Archive for September, 2010

Gourmet Game Night – This new book gurantees no more sticky fingers with mess-free eating for board-game parties, bridge clubs and poker nights!

If you’ve ever put Cheetos in a bowl next to a game of Life, you know that soon you will have florescent orange fingers! What about that great hand of cards – now getting sticky and gooey with cheesy pizza hands!? My good friend and food writer Cynthia Nims has come to the rescue with her new book, Gourmet Game Night! Cynthia’s book is chock full of delicious, imaginative yet convenient options; drinks made in pitchers and lots of mess-free, bite-sized snacks and entrees turned bite sized. (And I know they are delicious since I was a game-playing taste-tester!)

With autumn in the air it’s the perfect time to invite some friends over, get out your favorite board game and whip up some tasty Homemade Pretzels with Three Mustards and Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta. Popular treats get a make-over like Almost Bite-Sized Pizzas, Itty Bitty BLTs, and even Caesar salad is given a tasty game-night treatment as well.

Packed with menu-planning guides, information on food-themed games, and a listing of some independent game stores, Gourmet Game Night is a creative and contemporary collection of recipes that make eating well a neat and tidy prospect when rolling the dice or moving your marker! And why not spread the work out – send a recipe to each game night player to bring along.

Isn’t it time to get a good night of munching and Monopoly or sipping and Scrabble going? – Kathy Casey

Green_Pea_and_Mint_Spread
Photo by Sheri Giblin for Gourmet Game Night

Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta
Makes 24 pita wedges

Those Trivial Pursuit wedges eluding you? You can turn to one of these pita wedges while you’re waiting for the perfect category.

Sweet green peas make a wonderful purée base, and the flavor is brightened by fresh mint and accented with crisp pancetta. For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta and top the spread with thin crispy fried slices of shallot.

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen green peas
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth or water, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 thin slices pancetta
2 thick (6-inch) pitas (preferably without pockets)

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and simmer over medium heat until tender, 2 to 3 minutes for fresh peas, about 1 minute for frozen peas. Drain, add to the ice water, and let cool. Drain the cooled peas and scatter them on paper towels to dry.

Purée the peas, chicken broth, and mint in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. The texture should be firm enough to hold its shape but not stiff; add another teaspoon or two of broth if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until you are ready to serve.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta slices and cook until nicely crisp and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, turning the slices occasionally. Drain on paper towels.

Preheat the broiler and set the top rack about 5 inches below the heating element. Set the pitas directly on the rack and broil until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side (use tongs to turn the pitas easily). Let cool, then cut each round into 12 wedges.

Top the broad end of each pita wedge with about 1 tablespoon of the pea purée. Break the pancetta into bite-sized pieces and press a piece or two into the purée on each wedge. Arrange the wedges on a platter and serve.

Notes:
-Double or triple all the ingredients, but make the purée in batches.
-Halve all the ingredients.
-Make the purée up to 1 day ahead, cover, and refrigerate. Toast the pitas and cook the pancetta up to 4 hours ahead. Assemble shortly before serving.

© Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night, Ten Speed Press (2010)

Homemade_Pretzel_Sticks
Photo by Sheri Giblin for Gourmet Game Night

Homemade Pretzel Sticks with Three Mustards
Makes about 30 pretzels

There’s no comparing standard snack-aisle pretzel sticks with these homemade chewy treats. Certainly feel free to buy a few fancy flavored mustards at the store to use for the dips, but these do-it-yourself combinations will have brighter fresh flavor. Offer perhaps four small bowls of each, letting guests pick the flavor they prefer. But don’t be surprised when there is long-distance dipping in a neighbor’s dish at the table.

Pretzel Sticks
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup warm (about 105°F) water
1 teaspoon (1⁄2 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
Coarse salt, for finishing

Herbed Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced tender fresh herbs (chives, flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, and/or basil)

Roasted Garlic Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons puréed roasted garlic

Smoke and Spice Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To make the pretzel sticks, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix. Make a well in the center. Pour the warm water into the well and sprinkle the yeast over. Set aside until the yeast is frothy, about 5 minutes.

Stir the dough with a wooden spoon, drawing in the flour from the edges. Continue to stir the dough until it begins to come together in a ball. Transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes, adding a bit more flour if needed. Put the dough in a bowl (it could be the same bowl in which you mixed the dough), cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the mustards. Stir the ingredients for each in a separate small bowl.

Just before the dough has finished rising, fill a large skillet or sauté pan with 2 to 3 inches of water and set it over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low if it comes to a boil while you’re still working on the dough.

