The Best Blender Salsa

Easy Blender Salsa
• 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
• 1-10 oz. can original Rotel (if you can find the new fire roasted Rotel I like to use that)
• 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
• 1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded or not depending on how spicy you like it
• 1 tsp. honey
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 – 2 handfuls of washed cilantro, roughly chopped
• juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients in the food processor or blender. Pulse to combine for 30 seconds or until all the ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with chips or favorite dishes.This salsa gets better when it can sit in the refrigerator overnight or even a day or two. It gets better with age.

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Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

The Litchfield County area of Connecticut is beautiful, and I happen to have spent a lot of time there this winter and spring for 2 reasons; 1) it’s where I ride. Although it’s always a full-day event for me as it’s about an hour an 10 minutes drive to get there, it’s worth it for the amazing trainer I have. She won the title of National Reigning Horse Association’s Rookie Professional World Championship in 2008 at the age of 42 only two years after she started training for it, or even riding western for that matter (she was an English hunter jumper prior to the switch), and 2) it’s where my never-ending hunt for the perfect farm has taken me to, so I am constantly searching the latest real estate listing in the area.

But I digress.

There is a terrific bakery in the small town of Kent called the Millstone Cafe and Bakery. They always have the most delicious peanut butter sandwich cookies, and inevitably I end up in there for a cup of coffee and one of those cookies for the ride home. I’m not normally a huge fan of peanut butter cookies, but the addition of the peanut buttery/buttercreamy filling really made the difference for me. I decided I needed to try and replicate them.

I came across a few recipes in my internet searching, but the one on We are Not Martha that was adapted from Tom Collicchio’s ‘Wichcraft cookbook. Being a huge Tom and Top Chef fan, I decided this one looked pretty good to me. I did make a few changes from their recipe in the icing. I wanted more of a peanut buttercream icing so I reduced the amount of peanut butter and increased the amount of butter. Also, when a recipe doesn’t specify light or dark brown sugar but just calls for “brown sugar”, I’ll think about it a bit – whether the recipe can stand up to the stronger taste of dark brown or needs the more delicate light brown – and usually end up using about 1/2 of each combined together and call it a day, which is what I did for this recipe.

No let me say right now that I made a double recipe of these cookies and cut them with a 3″ cutter. At that size they truly made a meal. When I make them again I will probably use something closer to a 1-1/2″ cutter so you can actually eat one in a sitting and not have to stage it throughout the day. I am embarrassed to say that I ate more than my fair share of this batch. Also, the toasted oats are the KEY to this cookie and you do not want to miss this step. It’s one of those cooking “aha moments” when you wonder why you’ve never seen a recipe that calls for it or thought of it yourself because it tastes so amazing and adds so much more flavor to the cookie.

I also forgot to photograph most of the steps in this process, which goes to show how much I really was taking a blogging vacation. None of the steps are hard, but if you want good photos click the link to the blog I adapted the recipe from – she’s got some good photos.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Recipe adapted from We are Not Martha who adapted it from Tom Colicchio’s ‘witchcraft book.

(makes 12 or more, depending on the size you make – see note above)

  • 1/2 C (1 stick) plus 4 T butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 recipe for peanut butter filling (below)

(Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the 4 T of butter. When it’s melted, pour in the oats and stir for about 5-7 minutes, until browned and toasted. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and when the oats are done toasting, pour them on the parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine 1 stick butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar with the paddle attachment. Add peanut butter and continue mixing until well-combined. And delicious looking. Now, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add in the oats, too, and combine. But don’t mix too much or the oats will break.

Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper and put another piece of parchment paper over the top. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin, until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and even. Slide the dough onto the back of a cookie sheet and stick in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.

When the dough is done chilling, place it on the counter and take the top sheet of parchment paper off. Using a 2-inch round (or smaller; see note above)  cookie cutter (or biscuit cutter), cut an even number of  cookies out of your dough. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place cookies about 1 inch apart on sheets. You can re-roll the scraps once, refrigerate the dough again, and cut out some more cookies with the scrap dough as well.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, at 350 degrees. Transfer the cookies to wire racks so they can cool completely. Note that these cookies are very delicate when they are hot so handle them with care. They do get a little easier to handle once they cool off.

Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fill a pastry bag (or ziplock bag with the corner tip cut) with the peanut butter filling. Flip every other cookie over and fill the cookies with the bottom facing up. Put the other cookie on top and admire the beautiful sandwich you have created.


    Pipe the icing onto the cookies that you have placed top down on the rack.

    Top with the remaining cookies, face up. to complete the sandwich.

    I found that because of the butter in the icing that these cookies were best kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but take them out of the fridge 5 or 10 minutes before serving.


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    Lasagna Soup

    I made this soup a few weeks ago. We had a very mild early spring followed by some chilly, raw days. I knew once the heat of summer came my interest in soup would fade until fall, so I took advantage of the day and made this recipe. It was easy to put together, and it really tasted just like lasagna in soup form. I will definitely be saving this recipe to make again.

    I forgot to pick up basil at the grocery, so I omitted it when I made it. Try not to be like me – remember the basil. It tasted great without it though, but I can imagine that extra fresh taste of basil would have been great.

    I also did as they suggested and cooked the pasta separately to prevent the leftovers from getting mushy. I froze the leftovers with a separate baggie of cooked noodles and another bag of cheesy yum; both taped to the top of the soup container with a label.

    Source: I found the recipe via Pinterest on A Farmgirl Dabbles blog, who said it was adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, as seen in the February-April 2011 edition of At Home with Kowalski’s magazine.

    Lasagna Soup

    Servings: 8

    Ingredients

    for the soup:
    2 tsp. olive oil
    1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage
    3 c. chopped onions
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tsp. dried oregano
    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    2 T. tomato paste
    1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
    2 bay leaves
    6 c. chicken stock
    8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta
    1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
    salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    for the cheesy yum:
    8 oz. ricotta
    1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
    1/4 tsp. salt
    pinch of freshly ground pepper

    2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

    Preparation

    Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.


    Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth. You may even want to consider cooking the noodles separately, and then adding some to individual bowls before ladling the soup over them. This would be an especially smart move if you are anticipating any leftovers. Right before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


    While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.


    To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl and sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top. If you’ve pre-cooked the pasta, place some in the bowl now, and then ladle the soup over them. You can sprinkle a little mozzarella on top of the soup if you would like. Serve hot with a good crusty bread.





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    Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream & Chocolate Ganache

    My friend Susan told me about some cupcakes she’d had recently. Chocolate cake with coconut frosting and a chocolate glaze. She knows me well enough to know that I would try and re-create them on my own. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to bring some over to her before I left for Texas to see if I’d done the originals justice.

    I’m not going to give a lot of details on the recipes as they are pretty straightforward. I chose this devil’s food cake recipe because I’ve used it many times and it consistently delivers a moist, tender, chocolaty tasting cake. You will find details on making the coconut buttercream icing in this previous post. My coconut cake is one of my favorite cakes, but this combination of the devil’s food cake with the coconut buttercream and the chocolate ganache icing really was delicious.

    Devil's Food Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache

    Devil’s Food Cake

    Serves 12.

    Originally published July 1, 1994 in Cook’s Illustrated. Adjusted slightly by Crafty Farm Girl, April, 2012.

    While developing our devil’s food layer cake recipe we found very little difference between cakes baked with standard American cocoa and “Dutched” cocoa. We chose water over milk or buttermilk to moisten our cake batter, discovering that cakes made with dairy had a more muted chocolate flavor.

    This cake’s texture is both soft and dense, similar to chocolate pound cake, only softer and lighter. Its flavor is intensely chocolate, yet pleasantly sweet. The substantial coffee-flavored buttercream stands up to the cake’s dense texture and balances the rich chocolate flavor.

    Ingredients

    * 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
    * 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder , or instant coffee
    * 1 cup boiling water
    * 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    * 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
    * 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
    * 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    * 1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1/2 teaspoon table salt

    Instructions

    For the cupcakes: Adjust oven rack to lower middle and upper middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 mini cupcake pans with paper liners.

    Mix cocoa and instant coffee in small bowl; add boiling water and mix until smooth. Cool to room temperature, then stir in vanilla.

    Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer set at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Gradually sprinkle in sugar; beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.

    Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. With mixer on lowest speed, add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to batter, followed immediately by about 1/3 of cocoa mixture; mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into batter. Repeat process twice more. When batter appears blended, stop mixer and scrape bowl sides with rubber spatula. Return mixer to low speed; beat until batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds longer.

    Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners, filling about 3/4 full. Bake until they feel firm in center when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean or with just a crumb or two adhering, 6-8 minutes. Tranfer pans to wire racks; cool for 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and place on wire rack.


    Coconut Buttercream Icing

    • 4 large egg whites
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • pinch table salt
    • 1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks), each stick cut into 6 pieces, softened, but still cool
    • 1/4 cup cream of coconut
    • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2-inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

    Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and whites are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute.


    Chocolate Ganache

    Original recipe from Martha Stewart Living.

    YieldMakes 3/4 cup ganache

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 3-1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (preferably 70 percent cacao)
    • 1/2-ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
    Directions
    Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, then whisk mixture until smooth. Let cool a bit, stirring often, as if it is too warm it will melt the buttercream icing, but don’t let it get too cool or it will be too thick.

    Holding cupcakes by their liners, carefully dip icing into ganache and gently shake extra off. Replace cupcake on wire rack and let cool.


    Devil's Food Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache


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    I’m Mad

    Few things make me angry, but don’t waste my money and don’t waste my time. Combine the two together and you’ll make me really mad.

    Well, the pickle recipe that I tried 2 weeks ago managed to do just that.

    I followed the recipe exactly. I made 6 pint jars and 2 half pint jars of pickles with the recipe. And this is what I had to do with them.

    I had to drain all the jars out and throw the pickles away.

    They were so incredibly, unbelievably salty they were inedible. First poor Evan tried them. He screwed up his face and bravely said “They’re a little salty, mom.” I took a bite and I literally couldn’t even swallow it. Jim tried them the next day and had the same reaction I did.

    Into the garbage they all went.

    Pounds of pickling cucumbers, lots of spices, and hours of my time, all right into the garbage.

    Now if this had been my first attempt at canning I might chalk it up to inexperience, but I’ve been canning since I was in my 20’s.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d share my frustration with you all. Thankfully I canned another batch with a different recipe the next week. Hopefully I’ll have better results.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was the Refrigerator Dill recipe out of this book.


    It has great reviews at Amazon, so maybe it’s just me.

    Homemade Waffle Cones with Whipped Cream, Berries & Salted Caramel Sauce

    For some strange and unknown reason an issue of New York Weddings showed up in our mailbox the other day addressed to Amanda. Like most girls of 22, she’s already busy planning her perfect dream wedding on Pinterest, even though she’s not even engaged. And I happily pin things to my own Pinterest board entitled “Amanda’s Dream Barn Wedding”. I thought I’d send the magazine down to her at school, but was thumbing through it at dinner last night and they had some lovely food ideas in there. One of them was a waffle cone with whipped cream and berries and a salted caramel sauce. Wow. Did that look delicious.

    I Googled the recipe and came up blank, but I did get a recipe for salted caramel sauce. Then I surfed around some more and discovered what seemed to be a good waffle cone maker that was currently on the market, and the rest I didn’t need a recipe for.

    Now I realize not everyone is as stupid as impulsive as I am to will run right down to their nearest Kohl’s to buy a waffle cone maker, but I can always justify these things in my head with 4 kids and a bit of a farm stand/market here at my house. I’ll find a way for the thing to pay for itself. I got the Chef’s Choice Waffle Cone Maker and it worked like a dream. I used the recipe they had right in their instruction book, using the recipe they said made a lighter and more delicate cone.

    This recipe I’m sure would be just as tasty with store-bought waffle cones.

    Salted caramel coulis

    Recipe from Epicurious, reprinted from Bon Appetit, May 2008

    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt

    Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Add heavy whipping cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve.


    Remove from heat. Stir in unsalted butter and fleur de sel or coarse salt. Transfer caramel to small pitcher or bowl. Cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Stir over low heat just until warm enough to pour before using.

