What I Did This Summer: Wine Tasting and Flitting About the Internet

Here in the Pacific Northwest, Summer’s brilliant, white light has toned down to a golden hue, announcing that Fall is waiting in the wings.  I’m not ready for summer to end, so David and I are outdoors as much as possible.

On Saturday, we visited one of Oregon’s several wine regions, as our exploration of the state’s Pinot Noir continues. As far as wine tasting goes, I’m surprised to find I like playing the field. I’m not ready to commit to a case of any particular wine just now.

We tried a wonderful Blanc de Blanc, a white wine, paired with a Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta, and Ricotta Salata. We enjoyed it so much, I made it for Sunday’s dinner, although I left out the pancetta, instead seasoning with an artisan smoked salt to compliment the melon, and substituted shaved parmesan for the ricotta salata, forgoing a trip to the grocery store. I paired the salad with a chilled Chardonnay. See what I mean about not being ready to commitment to a case of a single wine?

Besides touring around Oregon, enjoying the last remnant of summer, JParadisi RN is also flitting around the Internet in places other than this blog:

Grilled Eggplant & Grilled Radicchio With Endive Salad

Grilled Eggplant photo: jparadisi 2011

The fatal flaw of left-handed, creative polymaths, I’ve mentioned, is not finishing what we start. Today I’m following up last week’s post with how I prepared the eggplant and the radicchio bought a week ago at a Farmers’ Market while David and I visited Newport, Oregon. Just so you know, those beautiful vegetables did not meet their demise by rotting in my refrigerator.

Grilled Eggplant

3 medium eggplants

A good quality olive oil

1-3 teaspoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Fresh ground black pepper and salt

1/8 -1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (or to taste)

Wash and pat dry the eggplants after trimming away both ends on each, but leave the skins on. Slice each eggplant length-wise into four 1/2-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. On a medium grill, cook eggplant slices until there are grill marks on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t over cook.

Arrange the slices on a platter and sprinkle with the fresh basil and crushed red pepper. Makes a dozen slices. The next day, I used the leftovers in Panini along with the heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.

Grilled Radicchio With Endive Salad

1 medium head of fresh radicchio

3-4 large Belgium endives

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons of a good quality olive oil

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Wash and pat dry the head of radicchio and the endive. Quarter the head of radicchio into wedges and brush the cut sides with the olive oil. Place the first oiled side onto a medium grill and lightly char the edges, then turn to the second cut side, and slightly char it too. Do not walk away from the grill while cooking the radicchio; they char quickly. Remove from grill, and set-aside until cool enough to handle with your fingers. Slice the endive length wise, then chop into 1/2 or 1-inch chunks. I like mine chunky, but I noticed David set the bigger pieces aside on his plate. I don’t think he knew what endive was until he met me. Put the chopped endive into a large bowl. Chop the cooled radicchio and add to the endive. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar; toss to coat and adjust to taste, along with the salt and pepper. Add the shredded Parmesan cheese and toss one more time.

Pair with crusty bread, and a crisp Pinot Gris.

Cranberry and Caramel Date Bars

Cranberry & Caramel Date Bars photo: jparadisi 2010

 

Last night I finished my nursing shift later than expected, and I still had to bake cookies for a Christmas brunch and cookie exchange the next morning. This is my mother’s recipe. She started baking these festive looking bar cookies after I had moved out on my own. I was delighted to discover that not only are they delicious, they are easy and quick to make, which is wonderful when you are short on time.  You can really speed things up by using date pieces rather than cutting up whole dates.

Cranberry & Caramel Date Bars

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups uncooked oats

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cups walnuts, chopped

1 cup caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 350° F. In bowl combine cranberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. In another bowl, combine 2 cups flour, oats, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, and soda. Add butter; mix well. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture; press remainder firmly on bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle dates, walnuts, and cranberry mixture over crust. Mix caramel topping and remaining 1/3 cup flour, spoon over fruit and walnuts. Top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown, cool. Cut into bars (makes 24 bars).

