Spring Roll Peanut Sauce

I am practicing making Vietnamese and Thai Spring Rolls and once I’ve got it truly mastered, I’ll add the recipe. But I have to share this Peanut Dipping Sauce now, because it is just so good.

We’ve been using it as a dipping sauce for baby cucumbers and carrot sticks and it is absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients:

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar would probably be fine, too)
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 pieces of palm sugar (about 2 1/2 Tbsp) or 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – both are fine)
Warm water as needed

In a large mortar and pestle, start by smashing the garlic cloves. Add vinegar, soy suce and palm sugar, and stir, crushing the palm sugar until it’s mostly broken down. Or just add the brown sugar.

Add sesame oil and peanut butter and mix in the mortar bowl, until smooth and creamy. Add warm water a teaspoon at a time until the consistency is a thick but smooth sauce. Check flavorings and add a little soy sauce or sesame oil if it’s tasting too sweet.

Can keep refrigerated for a week. You may need to add a little more warm water to loosen it up after it’s been in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle, you can always crush the garlic and just mix everything in a small bowl.

Palm sugar adds a wonderful flavor, but if you can’t get it, just use a little less brown sugar. (Brown sugar is sweeter than palm sugar.)

Easiest Vinaigrette

I made this dressing yesterday for Christmas lunch and realized that I had to really hunt for it. So I decided to make it a bit easier to find. If you don’t have fish sauce, you can definitely make it without.  But if you get a chance – definitely try it – the flavor it adds to dishes is amazing.

1 tsp crushed garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 tsp Fish Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To make vinaigrette, add all ingredients to a mason jar, starting with 1 tsp of the fish sauce. Close with lid and shake like crazy until well blended. Taste and add salt, pepper or fish sauce as needed.

Clotted Cream

Sarah Tevendale on Pixabay

I’ve always loved reading about clotted cream and a couple of years ago, I found a recipe by Chef John on allrecipes.com.

So simple – and yet it has a rich, complex flavor that is truly unique.  It keeps for several days covered in the fridge.

Crazy simple ingredients – actually one  ingredient:

4 cups heavy cream  (Try to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream which won’t work as well.)

Heat oven to 175 degrees.  Pour cream into a ceramic or glass dish.  An 8 or 9″ square pan is fine.  You want the cream to be between 1.5 and 2″ deep.

Bake overnight or for at least 12 hours.  Left uncovered, the cream will develop a fairly thick, brown-spotted top, with the softer cream below.  If you want less brown bits, cover the pan with foil for the first 6 hours or so, then remove the foil for the last several hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Refrigerate until it’s nice and cold.

Poke a small hole in one corner and carefully pour off the liquid under the cream.  Save the liquid – it is delicious to bake with!  (I always use it if I am making scones or biscuits.)

Remove the cream into a bowl and stir very gently to break it up.  You can add a bit of the liquid back if it seems too dry to you.

Serve on biscuits or scones with a dollop of jam or a swirl of honey.  It is sooo good!

Sweet Potato Stuffed BBQ Chicken

sweet-potato-bbq-chickenI am always a little leery about fusion recipes (mixing flavors of one style of cooking with another.) I’ve had a few of those that just didn’t mesh well. This recipe isn’t one of them!

Yes, you’re mixing some very Southern flavors with Mexican flavors, but in this case they are amazing. After one bite, I couldn’t stop smiling. This recipe is based on one from MelsKitchenCafe.com. Mel is an amazing cook and her food is always delicious.

The Lime Cilantro dressing in this recipe seems (even to me) to have a million ingredients, but it is totally worth it!

(The photo shows mostly the corn and  black bean salad, with the Lime Cilantro dressing, but you’ll have to trust me, underneath it all are sweet potatoes, chicken and BBQ sauce!)

INGREDIENTS

4-6 sweet potatoes, washed and halved
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used meat from a Costco roast chicken)
1 to 2 cups BBQ sauce (I used Ray’s original)

CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD

1 can (15-ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn kernels, frozen
1/2 cup rough chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

TOPPINGS:

Shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)
Tortilla chips (optional – I didn’t use)
Chopped tomatoes (optional – I didn’t use)
Cilantro Lime Dressing – recipe follows

Poke sweet potatoes with a fork several times. Then put cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 35-40 minutes at 425 degrees, or until super soft when poked with a fork. The sugars in the sweet potato will start to caramelize. Check and bake a little longer if they aren’t completely soft.

Warm up the chicken and BBQ sauce in a sauce pan until warmed through.

Mix the corn and bean salad ingredients in a bowl, and let sit for several minutes, to let the corn thaw.

Make Cilantro Lime Dressing. (recipe below)

Eat several spoonsful of the Cilantro Lime dressing until you remind yourself that you need some for supper.

To serve, scoop out sweet potato flesh, and place in a bowl. Top with BBQ chicken, corn and black bean salad. Drizzle generously with the Cilantro Lime Dressing and top with a little cheese and the other optional ingredients. (I didn’t use the chips or tomatoes and didn’t miss them at all.)

Delicious!! For a vegetarian version, skip the chicken and just use a little BBQ sauce on the sweet potato.

Cilantro Lime Dressing Ingredients

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup salsa verde (I used a mild green chili sauce that was great, too.)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 1 medium lime)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp onion powder
Pinch of dried dill weed (about 1/8 teaspoon)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 green onion, white and green parts coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a medium pitcher (One that will hold 4-5 cups) and buzz well with an immersion blender. Or you can use a blender. Will keep for several days and is soooo good!

