Spicy Mexican Black Bean Soup (adapted from Fine Cooking, Oct. 2007)
This is a hearty, brothy soup filled with black beans, fresh veg and zesty – yes, zesty! – chorizo sausage. It’s great with some Cotija cheese and minced cilantro sprinkled on and a side of tortilla chips. And yep, the Crazy Cook soaks and cooks dried black beans, but you could use canned (drained and rinsed) black beans in a pinch and it’d still be really good. Not crazy good, but still really good!
8 oz dried black beans (or 1.5 14-oz. cans black beans) If using dried beans, you’ll need: 1 clove garlic, smashed, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp kosher salt)
2 Tbl. olive oil
1/4 fresh Chorizo, crumbled
3/4 C. chopped yellow onion
3.4 C. chopped celery
2 tsp. minced jalapeno pepper
1 tsp. dried cumin
1 tsp. dried coriander
1 Tbl tomato paste
1.5 chopped carrots
1.5 C. diced tomatoes (fresh or canned; canned are usually better outside of tomato season)
1 chopped Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, and about 1 tsp of the adobo sauce
6 C homemade (or canned/boxed) chicken or veg broth
Salt and pepp
What You Do
1) DRIED BEANS: ADVANCE: Soak your beans in water at least 8 hours (cover them by an inch of H20).
2) COOK DRIED BEANS: ADVANCE: After soaking, drain and rinse and put them in a large pan with 6 C of water, the smashed garlic and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer, with the lid partly on, for about an hour. Keep an eye on them, stirring them about every 20 minutes or so. For the last 20 minutes, dump in 1 tsp kosher salt. When they’re tender, after about an hour (maybe 45 minutes), drain. You don’t need to keep the liquid cuz it’s kind of murky and black and will turn your soup a yucky color. You can cook the beans in advance and refrigerate them, or …
3) While the beans are cooking, turn on your iPod and go to town on the rest! Brown your crumbled-up Chorizo in 2 Tbl olive oil and then remove the meat to a bowl.
4) In that delicious oil, saute your chopped celery and onions for about 10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepp.
5) Add your jalapeno, coriander and cumin and give it a good stir-about, for a couple of minutes.
6) Now add your carrots, diced tomatoes and the chopped Chipotle pepper and adobo sauce and stir it all about. Add 2 C of your chicken or veg broth. Let this cook up for about 20 minutes while you have a sit with a cup of tea, maybe a Diet Coke, or even a Cerveza!
7) Time to add the beans and stock! Pour in the beans and the last 4 C of broth.
8) Add your cooked Chorizo back in and simmer for at least 15 minutes. And you’re almost done…
Serve with a splash of lime juice if you like and a dash of Cotijia cheese or a smattering of tortilla strips. Ole! Soup’s on.
Crazy, Crispy Parmesan Crackers (adapted from Mark Bittman)
I couldn’t believe how easy this was – 25 minutes, from start to finish! These are lovely with a glass of good buttery, oaky Chardonnay or a crisp Albarino, or whatever your favorite sip is.
1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (I whizzed shredded Parm in the Cuisinart)
4 Tbl cold butter, cut up into small pieces
1/4 C cream or half-and-half, plus a couple of teaspoons more as needed
Your choice of seasonings: Kosher salt, black pepper, toasted sesame seeds, crushed rosemary, whole fennel seeds, Cayenne pepper – sky’s the limit!
What You Do
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat silicone baking mat. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter pieces in food processor and pulse it about for a bit til flour and butter make friends / blend up a bit together (about 8-12 pulses should do it). Then pour in 1/4 C cream or half-and-half and let ‘er rip for a minute or so. I added a couple extra teaspoons of half-and-half til the whole blob of dough came together and started banging about the side of the bowl. It shouldn’t be too wet – if it is, add a bit of flour.