Thanks Mom!

Fancy Cranberry Sauce with an Italian Twist

 

Fancy Cranberry Sauce with an Italian Twist photo: jparadisi 2010

I always cook with wine, and sometimes I put it in the food.

a plaque in my Mom’s kitchen

I have made homemade cranberry sauce since I was a teenager. I found this recipe on the internet, but added a significant twist of my own by substituting red wine for water. The consistency is similar to a chutney.

Ingredients

•              1 cup red wine

•              1 cup white sugar

•              1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries

•              1 orange, peeled and pureed

•              1 apple – peeled, cored and diced

•              1 pear – peeled, cored and diced

•              1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit (I used a dried berry and raisin mix, but mango, papaya, and pineapple would be fun)

•              1 cup chopped pecans

•              1/2 teaspoon salt

•              1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

•              1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

1.             In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to simmer, and stir in cranberries, pureed orange, apple, pear, dried fruit, pecans, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

12 servings

Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats

 

A well-used slow cooker photo: jparadisi

If you have a home full of visiting relatives this week, here’s a quick, easy and healthy breakfast recipe. It also saves time in the mornings when working a stretch of busy day shifts or clinicals. As a nurse, I have found “cook once, eat twice” (or more) a slogan to live by.

6 cups water or milk

1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats

raisins, nuts, brown sugar, or other toppings of choice.

Before going to bed, combine the water or milk and steel cut oats in a slow cooker. Cover and set on low overnight. Serve first thing in the morning with the brown sugar, raisins, nuts, and milk or cream. Refrigerate leftovers, and reheat in microwave prn (medical jargon for “as needed”).

Mid-Century Recipe: Shrimp Creole Redux

Shrimp Creole photo: JParadisi

     As a  child, shrimp creole was my favorite meal, and my mother would make it for dinner after she got home from work on my birthday. When I was old enough to read the recipe, she taught me how to make it, standing at the stove next to her. The other day I found the recipe, scrawled in my childish cursive on an old recipe card. Things have changed in cooking since the 1960’s and ’70’s, but  I still enjoy my childhood favorite.  Here is the original recipe. Below it, I’ve included an adaptation (pictured), which  I made for dinner last week.  

Shrimp Creole (Mom’s mid-century version)

1/4 cup oil or shortening  

1/4 cup flour  

4 cloves minced garlic  

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper  

2 8-oz cans tomato sauce  

1 1/2 tsp salt  

1/2 tsp black pepper  

1 1/2 lbs raw shelled and deveined shrimp (fresh or frozen)  

3 cups hot cooked rice  

     Heat oil or shortening at medium heat in a large skillet; add flour, stirring constantly until smooth and golden brown. Add garlic, celery, and green pepper; cook until tender. Add tomato sauce and seasoning. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Add shrimp and simmer 15 to 25 minutes more. Serve in rice ring, or over mound. Makes six servings.  

 Shrimp Creole (my adaptation, pictured above)

2 Tbsp olive oil  

1/2 cup diced celery  

4 cloves garlic, minced  

1/2 cup chopped green pepper (bell pepper is traditional, but I used diced, canned jalapeno instead)  

2 6 -oz cans tomato paste  

2 cups water (adjust to desired consistency of the sauce)  

salt to taste  

fresh black pepper to taste  

1 to 1 1/2 lbs raw shelled and deveined shrimp (fresh or frozen)  

3 cups hot cooked rice  

     Heat oil in large skillet. Saute garlic, celery, and green pepper until tender. Add both cans of tomato paste. Stir til smooth and add water until sauce is the desired consistency (it will thicken some as it cooks. 2 cups were fine when I made it). Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Turn heat to medium high, add raw shrimp, stir and cook until shrimp are pink and curled. Serve over rice. Makes about six servings.  