Punch down the dough and cut it into about 30 even portions, each roughly the size of a marshmallow. Roll one portion of dough to a stick 7 to 8 inches long. Set on a lightly floured baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough.

Return the water to a boil if needed, add the baking soda, and reduce the heat to medium. Add 8 to 10 of the pretzel sticks to the water and simmer for 1 minute, then roll the pretzels to their other side and simmer 1 minute longer. Lift the pretzels out with tongs or a large slotted spoon to a tray, then arrange them on a wire rack to drain and cool. (I put a dish towel under the rack to catch drips, and excess salt later.) Repeat with the remaining dough, reheating the water between batches as needed.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set 2 oven racks on the centermost levels.

Beat the egg yolk with the water in a small dish. Brush the pretzels with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. Transfer the pretzel sticks to the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, switching the trays about halfway through for even cooking. While the pretzels are baking, transfer the mustards to serving bowls.

Let the pretzel sticks cool a bit on a wire rack and then arrange them on a platter or upright in a large glass, slightly warm or at room temperature. Set the bowls of mustards alongside, with spoons for guests to spoon some onto their own plates.

Notes:
-Make a double batch of pretzel dough. You may have enough mustard with the original recipe amounts.
-Best not to halve.
-The pretzels can be baked up to 4 hours before serving. The dips can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

© Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night, Ten Speed Press (2010)

Add comment September 30th, 2010

Regarding Lavender

To most people, lavender is strictly associated to soaps, perfumes and wall colors. Lavender has been used in the culinary world for centuries and is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Today’s creative chefs look towards this member of the mint family to spice up cocktails and savory dishes as well as add delicate elegance to sweeter offerings.

Kathy Gehrt’s most recent book, Discover Cooking with Lavender features seventy-five recipes for seasonings, drinks, savory dishes and sweets. The book is filled with unique recipes that won’t give you an impression of bath beads or spa treatments – Kathy Gehrt celebrates the best that lavender has to offer to the culinary world.

I love these recipes because they encompass my motto for a great cookbook: sophisticated and, at the same time, accessible. The book is a fantastic introduction to anyone looking to experiment in the kitchen with lavender – from seasoned chefs, foodies, and novice cooks as well as lavender and gardening enthusiasts.

More than just recipes, Discover Cooking with Lavender walks through buying, growing and harvesting lavender. Cooks will discover the varieties of lavender best for culinary use, how to harvest lavender buds and new techniques for bringing this herb’s exotic flavor into drinks, savories and desserts. And the photos are beautiful!! Even if the charming photographs alone don’t have you running out the door to pick up a lavender bush of your own, the fabulous recipes definitely will!

Here’s a note from the author; “After 25 years as a technology executive, I decided to focus on my true passion which is creative cooking,” said Gehrt. “Discover Cooking with Lavender sprang from my love for food, friendship and gardening, and I’m thrilled to be able to share ideas for how to incorporate this fragrant herb into everyday cooking.”

And we’re glad she did! – Kathy Casey

Lavender_poundcake
Photo by Brian Smale, from Discover Cooking with Lavender

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake

This pound cake originated in 17th century England. The original recipe called for one pound of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. As baking powder and baking soda came into use in the late 1800s, the recipe was modified. Lemon gives this cake a citrus taste, while lavender adds a hint of fresh flowers.

Makes About 12 Servings

4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
1 Tbsp. dried lavender buds, finely ground
8 ounces of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp freshly-grated lemon zest
5 eggs
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup of plain sour cream

For the glaze:
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 tsp freshly-grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp dried lavender buds, finely ground using a spice grinder

1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the dried lavender buds, then set mixture aside.
3. Combine butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until the mixture becomes smooth and pale, about 5 to 8 minutes.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, fully mixing each into the batter before adding another. After the last egg is added, slowly add the lemon juice and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix 30 more seconds until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
5. Remove bowl from the mixer. Add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the sour cream. Use rubber spatula and gently mix just until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, filling pan two-thirds full.
7. Bake on center rack of oven for 70 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Insert toothpick into center of the cake; it will come out clean when the cake is done.
8. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
9. Loosen the sides of the cake pan with a sharp knife. Place serving plate, upside down, on the top of the cooled Bundt pan and invert the pan to remove the cake. Let cake cool completely.

Glazing the cake
1. Sift powdered sugar and ground lavender buds into a medium bowl, then add the lemon zest and lemon juice, Mix with a spoon until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the cooled pound cake.