Now, plop the dough onto a floured counter and roll it out thin – like 1/8-inch thick. Roll the doll around the rolling pin and unroll onto your baking sheet. Score it lightly with a knife or pizza cutter to make it easy to break it into crackers after it’s baked. You can make squares or diamonds or triangles, whatever shape you like! Bake ’til lightly browned – took me about 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack and crack into crispy, delicious crackers. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for a few days. Pop a nice bottle of your favorite beverage and enjoy! Cheers!
Spicy Mexican Pot Roast
When my Mexican supermarket amigo explained that sopes are traditionally filled with shredded meat, Cotija cheese and crema, I first considered flank steak, but quickly went straight to the rich, shreddy deliciousness of pot roast – pepped up with some Mexican spice and braised in the oven with fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like Hunt’s). Mmmm MMMM – it came out great!
1 Chuck Roast (mine was 1.6 pounds)
2 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed, plus 1 more minced
1 14-oz. can Hunt’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, diced, with about 1 Tbl of adobo sauce(Note: these are hot little chile bombs and I like it hot, so use as much/little as you like)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Yucatan spice blend (I found this at Macy’s, but you could substitute chili pepper flakes, black pepper and some oregano)
1 Tbl salt, several generous grinds of black pepper
3/4 C water
What You Do
Pre-heat oven to 300F. In a 3.5-quart size cast-iron enamel pot, heat your olive oil with smashed garlic cloves. Remove the garlic after 5 minutes (and chuck it.) Salt and pepper your chuck roast on both sides. Then drop in your chuck roast and sear it about 5-6 minutes per side. Don’t try to pry it up; it will release when it feels like it – and that’s when it is properly seared. Then flip it and sear the other side.
Now – pull that big ol’ chuck roast out and set it on a plate. Dump your can of tomatoes into the pot, 3/4 C water, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, cumin, minced garlic and other spices plus salt and pepp. Stir it up a bit and bring it to a boil. Now, plop the meat back in, put the hat on your pot and shove it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
When it’s tender (stick a fork in it, like they say), pull it out and let it rest for a bit. When it’s not firey, burning hot, pull out the meat with tongs, onto a cutting board and start shredding! I just use a regular dinner fork and just start pulling. Skim the fat off the sauce in the pot, as you’ll want to use this delicious business on your sopes.
Then you just assemble your sopes. In a skillet, put about Tbl vegetable oil (if you’re making more than two or three, you’ll probably need more oil), heat it up and fry your sopes for about 5 minutes, until they’re crispy). Set them on a paper towel, while you get your other ingredients ready:
* Cotija cheese (this is very finely grated – almost powder-like Mexican white cheese, mild, creamy, salty taste)
* Crema – Mexican sour cream – it’s a little richer and creamier-tasting than American-style
* Use whatever you like to dress it up: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, or guacamole, beans of almost any type – the cielo is the limit!
The meat keeps great, in the sauce, refrigerated, for about a week. Freeze whatever you don’t use for a Mexican encore! Enjoy.
Coconut Marshmallows (adapted from Ina Garten)
Confession: I do not like store-bought marshmallows. The dry powdery coating, the super-intense, pure sugariness – not my idea of “delish.” But fresh marshmallow? Get out. I’d never tasted fresh marshmallow before I made my own, and my hips are sorry I did – it’s amazing. You can add extracts if you want – vanilla is standard, but try substituting peppermint extract and dip your finished marshies half-way in melted dark chocolate, instead of coconut. Stand back!
These are so much fun to make but WARNING – you do need a stand mixer — unless you have the fortitude to manage a constant, 10- to 15-minute stint with an electric mixer (caveat: I’ve never done this, but imagine it would work, with an electric hand-held mixer). It’s like magic, watching the mixture turn into a fluffy, sweet mass of marshmallow fabulosity!
7 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
3 packets unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand – generally available at supermarkets)
1.5 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbl vanilla extract
What You Do
OK, first preheat the oven to 325. Then get a cookie sheet and spread the coconut on it. Toast it for about 15 minutes, checking to be sure it doesn’t burn (that crazy coconut can burn fast, so watch it.) Then, just scoop it all into a dish and set aside.