    Elegant Wafer Cones

    Recipe from Chef’s Choice

    This batter makes a delicate wafer cone. Cake flour ensures the best results. If you use all-purpose flour, you may need to add a small amount of additional oil to the recipe.

    Yield: About 8 cones (I got 7)

    • 2 whole eggs
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tbsp.vegetable oil
    • 1 cup cake flour
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

    Preheat the WaffleCone Express™. Start with Color Control setting of 2 1/2 to 3, but change as necessary for best results.

    Beat the eggs and salt in a small bowl with a fork until well blended. Beat in the sugar and beat until sugar is incorporated and the eggs have lightened in color slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in the oil. Add the cake flour and stir slowly until all flour is moistened. Beat another 15 seconds to incorporate the flour and remove all lumps. Stir in the vanilla extract.

    Spoon 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of batter in the center of the iron. Bake for 1 minute then check for proper color. Cook and additional 5 to 10 seconds if necessary.


    Quickly remove the waffle from the WaffleCone Express™ onto a clean cloth towel. If the waffle is too hot to handle with your bare hands, use the cloth to help lift and roll the waffle around the cone form. Hold the cone a few seconds to set its shape then place on a wire rack to cool.


    To finish the Waffles

    • Mixed fresh berries (I used blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries)
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups whipping cream
    • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Wash the berries and dry on paper towels. Core and slice strawberries. Add all berries to a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Toss gently to coat and refrigerate until ready to assemble.


    When you are ready to assemble the cones, whip the cream to fairly stiff peaks, adding confectioner’s sugar to taste, and vanilla extract. (I put my whipped cream in a pastry bag with a big star tip, but you can just spoon it into the cone if you’d prefer.)

    Pipe or spoon whipped cream along the bottom of the cone, "spilling" a bit out onto the plate.


    Spoon fresh berries into cone.


    Drizzle cone, fruit and whipped cream with the salted caramel sauce.


    This is an impressive looking dessert that was nice and light, and although it looks complicated, it really wasn’t hard to make – especially if you skip the homemade waffle cones!


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    Cherry-Almond Focaccia

    This recipe was on the cover of Bon Appetit this month, and I thought it looked delicious. A sweet dough with tart cherries, almonds, raw sugar and a syrup made from the cherry juice on top. Yummm. I made the dough on Friday night and finished the recipe on Saturday morning. Everyone thought it was delicious, from kids to adults. I’m thinking of making another batch to bring to Easter dinner at my dads.

    Cherry-Almond Focaccia

    Recipe from the April, 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. 

    Serves 16

    Ingredients
    Master Sweet Dough
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    2 cups drained pitted tart cherries in light syrup (such as Morello) plus 1 cup syrup (from a 24–28-ounce jar)*
    3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    3/4 cup sliced almonds (with or without skins)
    1/3 cup raw sugar

    *Tart cherries in light syrup can be found at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets and sahadis.com.

    Preparation
    Punch down dough. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet (about 16×12 inches) with 1 Tbsp. oil. Press dough evenly into pan, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel; let rise in a warm, draft-free area until puffed but not doubled in size, 45–50 minutes.


    Meanwhile, bring cherry syrup and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool completely.


    Arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400°. Using your fingertips, press dimples all over dough surface. Drizzle dough with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Scatter cherries over, pressing them gently into dough.


    Drizzle reduced syrup over, allowing it to pool into nooks and crannies. Sprinkle almonds over, then raw sugar. Let rise until dough is doubled in size, 15–20 minutes.


    Bake until focaccia is golden brown, 20–23 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.



    Master Sweet Dough

    Makes 1 pound, 10 ounces dough

    Recipe from the April, 2012 Bon Appetit

    Ingredients

    • 2/3 cup whole milk
    • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
    • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature
    • 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted

    Preparation

    Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave until an instant-read thermometer registers 110°–115°. Transfer milk to a 2-cup measuring cup; stir in 1 Tbsp. sugar. Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs; whisk until smooth.

