Monday, December 24, 2007

Gifts for Shelby

This is what I made Shelby (see her far superior artwork at for Christmas. She loves Dia de Los Muertos art and handmade gifts. She got me a funny-print oven mitt, plus a subscription to Martha Stewart's little cooking magazine, plus a book marker for my cookbooks!

I have the coolest friends.

Finally Perfect Honey Ginger Molasses Christmas Cookies

It's taken me 6 years to perfect this recipe. I based it off a recipe from a Family Circle Magazine (i think?) but it was terrible, with 6 cups of flour and teeth-chipping consistency. Each year I make them at Christmas with a little less flour, then a little more molasses, then brown sugar instead of white, then with or without an icing...

This year I've got it perfected, so here you go. Great as gifts, and they really stay chewy for a long time due to the molasses and honey. I use a light lemon royal icing; however that's just my weird taste and I think they're more traditional sans icing.

½ cup molasses
½ cup honey
½ cup Butter-flavored Crisco
1 cup sugar— ½ brown, ½ white if possible
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp clove
3 and 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Sift together all the flour and spices, then in a separate bowl mix the molasses, honey, eggs, shortening, and sugars. Once those are creamed together evenly, stir in the dry ingredients, about a cup at a time. A cookie dough attachment and a mixer would make this work easier, but it’s exercise for the arms to fight the dough once it’s thick enough.
Refrigerate, then roll into balls and smush lightly onto a greased baking pan or parchment on a baking pan. Bake 8-10 min at 350°F. These can be crunchy if baked longer, but I prefer them chewy. Another option is to roll them out and cookie-cut them into shapes. That will definitely cause them to be crunchier.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Steamed Clams in White Wine Cream Sauce

Okay, so this isn't my dish. It's just a giant barrier reef clam that looks like she's puckering up to make sweet sweet love to you. Then devour you whole.

My dish had itty bitty littleneck clams, 30 to be exact, and that fed two people with a side dish of salad and roasted veggies. Next time I'm going to add shallots or sweet onions to this dish to give the sauce a little more body--it tasted great, but since it is served with garlic bread, the sauce should be more robust.

30 littleneck clams (other varieties are fine)
1.5 cups dry white wine
3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced/smashed (and, as I suggested, some diced shallots or onions)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
garlic bread

Sautee the garlic and/or onions in the butter, stopping them from burning with the white wine, then throw in the clams and cover to simmer for 10-15 min. Scoop out clams and ladle them into your serving bowls, then finish the sauce by adding the cream and cooking it down to a slightly thick sauce. I added a little cornstarch to thicken mine. Ladle sauce back over the clams and serve with the bread.

It was actually pretty darn good. Next time I'll probably try a bigger clam, and maybe just butter and wine, and try to thicken it without all the extra fat. But hell, we ate it with a salad and roasted cauliflower, how freakin' healthy is that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cocina de Consuela

Yesterday I ate at Cocina de Consuela, a place I had not liked when it first opened (limited menu, no seating yet!) but which has obviously grown considerably. The menu can be viewed here:

I can't wait to go back. As opposed to my first visit, we had a nice rustic little table, chips and very good salsa, and a broad selection. I had the spinach and mushroom enchilada with green tomatillo sauce and black beans, and a nopalito salad that seemed to have cotija cheese in it. Delicious. Everything was fresh, the tortillas were homemade, and the tomatillo sauce had a lightly tart bite to it. I'm dying to try the queso fresco enchiladas with ancho sauce, as well as the barbacoa.

