July 28, 2008

Argentine Salsa Criolla

This stuff is so nummy. Serve it with nearly any kind of grilled meat; beef, chicken, pork. I make this stuff a couple of times a week during the summer and eat it on everything :) Try it... you'll like it!



1 Red Onion; finely chopped
1 Sweet Red Pepper; finely chopped (Red Bell)
1 Green Bell Pepper; finely chopped
1 Tomato; seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic; finely minced
1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley; finely chopped
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve. I enjoy this sauce as fresh as possible but if you would like to let the ingredients steep for a while then go for it.

July 24, 2008

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies


Next to Toll House chocolate cookies, these are my kids favorite. I made up a batch of these last week and it took all of 2 days for them to disappear. I find even grown ups like these... and I particularly like them with a fresh, steaming hot cup of coffee :) Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag chocolate "kisses" - unwrapped

Method:
In a large mixer bowl, beat margarine and peanut butter with electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating well. If necessary, cover and chill about one hour for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Shape dough into one-inch balls. Roll in additional granulated sugar. Place about two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate "kiss" atop each cookie. With a spatula, lift cookies onto cooling rack. When cool, store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 60 cookies.

July 20, 2008

Insalata Caprese

One of my favorite summer dishes is this delicious tomato, mozzarella and basil salad from Italy called "insalata caprese." For this salad, several things are *very* important to make it the best it can be.

First, you need ripe yet still firm, meaty tomatoes. I like to use beefsteaks when I can get them. I also like to add in a couple of yellow tomatoes, when I can find them. The color of the red and yellow tomatoes together with the vibrant green basil and milky white cheese is so pretty.

Secondly, this salad begs for *really* good olive oil. The best you can afford. That light, all purpose olive oil you find at the discount store won't cut it. You won't be needing a lot of it, so splurge if at all possible and get the good stuff. You want that thick, darker colored extra virgin olive oil for this dish.

Thirdly, get the freshest mozzarella you can find. Really, to make this best you need the mozzarella packed in water. I have used (as I did in this case) mozzarella that is wrapped with a small amount of water, and while it's *okay*, the mozzarella that is packed in a plastic "bowl" and swimming in water is really the best. Unfortunately, I live in a *very* small town and my local grocer was out of it, so I made do with what I could find. It's still really good, but not as excellent as it could have been.

Lastly, the balsamic. I really like this salad with a drizzle of balsamic. However, the traditional recipe doesn't call for it and a good Italian chef would tell you it's a no-no. The tomatoes are acidic enough and it doesn't need the added acid of the balsamic. Yeah well... I like it, so I drizzle. You don't have to. That's the wonderful thing about cooking... you can do what ever *you* want to :)

I really hope you'll try this salad this summer while the tomatoes are plentiful. It's light, tasty and amazing.

Ingredients:
4 tomatoes - about 1 lb, not too ripe
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
basil leaves
sea salt
freshly crushed black pepper
3 - 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
a drizzle of *good* balsamic vinegar (optional, but not traditional)

Method:
Wash and slice tomatoes into thick (1/2 inch) slices. Drain mozzarella and slice into thinner slices (1/4 inch). Pick off the largest, finest basil leaves from the stem. Wash basil gently and spin dry. Arrange salad on a large platter, alternating a tomato slice, a slice of cheese and top with a basil leaf until all your ingredients are used. Right before service, drizzle salad with olive oil, balsamic (if using), and sprinkle liberally with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

July 16, 2008

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream Dill Dressing



This is my favorite way to eat cucumbers in the summer. This recipe is light and refreshing and simple to make. I like to serve this as a sandwich too, it's delicious served on simple, crustless white bread. Enjoy!



Ingredients
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 4 to 6 Kirby cucumbers (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Directions
1. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice, and dill. Season with salt and pepper, and whisk well to combine.
2. Add cucumbers, and toss to coat. Garnish with more dill, if desired. Serve, or refrigerate, covered, up to 4 hours.

July 14, 2008

Dump Cake *A Trashy Favorite*

I've been making this "dump cake" for as long as I've been cooking. And that's quite a long while! I started cooking with my Grandmother when I was high enough to reach the counter in the kitchen with a step stool. I remember Gramma letting me crack eggs, stir batters and scoop cookies before I could even write my name :) Certainly she instilled the love for cooking in me and I recall her with fond memory every time I have my own kids in the kitchen with me now... some 30 years later. Hopefully my kids will have the same wonderful memories of me one day when they are in their own kitchens with my grandchildren.

Dump cake is simple, delicious and economical. It's not a fancy dessert, for sure... but it seems kids and adults alike enjoy it. I think it's best served with some homemade vanilla ice cream, but some freshly whipped cream would be good too. Or, if you're feeling indulgent... maybe *both* =D Fresh and still warm from the oven is to die for, but even cold it's good and it does reheat in the microwave fairly well.

*Cast of Characters*


*First, "dump" your canned fruit into a baking dish*


*Cover the fruit with the cake mix and pats of butter... LOTS of butter!*


*Bake and dig in!*


Ingredients:

* 1 (20 ounces) can crushed pineapple, undrained
* 2 (21 ounces) can prepared pie filling (I used peach and apricot)
* 1 (18.25 ounces) box yellow cake mix
* 2 sticks of butter or margarine, each cut into 12 slices
* 1/4 cup chopped nuts (your choice-optional. I don't use them)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 for glass baking dish). Have a 9 by 13-inch baking pan ready.

Dump undrained pineapple baking dish or pan and spread it out evenly.

Dump globs of pie filling evenly on top of the pineapple.

Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the pineapple layer.

Cut butter into slices with a butter knife and place slices evenly over cake mix.

Sprinkle nuts on top if you're using them.

Bake for one hour. Use heavy oven mitts to remove the dump cake from oven or let your older helper do it.

To serve, scoop cake out with a large spoon like a cobbler, and dump it on a nice plate. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is delicious with dump cake. Serve warm or cold.

Yield: about 10 to 12 servings

July 6, 2008

Old Bay Chicken



I made this one on the fly the other day and I have to admit I don't have a "classic recipe" for it, since I was just adding this and that. The results were delicious though, and I will definitely be making it again. Old Bay seasoning isn't just for seafood!



I used about 1 cup of homemade chicken stock in a shallow baking dish along with 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Simply sprinkled the Old Bay seasoning over the top of the breasts along with some fresh ground pepper and chopped garlic, covered with foil and baked until the juices run clear, maybe an 45-60 minutes @ 350*. The temperature for chicken should be about *170 F.

I made a simple gravy by making a roux and adding in the cooking juices and brown bits from the pan the chicken baked in, as well as an additional cup of chicken stock. Along side I served a simple green salad, mashed potatoes, and traditional sage bread stuffing. It was the yum!