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Archive for the ‘pecans’


Arlene’s Chicken Salad 0

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Sahar

My late, great, Great Aunt Arlene Becker Peoples (“Auntie”) was a force of nature. She was born in Georgetown, Texas on July 11, 1930.  She grew up in Kyle, married a man who founded his own meat packing company, raised two girls (my cousins Phyllis & Stacy), divorced, and then proceeded to live life by her own set of rules. She flirted with the men, traveled extensively (Bali was her favorite), played Bridge, gave a helping hand to anyone who asked for it, and made Backgammon a contact sport.  I really looked up to her in many ways.

She was a huge part of my life growing up.  And, when I moved to Austin, she took me under her wing and made sure I was properly fed and clothed (she was a free laundromat).  We also had epic Yahtzee battles that would go on for hours.  I still use the microwave she gave Husband Steve & I as a housewarming gift.

She passed away December 24, 1999.  Too soon.  Way too soon.  I still miss her every day. I could never thank her enough for all she did for me.

Above all, to me, she was a great home cook.  Nothing too fancy, but wonderful, honest cooking.  It wasn’t unusual for us to share a ham steak with German potato salad or buttered cabbage. And, of course, she always had Blue Bell Vanilla Bean in the freezer.

She did have three specialties that always stood out:  Angel Biscuits (basically, a cross between a biscuit and a roll), Seafood Crepes, and Chicken Salad.  She would always fix Angel Biscuits for special occasions and breakfasts when my family would visit when my sisters & I were kids.  Her crepes were amazing.  So amazing in fact that they became all anyone wanted her to bring to the bridge club luncheons.  Needless to say, she got tired of them.  My favorite was her Chicken Salad.

I’ve always called this dish Arlene’s Chicken Salad.  It’s in the great tradition of Southern chicken salads in that it contains dressing, a sweet component, and a lot of chicken.  Unlike most traditional Southern recipes, however, she never added eggs.  She felt, as my mom does, and I do, there is egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad; they are all meant to be separate entities standing on their own never to mix.  In other words, as great as eggs are, they don’t need to go in chicken salad.

Also, I’ve always loved her secret ingredient – Cool Whip®.  I never knew if she came up with it on her own or learned it from someone or somewhere.  But, it really doesn’t matter. It’s pretty awesome.

I have deviated from her original recipe in one major way – I use dark meat.  In a true Southern chicken salad, you never use dark meat.  Always poached chicken breast meat only.  It’s more refined, I guess.

She was also very precise in how she chopped her pecans.  She would cut it into 1/3rd’s lengthwise along the grooves, then tun it and cut it into 1/3rd’s again, making exactly 9 pieces. I asked her once why she did it that way.  I can’t remember exactly what she said, but I’m sure it was something about appearances.  It was all very German Efficient of her.  While I am half German, I don’t have the efficiency or the patience genes, I guess.

Auntie would cut these into precisely 9 pieces. I don't.

Auntie would cut these into precisely 9 pieces. I don’t.

 

This dish, of course, comes together pretty fast.  Just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store, cut up a few ingredients, mix, and voila!, dinner.  And, you didn’t even need to turn on the stove.

A few notes:

1.  I’ve never had this with anything other than red grapes.  You can substitute another fruit such as apples, pears, or dried fruit if you like.  Experiment.

2.  If you don’t toast the pecans, it’s fine.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  If you do, place the pecans on a baking sheet and place in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Then, take the baking sheet out of the oven, spread the pecans out on a cool surface and allow them to cool before you chop them and add to the salad.

3.  Speaking of #2 – pecans.  Only pecans.

4.  If you don’t have or don’t want to use Cool Whip®, you can use all mayonnaise.  It just won’t be the same. DO NOT use Miracle Whip®. Gross.

