Creamy Nut Sauce

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The actual name of this nut sauce is sas. It’s Indian in origin, and the recipe I’m basing this on is out of the Foods of the World – The Cooking of India cookbook.

The sauce is made essentially with nuts and cream and is served with various kababs. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recipe for Mughlai Kabobs, which are grilled, ground-lamb skewers. The kababs and the sauce together are pure heaven.

My most favorite dishes to order in Indian restaurants are the kormas – meats in creamy sauces made from nuts, although you’d never know it. The sauces are very delicate in flavor, yet scream decadence because of their richness.

So today I’m making this sauce, and tomorrow I’ll post the kababs.

Sas, or Creamy Nut Sauce

Pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/3 cup pistachios
1/3 cup mixed almonds and cashews, blanched
Seeds of 4 cardamom pods
1 cup milk
1 tablespoons ghee
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt

Place the saffron in a small bowl and add one tablespoon of boiling water; set the bowl aside. Given time, the hot water will leach the beautiful color and flavor of the saffron, which you can see as it changes color.

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I happened to have green cardamom pods, so I peeled off the outer shell to reveal the actual spice pods. (There are also white cardamom pods.). Below I show the difference between the whole pods, the cardamom itself as it occurs naturally inside the pods, lower right, and some ground cardamom, upper right. If you own ground cardamom, you definitely don’t need to buy the pods. Just try to use the equivalent of ground.

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Place all of the nuts, the cardamom pods and one cup of milk in a blender jar and blend until smooth.

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Then place the ghee in a saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Pour in the nut and cream mixture and cook it for a couple of minutes.

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Add the saffron and the water, the half and half and salt, and cook the mixture until it coats the back of a spoon.

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Store the sauce and refrigerate until needed. Stay tuned tomorrow!

Sweet Strawberry Vodka

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I was browsing at a liquor store a while back (doesn’t everyone do that!) and I came across one lonely bottle of strawberry vodka. It wasn’t very expensive, and I was definitely tempted, but sometimes flavored anything can have a chemical flavor instead of a natural flavor. And it seems like strawberry flavor can be the worst if it’s fake. So I passed. Instead, I decided to make my own.

My garden is producing a lot of strawberries, but I’m too selfish to use my home-grown berries for this vodka. They’re just too fun to pick and eat. Warm. Besides, the grocery store berries were very good and sweet right now.

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I’m not sure if this will end up a strawberry vodka or a strawberry liqueur – I’m kind of hitting it in the middle. And I won’t know the results for a couple of weeks. I’ve sampled a lot of flavored vodkas – especially at wine festivals – but I’ve never come across a strawberry version, except that lone bottle at the liquor store. So I’m a bit excited.

Sweet Strawberry Vodka

Rinse and dry 2 pounds of fresh strawberries. Have 1/2 gallon of good vodka on standby – I used a Texas import called Tito’s.

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Stem them, slice in half, and then place them in a large bowl. Cover the berries with 1 cup of sugar and toss them to coat.

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Let macerate for one hour.

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Then place them in a food processor and process until pulpy.

Place the berry mush in as many sterilized bottles as you decide to use. I decided to divide mine into three batches.

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Then add the vodka.

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Shake them up well, cover with sterilized lids, and place the bottles in a cool place for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks, strain the vodka. Interestingly enough, the strawberries turned white, but the vodka turned a very pretty pink!

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The vodka came out with a definite strawberry flavor, a bit sweet, which is fine, but certainly not sweet like a liqueur. Perfect.

Now what to do with the vodka. I have a lot of ideas. First I tried it with 1/2 and 1/2. Delicious. Then, I added fresca to the same drink. Fabulous! It was like a strawberry vodka-flavored Italian ice!

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Then, I just tried it with fresca by itself, because I enjoy the combination of unflavored vodka and fresca. Also fabulous – with a nice strawberry flavor, but not overly sweet.

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Then for my final test of the strawberry flavored vodka, I made a martini of sorts for my husband (they’re just too strong for me.) I added equal parts strawberry vodka, Chambord (raspberry liqueur), and vodka. It turned out to be a very pretty color, and he said it was dynamite, and that I might like it. But, I like cocktails a little more diluted so I passed. The Berry Martini is pictured in the featured photo.

