Saturday, February 28, 2009

Classic PB and J Cupcakes

Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Intermediate
Yield: 12 servings


11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 cup grape jelly (Recommended: Welch's Grape Jelly)
Candy bars (Recommended: Reese's Pieces, Butterfinger, Nutterbutter, Heath Bar, smashed up with a rolling pin, for decorating)
Peanut butter frosting, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, gently spray the liners with nonstick spray and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over a large piece of paper. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, the egg yolk, and the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour in the milk and continue to mix until smooth. Pick up the paper with the dry ingredients and gradually pour it into the wet ingredients, continue to mix just until blended.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake tins, about 3/4 full. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back to the touch and are not too golden; about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack before filling, frosting or decorating.

Fill a squirt bottle with the grape jelly and screw on the cap. Carefully insert the tip of the squirt bottle as far as it will go into the top of the cupcakes. Gently squeeze about 1 tablespoon worth of jelly inside of each. Ice the tops of the cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting to cover. Decorate with your favorite candy.

Peanut Butter Frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Beat the butter, peanut butter, and cream cheese with a hand or standing mixer on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and continue to mix until the frosting is smooth, mix in the milk and continue to mix until it reaches a good spreading consisting.

Yield: 2 cups

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blue Cheese Souffle with Fresh Figs and Honey

Cook Time: 25 min
Yield: 4 servings


Blue Cheese Souffle:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the ramekins
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for the ramekins
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, warmed
5 eggs, separated
Pinch salt
Ground white pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Pinch cream of tartar
8 fresh black mission figs, split in 1/2 lengthwise
1/2 cup honey
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare 4 (8-ounce) ramekins by greasing them with softened butter and then coating them with sugar, tapping out any excess.

Make a thick bechamel sauce base by melting the 3 tablespoons of butter over low-medium heat in a thick-bottomed pot. Just as the foam subsides, add the flour, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes to coat the flour with fat and remove the starchy taste; do not allow the roux to brown. Add the warm milk to the mixture and continue to whisk until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat. Beat in the egg yolks 1 at a time. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese until incorporated evenly. Chill the mixture while whipping the egg whites.

In a separate clean bowl beat the egg whites and cream of tartar just until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the beaten whites into the bechamel mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and place on a cookie sheet. Bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes.

The souffle is done when it has puffed over the rim, the outside is golden, and the center jiggles slightly.

Serve with fresh figs and a drizzle of honey. Dust with confectioners' sugar.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Plaintain Chips

Cook Time: 7 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


3 large green plantains
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Kosher salt, for seasoning


In a heavy based pot heat vegetable oil over medium heat to 375 degrees F.

Using a mandoline, or sharp knife, finely slice plantains into chips (for a fancier presentation slice them lengthwise into ribbons). Fry the plantains in small batches until crisp and golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Season with salt immediately.


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Ultimate Cuban Sandwich

Cook Time: 39 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Cuban Pork:

1 pound boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of your knife
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 long Cuban bread roll
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
1 cup bread and butter pickles
8 thin slices deli ham
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

You can do this in a regular Dutch oven, but for convenience and time use a pressure cooker as follows:


Begin by braising the pork shoulder. Tie the shoulder in 4 places with kitchen twine so it will hold its shape while being cooked or ask your butcher to do this for you. Season the pork with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Set the base of a pressure cooker over low-medium heat and add a 2 count of olive oil.

Add garlic and chili flakes and as the oil heats up it will become fragrant and infuse the oil. Add the pork. Add onions around the pork and brown slightly before adding orange juice, lime juice, stock and bay leaves.

Secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your pressure cooker. The pork should be tender when done. When done allow to cool in juices before removing twine and slicing.

To prepare Cuban sandwiches, split bread in half then layer the sandwich with mustard, cheese, pickles, ham, pork then cheese again (the cheese glues everything together). Season with salt and pepper in between the ham and pork layers. (Optional: drizzle a little of the pork braising liquid over the meat as well).

To cook, heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil. Place the sandwiches on the skillet and top with another heavy skillet and a couple of heavy weights (bricks, or cans of tomatoes work well). Press down firmly and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side until the sandwich has compressed to about a third of its original size and the bread is super-crispy. Serve with beans, rice and plantain chips.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Omelette with Green Onions

Cook Time: 5 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings


8 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 pound smoked salmon, torn into large piece
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
4 green onions, finely chopped, garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Whisk eggs and heavy cream together in a large mixing bowl.