OK – marshy time! I highly recommend a stand mixer here (such as Bella, my own cobalt blue KitchenAid stand mixer). In the metal bowl, dump all three packets of dry gelatin powder and 1/2 C of water – mix it just a little and let it sit while you…
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 C water in a saucepan on the stove and cook over medium or medium/high heat til it gets to 240F on a candy thermometer. TIP: Spring for the good, Taylor-brand candy thermometer ($10 or so) and latch it onto your pan. When it gets to 240, take it off the heat and set aside, til the bubbles subside.
Now comes the fun! Turn your mixer onto low and slowly pour the hot (but not bubbly) syrup into the gelatin-water mixture into your mixer bowl. When it’s all in, jack up that mixer on high speed -whoo! – and let ‘er rip for about 10 minutes or so, until the whole shebang whips up into a big, beautiful fluffy white mass of marshmallow deliciousness. Toss in the vanilla extract toward the end. It’s amazing to see your mixer bowl evolve into a frothy mass of white, marshmallowy wonder. After it is thick and white (10 minutes or so), turn off the mixer.
Now it gets messy. Ready? Take about half your toasted coconut and spread it into a glass or ceramic pan, 8 by 12 inches. (I used a square 9X9 one and you get taller marshies, whatever you want). Now, use a spatula to scoop the marshmallow into the pan. With wet hands, just press it out flat (wet hands make the whole business a little less messy). Let it set up for a while – 30 minutes is good. Be sure to taste some and get it stuck to your face like I did, and laugh.
After 20-30 minutes, carefully up-end the whole pan onto a cutting board, onto parchment paper (sticky management). It should slide out, as the coconut on the bottom keeps it from sticking. Dip a sharp Chef’s knife into water and start hacking up these beauties into one-inch size pieces. Roll them into a bowl of the rest of your toasted coconut, coating all sides, and set onto serving plate or plastic container if you’re storing them for later.
These are AMAZING fresh, and they last a good 5 days or so in a sealed container (hello Oxo Top containers). So good plain, so good plopped onto a cup of hot chocolate, or even coffee. And big fun to make!
This is adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, and I love it because it doesn’t taste like traditional chili with all that chili powder. The spice combination is the key to its deep flavor – I swapped in ground Turkish Aleppo chili in place of dried chili flakes because I like it’s taste and mild heat.
And while the C5 chili didn’t win in our cook-off (bravo to Jacqueline Baron’s “Baroness” chili, which contained, among other things, beer and brewed coffee, and was very good!), I hope you’ll let me know if it wins in your house!
About 4 Tbl olive oil
3 large yellow or Spanish onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Turkish Aleppo chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
3 pounds, 4 ounces ground beef (or a mix of beef, veal, even ground pork)
7 cups canned diced tomatoes (2 28-ounce cans)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 cup water
2 Tbl cocoa powder (unsweetened!)
2 cans black beans, rinsed
What You Do:
First off: if you’re making the whole recipe, get the biggest, whompin’ pot you have – like a stockpot – this makes a LOT of chili (will easily feed 20 people) – I usually make a half recipe. Ready? Let’s do it!
First, heat the olive oil in your pot and saute the chopped onion and garlic for about 10 minutes. Add the Aleppo chili powder, coriander, cumin and cardamom – four of your five Cs!
Stir it all around and then dump in your chopped red peppers and the ground meat – break it up as best you can with a big ol’ wooden spoon or meat fork. When the meat is browned, add the canned tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree and water, stirring it all about. When you’ve got it back to a boil, sprinkle the cocoa over the whole lot and stir. Then plop in the black beans and put the hat on sort of askew and simmer for an hour and a half.
You can serve it as is, or on top of macaroni, or with sour cream, guacamole, some tortillas or tortilla chips, or hell, serve it in a baked potato! It freezes well, too, so you can revisit the chili magic whenever you want! Enjoy.
