn't read that wrong.  I said BACON made from FISH.  And it was sensational.  Pirarucu is the most famous of the local Amazonian fishes that we knew we wanted to try and this preparation was salty and delicious.  It is a very large, thick fish, so this very fun take worked very well.
Next we ordered the house specialty, which was Costela De Tambaqui Frita, or Fried Tambaqui Ribs.  This is another gigantic fish that actually has huge ribs that they fry up and serve on the bone.  The meat is white, tender, and flaky.  I've never seen or tasted anything quite like it before.
It was incredibly unique and delicious.
As our second mail course (because...why not?), we had Pirarucu with roasted banana and fried cheese.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but this is a huge filet of firm, moist fish that has been barbequed on an open flame.  They then bring it out on a cutting board to the table and serve it to each person with a little piece of the cheese and banana.  Not only was it beautiful, but it was the most delicious thing I've eaten in quite a while.
We also had white rice with broccoli, which was a very common side dish throughout Brazil along with black eyed peas and potatoes.  The sandy-looking stuff is farofa, which is a grain that you'll find as an accompaniment to most meals.  It adds crunchy texture to the food. 
For dessert, we split the Cupuaçu mousse with toasted cashews. Cupuaçu is a local Amazonian fruit that is very unique. The taste is somewhere between a banana, pineapple, and chocolate (it is actually in the cocoa family).  We also got a little coconut candy to finish off the meal.  The mousse was delicate and not too sweet with a perfect crunch from the nuts.
Mark was not a huge fan which worked out great...more for me!
This meal left us totally fortified and excited to cheer on Team USA in their match against Portugal. Even a gut wrenching tie couldn't dampen our love for the great city of Manaus. 
Up next is our trip to the jungle!

One Year AgoCoca Cola Chicken Thighs
Two Years AgoChocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Three Years AgoKiwi Margarita
Four Years AgoLamb Kebabs

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Pizza

Pizza Dough nutrition data at Calorie Count

 My rule about making things from scratch or buying them is very simple.  Can I make this better than I can buy it?  Yes or no.  For pizza dough (and in fact for most yeast dough) my answer is NO.  Maybe I have no patience or maybe I'm not a very dedicated measure-er or for whatever reason I've never really gotten the hang of yeast dough.  Luckily, my local chain grocery store understands.  In the deli section with the pre-made macaroni salads and things I would never normally buy, they sell balls of frozen pizza dough that are all ready to go.
If I want to make a pizza tomorrow, I set it out the night before in the fridge and I am ready to go.  If you are more capable than I (which is likely), obviously you could make your own dough.  For me, the real star of this dish is not the dough at all.  The dough is just the simple receptacle that I use to shovel as much of this amazing pizza into my gut as possible.  I adore the salty bacon, creamy and smooth squash, and sharp blue cheese together with the sweet onions and the egg gives it that final, over-the-top quality that we all need sometimes.  This originated as a "what are we going to eat tonight" type recipe from many random things leftover in the fridge/freezer.  I love it so much and will be making it again soon.
Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Pizza (makes one small pizza for two)
6 pieces of bacon
1 cup frozen, cubed butternut squash
1 medium onion
pizza dough
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Set pizza dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise according to the instructions.
2.  In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Coarsely chop the bacon into pieces and add to the hot pan.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until the bacon is just beginning to get crispy.
3.  For the onions, I usually do a coarse chop, but for this recipe I want the pretty, half moon slices so that the onion is more part of the show.  Slice onion in half and then slice each half to make uniform,half moon slices.  Add to the pan with bacon along with the butternut squash.  Cook for another 5 minutes until the onions are tender, the squash begins to caramelize and the bacon is crispy.
4.  When you are about ready to make the pizzas, preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Leave one large cookie sheet in the oven to get hot while it is preheating.
5.  On a floured board, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.  It doesn't need to be a perfect circle.
6.  When the oven is preheated you are going to work quickly to assemble the pizzas on the hot pan.  Remove the hot pan from the oven and place the dough on top of the pan.
7.  Drizzle the dough with about 1 Tbs. olive oil.  Then sprinkle the bacon, squash, onion mixture evenly over the pizza dough.  Leave two "wells" or spaces for the eggs.  Crack the eggs and set the raw egg into the wells.
8.  Sprinkle the blue cheese over the whole pizza evenly and place the pan back into the oven.
9.  Cook for 10-15 minutes until your dough is browned and the eggs are just set.
If you can, allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before slicing.
One Year Ago: Blood Orange Salmon
Two Years Ago: Vegetable Fried Rice
Three Years Ago: Roasted Chiopino

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Corn and Avocado

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  In honor of a day devoted to all things south-of-the-border, I give you a dinner that would go perfectly with an icy margarita.  These little shrimp tacos were a delicious and very easy dinner.  They come together very quickly, with only a few ingredients, making them a great weeknight treat.  The sweet shrimp are balanced by the heat from the sauce and the creamy avocado.  This will become a summer staple in our house.
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Corn and Avocado
(makes about 4 tacos to serve 2 hungry people)
2 dozen small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup frozen corn
1 Tbs. shiracha
1/2 Tbs. honey
1/2 lime
salt and pepper
4 whole wheat soft taco shells
1 avocado

1.  Heat up a dry, non-stick skillet on high heat until hot.  Add the corn and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This will get the corn to brown up a bit.
2.  Add the shrimp and sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of pepper.
3.  Allow shrimp to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the siracha, honey, and juice from 1/2 lime.  Stir through until well incorporated and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the shrimp are opaque so you know they are cooked through
5.  Assemble the tacos with shrimp, corn, and slices of fresh avocado.
Yum, yum, yum.

One Year Ago: Raw Tomato Sauce
Two Years Ago: Lamb Shank Osso Bucco
Three Years Ago: Orange Saffron Chicken