 

Oh, and by the way.  Auntie would never use low-fat or fat-free versions of anything.  Her mantra in the kitchen was always “I don’t cook skinny”.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

1 whole cooked chicken, skinned, boned, and meat chopped

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3-4 cooked whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped

2 c. seedless red grapes, cut into 1/4’s

IMG_3363

2 stalks celery, finely diced

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1 c. toasted pecans, chopped

IMG_3362

1 c. mayonnaise, more if needed

1 c. Cool Whip ®, more if needed

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Salad greens, optional

 

1.  In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, grapes, celery, and pecans until well mixed.

Stuff in a bowl ready to mix.

Stuff in a bowl ready to mix.

2.  Stir in the mayonnaise and Cool Whip ®.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add more mayonnaise and/or Cool Whip® if needed.

3.  If you are using salad greens, place them on a serving plate and spread out slightly. Then, place a serving of the chicken on top.  Serve with bread or crackers.

In memory of Auntie.

In memory of Auntie.

 

Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad – My Version 0

Posted on July 08, 2014 by Sahar

The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one.  It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896.  It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel.  Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).

The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.

Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.

It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.

While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well.  Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese?  It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit.  Besides, I just like blue cheese.

 

A few notes:

1.  I like to use a mix of apples.  As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base.  I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp.  The flavor contrast works well.

2.  I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe.  It just depends what I have on hand.

3.  If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise.  Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor.  Also, use a full-fat yogurt.  Fat-free – yuk.

4.  My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue.  These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available.  European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.

5.  I don’t peel my apples.  You shouldn’t either.

6.  I use very little celery in my recipe.  Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component.  However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.

7.  To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese. Good stuff.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

 

4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.

1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced

1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)

1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)

4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Cut and core the apples.  I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut.  With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.  Place the apples into the bowl.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it's safer than either a knife or an apple corer.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it’s safer than either a knife or an apple corer. (I frankly find apple corers to be completely useless.)

Core. Out.

Core. Out.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Blossom end cut out.

Blossom end cut out.

Apples cored, cleaned,  and ready

Apples cored, cleaned, and ready

2.  Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit.  Toss together.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

3.  Add the cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix together until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ready.

Ready.

4.  Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce.  I generally don’t.  However, if you would like to, go ahead.   I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Mole Poblano 1

Posted on November 07, 2013 by Sahar

Once again, the weather has taken its temporary turn towards cool & comfortable here in Central Texas.  The perfect excuse to break out the mole.  Again.

I’ve made mole twice before on this blog –  Mole Verde (Oct. 9, 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1120) and Mole Rojo (Oct. 30. 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1170).

The mole I’m making this time is probably the best known as well as the original: Mole Poblano.

Legend has it that in the 16th Century this  dish was invented in desperation by the nuns of the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles.  They were an impoverished order expecting a visit from the Archbishop and they really had nothing to feed him.  So, they basically threw together what they had: day-old bread, chocolate, some chiles, nuts, an old turkey.  The results were, shall we say, heavenly.  Apparently, the Archbishop loved the meal. And a masterpiece was created.

*******************

For the last mole I made for you, Mole Rojo, I used exclusively chili powders.  This was to demonstrate that they could be used as a substitution for the dried chiles and makes the preparation much easier.  In this recipe, I do things the more traditional way, with dried chiles.  It takes longer, most definitely.  But, for mole purists, I hope I have redeemed myself with you.

A few notes:

1.  When using the dried chiles, make sure they are fresh-looking and pliable (a contradiction, I know).  If the chiles break apart when you try to bend them, it simply means they are too old and dried out (and possibly infested).  You want the chilies to have retained their essential oils.  That’s what gives them their flavor and aroma.

2.  The best place to find the chiles (and all the ingredients for this recipe) is at a market that caters to the Hispanic community. (Here in Austin, my favorite is El Rancho Supermercado.)  If they don’t have it, it’s pretty unlikely anyone else will.  Besides, it’s a great place to go to just explore and try new things. Plus I get to practice my limited Spanish.

3.  I used a 4-lb bone-in turkey breast for this example.  You can use leftover turkey and skip step 1.  However, be sure to use chicken or turkey broth instead of water.  Otherwise, you won’t get the flavor you’re looking for.