Sock-it-to-Me Canadian Sockeye Salmon
Wild sockeye salmon is one of my fave fish choices. Not only is it versatile – you can do a million things to it – but it’s easy and it’s actually good for you! And while I sit on the couch and watch the Olympians do their thing, I feel slightly more virtuous if I at least eat healthy!
2 wild Canadian sockeye salmon fillets (about 4 -5 oz. each)
1-2 Tbl. Canadian maple syrup
1-2 Tbl. soy sauce (I like the low sodium variety)
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of black pepper
1-2 Tbl. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together the maple syrup, soy sauce, olive oil and chopped parsley (and pepper, if using) in a small bowl or measuring cup. Unwrap your fish onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and spoon the marinade over the fish, and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. (Conversely, you could marinate in a ziptop bag.) Pop it into the oven for 10 minutes, and voila – delicious roasted, marinated salmon. I like to serve it with a green veg, like broccoli or snow peas, and maybe even the Lazy Cook’s microwaved acorn squash – with a hit of butter, maple syrup and sea salt.
Ham & Veg Frittata
I love frittatas for five reasons: 1) They’re good for breakfast 2) lunch 3) or dinner, 4) you can use just about any type of vegetable, meat or seafood or cheese, and 5) there’s no flipping involved! They’re easy and delicious and left-overs keep in the fridge for a couple of days- just zap it a bit in the microwave to warm it up.
Ingredients - for a 5-egg frittata that serves 4, generously.
5 large eggs
1 cup diced ham
1/2 a yellow or white onion, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup grated cheese (any firm cheese like cheddar, muenster, Colby, jack works well)
chopped parsley, for garnish
2 Tbl butter, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
Step 1: Melt 1 Tbl butter in a saute pan, add 1 tsp olive oil (this keeps the veg from sticking and maxes out flavor). Add peppers and onions; season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, until veg are soft and to your liking.
Step 2: In another saute pan, heat 1 Tbl butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Note: if you are using a non-stick pan, there is no need for the butter. But I don’t really have any non-stick pans, so there you have it.
Step 3: Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly. Add diced ham
Step 4: Pour mixture into saute pan. Add sauteed peppers and onions. Now – with a rubber spatula, just nudge along the sides, in a circle, letting uncooked egg run under, to the bottom of the pan. Do this for about 5 minutes, so the thing just sets up a bit, but is still liquidy on top. While you are doing this, turn on your broiler and make sure the oven rack is about 4 inches from the heat.
Step 5: Now, shove that pan into the oven, under the broiler, for about four or five minutes. Part-way through, when it is set on top – not liquidy anymore - pull it out – USE OVEN MITTS, THAT MOTHER IS HOT! – and sprinkle on your shredded cheese. Pop back under the broiler for another minute or two and voila – you are done!
Step 6: Sprinkle on some lovely green chopped parsley, cut into wedges and serve. I love this with a little side salad of greens, tomatoes and radishes and some vinaigrette, or with fresh fruit. Enjoy!
Crazy Cute & Classic Holiday Ham
The minute I saw a gorgeous photo of classic baked ham with cloves and pineapple rings on the cover of the December issue of Saveur magazine, I knew I had to try it. I did it with a whole, boneless, Kentucky Legend ham. Here’s what you do!
1 whole boneless ham
Maple syrup (use the real stuff, not pancake syrup)
Light brown sugar
One can of pineapple rings
Unwrap the ham and plop it into a baking dish (or a roasting pan). Get all your supplies ready, because your hands will get messy! First, make shallow, diagonal cuts across the surface of the ham, so you make a lovely diamond, or cross-hatch pattern. Then, ham spa time: give your ham a maple syrup bath followed by a brown sugar rub. Then stick whole cloves into the “x” marks from the cuts (if you can see them; if you can’t, just space them out across the ham).
Now comes your artistic ham expression: use toothpicks to secure pineapple rings to the ham and then stick a cute maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring. Cover your work of art with tin-foil (poke it down over the toothpicks) and shove it into a 350-degree F oven for about an hour and 15 or 20 minutes. (Just check the cooking directions on the ham wrapper for exact temp / time for the ham you get.)
