Peanut Chicken Soba Salad

May 30, 2012

Wow! Summer is here! It hovered around 90°F (32°C) for the whole of our long Memorial Day weekend. We had tickets for an outside concert on Saturday in the sweltering heat and humidity. Luckily we brought along plenty of iced down adult beverages both to keep us cool and to help improve our attitudes. One good thing I can say about the summer temperatures (and it may be the only good thing about summer that you ever hear me mutter…did I mention I despise summers in Virginia?) is that a rise in the mercury signals me to roll out one of our favourite summer chilled salads, Peanut Chicken Soba Salad.

This flavourful Asian inspired salad is a great dish to have around for those hot and steamy summer days. And it comes together very quickly cause the Lord knows I don’t want to spend any more time in a hot kitchen in the hot summer than I have to! With this recipe, you really only need to have one burner on for the amount of time it takes to cook up the soba noodles. ( 4 minutes in boiling water and they’re done!) I use the breast from one rotisserie chicken and I even purchase preshredded carrots. (now that is lazy…) Whatever. It is summer in Virginia and I’m moving both slowly and as little as possible, so if shredding can be eliminated, believe me, it will! This salad makes a deliciously light and satisfying meal and goes fabulously well with a chilled glass of white wine. (or two…or so….).

Peanut Chicken Soba Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 (6 ounce) Chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons roasted peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (rooster sauce) or any chili garlic sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Cups cooked soba noodles (about 4 ounces uncooked)
  • 1 Cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 Cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 Cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 4-5 teaspoons dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges to garnish

Directions:

Cook and shred chicken breasts. Place shredded chicken in large bowl and set aside.

Combine vinegar and next 5 ingredients. Whisk together.

Pour vinegar mixture over chicken. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.

Add soba noodles and the next 4 ingredients to chicken mixture. Toss well.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just prior to serving, sprinkle chopped peanuts over the top of the salad and garnish with a lime wedge or two.

Enjoy!


Meyer Lemon Cream Mini Tarts

May 25, 2012

After only a short delay, I’m back to those Meyer Lemons. I mentioned previously how long I had been looking for these little devils and how thrilled I was to finally find some last week. The first thing I made was Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes, which were fantastic. But I still had some Meyer Lemons left after those pudding cakes, (remember, I did say that I grabbed a sack full of them) so I decided to make Meyer Lemon Cream Mini Tarts.

I found a recipe for “Lemon Cream” in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours under “The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart”. I thought this looked fantastic, but rather than use regular Sweet Tart dough for my tart shell, I decided to go with a graham cracker crumb base, sort of like you would find in a key lime pie. I also had these adorable 4″ Mini Tart pans that I had been dying to try, so I made 6 Mini Tarts rather than a regular 9″ tart.

You may wonder what the difference is between Lemon Cream and Lemon Curd. They are very similar but differ in when the butter is added into the mix. In a curd, all of the ingredients, including the butter are cooked together until they thicken. In this cream, the eggs, lemon juice and sugar are cooked together and the butter is added only after the mixture cools down a bit. This causes the butter to emulsify rather than melt, which results in a light and well…creamy texture.

All in all, these were very easy to prepare. I baked the graham cracker tart shells in the morning and while they cooled I prepared the Meyer Lemon Cream. Once the cream was done, I popped it into the fridge for its requisite 4 hours. I didn’t assemble the tarts until right before I was ready to serve them and then garnished them with some freshly whipped cream and bits of fresh fruit. These little tarts were outstanding! The Meyer Lemon Cream is velvety smooth and satisfyingly sweet yet tart. I loved the contrast that the crunchy graham cracker crust provided. My husband is in fruit filled dessert heaven! We can’t believe we’ve been missing out of these exquisite Meyer Lemons all of our lives! If you’ve been likewise deprived, I urge you, search high and low, don’t stop until you find some of these gems and then get baking!