4.  This recipe makes a lot.  You can serve up to 8.  But, it does freeze beautifully.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Clockwise:

Clockwise: Brown Sugar, ground Cloves, ground Cinnamon

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Masa

Masa

 

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

 

Mexican Chocolate disks

Mexican Chocolate disks

 

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulatto

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulato

 

Chipotle - smoked and dried Jalapeño

Chipotle – smoked and dried Jalapeño

 

Pasilla Chilie: dried Chilaca pepper.

Pasilla Chilie – dried Chilaca pepper.

Ancho Chile - dried Poblano Pepper

Ancho Chile – dried Poblano Pepper

Mulato Chile - dried Mulato Pepper

Mulato Chile – dried Mulato Pepper

 

4 c. chicken broth, turkey broth, or water

4 lbs. turkey

 

8 ea. mulato chiles

-or-

4 tbsp. mulato chile powder

 

6 ea. ancho chiles

-or-

3 tbsp. ancho chile powder

 

4 ea. pasilla chiles

-or-

2 tbsp. chile powder

 

1 ea. chipotle chile

-or-

1 tsp. chipotle chile powder

 

1 lg. white onion, peeled and cut into 1/4’s, stem left on

6 cloves garlic, peeled, stem removed

3 ea. tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed

4 ea. Roma tomatoes, rinsed

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/2 tsp. anise seeds

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. raw almonds

1/2 c. pecans

1/2 c. raisins

1/4 c. masa

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 ground cinnamon (canela)

2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 disks Mexican chocolate, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Additional sesame seeds for garnish

 

1.  Place the turkey and stock or water to a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat.  Once the stock has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the meat is cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes.  Once the turkey is done, take it from the stock and set aside until cool enough to shred.  Turn the heat off under the stock until all the other ingredients are ready.

2.  If you’re using whole chiles, remove the stems and cut the chiles open to remove the seeds.

Cutting open the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. Tis not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands.

Cutting the stem off  the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. This not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands. A pair of sharp kitchen shears helps, too.

Cutting open the chile.

Cutting open the chile.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible.  They'll make the final mole bitter if you don't.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible. They’ll make the final mole bitter if you don’t.

Removing the seeds and veins.  If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing.  And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Removing the seeds and veins. If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing. And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Dry roast the chiles in a heavy skillet over high heat for a few seconds on each side to soften slightly.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 30 minutes. (It’s OK if they sit a little longer.)

Soaking the chiles.  I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Soaking the chiles. I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Drain the chiles and discard the water.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes.  They'll increase in size and become lighter in color.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes. They’ll increase in size and become lighter in color. (The water hasn’t been drained off in this photo. Be sure to drain it.)

Puree the chiles in a food processor or blender (you’ll need to do this in batches) until you make a paste.  Set aside.

The pureed chiles.

The pureed chiles.

3.  If you’re using the chile powders, dry roast them over high heat in a heavy skillet until they just begin to release a scent.  Stir constantly to be sure the powders don’t burn.  Pour the powder onto a plate or another flat surface and spread it out to help it cool. (Basically, skip step 2 all together.)

4.  While the chiles are soaking, wipe out the pan.  Dry roast the onion quarters, garlic, tomatillos, and tomato.  You want black spots, but you don’t want to over-brown the vegetables.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic.  You just want a few brown spots; don't over-brown.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic. You just want a few brown spots; don’t over-brown.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

 

The tomatillos.  Be sure they don't burst in the skillet.

The tomatillos. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet.

The Romas. be sure they don't burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

The Romas. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

Once you’ve roasted the tomatoes, peel and seed them.  Cut the stems off the onion quarters.  Set the vegetables aside.

