Spike's & Jamie's Recipe Collection & a Whole Lot More!

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Recipes from Spike & Jamie

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Contents Disk 319

How to use these pages:  Below is a list of the recipes on this page.  You can either scroll down the page and look at all of the recipes, or look at the titles.  When you find one that seems interesting, use your web browsers FIND function to take you directly to that recipe (on my IE browser it's Edit/Find (on this page)   or Ctrl - F on your keyboard).

 

ANGEL HAIR POMODORO

BAKED ORANGE ROUGHY WITH ZUCCHINI

BEERBURGERS

BETTER THAN KRAFT MAC AND CHEESE

BIRDSEED BISCUITS

BLASPHEMOUS BARBECUE SANDWICHES

BOMBOLONI

BOURBON BEEF TENDERLOIN

BOURBON SHRIMP FLAMBE

BRAN MUFFINS

BUTTER LETTUCE AND SPINACH

BUTTERMILK DRESSING

CASTAWAY CHICKEN OR TUNA SALAD

CHAMPAGNE ASPIC

CHILLED NOODLES WITH SOUTHEAST

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES WITH RASPBERRY

CRAB CAKES

CRAB CAKES WITH BASIL MAYONNAISE

CURRIED PEAR PISTACHIO

ESCALIVADA

FIGS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND BASIL

FIGS WITH YOGURT ALMONDS AND HONEY

FLAMBEED THAI BANANAS

FRIED CORN

GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES

GRAPE TAPIOCA

GRILLED CORIANDER RUBBED CHICKEN

GRILLED SALMON WRAPPED IN FIG LEAVES

GRILLED TURKEY SUMMER SALAD

HAWAIIAN TURKEY FILLETS

HEATHMAN BROWNIES

HERB FRITTATA WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA

HIGOS TACHADOS CON NIEVE

IT IS TIME TO FIG OUT

JALAPENO CHEESEBURGERS

KEY LIME PIE

LOIS HOMEMADE JAM

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

MISSISSIPPI MUD CAKE

NORTH AFRICAN CHICKPEAS

OATMEAL RAISIN PECAN COOKIES

PARMESAN FRIED CAULIFLOWER

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

PEERLESS STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

POLENTA PANCAKES WITH CHIVE YOGURT

QUAIL SALAD WITH ROASTED FIG VINAIGR

RAMEN ASIAN BEEF AND NOODLES

RAMEN BROCCOLI SLAW

RAMEN MAIN DISH NOODLES

RAMEN MAIN DISH SALAD

RAMEN MAIN DISH SKILLET DINNER

RAMEN MAIN DISH SOUP

RANGER RICK RANCH BEANS

ROAST BEEF HASH

SINKING CHIPS AND DIP

SLOW ROASTED DUCK WITH FIGS

STEAM THINGS UP FOR THE SUMMER

THAI GRILLED TURKEY PIZZA

THAI ICED TEA

TURKEY KEBABS

WATERMELON CAKE

YELLOW PEPPER SAUCE

 

ANGEL HAIR POMODORO

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 cloves of garlic (finally chopped)

2 cans Italian Plum Tomatoes (28 oz. can)

1/2 tsp salt or to taste

1 lb. of angel hair pasta

Cut stem end off tomatoes and then cut tomatoes into small pieces. In a

three quart pot, sauté chopped garlic in olive oil. Don't overcook or let

it get brown. When garlic is done, add tomatoes that you have cut up (along

with all juice from both cans). Add as many whole basil leaves as you'd

like. More is better. Cover pot and simmer for approx. 1/2 hour to 45

minutes, until tomatoes and basil get soft. Serve over angel hair pasta.

BAKED ORANGE ROUGHY WITH ZUCCHINI

AND TOMATO

Serves 4

Sole, rockfish, red snapper, bluefish, grouper or shad fillets can stand in for the orange roughy. This dish can be fully assembled up to 3 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.

2 zucchini (about 1 pound) cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 orange roughy fillets, 6-8 ounces each, with skin intact

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

3 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

1 lemon, quartered

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, coat the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

2. Lay the fish fillets on a plate in a single layer. Arrange the zucchini slices on the fillets, overlapping them to resemble scales. Press down to secure in place and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

3. In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the dill.

4. Pour the tomato sauce into an attractive baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish fillets in a single layer. Place the fish on top of the tomato sauce. Bake until the fish is opaque throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with the lemon quarters, and serve directly from the baking dish.

BEERBURGERS

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup beer

1/3 cup crushed pretzels

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 tablespoons pickle relish -- drained

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Shape into 6 patties. grill or broil 4 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on desired degree of doneness. 6 servings.

BETTER THAN KRAFT MAC AND CHEESE

Recipe By: StrainedPeas! http://www.strainedpeas.com/recipes

12 ounces elbow macaroni; cooked and drained

1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

2 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup butter

Combine all ingredients; mix well and place in baking dish. Bake at 350 deg. F

for 35-40 minutes or until sauce is thick.

BIRDSEED BISCUITS

2 cups biscuit baking mix

1/2 cup cold water

2 tbsp margarine

2 tbsp sesame seeds

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 425F. Form a soft dough with baking mix and water. Roll out the dough to 3/4" thickness and cut it into shapes with cookie cutters. Using a straw, punch a hole in the top of each cookie. Melt the margarine and brush over dough. Sprinkle the seeds and nuts onto the dough and press it in FIRMLY with a fork. Bake for 15-20 min., or until light brown. When cool, thread brightly colored

ribbon through the hole and hang in a tree.

BLASPHEMOUS BARBECUE SANDWICHES

Serves 6

FOR PORK:

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon each: brown sugar, chili powder, paprika

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, dry mustard, cumin, thyme

Pinch red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 pork tenderloins, about 2 pounds total, patted dry

FOR COLESLAW:

1 bag (10 ounces) coleslaw mix

1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon each: sugar, cider vinegar

Freshly ground pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce

6 kaiser rolls or Italian rolls, toasted if desired

Barbecue sauce of choice

1. Prepare grill for direct cooking. For pork, mix garlic, brown sugar and spices in small bowl; stir in oil to form a paste. Rub tenderloins with mixture. Set aside while preparing slaw and waiting for grill to heat.

2. For slaw, toss together cabbage, onion, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar in large bowl; add pepper, salt and pepper sauce to taste. Cover; refrigerate.

3. Cook tenderloins over medium-high heat 10 minutes; turn. Cook until internal temperature reaches 150-155 degrees, about 10 minutes. Remove to clean platter; cover. Let stand 10 minutes. Thinly slice. Divide sliced pork among buns. Top with barbecue sauce and slaw.

BOMBOLONI DOUGH

Enough for approximately 15 individual bombolonis

You can also use puff pastry sheets in place of this dough. Dufour all-butter puff pastry is a good brand.

1 pound cold butter, chopped

4 cups pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons vanilla extract.

In large mixer with a paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients with the butter. Add liquid ingredients. Let the dough form a ball and portion into desired-size packages and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or freeze for as long as 3 months.

BOMBOLONI FILLING

3 pounds cut strawberries (or a mix of strawberries and rhubarb, or other

summer fruits such as cherries or apricots)

10 ounces sugar

2 ounces brown sugar

Toss fruit and sugar in a bowl and allow to sit for at least 45 minutes.

STREUSEL TOPPING

3 sticks chilled butter, cubed

11/2 cups sugar

11/2 cups flour

Combine sugar and flour in food processor. Pulse in cubed butter until texture is crumbly.

TO ASSEMBLE

For each bomboloni: Roll out 2 1/2-ounce pieces of dough into 6-inch circles or roll out a large amount of dough and cut with a 6-inch round cutter. Place 3 ounces of filling in center of each circle. Bundle up dough, folding edges together as you circle filling. Pat 3/4 ounces of streusel topping in the middle on top. Bake on parchment-lined sheet pan at 350 degrees in a convection oven (375 in a standard oven) for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Top with a scoop of almond gelato or favorite ice cream and serve with a sauce made from pureed strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.

BOURBON BEEF TENDERLOIN

Makes 8 to 10 servings

To ensure that every bite of tenderloin is buttery-tender and delicious, ask the butcher to remove the shiny connective tissue, known as the silver, that covers the top of the meat. A charcoal or gas fire works equally well for this dish.

1 cup bourbon

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2/3 cup soy sauce

1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups water

3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

1 beef tenderloin, well-trimmed (4 1/2 to 5 pounds)

Prepare marinade by combining bourbon, brown sugar, soy sauce, cilantro, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, water and thyme.

Fold the tail end of the tenderloin back onto itself so the fillet is of uniform thickness; secure with butcher's string. Pour bourbon marinade over meat, cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours, turning the meat over several times during that time.

