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Oct 23, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Just Five

Just Five: Halloween Pasta

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

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Squid ink pasta looks more dramatic than it tastes. Its slight brininess is stronger in fresh pasta than in dried, and it’s intensified even more in this dish thanks to anchovy paste, but mostly it tastes of garlic and sweet cooked squash. Delicata squash is perfect for this dish thanks to its thin, edible skin (no peeling required!) and quick cooking time.

This pasta is the perfect meal for your ghouls and goblins before they head out for a night of trick-or-treating. Noodles black as night are studded with orange crescent moons and plenty of garlic to keep the vampires at bay. Of course, it’s also adult enough to be the entree at a themed dinner party served with goblets of blood red wine. Drape a black lace cloth over the table and string some fake cobwebs around a candelabra for a festive, fun Halloween night.

 

Halloween Pasta
4 servings

1 delicata squash
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for tossing
Kosher salt to taste
8 oz. squid ink pasta*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
¼ cup shaved Parmesan or pecorino cheese

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the ends off the delicata squash, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice into ½-inch crescents. Toss the squash with olive oil to coat and salt to taste, and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain the noodles.
• In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and stir until fragrant, then add the roasted squash and saute 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water and toss gently to coat, about 1 minute. Top with the cheese and serve.

*Squid ink pasta can be found at Parker’s Table.

 

Just Five: Potato Soup

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

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Soup: it’s universal, comforting, tasty, satisfying and above all, it’s easy as … well, soup. Everyone should have a simple recipe like this one in his or her arsenal. After all, a basic soup is little more than boiling water, chopping up a few veggies and letting it simmer away until it’s time to eat.

This potato serves as a base recipe for any number of variations. Consider adding carrots or leeks with your celery and onion. Use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water; change up the spices. Then, let your guests gild the lily with grated cheddar cheese, chives and crisp bacon.
Potato Soup
6 cups

4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
4 russet potatoes, roughly peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
4 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Stir in the thyme and potatoes.
• Add 4 cups water, enough to just cover the potatoes, and the evaporated milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, them immediately lower the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
• Use an immersion blender to purée the potatoes to the desired consistency, or use a blender and work in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

Just Five: Pimento Cheese Crackers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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Here are some things I know to be true: The folks at Southern Living magazine like their cheese and crackers, particularly when combined into things like cheese straws. Also true is that I can eat an entire box of cheese straws during the drive home from the grocery store.

To feed my craving (and to avoid getting crumbs all over my car), I adapted that Southern Living recipe to make crackers instead of straws with a bit more oomph in the spice blend. These little fellas are incredibly easy to assemble, and they taste a lot like a certain small orange cracker one might find in a red box. To make true crackers, be sure to roll the dough very thin; if not, the crackers stay a little soft, closer to a thin biscuit. In my home, these “Snacky Crackers” never last more than a day.
Pimento Cheese Crackers
Adapted from a Southern Living recipe
Makes about 5 dozen

1½ cup flour
1½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. chili powder
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
2½ cups (10 oz.) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp. kosher salt
A few tablespoons water

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground mustard and chili powder. Set aside.
• Pat the drained pimentos dry with paper towels, and mince half, leaving the other half coarsely diced. Toss the pimentos in the flour mixture until lightly coated. Set aside.
• Use an electric or stand mixer to beat together the cheese, butter and salt on medium speed until combined. Slowly add the flour-pimento mixture and continue to beat on medium speed, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, but does not become sticky.
• Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/8-inch thick. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to score the crackers into 2-by-2-inch squares and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet with a little space between each. Pierce each cracker with a fork.
• Bake 16 to 19 minutes, or until just brown around the edges. Let cool on a rack. Crackers will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Just Five: Viva Verde Cocktail

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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Surely drinking green things is good for you. And tequila is chockablock full of antioxidants, right? OK, sadly that’s not true, but this refreshing green sipper is ideal for your mental health during these last few summer evenings of the year. Cool, crisp cucumber and zesty lime get goosed with a surprise jalapeno kick. It’s sweetened with a touch of agave, which enhances tequila’s smoky qualities.