Meyer Lemon Cream Mini Tarts

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

Yield: 6 Mini Tarts (4″ diameter)

Ingredients:

For the graham cracker tart shells:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the Meyer Lemon Cream:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (if you are using regular lemons in lieu of the Meyers, increase to 1 cup sugar)
  • Grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh Meyer Lemon Juice (from 4-5 lemons)
  • 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

Directions:

For the graham cracker tart shells:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Butter 6 mini tart pans (or one  9″ tart pan).

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the mini tart pans and use your fingers to pat an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crusts aside to cool on a rack while you make the Meyer Lemon Cream.

For the Meyer Lemon Cream:

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the Meyer Lemon Juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk – you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling – you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high, and with the machine running, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going – to get the perfect light airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to two months)

When you are ready to assemble the tarts, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart or refrigerate until needed.

Garnish with freshly whipped cream and fruit.

Enjoy!


Spicy Pork & Chorizo Sliders with Green Chili Mayo

May 21, 2012

Sliders! Who doesn’t love sliders?! These little baby burgers are all the rage these days. Most folks in the US know these comfort food staples from White Castle restaurants which started serving them in 1921. But now sliders are likely to be found in all manner of food establishments, from your greasy spoon diners to upscale posh restaurants.

I tell you, one of the great thing about sliders, besides the cute factor, is that they are really tricky. You can eat multiple sliders, say 4, 5, maybe shock horror even 6 and never feel that you’ve eaten a big ole burger. I mean sliders are just tiny little ole things. They don’t even really count calorie wise, right?

Not to mention, they are much neater and easier to handle in a party setting, than their big, sloppy full-sized cousins that will inevitably end up dribbled down the front of your white shirt. You can nearly eat a whole slider in just one bite! The blog which provided me with this winner of a recipe didn’t make sliders, but instead made 4 full size mega burgers, which have their merits, no doubt. This is certainly an option for you, but then you won’t be able to live in my wonderful land of denial where the smaller the food is, the smaller, to near non-existant the calorie count is as well.

Sliders are where it’s at! And these particular sliders are likely the best I’ve every tasted. No kidding. They are really fantastic. Juicy and spicy perfection! We cooked these Pork & Chorizo Sliders on the backyard grill. They cook up really quickly since they’re so small, only took about 6 minutes total. I served them on potato bread slider buns that I found at the local grocery store and topped them with the not to be missed Green Chili Mayo and a few fresh slices of guacamole. Bet ya can’t each just one! Get to grillin ya’ll!

Spicy Pork & Chorizo Sliders with Green Chile Mayo

recipe from: Just the Tip

yield: 25 sliders, or 4 giant burgers or 8 normal sized burgers

Ingredients:

For the sliders:

  • 1/2 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 1/3 pounds ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch of dried oregano & thyme
  • salt, black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 25 slider buns
  • 6 slices pepper jack cheese, quartered
  • guacamole slices to top burger with if so desired

For the green chili mayo:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 – 4 ounce can diced green chilis
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

For the mayo:

Combine the mayo, garlic, chilis, and lime juice in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the burgers:

Preheat the grill.

Place chorizo in food processor and pulse until finely chopped and crumbly.

In a large bowl, combine the chorizo with the pork, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and spices. Mix gently but thoroughly and form into 25 – 2 1/2″ diameter patties, about 1/2″ thick. I have a slider press that I used for this, but you could use a biscuit cutter or just shape them free form.

Place sliders on the grill and cook for about 6 minutes, 3 minutes on each side. (increase cooking time if you should choose to prepare full size burgers) During the last couple minutes, top each with a quarter slice of pepper jack cheese.

Place chili mayo on half of the slider bun. Top with pork & chorizo slider. Add guacamole if desired. Top with other half of slider bun.

Enjoy!


Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes

May 17, 2012

Eureka! I have struck gold! And by gold, I mean some lovely, golden hued Meyer Lemons. This may not excite you, but then I bet you haven’t been looking for them as long as I have. Apparently, these little devils are difficult to ship, so most local grocery stores and chains do not carry them. They are in season from November through the end of April. But don’t you know it, just when I had given up all hope of finding any, I walked into my local Harris Teeter grocery store and there they sat, shining just like the sun!