Prepare fire for direct-heat method of cooking. When fire is ready, drain and reserve marinade. Place meat on oiled grill; cook over high heat with lid closed, turning often. While meat cooks, pour marinade into saucepan; bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes over moderately high heat. Occasionally baste meat with a little of the boiled marinade. Meat is done when a thermometer inserted into thickest part registers approximately 140 degrees F (medium-rare) before letting meat stand.

Remove meat from grill, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes; temperature will rise another 5 degrees. Slice against the grain and serve immediately. If desired, garnish serving platter with whole sprigs of fresh thyme.

 

 

 

 

 

BOURBON SHRIMP FLAMBE

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Wild rice is a suitable accompaniment for this elegant shrimp dish.

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup half-and-half or whipping cream

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup minced fresh chives

Salted, toasted pecans, for garnish (optional; see note)

In a long-handled sauté pan, melt butter. Add shrimp and sauté 1 minute. Add bourbon and carefully use a long-handled match to ignite the mixture, shaking the pan until the flame dies down.

With slotted spoon, remove shrimp to a warm platter. Add half-and-half and tomato paste to pan. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce until it is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Add lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return shrimp to pan to reheat. Add chives just before serving. Garnish with salted, toasted pecans, if desired.

Note: To toast nuts, heat in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to

brown. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to scorch them.

BRAN MUFFINS

3 cups Raisin Bran -- or any bran cereal

1 cup Water -- boiling

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

2 Eggs

2 1/2 cups Flour

1 1/2 cups Sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda

2 cups Milk, skim -- mixed with vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Vinegar

In large bowl, combine cereal and boiling water. Stir in shortening and

eggs. Add remaining ingredients & blend well. Spoon batter into lined

muffin tins, filling 2/3 - 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 - 22

minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan. Serve warm.

(Batter may be stored in refrigerator up to 6 weeks)

Note: For Bran-Apple muffins, use plain bran cereal, and add one cup sliced

apples-drained, to batter.

BUTTER LETTUCE AND SPINACH

WITH CITRUS AND AVOCADO

4 to 6 small salads

1 head butter or Bibb lettuce

1 small bunch young spinach leaves

2 grapefruit

2 avocados

4 teaspoons sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons raspberry or other fruit or white vinegar

1 shallot, finely diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 to 7 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon mint, finely chopped

2 teaspoons chives, finely sliced

Black pepper to taste

Separate the leaves of lettuce and remove the spinach stems if necessary. Wash the greens thoroughly and dry them in a spinner.

If the spinach leaves are small, leave them whole. If they are large, layer several leaves together, roll them up and slice them into wide or narrow ribbons. Place them loosely in a kitchen towel and refrigerate until needed.

Slice a thin piece off the top and bottom of each grapefruit. Using a very sharp knife, peel the grapefruit, working down the sides and removing the white pith along with the peel.

Holding the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juice, cut each section loose from its membrane and toss lightly with the juice in the bowl.

Peel the avocados, slice them in half and remove the seeds. Lay the halves cut-side down and slice them at the desired thickness crosswise at an angle. Set aside.

Combine the sherry and fruit vinegars, shallot and salt in a bowl.

Whisking constantly, slowly add the oil in a steady stream, whisking until completely emulsified. Taste and adjust balance of vinegar and oil if necessary. Stir in the mint and chives.

Pour the juice off the grapefruit sections and reserve for another use. Combine the grapefruit with the avocado and dress with some of the vinaigrette.

Toss the greens with the rest of the vinaigrette and lay them on salad plates. Set the grapefruit and avocado slices in and among the leaves. Add black pepper to taste and serve.

BUTTERMILK DRESSING

Makes 31/2 cups

11/2 cups sour cream.

1 cup crème fraîche (or mayonnaise)

12 ounces Maytag Blue Cheese

11/2 teaspoon of cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.

CASTAWAY CHICKEN OR TUNA SALAD

2 (5 oz.) cans chunk chicken (2 c.) or tuna

1 c. seedless green or red grapes

1/2 c. mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 small carrot

1 c. crisp Chow Mien noodles (or shoestring potatoes)

Using can opener, open cans of chicken and drain off liquid. Place chicken in medium bowl. Break up chicken into small pieces using a fork.

Measure grapes and place on cutting board. Using paring knife, cut grapes in half. Add grapes to chicken. Measure and add mayonnaise, using rubber spatula to get mayonnaise out of cup. Stir with large spoon until well mixed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place bowl in refrigerator to let the flavors in the salad blend for about 1 hour or until serving time.

Just before serving, shred carrot using a grater. Measure out 1/2 c. shredded carrot. Place in small bowl and add Chow Mien noodles. Mix well. Divide the noodle mixture onto 4 serving plates.

Spoon about 3/4 c. chicken mixture onto each "nest". 4 servings

 

 

 

 

CHAMPAGNE ASPIC

Makes a lot

As promised, here is one of the latest summer desserts from Todd Moore, pastry chef at the Lafayette Park Hotel. The recipe makes enough for an army, but you can cut it down or chill the leftover aspic and melt it down throughout the summer for easy and elegant desserts. Moore serves this with a sauce made by heating 4 parts orange juice with 1 part simple syrup and a touch of corn syrup. Then he mixes arrowroot (you can use cornstarch) with Grand Marnier and whisks it into the simmering juice mixture until lightly thickened. Keep and serve this sauce chilled.

20 sheets gelatin (available in specialty stores) or 2 ounces powdered gelatin

1 quart simple syrup (2 cups sugar and 2 cups water heated until clear)

1 bottle Champagne

Assorted fruit -- such as seedless grapes, berries of all kinds and mango (don't

use anything too acidic, such as pineapple)

1. Soften gelatin sheets, if using, in cold water. Heat sugar syrup until hot to the touch. Add gelatin sheets and whisk to dissolve. (If using powdered gelatin, dissolve in liquid per instructions.) Add Champagne.

2. For each dessert, line a ramekin with plastic wrap (Moore uses 6-ounce ramekins; you can use aspic molds, large or small). Fill ramekins with assorted cleaned-and-cut fruit. Pour aspic over fruit and transfer to the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours.

3. To serve, ladle cold sauce, if using. Unmold aspics and place on top of sauce. Garnish with fruit and fresh mint.

Note: If you want to get really fancy, serve these with a sugar crown, as Moore does. He heats the sugar to a hard-crack and then carefully drizzles the syrup over the outside of an upturned 4-ounce ladle (you can use any small bowl). When the sugar hardens, the crown should pop off easily.

CHILLED NOODLES WITH SOUTHEAST

ASIAN SEASONINGS

2 servings as main course

4 ounces thin Asian wheat noodles

1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 1/2 cups shredded Chinese cabbage

2 carrots, cut into matchstick slivers

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, trimmed and minced

1 to 3 jalapeno or serrano chilies, minced

2 teaspoons light-brown sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 to 4 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Thai or Vietnamese hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente, about five minutes.

Drain and rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a mixing or salad bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Stir in the cabbage, carrots, cucumber, ginger, lemongrass, chilies, sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper and half the cilantro. Add more lime juice, soy sauce, hot sauce or salt to taste.

Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and peanuts and serve.

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE

Makes 16 brownie squares

Source: Luzianne Flavorings, Robyn Webb, MS

[] I got this recipe from the Diabetic Gourmet. It does not look like something I would feed to a diabetic whom I love. I am not a dietician or physician; however, I understand that diabetic people can't handle sugar. There is lots of it in here. []

 

For Brownies:

1 stick of margarine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Splenda sweetener

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

2 Tbsp. Luzianne Raspberry Flavoring

2 Tbsp. mini chocolate morsels

For Raspberry Sauce:

6 ounces raspberries, washed and divided

2 Tbsp. Luzianne Raspberry Flavoring

1/4 cup Splenda sweetener

1 tsp. arrowroot

Non-fat Cool Whip or low sugar, low fat ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8x8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl cream the margarine. Add the sugar and 1/2 cup of Splenda and continue to beat until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, mix well. Add the egg and beat until well mixed.

In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. of Splenda and the Luzianne Raspberry Flavorings to make a syrup.

In a small saucepan melt unsweetened chocolate over medium heat stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and continue to stir for 1 minute to cool it a little. Add the raspberry syrup and stir to blend it completely.

Add the chocolate mixture to the butter mixture and beat well. Add the flour and beat until smooth.

Pour into the prepared baking pan, sprinkle the chocolate morsels over the top, and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 3 ounces of raspberries in a blender with the Splenda and the Raspberry flavoring and puree until smooth.

Place the blender contents into a small saucepan and heat gently. Add the arrowroot and heat until the sauce thickens.

Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Gently stir in the remaining 3 ounces of whole raspberries.

To assemble dessert: When the brownies have cooled, cut into 16 pieces. Place one brownie in a decorative dessert dish. Spoon some raspberry sauce over the brownie and top with the Cool Whip or ice cream if desired.