Take a large nonstick pan and set over medium heat. When the pan is heated add the butter and spread out evenly over the surface of the pan. Once it starts to foam turn the heat down and add eggs. Using a spatula swirl the eggs quickly in a circular motion as you gently shake the pan back and forth to cook evenly, you don't want any color.

Once the eggs begin to set, drop the pieces of salmon, small spoonfuls of cream cheese, and green onions over the top. Season with salt and pepper, then as you slide it out onto your cutting board, roll 1 side over the top as you go to form an omelette.

Slice crosswise into portions and serve.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuna Everything Bagel

Cook Time: 3 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 2 servings


Tuna Salad:

3 cups good quality canned tuna (packed in water), drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 cornichons, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 everything bagels, sliced and toasted
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced crescents
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced
1 seedless cucumber, sliced
4 Bibb lettuce leaves


Begin with the tuna salad. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Take cut bagels and toast under a hot broiler until golden brown. While still hot smear the bottom with the cream cheese immediately. Top with a scoop of the tuna salad and then layer with red onion, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Add the top half of the bagel and serve.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fettuccine Alfredo

Cook Time: 50 min
Level: Intermediate
Yield: 4 servings


Pasta Dough:

3 cups 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs plus 2 yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon water
Cornmeal, for dusting


To make pasta dough: Combine the flour and salt; shape into a mound on your work surface and make a well in the center. Add whole eggs, yolks, and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. Knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. Divide the ball of dough in small sections, cover and reserve the dough you are not immediately using to prevent it from drying out. Form the dough into a rectangle and roll it through the pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Pull and stretch the sheet of dough with the palm of your hand as it emerges from the rollers. Reduce the setting and crank dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue tightening and rolling until the sheet is about 1/4-inch thick. Keep in mind, overly thick pasta tastes gummy. Cut the long sheet into workable 18-inch pieces. Now, using the fettuccine cutting attachment, run the sheets through the cutting slot. Dust the noodles and a baking sheet with cornmeal. Coil the strands into a nest. Allow to dry for about 10 minutes before cooking.

Alfredo Sauce:

1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

To prepare alfredo sauce: Heat heavy cream over low-medium heat in a deep saute pan. Add butter and whisk gently to melt. Sprinkle in cheese and stir to incorporate. Season with freshly cracked black pepper. In a large stockpot, cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Quickly drain the pasta and add it to the saute pan, gently toss the noodles to coat in the alfredo. Transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl. Top with more grated cheese and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paella with Seafood, Chicken, and Chorizo

Cook Time: 1 hr 10 min
Level: Intermediate
Yield: 2 to 4 servings


2 chicken thighs
2 chicken legs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
1 cup Spanish rice, short to medium grain
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 cups water, warm
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled with heads and tails on
2 lobster tails, split
6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving


Rinse the chicken pieces and pat them dry. Mix the oregano and paprika with some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pieces of chicken; marinate for 30 minutes so the flavor can sink in a bit.

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or wide shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add the chorizo and continue to cook until the oil is a vibrant red color. Remove the chicken and sausage to a platter lined with paper towels.

Return the pan to the stove and lower the heat to medium. Make a sofrito by sauteing the garlic, onion, and tomatoes; cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld; season with salt and pepper. Fold in the rice, stirring to coat the grains. Stir the saffron into the rice. Pour in the water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Do not cover or constantly stir like risotto.

Add the shrimp, lobster, clams, the reserved chicken, and the chorizo. Give the paella a couple of good stirs to tuck in all the pieces and just let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Scatter the peas on top and continue to cook for 5 minutes, until the paella looks fluffy and moist. The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat. Allow to rest, off the heat for 5 minutes, and garnish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Fried Ripe Plantains


* 4 yellow plantains
* Vegetable oil, for frying
* Kosher salt


Cut the ends off the plantains and cut them into 2 pieces. Peel them
and slice them in half lengthwise. In a large skillet over medium-high
heat add 1/4 cup oil and fry the plantains slowly until they are
browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Season with salt and serve.