Well, needless to say, after reading the label several times and pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t some weird culinary dream that I was destined to wake up from with a huge sense of disappointment,  I grabbed a bunch of them and ran to the check-out lest someone steal them away from me if I dared to dawdle.

So what’s so good about Meyer Lemons? Well, Meyer Lemons, which originated in China, are a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin Orange. This results in a somewhat sweeter, really vibrant tasting lemon without the acidic aspect. It is a gorgeous golden-yellow colour, kind of like egg yolks. They have a much thinner skin than regular lemons and have a nice floral fragrance. If you can find these little guys, they are well worth buying!

What did I make with them. Well, for starters I made this lovely little Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes. Yup, you heard me…Pudding…Cakes. They are the best of both worlds, you know, the pudding universe and the cake universe. As you dig into these fabulous treats, you first encounter a fluffy lemony cake, but once you get through that layer you sink into a rich, creamy, decadent lemon pudding layer on the bottom. I’m not even usually interested in fruit desserts, that’s generally my husband’s territory, but these were really irresistible! I served some topped with a bit of whipped cream and some au natural with just a tiny dusting of confectioner’s sugar. If you are lucky enough to come across any Meyer Lemons, act fast! Buy them right away and make some of these yummy treats.

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes

recipe from: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup ( 2 1/2 oz. / 75 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup ( 8 oz./ 250 grams) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup ( 3 fl. oz./ 80 ml) fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups (11 fl. oz./ 330 ml) whole milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Place eight 1/2 cup (4 fl oz./ 125 ml) ramekins in a large baking dish and pour in water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and salt. In a separate nonreactive bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup ( 6 oz. / 180 grams) of the sugar until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture and beat until very thick, 2 minutes more. Stir in the lemon zest, juice and milk.

Using an electric mixer on high-speed, whip the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup (2 oz. /60 grams) sugar and whip until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Using a silicone spatula, stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the lemon mixture. gently fold in the rest just until no streaks of egg white are visible. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins.

Bake until the centers are firm to the touch and the edges pull away slightly from the sides of the ramekins, 40-45 minutes. Removes from the oven but leave in the water bath for 15-20 minutes.  Dust the tops with confectioner’s sugar or top with a bit of whipped cream. Serve warm or at room temperature straight from the ramekins.

Enjoy!


Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

May 14, 2012

Here it is Monday and I must admit I’ve been back at Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table again. I just love that cookbook! It has yet to disappoint, so if you don’t own it already, you might want to look into it. This time I decided to try her recipe for Marie-Hèléne’s Apple Cake.

I love apples, my favourite fruit, so anything apple gets my attention. And well, I’ve already mentioned how my husband loves a good fruit dessert, so I got busy making this cake. I’m happy to report that this cake is very easy to prepare. Really there is no fuss. Just a no-nonsense simple apple cake. And I love that apples really steal the show here. I would say it is as close as you can get to a pie, but still be a cake. The chunks of apple are held together ever so slightly by a thin matrix of cake.

Oh, and it has rum in it. Always a plus! The cake was absolutely delicious and was gobbled down in its entirity by folks on the very night it was served. Not a left-over in sight!

I dusted the top of the cake with some powdered sugar and served it with freshly whipped cream to which I had added a bit of cinnamon. Cinnamon or vanilla ice cream would also be fantastic. Try this winner today!

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Directions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter an 8″ springform pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1 – 2″ chunks.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have  smooth rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Serve with ice cream or freshly whipped cream. I served this one with some cinnamon whipped cream.

*This cake is very moist. When you store it, do not cover it. Simply place a piece of plastic wrap against the cut surface. Will keep at room temperature for 2 days.

Enjoy!