5.  Take the skillet off the heat and let cool slightly.  Add the sesame seeds and anise seeds.  Quickly roast until the seeds are toasted.  Pour onto a small plate and set aside.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds.  You want them to have an aroma and begin to "jump" in the skillet.  Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds. You want them to have an aroma and begin to “jump” in the skillet. Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

6.  Add the oil to the skillet.  Lightly fry the almonds and pecans.  Drain on paper towels and let cool slightly.

Frying the pecans and almonds.  You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Frying the pecans and almonds. You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Grind the almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, and anise seeds together.  Set aside.

The ground nuts and seeds.  This smells amazing.

The ground nuts and seeds. This smells amazing.

7.  Lightly fry the raisins until they just begin to puff.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Frying the raisins.

Frying the raisins.

8.  Turn off the heat under the oil.  Add the masa and make a roux (don’t let it get too dark).  Pour the roux into a small bowl and set aside.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

9.  Turn the heat back on under the stockpot with the broth to medium-high.  Add in the chile paste or powder, onion, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, ground nut & spice mix, raisins, tomato paste, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

10.  Meanwhile, shred the turkey.  Discard any bone, skin, and gristle.  Set the turkey aside.

Shredded turkey.  In this recipe, I used turkey breast; but, you can use whatever you prefer. If you have leftover turkey, use both dark and white meat.

Shredded turkey. In this recipe, I used turkey breast; however, use whatever you prefer.

11.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat and let cool slightly.

After 45 minutes.  The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

After 45 minutes. The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

Puree the mole with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor.  If you want a super-smooth mole, after you’ve pureed it, you can pass it through a strainer.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn't running when you pull it out of the hot liquid. Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn’t running when you pull it out of the hot liquid.
Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

12.  Put the mole back on the heat and add the masa roux and the chocolate.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Cook for 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.  Add the turkey and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stirring in the turkey.  Almost there.

Stirring in the turkey.
Almost there.

13.  Serve the mole with rice and corn tortillas.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

 

Buen Apetito!

 

 

Two Pestos 1

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Sahar

While I love to cook any time of year, unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult in the throes of a central Texas summer.  The thought of turning on the oven or the stove makes me want to stick my head in the freezer.  So, while it may not always be possible to avoid the extra kitchen heat, it can be minimized.

And one of those ways is making some pesto.

Pesto originated in Genoa in the northern Italian province of Liguria.  The name comes from Italian word pestare  (Genoese: pesta) meaning “to crush; to pound”.  It is traditionally made with garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk).

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated cheese, and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.

While pesto was introduced in the US is the 1940’s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.

(some information from wikipedia.org and thenibble.com)

The pestos I’m showing you today aren’t the traditional recipe that many have come to know and love.  While I’m very serious about traditional recipes, sometimes experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Now, on to the recipes.

***********************************

A few notes:

1.  Splurge and buy the freshest ingredients you can.  And that includes buying imported cheeses.  While America makes many wonderful cheeses, we aren’t too good with hard Italian cheeses.  Since pesto is essentially a raw product, you want the best.

2.  I don’t recommend using oil-packed/cured sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re usually flavored and I can’t control the amount of oil in the pesto.  Plus, somehow, they always taste cooked. Buy plain sun-dried and you won’t be sorry.

3.  You’ll no doubt notice in the instructions that I use a food processor for these recipes.  It is simply for ease in preparation.  If you feel like going all traditional, go for it.  But, it’d be a safe bet to say those tomatoes would be a bitch to beat down with a mortar and pestle.

Also, I keep the processor running through most of the prep.  This helps greatly when adding the “harder” ingredients like the garlic and nuts.  If you add them to the bowl and then turn on the processor, you won’t get a fine or consistent chop, which is what you want.

4.  When I serve these pestos, I always have some extra cheese on hand, some minced parsley (for the sun-dried tomato) and some halved cherry tomatoes (for the cilantro).  You don’t have to have these, but I thought I’d pass it along.

5.  As we all know, pesto is good on so many other things than just pasta.  Spread it on bread, use as a dip for vegetables, top grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables.

6.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I don’t recommend freezing.