CRAB CAKES

Makes 4 large servings

Ferrara doesn't use any bread crumbs and cooks his crab cakes on a flat grill. If you want a crispier crust, you can coat them in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and fry or deep-fry them in oil. He serves them with mayonnaise blended with roasted red pepper.

3 ounces fresh, boneless white fish (such as sole)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons brandy

1 pound crab meat, carefully picked over

7-8 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Few dashes Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Semolina or regular flour

Vegetable oil

1. Cut fish into small chunks and put in a blender with the mayonnaise and brandy. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl (it might be easiest to disassemble the blender and use a flexible rubber spatula to get out all the pureed fish).

2. Add remaining ingredients. Form crab mixture into 8 cakes and refrigerate until ready to cook. To cook, lightly oil and heat a griddle to medium-high. Pat each cake with flour and cook on each side until well browned and heated through -- about 4-5 minutes on each side. If you prefer, you can brown or fry them on high heat, transfer them to a baking sheet, and finish the cakes later in the oven.

CRAB CAKES WITH BASIL MAYONNAISE

Makes 2 servings

Serve this crab cake recipe with Basil Mayonnaise or your favorite condiment.

 

Basil Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

1 8-ounce carton crab meat

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon minced green onion

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

Prepare Basil Mayonnaise and set aside.

In bowl, stir together crab meat, egg, red pepper flakes, green onion, tarragon, mayonnaise, lemon juice and bread crumbs. Shape into 4 patties.

Melt butter in medium skillet. Add crab cakes in one layer and fry 5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from skillet.

Arrange 2 crab cakes on each plate and pass the Basil Mayonnaise separately.

Basil Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, shallot, basil and black pepper. Mix well and transfer to serving bowl. Makes about 1/4 cup.

CURRIED PEAR PISTACHIO

AND GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD

4 servings

For Curry-Chili Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

11/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded and minced

For Salad:

6 cups mixed, washed and torn salad greens or spinach

3 large ripe Bartlett pears, cored and sliced (see note)

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 small red onion, sliced

4 small (4-ounce) boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast fillets, chilled

To make vinaigrette: Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble salad: Toss half of the dressing with the salad greens. Divide evenly among four salad plates or bowls. Top with pears, raisins, nuts, bell pepper and onion. Slice each chicken breast into strips and lay over salad. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Note: Be sure to use golden-yellow, juicy ripe Bartlett pears. Firm, green pears will ripen if you leave them in a bowl at room temperature for four to six days. Once ripe, they will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. But handle them carefully: Ripe pears bruise easily.

 

ESCALIVADA

Serves 4

1 globe eggplant or 2 Asian eggplants, trimmed

3 bell peppers (ideally 1 each of red, yellow and green)

2 heads garlic

4 zucchini or 2 zucchini and 2 yellow crookneck squashes

1 fennel bulb

2 red onions, quartered through stem end

3 or 4 tomatoes, halved crosswise

Sugar for sprinkling

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Dash of sherry vinegar or red or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Coarse country bread for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the globe eggplant into 8 equal pieces or each of the Asian eggplants into 4 equal pieces. Quarter the bell peppers lengthwise and seed them. Combine the eggplant and bell pepper pieces in a roasting pan.

2. Break the garlic heads into cloves. Reserve 2 cloves and add the others, unpeeled, to the pan with the vegetables. Trim the zucchini and cut each into 2 or 3 pieces. Cut off the stems and feathery tops and any bruised outer stalks from the fennel bulb and quarter it lengthwise. Add the zucchini, fennel, onions and tomatoes to the pan. Sprinkle with sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar. Mix all the ingredients together well.

3. Roast the vegetables, turning them once or even twice if they threaten to burn or cook unevenly, until tender, about 40 minutes. Avoid turning them too often, or they will collapse and become too saucy. You want them to keep their shape and character.

4. When the vegetables are tender, remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl. Peel and finely chop the reserved garlic cloves and sprinkle over the vegetables along with the parsley and rosemary. (To avoid breaking down the vegetables, do not stir the mixture at this point.) Serve hot or at room temperature, making sure that each diner receives some of each vegetable. The whole roasted garlic cloves may be squeezed and spread onto pieces of bread by each diner.

 

 

 

FIGS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND BASIL

Ripe figs

Goat cheese

Fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil

Slice ripe, locally grown figs in half lengthwise. Put a small knob of fresh goat cheese and a small basil leaf on each half. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

FIGS WITH YOGURT ALMONDS AND HONEY

Yogurt

Honey

Whole almonds, lightly toasted and cut into small, rough chunks

Place yogurt in cheesecloth in a strainer and let it drain overnight. Slice figs in half lengthwise. Place yogurt in center of plate. Drizzle the plate with honey. Top with almonds and figs.

FLAMBEED THAI BANANAS

Makes 2 servings

This is bananas Foster with an Asian spin. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream, and pass the chocolate truffles. This makes 4 servings when accompanied by ice cream.

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3 tablespoons shredded coconut

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

2 large firm, under-ripe bananas, peeled, cut in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cognac

1 lime, cut into wedges for garnish

Place small ungreased skillet over high heat. Add sesame seeds and stir, toasting until light golden. Immediately tip out seeds onto paper towel and set aside.

Return pan to heat. Add coconut and toast, stirring, until golden. Immediately tip out onto another paper towel and set aside.

Place 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add butter, ginger and orange zest. When butter begins to bubble, add bananas, cut side down. Sprinkle with sugar. Add lime juice and sauté bananas 1 minute. Turn them over and sauté until sauce begins to caramelize, about 1 minute longer.

Transfer bananas to warm dessert plates. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and coconut. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add cognac. As soon as cognac is hot, ignite with a match and when flames die down, immediately pour sauce over bananas. Serve at once with lime wedges.

FRIED CORN

12 ears white corn

1/4 cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Remove husks and silk from corn. Cut corn from cobs, scraping cobs to remove all milk. Heat butter and bacon drippings in a skillet until hot; add corn, water, salt, and pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Yield: 12 servings.

GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES

Makes 12 large cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick; see note)

1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup for rolling (divided)

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

Pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter with 1 cup sugar. Add the molasses and egg and beat well.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir to combine well.

Using a 1/4-cup measure or scoop, shape dough into 12 balls. Roll in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and place 6 balls on each baking sheet. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 20 minutes or until cookies are beginning to brown. Cookies should look slightly under-baked. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

If smaller cookies are desired, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cookies are beginning to brown.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.

GRAPE TAPIOCA

6 to 8 servings

1 quart Concord grapes

2 cups cold water

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca

1 cup heavy whipping cream for topping

Wash and stem grapes. Add cold water and boil moderately, covered, 10 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth. You should have 3 cups of juice. If you have less, add water to make 3 cups.

Put juice in the upper part of double boiler. Add sugar. Stand over direct heat until it comes to a boil. Add salt to tapioca and stir slowly into the boiling juice, stirring constantly a few minutes. Then place over boiling water (bottom part of double boiler) and stir a few minutes. Cover and steam 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whip whipping cream until soft mounds form.

Fill six to eight glasses to 3/4 inch from the top with grape tapioca and drop a mound of whipped cream on top of each.

GRILLED CORIANDER RUBBED CHICKEN

SANDWICH WITH CHIPOTLE LIME MAYONNAISE ON A KAISER ROLL

by Chris Schlesinger

Try with a chilled Beaujolais. Chicken and Beaujolais are almost always a great match, but the light fruitiness and good acidity of Beaujolais will be especially delightful as a complement to the coriander and lime.

Four 6-ounce boneless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons of ground coriander

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Combine and mix olive oil, coriander, salt and pepper together in medium size bowl. Rub chicken breasts with the oil, coriander, salt and pepper mixture. Over medium fire, grill chicken breasts for six minutes on each side. When chicken breasts are finished, place them on Kaiser rolls. Add Chipolte Lime Mayonnaise to sandwich. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Chipotle Lime Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayo

2 Chipotle peppers (minced)*

1 teaspoon garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons of lime juice (or juice from one lime)

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Combine and mix ingredients for Chipolte Lime Mayonnaise in medium size bowl.

*Note: Canned Chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce) can be found in the ethnic food aisle of your grocery store.

GRILLED SALMON WRAPPED IN FIG LEAVES

Serves 4

4 fig leaves

Olive oil

4 5-ounce fillets local king salmon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Have grill ready to go. Rinse fig leaves in water. They can still be a little wet. Brush the pale side of the fig leaves with olive oil. Oil and season each salmon fillet and center it on the oiled fig leaves. Enclose the fish with the fig leaf.

2. Keeping the folded edges down, place the fish on the hot grill and cook for about 4 minutes per side. The leaf will be slightly charred and the fish should give way when pressed. Set the fillets on plates with folded edges up. Pull back leaves to serve.