As with all liquor, I beg of you – don’t buy the cheapest thing on the bottom shelf just because its going into a mixed drink. Spend a couple extra dollars for decent booze. It makes for a smoother, more nuanced drink, and it doesn’t taste like battery acid. I prefer a reposado tequila for this cocktail for a bit more depth of flavor, but a tequila blanco would also work.
Viva Verde Cocktail
2 servings

1 seedless cucumber, peeled
¾ cup water
¼ cup lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno with seeds
2 Tbsp. agave plus more to taste
3 oz. tequila, divided

• Peel the cucumber and slice off 2 small rounds for garnish. Set aside the rounds and chop the remaining cucumber.
• Pulse the chopped cucumber, water, lime juice, jalapeno and agave in a blender until completely liquefied. Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the juice into a bowl, pressing the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids. Refrigerate the juice at least 1 hour until chilled.
• Add half the juice mixture, 1½ ounces tequila and a handful of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake hard 30 seconds, then strain into a martini glass. Repeat with the remaining juice and tequila. Garnish each glass with a slice of cucumber.

Just Five: Grilled Mango with Ice Cream

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

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This is the perfect dessert to bust out after a backyard barbecue. The coals are already hot \, and grilled mango is a super simple way to impress your guests. It’s tropical, refreshing and it surprises with just a kick of chili powder. I love to combine sweet and spicy, especially when I can make something pretty. Sweet ice cream is such a nice counter-balance to the hot fruit – like pie a la mode without heating up the house for an hour (Though if its mango pie you’re after, we’ve got that, too. Click here for the recipe.). Serve this treat with a scoop of your Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream from last week’s Just Five for a tropical dessert that screams of summer.

Grilled Mango with Ice Cream
4 servings

2 Tbsp. lime juice
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. honey
4 ripe mangos
Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream (recipe here)

• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high, direct heat. Clean and oil the grate well.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chili powder and honey. Set aside.
• Use a sharp knife to slice the sides from the mango, using the large flat seed in the center as a guide. Each mango will yield 2 pieces. Without piercing the skin, carefully slice a crosshatch pattern into the flesh.
• Grill the mango slices flesh-side down 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip them, then brush the lime juice mixture onto the flesh, making sure to get the juice into the cracks. Flip the mango flesh-side down again, and grill 1 minute. Remove from grill and let cool slightly.
• To serve, gently press the skin in the center to fan out the mango flesh. Serve immediately with a scoop of ice cream.

Just Five: Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

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I seem to be on a coconut tear these days: coconut water, coconut oil, coconut kefir, coconut yogurt… Clearly, my mind wants me to head to a tropical island, but unfortunately, the closest I am able to get is the grocery store. Fine. If I can’t go to the islands, I’ll bring the islands home with this sweet, creamy dessert.

Ice cream runs in my blood. My great-grandfather owned an ice cream company at the turn of the last century in Dayton, Ohio. When he died, he left it to my grandfather, who would bring home plenty to share. Each Sunday, my family had a big “dinner” in the early afternoon, and around 7 p.m., we shared popcorn and milkshakes made with delicious Gem City Ice Cream.

I’m not sure what my grandaddy would have to say about coconut-lime ice cream, but my family ate almost all of it before I could get a photo. The simple ingredients undermine how decadent this ice cream is. Instead of coconut milk, I reached for cream of coconut, which is usually used in mixed drinks like piña coladas. It is already sweetened, so there is no need to add any sugar – though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if a tablespoon or so of dark rum were to fall into the mix. (Fun fact: Adding alcohol to your ice cream base will keep it from freezing rock solid.)

Now sing along with me (You know you want to):

 

 

Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1 15-oz. can cream of coconut
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. lime zest

Special equipment: Ice cream maker

• Gently heat the cream of coconut, half-and-half and cream in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until just simmering. Reduce the heat to low.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Temper the egg yolks by drizzling ½ cup of the warm cream mixture into bowl, whisking constantly. Repeat with another ½ cup of cream, whisking constantly (If you pour the hot liquid in too quickly, you will scramble the eggs.) Whisk another 1 cup cream mixture into the egg yolks, then pour the liquid back into the saucepan.
• Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and whisk until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and stir in the zest.
• Pour the hot ice cream base into a bowl and let cool at room temperature 20 minutes. Then place it in the refrigerator and chill 4 hours.
• Pour the chilled base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze at least 2 hours before serving.