Other ideas:
S V with lemonade
S V with Chambord and champagne
S V with champagne or prosecco
S V with lemon sorbet and champagne
S V with tonic…

In the fall, try Spiced Pear Liqueur, as well as Gingerbread Liqueur!

Bison Matambre

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I’d just thawed out two bison hanger steaks and instead of making fajitas with them, I wanted to roll them up with some kind of filling. I was originally thinking of making German rouladen but my husband doesn’t like pickles. So I picked up my big South American cookbook, called the South American Table, by Marie Baez Kijac, and there was exactly what I was looking for! Rolled up flank steak with veggies inside, called matambre

Matambre is flank steak rolled up with spinach, asparagus and roasted red bell peppers, after some marinating, and then poached in beef stock. I was definitely tempted!

Bison Matambre

2 – 1 pound hanger steaks or flank steaks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Beef broth, home made or purchased, plus water if necessary
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Spinach leaves, which I forgot
Cooked asparagus
Slices of roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, whisked
Cheesecloth and string

First, don’t do what I did and marinate the beef or bison first, without pounding them beforehand with a mallet. You need to make them thinner, and more even in their thickness. You’ll be overlapping the steaks in order to make the roll. Can you tell there are two steaks in the photo?!!!

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Then, place the flattened steaks in a pyrex or nonreactive baking dish. Add the vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic pepper, salt, and black pepper. Cover and marinate overnight.

Because I didn’t pound my steaks first, the seasonings that you see below on the steaks flew all over my kitchen while I was pounding away the next day, so I think it’s smarter to pound first, then marinate.

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The next day, remove the hanger steaks from the marinade and place them on paper towels. Then overlap them on your cutting board, and using your mallet again, pound the steaks together where they overlap. (You could make two smaller rolled steaks if you prefer.)

Place the beef broth in a large pot and start warming it up. The broth will have to cover the roll by at least 2 inches.

Cover the hanger steaks with the parsley and crushed red pepper.

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If you happen to remember, cover the steaks with spinach leaves. However I forgot to do this, even the spinach leaves were right there next to me.

Cover the steaks with about half of the Parmesan.

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If you remember to use the spinach, cover the cheese with the spinach leaves

Then add rows of the vegies in a crosswise direction.

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Add the rest of the Parmesan. Then drizzle on the whisked egg.

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By this time the broth should be boiling.

Roll up the steak and place on your cheesecloth. Roll it into the cheesecloth, and then tie it up like you would a roast. Then tie the ends to keep everything snug.

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Using tongs, place the roll into the boiling beef broth. Cover the pot, and simmer the roll for exactly one hour.

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After an hour, remove the roll and let it sit on a plate, emptying the plate occasionally of the broth, for about 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the cheesecloth and carefully slice away, making about 1/2″ slices. Serve hot or warm.

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If you want to eat the matambre as the South Americans do, let the roll cool in the beef stock for 30 minutes first, then transfer it to a plate and put weights on a board over the roll for a few hours or overnight. Then slice and serve. That would be beautiful for a picnic or on an hors d’oeuvres platter. I think I might do that next time, and also remember the spinach leaves.

Boxty

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Of all things, my first boxty was not eaten in Ireland. It was, in fact, enjoyed in an Irish pub in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s called Kilkenny’s, and it’s been an established and popular Irish pub since 2002.

I really enjoyed the boxty, which I’d never heard of before. I only ordered it because I wanted something traditionally Irish since I was in an Irish pub. And of course it was good – it was a giant potato-based crepe filled with creamy goodness. I can’t really remember all of the details now, but because of that experience, I was determined to have one in Ireland… which I did just a few weeks ago.

We had lunch in Dublin at Gallagher’s Boxty House one Sunday. We went there knowing that it was a touristy sort of place, but I had to have my boxty. Gallagher’s Boxty House is an unassuming little joint of a restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

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It actually seemed like only locals were eating lunch there – especially families with children. The young man who waited on us was 17, and the son of the restaurant’s owner. It was nice finding out it’s a family business.

But touristy or not, we all have a fabulous lunch. I chose the seafood boxty and it was delicious.

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That day in Dublin was Latvia Day, as we surmised after passing loads of people dressed up in their traditional Latvian garb. (Of course, we had to ask what the hoopla was all about…)

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Aren’t these women beautiful?!!!