 

 

 

 

GRILLED TURKEY SUMMER SALAD

4 servings

3 turkey breast tenderloins

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced

1 tsp dried oregano

2 medium fresh tomatoes, cut in wedges

4 teaspoon walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup sliced celery

4 tablespoons black olives, sliced

1 head leaf lettuce, washed and broken into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup bottled fat-free ranch dressing

Whisk together red wine, soy sauce, olive oil, shallot and oregano. Wash turkey tenderloins, pat dry and place in shallow glass dish to marinate. Add wine mixture and turn to coat each tenderloin. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, turning turkey several times.

When ready to cook, spray grill or broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Preheat grill or broiler to medium.

Remove turkey from marinade, pat dry and brush lightly with olive oil. Cook 5 inches from heat for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and no longer pink inside.

While turkey is cooking, toss together tomatoes, walnuts, feta cheese, celery, olives and lettuce in a large bowl. Divide among 4 dinner plates or large individual salad bowls.

When tenderloins are fully cooked, remove to cutting board and slice, crosswise, into 1/2-inch diagonal pieces. Arrange equal portions of turkey in the center of each salad, and serve with ranch dressing.

HAWAIIAN TURKEY FILLETS

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup pineapple sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 package turkey fillets (about 1 pound.)

In medium bowl or plastic food bag, combine first six ingredients. Add turkey; marinate several hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Remove turkey from marinade, reserve marinade. Grill turkey about 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until turkey is not longer pink when cut into.

In small saucepan mix cornstarch with reserved marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce boils and slightly thickens.

Serve sauce with turkey. Garnish with pineapple. 3 to 4 servings

HEATHMAN BROWNIES

Makes 3 dozen brownies

12 ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks; see note)

1 1/2 pounds semisweet baking chocolate, chopped

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1 cup toasted hazelnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-by18-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Keep warm and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Stir until well-combined. Stir in the melted butter and chocolate mixture.

Add the flour mixture and stir until well-combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts if desired.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Center will be slightly soft. Cool and cut into bars.

 

 

HERB FRITTATA WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA

AND NEW POTATOES

8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

6 small new potatoes, quartered, or 1 medium potato, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup fresh herbs, minced, or 3 tablespoons dried (try rosemary, thyme and

chives)

12 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup fat-free milk

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, onion and new potatoes. Cook until potatoes are browned, about five minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add herbs, stirring just until incorporated.

While onions and potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs with the milk and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Pour into skillet and stir lightly to mix with the other ingredients. Cook until bottom is set, about two minutes. Place mozzarella cheese rounds in a circle near the rim of the frittata. Transfer to oven and bake until top is golden and eggs are firm, about 25 to 30 minutes.

HIGOS TACHADOS CON NIEVE

Serves 4

12-14 ripe Black Mission Figs

8 ounces piloncillo (unrefined Mexican sugar, available in Mexican markets)

1 stick Mexican cinnamon (canela)

Vanilla ice cream

1. Slice figs in half. In a small saucepan, melt piloncillo with a little water until a thin syrup forms. Add a stick of Mexican cinnamon, then add the figs. Slowly cook until figs are just tender. The syrup should slightly thicken around the fig slices, forming a compote. Serve warm or room temperature with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

IT IS TIME TO FIG OUT

Former Cafe Monk chef reveals sweet fig's secrets

By Melissa Kaman, TIMES CORRESPONDENT

STANDING IN a grove of fig trees is like being surrounded by wizards. Their branches droop like beards, resilient from years of travel and adaptation. They're round, ancient, and wise, but best of all, they make magic. Just twice a year, they quietly transform their violet-hued branches with wide, majestic leaves into long arms laden with plump, succulent fruit.

By biting into one, you can sink your teeth into the past.

The fig's roots are woven into early history. They were first harvested between 4000 and 2700 B.C., when they began their trek from Egypt and Arabia to Greece, Italy, Mexico, Virginia and -- in the 16th century -- to California. They appear in literature, folklore, and poetry from as far back as 700 B.C. The fig tree, Ficus Ruminalis, was named after the goddess Rumina, and believed by the Romans to be powerful enough to avert lightning.

Adam and Eve used fig leaves in place of loincloths, and an Egyptian tomb painting from 1900 B.C. depicted figs being harvested from a tree. The fruit is rumored to have been Cleopatra's favorite.

The fig, although we think of it as fruit, is actually a flower. It buds inward, creating thousands of tiny internal flowers that look like seeds.

California is lucky to have them. According to the California Fig Advisory Board, 99.9 percent of commercially available fresh figs (and 100 percent dried) are grown in California, where the Mediterranean climate is perfect for producing the seductive fruit. Fig trees grow all over the world, but weather prevents many of them from producing edible fruit.

But in California, beginning around June, the fig tree grows its first crop on branches from the previous year. At this time, fresh green baby branches can be seen sprouting from the old, speckled with tiny green nodules the size of a pea, some even smaller. This second crop ripens in August and lasts until September.

For these few precious months each year, figs color and sweeten in a way all their own. Although most commercially available figs are dried (98 percent), fresh figs are a favorite of many Bay Area chefs.

Randy Windham, former chef of Café Monk in San Francisco, loves figs for their versatility.

"I like the idea of biting into something fresh," Windham says. "Especially Rick's figs" -- referring to Rick Knoll of Knoll Farms in Brentwood -- "that are alive and have energy. They can be crunchy or spread like jam."

Windham prefers raw figs, often adding a sour component to balance the sweetness. He'll use them in a salad with peppery arugula and Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese, or cut them in half, adding goat cheese, olive oil, and a chiffonade of either basil or mint.

Michael Rivera, former chef at Belon in San Francisco and Mazzini in Berkeley, is currently writing a book on cooking Mexican food in the United States. Rivera says that Mexicans use an unrefined sugar, piloncillo, to preserve figs as well as other fruits. He says figs are used in a variety of Mexican dishes -- both savory and sweet.

"Figs have a deeper sweetness -- you can pair them with savory dishes and use them in desserts," he said. Rivera especially likes Black Mission figs, cooked in piloncillo, cinnamon, and orange peel and poured over vanilla ice cream.

You can feel doubly good about indulging in this ancient delicacy -- all figs are fat-free, mineral rich, high in iron, and have the highest fiber content of any fruit. They are also one of the most sustainable fruits. Every part of the tree -- the fig, leaves and branches -- can be used for something. Chez Panisse in Berkeley uses fig wood for the fires used to spit-roast and grill meats.

"While it does not impart a fig flavor, fig wood burns quickly and very hot," says Kelsie Kerr, chef at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley. Kerr roasts figs and serves them with duck and quail. She also likes them as a salad dressing -- pounding ripe figs into a red wine vinaigrette.

Fig leaves are available at farmers markets (Knoll Farms sells them at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza's Saturday morning farmers market; the figs are available at Monterey Market in Berkeley). They can be used as a flavor-enhancing cooking-wrapper for cheese and fish -- imparting a sultry, tropical smell and taste that hints of almonds and coconuts.

"It really adds another dimension of flavor," he says.

California grows five varieties of figs -- Calimyrna, Kadota, Adriatic, Mission or Black Mission, and Brown Turkeys. All figs are sweet, but vary in color, size and concentration. Some chefs say that a fig is a fig, as long as it's ripe. Some may be better than others for certain purposes, but you can feel comfortable using them interchangeably.

When buying, look for firm figs if you're not going to eat them right away -- they'll ripen quickly. For immediate eating, choose softer figs. "Make sure they haven't been sitting on a grocery shelf for a long time -- they'll begin to sweat and mold," says Ron Klamm, manager of the Fig Advisory Board.

"On the tree, figs will ripen in a couple of hours," Rick Knoll says. "You check on them in the morning and they're not ready. But by afternoon, they've exploded."

If you've got more ripe figs than you know what to do with, try drying them yourself. In her new book, "Chez Panisse Fruit," Alice Waters says it takes just a week in a dry, sunny spot or twelve hours in a dehydrator.

Reach Melissa Kaman at melkaman@earthlink.net.

• Calimyrna: California version of Smyrna variety, which grows in Turkey, Greece and North Africa. Both varieties need a tiny insect called a fig wasp to pollinate and make fruit -- this fertilization is said to give the Calimyrna its characteristically nutty flavor. Its skin is golden to light yellow, with amber flesh. It's the most common type of fig in California.

• Kadota: Dottato in Italy. Yellowish-green skin and amber to violet flesh. They have very few seeds, and are usually eaten fresh or canned. Kadotas also produce honey.

• Adriatic: A Mediterranean variety, they have green-and-white-flecked skin and radiant pink flesh. Most often eaten fresh.

• Mission or Black Mission: Named by the Franciscan monks who first planted them in San Diego, they are light to deep purple, with a strong, concentrated flavor and a high sugar content. (Rick Knoll likes to put overripe Black Missions in the freezer -- once frozen, they have a sherbet-like consistency. Knoll says this is a result of this fig's high sugar content.)