    Combine remaining 4 Tbsp. sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (If making Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls, scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. If making Apricot-Anise Tarts, add aniseed.) Add milk mixture. With mixer running, add 1/2 cup room-temperature butter, 1 piece at a time, blending well between additions. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Knead on medium-high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

    Brush a medium bowl with some melted butter; place dough in bowl. Brush top of dough with remaining melted butter; cover with plastic wrap. Do Ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic; chill.

    Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been refrigerated).

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    Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

    Remember those Preserved Lemons I made just before going away on vacation? Well, they’re ready now!


    This is the recipe I made them specifically for, so last night I made it for Jim and my friend Cyrena. (I don’t eat shellfish, so I just got to enjoy the beauty of the dish.) The recipe came out of the book Cooking My Way Back Home by by Mitchell Rosenthal which is an inspiring new cookbook by the chef/owner of the San Francisco restaurants Town Hall, Anchor and Hope, and Salt House.


    I love to cook for Cyrena because she makes a lot of what I call “yummy noises”. A true appreciator of food is always a joy to cook for, and she made a lot of yummy noises over this dish. I almost took a picture of her chasing the last grain of couscous around the plate and then licking the plate clean.

    I’m not going to lie and say this isn’t a complicated recipe. It’s not something you’re going to throw together in 30 minutes, and not something you’re likely to make on a school/work weeknight (unless you’re an idiot, like me). That said, it is a lovely and impressive dish and one that should be made on a weekend or for your next dinner party. You could even serve it in miniature as an appetizer portion (maybe with one or two scallops and small portions of couscous and fennel salad).

    I had every intention of making my own shrimp stock, but I couldn’t find shrimp with their head’s on, which is what the recipe called for. In the end I purchased frozen fish stock, which I figured was close enough, but use shrimp (home made or purchased) stock if you can. I also didn’t have any fresh dill for the couscous, so I used a few shakes of dried. Prepare all of your ingredients prior to cooking as things come together pretty quickly once you start cooking and you won’t have time to stop and chop vegetables in the middle of cooking.

    Jim felt a little short-changed with just 3 scallops for his meal, so you  might want to up your scallop count if you’re serving hungry men.

    Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

    Curry Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons curry powder
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1/2 carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
    • 1/2 celery stalk, sliced
    • 1/2 leek, white and tender green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
    • 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 green onion, white and tender green parts, sliced
    • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
    • 1/3 cup miring
    • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
    • 2 cups Shrimp Stock
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

    Spiced Couscous

    • 1-3/4 cups (1/2 pound) Israeli couscous
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon canola oil
    • 1/3 cup fennel, finely diced
    • 1/4 cup finely diced preserved lemon
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (I didn’t have any fresh dill so I used a few shakes of dried dill)
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 5 ounces mustard greens, trimmed, parboiled for 3 to 5 minutes, drained, squeezed dry, and coarsely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    Fennel salad

    • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper

    2 pounds dry-packed scallops

    Canola oil, for sautéeing

    To make the sauce, in a small, dry frying pan, toast the curry powder over medium heat, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leek, ginger,and green onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the curry powder, turn down the heat to low, add the vinegar, and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until the vinegar evaporates, then add the mirin and simmer for 2 minutes.


    Add the vermouth and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the mixture reduces slightly and the flavors are well blended. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and then cook for a few more minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then return to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until fully incorporated. When done, remove from the heat and keep warm.


    to prepare the couscous, cook the couscous according to the package directions, then toss with the olive oil and set aside. Rinse off the prepared lemons in cold water (I used about 1-1/2 to get 1/4 cup), and using a knife, scrape away and discard the pulp. I also scraped away the very top layer of the white inside as it seemed a little spongy and unappetizing. Dice the lemon finely. In a large sauté pan, heat the canola oil over low heat. Add the fennel and preserved lemon and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft. Add the dill and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add the prepared couscous to the fennel mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat.


    Season couscous with 1 teaspoon salt and the mustard greens. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set the sauté pan aside for finishing up just before serving.


    to prepare the salad, in a bowl, combine the fennel, oil, and lemon juice and toss to coat the fennel evenly. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.


    to cook the scallops, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add a thin layer of oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until nicely caramelized on the exterior and medium-rare at the center.


    While the scallops are cooking, finish the couscous. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and re-heat the couscous over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes. When the couscous is heated through, add the butter and stir gently until melted and evenly distributed.