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I only mention Latvia day because the presence of the singing and dancing Latvians added to the frivolity of walking around Dublin on a beautiful Sunday when everyone seemed to be outside enjoying themselves. And the parade that ensued went right by the Boxty house while we were enjoying our lunch!

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Okay, little things like that get me excited.

But back to the boxty.

After returning from Ireland last week, I wanted to make boxty. I own a book on Irish cooking*, and it revealed that the boxty originated in the north of Ireland, actually. The word boxty came about from the fact that people cut holes in boxes in order to grate the potatoes to make this dish! I now appreciate my metal grater even more than ever.

There are also, not surprisingly, a few different versions of boxty. One is exactly like what I had in Tulsa and in Dublin – an oversized pancake with filling. Another version is a pancake on a smaller scale served simply with butter.

The third version, which I didn’t make today, is from a thicker pancake batter – essentially a dough. Round shapes are cut out of it much like our biscuits, and baked. I think I actually saw these on breakfast menus in Ireland, because they were described as hash brown potato cakes. I’m sure they were delightful but unfortunately I never had one.

Here’s my version of the giant boxty pancake with a creamed ham and cheese filling, and boxty pancakes with butter.

Boxty with Creamy Ham and Cheese Filling

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk, I used whole
Butter

Chop up two of the peeled potatoes and boil them until done. If you’re not sure, stick a fork in the pieces to see if they are tender. When they are cooked, drain the potatoes; set aside.
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Grate the remaining two potatoes and place them on paper towels for a few minutes to drain.

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Then place the grated potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the flour and baking powder. Mash the two cooked potatoes and add to the grated potatoes in the bowl.

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Give everything a stir, then slowly stir in the milk. The batter should have some consistency, yet be somewhat thin as well.

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Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Use a generous amount of butter for each pancake. When the skillet is hot, almost completely fill the bottom of the skillet with the batter. Don’t make it too thick, but also fill in any thin spots or holes. Turn down the heat to medium, and cover the skillet with a lid.

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After a few minutes, turn the heat down to low to finish cooking the pancake. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to flip over these “pancakes,” so I just let them cook on the bottom side slowly.

After a few more minutes, slide the pancake onto a large plate, turn up the heat again, and make a second pancake. When the second one is done, slide it onto a separate plate.

Complete as many pancakes as you wish, then proceed with the filling:

Filling:

1 recipe for white sauce
About 2 cups of chopped ham
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese

Make a white sauce according to the directions using butter, flour, and milk or cream, whichever you prefer.

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Stir in the ham and the cheese. I also sprinkled in some white pepper, but that is certainly optional.

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Add a generous amount of the filling to each boxty, and fold the other side over. Repeat with the remaining boxties that you made. The filing will generously fill four boxties, approximately 8″ in diameter.

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Serve immediately, or reheat later right before serving.

Boxty Pancakes

Make the same batter for the boxty using the grated and mashed potatoes, the flour, baking powder, and milk.

Add a generous amount of butter before adding the batter to the hot skillet. Make these the size as breakfast pancakes, turning down the heat to cook them through and prevent burning. It should take about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and cook for about another minute.

To serve, add a tab of butter to the hot pancakes. These can be served as a side dish, or eaten as is. Personally I would have to have them with a side salad, or a few wedges of tomatoes.

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* It’s called The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook, by Kay Shaw Nelson.

Torta di Ricotta

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I wish I could share the source of this recipe, but I can’t. It dates back to the days when I borrowed cookbooks instead of buying them. I would get stacks of cookbooks every week from our local library, zerox favorite recipes, glue them onto large index cards, and then go back for more. This was all for economic reasons, as there was a period of time while raising our daughters that the purchase of cookbooks would have been completely extravagant and irresponsible.

This recipe is definitely Italian in origin, and I’m wondering if it’s from a Lorenza de Medici cookbook. But whose ever it is, it’s one of the few desserts I’ve made on many an occasion when I need to give a small gift of food for one person, or perhaps for just a few of us getting together for a girly lunch.

It’s a small ricotta-based cheesecake, that is moist and full of flavor. I hope you like it, too!

Torta  di  Ricotta

1 pound ricotta cheese, whole-milk only
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, but today I used pistachios
Softened butter for the pan

Drain the ricotta overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Soak the raisins in the rum. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the zest of the orange and lemon to a small bowl, and add the vanilla to the same bowl.

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Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until pale yellow.

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Add the drained ricotta, salt, and citrus zests, and blend thoroughly. Add the pine nuts and raisins and rum, blending well.

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Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the cake batter.

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Brush a 6″ springform pan with softened butter. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and bake 30 to 35 minutes.

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Use a tester in the middle to make sure the torta is ready to come out of the oven. It will look like this:

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Cool for about half an hour, then turn onto a serving plate. It’s good warm or at room temperature.

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The torta will slice very easily. I served mine with some macerated strawberries, which just means that I sprinkled some white sugar over sliced strawberries, tossed them gently, and let them sit for about 20 minutes or so.

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But this torta di ricotta is such a delight, it doesn’t really need anything at all!

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verdict: The pistachios were just as good as the pine nuts.

Lemon Pudding Cake

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Rarely have I made dessert for my family, unless it’s a special occasion. I have nothing against desserts, but to me, they’re not part of a daily meal plan. I believe everyday food should be nourishing, so I save cakes and pies for celebrations.

However, when I was a private cook for a family, I made a lot of desserts. These desserts weren’t necessarily fancy; my people just felt like a meal wasn’t complete without dessert. So that’s when I bought a lot of dessert cookbooks.

Before I owned the book Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, I’d never heard of a pudding cake. But after I made one, I was hooked.

What is it you might ask? Well, it is a pudding-y cake. That probably doesn’t help much. You prepare a cake batter that is very thin and cook it in a bain marie. I’ve also made some pudding cakes where the recipe states that you pour boiling water into the batter before baking.

Now a pudding cake isn’t something I’d prepare for a fancy meal, because it’s essentially a softer gooeyer version of a brownie. It’s pretty enough, but more preferable for a casual get together or late night snack. Trust me. I’ve made a chocolate pudding cake….

So here’s Richard Sax’s recipe. And by the way, although this book was published in 1994, it is so full of fascinating information from the author who was definitely an authority on desserts. I just discovered that a newer version, complete with a James Beard award, was printed in 2001.

Lemon  Pudding  Cake
Serves 4

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 1-to 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish, such as a 9-inch oval gratin dish or an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside.

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In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice; pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high-high speed until they form soft peaks. Fold a little of the egg whites into the lemon mixture; gently fold in the remainder.

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Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Place the baking dish in a slightly larger roasting pan; set on the center rack of the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

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Bake until the surface of the pudding is lightly golden, about 35 minutes. (The bottom layer will still be quite liquid.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

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Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

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You can tell how tender this cake is, and see the pudding-like layer on the bottom.

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I serve this pudding cake with a few blackberries and some powdered sugar. It would definitely benefit from some slightly sweetened whipped cream as well.

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Rosemary’d Dip

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Bean dips are delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is my personal white bean dip with spices, which was printed in Gourmet magazine. This one is similar in the use of white beans, but instead of spices, I only use fresh rosemary. So if you like rosemary, you’ll love this dip.

I don’t know if this is as much a dip or a spread, since I typically serve it with a spreader, especially with guests. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a soft, spreadable purée of rosemary- and garlic-flavored white beans.

It can served in a bowl alongside breads and crackers, as I have, or creatively topped on crostini for a prettier presentation.

And let’s not forget the healthful benefits of beans. It’s wonderful to enjoy a delicious appetizer that’s actually good for us!

Rosemary’d White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans
Scant 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt

First place the beans in a colander. Rinse and let drain.

Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves and purée until the mixture is smooth.

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Always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.

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Scape down the puréed beans in the jar and process again.

If you’ve picked your rosemary early in the day, simply stick them in water to keep them fresh. I routinely do this even though I’m not sure how much it helps! I figure it can’t hurt.

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Then add the rosemary leaves and salt to the beans and process by pulsing. If you think the purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil.

If you’re making the white bean dip about 3-4 hours before serving, definitely make it on the soft side, because the beans will absorb the oil. But I wouldn’t make it any earlier then 3 or 4 hours and definitely don’t refrigerate it; the texture changes.

Place the dip in a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with assorted breads, and/or crackers. Vegetables are good with it, too.

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* Rosemary’s pungency can vary. Start small, you can always add more. But whatever you do, don’t use dried rosemary.

note: You could certainly use garbanzo beans in this recipe, but I prefer white beans for dips. You can see how soft and smooth they are in the photo after they’ve been pureed with the oil and garlic. In my experience, garbanzo beans never get this smooth, which is why I prefer white beans. I’ve heard that if the garbanzos are peeled, they will become smoother, but I’m not about to bother with that extra step.

Grits with Shrimp and Sausage

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Years ago I tagged along on a business trip my husband took to Charleston, South Carolina. I ordered shrimp and grits at our first dinner there. I’d previously not been a huge cornmeal fan.

Well, thank you Charleston. I’m a huge fan now. The secret is butter, cream and cheese. Which, of course, can make anything better.

So I’m making some grits today that will be served with shrimp and Andouille sausage for a Creole flair.

Similar to making risotto, you don’t have to use this recipe to a T. You can use butter and cream in your grits, you can use butter and cheese, or use all three! It just depends how you want your grits to turn out.

Get creative with grits. I didn’t include cheese in this recipe but think about the options – smoked mozzarella, feta, cheddar, Boursin, you name it. It all works.

Creamy Grits with Shrimp and Sausage

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cups grits, I use a medium grind
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons bacon grease or oil
14 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound shrimp, shelled, cleaned, rinsed, dried
Salt
Black pepper
Grated Parmesan for serving, optional
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Add the water, milk, butter and the salt to a dutch oven over medium heat until the butter melts.

Add the grits and cook them, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.

Depending on what cornmeal you’re using (there’s everything from corn flour to a coarse grind) you can follow the recipe on the package, then there’s no guesswork.

If you think the grits are too thick, add some water, cream, broth – whatever you want to thin it slightly using a whisk. When you’re sure it’s done, and quits thickening, add the white pepper, paprika, and thyme. Cover the pot and set the grits aside.

Put a large skillet over high heat and add the bacon grease or oil. I had cooked some bacon, so I left the grease in the pan just for this purpose. Add the sausage slices and brown them on both sides. When they’re all browned, scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a large bowl. But keep the skillet on the stove with the oil.

Salt and pepper all of the shrimp. Add the shrimp, in batches, and cook them in the same grease until they are opaque. This only takes a minute. Place the cooked shrimp in the bowl with the sausage, and continue with the remaining shrimp.

When it is time to serve, have your grits, shrimp, and sausage all warm. Place some of the grits in a pasta bowl. Then top with the shrimp and sausage.

I always like to offer cayenne pepper flakes, just because I like things spicy, but that’s optional. You could even serve Tabasco or another hot sauce.

Chopped green onions are also good.

Because I didn’t include cheese in the grits, I thought I’d serve some Parmesan as an optional topping.

Parmesan takes it over the top, but other cheeses could be used as well.

Brisket w/ Guinness BBQ Sauce

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I have an interesting history with beef brisket. First of all, I didn’t grow up on brisket so I wasn’t familiar with it. But to be fair, when I got married and started cooking regularly, I wasn’t that familiar with many cuts of meat because I had never cooked meat for myself much. I wasn’t a vegetarian, I was just on a budget, and cooking for one is not as easy as cooking for two or four. Plus, I just didn’t really know how to cook!

So one day, 38 years ago to be exact, I remember asking my husband what kind of meat he liked. He told me, among others, that he enjoyed brisket. I had to look it up. I found one brisket recipe in all of my cookbooks, which probably already numbered around 100 back then, and it was a German brisket recipe. It was probably Sauerbraten.

So that’s what I decided to make for an evening when we had company. I was definitely not impressed with the brisket itself, even though I’d followed the recipe. And I’m pretty sure no one else enjoyed it, either. It was dry and stringy. And now that I’m thinking back on the experience, I’m positive my husband was actually thinking barbecued brisket when he suggested the cut of meat. But I wasn’t that familiar with barbeque back then, either!

Over the many years of living in Oklahoma and Texas, I have gained respect for brisket. It can, indeed, make a wonderful meal when cooked and smoked at low temperatures for many, many hours. And I do now smoke it about once a year in the summer.