Transfer ham to a serving platter and slice away. This ham is amazing as an entree, or on mini-biscuits for a cocktail party, sliced up into frittatas and casseroles, or cubed into a classic chef’s salad.
For more recipes on ham glazes and ham preparation, you can call the Kentucky Legend Holiday Ham Hotline at 866-343-5058. Bon appetit!
Huevos Rancheros Loco
Sometimes I think Mexican is my favorite of all ethnic foods – if offers yummy, fresh ingredients, tantalizing heat, crispy, crunchy and chewy textures and it always seems to call for a tequila cocktail of some sort! Yes, even my Huevos Rancheros Loco goes well with a Margarita or a Watermelon Paloma. Ready? Uno, dos, tres…. cook! Oh, wait – first pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Okay, NOW cook!
1.5 C chopped fresh tomatoes (or canned, in a pinch. Hunt’s are my 1st choice.)
1/4 C chopped scallions
1/4 C chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (ribs and seeds removed or you’ll really go loco)
Fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 14-oz. can black beans
1/4 C chicken stock
1/2 C chopped sweet onion
Chipotles in adobo sauce – as much as you dare! (Well, 1-2 Tbls, max, so you don’t blow your head off with heat.)
8 corn tortillas
Shredded queso fresco or “Mexican blend” cheese
First, make the salsa. This is easy – just blend all the ingredients in a bowl, salt to taste and ole! You have fresh salsa! How easy was that?
Then, make the beans: Drain the black beans and put them in a saute pan on medium heat. Add 1/4 C chicken stock, 1/2 diced sweet onion and 1-2 Tbl. chopped chipotle chilis in adobo sauce. Now: I like mine pretty spicy, so I might even exceed 2 Tbl if I’m making a mini-version of this for myself. But just taste as you go to get the right amount of heat. Simmer the whole lot for about 10 minutes, til warmed through and some of the stock has evaporated, or reduced. Remove from heat and keep on “stand-by.”
Now: put four tortillas on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle as much cheese as you like onto each. Top each with another tortilla, spread foil over everything and stick it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes – this is just to heat/steam the tortillas and melt the cheese a bit.
Ready? Now, fry your huevos – preferably in a non-stick skillet with a smidge of canola or veg oil, to your liking. I like mine over-easy.
You’re almost there - remove the tortillas from the oven. Place one cute, little tortilla-cheese round on a plate, top with 1/4 of the black beans, one fried huevo, and as much salsa as you like. Garnish with a bit of cilantro, and you could accompany with a few lovely slices of ripe, green avocado if you like, too. As they say in Mexico, “Buen provecho!” (That Google translator better not be joking, either!)
Watermelon Ginger Granita
Watermelon turns into wondermelon with this recipe!
4 cups of chopped-up watermelon (big chunks are fine – you’re just dumping them into a food processor)
1/3 to 2/3 cup of ginger syrup (see recipe below) – the amount depends on the sweetness of your watermelon and your own personal taste
For the Ginger Syrup
2 tsp fresh grated ginger (I used just 1 tsp in the video, but it wasn’t zippy enough for me!)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
Bring the water-sugar mixture to a boil in a small saucepan and boil til it thickens slightly (about 10 -15 minutes). Remove from heat, and stir in your grated ginger. Let the mixture cool (I put it in a jar and refrigerate it for a bit – you can also double this recipe, because ginger syrup is wicked good in cocktails, too!)
So, now you just bash up the watermelon chunks in your food processor until you have a puree. Add in your ginger syrup, and then you just pour the whole lot into a 9″ by 9″ pan (I use a glass Pyrex pan, but a metal pan works probably even a little better). Stick it in the freezer. After 1 hour, check it – it should be freezing up and now you scrape it with a fork – if it’s a little liquidy in the center, don’t worry – you’re just sticking it back in the freezer.
