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Friday, April 30, 2010

Potato and Sheep's Cheese Casserole

Region: Balkans
Category: Vegetables
Season: Winter
Difficulty: Easy

After its arrival in Spain, the potato made its move east, where, along the Dalmatian coast, the culinary influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire met the influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and cooking was tempered by a long association with Venice. We can see the meshing of these culinary influences in local preparations such as this potato casserole which uses smoked bacon, an Austro-Hungarian influence, with sheep's cheese, a Turkic influence, for flavoring the basic potato. This Bosnian-style musaka is influenced by the Greek preparation of the same name; it's a substantial dish and quite appropriate in the winter. For fresh sheep's cheese you can use a young pecorino; it doesn't have to be actually fresh like mozzarella, or you can use soft goat cheese too. This recipe is adapted from Inge Kramarz's The Balkan Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 6 servingsPreparation Time: 1 hour

2 pounds potatoes
1/4 pound smoked slab bacon, cut into small dice
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 pound fresh sheep?s cheese (preferably), crumbled, or kashkaval cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by a few inches, and lightly salt. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes) and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced by a skewer, about another 20 minutes. Drain and, when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and set aside.

2. In a small skillet cook the bacon, stirring, until crispy brown. Remove with a slotted ladle to paper towels to drain and set aside.

3. Butter a medium-size baking pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons bread crumbs over the bottom of the buttered dish, shaking them all around to coat evenly. Arrange the sliced potatoes around the dish.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5. In a medium-size skillet melt the remaining butter and stir together with the sheep's cheese until smooth and bubbling over low heat. Stir the crispy bacon, the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, and dill into the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Continue to stir until creamy. Pour the contents of the skillet evenly over the potatoes. Bake the potatoes for 20 minutes and serve.

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Posted by leksheat 10:01 PM

Goat Cheese Potato Gratin

2 baking potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup country cream or thick cream
1 tablespoon never bleached flour
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes
Combine 1/2 of the cream and all the flour in a mixer bowl stirring with a whisk
Add the remaining cream and goat cheese
Continue by adding the milk, garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves, stirring with a whisk
Arrange 1 of the sliced potatoes evenly in a 11 X 7-inch casserole coated with cooking spray
Pour half the milk mixture over top of the potatoes.
Repeat with the remaining potatoes, ending with milk mixture.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until gratin is golden brown.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Goat Cheese and Crab Stuffed Peppers

Servings: 4
Colorful and delicious appetizer or luncheon dish

- 8 poblano chiles or your favorite variety of chile pepper
- 4 ounces mild goat cheese
- 1/2 cup grated colby jack cheese
- 8 ounces imitation crab meat or 1/2 pound of shrimp - chopped
- 1 tablespoon shallots
- 1 tablespoon lemon peel - grated
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper - diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro - chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil - chopped
- salt and pepper to taste

- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 1/4 cup shallots - chopped
- 1 serrano chile - seeded and finely chopped
- 2 red bell peppers - roasted, peeled and seeded
- 1 cup chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste

a.. Carefully cut the top quarter off of the peppers, remove the membranes, leave stem on.
b.. Grill peppers on a stovetop grill or outside grill for approximately 5 minutes per side or until nicely charred.
c.. Place in a paper bag and let them rest for 10 minutes.
d.. Remove from the bag and peel off the skins.
e.. In a medium bowl, mix together the goat cheese, colby jack cheese, crab, shallots, lemon peel, red pepper, cilantro and basil.
f.. Season with salt and pepper.
g.. Mix well.
h.. Stuff this mixutre into the prepared peppers, don't overfill. 1-2 tablespoons should fill the peppers.
i.. Transfer them to a baking sheet and place in a warm 250° oven for 10 minutes. Just until slightly warm.

a.. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil.
b.. Add garlic, shallots, serrano and sauté for 5 minutes, just until shallots are tender.
c.. Transfer to a food processor or blender.
d.. Add roasted red peppers and chicken stock.
e.. Blend until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and warm slightly before serving.
f.. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
g.. Ladle approximately 3 tablespoons onto a serving plate.
h.. Place warm, stuffed peppers on the sauce and serve.