Cilantro Pesto

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Toasted pine nuts. These aren't inexpensive, so watch them very carefully.

Toasted pine nuts. These aren’t inexpensive, so watch them very carefully. If they begin to small like popcorn when you’re roasting, you’ve gone too far.

 

4 -6 cloves garlic, depending on size

1/2 c. pine nuts, roasted (350F for 3 – 5 minutes)

-or-

1/4 c. raw, unsalted pistachios

1/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c.  Romano cheese, fresh grated

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, fresh grated

2 – 3 bunches cilantro, depending on size, large stems removed (It’s OK to have some stem. No need to pick the leaves.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx. 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Salt & pepper to taste

 

1.  Have your food processor running.  Drop the garlic through the feed tube and chop. Add the pine nuts and pepper flakes.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

Turn off the processor, remove the lid, and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Turn on the processor again and let the cheese mix in.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

2. Again, with the processor running, push the cilantro down the feed tube.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

 

Add the oil and lemon juice.

Adding the oil.

Adding the oil.

Continue processing until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

3.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

*****

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Toasted pecans.  Again, nuts aren't inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

Toasted pecans. Again, nuts aren’t inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed; see note above)

1/2 c. roasted pecans (350F for 5 – 7 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes.

Soaking the tomatoes.  Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Soaking the tomatoes. Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Set aside.

The soaked tomatoes.

The soaked tomatoes.

2.  Have a food processor running and drop the garlic down the feed tube.  Let it chop.  Add the pecans the same way.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Turn off the processor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Again, process until everything is mixed.

3.  With the processor running, add the tomatoes down the feed tube.

Adding the tomatoes.

Adding the tomatoes.

Pour in the oil and lemon juice.  Turn off the processor and check for seasoning and consistency.  If the pesto is too thick, add a little of the soaking water  or oil and process until it becomes the consistency you like.

Mmm...

Mmm…

The most common way to serve pesto is over pasta.  So, cook your pasta of choice according to the directions.  Be sure to save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.

I generally like to place a serving of the pasta in a medium bowl, spoon over the amount of pesto I want, and begin to toss them together.  I’ll use some of the pasta water if I need to.

I’ll place the pasta on the plate, garnish a little, and serve.

The completely optional garnishes:  Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

The completely optional garnishes: Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #2.

Serving Suggestion #2.

 

Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cajeta Cheesecake 1

Posted on November 09, 2012 by Sahar

I love cheesecake. It has everything I enjoy in a dessert: rich, sweet, and decadent (if you do it right).  Therein lies the beauty of cheesecake – you don’t need much to be satisfed.

Cheesecakes can be sweet or savory.  Chocolate, Vanilla, Citrus, or Nut.  Blue Cheese, Crab, Sun-Dried Tomato, Chipotle.

They can be baked or no-bake.  With or without a crust.  Serve it with a sauce, fruit, or by itself.

As I have said of a few other foods (chicken, pasta), cheesecake is one of the great blank cavasses of the culinary world.

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Here’s a very good brief history (paraphrased) of cheesecake that I came across from  http://www.cheesecake.com/History-of-Cheesecake.asp

The first “cheese cake” may have been created on the Greek island of Samos. Physical anthropologists excavated cheese molds from circa 2,000 BCE.  In Greece, cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 BCE. Greek brides and grooms were also known to use cheesecake as a wedding cake. The simple ingredients of flour, wheat, honey and cheese were formed into a cake and baked.

The writer Athenaeus is credited for writing the first Greek cheesecake recipe in 230 A.D. (Greeks had been serving cheesecake for over 2,000 years but this is the oldest known surviving recipe.) It was also pretty basic mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and spring wheat flour – heat the cheese cake “in one mass” – allow to cool then serve.

When the Romans conquered Greece, the cheesecake recipe was one of the spoils of war. They modified it by adding crushed cheese and eggs. These ingredients were baked under a hot brick and it was served warm. Occasionally, the Romans would put the cheese filling in a pastry. The Romans called their cheese cake “libuma” and they served it on special occasions. Marcus Cato, a Roman politician in the first century BCE, is credited as recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe.