Layered Cornbread Salad

May 10, 2012

So while we’re on the subject of backyard cookouts, I thought I’d share this fantastic recipe for Layered Cornbread Salad. It is just the perfect, refreshingly cold side dish to go along with all of your grilled offerings on these hot summer days quickly heading our way. It’s also  great served along with fried chicken. And this southern dish is also quite popular at potluck dinners, should you have any of those you’re heading off to. Heck, it’s pretty much just fabulous all the time! Not only is it beautiful to look at when perched on your dinner table, what with all those colorful layers, but it is also delicious!

And it is easy to put together. Now mind you, there is a bit of chopping to be done and you might have to bake a batch of cornbread, if you don’t have any leftovers hanging around. (My husband is snickering a the thought of “leftover cornbread”, but I’m sure it could happen in some other folks homes.) All your efforts will payoff when folks start to gobbling this salad down and singing your praises all the while.

Layered Cornbread Salad

recipe from: Mississippi Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6-8 ounce) package cornbread mix, cooked according to package instructions and cooled (or your favorite recipe of cornbread)
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 head torn iceberg lettuce or 2 heads Romaine lettuce chopped (or you can substitute a bag of torn lettuce)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can shoepeg or yellow corn, drained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (Colby jack, Mexican blend, cheddar, etc.)
  • one lime
Directions:
Crumble cornbread into fine crumbs; set aside.
Stir together the mayonnaise, chili powder, salt, and chopped cilantro, if desired.
In a 4-quart glass bowl or trifle dish, place half of the lettuce, then sprinkle with half of the cornbread crumbs.  Spread half of the mayonnaise mixture on the cornbread layer.  Layer half each of the corn, black beans, tomatoes, onions, and cheese. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the top. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients.
Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
Enjoy!

Peanut Butter S’mores Bars

May 7, 2012

As I’ve mentioned, the weather has really heated up around here. Backyard cookout time has arrived! Lucky for us, the mosquitoes haven’t arrived yet to spoil our party, so the grill is working overtime! I think I have also mentioned that I have a thing for S’mores and can’t seem to resist S’mores recipes. (Take a peek at my S’more Stuffed Cookies and S’mores Brownies)

So for our last cookout, I thought these Peanut Butter S’mores Bars would be nice to have on hand for folks who didn’t really have the patience to invest all that time into make their own by the fire pit. Now, being a S’mores fanatic, as well as a dedicated peanut butter fan, I thought these bars would be awesome. And truth be told, I wasn’t too concerned if they weren’t popular with my guests, since I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble polishing off the whole pan of these gems all on my lonesome!

But that was not to be. Let me tell you, folks went wild for these little bars, coming back for seconds and dare I say thirds! Which is awesome, primarily because it made it easier for me to fit in my britches the next day, but also because they are very, very easy to make! And although they look like they would be a super heavy, dense dessert bar, they actually are quite light, perhaps due to all of those airy marshmallows.

They come together very quickly as well, so you won’t be spending too much time in that hot kitchen. Throw some together today!

Peanut Butter S’mores Bars

recipe from: idle wife

yield: 16 squares

Ingredients:

For Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
 For Peanut Butter Chocolate Marshmallow Filling:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (lite is all right)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 250 grams mini marshmallows
 Directions:
Line a 8 x 8″ square baking dish (or any dish you think will work. Smaller = thicker; larger = thinner) with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt together.
Add the melted butter and stir until the graham cracker crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Press evenly into the prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
In a medium-sized pot, melt the margarine and peanut butter together.
Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips. Stir until they’ve completely melted into the peanut butter mixture. Allow the mixture to cool to the point where you can comfortably place your hand on the bottom of the pot (be careful not to touch it too soon).
Add marshmallows and stir to coat.
Spread evenly over the graham cracker crust and put the whole thing in the fridge until fully set. Lift out of the dish using the parchment paper, cut into squares. It’s best to keep these refrigerated.
Enjoy!
{note} The Idle Wife adapted this recipe from Butterscotch Confetti Bars. In order to make this treat, you skip the graham cracker crust entirely. Use Butterscotch chips in lieu of the chocolate chips. Pour the mixture directly into a 8X8″ pan lined with plastic wrap. I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try since folks absolutely loved the Peanut Butter S’mores version!

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