Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating Your Words 2010

When Jennifer, of Savor the Thyme, and Tangled Noodle announced this year's Eating Your Words Challenge, there was no question of which word I'd want to spell. You know I'm a shameless self-promoter. The only dilemma - the medium.

I briefly considered tangling some noodles of my own to write my name ... but that seemed like a lot of work. I did biscotti last year, and flirted with the idea of making some salted caramels at one point ... but that could prove dangerous. I'd likely devour them all before I even began to spell.

Given the impending holiday, I thought I'd let the Easter Bunny do my work for me. And, no, I won't be eating this word. This festive creation is composed of, wait for it, a mix of Cotton Candy and Watermelon flavored jelly beans. I can't think of a more revolting combination!

Diva family, beware ... I'll be pawning these off on you come Sunday. You've been warned.

If you'd like to play along and Eat Your Words, here are the rules:

1. Write, spell or draw using food and create a blog post about it by Wednesday, March 31st. Previous blog posts where you have written with food will be accepted as well.

2. Blog about your creation, including photos, and add a link back to Savor the Thyme and Tangled Noodle. If you like, feel free to grab this badge and place it in your post!

3. Send an email entitled "Eating Your Words 2010" with the following information to:
  • your name
  • the name of your blog
  • the name of your dish or drink
  • the link to your blog entry and a photograph of the dish or drink
  • entries much be received by midnight on Wednesday, March 31st
You can still participate even if you don't have a blog. Simply email the above information, minus the blog stuff, and your post will be included in the round-up.

4. Appropriate humor is always welcome, but please keep it clean!

A round of up all the entries will be posted on both Tangled Noodle and Savor the Thyme. Oh, and there's a fabulous prize this year, to be awarded by a famous judge! Click here to learn all about it.

I hope you'll join us!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Moonshine Edition, Part One

Gather round, class, because I'm fixing to learn you something today. Or, maybe not. Perhaps you're already on-trend and a confirmed quaffer of white whiskey. Though, odds are, you've never heard of it ... at least not by the name white whiskey.

White Dog, White Lighting, Moonshine, call it what you will - white whiskey is on the rise. Simply put, white whiskey is the unaged version of brown whiskey; its the distilled liquid that usually goes into the barrel to be aged. While brown whiskey gets it color, and notes of other flavors, from its time in the barrel, white whiskey, or white dog, is "raw". Its neither malted, sugared, nor substantially aged. Its whiskey in its most pure and simple form. And, suddenly, its turning up everywhere.

Some of the buzz is likely due to, author Max Watman's latest book, "Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine" - which was released last month. I have yet to read it but I understand its an enjoyable romp, tracing the history of the moonshine "industry" from past to present.

Never one to let a good boozy trend pass me by, I thought I'd give the white dog a bit of a chase myself. I happened to get my hands on a bottle of Tuthilltown Spirits' Hudson New York Corn Whiskey and it is a most intriguing spirit indeed. Distilled from a mash of 100% New York State corn, one of our state's greatest agricultural resources, this whiskey is double-distilled and bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.

Straight up and out of the bottle, Hudson New York Corn Whiskey is heady stuff. It certainly smells like whiskey but, in terms of flavor, I'd say its more akin to grappa. It has that same, vaguely anesthetic, quality of a good grappa and a similar, almost floral, finish. Certainly I detect notes of the corn from which it was distilled and the final finish is very fresh, almost green, and ever-so-slightly sweet. Its a fine sipping whiskey, indeed, full of the warmth one expects from a good whiskey ... but not for the faint of heart. Its strong. Excellent and flavorful, but strong.

And, of course, its not really "moonshine" at all. In fact, according to the bottle, Hudson New York Corn Whiskey "is among the first legal whiskeys to be distilled in New York in over 70 years." How exciting! Tuthilltown Spirits produces a wide variety of small batch spirits, both aged and unaged, at the historic Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. I'm thrilled to present a local (to me) distiller to you here as part of my regular cocktail feature and I urge you to take a spin around Tuthilltown's site and see what they're up to.

While this is the first time I've tried the corn whiskey, I've previously enjoyed both their bourbons and their aged whiskeys. I love what they're doing and I'm happy to support a local industry that turns out a great product. And, just so we're clear, I did not receive this whiskey as part of a promotion, nor does Tuthilltown know I'm writing about them. The husband provided me with the bottle, which he found in our local liquor store. (Does that man know me or what?)

Tune in next Thursday for Part Two of my "Moonshine" Series ... in which I'm sure to incur the ire of purists everywhere by mixing this pristine spirit into a cocktail or two. Because, yeah, that's just how I roll.

So, have you been bitten by the white dog? Have you sipped it solo? Or mixed it into a drink?And, if so, what did you think? Thirsty Diva wants to know.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Best Damn Scones in the Land

It is obvious, both from the size of my ass and the nature of my recent posts, that I am no longer strictly a "South Beach Blogger" ... and I'm ok with that. What started as one thing, morphed into another and there have been some delicious detours along the way.

Every once in a while, though I do like to get back to my roots and "beach-up" a recipe; swapping out an ingredient here, adding some agave nectar there; and just generally trying to make a healthier, yet still very tasty, version of a proven classic.

Only after posting my recipe for basic brown scones during my Irish Foods Week, did I remember that I already have a killer scone recipe! I've had it for years and, of course, its from Gourmet Magazine. First published in the December 1993 issue of Gourmet, these cheddar cornmeal scones are without question the best damn scones I've ever had. Period.

True to form, I've changed a few things over the years, and while my penultimate version is by no means dietetic, it is slightly healthier than the original.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest stove and bake up a batch of these immediately. Actually, double the batch ... they're just that good.

Whole Wheat Cheddar Cornmeal Scones:
original recipe from Gourmet December 1993 found here
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour*
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup, packed, coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/3 cup of milk (I use non-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • some additional grated cheddar for sprinkling on top of scones
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Whisk well to combine.

2. Add the cubed butter and blend in with a fork, or your fingers, until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese and toss well with your fingers to mix.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, the milk and the agave nectar to combine well. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until a soft dough begins to form. Using your hands, gather the dough together and knead gently - in the bowl - 8 to 10 times, until the dough comes together and begins to feel smooth. Do not over-work the dough.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and, using your hands, form the dough into an even 6 inch round circle. Using a sharp knife, cut the round into 6 equal wedges. Place the formed scones on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat mat, spaced 2 inches apart. (Alternately, you can lightly grease the cookie sheet if you don't have a Silpat.)

5. Beat the remaining egg white, lightly, and brush the top of each scone with a bit of egg white, then drizzle with some additional grated sharp cheddar. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 425 degree F oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked throughout. Remove to a wire rack to cool, or serve immediately.

*Alternately, you may use all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, whole wheat flour, or some combination thereof.

As written this recipe will yield 6 insanely delicious scones.

I don't necessarily suggest you serve them with my cranberry blood orange compound butter ... unless you're an odd duck like me who happens to enjoy unusual flavor combinations. I quite liked the two together, but your mileage may vary.

And, honestly, these scones need no adornment whatsoever. They're moist, tender, and thoroughly delicious all on their own. Use the very best sharp cheddar you can find, I like aged Canadian sharp cheddar, and you'll be rewarded with a richly flavored scone that will blow your mind. Really.

A brief word about the agave nectar ... if you choose to use it, be aware that baked goods made with agave do not store as well as those made with sugar. Keep any leftover scones (though I doubt they'll be many) tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge. If desired, you may use 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar instead of the agave, as per the original recipe.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cranberry Blood Orange Compound Butter

Each Month, 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures hosts the popular 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures' Make-over Challenge series and its great fun! This month, Natasha challenged us to create a compound butter using, if possible, I Can't Believe Its Not Butter spread in lieu of real butter.

The challenge is open to broad interpretation. While the prize has been sponsored by I Can't Believe Its Not Butter, entries containing real butter, or another butter substitute are welcome. Heaven knows the possibilities, in terms of flavor, are limitless. There are savory butters, spicy butter, sweet butters, fruity butters - the list goes on an on.

I've chosen to create a fruity butter for this month's challenge and my creation was born of necessity. I've had a bag of whole cranberries languishing in my freezer since Thanksgiving and its long past time I did something about it. Every time I open the freezer door, they jump out at me and end up on the floor. I also had a blood orange leftover from last week's Rum Punch that was beginning to get antsy.

Errant frozen cranberries, meet lonesome blood orange. I think you'll be happy together, indeed!

Cranberry Blood Orange Compound Butter:
  • one 7.5 ounce container of I Can't Believe Its Not Butter Spread
  • 1/2 cup of cranberry blood orange relish (recipe to follow)
1. In a small bowl, combine the entire container of I Can't Believe Its Not Butter spread with 1/2 cup of cranberry blood orange relish. Stir well with a fork, or small spatula, to combine thoroughly. Cover and chill in the fridge until firm. Serve as desired with warm scones, biscuits, atop muffins, breads, waffles or pancakes, etc.

For those who would prefer to use real butter: start with one stick of softened unsalted butter and add 1/4 cup of the cranberry relish. Blend well with a fork, and chill until firm.

Leftover compound butter can be stored, tightly covered, in the freezer until needed.

Cranberry Blood Orange Relish:
  • one 12 ounce bag of fresh, whole cranberries (rinsed, dried and picked over)
  • scant 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 whole blood orange, peel and pith removed, segmented*
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (I used a navel orange)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure orange extract
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until finely chopped or ground. The mixture will resemble a somewhat chunky applesauce. Place into a covered container, cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavors to marry.

If using frozen whole cranberries, be sure to defrost them before proceeding.

*If there's anyone out there who does not know how to supreme an orange, let me know and I'll offer further instruction. Be sure to supreme your orange over a bowl to catch resulting juices then add the juice to the cranberry mixture before pulsing.

Yes, you're going to have some leftover relish ... but is that such a bad thing? This stuff is so good, you could simply eat it with a spoon. Trust me, I know. You could also freeze it and save for later use. You could turn it into some kind of granita, if so inclined. You could use it to top ice cream, or even some lovely grilled chicken. Honestly, the possibilities are endless here too. Use your imagination.

As for the compound butter, its excellent! I love the bright flavor of the orange mixed with the tart cranberries. That combo, paired with the the subtle hint of saltiness from the butter spread, rings all of my bells. Its yummy stuff and sure to find plenty of uses, Chez Diva. And, bonus, its trans fat and cholesterol free!

If you'd like to play along, please pay a visit to 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures and read up on the rules. Entries into the Compound Butter Make-over Challenge are due by Sunday, April 4th. Natasha will post a round up of all the entries and announce the winner on Monday, April 5th. I hope you'll join us!

Bon appetite!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steak Tacos with Bell Pepper Slaw

Hot, spicy steak; cool, crisp veggies; soft whole wheat tortilla - need I say more? I think not.

Steak Tacos with Bell Pepper Slaw

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak:
  • 1 1/2 pound flank steak
  • 3 teaspoons ancho chili powder (or any kind of chili powder)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, espresso powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, dry mustard and ground coriander. Mix well with your fingers, or a small wire whisk, until thoroughly combined.

2. Rub both sides of the flank steak, to coat well, with the spice mixture and allow the meat to rest at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Slick a grill pan with a thin coat of oil and heat it, over high heat, until smoking hot. Grill the steak, turning once, roughly 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare - or until done to your liking. Remove from grill pan, cover loosely with foil and allow the meat to rest for a full 5 minutes before slicing. Then slice thin, against the grain, on the diagonal.

Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Slaw:
  • 1/2 of a large red bell pepper, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 of a large orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 of a medium red onion, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 of a medium red cabbage, shredded into thin slices
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I used fig balsamic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed or celery salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1. Combine the sliced peppers, onions, cabbage and shredded carrots in a large bowl and mix well with a fork.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, agave nectar, cayenne pepper, salt and celery seed. Whisk until well combined and pour over the sliced/shredded veggies. Toss well with a fork to coat.

3. Add the cilantro, mint and black sesame seeds and toss again to combine well. Cover and reserve in fridge until ready to serve.

For the Tacos:
  • Sliced Grilled Flank Steak
  • Red Pepper Slaw
  • Warm Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Some Guacamole and or Sour Cream
  • Some Sriracha or other form of Chili Sauce
Place some sliced steak atop the whole wheat tortilla, add some slaw, a bit of guacamole and some sriracha to taste. Roll up and devour, repeat as necessary!

As written, this recipe will serve 4.

Bon appetite!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Five Minute Marinara Sauce

Now I know what you're thinking ... "Diva, you only just got back in town and already you're looking for a five minute meal?!" Yep, that's just how I roll. And, honestly, this recipe can be many things to many people - its more than just a quickie.

If you're looking for a true quick-fix, this is your go-to sauce. If you've got more than 5 minutes but less than 30, simmer it for 15 and call it dinner. If you want a richer, more slowly cooked sauce, again, this is your baby ... simply put a lid on it, turn the heat as low as it will go and let it do its thing until you're ready to eat.

The key to this sauce is the tomatoes. Use the very best canned tomatoes you can find. I prefer San Marzano, but if they're not available in your area, use your favorite brand. San Marzano tomatoes are so flavorful that they require very little in the way of cooking to turn out a good sauce.

Roughly translated, marinara sauce means "sauce of the sailors." Legend has it that marinara sauce is the meal that was made to welcome sailors home from the sea when they returned to Naples. I can well believe it too, I always crave Italian food upon returning from a trip. It was outstanding!

Diva's Five Minute Marinara Sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large (or 4 small) cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon of minced onion
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (with or without Basil)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons good quality red wine
  • handful of good quality grated Parmesan cheese
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • some fresh basil or thyme (or both, your choice)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat and to it add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the garlic, minced onion, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir and saute for one minute. Add the can of whole tomatoes and stir well, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. (Alternately, you may use a kitchen scissors to cut the tomatoes into pieces, which works really well.)

2. Add the tomato paste, the red wine, a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese (to taste), some chopped fresh parsley (to taste) and stir well to combine. Allow the sauce to come to the boil and reduce heat to low. Add the leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, if using, and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding some salt and pepper if you wish. Just before serving, add some chopped or shredded fresh basil.

3. Option Two: After 5 minutes, cover the sauce and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes and up to 30 or 40, for a richer, more slowly simmered, taste. If going this route, again, wait until finished before adding the fresh basil.

Serve over your favorite pasta and enjoy!

As written this recipe will serve 4. It can be doubled easily and will freeze well.

Sure, you could just pop open a jar of some store brand sauce, heat it for five minutes and be on your way ... but why? If you make the sauce yourself, you'll know exactly what's in it. Its far healthier and you can vary the ingredients according to your tastes. Or, in my case, according to what's in the refrigerator! The thyme is definitely not traditional, but it tastes great and that's what I had on hand. I used it instead of basil. Do as you see fit.

I'll be submitting this recipe to Hey What's for Dinner Mom?'s Just Another Meatless Monday feature. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetite!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Rum Punch Edition

Physically, I may be back in New York; mentally, I'm still in the Caribbean. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why we thought it was a good idea to come home. It may have had something to do with a husband needing his wife and a job requiring my presence ... but right now it seems like a bad idea. It was all I could do not to put on flip-flops when I woke up this morning and, certainly, I was disappointed at the distinct lack of pool, Chez Diva.

Ah well, a glorious vacation it was - and at least I can recreate the taste of the islands at home. Today, I'm featuring a cocktail sure to remind me of the soft sands, the warm breeze, and the cool, clear, turquoise waters I left behind.

Rum Punch:
  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 2 oz. orange juice
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice - roughly half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon Grenadine syrup
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • wheel of orange, lime or blood orange for garnish
Fill a martini shaker with ice and over it pour the rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and lime juice. Cover and shake well until the outside of the shaker frosts. Strain into an ice filled highball glass and top with 1 teaspoon of Grenadine syrup. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top of the drink and garnish with a slice of fruit. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

I'm certain there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for Rum Punch. Consider this a basic and feel free to experiment. You could substitute some fresh blood orange juice for the regular stuff, or use it in place of the lime. You might also decide to opt for one of those tropical juice blends, in lieu of the pineapple juice. Hell, you could even add another ounce or two of rum if you're feeling frisky. Go ahead, I won't tell. I'll even allow for a festive paper umbrella or two, if it suits your fancy.

Either way, you'll be rewarded with a seductive little drink that's as refreshing as it is classic. Be aware, it goes down smooth and there's a ton of sugar involved ... have a few glasses of water if you're going to indulge. Your head will thank me in the morning ... and, its worth the risk!

Here's where I was when I was sipping my last rum punch:

... Is it any wonder I'm sorry we left? Le sigh.

Oh, and if you're wondering what goes on behind the scenes, Chez Diva ... it goes a little something like this:


Friday, March 12, 2010

Beach Bound ...

By the time you read this, I'll be on the beach ... assuming all goes as planned. I'm off on a wee little holiday with my sister-in-law, hoping to catch some rays and shake off the winter blues.

I hope you've enjoyed our trip to Ireland this week. Certainly, the recipes I've offered here are not the be all and end all of Irish cuisine. There's far more to the story than boxty, beef, Guinness and scones. I've merely offered a few classics here, a slight departure from the expected corned beef and cabbage.

The good news is that I'm in this for the long haul, so we'll have plenty of time for further explorations next March. In the meantime, be sure to stop by The Daily Spud next Wednesday (St. Patrick's Day) to check out her Paddy's Day Food Parade. Come hungry, I know you'll be well fed.

I'll be back in time for Thirsty Thursdays next week, so stay tuned ... and have a great weekend!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Irish Edition

Coming up with an Irish themed cocktail for the week has thrown me for a loop. The grim prospect of Bailey's Irish Cream, and noxiously green drinks made with creme de menthe, nearly put me off the whole idea altogether. And heaven knows you don't need a recipe to make green beer. I wouldn't drink it and I'm not going to post about it either.

I don't know that I've ever even had an "Irish" cocktail. I know they must exist, but none have come my way and when I'm in Ireland, I usually stick to Jameson Irish Whiskey. So Whiskey it is today ... and none of its going to be green.

Irish Creamsicle:
  • 2 oz. Irish Whiskey (Jameson or Tullamore Dew)
  • 1 oz. Navan (vanilla cognac)
  • 3/4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • dash or two of orange bitters
  • orange peel for garnish
Fill a martini shaker with ice and over it pour the whiskey, Navan, fresh orange juice and bitters. Cover and shake well until the outside of the shake frosts. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with some strands of orange peel. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

Ok, so I know there's no cream in my creamsicle, but the vanilla notes of the Navan combined with the oj, really do put one in mind of a creamsicle. A decidedly adult creamsicle, at that, since the whiskey lends a nice punch. Be forewarned, this little beauty goes down smooth so it might just sneak up on you. I loved it and I hope you will too.

If you're not in possession of the Navan, and don't want to buy it, I'll offer a simple classic ...

Jameson and Ginger:
  • 2 oz. Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • ginger ale
  • wedge of lime
Fill a highball glass with ice and over it pour the Jameson. Top up the drink with ginger ale and squeeze in the juice from a wedge of lime. Stir. Garnish with a wheel of lime. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

Armed with these two recipes, you're sure to be celebrating St. Patty's Day in fine fashion next week. And, bonus, not a green drink in sight!

So, what are you planning to drink next Wednesday? Have any Irish cocktails of your own to share? Thirsty Diva wants to know.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Irish Foods Week: Basic Brown Scones Edition

No exploration of Irish foods would be complete without a bread of some sort. Irish bread is legendary and my love of soda bread in particular is complete and everlasting.

I'll never forget my first bite of brown soda bread. The year was 1977 and my family was traveling through Ireland for the first time. That trip marked the first plan ride for all four of us and the flight seemed endless. It was a bumpy trip. As I said in my post about soda bread last year, we were all fairly green around the gills upon landing and it was only the small meal of brown soda bread and good strong tea that saved us. I'm convinced Irish brown bread has magical, healing properties.

Since I've already posted two recipes for brown soda bread in the past, today I thought we'd try some scones. And, I'll be honest, these aren't the scones of my dreams. They look gorgeous and have a lovely, tender crumb, but the flavor is rather simple. Not bad, mind you, but they didn't knock my socks off either.

This recipe comes from the Irish Baking Book by Ruth Isabel Ross - the same book from which I adapted my Hearty Brown Bread recipe. I've mainly changed the method of preparation and technique here, providing more instruction than as does the book ... because I think its necessary. I decided to top the second batch with a bit of coarse sugar and this proved a wonderful improvement indeed.

Think of this recipe as a starting point, a place to jump off, a basic template. Add in some raisins, currants or nuts if you like, and perhaps a bit of sugar if you prefer a sweeter scone. The original recipe contains no sugar, but I will add an option for those who wish.

Basic Brown Scones:
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons of steel cut oats (pinhead oats, not rolled oats)
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, if desired (alternately, you could use 1 tablespoon of honey)
  • 1/2 stick (2 oz.) of cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of buttermilk
  • some additional buttermilk for glazing
  • some rolled oats for topping
  • some coarse sanding sugar for topping
In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, steel cut oats, and sugar, if using. (If you choose to add honey, do not add at this point, that will come later.) Whisk well to combine. Add the cold butter and using your hands, or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture forms a coarse meal. (I like to use my hands.)

Add the buttermilk, and honey, if using, and stir to combine. The mixture will be dry. Use your hands to knead the dough while still in the bowl and knead until the mixture can be formed into a ball. Turn out onto the counter and knead well, until the dough becomes smooth, about 3 minutes or so.

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 1/2 hour. Working with one half of dough at a time, knead until smooth then roll out, using a rolling pin, into a 1/2 inch thick circle or square. Use a small biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out scones. Place cut scones on a cookie sheet and brush the top of each with a bit of buttermilk. Dust the wet scones with some rolled oats and some coarse sugar to coat the tops. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 425 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown and cooked throughout. Serve immediately with some butter and jam.

As written this recipe will yield 24 to 26 scones, depending on size.

They are excellent with the butter and jam. I suggest KerryGold butter and some lovely strawberry jam.

Do you have a killer scone recipe? If so, link it up in the comments. Hungry Diva wants to know!

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irish Foods Week: Beef and Guinness Edition

Or, to be exact, Diva's Crock-pot Beef and Guinness!

Beef and Guinness is a classic Irish stew that usually contains chunks of beef stewed together with onions and carrots, sometimes mushrooms, and bottle of Guinness Stout. The Guinness acts as tenderizing agent, helping to break down the meat and lends a wonderful, malty flavor to the sauce.

In many recipes, the stewing liquid contains Guinness and Guinness alone. It will come as no surprise, I'm sure, that I've gilded the lily a bit here. I'm 1/4 Italian, so I'm culturally obligated to use some tomato paste. I combined it with some beef broth to bump up the flavor and I've switched up the meat a bit too. Translated literally, Diva's Beef and Guinness means: I'm too lazy to season and brown a bunch of stew meat ... so I've used a roast instead. Ok, so this is really a pot roast of sorts - but an Irish one at heart!

Diva's Crock-pot Beef and Guinness:
  • one 3 to 3 1/2 pound bottom round or rump roast, tied
  • scant 1/3 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Essence of Emeril seasoning blend
  • olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into rough chop
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 medium white turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • bouquet garni made from: 1 stalk of celery (leaves included), 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, 4 sprigs fresh parsley. Mash together and tied securely with some kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf (I used dried)
  • one 12 ounce bottle of Guinness Stout
  • 3/4 cup of beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 two inch pieces of orange peel from a fresh orange
1. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika and Emeril's Essence on a large plate. Mix together with a fork. Roll the bottom round roast around in the flour to coat, patting so the mixture will adhere, and shake off the excess.

2. Heat a large cast iron pan over high heat and slick the bottom of it with some olive oil to coat. When it is hot, but not smoking, add the roast and brown quickly on all sides. Remove from pan.

3. Place the chopped leeks in the bottom of a large oval crock-pot and place the roast atop the leeks. Scatter the sliced onions, chopped carrots, parsnips and turnips around the meat in alternating layers. Scatter the garlic over the vegetables and nestle the bouquet garni into the veggies. Add the bay leaf and pour the entire bottle of Guinness Stout over the meat and vegetables.

4. Mix 3/4 of a cup of beef broth or stock with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, whisking well to combine, and pour over the meat and vegetables. Tuck the strips of orange peel into the mix somewhere, cover and cook on low until the meat is fork tender, about 8 to 9 hours.

5. Remove the roasts and slice for serving. Remove the bouquet garni, orange peel and bay leaf from the crock-pot and discard. Serve the sliced meat along with the veggies, topped off with the luscious sauce. If desired, you may garnish with some chopped fresh parsley or a sprig of thyme. Enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 6.

Please don't be put off by the long list of ingredients here. A few minutes of chopping and browning and your crock-pot will do the rest. Its ridiculously easy and ridiculously delicious. The broth is so flavorful, the carrots a revelation - in fact, they might be my favorite part - and the meat is so tender it will literally fall apart.

So much so that it was hard to get a picture of it. I had visions of thick, even slices ... what I got instead was shreds. Richly flavored shreds to be sure, and you can't beat the flavor of the veggies that have been simmering in that beer based broth all day.

Lastly, please note that because this is cooked in a crock-pot, it yields a thin, brothy sauce. Its so yummy you could drink it with a spoon - but if you're looking for a thicker, gravy-like consistency, you'll need to thicken it with a roux. Do as you see fit. I hope you'll try it!

Come back tomorrow for another Irish classic.

Bon appetite!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Irish Foods Week: Boxty Edition

Boxty, Boxtie, Boxtea, there are as many ways to make it as there are to spell it. No, strike that, there are probably a million more ways to make boxty than spell it. There are boxty dumplings, boxty pancakes, boxty crepes and even boxty breads! So idiosyncratic is this most Irish of dishes, that I venture there's a different recipe for every Irish household in which its found. But what the heck is it? Basically, its a potato pancake that can be made and served in a myriad of ways.

The first time I had boxty was sometime in the late 1970's, at the annual Feis in New Haven. (Pronounced fesh, a Feis is a field day, celebrating Irish culture. Generally it includes dancing exhibitions, games of hurling and Irish Football, music, food and traditional Irish crafts. Its one big outdoor party and a hell of a good time.) On that day at the Feis, the boxty was dense with shredded potatoes, almost like a hash-brown ... and it was also black. Or, more precisely, a deep charcoal gray. Gray because the boxty committee that year decided to get a jump on things by making the batter in advance; perhaps forgetting that uncooked potatoes have a tendency to discolor. Ah well, we ate them anyway, and they were delicious.

The second time I had boxty, I was at Gallagher's Boxty House in Dublin. The year was 1991 and the husband (my boyfriend at the time) and I were traveling through Ireland. Budding foodie that I was, I made a special point of stopping for a meal at Gallagher's in order to sample some non-black boxty. On this day, the boxty was thinner, a crepe actually, still made with potatoes, but clearly the batter was much different. I had the bacon and cabbage boxty; a delicate crepe enfolding a center of ham and cabbage in a rich, creamy sauce. It was spectacular!

The third time I had boxty, I made them myself. Just yesterday, in fact, and its all because of The Daily Spud. Last week, The Spud announced that in honor of St. Patrick's Day this year, The Daily Spud will host a Paddy's Day Food Parade ... and we're all invited! Not content to fix just one Irish themed dish, I've decided to offer a week of Irish foods, beginning with my boxty post today. Get out your green tiaras, folks, we're hopping the pond this week!

Diva's Boxty:
  • 2 large russet potatoes, at least 10 oz. each
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • scant 3/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk (I used low-fat)
  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk mixed with 2 tablespoons milk
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • some chopped fresh chives for garnish
1 . Place the grated onion and minced parsley into a large mixing bowl. Set aside and reserve.

2. Peel one of the potatoes and cut it into quarters. Place cut potato into a small saucepan, cover with water, add a pinch of Kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, but not mushy, about 12 - 14 minutes. Drain, return potatoes to pan and stir over medium-high heat for about a minute, until potatoes are dry. Mash well with a potato masher until smooth. Add mashed potatoes to the grated onion and parsley. Mix well, set aside and reserve.

3. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small mixing bowl and whisk well to incorporate. Set aside and reserve.

4. Peel the second potato and, using a box grater with large holes, grate the potato. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of shredded potato, place in the middle of a clean tea towel, and twist the towel, tightly, to wring out the water. Squeeze as much of the water from the shredded potatoes as you can, then add the potatoes to the reserved potato and onion mixture. Stir with a fork to combine. Immediately add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and stir well. (The acid in the buttermilk will help to keep the potatoes from discoloring.)

5. Add the reserved flour mixture and stir well with a spatula. At this point, the mixture will appear dry. Add the additional 1/4 cup of buttermilk that has been mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk, and stir well to combine. Your batter should be thick, but not dry.

6. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter to the pan. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons into the pan and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon to form a round cake. Cook over medium heat until the boxty is golden brown on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip. Cook the second side until golden brown and until the batter is fully cooked, approximately 3 to 4 or minutes. Remove and keep warm in the oven while making the rest of the cakes. Repeat, adding more oil to the pan if necessary, until all of the batter has been cooked.

7. Serve the boxty with butter and a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives if desired. Traditionally, boxty is served with bacon - good, Irish, bacon. Its also delicious when served with a fried egg. As written this recipe will yield 12 - 16 pancakes. Immediate leftovers can be re-heated in the microwave, 30 seconds or so should do it, but do not make these in advance! They must be made and eaten on the same day or they will turn black.

No one is going to accuse boxty of being the most flavorful food out there. Its simple stuff, peasant fare really, born out of the desire to make more out of less. Traditional recipes would not include the grated onion and parsley as I've done here. I can't leave well enough alone and I rather like the additional boost of flavor they bring to the mix. If you're seeking a more traditional experience, leave them out.

Incidentally, if you'd like to see a really traditional boxty recipe, hop on over to The Daily Spud and read about her day making boxty with a real Irish mammy.

By all means, serve them with bacon. The creamy potato cakes are the perfect foil for some crisp, salty bacon. And, if like me you're unable to get your hands on good Irish bacon, opt for some Canadian bacon instead. Boxty is delicious for breakfast, or lunch, but since I've already ventured outside the boxty box ... tomorrow I'm going to use them as the base on which to serve some beef and Guinness stew. Stay tuned, I think its going to be spectacular!

I hope you'll enjoy the rest of our Irish explorations this week, and that you'll join The Daily Spud's Paddy's Day Food Parade. Come hungry, its bound to be delicious!

Bon appetite!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Blushing Margarita Edition

A little later than usual, but certainly in time for Happy Hour, allow me to present to you: The Blushing Margarita.

You've heard of cleaning out your refrigerator - but how about cleaning out your liquor cabinet? This pretty little concoction is the result of a need to empty the dregs of the tequila bottle ... and the wanderings of my tiara topped head. Meaning - I just dreamed it up right now.

And, for a drink of such inglorious provenance, I must say - its entirely delightful!