As you know, I’ve been experimenting with my sous vide, and I realized that a good test of the sous vide process would be to use a brisket, instead of the already-tender cuts I’d been using. According to Stefan’s guidelines at the Stefan Gourmet Blog, I was to cook the brisket for two days in 135 degree F water. So that’s what I did two days ago.

But to make things more festive, I decided to embrace St. Patrick’s Day – the day I would serve the brisket. So I also made a Guinness-based barbecue sauce for the brisket to serve on Sunday.

Guinness Barbecue Sauce

1 – 14.9 ounce can Guinness
1 star anise
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brown mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 – 2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Pour the Guinness into a medium-sized pot, and simmer it over medium heat with the star anise until it is reduced by at least half.

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Meanwhile, place all ingredients but the butter in a bowl.

When the Guinness has reduced, whisk in the other ingredients, and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

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Then add the butter and whisk it in.

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Verdict: I like all the flavors in this barbecue sauce, although I can definitely detect the Guinness after taste. I’m not a fan of dark beer, but Guinness is my husband’s favorite beer, so I decided to make this for him. But it is surprisingly good. I would cut back and use half Guinness and half lighter beer if I make it again. But Guinness lovers should indeed love this sauce!!!

For the sous vide brisket, I preheated the sous vide to 135 degrees. Then I placed my three pound piece of brisket into a vacuum seal bag and sealed her up. I completely forgot about any seasoning, but that’s okay.

Just for fun, on Saint Patrick’s day, I cooked some rice called Bamboo rice, which I got from Marx Foods.

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Unfortunately, it lost some of its green from the cooking process!

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Then it was time for the brisket to come out of the sous vide. It looked like this:

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I patted it completely dry, and trimmed off as much fat as I could from the one side.

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Then I heated some oil in a grill pan over high heat. I seasoned the brisket generously with seasoning salt and garlic pepper.

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Then I placed the brisket in the pan and browned the meat for about 2 minutes per side, and put on a clean cutting board.

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Then I sliced it up. It wasn’t very pink. I asked my husband to test the brisket and when he did, he almost fainted. So I had to try it. Oh my, this was the most tender beef I’ve ever had, let alone the most tender brisket!!! I was so excited. This is what the sous vide is all about! I wish the photos could convey the tenderness.

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So I heated the barbecue sauce, and placed the green rice on a serving plate, topped by the slices of brisket.

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I didn’t serve anything else green except some good asparagus. I’m just not that creative! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Sweet Chili Shrimp

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A while back I came across a cookbook called The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. When I first saw the title, my snobbiness took over and I refused to look into it further.

But then I came across the cookbook again, and it got me thinking about the whole idea of Chinese takeout. I don’t do takeout of any kind of food, but if I did, it would be Chinese. I love all of the vegetables and the bean sprouts and the noodles, especially! And who doesn’t love egg rolls!!! Plus, you get it in those adorable little boxes with the handles.

In the U.S., really all we know about Chinese food, at least in my experience, is from little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants that serve Americanized versions of Chinese food. You know, the breaded, deep-fried everything served with gloppy sauces that all seem to taste the same. (I even had an MSG reaction at one of these restaurants.)

But the thing is, a lot of this food is really good, especially if you know what to order. And until you go to a real Chinatown and have dim sum, like Chinese steamed buns, or happen to have a mother who cooks authentic Chinese, it’s all you know as an American. Just like we all used to think that Italian food was really all about lasagna and spaghetti.

So I decided to buy this cookbook after all, and I’m glad I did. It’s been fun looking over recipes like Kung Pao Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, Chop Suey, and Egg Foo Young. Remember all of those?!!!

But the first one I decided to make out of the cookbook was Sweet Chili Shrimp because I’d just purchased a pound of beautiful shrimp.

So here is the exact recipe from this cookbook – no MSG required.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey*
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 shallot, finely chopped

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Set aside.

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Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 to 40 seconds. Toss in the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until pink.

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Pour in the sauce and stir to coat the shrimp well.

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Transfer to a plate and serve.

* I used less honey just because I didn’t want these too sweet.

note: These would also make a fabulous hors d’oeuvre!

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The author of this cookbook is Diana Kuan. She is a food writer and cooking instructor who has taught Chinese cooking in Beijing and New York.