JALAPENO CHEESEBURGERS

3 pounds ground chuck

2 tablespoons seeded, chopped jalapeno peppers

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

12 thin tomato slices

12 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted on grill

In a medium bowl, combine ground chuck, peppers and chili powder, mixing lightly and thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2 inch patties. Place on grill over medium coals or heat. Grill uncovered 14-16 minutes until no longer pink, turning once. During the last one minute sprinkle each patty with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Place on buns with a tomato slice. Serves 10-12

KEY LIME PIE

Makes 10 servings

You will need a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the sugar syrup.

 

Crust:

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12 crackers)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted (1/2 stick)

Filling:

4 egg yolks

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup Key lime juice

Grated zest of 2 limes (Key or Persian)

Meringue:

1/2 cup water

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (divided)

4 egg whites

To make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine cinnamon, graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter; mix thoroughly. Carefully press mixture into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until sides begin to lightly brown. Let cool. Leave oven at the same temperature.

To make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Slowly whisk in lime juice and beat until smooth. Stir in zest, then carefully pour filling into baked crust and bake for 12 minutes, or until filling is just set. Remove from oven.

To make meringue: Combine water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir lightly. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until a syrup forms and a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F. Remove from heat and cover pan with a lid.

While the sugar is cooking, beat egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form (peaks should fall over when whip is removed). Continue beating eggs on low speed until sugar is correct temperature.

When sugar reaches 240 degrees F, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form (peaks should stand straight when whip is removed). Reduce speed to low and pour hot syrup slowly into whipped whites, letting syrup fall in between the whip and the side of the bowl. Whip until meringue is cool. (The hot syrup eliminates the risk of salmonella bacteria in uncooked egg whites.)

Spread meringue over top of pie, or place meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe it onto top of pie.

Place pie under broiler in middle of oven, making sure it is not too close to heat. It needs less than a minute under broiler, so wait and watch until meringue begins to brown. You may need to turn pie to allow meringue to brown evenly.

 

LOIS HOMEMADE JAM

Makes about 3 cups

To sterilize jars: Boil glass canning jars for at least 5 minutes. Jam may be enjoyed right away or kept up to two years but is best when used within a year. Check with basic or canning cookbooks for more complete information on sterilizing jars.

1 1/2 cups ripe apricots, pits removed

1/2 cup canned pineapple, crushed, in its own juice, not drained

11/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon butter

Prepared canning jars

1. Prepare unpeeled apricots as desired, either by chopping by hand into large chunks or in food processor. Take care not to puree completely; it should have some chunks.

2. In an 8-cup glass bowl combine all ingredients. Cover with wax paper. Place in microwave. Cook on high for 6 minutes.

3. Remove wax paper and stir mixture. Cook another 13-15 minutes, stopping to stir every few minutes. Jam should be thick enough to coat back of spoon. Distribute jam into sterilized jars, leaving a fraction of space at the top.

4. Use two-part canning jar lids to seal. Using tongs, place disk in boiling water to sterilize, then place on jars. Place rings on jars. Tighten. Turn jars upside down on work surface for about 5 minutes. Tighten rings as far as possible.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

BAKING IS (MAD) SCIENCE

This is the ninth of 10 columns by Cat Cora, executive chef of Postino in Lafayette. They are being written with Nicholas Boer.

I love baking. But baking is a science. It goes against my "Cooking from the Hip" philosophy. A forgotten pinch can turn a biscuit into a pancake.

Still, it's not rocket science. I was the master of my Easy-Bake Oven at 7 years old. I took my first dozen cakes door-to-door and sold them all -- at a nickel apiece -- to the neighbor boy two houses down.

I couldn't hang with baking, however. The saying goes, "Until you've baked it a thousand times, you've got to follow a recipe." Or something like that. Even I use cookbooks when I bake; I measure, I follow instructions, I keep my rebel instincts at bay.

So at the restaurant I leave the sweets to my pastry chef, Yasmine Hernandez, and her assistant, Cynara Guyer.

I'm thinking of all my past baking disasters when, suddenly, the phone brings me out of my reverie.

It's Sunday. I'm tired. I'm not answering it. Maybe it's the restaurant. I reluctantly pick it up.

My heart stops. My eyes pop. I mumble. Yeah, yeah. No problem. Click.

"I'm glad I caught you," my friend said. "Can you bring a big salad bowl along with you?"

I was supposed to make dessert for her new boyfriend's birthday. I totally forgot.

It's 4 p.m.; her house is 45 minutes away, and I'm supposed to be there at 5. I would pick something up at the restaurant, but that's 45 minutes away -- in the wrong direction. Safeway comes to mind. I can't. I'm a chef. I'm supposed to impress her boyfriend.

It's hot and I'm sweating. I head to the kitchen and open the refrigerator.

Berries! I bought a half-flat of fresh-picked strawberries this morning. And I've got ripe blackberries and blueberries, too.

I swing open the freezer, drop to my knees and thank God. A big wedge of pastry dough from an event last week is staring me right in the face.

Now I have a plan. I grab the strawberries and flip down my cutting board. Bomboloni, here we come. I'll assemble and bake it there, but I've got to get these strawberries macerating -- now .

I rinse, stem and cut up four baskets in three minutes. I toss the berries with a big handful of granulated sugar and a pinch, two, three of brown sugar. I've got a recipe for this someplace -- but no time for that.

Baking is a science, all right. Mad science.

I toss the berries and the sugar, run upstairs and throw on some makeup. I put on a chef jacket.

Now it's 4:20 and I'm sweatin' bullets. Downstairs, I grab the pastry and ice cream -- and head to the car.

Half an hour later I'm dead-stopped in traffic. I've got the pastry on the roof -- defrosting -- with my left hand. The ice cream up against the air conditioning with my right. What a sight. Ms. Nonchalant

I come screeching up to the house at 5:15. I touch up my hair, powder my face. I'm Ms. Nonchalant. I gather up my stuff. Wait -- where's the salad bowl?

Hmmmm. "Hey you guys, guess what?" I call out as soon as my friend lets me in. "I'm making dessert right here!"

Ooohs and aaahs. "And for your birthday present," I say, "I'm gonna give y'all a hands-on cooking demonstration!"

I head to the kitchen. It smells of tuna fish. I throw the ice cream in the freezer and breathe a sigh of relief when I see my friend's ultralong, ultraclean kitchen counter.

All five of them are in the kitchen now. I line them up along the counter, putting big Jeremy at the opposite end of the counter where there's some elbow room. I dump a couple of handfuls of flour in front of everybody and give them each a bottle of wine from the case Jeremy just opened -- one of his gifts.

"These are your rolling pins," I say. "No drinking allowed." Rolling, rolling, rolling

I unwrap the cold -- but thawed -- pastry and slice off six pieces. I shape them into disks and flip one in front of everyone.

"OK. Like this."

I rub the wine bottle with flour and scatter some flour in front of me. I pat my disk, which is about the size of a hockey puck, with flour and set it on the floured table. I place my wine bottle on the center of the disk and, with the bottoms of my fingers resting on both sides of the label, I press down with a smooth, firm motion. My hands roll across the bottle and stop at the base of my palms. The dough stretches out as the bottle rolls to one edge. I give the dough a quarter turn, flour everything up lightly and press again.

I look up. Jeremy has already started. The dough is sticking to the bottle.

"Hey big fella, a little more flour. Look at me." There's flour in my hair and on my shoes. And everywhere in between. I should have just used store-bought puff pastry. It comes rolled out and works just as well. Especially the all-butter Dufour Puff Pastry they sell at upscale markets.

I do two more turns and then run the bottle lightly over the dough to get a smooth circle about 6 inches across and 1/4-inch thick.

Everybody is doing well, except for Jeremy, who has rolled his out from here to China. I fold his dough back up and he rolls it out again. It's more of an egg shape now than a circle, but it'll work. I hand Jeremy a pastry brush and tell him to brush off the excess flour from the top -- he's got a snowdrift going. He passes the brush down the line.

Fruity desserts

I get a slotted spoon and scoop a pile of strawberries in the middle of Jeremy's dough. I move on down the line scooping, and sliding, until I finish up the berries on my own circle.

"OK, now fold." I lift one edge of the pastry so that it comes about a quarter of the way over the berries. I continue to make folds, moving around the dough and pleating it all the way around -- leaving a golf-ball-size hole in the center.

While they are folding away, I hop over to the other counter, throw a big handful of sugar and flour into my friend's food processor and turn it on. I grab a stick of butter, cube it and throw it in. I pulse the processor a few times. The streusel topping is done.

"Okee-dokee," I say looking at Jeremy's misshapen blob. "That'll work."

I sprinkle some streusel on top of Jeremy's crater and hand the processor bowl down the line.

