Thursday, September 29, 2011

Roasted Turkey with Paprika, Thyme and Garlic

I went to the grocery store without a plan the other day, and I left with a 12 pound turkey. Not a typical impulse buy, but I was thinking of braising some short ribs, they didn't have any, so I left with the turkey.

In the back of my head, I have been thinking about turkeys for a couple of reasons. I wanted to start roasting a turkey once a month or so, because I love turkey. And so does everyone else in my family. The tryptophan is another good reason, as I am an insomniac. And the last reason is, I just want to get better at it.

When I roast my turkey at Thanksgiving it is usually the first time I have roasted a turkey in a year. So I always get a little nervous and sometimes (okay, usually), we mess up the timing.

I am also thinking of turkeys because we will be somewhere warm over the holidays and already have plans to smoke a turkey. Another exciting new cooking adventure that we haven't tried before, I need to start researching the best way to do it.

Roasted Turkey with Paprika, Thyme and Garlic

1 10 - 12 lb turkey
1 T sweet paprika
2 T minced thyme
16 cloves garlic, minced
6 T olive oil
salt and pepper

3 T butter
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced thyme

1 onion, peeled and quartered
a small handful of thyme sprigs

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

In a small bowl mix together 1 T sweet paprika, 16 cloves of the minced garlic and the olive oil.

Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Place in the V of a roasting rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (including the inside the cavity). Put the onion and thyme sprigs in the cavity of the turkey. Cover the turkey with the paprika mixture, turning to spread it evenly over the entire turkey. Put the turkey back side up, pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of the pan and place the pan in the oven.

Roast for 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven, baste with the juices in the bottom of the pan and return to the oven for another 45 minutes.

Melt the 3 T butter in a small saucepan. Mix in the 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp sweet paprika and 1 T minced thyme.

Take out of the oven, turn the turkey over and baste with the butter mixture. Return to the oven and roast for another 30 - 45 minutes, (if the breast meat or top starts to get too brown, cover loosely with foil), until a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 170 (the temperature should rise 10 degrees after being removed from the oven, you can leave it in until it reaches 175 if you prefer).

Let sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes with Leeks and Jarlsberg

Twice baked potatoes are delicious anytime of year but particularly comforting in the winter months. We barely had a summer this year in Seattle, it was a blip on the radar and fall has descended with blustery days and the leaves already starting to change colors.

I love fall though so this is not a problem for me but I'm not sure a general survey in Seattle would return that same reaction. Anger and outrage at the injustice of it all is more likely. But they'd have to admit those leaves are beautiful.

I brought some twice baked potatoes over to a friend's house a while ago, only to discover that she absolutely adores them. This was great news. She is one of those friends that I feel so, so lucky to have and to be able to bring joy to her by making her something she loves to eat, is what makes me love cooking. So I think about twice baked potatoes more than I used to.

Twice Baked Potatoes with Leeks and Jarlsberg
Serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a main

2 Russet potatoes
Olive Oil
2 Leeks (medium sized, about 1 - 1.5 inches in diameter)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
4 T butter
1/2 c sour cream
2/3 c grated Jarlsberg
1/4 c milk
freshly ground black pepper

Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

Scrub the russets clean, brush the potatoes with olive oil and place in the oven. Bake until a fork slides in easily, about an hour. Wait until they are cool enough to handle and slice in half long ways, so they can lie flat. Scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4 inch of the potato intact on all sides. *

Turn the oven up to 400.

Slice the white and light green parts of the leeks into thin rounds, loosely chop the rounds and then give them a good wash (leeks can carry dirt inside their folds). Heat 2 T of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat, add the leeks, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the leeks are soft, about 10 - 12 minutes. Add the other 2 T of butter and stir until it is melted. Turn off the heat.

Mash the potatoes and mix in the sour cream until their are no large lumps. Mix in the jarlsberg and cooked leeks. Add the milk and stir until blended. Scoop the mix in the potatoes mounding it up. Bake in the oven until cooked through and the top starts to turn golden brown, about 15 - 20 minutes.

If desired, broil for a few minutes for a crispier top.

* The New Best Recipe has four twice baked potato recipes and they suggest one additional step that I sometimes throw in as it does provide an extra crispy shell.

After baking the potatoes, scoop out the flesh and then pop them back in the oven for ten minutes or so to firm up the inside and outside shell before stuffing and baking them.

Serving Suggestion: A simple salad (for a light meal).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banana Bread

I buy a lot of bananas but I should have slowed down to account for the fruit box that we are getting as part of our CSA share. I love our CSA share. They tease you with vegetables and fruit and herbs for several weeks. Then, just as you get to used to something showing up in your box, it vanishes, and is replaced by some other exciting new item. The fruit box has been very fat lately, piles of peaches, nectarines, pears and plums. So the bananas have been abandoned for the fruit box. This led to some sad looking bananas that helpfully reminded me of the wonders of banana bread.

I read a few different recipes and made this recipe by Tyler Florence but I wanted sour cream, cinnamon, vanilla, walnuts instead of pecans, less butter and less sugar leading me to the recipe here. It is a dense, nutty banana bread that is great with vanilla ice cream or straight from the loaf. It can be made with a little less sugar and still hold it together, down to 1/4 cup of each, if you are trying to reduce sugar in your life.

 Banana Bread
1 Loaf

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs

1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the sugar (both kinds), bananas, butter and sour cream until smooth with an electric mixer, or by hand. Beat in the vanilla extract and eggs.

Fold the dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips, if desired.

Transfer to a loaf pan and bake about 1 hour until a toothpick comes out more or less clean (a few crumbs is okay and ensure the bread won't be dry).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cherry Tomatoes, Wilted Spinach and Fried Tofu with Miso Dressing

I love fresh and cooked things together. This recipe has nice texture contrast with crispy tofu, fresh tomatoes, wilted spinach and a nice creamy miso dressing. It is something I make myself for lunch and can be finished in less than ten minutes. 

I buy miso paste at Uwajimaya, a local Asian Grocery Store. It is a fun place to shop with a huge produce section offering an amazing variety of vegetables. Miso dressing is a great alternative to keep things different if you eat a lot of salads.

Cherry Tomatoes, Wilted Spinach and Fried Tofu with Miso Dressing
Serves 1

~5 oz firm tofu cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
3/4 cup washed, halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach, washed

2 T olive oil, split
2 T rice vinegar
1 T miso paste
1 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Put 1 T of the olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the rice vinegar, miso paste, tamari and sesame oil.

In a frying pan, heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil until it is almost smoking. Lay the slices of tofu down, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them and leave untouched until they are golden brown. Flip over and cook until golden brown on the other side. Remove from the pan. Add the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and mix with the cherry tomatoes.

Dribble the dressing over the spinach, tomatoes and tofu.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Diner en Blanc - Seattle

A friend of ours invited us to a Diner en Blanc. It is a couple of weeks off, she said, it should be fun. Everything this friend suggests ends up being fun but I didn't know what a Diner en Blanc was. It is a dinner party of sorts, she explained. The location is kept secret until the night of the event. Everyone wears white. All the decorations are white. Each group brings their own food, table, tableware, utensils and lighting; it originated in Paris.

I went home and started googling around because, well, isn't that what everyone does when they hear about something interesting and new? After that I started seeing articles on it and some blog posts. It is a flash mob (or smart mob?) of sorts, I learned. But you get to hang out, chat and eat delicious food with wonderful people instead of doing a weird 80s dance to bad music. It sounded potentially wonderful and given that it involved food and originated in Paris, how could you go wrong?

Our friend who was table captain cleverly invited all her friends who are mildly obsessed with food; people who might do absurd things to bring excitement to a meal, even if they have to drag it to a park.

My contribution was appetizers for our party of twelve. Pablo's Coctel de Camarones, Chile Garlic Peanuts and a slight derivation on Peach, Prosciutto and Ricotta (I used Crème fraiche). The first two appetizers were constructed on site as they couldn't really be put together early without too much degradation of quality. I constructed the shrimp cocktails and a friend put together the crostini.

Another couple brought cantaloupe soup made by cooking the cantaloupe in apricot nectar, adding some spices and half & half. It was then pureed and served with fresh mint and yogurt. It was sweet and tangy and creamy and my favorite course, except possibly for the coffee served at the end of the evening.

Someone in the party brought a grill so we could have a hot main course, cooking a beautiful slab of salmon on it. They served it with two salads; a quinoa and corn salad, as well as a zucchini salad with parmesan, feta and fresh dill.

After that came the cheese. Four cheeses, fresh figs dribbled with honey, crackers, pickled homemade cherries and a mango chutney. Bread and a butter spread was passed around as well.

Finally, for dessert we were each handed a mason jar. Inside was a pile of beautiful blueberries and underneath, a delicious lime curd. And to end the evening we had percolated coffee that was cooked on the grill. All the food was delicious but that coffee was the culinary fete of the evening.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alta Crystal Resort

It was one of those perfect holiday weekends; the biggest bowl of berries I have ever seen, wonderful wildflowers up on Mt.  Rainier, nice people everywhere. We even saw a bear while we were hiking up at Sunrise.

Our base was at Alta Crystal Resort on the east side of Mt. Rainier, a perfect, perfect place to stay with kids. They have a heated swimming pool, small kitchens in the suites/rooms and on Sunday night, they put on an amazing barbecue. The berries seen above, an equally impressive bowl of fresh corn, guacamole, brownies, cheesecake, cookies, mixed greens salad with feta, chips and almost anything from the grill that you could think up.

Along with the barbecue, they also light tiki torches and put out a big pile of sports equipment that everyone seemed to enjoy. Everything from soccer to badminton to horseshoes with soccer taking the lead in popularity.

Both Saturday and after the barbecue on Sunday, they put out a s'mores spread (don't you have to with a fire like that?). The s'mores setup was impressive. A pile of metal pokers and impressive bowls of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate all laid out on a table next to the beautiful fire that one of the owners built.

The couple who own the resort seem to really love putting on the barbecue, providing the fire, the s'mores and making their guests happy with helpful travel advice and delicious food. They just ask for donations to cover food costs, volunteering their labor and just trying to help everyone have a great vacation, which they did.