Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oxo Good Grips Cherry Pitter

Time for another "favorite things" post. I give you...the Oxo Good Grips Cherry Pitter (not literally, you'll have to buy your own). I realize this handy, dandy kitchen gadget will only interest you if you pit a lot of cherries. Or any cherries really. Because I think for only $12.95, even if you pit cherries only once or twice a year, it's worth it over your lifetime to own this elegant little tool. 

All I really have to say is, it works. And without hurting your hand or spraying cherry juice all over you. That's thanks to the little cone-of-silence splatter shield that contains the splat and keeps your kitchen counter from looking like a crime scene. And just in case you're not sold, it's great for pitting olives too. Which may be a relief to followers of self-proclaimed gastrophysicist, Alton Brown, who doesn't believe in owning single-purpose kitchen gadgets (or as he likes to call them, unitaskers).

sweet beautiful cherries
pitter loaded (remove the stem first)
Boom, your done. It's just that easy.
My daughter likes to stick her little finger in there. Hi-larious.
pitted cherries

Ready to be a great summer snack or baked into a pie,
cobbler, crisp or whatever cherry delight you have planned.

Visit yesterday's post to see what I made with these cherries.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green Leaf, Chicken and Cherry Salad

This salad has so much going for it. The fresh dill vinaigrette, juicy chicken (and crispy chicken skin), sweet cherries, crunchy spicy radishes...but it's the outstanding toasty, chickeny croutons that blew me away. It made me wonder why I'd never made croutons with chicken fat before. In fact, it makes me wonder why I don't cook everything in chicken fat. Holy cow that's good! (Yes, I realize the irony.)

Makes 4 main-course servings

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb.)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

dill vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4-5 thick slices rustic bread, torn or cut into 3/4" pieces
3/4 lb. fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and lightly crushed (or halved or quartered)
1 head green leaf lettuce (or butter lettuce or baby spinach), torn into pieces
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped chives

1.      Preheat oven to 475° F. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12" cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Nestle chicken in skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high; continue cooking skin side down, occasionally rearranging chicken thighs and rotating pan to evenly distribute heat, until fat renders and skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes.
2.      Transfer skillet to oven and cook 13 more minutes. Flip chicken; continue cooking until skin crisps and meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate to cool (be sure to leave the rendered fat in the pan). Can be made ahead and refrigerated (remember to save the pan drippings).
3.      Whisk lemon juice, mustard, dill, honey and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir; set aside.
4.      Remove crispy chicken skin; tear or cut into pieces. Pull chicken meat from bones and tear into pieces; discard bones (or save for making stock). Set aside skin and meat.
5.      Reheat chicken fat over medium heat. Add bread to skillet and toast, turning frequently, until golden and crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If chicken skins are no longer crispy from being refrigerated, you can add to the croutons during the last 1-2 minutes to crisp up.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6.      Place chicken meat in a large bowl. Add cherries, lettuce, radishes and chives; drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat.
7.      Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with croutons and chicken skin.

adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2011
pan-seared chicken (the skins are getting nice and crispy)
fresh dill
dill vinaigrette
croutons getting toasty
gorgeous sweet summer cherries (before pitting)
crushed cherries on top

I think next time I might just slice the cherries
in half instead. It just doesn't seem worth the
gigantic mess to crush them.
lettuce, radishes and chives added
pouring on the vinaigrette
croutons and crispy chicken skins on top

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carrot Cake Cookies

Finally, an exciting new innovation for carrot cake lovers. It's what you've all been clamoring for...a more portable way to enjoy carrot cake while eating it with your hands! And not just any carrot cake, this has spicy-sweet crystallized ginger and tart dried cranberries added to counter the sweetness of the classic cream cheese filling. Fantastic. Disclaimer: this photo shows an overstuffed cookie so you can really see the filling...don't try this at home.

Yield: about 15 “sandwiches”

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.        Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.
2.        Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, raisins, candied ginger and orange zest at low speed, then add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
3.        Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.  Position oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4.        While dough is chilling, blend cream cheese, honey and vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth.  If frosting seems too soft, refrigerate while cookies are baking.
5.        Drop 1 tablespoon batter per cookie (2 ½ inches apart) on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, about 10 to 14 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
6.        Sandwich flat sides of cookies together with a generous tablespoon of cream cheese filling in between. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container with wax paper between layers of cookies.

adapted from Gourmet, April 2004
mixing butter, sugars, egg and vanilla
getting pale and fluffy
grated carrot
Reed's (my favorite brand of crystallized ginger)
crystallized ginger
chopped crystallized ginger
zesting an orange
adding dried cranberries, carrot, ginger and zest

Chopped walnuts are a nice addition if you want
some crunch (I made these nut free for someone who
is allergic and didn't miss them one bit).
adding dry ingredients
dough ready (before putting in the fridge)
dough balls (do not make these larger
than 1 tablespoon--they spread a lot).
cream cheese, honey and vanilla extract
cream cheese filling
baked cookie
cookie with filling on top

Remember to be more conservative or you'll run out of filling
they look a lot like moon pies

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moroccan Kebabs with Couscous

During the heat wave I couldn't bring myself to venture outside my air conditioned cocoon long enough to toil over the hot grill. But once the temperature dropped from a cruel and twisted 103º F. down to a less objectionable 85º F., I seized my window and went for it. 

I was definitely glad I made the four foot excursion from my back door to the old Char-Broil because these kebabs were juicy and packed with flavor. And the sweet grilled apricots & red onions, along with the golden raisin couscous was a wonderful complement.

There was only enough leftover for one person's lunch the next day and my husband quickly called dibs. I thought about challenging his request, but then I just let him have it (don't say I never did anything for you honey).

Makes 4 servings

6 tablespoons olive oil
5 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 lb. trimmed boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes (can substitute beef or chicken)
8 (12-inch) metal skewers
16 whole dried apricots, soaked in boiling water 5 minutes, drained
2 red onions, each cut into 8 chunks

1.      Whisk marinade ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Transfer 1/4 cup to small bowl; cover, chill, and reserve as basting sauce. Add lamb to remaining marinade in medium bowl; toss to coat. Marinate 2 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.
2.      Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove lamb from marinade. Thread lamb cubes onto 4 skewers, dividing equally. Thread apricots and onion chunks alternately on remaining 4 skewers. Brush all skewers with some of reserved 1/4 cup marinade. Sprinkle onion-apricot skewers with salt and pepper.
3.      Grill onion-apricot skewers until onions soften and begin to brown, occasionally turning and basting with marinade and moving skewers to cooler part of barbecue if necessary to keep apricots from burning, about 10 minutes. Grill lamb to desired doneness, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes for medium-rare.
4.      Mound couscous on platter (recipe follows). Top with skewers and serve.

slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2003 by Bruce Aidells
more beautiful mint (leftover from yesterday)
lemon zest
marinade ingredinets
beef cubes tossed in marinade

I chose beef because it had no added hormones or antibiotics
(that and the fact that I think I don't like lamb). Although I
realize it might be psychological (they're pretty damn cute).
red onion
raw kebabs brushed with reserved marinade
raw kebabs just put on the grill
basting the kebabs
kebabs ready to take off the grill


1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Bring broth, raisins and salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then stir in couscous. Let stand off heat, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork; stir in cilantro, zest and salt to taste.

barely adapted from Gourmet, March 2008 by Andrea Albin
golden raisins
couscous added (but not stirred yet)

I used tri-color couscous, but any couscous will do.
couscous cooked and fluffed,
with cilantro and lemon zest mixed in
couscous up close