Saturday, April 12, 2014

Refrigerator Old Fashioned Tomato Jam & What to Do With It

When I was a kid, my grandmother canned lots of different things.  I recall a couple of times when she visited and turned our kitchen into a hot, steamy factory. She and my mom preserved corn, beans, tomatoes, and the most wonderful cherry jelly.  One thing I really loved was her tomato jam.  It had a really distinctive tart/sweet flavor that I can still remember.  I never learned how to can and although I know it is safe when done correctly -  the whole full blown idea of boiling the glass jars in water and sealing them airtight was not something I wanted to spend my time on.  But, I wanted to see if I could duplicate my grandmother's tomato jam in some fashion.  This post is the result of my experimenting.  It's very easy and it tastes close to my memories!  Besides toast, it pairs up very well with spicy or salty ingredients in sandwiches, paninis, cheeses, and salads. 

Ingredients for 2 Cups of Tomato Jam

3 medium sized ripe tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice *see note in directions
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 thin lemon slices
2 thin orange slices 


There are a few different ways to get the tomato juice.  If you use canned, the resulting jam is a bit darker in color but still beautiful.  Or, you can take three additional tomatoes and mash/press them through a colander. You could also put the tomatoes in a food processor and then strain them to get the needed 2 cups of juice.
Pour the juice in a large pan along with the sugar. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bubbles look glassy and clear and the liquid has a thick, transparent quality.  (If you cut this recipe in half and only want to make 1 cup of jam - this time is also cut in half. It will only take 10 minutes for the liquid to be ready.

While the juice and sugar are boiling, core the tomatoes and cut them into eighths. If you haven't already, Thinly cut two lemon slices and two orange slices. Cut each slice in half.

When the tomato juice and sugar mixture is ready, add the tomato, orange, and lemon slices.

Turn the heat down to low and gently cook the jam for about at least an hour or more. Stir every so often with a wooden spoon.  It will be ready when the tomatoes are broken down and the mixture is translucent.  The orange and lemon skin will be visible but the flesh will have "melted" in the jam. Allow the mixture to cool and spoon it into a container.  Keep it refrigerated.  Since this is just refrigerated not processed, it will last a week - if you have any left by that time!

Serve it on hot, buttered toast or...

 A as a spread in a sandwich or panini...

It makes a fantastic salad dressing: 1/4 cup jam, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

And it takes a cheese plate up to a whole new level!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Piperade - Basque Base for Poached Eggs


This post is my variation on piperade, a traditional Basque dish.  I guess that means it's sort of French and sort of Spanish, but the important thing is that it is delicious and easy.  I make it with different colored peppers and use a Serrano pepper for the heat instead of the customary Piment d'Espelette.  It's impressive looking enough for company but it is really just a humble affair - just some sliced and sauted vegetables. Of course everything is better with an egg on top and hopefully the video above will take away any fear about how to poach one. I also use piperade as a sauce for pizza, pasta, and Italian sausage by using 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes instead of the Serrano and adding  in 1/4 teaspoon each of oregano,  basil, rosemary, and fennel seeds.

Ingredients for Four Servings:

4 to 8 eggs: 1 or 2 per serving
1 onion
2 bell peppers:  I used 1/2 each of green, red, yellow, and orange
1 Serrano pepper  
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Core and dice the tomatoes.  Set the tomatoes aside.  Peel and slice the onion. Core, remove seeds and membranes, and slice the bell peppers. Discard the membrane and seeds from the Serrano peppers and dice.  Place the oil in a large pan or skillet and add all the bell peppers, Serrano pepper, and the onion. Over medium low heat, saute for about 8 to 10 minutes until the vegetable mixture are tender but not brown.  Peel the garlic clove, put it through a press or mince it finely.  Add it to the pan and continue to saute for another 30 seconds.  