    To serve, divide the couscous among individual plates. Arrange some of the fennel salad and 3 scallops on top of each serving. Pour some sauce around the edge of the couscous on each plate, then drizzle some on top of each scallop.


    Serve immediately.


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    Famous Icebox Cake

    This cake is what most people know as Famous Chocolate Wafer Cake, made by sandwiching Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies in whipped cream and letting it sit for a few hours. I had never had this cake until my father married my stepmother, Donna. After that, it became the featured birthday cake at every household celebration. I don’t know how somebody couldn’t like this cake. It’s not too heavy, it’s chocolate and whipped cream together, it’s easy to make, and it’s delicious. I made one this week just to show my family how much I loved them.

    While my stepmom always makes this cake free-form by stacking them vertically in rows, I decided to make mine inside a large loaf pan that was 10″ x 5″, but you can use any size you have on hand. You also don’t have to make it into a loaf shape, but can stack them into any pan you have. If you surf the internet you’ll see all kinds of variations of this cake, so you can get as creative as you’d like.

    Famous Icebox Cake

    2 boxes Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies (you’ll have extra)
    4 cups whipping cream (you may need more, depending on the size of the cake you make)
    1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (or to taste)
    1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Whip the cream with sugar and vanilla to firm peaks. Line pan with plastic wrap, overlapping edges so that the plastic wrap hangs out over the sides of the pan on all sides. Line bottom and sides of pan with whipped cream covered cookies, icing both sides.


    Start stacking cookies with whipped cream on one side, vertically, with the whipped cream side facing the same direction on each cookie. Continue stacking cookies and whipped cream until you fill the pan.


    I filled in the spaces between the stacks with additional whipped cream and then put a final layer of cookies on the top (bottom) of the came. Ice this with a thin layer of whipped cream, lay the edges of the plastic wrap over the cake and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.


    I used a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip because it’s a fast and easy way to make the cake look extra special You certainly don’t have to use a pastry bag and can simply put a final layer of whipped cream around the outside of the cake using a large offset spatula like my stepmom always does.


    Because of the fresh whipped cream, this cake is best within the first day of making that, after that it may get a little weepy and soggy, but it will still taste good!

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    Beef Short Ribs with Chile and Coconut

    I saw this recipe in Melissa Clark’s new cookbook and had to try it. I love the flavors of coconut and beef together. The fact that she added other favorite things to it like chiles and limes only made it more tempting. This was a pretty simple stew to put together, would be suitable for serving to impressed guests. If you can find the short ribs on sale, it won’t break the bank either.

    I served it with her recipe for Coconut Rice in the same book. Of course I forgot to copy that recipe to bring down to Mexico and couldn’t find it on an internet search, but there are plenty of other similar-style recipes available, or you can just serve it with a plain basmati rice.

    Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs

    Recipe from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.

    Serves 6

    The combination of beef and coconut milk makes this dish very rich and filled with a layer of good, flavorful fat. If you’d rather skim off the fat, make it several hours or even a few days ahead to give the fat time to rise to the surface, then skim off.

    To turn this into Coconut Curry Beef, substitute madras curry powder or garam masala for the chili powder.

    2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks
    1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
    1 teaspoon chili powder (you can use hot or mild)
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
    1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil, for searing
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    2 jalapenos, deveined and deseeded, if desired, and minced
    2 inches fresh ginger, grated
    1 small shallot, minced
    ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
    1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
    Freshly squeezed juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes, plus additional wedges for serving, if desired
    Chopped cilantro, for serving
    Chopped scallions, for serving

    Preheat the oven to 325oF. Season the beef all over with a teaspoon of the salt, the chili powder, and black pepper.


    In a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the beef and cook until browned all over, about 8 minutes.

      
    Add the garlic, jalapenos, ginger, shallot, and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until everything is fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes more.

      
    Stir in the coconut milk, lime zest, and juice, remaining salt, and pepper to taste with ½ cup water.


    Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook, turning the meat after 1 hour, until the beef is very tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.


    Serve garnished with the cilantro and scallions, and lime wedges on the side for serving if desired.


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