"Just sprinkle a bit in the center," I say as I grab a couple of cookie sheets. I fit three bombolonis on each sheet.

The oven buzzer rings.

"Tuna casserole's ready," says my friend.

"Gee, great," I say. I should've done the ice cream cones.

The casserole comes out and onto the table. I put another oven rack in -- taking my time. The canned-tuna smell needs time to escape.

In go the bombolonis. I crank the oven to 400 degrees.

"Can you toss the salad, Cat?" my friend asks.

Think quick. I wash my hands and throw her cut-up lettuce and veggies into the paper grocery bag I brought my berries in.

"This is the best way to dress a salad," I say, thinking quickly, as I douse it with her bottled dressing. "You see, the paper soaks up any extra vinaigrette -- and you just put handfuls of salad right on the plates -- like this. No bowl to wash!"

I slip the rest of my casserole in my napkin and head to the kitchen.

"Got to rotate these bombolonis."

In another few minutes the table is cleared and I pull out the gorgeous golden brown pastries. I hand Jeremy the ice cream and tell him to start scooping.

I throw all the sweet juices from the strawberries in a blender and puree them with a basket of stemmed berries.

My friend heads to her back yard for some fresh mint.

I pour the sauce on six plates and place the hot pastries on top. I garnish each one with blackberries, blueberries and slices from my last basket of strawberries.

On goes the fresh mint. The bombolonis look professional. The kitchen is a total disaster. But that's mad science for you. Contact Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com

MISSISSIPPI MUD CAKE

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Like other Southern "tipsy" cakes flavored with bourbon or whiskey, this rich dessert should be served in thin slices. To double the recipe for a crowd, bake the batter in a greased, floured 9-inch tube pan for about 1 1/2 hours.

Butter and flour to prepare cake pan

3/4 cup strong black coffee

1/2 cup butter, cut in 8 chunks (1 stick; see note)

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 egg

1/3 cup bourbon or whiskey

1 teaspoon vanilla (divided)

1 cup cake flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup seedless raisins

Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over very low heat, mix coffee, butter and chocolate, stirring constantly; do not boil. When butter and chocolate have melted, remove from heat and let cool until tepid (about 10 minutes).

Beat egg lightly and stir in bourbon and vanilla. Stir into chocolate mixture until blended.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. With a wooden spoon or electric mixer, rapidly beat into chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in pecans and raisins and pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake until firm but not completely dry, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cake cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out of pan.

To serve, cut in thin slices and, if desired, spoon a little whipped cream over each slice.

Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.

NORTH AFRICAN CHICKPEAS

Adapted from "The Healthiest Diet in the World," by Nikki and DavidGoldbeck (Plume, 1998).

(Chickpeas are also called Garbanzo beans.)

This excellent and unusual dish has a nice bite, but those who like foods really spicy may want to double the red pepper flakes. Serve over a cooked grain (whole wheat couscous, bulgur, barley, quinoa, millet), along with a cooling yogurt-based side dish such as Spinach-Yogurt Salad and whole wheat chapattis. This dish is perfect to eat outside on a hot summer's night.

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons red wine or cooking sherry

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

1 cup water or chickpea cooking liquid

1/2 teaspoon salt (reduce if chickpea cooking liquid is salted)

2 medium sweet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup diced dried apricots

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sliced almonds

In a medium saucepan, combine the onion, garlic, ginger, and wine or sherry. Cover and sweat over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and red pepper flakes and cook, uncovered, 1 minute longer. Add the water or chickpea cooking liquid, salt, sweet potatoes, and apricots. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, raisins, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the chickpeas are hot. Add the sliced almonds.

 

OATMEAL RAISIN PECAN COOKIES

Yield: Makes 30 Cookies. 1 Cookie = 1 Serving

Source: "The Best Diabetes Cookbook" by Katherine E. Younker

Book info: http://tgcmagazine.com/bin/track/click.cgi?id=46

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soft margarine

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 wheat germ

1/4 cup pecan pieces

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray baking sheets with non-stick vegetable spray.

In large bowl or food processor, beat together sugar, margarine, egg and vanilla until well blended. Add rolled oats, flour, wheat germ, pecans, raisins and baking powder; mix just until incorporated.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned.

PARMESAN FRIED CAULIFLOWER

(Cavolfiori di Amalfi)

Makes 4 servings

Be sure the florets are absolutely dry after cooking or the batter won't stick. You can also make this with broccoli.

 

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs

1/4 cup grated parmesan or cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Handful of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

6 tablespoons olive oil

Break the cauliflower into florets. Add about 2 tablespoons of water to a covered microwavable dish and steam in the microwave until just tender, 3 to 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool completely, 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a small bowl. Beat the eggs with the cheese, and add salt and pepper. Finely chop the parsley and add to egg mixture.

Over medium heat in a large skillet, heat the oil until hot. Dip florets into flour, then into egg mixture. Fry florets until golden brown on all sides. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot, warm or cold.

Note: Break up some bay leaves in the cooking water to neutralize the smell of the cauliflower and make your house fragrant with bay.

-- Adapted from "Gusto Italiano" by Ursula Ferrigno

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

2 dozen

3/4 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups milk-chocolate chips

3 tablespoons shortening

24 paper nut cups

Combine butter and peanut butter in medium bowl. Microwave at 50 percent (medium) power for two to four minutes or until butter melts, stirring once or twice. Stir in crumbs and sugar. Set aside.

Combine chocolate chips and shortening in small bowl. Microwave at 50 percent for 11/2 to three minutes or until melted, stirring once or twice. Place bowl in container of hot water or microwave as necessary at 50 percent for 30 seconds to 11/2 minutes to keep chocolate from hardening. Coat bottom and sides of each paper cup with 1 to 11/2 teaspoons chocolate. Let stand until chocolate hardens. Press peanut butter mixture into each cup. Coat top with chocolate. Freeze in single layer on tray until firm. Wrap, label and freeze no longer than six months. To serve, unwrap 12 and remove nut cups; place on plate in circle. Microwave at 30 percent (medium-low) for three minutes, rearranging twice. Let stand 10 minutes. Repeat as desired.

PEERLESS STRAWBERRY PRESERVES

Makes 4 half pints

Peerless Red Raspberry Preserves has been a favorite recipe with readers, but you can also make it with strawberries. The jam is "soft" and full of fresh Oregon strawberry flavor. All that and only 7 minutes of cooking. The secret is the brief cooking in small batches (this recipe cannot be doubled). A wide, shallow pan (a 12-inch skillet is perfect) is essential. -- Jan Roberts-Dominguez

4 heaping cups washed and hulled strawberries (1 pound, 6 ounces; to ensure a

high pectin content, about 1/4 of the berries should be slightly under-ripe)

31/2 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)

1 teaspoon butter

Coarsely chop small batches of berries in a food processor by pulsing several times (you can also do this by hand, of course, but it's slow). You should end up with 31/2 cups.

In a large bowl, combine the berries with the sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until the sugar is evenly distributed and the juices have begun to flow; let the mixture stand, stirring gently every 20 minutes or so, for at least 1 hour, but no longer than 2 hours.

Wash 4 half-pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs. Scrape the mixture into a 12-inch skillet or saute pan. Add the butter (this controls the production of foam). Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a straight-ended wooden or nylon spatula. Lower the heat to keep the mixture from boiling over. Boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the jam settle for about 20 seconds; if any foam remains, skim it off. Ladle hot preserves into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes at 1,000 to 3,000 feet; 20 minutes at 3,000 to 6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.)

Note: This is a very loose jam -- the kind that moves around in the jar slightly as it's tilted. There's also a strong likelihood of fruit floating toward the top of the jar, which creates a clear layer of jam at the bottom. If you notice that the clear space hasn't started to fill in with fruit after 3 hours out of the canner, begin a cycle of gently turning the jars upside down for 60 minutes at a time, then flipping them upright for 60 minutes; repeat several times during the day or night. This really does seem to work.

 

POLENTA PANCAKES WITH CHIVE YOGURT

AND SMOKED SALMON

36, 3-inch pancakes.

2 cups fat-free milk

1 cup polenta

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

6 green onions, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

Oil to coat skillet or griddle

2 cups chive yogurt (recipe follows)

12 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced and cut into 2-inch lengths

In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer and pour over polenta and butter in a large mixing bowl. Stir mixture until butter is melted. Set aside to cool. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

When polenta mixture is cool, whisk in eggs and sugar. Add flour mixture and stir to combine. Add and combine green onions and rosemary.

Preheat skillet or griddle until a drop of water dances on the surface. Brush with oil and ladle on about 11/2 tablespoons of the mixture to make 3-inch pancakes. Griddle pancakes until their surfaces become dry and bubbly. Flip and griddle for an additional 30 seconds. Transfer finished pancakes onto a cooling rack (if making a day ahead, crisp in the oven before serving, by baking at 200 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour).