© Kathy Gehrt, Discover Cooking with Lavender, Florentia Press (2010)

Lavender Lemon Soda

Fizzy, sweet, cold and fresh, soda tastes great on a hot summer afternoon. Hidcote lavender is a great choice for this drink because of its floral essence. Blue Velvet, Provence or Munstead varieties also work well.

Makes 4 Servings

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lavender flowers
1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
25.3 fluid ounces sparkling mineral water
Ice cubes

  1. Combine water, sugar and lavender in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over gentle heat.
  2. Remove pan from stove and let mixture steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain out flowers and chill the syrup until you are ready to use it.
  3. Combine lavender syrup with lemon juice and pour ½ cup of this liquid into an ice-filled glass. Fill the glass with sparkling mineral water and stir. Serve immediately.

© Kathy Gehrt, Discover Cooking with Lavender, Florentia Press (2010)

2 comments September 23rd, 2010

Small Screen Network

I’ve been super busy filming with Small Screen Network for a new webisode series hosted on their site! It’s been crazy hectic with shooting, but there will be no blog post for this week. The series with premier soon, and I promise that we’ll shake up some fun real soon!

In the meantime, here are some sneak peaks of what we’ve been filming.

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Shaking up some fun!

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Getting the bar set for the next shot!

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The Small Screen Network crew!

Add comment September 18th, 2010

Are you hungry for some fall wild mushrooms? I am!

It’s that time again when the air is crisp and cool. The ground is moist and the rains are coming… we hope! Why do I wish for rain every fall? Because no sooner do our Northwest grounds moisten up that the heavily sought after wild mushrooms start to pop up. Fall is fast approaching and that means it’s mushroom time! I love foraging for my own fall fungi –  Boletus edulis (king bolete, porcini, ceps, they have many names) Matsutake and Chanterelles!

Continue reading on Amazon’s Al Dente Blog.

2 comments September 9th, 2010

What to bring to that Labor Day pot luck or picnic? How about a great salad!

Outdoor entertaining during the summer can be as simple as a buffet of delicious make-ahead salads with some great bread and wine. Everyone loves old-fashioned, picnicky, or what I call dish-up, salads. And certainly no food’s more welcome to a pot luck or Labor Day gathering.

Think of potato salad—how many versions can there be? Sweet German, mustard and eggy Mom’s style, hip sweet potato with spicy chutney dressing, even baked potato with bacon, chives … totally loaded!

Big ethnic flavors are especially great to meld into summer salads such as in my featured recipes.

Colorful Wheat Berry, Edamame and Shiitake Mushroom Salad takes on an Asian flavor flair and is vibrant with sweet red peppers, carrots, and green onions. With the addition of shiitake mushrooms, which are a good source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants and trace minerals plus protein-rich edamame beans, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse. This super-good-for-you salad is great as an accompaniment to grilled fish.

For my friends at SUNSET® Produce, I whipped up a Glorious Greek Salad with Feta Vinaigrette that uses a rainbow of summer veggies and their tasty Campari® Tomatoes! It’s perfect to serve at your next gathering of friends and family.


Glorious Greek Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

Photo ©2010 Kathy Casey Food Studios® for SUNSET® Produce

Assembling kits of the salad components makes these excellent take-along dishes for potluck picnics and parties, too. Put “dry” ingredients, “wet” solid ingredients and dressing in separate large zip-lock bags. Just pack up your baggies and a big bowl, and you’re on your way! Then mix them together right before serving.

So whether you mix-and-match salads to build a picnic around an international theme or stick to American classics, dish up salads will provide a parade of fabulous flavors for a festive Labor Day or any summer celebration.

Colorful Wheat Berry, Edamame and Shiitake Mushroom Salad
Makes about 5 cups

3/4 cup whole wheat berries or spelt
2 quarts water
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans, defrosted
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
1 medium carrot, thinly bias cut
1 cup thinly sliced napa cabbage

Dressing
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Asian chili paste, such as sambal oelek
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic

To cook the wheat berries or spelt: In a large pot, bring the wheat berries and water to a boil then reduce to a slow simmer. Simmer until wheat berries are very tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Spelt may need to cook a bit longer.) Add more water if needed. Drain wheat berries and cool

Meanwhile, mix the dressing.

When the wheat berries are cool, combine with remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and mix well. The salad can be served right away, or refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

© 2010 Kathy Casey Food Studios – www.kathycasey.com

Add comment September 1st, 2010


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