Now, good granita takes some love and devotion. You are going to have to check it every 30-60 minutes over the course of a few hours, and do the fork scrape-y thing – this is the key to a fluffy and delicious frozen watermelon granita! When the whole pan is fluffed and frozen – serve and enjoy!
Granita keeps very well in the freezer for several days – just cover it with some plastic wrap and maybe re-fluff it up with your fork.
Bonus Tip:If you have extra watermelon, whiz it up in your food processor and taste it – add some ginger syrup, or plain sugar if you like. Now – push the whole lot through a fine strainer and you have amazing watermelon syrup that is pure delight in a glass of Prosecco, OR mixed with 1.5 ounces of Tequila, 4 ounces of Diet Squirt (grapefruit flavored soda) and a big squeeze of fresh lime juice, over ice. Cheers!
Crazy Dutch Baby Pancake
(Adapted from Gourmet magazine)
This is easy and fun to make – oh, the drama of pulling that screaming hot cast iron pan from the oven with a golden-brown, puffed delight of doughy, chewy goodness. And, while the traditional “Dutch” way is to use either powdered sugar and fresh lemon juice or lemon sugar, as I did, this really is a blank canvas when it comes to toppings. Go crazy! Berries, bananas, Nutella, nuts – heck, even peanut butter! Oh, not to mention jams, preserves, dried or stewed fruits. Whoa – you could even go savory and sprinkle on some grated Gruyere cheese and diced ham or bacon. And, oh, yeah, there is always the maple syrup option, too. Whatever you do, have a crazy good time making it and a delicious time eating it!
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 C. whole or 2% milk, at room temp
2/3 C .all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg or cardamom, your choice
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbls unsalted butter
First, put a 12-inch cast iron skillet into a cold oven and then crank up the heat to 450 degrees F. Then, choose your mixer: a blender, hand-mixer or KitchenAid stand mixer – any of these will work. First beat the eggs, til frothy, then beat in the milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon and either nutmeg or cardamom, and salt. Whiz this all together for about a minute – the batter will be thin (that’s what you want.)
OK, ready? Put your thickest oven mitt on and get your screaming hot pan from the oven and add the butter. Yes, it looks like a lot, but just do it. Swirl the pan around the best you can (it’s heavy! it’s hot!) and then pour in the batter and shove that pan back into the oven. Bake for about 18-25 minutes, until the whole thing is puffed and golden-brown. Serve immediately, with your choice of toppings.
For Lemon Sugar: just stir together regular white sugar, about 1/3 Cup, and at least 2 tsp of grated lemon zest. I make this in a glass jar and it keeps in the fridge for a long time – good on all sorts of things, including this delightful Dutch Baby!
Salted Caramels a la The Crazy Cook
(Adapted from Ina Garten, 2008)
Oh, my, the sweet, chewy wonder of classic caramel hits a new high when accented with the tang of sea salt. This whole thing takes only about 20-30 minutes (and then the cooling and wrapping time), and makes about 30 to 35 individual caramels.
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. light corn syrup
1.5 C. heavy cream
4 Tbl unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt, plus extra for garnishing
1 tsp vanilla extract
Special Equipment: a candy thermometer that clips onto the side of a pan.
Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch glass baking pan with parchment paper and brush it lightly with oil, or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a deep saucepan (at least 5 inches deep), combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 C. water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until caramel is a lovely, warm, golden brown. This takes about 10 minutes or so. Don’t stir, and keep an eye on it. This is a good time to just stand over your stove and listen to some good music while you gaze at your caramel pan.
While this is going on, heat the cream, butter and sea salt and bring to a simmer in a small pan. When you see bubbles forming, set aside and keep warm (just set it on an “off” burner on the stove).
Now – back to your big pot – when your caramel is that nice, golden brown color, it’s time to slowly add the cream/butter/salt mixture from the small pan. I said, slowly! Why? Because it is going to bubble up furiously – this is what you want (but you don’t want it to bubble up all over the place, hence the slowness in the pouring.) Now, get a wooden spoon, dump in the vanilla and stir a bit, just to combine ingredients.