To serve, arrange pancakes on large serving platter. Top with about 1 tablespoon chive yogurt and one strip of smoked salmon.

Experiment with salmon curls and rosettes for an attractive presentation.

CHIVE YOGURT FOR POLENTA PANCAKES

2 cups strained nonfat yogurt (see note)

2 tablespoons finely snipped chives

Salt and white pepper to taste

Stir the chives in the strained yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: Straining yogurt removes some of the liquid, resulting in a thicker consistency similar to sour cream.

Line colander or large strainer with a coffee filter or paper towels and set over a large mixing bowl. Pour in two 16-ounce containers plain yogurt and let set until about 2 cups of liquid drain, about an hour or so. If you strain the yogurt overnight, the result is yogurt cheese, a lower-fat version of cream cheese.

QUAIL SALAD WITH ROASTED FIG VINAIGRETTE

Serves 6

6 quail

Salt and pepper

16 figs

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup red wine

Optional: 1 tablespoon port or other sweet wine

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for cooking)

Bitter greens (2-3 heads curly endive works well)

1 large or 2 medium shallots

1. Season the quail generously with salt and pepper. This can be done a few hours in advance. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut the stems from the figs and cut the figs in half lengthwise. Arrange in a shallow baking dish, cut-side up. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon red wine, the port (if using), 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper. Bake until soft and juicy, about 25 minutes.

3. Cut, wash and dry bitter greens. If using curly endive, remove the tough green leaves. Cut the root ends off and separate the leaves. Wash and dry well.

4. Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the quail, starting them breast-side down (Do this in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan.) Brown the quail well on both sides of the breast before turning. Turn and brown the other side. This will take 10-12 minutes. When done, the breast should be springy to the touch and the juices should run clear when a thigh is pierced with a sharp knife. Let the quail rest for 7 minutes or so in a warm place.

5. Meanwhile, let the pan cool a bit and add the shallots. Cook a minute or two and add the 1/4 cup red wine, bring to boil and reduce by half. Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of each vinegar, scraping up all the brown bits. Pour in salad bowl, add 8 of the roasted fig halves and any roasting juices, and mash with a whisk. Whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste and adjust with salt and vinegar as needed. Reserve a third of the vinaigrette to use as garnish later.

6. Divide the quail into quarters with a sharp knife: Cut each in half down the back and separate the legs from the breast. Toss the greens in the vinaigrette and arrange on a platter. Place the warm quail pieces on top of the salad and garnish with the warm roasted figs. Drizzle over remaining vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

RAMEN ASIAN BEEF AND NOODLES

1 1/4 lbs ground beef

2 pkg (3 oz) Oriental flavor instant Ramen Noodles

2 seasoning packets from noodles (divided use)

2 cups frozen oriental vegetables

1/4 tsp ground ginger (or a couple minced slices of fresh ginger)

2 tbsp thinly sliced green onion

In large nonstick skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat 10 to 12 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up into pieces. Remove with slotted spoon; pour off drippings. Season beef with one seasoning packet from noodles; set aside. In same skillet, combine 2 cups water, vegetables, noodles (broken up), ginger and remaining seasoning packet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer 3 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet; stir in green onion. Makes 4 servings.

RAMEN MAIN DISH NOODLES

Beef Lo Mein

Brown 8 oz. ground beef or pork and 1 cup chopped onion in large skillet. Add

2 1/2 cups water and bring to boil. Crumble in 2 packages beef-flavor ramen noodles and seasoning packets. Add 2 cups thawed frozen broccoli florets, 1 cup shredded carrot, 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Stir to mix and coat. Cover and simmer 3 minutes longer or until most liquid has evaporated and noodles are tender.

RAMEN MAIN DISH SALAD

Tuna Noodle Salad

Break noodles from 2 packages shrimp-flavor ramen noodles in half. Cook in

boiling water until tender. Cool under running cold water. Drain well. Whisk 1/3 cup reduce fat mayonnaise,1 tablespoon each lemon juice, and water and seasoning packets in a large bowl. Stir in 2 sliced cucumbers, 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 drained can tuna, and the noodles. Serve over shredded lettuce.

 

 

 

 

RAMEN MAIN DISH SKILLET DINNER

Noodle Frittata

Cook noodles from 2 packages chicken-flavor ramen noodles in boiling water

until tender. Drain. Beat 6 large eggs and the seasoning package in a med.

bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese,1/4 cup sliced scallions and

the noodles. Heat broiler. Melt 2 teaspoons butter in large nonstick skillet. Add noodle mixture and cook over medium heat 7 minutes, then broil 1 to 2 minutes until top is set. invert on serving plate, cut into wedges and serve with salsa.

MAIN DISH SOUP

Escarole Noodle soup

Bring 6 cups water

1 head of escarole cut in bite size pieces

1 cup sliced carrots

Boil in a large pot. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes until carrots

are crisp-tender. Add 2 packages chicken-flavored ramen noodles and season

packet and 1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans. Cover and simmer 4 minutes until noodles are tender. Stir in 2 tbsp grated cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

RANGER RICK RANCH BEANS

Makes 8 side servings

1 28-ounce can baked beans

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium bell pepper, diced

1 14-ounce package Louis Rich Turkey Polska Kielbasa sausage links (or similar

less-fat sausage), cut into small, bite-sized chunks

1/2 cup catsup

1 141/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, well-drained (you can leave this out if

desired)

1-2 tablespoons chili powder (use 1 tablespoon for a kid-friendly version)

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon minced or chopped garlic (1 teaspoon garlic powder can be

substituted)

Salt, optional

1 or 2 dashes cayenne pepper (add more to taste)

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional) -- if you want to turn up the "heat"

1. Place baked beans, diced onion, bell pepper, sausage, catsup and diced stewed tomatoes into slow cooker.

2. Sprinkle chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, salt if desired and cayenne pepper over the top of bean mixture and stir well.

3. Turn slow cooker to high and heat 2-4 hours, or turn slow cooker to low and heat 8-10 hours. If you want to use a Dutch oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees, add all the ingredients to a Dutch oven, stir, and bake for 1 hour.

ROAST BEEF HASH

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 strips bacon

4 tablespoons butter (divided)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh parsley, or a mixture of chopped parsley

and green onion tops

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and grated

3/4 pound cooked turkey, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground pepper

Optional condiments: chili sauce, ketchup and chutney

Fry the bacon until crisp in a 10-inch frying pan over moderate heat. Remove bacon, drain on paper towels and, when firm, crumble and reserve.

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the drippings in the pan. Cook over medium heat until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add the parsley and cook an additional minute.

Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. When butter melts, fold in the potatoes, turkey, reserved bacon, salt and pepper. Mix well and spread to create a cake-like mass that fills the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low.

Allow the hash to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, lifting different parts of the cake occasionally with a spatula to keep it from sticking to the pan. Remove from the heat, replace cover with a plate and invert. Remove the pan, transferring any potato mixture left in the pan to the hash on the plate.

Return pan to the heat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the hash, browned side up. Cover the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer.

Serve alone or with a poached egg atop each portion. Serve with your choice of condiments.

 

SINKING CHIPS AND DIP

1 cup real mayonnaise

2 Tbsp chili sauce

2 Tbsp sour cream

1 Tbsp dried dill weed

1 Tbsp Beau Monde spice mixture

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until time to serve. Serve with rippled chips.

Note: this can be served with raw vegetables as well. Beau Monde is a mixture sold by Spice Island.

SLOW ROASTED DUCK WITH FIGS

AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Serves 4

Two 5-pound ducks, rinsed and patted dry

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup pecans

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more or less if needed

12-18 ripe, locally grown figs

2 handfuls arugula

Aged balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Season ducks with salt and pepper. Set ducks in large roasting pan. Roast for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees and loosely cover the pan with foil. Roast the ducks for about 41/2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, lightly toast pecans and mince the garlic. Put pecans in a food processor and add garlic, salt, and enough extra virgin olive oil to make it a consistency that will drizzle (this mixture is called an aillade). Cut the figs in half lengthwise.

3. Remove ducks from oven and cut in half, removing backbone. Separate the breast from the leg/thigh piece. Arrange duck, arugula and figs onto four plates. Drizzle with pecan aillade and balsamic vinegar.

 

 

 

 

 

STEAM THINGS UP FOR THE SUMMER

This is the seventh of 10 columns by Cat Cora, executive chef of Postino in Lafayette. They are being written with Nicholas Boer.

WHEN THE SEASON changes, so does my menu. Right now I'm gearing up for summer -- tomatoes and corn come to mind right away.

And mussels are always on my mind. They're so black and handsome.

Five or six years ago, I wouldn't have considered mussels for my summer menu. When the weather gets really hot, mussels often go bad -- but now, with great farm-raised mussels available from cooler climates year-round, I serve them all the time. Mussels are a year-round treat: They are light -- making them a great warm-weather dish, and their steamy goodness makes them ideal on a chilly night.