From; foodnetwork,com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Grilled Beef Tenderloin on Focaccia Toasts

Cook Time: 1 hr 10 min
Level: Intermediate
Yield: Enough for a crowd! 30+ servings


* 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
* 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 heads garlic
* 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
* 2 cups good quality mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons hot chili paste
* 1 whole beef tenderloin*, about 6 to 8 pounds
* 2 loaves focaccia bread, sliced and toasted
* Baby arugula, for garnish


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the tomatoes into a roasting pan, drizzle with some olive oil and
season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have collapsed,
about 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and bake it until
soft, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft
garlic onto a cutting board. Strip the needles from the rosemary, add
them to the garlic, and chop them together. Pour 1 cup olive oil into
a small bowl; add the garlic and rosemary mixture and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside until ready to

Char the outside of the pepper under the broiler or over a gas flame.
Put it into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. When cool enough to
handle, peel, seed, and chop and put it into a blender. Add the
mayonnaise and chili paste; process until smooth. Taste and adjust
seasoning with salt and pepper; refrigerate until ready to use. (Can
be made the day before.)

Heat the grill. Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour
before you are going to grill it. Brush it with some of the flavored
olive oil and season it generously with salt and pepper. Grill the
tenderloin, turning frequently, until the meat is rare or medium rare,
about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a platter and let it rest for 5
minutes, brushing it with the flavored olive oil. Cut the beef into
thin slices.

To serve, put some of the flavored mayonnaise onto a piece of focaccia
toast. Top it with a thin slice of the beef and spoon on some of the
roasted tomatoes. Garnish with some arugula leaves and serve.

*Cook's note: Have your butcher clean the fat and silver skin from the
tenderloin and tie it.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Arugula Salad and Ultimate Vinaigrette

Cook Time: 10 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings


* 1 shallot, finely minced
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon honey
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 6 cups arugula


Combine the shallot, mustard, vinegar, oil, sugar, honey and salt and
pepper in a jar and shake to emulsify.

Toss arugula with vinaigrette, to taste.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Chunky Guacamole

Cook Time: 15 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings


* 4 ripe avocados
* 3 limes, juiced
* 1/2 red onion, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 2 serrano chiles, sliced thinly
* 1 big handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Halve and pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon into
a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving them somewhat
chunky. Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together to
gently mix. Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the
guacamole so it doesn't brown and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Burger Bar

Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings


* 2 pounds brisket, ground
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 4 thin slices Swiss cheese
* 4 hamburger buns, split


Preheat a large cast-iron skillet to medium hot. Take a few paper
towels and fold them several times to make a thick square. Blot a
small amount of oil on the paper towel and carefully and quickly wipe
the hot skillet to make a nonstick surface.

Season the ground meat in a bowl with salt and pepper. Give it about 3
turns in the bowl with your hands or a big spoon and it's done. Shape
into 4 patties. When the skillet is hot, put the burgers on the
skillet and cook 4 minutes on the first side and 5 for the second side
for rare; 7 minutes per side for medium, adding the cheese during the
final minute or 2 to melt. Remove the burgers to a plate. Rub the
skillet with the folded paper towel again to clean it. Then toast the
buns cut side down for about 1 minute, just to mark them. Serve the
hamburgers in the buns with the accompaniments below.

Sauteed Mushrooms:

Saute 1 pound thickly sliced mushrooms in 1/4 cup olive oil with 2
sliced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves over
super-high heat until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in a
couple of drops fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

Caramelized Onions:

Heat 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a
large pan over medium heat. Add 2 onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick
slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook slowly until well
caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Tomatoes with Sea Salt and Chives:

Thickly slice 2 pounds red and yellow beefsteak tomatoes, drizzle with
olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and 1/2 bunch chopped fresh

Bacon with Rosemary:

Lay out 1/2 pound sliced bacon on a baking sheet, strip leaves from 1
sprig rosemary and throw them on top with lots of cracked black pepper
and roast at 400 degrees F until the bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes.

Herbed Horseradish Mayonnaise:

Stir together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, 1/4
cup freshly minced herbs such as parsley, basil, chives or scallion, 2
tablespoons olive oil, a little squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and