With your thermometer clipped to the pan, continue cooking, until you hit 248 degrees. This takes almost exactly 10 minutes when I do it. As soon as it hits that temperature, take it off the heat, and slowly pour the whole lot into your prepared baking pan. Don’t scrape the bottom of the pan (you may wind up with tiny burnt bits). Stash the caramel in the fridge to set, until firm (about 30 to 60 minutes).
While they are cooling is a good time to cut your wrappers. I use wax paper, cut into about 5-inch squares. You’ll need about 30 or so. When the caramel is cool, and set, dump the pan upside down onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper. Now, simply cut your sheet of caramel into bite-size rectangles, sprinkle each with a bit of sea salt and wrap, twisting the wax paper on the ends. Voila! You just made your own salted caramels! Store at room temp or in fridge if it’s warm out.
If you really wanted to go crazy, you could dip half of each caramel into melted dark chocolate, but I’m a purist, so I just like them as is. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Salade a la Stacy
This refreshing and delectable salad was inspired by my friend Stacy in New York. It’s a delicious and unexpected combination of fresh ingredients that complements almost anything – or throw some shredded chicken or tuna fish on top and call it a meal!
Romaine lettuce – about 1 head
Fresh baby spinach leaves
1 grapefruit, peeled and cut, or “supremed” into clean (no membrane)sections
1/2 red onion, sliced into half moons
Honey Vinaigrette Dressing a la Liz
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
1 part Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
dollop of Dijon mustard
lots of salt and pepp
Combine all ingredients into a jar or shaker with lid and shake it, baby! Taste for seasonings, add more salt or pepp to taste. Note: I make a double batch and keep in the fridge (it keeps for weeks). Just let it “de-fridge” a bit before use – the olive oil will solidify a bit in the chill of the fridge.
Simply toss your salad ingredients with your dressing, to taste, and serve. It’s that simply and easy. And while I alluded to forgotten tomatoes in the video – I really don’t use tomatoes in this salad (sorry!)
Herb Roasted Turkey
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, F
1 whole turkey (I use 12-14 pounders, feeds about 6-8 ppl)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes or Turkish Aleppo pepper
2 Tbl chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbl chopped fresh dill or sage, your choice
1 Tbsp Kosher salt; fresh ground pepper to taste (your taste)
First, prep the turkey – this would be unwrapping (in a sink is best), the retrieval of all the giblets and what-not and the neck. This is a little gross, but just do it. Save the neckbone if you want it for stock, later. Rinse the whole bird inside and out with cold water and dry w/ paper towels. Plop it into your roasting pan.
Now: the herb oil – simply add your chopped herbs, garlic, salt and pepp to the olive oil (I mix it all in a Pyrex measuring cup for ease) and whisk it up a bit. Now comes the fun part.
With clean hands, gently slide your hands under the skin of the turkey breast, separating it from the flesh. You’ll have to go at it from both ends to get it all separated. Then: with your hands or a spoon, start glopping the herb oil up under the skin. It’s a little messy, but so worth it. Use about 3/4 of the herb oil. Then: the fun part: give the whole bird an herb bath, using your hands to spread it all over the bird – breast, legs, the whole thing.
Now: truss the bird – this is difficult to explain in writing – see the video – but if you can tie the wings up so they cover some of the sides of the breast, it’ll keep that breast meat from overcooking/drying out.
Now, pop it in the oven- 350 degrees, 20 minutes per pound of turkey. When an instant-read thermometer registers at least 165 – 170 degrees, remove from oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Thai Winter Veg Soup
(adapted from Fine Cooking, issue #91); makes 8 C of soup.