But, back to summer. After I think about what produce will be in season, I think about the temperature -- that'll tell me what cooking methods to use. Winter is brrrr-raising. Summer is hot, so I like to steam. And -- for all you beach bums out there -- steaming is good for Speedos. Steaming is fast, not fatty.

Steam's speed is important because menu planning is all about pans. There's only so much room on the stove. The faster the pan the better the plan. We get slammed at the restaurant on Saturday nights -- especially when the patio is inviting. Menu items that take three pans and 30 minutes won't work. At home, I don't want seven pans on the stove when I've got seven hungry guests in the living room. And when I'm entertaining for 300 at my restaurant-home I want to keep it easy. Refined but easy.

Steamed mussels are a one-pan wonder -- a dish my dishwashers can appreciate.

We keep a big steamer going at the restaurant. We put a perforated, rectangular "hotel pan" inside a deeper solid hotel pan filled half-way with boiling water. The perforated pan gets loaded up with veggies and fish all night long. Because steaming is such a clean and gentle cooking method, we can use the same pan all night long. The dishwashers really like this idea.

At home, I do the same thing, but I use a pot and perforated insert designed specifically for steaming. It's a worthwhile purchase. My roomie and I steamed artichokes last night.

It was so easy.

At the restaurant, we snip off the artichoke leaves' pointy tops with scissors. But I didn't even do that much last night. I was too busy sipping to be snipping. I just peeled the stems and steamed the artichokes under a tight-fitting lid for maybe 30 minutes. Then we dipped those tender leaves in bottled blue cheese dressing.

Artichokes give reward upon reward. It's fun working down to the heart. Warm artichoke heart in cool blue cheese dressing. Yum. If you're worried about that bikini, try lemon or soy sauce.

Steaming is such an entertaining-friendly cooking method. If you struggle to get all your dishes hot and ready at the same time, take control with steaming. I often do my fish or veggies ahead three-quarters of the way and then finish them at the last minute in the steamer. If my steamed food is going to be ready early, I will turn the steamer off when it's three-quarters done, and it will stay moist and warm, without overcooking, for quite a while. When everything else is ready to go, I give it a last-second steam blast. I love steam baths. I want to be in one right now.

But, instead, I'm going to have a blast steaming these mussels. I'm not going to use a steamer -- I could, but then the mussel juices would get lost. Instead, I'll steam them in a sauté pan and capture all that delicious shellfish liqueur.

Then, when my mussels are ready, I'll pour them from my sauté pan into a red-hot skillet. It'll make a steam statement -- sizzling and sputtering like a fajita plate at a Mexican restaurant. That should make an exciting summer presentation. I put a small cast-iron skillet on the flame.

OK. My prep cook has already gone through the mussels and thrown away any that were cracked. He rinsed them well and took off their little beards -- a furry growth on the shell's edge. My prep cook's barely old enough to shave, but he can de-beard like an expert.

I've also got some slivered garlic, minced parsley and chopped Calabrian chili -- a great-tasting pepper that comes packed fresh in olive oil. You can use whatever heat you like. Chili flakes work fine. For my summer menu, I'll add fresh corn, cherry tomatoes and sweet basil -- maybe a little sausage But today, I'm just testing and timing the technique. I'm guessing three minutes -- tops.

My sauté pan goes on medium-high heat. In goes a pour of extra virgin olive oil followed by a big pinch of sliced garlic. The oil is not too hot, so my garlic slowly caramelizes. I love toasted garlic; it adds so much flavor. All my cooks know I like my garlic lightly browned.

Now, it's nice and toasty, so I add my chilies and -- after just a second -- a couple handfuls of mussels. I toss them -- sauté-style -- to coat their shells with the flavorful oil. In goes a little white wine -- a good gulp's worth. Then two gulps of fish stock. I'm at the restaurant, where I have everything. I'd probably use chicken broth at home.

I cover the mussels by putting an identical sauté pan upside down on top of the pan. Steam starts to rise almost right away. I know the mussels are popping open inside and releasing all their good juices. I peek after about a minute and see all but one are wide open. I pick that bad one out with my tongs and throw it away.

I want the broth to be a little richer, so I let it simmer down a second or two. This is the point when I'll add my corn and tomatoes come summertime. Instead, I add a big fat pat of cold butter and a small handful of freshly chopped parsley.

I transfer my smoking-hot skillet to a dinner plate that I decorated with a nice white napkin. I swirl the sauté pan of mussels, letting the last of the cold butter blend into the broth. I taste it. No salt or pepper needed. Maybe a squirt of lemon, but I don't have any handy. That's OK.

Now the test.

I pour my finished mussels into the skillet and -- WOW -- does it ever spit and steam. Hmmmm. My nice napkin is now all covered with "lovely" mussel juices. Not a very nice look. For service I'll have to put the skillet on the napkin after I pour in the scallops.

And, um. As I pick up the screaming-hot skillet with my heavy kitchen towel, something that looks like mozzarella cheese strings from the plate to the bottom of the skillet. The skillet has completely melted the napkin and is now wearing a thin plasticlike coating. What a mess. I guess my dishwasher gets this plate of mussels.

Anyway, don't try this at home. Well, do actually. Just don't get the skillet quite so hot. Pour the mussels in the skillet out of sight, and quickly transfer them to a serving plate and to the table. And let the billowing steam impress your friends before they even take a bite. Contact Cat Cora or Nicholas Boer at 925-943-8254 or nboer@cctimes.com.

THAI GRILLED TURKEY PIZZA

6 servings

For peanut sauce:

3/4 cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger root

2 teaspoons Asian chili paste or 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Salt

To make the sauce: In a food processor or blender, blend all sauce ingredients until smooth. Add salt to taste and set aside.

For Pizza:

6 small (6-inch) pre-baked pizza shells

Peanut sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups shredded leftover grilled turkey

6 green onions, white and pale-green portion, sliced thin

1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1 lime, cut into sixths

To make the Pizza: Heat gas grill to medium using direct heat.

Spread some peanut sauce on each pizza. Cover the sauce on each pizza with 1/4 cup cheese. Evenly distribute turkey, green onion, carrot and cilantro among the 6 pizzas.

Place pizzas on the grate of the grill and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until crust is crisp and cheese melts. Remove from the grill and squeeze 1 lime wedge over each pizza.

THAI ICED TEA

Makes 1 serving

Make extra-strong iced tea (use 1 tablespoon tea leaves for each 1 cup water), sweeten heavily and cool. Add ice and top with 1 rounded tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk. As the milk settles down through the glass, it makes interesting patterns and adds an exotic flavor.

TURKEY KEBABS

4 servings

3 ears corn cut into 1-inch widths

2 medium zucchini cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 sweet red bell peppers seeded & cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound turkey tenderloins cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup reduced-calorie Italian salad dressing

8 metal skewers (9-inch)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, par boil corn 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from water and plunge into cold water.

In a large glass bowl, toss corn, zucchini, peppers and turkey with 1/3 cup dressing; cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.

Drain turkey and vegetables, discarding marinade. Alternately thread turkey cubes and vegetables on skewers, leaving 1/2-inch space between turkey and vegetables.

On an outdoor charcoal grill, about 4 inches from the heat, grill kebabs 18 to 20 minutes, brushing with remaining dressing. Turn skewers after first 10 minutes.

WATERMELON CAKE

Cake:

1 angel food cake mix

6 oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate chips

Food coloring (red, yellow, green)

Butter Cream Frosting:

4 Tbsp butter, softened

2 cup confectioners' sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond extract

3 Tbsp cream or half-and-half

Cake: Mix cake according to package directions. Tint 1/3 batter slightly yellow. Line a 3 1/2 qt. stainless steel mixing bowl with this mixture., but not all the way to the top. Tint remaining batter red and fold in chocolate chips. Fill the center of the bowl with this. Bake according to directions. Cool cake 1 hr. at least before removing from bowl. (NOTE: do not grease the bowl. Since this is an angel food cake, it needs to be able to adhere to the sides as it rises.)

Frosting: Cream butter and 1 c. sugar until very soft and smooth,. Beat in flavorings. Add cream and remaining sugar, very slowly, beating until spreading consistency. Tint green. Turn cake out on serving plate and ice entire cake.

YELLOW PEPPER SAUCE

Makes about 4 cups, to accompany fish

4 yellow bell peppers, diced

6 large cloves garlic, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine peppers, garlic, onion and 4 tablespoons olive oil in a roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup water, cover pan tightly, and roast in a 400-degree oven until vegetables are completely tender, at least 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth with lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and thin if necessary with a little water.

2. Pass through a fine strainer and refrigerate until needed. To serve, reheat and, if desired, whisk in a little additional extra virgin olive oil or cold butter.

 

SHALOM FROM SPIKE & JAMIE



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