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Fresh Mozzarella Penna Pasta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
3 medium tomatoes or 5 to 6 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper or to taste
1 (16-ounce) package uncooked penna pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss mozzarella cheese with tomatoes, avocados, garlic, olive oil, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan to keep warm. Add tomato mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer onto individual serving plates and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Lesson in Marinades by Cookthink

I've always found it helpful to break down certain dishes (vinaigrettes, marinades, stews and soups) into formulas. Of course, formulas are overly simplified. But once you get the formula down, you can modify it according to the ingredients you have on hand, the type of cuisine you want to explore, the season, or your mood.

Marinades are especially formulaic because they're born of function. The acid-and-salt combination was once used to preserve meats and fish before cooking. Now, we use them more for flavoring, tenderizing, and moisturizing. They still lend a holy and cleansed quality to whatever it is they bathe.

Though any marinade could be made from more or less, here's a basic formula for making one:

acid (vinegar, wine, yogurt, citrus juice) +
oil (olive, vegetable) +
aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger) +
salt/umami (soy, miso, Worcestershire) +
herbs/spices (rosemary, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, clove) +
pepper/chile heat (red pepper flakes, hot sauce, sliced chiles)

A few applications of the formula, varied by cuisine type:   For pork/beef/chicken (2 hours to overnight):

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 thinly sliced onion
2 smashed garlic cloves
3 tablespooons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup torn basil leaves
2 teaspoons sambal chile sauce

Middle Eastern:
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thinly sliced red onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For fish and shellfish (20 minutes to 2 hours):

2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chooped fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Japanese (especially broiled or grilled oily fish like cod, sea bass, or mackerel):
3/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1 cup white miso paste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1 jalapeno pepper, minced

The variations are endless. With a stocked pantry, a formula, and different cuisine types in mind, you'll always be able to marinate meats and fish before grilling, broiling, searing or roasting them.

Posted by brys in how to, cookthinktank | | S

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dry Chimichurri Rub

In Argentina, this mix of herbs and spices is combined with oil and vinegar and used as a sauce for grilled meats. For best results, use dried herb leaves- not powdered or ground.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Rub all over tri-tip before roasting; sprinkle over halibut fillets before pan-searing; make a marinade for roast chicken by whisking 1/4 cup rub with 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Make this in 5 minutes

Servings: Makes about 3/4 cup

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3 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoons dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried savory leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika*
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 to 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl. Transfer to airtight container. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Store at room temperature.

* Sometimes labeled Pimentón Dulce or Pimentón de La Vera Dulce; available at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rosie's Gooey Butter Bars

Yield: 24 small bars
For pastry base:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

For filling:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 large egg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

To prepare pastry base: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch-square baking pan with butter or line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda together into a small bowl; set aside.

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg; beat until smooth, about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat on low speed until blended, 10 seconds, stopping mixer once to scrape bowl. Using floured fingertips or a spatula, spread dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.

To prepare filling: Combine butter, salt and vanilla in another bowl; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl.

Add condensed milk and beat on low speed until blended, 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, then beat in corn syrup until blended, 10 seconds. Add egg; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape bowl.

With mixer on medium speed, add flour. Beat until mixed, 30 seconds.

Pour filling evenly over base. Bake on center oven rack until edges appear set but center is still jiggly, 25 to 27 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Cut into 2 1/4-by-1 1/2-inch bars with a sharp, thin knife, dipping it into hot water and wiping it clean before each cut.

Per serving: 162 calories; 10g fat (56 percent calories from fat); 6g saturated fat; 44mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 16g carbohydrate; 8g sugar; no fiber; 78mg sodium; 20mg calcium; 34mg potassium.

Note: Bars can be frozen up to 2 weeks. Layer in an airtight plastic container with plastic wrap, parchment or waxed paper between the layers.

Adapted from "Rosie's Bakery Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book," by Judy Rosenberg (Workman)