Archive for August, 2012

I made dessert for our gam­ing group tonight. As I’ve said before, I am not very adept at mak­ing pas­tries. So instead of mak­ing any­thing that would involve any kind of pas­try, like a pie or cake or any­thing of that nature, I opt­ed for berries and cream. Mak­ing a Mixed Berry Sal­ad with Whipped Cream was quick, easy, and was a very eco­nom­ic dessert for 7 peo­ple.

I took 2 quarts of straw­ber­ries, quar­tered, 1 pint of black­ber­ries, 1 pint of rasp­ber­ries, and 1 pound of halved, pit­ted cher­ries and com­bined them togeth­er with the juice and zest from one lemon, 1 table­spoon of water, 1/4 cup of sug­ar, 1 table­spoon of hon­ey, 1/2 tea­spoon of cin­na­mon, and 1/4 tea­spoon of salt. I let the mix­ture sit cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor overnight to let berries release some of their juices.

Right before I served the berries, I took a bowl of ice and put a sec­ond bowl on top of it. In the sec­ond bowl, I put 1 pint of heavy cream, 1 tea­spoon of pure vanil­la extract, and 1/2 cup of pow­dered sug­ar and whipped them togeth­er. I used my immer­sion blender, which has a wire whisk attach­ment, but I’ve used beat­ers or even just a hand­held wire whisk before. It just takes longer to do it by hand.

The berries are very sweet and I end­ed up not being able to eat as many of them as I want­ed to. Every­one else seemed to go nuts for them. I was debat­ing whether to use 1 quart of straw­ber­ries or 2, and it’s a good thing I used 2 or there wouldn’t have been enough for 7 peo­ple.

Cher­ries have been real­ly rea­son­ably priced this year, so buy­ing some fresh cher­ries every now and then is def­i­nite­ly in the bud­get. Of course, fig­ur­ing out what to do with cher­ries when I am real­ly not that good with pas­try, oth­er than just eat­ing them, isn’t always easy. Just eat­ing them can be fun, but there’s more that can be done with cher­ries than sim­ply eat­ing them raw.

This morn­ing, I made Choco­late Cher­ry Turnover Puffs for break­fast. I stemmed and pit­ted the cher­ries a cou­ple of days ago and let them sit in a cou­ple of table­spoons of sug­ar and a lit­tle lemon juice. Then yes­ter­day, I added a tea­spoon of cocoa pow­der and stirred it up.

This morn­ing, I cooked the liq­uid off the cher­ries and added about a tea­spoon of choco­late syrup. I then took some store bought puff pas­try in a can, oth­er­wise known as cres­cent rolls, and placed a table­spoon or so of the pre­pared cher­ries in the mid­dle of the dough, bring­ing the ends up to the cen­ter and clos­ing it up. I then brushed the top with melt­ed but­ter and cooked the puffs accord­ing to the pack­age direc­tions on a Sil-pat lined cook­ie sheet.

When I brought the puffs out of the oven, I quick­ly brushed the puffs with a lit­tle more but­ter and dust­ed them with a lit­tle sug­ar. They have a sweet cher­ry fla­vor with a hint of choco­late rich­ness. The choco­late fla­vor is real­ly under­stat­ed, and I could enhance it by driz­zling choco­late syrup on top instead of sug­ar, but I like that the choco­late is just a sea­son­ing and not a pow­er­ful fla­vor­ing.

For sup­per tonight, I would have loved to have tak­en pho­tos, but alas I didn’t. I ate it too fast. It smelled too good and tast­ed too good for me to take the time to grab my cam­era.

I made Poached Tilapia with Creamy Toma­to Orzo Risot­to. I poached the fish in the cream and toma­to sauce that even­tu­al­ly got mixed with the orzo to become the risot­to, and the tilapia was so juicy and ten­der that it prac­ti­cal­ly melt­ed on my tongue. It was still firm enough though that it didn’t fall apart between the pan and the plate. I’m def­i­nite­ly going to make this again because we both enjoyed it.

There are times when I go into the kitchen to make one thing, but I don’t have what I need to make it. Or my oven is bro­ken down. Or any of a hun­dred oth­er dif­fer­ent things have hap­pened to keep me from mak­ing what­ev­er it is I’m want­i­ng to make. When that hap­pens, I cheat!

Sev­er­al months ago, I want­ed to make meat­loaf, but our oven was down for the count. It was expe­ri­enc­ing death by sty­ro­foam and seri­ous­ly could not be used safe­ly until it was cleaned, a task I didn’t have the time or ener­gy for before mak­ing sup­per that evening. I had, of course, not thought about this before mix­ing the meat, eggs, sea­son­ings and such togeth­er for mak­ing the meat­loaf how­ev­er. I had already tak­en to mak­ing sev­er­al small loaves instead of one large loaf because they cook faster and are eas­i­er to serve. I decid­ed to take it a step fur­ther and try some­thing new by sear­ing the mini meat­loaves in a skil­let on the stove, then sim­mer­ing them in a sauce to allow them to cook through. I made the sauce by mix­ing toma­to juice and beef broth and the process worked amaz­ing­ly well. Not only did the meat­loaves cook more quick­ly and more even­ly than in the oven, they were incred­i­bly moist due to the very wet con­di­tions they cooked in.

Last week, I found anoth­er easy cheat. I’m fair­ly cer­tain the mak­ers of Pro­gres­so Soup weren’t expect­ing peo­ple to turn their prod­uct into gravy, but the French Onion vari­ety can be reduced down to what is actu­al­ly a rather tasty onion gravy. I put the soup into a medi­um saucepan on medi­um heat and let it sim­mer for 20 to 30 min­utes until it is reduced by 3/4. Since the soup is most­ly beef broth, the gravy it makes ends up being nice and rich and goes well with any num­ber of veg­eta­bles and meats.

So today I sim­mered some green beans in the soup until it reduced to sauce, made the mini meat­loaves, and served them togeth­er with some Gar­lic Parme­san Cous­cous.

The entire meal, start to fin­ish, took less than an hour to make, includ­ing prep time. Most of the cook­ing time is sim­ply wait­ing for sauces to reduce.

Drunken dessert

Din­ner tonight was fun, but I enjoyed dessert much more. I made Drunk­en Straw­ber­ries and Cream. This is actu­al­ly very easy to make and tastes won­der­ful! First, I quar­tered a pound of fresh straw­ber­ries and put them in a bowl with about a 3/4 cup of shi­raz, a tea­spoon of hon­ey, a tea­spoon of sug­ar, and a pinch of cin­na­mon. I cov­ered the bowl and put it in the refrig­er­a­tor for a cou­ple of hours. (I used shi­raz because I real­ly like shi­raz, but any sweet or semi-sweet red wine like sher­ry or port will work.)

When you are ready to serve, whip a half cup of heavy cream, two table­spoons of pow­dered sug­ar, and two table­spoons of the wine from the straw­ber­ries until the cream is firm. Remove the berries from the wine with a slot­ted spoon and top them with the whipped cream in serv­ing bowls. Serve the wine in glass­es on the side as a quick cor­dial.

This doesn’t take long to make, and it’s sweet with just a hint of a spicy note from the cin­na­mon. The wine is a great way to relax after the meal and unwind at the end of the day. Giv­en the week we’ve had, it was a wel­come refresh­ment.