If you're an Austinite or might be visiting, head to this little cafe at 4516 Burnet Road, next to the Uppity Crusty Bakery where 45th crosses Burnet. But visit her site first, the hours are only just past lunch!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rellenos Pequenas (or, miniature Mexican food)

At one of our local farmer’s markets, the fabulous Boggy Creek Farms (, I found these small, organically grown poblano chiles. Poblanos are ideal for chile rellenos, but bigger is better: as any good Texan knows, the more crap you can stuff into a chile and deep-fry, the happier we all will be.
For my healthier version, I stuffed these little guys with seasoned cotija cheese (doesn’t the pepper on the left look like he’s flashing you?), then baked them with bread crumbs to make it taste crunchy-fried. The pecan cream sauce on top was made from my family’s pecan tree crop, and was seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, and family values. Not really.

Rellenos Pequenas with Pecan Sauce(sauce recipe below)

8 small poblanos

Cotija cheese (about ¾ cup crumbled)

  • 1 jalapeno, diced and mixed into the cheese *skip this if you’re a wuss*
  • dash of cumin and salt in the cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup Panko (japanese bread crumbs)

The best part of making rellenos is burning the skin off your chiles. This is a healthy form of releasing aggression, just like yoga. You leave the chiles on a burning stovetop (gas or electric) and let them blister till blackened, ~5 min with turning. Throw in a plastic bag and seal, leave for ~30 min. This steams the skin loose and makes it easy to peel off. Or, if you’re lazy like me, a clean scour pad skins them like a champ.

After they’re cleaned, make a cut on the top to create a pocket inside, and stuff with 1tbsp each of cheese. Stuff all and press skins tight to the cheese to seal. Dredge in flour, then egg, then lay in an oiled cast iron skillet. Press the panko into the egg coating on each.

Bake at 450° till breadcrumbs brown lightly (~15-20 min).

Pecan Sauce:

  • ½ c pecans, 2 cloves garlic, ¾ c heavy cream

Puree ½ cup pecans and 2 cloves garlic till mealy. In a skillet with 1bsp olive oil/ marg/butter, brown this mixture while adding 2 pinches salt and a dash of cumin and cinnamon. Add cream and simmer till thickened and light brown. Mine needed cornstarch to thicken; different brands of heavy cream have different levels of heart-clogginess.

In the center of the dish is the majick-leftover-salsa-rice from my last post.

A Little Prep Work

Yeah, it sucks, cooking well often takes time. But incorporating leftovers into my plan for the next meal can make my life 12 kinds of easier. Taste testers don't know the difference anyway. Suckers.

To that end, here's the salsa I've been perfecting, which after a few days became the solution to the age-old problem: I need Spanish rice now and I don't have that mix in the yellow bag.
I added this, plus some corn, to brown rice. Which actually means it was preservative free, veggie & fiber rich, and darn tasty to boot*.

Roasted Ancho Salsa:

3 dried ancho peppers, rehydrated with ½ cup boiling water

3-4 medium size tomatoes, quartered

½ medium size white onion, sliced

1 jalapeno, sliced in half and seeded

handful of fresh cilantro

1 large clove of garlic

Roast tomatoes, garlic, onion, and jalapeno at 450° till tomatoes are charred, skin mostly blackened (about 15-20 min). Remove from oven, cool, and then dump everything in a food processor. Blend till it reaches a consistency you like, adding 1-2 tsp salt and the cilantro towards the end. Should be the color of barbecue sauce, a dark red. Spiciness will improve overnight (refrigerate of course).

*does anyone know where that phrase originated? I mean, when did we decide that instead of "indeed" or "also" we would say "to BOOT!"?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Silver's As Good As Gold

I won second prize for the pumpkin lasagna: $25 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma and the humbling knowledge that first place was awarded to a dish of collard greens and cornbread. God bless home cookin'.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ancho Pumpkin Lasagna with Cotija Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Well I think I just made up a successful recipe. The company potluck involved a contest so I invented a pumpkin lasagna, and have already had a couple requests for the recipe. It didn't taste strongly of pumpkin, which may be a bad mark or good depending on your taste. I didn't get to take a photo before it was demolished, but here's the recipe:

2 cans pumpkin
1 jar or can of tomato sauce (I used garlic/onion flavor)
1-2 blocks cotija cheese (I also used a little mozzarella to make it stringy)
1 box frozen spinach
small tub ricotta cheese
dried ancho chile peppers*
sage and cumin spices
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
2 boxes lasagna noodles

First: I prepared the fillings for the separate layers before anything else. *Anchos have to be soaked in a little boiling water to soften up. You can do it an hour before or days before and keep in fridge.
I sliced and cooked down the onions, throwing in some old red wine to give them flavor and getting them very brown (all alcohol burns off). I add salt and sugar to get them caramelized.
In another bowl I mixed the spinach (defrosted and drained), crushed garlic cloves, ricotta (~1cup) and 2 eggs, plus some salt.
Then in another bowl I mixed the 2 cans pumpkin, the softened anchos (chopped or pureed), a teaspoon of sage and cumin each, and enough salt till I could taste it (~2 tsp).

Then in a big pan I put the following layers:
1. Thin layer of tomato sauce topped with some cheese
2. layer of noodles
3. Layer of pumpkin spread
3. Layer of noodles
4. Layer of cheese topped with spinach spread
5. Layer of noodles
6. Layer of pumpkin spread
7. Layer of tomato sauce and lotsa cheese.

You could switch up or thicken up any layer you want!
I know it sounds crazy not to cook the noodles, but I used to work in a restaurant and we never did. As long as the ingredients have some water (pumpkin/veggies/tomato sauce) AND you seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil, the noodles will cook.I baked at 400 for 1hr, checked it, and cooked it for 15 more min, but your oven might be better than my old one. For most ovens I’d cook it slower at 375—like maybe 1.5 to 2 hrs.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Give a Dog a Blog

Nothing tonight but hoardes of rampaging puppies. Or rather, canines of varying ages.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finished product

Taste tester comments were : "Meh."

It needed more stuffing per ravioli.

First Post Evah

Alright, first posting. I thought to be nervous about it but then remembered the measley piddling unimportance of my blogspace existence, and knew such anxiety would be a pretty arrogant concern.

Last night I made homemade ravioli stuffed with crab and tarragon, topped with a lemon goat cheese cream sauce and smoked salmon.

It wasn't that great. No matter how thin you make your fresh ravioli, unless they're stuffed to the brim, it seems all you taste is the puffy pasta. Semolina flour is the key to good fresh pasta, but the truth is that fresh pasta is impossible to make al dente.

However, there is one redeeming quality of fresh ravioli and that is fried and toasted ravioli. It's great with a pumpkin stuffing and a nutty-flavored drizzle for a great appetizer.

Fresh Pasta:
3 eggs
2 cups white semolina flour (1/2 whole wheat works too but let it rest longer to strengthen the gluten, which makes the pasta dough stretchy instead of likely to rip)

Mix in food processor then knead for ~5min till smooth and elastic. Form into ball, cover with a towel and let rest 15 minutes.
With charp knife, cut off a 1/4 of the ball and roll on lightly floured surface till 1/8" thin, or use pasta roller to smoosh into desired thinness.
My pasta roller flattens dough into long 5-6" strips, which I lay on the counter and space filling about 1.5" apart along half of the strip. Then I fold the other half over and use a cookie cutter to make ravioli. This usually avoids the need for water to seal the edges of your ravioli.
Boil for 3-4 min and toss with a sauce.
My sauce was as follows:
garlic and butter, sauteed until garlic smells great then stop it from burning with a generous dash of white wine. Cook wine till alcohol burns off. This should be a light sauce, not thick with cream.
Add 1-2 cups of heavy cream (depending on your number of guests)
Add juice of 1/2 a lemon, or more if you're serving 3+ people.
Salt and pepper.
Add 1-2 tbsp chevre (goat milk cheese).
At the last minute, add a handful of shreds of smoked salmon. Do not let them cook till light pink--they're already cooked and have more flavor in their darker pink state.

Pour sauce over ravioli, toss, and serve.