As the Romans expanded their empire further into Europe, their cheesecake recipes came with them.  Later, Great Britain and Eastern Europe began experimenting with ways to put their own unique spin on cheesecake. In each country of Europe, the recipes started taking on different cultural shapes, using ingredients native to each region. In 1545, the first  English cookbook was printed. It described the cheesecake as a flour-based sweet food. Even Henry VIII’s chef did his part to shape the cheesecake recipe. His chef cut up cheese into very small pieces and soaked those pieces in milk for three hours. Then, he strained the mixture and added eggs, butter and sugar.

It was not until the 18th century, however, that cheesecake would start to look like something we recognize in the United States today. Around this time, Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make their breads and cakes rise. Removing the overpowering yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert. When Europeans immigrated to America, some brought their cheesecake recipes along.

Cream cheese was an American addition to the cake, and it has since become a staple ingredient in the United States. In 1872, a New York dairy farmer was attempting to replicate the French cheese Neufchatel. Instead, he accidentally discovered a process which resulted in the creation of cream cheese. Three years later, cream cheese was packaged in foil and distributed to local stores under the Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand. The Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand was purchased in 1903 by the Phoenix Cheese Company, and then it was purchased in 1928 by the Kraft Cheese Company. Kraft continues to make the same Philadelphia Cream Cheese that we are  familiar with today.

Of course, no story of cheesecake is complete without delving into the origins of the New York style cheesecake. The Classic New York style cheesecake is served with just the cake – no fruit, chocolate or caramel is served on the top or on the side. This famously smooth-tasting cake gets its signature flavor from extra egg yolks in the cream cheese cake mix.

By the 1900s, New Yorkers were in love with this dessert. Virtually every restaurant had its own version of cheesecake on their menu. New Yorkers have vied for bragging rights for having the original recipe ever since. Even though he is best known for his signature sandwiches, Arnold Reuben (1883-1970) is generally credited for creating the New York Style cheesecake. Reuben was born in Germany and he came to America when he was young. The story goes that Reuben was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Allegedly, he was so intrigued by this dish that he experimented with the recipe until he came up with the beloved NY Style cheesecake.

New York is not the only place in America that puts its own spin on cheesecakes. In Chicago, sour cream is added to the recipe to keep it creamy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia cheesecake is known for being lighter and creamier than New York style cheesecake and it can be served with fruit or chocolate toppings. In St. Louis, they enjoy a gooey butter cake, which has an additional layer of cake topping on the cheesecake filling.

Each region of the world also has its own take on the best way to make the dessert. Italians use ricotta cheese, while the Greeks use mizithra or feta. Germans prefer cottage cheese, while the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. There are specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies and even tofu! In spite of all the variations, the popular dessert’s main ingredients – cheese, wheat and a sweetener –remain the same.

No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings on Samos over 4,000 years ago to its current iconic status around the world this creamy cake remains a favorite for sweet tooths of all ages.

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History lesson over, here are a few tips for making a successful cheesecake.

  • Make sure you have read the recipe completely before starting.  Have all the ingredeints prepped and measured.
  • Make sure your dairy – eggs, cream cheese, etc. – are at room temperature.  This will ensure there that the ingredients will mix evenly.
  • Use the paddle attachment, not the whip, when mixing the ingredients.  Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl as you add ingredients.  This will ensure even mixing.
  • Beat the cream cheese until it is smooth.  Make sure it doesn’t have any lumps.
  • Add the eggs one at a time.  Mix thoroughly after each one.
  • Preheat your oven for at least 15 minutes at 350F.  Be sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
  • Take the cheesecake from the oven when it still has a slight jiggle in the center.  If the center is hard when you take the cheesecake from the oven, it’s overcooked.