Vegan Parmesan

Even if you aren’t vegan, you’ll flip over this vegan parmesan recipe from Minimalist Baker.  It’s  so delicious I can’t stay away from it – I’ve literally been stealing spoonsful from the container!  It’s super easy to make and keeps for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long.

3/4 raw cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I used Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast.)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Buzz all in a food processor until mixture is in small crumbles. Be careful not to overprocess, or you’ll end up with cashew butter.

This is wonderful in all the places you might use Parmesan, but is also tasty on top of any veggies.  Enjoy!

Ina’s Iceberg Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

blue-cheese

Beautiful Blue Cheese by PDPhotos on Pixabay.

I made this for Christmas Morning brunch and it was delicious. Maybe my favorite blue cheese dressing ever.

For the dressing:

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

4 tender inside celery stalks, trimmed and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
6 radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
5 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts sliced

1 large head iceberg lettuce, wilted outer leaves removed and sliced into 1″ layers
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Fleur de sel

Buzz the dressing ingredients with a buzzwand (sorry, immersion blender) in a medium pitcher until creamy and smooth.

Mix the celery, radishes and scallions in a small bowl.

For each serving, lay a slice of iceberg lettuce on a salad plate. Top with the celery mixture and pour dressing over. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and a bit of fleur de sel.

Serve immediately. The radishes and scallions add a lovely spicy bite to the creamy, fresh salad.  You might want to halve the slices if your family are not big salad eaters.

Rich Custard for Maya (with Variations)

This recipe, which seems too simple to be so delicious, has always been an integral part of my Strawberry Trifle recipe. But my daughter Maya asked me to list it separately, so it’s easier and quicker to find. So here you go, Maya!  

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 cups whole milk
4 eggs, well beaten in a medium sized bowl
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla

Blend sugar, salt, cornstarch and whole milk in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once the custard reaches the boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup to the eggs in the bowl, stirring vigorously so the eggs don’t cook. Add another cup of milk mix to the eggs, and continue stirring.

Return the whole thing to the saucepan and put back on medium/low heat. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the custard is just starting to bubble a little. Don’t leave it for a second at this point or it will curdle. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. Let cool before adding to trifle dish.  It will thicken as it cools

This recipe also makes a lovely pouring custard. Just add another cup of milk. We don’t eat pouring custard much in the US, but it’s delicious dessert sauce. Just a bowl of fresh fruit with pouring custard poured over – simple and wonderful.

This Vanilla custard is delicious as part of a Strawberry Trifle.  

Variation #1  Mango Trifle with Cardamom Custard 

Variation #2 for Chocolate Custard:  skip the Vanilla, add a generous 1/3 cup cocoa to the sugar and cornstarch, and pour in a little of the milk. Stir well until the cocoa is completely mixed in.  We didn’t increase the sugar and it tasted fine.   See my Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.

 

 

Ali’s Slow-cooked Rustic Pasta Sauce

Ali brought this over the other night and Kumy and I had it over pasta with a little fresh parmesan. It was soooo good. Ali said it’s fairly time-consuming, but for this sauce it is totally worth it!

1 lb. bulk hot italian sausage (or use sweet if you don’t like things too spicy)
little water
1 red onion, diced
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
1/2 glass dry white wine
1 14 oz can whole San Marzano Tomatoes with liquid
1 can tomato paste
4″ rind of parmesan cheese, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
salt & pepper to taste  (1 tsp and 1/2 tsp?)
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 cup chicken stock

In a good sized frying pan, cook sausage in a little water, stirring often. Once cooked through, remove from pan and add onion. Saute onion until translucent. Add the garlic and stir a minute more, then add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan.

Crush the whole tomatoes with your hand to break them up and cook them down until the liquid has reduced.

Add tomato paste, salt and pepper, bay leaves, cheese rind and anchovy paste. Cook down until quite thick.

Add reserved sausage meat and one cup chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 2 hours. You can add more chicken stock if it’s getting too thick.

It has this ridiculously rich, complex flavor that is just amazing!!

Caitlin’s Supreme Pesto

Pesto

My friend Caitlin is a wonderful cook – and she shared her great Pesto recipe with me a while back.

I love how flexible it is and how simple it is to make! The ridiculous cost of Pine Nuts has kept me from making traditional Pesto, so I love this version – especially with the combination of basil and cilantro.

 

Ingredients

1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh cilantro
4 cloves garlic
1 cup of mixed nuts (any nuts)
1/2 to 1 cup olive oil (depending on the nuts)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
big pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Put everything in the food processor and blend until you get the consistency you like. Start with a half cup oil, and add more until you get a smooth consistency. You can also add more salt to taste.

Caitie’s note says: Put on everything and enjoy!

Warm Bourbon Sauce

This is a wonderfully boozy sauce that we love on Bread Pudding.  It’s from Emeril’s Louisiana Real and Rustic Cookbook.

Ingredients

4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
2 egg yolks, beaten in a small bowl

Melt the butter in a double boiler. Add sugar and whisk to dissolve. Add bourbon and whisk for a minute or two.  Waft the steam up and when you no longer get a blast of alcohol (you’ll still get a little bit) remove from heat.

Drizzle in several spoonfuls of the hot syrup into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return all to the pan, and continue whisking until the sauce is pal and slightly thickened. Serve immediately.

I store any leftover sauce in a mason jar, which I reheat by placing back in simmering water. If the sauce is too thick add a few drops of water.