Add the tomatoes to the sauted vegetable mixture. Over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, cook for about 10 minutes. The piperade is down when the tomatoes break down, most of the liquid has evaporated, and the mixture is thick. Transfer to serving dishes and top with poached eggs.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash

     So what could a  poached egg be put on top of tomorrow?  Since today is St. Patrick's Day, there might be a chance that somebody might want to make hash out of left over corned beef. Every Irish family has their own method of making corned beef.  My dad, whose name was Patrick, would actually wrap a brick in foil and place it on top of a baking brisket.  I came up with my version several years ago and, although it is not polite to brag, a former boyfriend of Jennifer's said it was the best corned beef he ever had. But, although I've included my recipe for corned beef brisket here, the real star of this post is the hash made out of leftovers. This one is made with sweet potatoes which blend so well with the savory, slightly salty meat, Dijon mustard and the hint of thyme.  It is just delicious with a poached egg on top and is really such a special treat, perhaps this hash made with left overs should be served for a weekend brunch instead!

Ingredients for Four Servings of Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash:

1 cup corned beef (recipe below), chopped
1 cup cooked sweet potatoes, chopped 
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, put through a press
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
poached eggs (recipe below), how ever many you wish to serve


Dice the onion and saute it with the butter over medium low heat until tender.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the beef, potatoes, parsley, mustard, thyme, and pepper to the pan and combine. Over medium low heat, cook for about four minutes.  Then turn the mixture over with a spatula and cook another three to five minutes until the onions, sweet potatoes, and meat begin to brown.  Watch it carefully so that it doesn't start to burn.  Transfer the hash to service dishes and top with a poached egg or two. Recipes for corned beef and poached eggs are below.

Corned Beef
1 (3 lb. or so) corned beef brisket
2 bay leaves
3 teaspoons peppercorns (black, green, or one of those colorful mixtures)
2 teaspoons mustard seed
6 whole cloves
6 carrots
Small head of cabbage
6 large carrots
8 potatoes - new w/skins on or sweet potatoes

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place one of the bay leaves, one teaspoon of the peppercorns, one teaspoon of the mustard seeds,  two of the cloves, and the brisket into a large pot.  Add enough water to cover it, but don't fill it up all the way to the top.  Turn the heat up to high and bring it to a boil.  Let it boil for five minutes, occasionally skimming off the "scum" that floats up to the top.  I use a slotted spoon and transfer the frothy stuff to bowl, then throw it away later.  While the corned beef is boiling, peel the carrots and cut each one in two. If you are using them, wash the potatoes, leave the skin on,  and cut each one in two.  Place the carrots, potatoes, and the remaining bay leaf, 2 teaspoons peppercorns, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, and 4 cloves into an oven safe 9 by 13 baking dish.  At the end of the boiling time, get rid of any remaining scum in the pot and transfer the brisket into the baking dish.  Pour the cooking water from the top into the baking dish, leaving an inch or two of space at the top. Cover the baking dish with foil, and carefully place it in the preheated oven.  Bake for 3 hours and 45 minutes.  Ten minutes or so before the baking time is over, Wash the head of cabbage and discard the bruised looking outer leaves.  Core and slice the cabbage into 8 wedges.  Place the wedges into a pot large enough to hold them and set aside.  After taking the brisket out of the oven, transfer the meat and vegetables to a serving platter.  Cover with foil to keep it warm.  Pour the cooking liquid from the baking pan over the cabbage wedges and bring the pot up to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until cabbage can be pierced by a fork but is not mushy. Remove the cabbage from the pot and add them to the serving platter. Slice the corned beef across the grain and serve while everything is still hot.