 

Recipe: Strawberry Angel Cake

 

Internal view (slice) of Strawberry Angel Cake photo: JParadisi 2010

     A family member celebrated a birthday this week, and I volunteered to make her a cake. I remembered this one, which I haven’t made in years. In fact, I had to search through my recipe collection to find it. It comes from one of those community cookbook collections of its members’ favorite recipes sold for fund raising. I treasure these cookbooks as volumes of domestic Americana. My Italian grandfather contributed to this cookbook, (he was a damn fine chef) and gave it to me for Christmas in 1985. The cake recipe, however, is not one of his. Because I’m unsure if confidentiality laws apply to cookbooks, I have omitted the name of the woman who contributed this recipe. I have adapted the recipe to clarify the directions. 

    Note: If you tint the whip cream frosting pink, it’s a perfect cake for a little girl’s birthday party or Valentine’s Day. However, my favorite 10-year-old boy (the one I gave the Brain Cactus  to) informs me that if I leave the whip cream frosting white, sprinkle it with green sugar sparkles, and arrange tiny plastic army men on the top, it will be perfect for his birthday party later this year. 

Strawberry Angel Cake 

1 Angel food cake mix, baked per package directions, and completely cooled 

1 small box of strawberry Jello 

1 pint whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste (I used 1 tbsp powdered sugar) 

1 package frozen sliced strawberries (unsweetened) thawed and drained 

     Dissolve Jello in a bowl, using the amount of boiling water indicated in the package directions. Do not add the cold water too ( the Jello is concentrated by 1/2). Chill for about an hour. It should thicken, but not set. Whip the jello with a whisk or low-speed electric mixer, and fold in about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream. Reserve the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. Next, fold the drained strawberries into the Jello. Mixture should partially set. Refrigerate longer if it is too liquid, so it doesn’t drain through the cake. Set the Jello mixture aside. Slice off top 1/3 of the angel food cake and set it aside. Using clean fingers, dig out a trench in the lower 2/3 of the cake, leaving 1- 1 1/2″ of cake along sides and bottom of the cake (see photo above). Fill the trench with the Jello mixture. Replace the top, and frost with whipped cream. Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe: Risotto Cakes

One of my readers asked what risotto cakes are. 

They are delicious. 

 And an elegant way to use leftover risotto for another meal. It’s easy.

First, make your favorite risotto recipe. The traditional saffron risotto of Northern Italy works well. I also like the new recipes recently published in The New York Times Health section. You can find the recipes( by Martha Rose Shulman)  clicking on this link:

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/series/recipes_for_health/risotto/index.html

     Make the risotto of your choice, and try to leave some leftovers (that’s the hard part). Refrigerate the leftovers until the next day. Using small handfuls, shape the risotto into balls, then flatten into cakes. Bread each cake by dipping into one beaten egg, then into panko flour. Brown 3-4 minutes each side in a pan, using olive oil. Drain on paper towels and serve with a salad or sautéed vegetables.

You can also serve risotto cakes as a base for Eggs Benedict, instead of english muffins.

Julianna’s Recipe for Posole

I just read thebuzzbybrian.blogspot.com post about posole. Brian, I have a really good and simple recipe for posole too, despite the fact that my family comes from Italy. It’s not my original recipe, it comes from a magazine, a long time ago, but I don’t remember which one. The photocopied page doesn’t have that information. My apologies and thanks to the unknown chef.

Posole

1 pound tomatillos

6 cups chicken stock

3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 jalapeno pepers, seeded and quartered (I wear gloves for this)

1 (30-ounce can) white hominy, drained

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup sour cream

8 lime wedges

1. Discard husks and stems from the tomatillos. Cook whole tomatillos in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender; drain. Place tomatillos in a blender and process until smooth; set aside.

2. Place stock and the next 5 ingredients (stock through hominy) in a large stockpot; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from bones; shred. (I use boneless breasts, so this is easy if you cool the chicken a little first). Stir in pureed tomatillos and salt; cook for 5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in shredded chicken and serve with cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges.