Wednesday, December 31, 2008

chef d's baklava

1 lb. walnuts - finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
 2 t. cinnamon
3 sticks butter, melted
1 package phyllo dough
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 T. lemon juice
1 c. honey
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine and set aside walnuts, 1/2 c. sugar, and cinnamon.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch pan with melted butter.  Open the phyllo dough and layer 6 whole leafs (or 12 half leafs) in the pan, buttering each layer as you go. (The edges will extend over the side.) Spread 1 cup of the walnut mixture.

Cut the remaining phyllo dough in half.  Layer 8 half sheets -- butter each layer.  Each sheet will be an inch or so short, so stagger the sheets from corner to corner to cover the whole pan.  Spread 1 c. of the walnut mixture.  Repeat 8 sheets and walnut mixture twice.  You will end up with 4 layers of nuts.

Layer the remaining half sheets on top -- butter each layer.  Brush the top with the remaining butter.  Trim the edges off. Cut halfway through the layers diagonally.  (Note: Do NOT cut from corner to corner.) This is done now since it will be very fragile after it's been baked.

Bake 1 hour or until golden brown.  15 minutes before the baklava should be done, mix 1 c. sugar, water, and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  Cook sauce over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the honey and vanilla, and stir until well blended.  Remove the baklava from the oven and finish cutting through the layers  Pour the sauce over the hot baklava.

Cool.  Let it sit for at least 24 hours (lightly covered -- but not in the refrigerator) -- longer if you can stand it!  The longer you let the baklava sit, the better it gets.  After I have everything gathered and the nut mixture done, I can assemble the baklava in about 45 minutes.  Each pan makes 35-45 nice pieces depending on how close your cuts are.  

Remember that the frozen phyllo dough needs to thaw in the refrigerator for 6 hours.  If you thaw it at room temperature, the sheets of phyllo dough will stick together.  I have found that you can melt all of the butter and keep it in a crock pot on low so you don't have to melt butter as you go.

Friday, December 26, 2008

smoked salmon tartare

4 oz. pre-sliced smoked salmon
2 T. capers, drained and deep-fried
2 T. shallot finely minced
1 lemon, juiced
1 T. italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 T. dijon mustard
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh hothouse cucumber, sliced in 1/4-inch slices

Finely mince the smoked salmon and plac en a a chilled bowl.  Add the shallot, lemon juice, parsley, dijon mustard, and olive oil and mix to combine.  Place a small dollop on each cucumber slice and sprinkle with fried capers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

gigi's buttermilk fudge

1 c. buttermilk
1 t. baking soda
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 T. white Karo syrup

Put everything in a large, tall pot.  Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage (234 degrees).  Put the pan in a sink with an inch of water.  After it cools a little, beat it and if you want to, add a pinch of vanilla and/or cream.  Pour into a buttered Pyrex dish.

[edited to add:  I have found the beating to be key to this fudge getting to the right consistency to be fudge and not caramel.  We ended up putting it back into the Kitchenaid mixer with the whisk attachment and going at it for quite awhile before putting it back into the buttered dish.  You must get the air into the mix for it to be the right texture.]

A double batch fits nicely into a 13 x 9-inch dish.

[I always add a prayer at the end that I actually cooked it to the right stage!]

NOTE:  This is named "Gigi's" because it is my mother-in-law's recipe and she is called "Gigi" by her grandchildren.  This is not the recipe for another "Gigi's Fudge".

fresh fruit with mint-balsamic tea

This is my all-time favorite fruit salad.  It came from a Southern Living magazine years ago.

Serve this versatile compote on lettuce leaves as a salad, in a large bowl for a brunch or breakfast buffet, or in individual dishes as a dessert.

1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. sugar 
1 regular-size tea bag
1/2 c. loosely packed fresh mint springs 
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 c. cubed fresh pineapple
1 c. cubed honeydew
1 c. cubed cantaloupe
1 c. orange sections
1 c. fresh blueberries

Combine water and sugar in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil.  Add tea bag and mint; remove from heat, and let steep 5 minutes.  Remove tea bag; stir in balsamic vinegar, and let stand 5 minutes.

Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding mint.  Add fruit, stirring gently to coat.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour.  Yield: 5 cups.

Per serving:  Calories 158, Fat 0.7 g, cholesterol 0 mg, sodium 11 mg, carbohydrate 40.1 g, fiber 5.7 g, protein 1.4 g.

(To reduce calories, you can use 6 packets of splenda in the place of the sugar to reduce calories -- still tastes great. Just wait until after the tea has brewed before adding the splenda.  Calories will be 60 for 1 cup.)

shrimp and grits

I received this recipe from a friend who uses it from the Lady and Sons cookbook.

2 strips bacon
1/4 c. onions, diced
2 c. uncooked small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. ketchup
1 t. worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 - 2 c. water
salt and pepper
shredded cheese
diced green onions
diced tomatoes

Fry bacon, remove pieces and set aside.  Saute onions in the bacon drippings until soft.  Add shrimp and stir 1-2 minutes.  Stir in flour until the shrimp is coated.  Add ketchup and worcestershire sauce and slowly stir in the water until it is at your preferred consistency for gravy.

Cook grits separately per package directions.  

Place grits on plate and drizzle shrimp mixture on top.  Add cheese, onions and tomatoes.

You may also cook the tomatoes with the onions and have them as part of your gravy.

butterscotch crispies

This is another traditional Christmas cookie from my husband's family.

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter
2 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda

Cream shortening, butter and sugar; beat eggs in one at a time; sift (or mix) dry ingredients and then add to creamed mixture.  Roll into teaspoon sized balls and bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.   Yield: about 5 dozen.

molasses cookies

These are a Christmas tradition in my husband's family.

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses

Cream shortening, sugar and molasses.  Beat in egg.  Sift all other ingredient (except sugar) and then add to the creamed mixture.  Roll into teaspoon sized balls and roll in sugar then bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

gigi's german chocolate pie

1 package Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
1/4 c. margarine or butter
1 large can evaporated milk
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 T. corn starch
1/8 t. salt
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 9-inch pie crust
1 1/3 c. coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.  Mix sugar, corn starch and salt in medium bowl.  Beat eggs and vanilla in small bowl.  Gradually add chocolate mixture to egg mixture.  Add sugar mixture.  Put in crust.  Mix coconut and pecans then sprinkle on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minute.  Let cool at least 4 hours.  Tastes great cold!

Monday, December 1, 2008

oatmeal bars

These bars are a great alternative to many similar prepackaged products and can be frozen for future use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3 c. whole oats
2/3 c. all-purpose flour (or 1/3 whole wheat and 1/3 white)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. wheat germ
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. applesauce
1 egg, beaten
3 T. orange juice or water
1 t. vanilla extract

Combine oatmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, wheat germ and cinnamon together in a large bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine honey, oil, egg, orange juice (or water), applesauce, vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and mix again. Using a spatula, press mixture firmly onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet, forming one large rectangle about 1/3-inch thick (I usually only use about 2/3 of the sheet). Smooth the edges with the edge of the spatula. Bake at 350 degree for 12-15 minutes, until light brown and firm. Remove from oven and cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the large rectangle into smaller 1 1/2-inch by 3 1/2-inch rectangles.

[adapted from the Laptop Lunch User's Guide]