Poached Eggs:
Bring about 4 inches of water in a sauce pan up to a boil. One or two at a time, crack the egg(s) onto a saucer. With a wooden spoon, give the water in the pan a swirl and slip the egg off the saucer into the middle of the swirl.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, lift each egg out of the water and place it on a cloth dish towel until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

South American Influenced Power Breakfast: Poached Egg on Quinoa

     Last year, between semesters, Allison had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. She tells me that in South America, the thought of having eggs for breakfast is basically unthinkable. However, they do like to have over many things any other time of the day.  In fact, one favorite dish at a barbecues, or an asido, is a pepper grilled with an egg in it.  In Peru, it's common to serve an egg on top of a stew made with quinoa. So, for us that means it's a breakfast item - right?  Well - maybe more like brunch since the quinoa in this post has some fairly complex flavors due to the cumin and coriander in this recipe. A sad note is that since quinoa is now in such high demand because it's in foodie fashion, it's now more expensive to buy than chicken in Peru and the other countries of it's natural habitat and origin.  I had a craving for this dish but when I bought the quinoa for it, but the package cost over $7.00.  This recipe only calls for 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa so a package will last a long time. However, I do think that I will start investigating other grains to use as a replacement. I think buckwheat might work...hmmm...?

One of the Many Friends Allison Made While in Peru

Ingredients for Four Servings:
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 red pepper, diced to make 1/2 cup
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, put through the press
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 oz.) can broth, vegetable or chicken
2 large tomatoes, diced or 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 to 8 eggs, how ever many you wish to serve

Saute the diced onion and red pepper in the olive oil until tender. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, and pepper and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add the quinoa, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. While the quinoa mixture is simmering, or a head of time, poach the eggs. Take off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Spoon into bowls, top with avocado, cilantro, and  poached eggs*.

*While the quinoa mixture is simmering, or a head of time, poach the eggs.
Bring about 4 inches of water in a sauce pan up to a boil. One or two at a time, crack the egg(s) onto a saucer. With a wooden spoon, give the water in the pan a swirl and slip the egg off the saucer into the middle of the swirl.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, lift each egg out of the water and place it on a cloth dish towel until ready to serve.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

French Toast with Apple/Cranberry/Walnut Topping

     Last weekend Jenn flew in from California to go to a sorority sister's wedding.  Her plane landed about 11 p.m Friday and it was midnight when we got home.  About ten minutes later her good friend Colleen arrived from Chicago.  Even though they had to get up early the next day to
Jenn and Colleen - Ready to Party!
drive three and a half hours to the wedding, they found the time for a lot of laughter and catching up that night.  In the morning I wanted to send them off with a good breakfast, so I quickly made a family favorite - French toast made with whole wheat bread that is smothered in a Granny Smith apple/cranberry/walnut topping. This apple mixture is great over pancakes, waffles, and even ice cream. Taking the short cut of cooking the sauce in the microwave made it easier and I had more time to visit with the girls! They made great time getting there, had fun at the reception, and Jenn even caught the bouquet!

French Toast with Apple/Cranberry/Walnut Topping for Four

Ingredients and Directions:

For the French Toast:
8 slices of whole wheat bread
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Whisk the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Submerge each slice of bread in the egg mixture so that both sides are coated.  Brown the bread in a greased skillet, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

For the Apple/Cranberry/Walnut Topping:
2 medium sized Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Keeping the skin on the apples, slice them thinly, and discard the core. Dice the butter into small pieces. Put the apples, cranberries, walnuts, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a microwave safe bowl.  Mix the ingredients together and microwave on regular power for five minutes.  Stir when finished cooking. 

Put two pieces of French Toast on each plate and spoon the hot apple topping mixture over each one.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Twice the Fun - Two Sauces

A couple of weeks ago one of Allison's roommates, Grace, had a birthday.  They live with four other girls in a house on campus and seem have a huge amount of fun in between periods of serious studying.  Grace's mom, Mariana lives close to me, and she came over to my house with groceries. 

Under her direction, we cooked up a delicious birthday meal for Grace, the roommates, and some friends.  Mariana wanted to make a couple special sauces that could be served over pasta. She had in mind one of Grace's favorites, a beefy mushroom sauce made from Trader Joe's packaged filet mignon beef tenderloin, but also a vegetarian ratatouille as a meatless choice.  I've had "two sauce option" dinners before, and one sauce usually over powers the other due to stronger flavors.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when both of these sauces could hold their own even while on the same plate. In fact, they played off extremely well against each other - just as the roomies do!