Careful readers will note the use of some chipotle-orange syrup, made in connection with Kara Newman's Fall Spice Cocktail last week. If you're playing along at home, you'll have some leftover syrup on hand ... if not, what are you waiting for?

The Blushing Margarita:
  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. hibiscus tea, cooled*
  • 1/2 oz. chipotle-orange syrup
  • wedge of lime
  • whole slice of lime for garnish
Fill a martini shaker with ice and over it pour the tequila, hibiscus tea and chipotle-orange syrup. Squeeze in the juice from a wedge of lime. Cover and shake until the outside of the shaker frosts. Strain into an ice filled tumbler and garnish with a wheel of lime. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

*I happen to enjoy cocktails made with various kinds of tea. In this case, I've used hibiscus and it serves to soften the bite of the tequila. Simply brew a cup of hibiscus tea and let it cool before mixing. You could certainly choose to substitute some other kind of tea, perhaps an orange or citrus blend. Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.

The chipotle-orange syrup was used in place of Cointreau or Triple Sec ... sure, it makes for a slightly less potent potable, but you can't beat the subtle flavor. It pairs beautifully with tequila and the hibiscus tea lends a somewhat ethereal note. Frankly, its delicious!

If desired, you may rim the glass with salt. I hope you'll try it.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Candy Making 101: Orange and Lemon Creams

And now for something completely different ... candy.

Why? Because on Friday, it snowed for like 36 hours. Because the Olympics are over and that makes me sad. And, mostly, because I've always wanted to try making candy.

I found this recipe for basic fondant centers in my files and, frankly, I'm not really sure of the origin. I chose to flavor them with orange and lemon extracts, but you could use vanilla, peppermint, or anything else that floats your boat. There's nothing remotely healthy or dietetic about this recipe, but its damn good fun. I'll have something healthy to post later in the week - but, for today, I'm offering you orange and lemon creams. Take two, they're small.

Orange and Lemon Creams:
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • pure orange extract
  • pure lemon extract
  • red and yellow food coloring, if desired
  • two 3 ounce bars of Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Cream the powdered sugar and softened butter together in the bowl of your electric mixer until incorporated. Add the vanilla and heavy cream and beat together on high until fully incorporated. The mixture will appear grainy and sandy - fear not, all is well!

Divide the mixture in two and place one half back into mixing bowl. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of pure orange extract to the sugar mix and a few drops of yellow and red food coloring (to make orange) if desired. Mix well on high until fully incorporated. The mixture should look smooth, not powdery. Gather the dough together and knead with your hands on a hard surface for a minute or two until the dough is smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp paper towel and reserve.

Place remaning sugar mixture into the mixing bowl, add 2 1/2 teaspoons of lemon extract and some yellow food coloring. Mix well on high to blend, then knead until smooth, cover and reserve as above.

Cover a large cookie sheet with waxed paper. Working with one bowl of dough at a time, form into small balls using a teaspoon - one level teaspoon of dough at a time - flatten the ball into a disk in the palm of your hand and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat until all of the dough has been turned into disks. They should look a little something like this:

Place the cookie sheet(s), uncovered, into the fridge and chill the disks for 20 minutes. While they chill, melt the chopped chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave - on high, in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. Dip the chilled disks, one by one, into the chocolate to cover, scraping off the excess chocolate from the bottom with a small knife or offset spatula.

Hint: I used a fondue fork to lift the disks in and out of the chocolate and a small offset spatula to scrape.

Place the dipped creams on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to dry. You may place them in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes to hasten the process, if desired.

Double Hint: do not omit the waxed paper in any of the steps. It is vital, especially for the dipped chocolates. Trust me on this, I know whereof I speak!

As written this recipe will take some time and make lots of lovely chocolate creams. I didn't count ... and the husband was eating them as fast as I could make them.

Its a shame I'm not a step-by-step picture blogger, because this recipe would certainly lend itself to that. But that's not my deal and I have abundant faith in your ability to figure it out. If I can do it, so can you. You'll just have to trust me when I say its not nearly as complicated as it seems. Your finished product will look a little something like this:

They're exquisite! Though, be aware, if you're looking for an ooey-gooey-creamy center ... this is not your baby. Its more of a soft textured fondant. I loved them, especially the lemon creams, and I'm dying to try peppermint and possibly even some with lavender. Stay tuned.

This strikes me as a good project for the little humans. They seem to enjoy playing with their food and this is a hands-on recipe for sure. Just make sure those hands are clean. ;)

Since this was a first for me, I'll be submitting this post to Dinner at Christina's Friday First's feature. Be sure to pop over this Friday and check out the list of other culinary firsts!

Bon appetite!