 

Troubleshooting:

  • To prevent cracking, be sure all the ingredients at room temperature.  As stated above, add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one is added.
  • To prevent a grainy texture, be sure the dairy products are at room temperature.  Slowly add the sugar, mixing thoroughly and making sure the sugar is dissolved.
  • Be sure to scrape the sids of the bowl to be sure there are no lumps. And, again, making sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Obviously, making sure the ingredeints are mixed is important.

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Now to the recipe.

To begin with, in this example, I’m using bottled cajeta.  If you want to use homemeade cajeta (and I have), my blog post from Jan. 29, 2012, will teach you how to do that.  Also, just to let you know, the bottled cajeta will set up more quickly than the homemade when it’s spread over the cold cheesecake.

Also, instead of graham crackers, I’m using “Maria” (Goya ® ) cookies.  I like to use them because they are less sweet and don’t compete with the cheesecake. (If you live in a town with a large Hispanic population, Maria cookies will be readily available at most groceries.) However, you can use graham crackers if you like.

 

The ingredients

 

4 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

3 lg. eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract (preferably Mexican)

1 c. cajeta

1 tsp. canela (cinnamon, ground), optional

 

1 pkg. Maria cookies or graham crackers, ground

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted

2 tbsp. brown sugar

 

1/2 c. cajeta

1/2 c. toasted chopped pecans

 

1.  Make sure your rack is in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Wrap the outside of a 8- or 9-inch spingform pan in a double layer of heavy duty foil. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan.

The wrapped springform.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together the cookies or graham crackers, butter, and sugar.  Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides. (Try to make the thickness of the crust as even as possible.)

The crust in the springform pan.

3.  Place the pan in a baking dish large enough for the pan to sit flat in the bottom.  Fill the pan with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the springform.  Set aside.  (The foil prevents the water from seeping into the bottom of the pan and making the crust soggy.)

 4.  In a mixer using the flat beater, beat the cream cheese until smooth.

Cream Cheese. Ready to go.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

After the eggs have all been incorporated. A nice, smooth mixture.

Add the vanilla and canela (if using).  Mix well.  Add the cajeta and, again, mix well.  Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl so the batter is evenly mixed.

5.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan.

Cheesecake ready for the oven.

 

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes.  If you have a hotspot in your oven, rotate the baking dish about halfway through the cooking time.

6.  After the initial 45 minute cooking time, check the doneness of the cheesecake. Gently shake the pan.  The center of the cake should have a slight wobble.  If the center seems almost liquid, let the cheesecake continue to cook.  At 1 hour, check again.  If the center is still too liquid, continue baking, checking every 5 minutes.  Take care not to overbake.  If the center of the cheesecake is solid when you take it out, then the cake is overcooked.

The cheesecake right out of the oven. It has a slight wobble and has a raised center. The cheesecake will settle as it cools.

Take the cheesecake out of the waterbath and allow to cool on a rack.

Once it is cooled, remove the foil and discard or toss in the recycling bin.  Wrap the cheesecake (still in the springform) thoroughly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to set.

7.  When you are ready to serve, run the blunt edge of a knife (a butter knife is ideal) between the crust and sleeve of the springform.  Carefully unlatch the springform sleeve and release the cake.

At this point you can leave the cake on the base of the springform, or, if you’re feeling confident, slide the knife between the cake and the base to help release it.  (I prefer to leave it on the base and put it in a cake holder. I’m too afraid I’d drop it otherise.)

After you’ve released the cake, spread the reamaining 1/2 cup cajeta over the top and sprinkle over the toasted pecans.

The finished cheesecake. Yummy.

A cross section of a lovely, creamy cheesecake. I ate the piece I cut for lunch.

Of course, be sure to remove the parchement paper from the piece of cheesecake before you serve.

Be sure to carefully wrap or cover any leftover cheesecake and refrigerate.

 

I almost forgot…  Cheesecake can be frozen. Just be sure to wrap  it (completely cooled) tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil.  It will keep for 3 months in the freezer (be sure to date it).  Let it defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 



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