Ratatouille Sauce

Ingredients and Directions for 4 servings:

1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, put through a press
1/2 each of medium red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
2 (15 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 oz. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

Cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch slices and place in a bowl.  Cover with water and add 2 teaspoons of salt.  Set aside while continuing with the rest of the steps in the recipe.

Peel and dice the onion.  Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet and add the onion. Saute over medium heat until the onion is tender but not brown.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.

While the onion is cooking, cut the zucchini and yellow squash into 3/4 inch slices, and then cut the slices into cubes.  Seed the bell peppers, discard the membranes, and cut them into cubes.  Drain and rinse the eggplant slices and cut those into cubes.  Place in the pan with the tender onions.

Cook the vegetables over medium heat for about 10 minutes until they are tender but not mushy. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic salt, salt, and pepper.  Cook an additional 10 minutes.

Serve over hot cooked spaghetti.

Beef Tenderloin Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients and Directions for Four Servings

16 oz. filet mignon beef tenderloin
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms
6 oz. sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion
1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch

8 oz. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

Slice the beef tenderloin into strips.  Wash, rinse, and slice any really large mushrooms into smaller pieces.  Peel and dice the onion and shallot.  Peel the garlic cloves and put through a press.

Melt the butter into a large skillet.  Add the beef strips and cook over medium heat until brown.

Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, allowing the juices to remain in the pan.  Add the onion and shallot to the same pan and saute over medium low heat until tender.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Now remove the onion mixture allowing the juices to remain in the pan.  Add the mushroom to the pan and saute over medium low heat until tender. Return the meat and onion mixture to the pan.  Add 3/4 of the broth and scrape the pan to loosen any "fond" from the bottom of it.  Turn up the heat and allow the mixture to reach a boil. Stir the corn starch into the remaining broth and pour it in all at once.  The sauce should thicken up almost immediately.  Serve it over the hot, cooked spaghetti.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

White Bean Salsa &Toasted Pita Wedges

     This yummy little recipe was born several years ago when I had to bring something to a school pitch-in and was either too tired or out of time to make a run to the grocery store.  I am a firm believer that oil & vinegar makes everything taste great.  Back then, I threw a mixture of salad dressing and spices over a drained cans of corn, chopped tomatoes, and kidney beans.  Everyone raved about it and asked for the recipe! It eventually morphed into the salsa posted here, but any kind of beans could be used: black, pinto, kidney, etc.  Likewise, you could throw in cilantro, red onions, even avocado - the possibilities and variations are endless.  I love the mixture here with these toasted pita wedges.  You could be healthy and use whole wheat ones, but I enjoy the white flour pitas because they pair so well with the taste of tomatoes. This is also wonderful in a salad.

1 package pita bread
cooking spray
1 tablespoon chili powder
Any 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans such as Butter, Cannellini, or Great Northern
1 medium tomato (1 cup chopped)
2 green onions (2 tablespoons sliced)
1 medium jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut each pita "loaf" in half and separate the top of the pockets from the bottoms by cutting through the edges that hold them together. Then cut the pieces into triangle shaped wedges.  Each separated half will yield four wedges.

Cover two baking sheets with foil and spray them with cooking spray. Distribute the wedges between the two baking sheets so there is a single layer of pita pieces on each sheet.  Spray the wedges with cooking spray and sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of chili powder over the wedges on both baking sheets.  Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  

While the wedges are baking, prepare the salsa. Using a colander, drain and rinse any two cans of white beans. I love to use butter beans and Great Northern beans.  Chop up the tomato and slice enough of the green onion to make 2 tablespoon full. Discard the seeds and membrane of the jalapeno pepper; then finely dice the pepper.  Place all in a mixing bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Whisk it well so that the dressing is well combined.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and then gently stir to combine all the ingredients and coat with dressing.  Put the mixture into a serving bowl and serve with the toasted pita wedges.