Ready? Here goes:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1.5 C sliced onion
1.5 C diced carrot
1 .5 C diced parsnip
1 C diced celery root
1/2 C chopped celery w/ leaves
1 C sliced Savoy cabbage
1 Tbls peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (more for garnishing)
1 minced clove garlic
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 can (13-14 oz) coconut milk (lite or regular)
2 C chicken broth or stock
3.5 C diced butternut squash (a 2# squash’ll do the trick)
2 medium Bosc pears, peeled, seeded, cored and diced
What to do:
Melt the butter in a 5-6 qt pot. Stir in onion, carrot, parsnip, celery root and cook until veg begins to soften (8-10 min). Stir in cabbage, ginger, thyme, garlic, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepp and cook until cabbage is soft (3-4 min). Then: scoop 1/4 C of the cream off the top of the coconut milk and set aside. Add rest of coconut milk, broth or stock and squash and pears. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 min.
Then: use a stick blender to whiz it all up til it is as smooth as you like it. Taste and adjust salt and pepp if needed.
This stuff freezes great, and you can garnish with the reserved coconut cream. Enjoy!
Crazy Cook Roasted Veg Meatloaf (adapted from Bobby Flay; Food Network 2009)
Please note: there are an awful lot of ingredients in this, but it’s worth it! Left-overs are great the next day as is, or on a classic meatloaf sandwich, or even crumbled over pasta with a bit of olive oil.
3Tbl olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs, lighten whisked
1 tbl dried thyme
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Romano
1 c. ketchup
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan, high heat. Add the veg plus garlic, half the red pepper flakes and salt & pepper to taste. Saute about 5 to 10 minutes and set aside to cool down.
Whisk the eggs and herbs in a large bowl (it’ll have to take all 2 pounds of meat later). Add meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 c of the ketchup, 2 tbl. balsamic and then the cooled veg. Mash together – I use my hands cuz I like the squishy feel and it’s more effective than a spoon or fork.
Then, shape the meatloaf onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment Then whisk the rest of the ketchup, vinegar and red pepper flakes and brush it over the whole meatloaf. Pop it into the oven for 60 – 75 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve!
Crazy Cook Steel Cut Oatmeal
Make a pot of steelcut oatmeal, according to package instructions (generally: 1 cup of steel cut oats, 4 cups of water; bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes). Now the fun begins: you can garnish this chewy, nutty delight with almost anything! I like the following combinations:
* A teaspoon of butter, a sprinkling of brown sugar and some chopped pecans
* A tablespoon of maple syrup, a smattering of raisins or dried cherries and some chopped almonds
* Dried peaches, a splash of lite coconut milk and a dusting of toasted, flaked coconut
* If you really wanted to go crazy (and indulgent), you could brulee the whole thing, dusting the top with brown sugar and browning it under the broiler, or with a small butane torch. Enjoy!
Crazy Cook Tzatziki
2 c. plain, Greek yogurt (non-fat is just as delicious as full-fat; that’s the beauty of Greek yogurt – it’s the thick, creamy texture that makes the magic, regardless of fat content, so it is your choice)
1/2 sm. red onion, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 TBL lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
Fresh pita bread, toasted and cut into wedges
HOW: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl (except for the pita!) and stir together. The longer the tzatziki can sit, the better it tastes, as the flavors meld together. Serve with wedges of toasted pita bread.
Crazy Cook Fruit Fantasy Smoothie
Ah, the beauty of a fruit smoothie – half the fun, if you ask me, the Crazy Cook, is experimenting with different combinations of fruits, both fresh and frozen, different juices and plain or flavored yogurt. So I don’t have a specific recipe, per se, but I do recommend the following combinations:
* Raspberries, pineapple and banana, with a splash of OJ and some plain or lemon low-fat yogurt
* Strawberries and banana, with a splash of pineapple juice and plain yogurt
* Strawberries with stewed rhubarb (just simmer some cut-up fresh rhubarb on the stove in water, with sugar , to taste, until rhubarb is tender and sweet enough; raw rhubarb is as bitter as the wind of Lake Michigan about now, but oh-so-spring-like and delicious when it meets a bit of sugar), with skim milk and vanilla yogurt
* Blueberries, peaches, skim milk, vanilla yogurt and a dash of cinnamon.
Feel free to share your own winning combination with us!