Just Five: Simple Baked Bay Scallops

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

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My family loves to make fun of my nickname for scallops – the marshmallows of the sea. But that is exactly what they are: sweet, tender, delicious and a challenge to cook perfectly. Like a burnt marshmallow, a tough, overcooked scallop is a sad thing to eat.

Most people are familiar with two types of scallops. The larger mollusks (the size of a standard to jumbo-sized marshmallow) are sea scallops, while bay scallops are the smaller variety (more the mini-marshmallow size). Both types are available in most grocery stories and fish markets, and there’s no discernible difference in flavor.

This dish is deceptively simple; after all, there’s no good reason to dress up a properly prepared scallop. Here, you simply poach bay scallops in butter infused with garlic and wine, them top them with Ritz crackers, saltines or panko for crunch. Adding herbs or a little heat would be inspired, but use a light hand. You don’t want to overpower the delicate nautical marshmallow.

Simple Baked Bay Scallops
4 servings

3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
12 oz. bay scallops, patted dry
4 Tbsp. crisp white wine such as a sauvignon blanc
¾ cup crushed Ritz crackers
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

• Move the oven rack to the highest level and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter and garlic in a 24-ounce baking dish and bake 3 minutes, until the butter is melted.
• Remove the baking dish, leaving the oven on. Add the scallops and drizzle the wine over the top. Use a spoon to baste the scallops with the liquid until coated. Sprinkle the crushed crackers and Parmesan cheese over the scallops and bake 10 minutes.
• Switch the oven to the broiler and broil 2 minutes, until the cracker topping is browned.
• Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the sauce.

Just Five: Honey-Roasted Chickpeas

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

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Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, ceci, channa… Call them what you will, I must have two cans of these babies on hand at all times or I panic. Chickpeas are incredible versatile; rinse and throw them straight into salads, pastas and soups, or puree them with garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil for hummus. Roasting turns them into a crunchy substitute for croutons in a salad (hello, gluten-free eaters!) or a protein-packed snack.

Normally I just toss them with a little salt and cayenne or chili powder before roasting, but this time I upped the flavor factor with one key ingredient: garam masala, a wonderful combination of aromatic spices that marries delightfully with a citrusy honey glaze. Put these out to snack on with a summer shandy or a gin and tonic, or bring them to share at the next barbecue.

Honey-Roasted Chickpeas
Makes 1 cup

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. garam masala
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread chickpeas on top in a single layer. Roast 40 minutes, tossing occasionally.
• Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, garam masala, cayenne and salt. Immediately, toss the hot chickpeas into the bowl and evenly coat them with the glaze. Pour them back onto the baking sheet and roast another 10 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and toss with the zest. Let cool and serve.

Just Five: Grilled Endive Salad with Cannellini Beans

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

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Endive makes me feel like a “fancy” grown-up. First, there’s the pronunciation. I love that you can say AHN’-deev or EN’-dyve – I do enjoy ingredients that put on airs. Also it’ rather bitter, but once grilled, a bit of natural sweetness comes out. And only the fanciest grown-ups have developed a taste for bitter things, right?

This is a great dish for a summer barbecue, especially for long-suffering vegetarians, with simple, clean, fresh flavors and a nice combination of textures. Leftovers are equally delightful chopped up and served with grilled chicken or steak. So invite your AUH’-nt over, fill the VAH’-ze with flowers and grill up some AHN’-deev for her, DAH’-ling!

Grilled Endive Salad with Cannellini Beans
4 to 6 Servings

1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
¼ cup chopped fresh dill, divided
4 heads Belgian endive
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

• Prepare the grill for high, direct heat.
• Meanwhile, in a saute pan over medium-low heat, warm the cannellini beans for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil and half the dill, and toss with the beans. Set aside.
• Trim the ends of the endive, without removing the stem holding the leavings together. Slice each head in half lengthwise. Brush the cut side of the endive with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
• Brush the grate with a bit of olive oil and grill the endive about 4 minutes, until leaves just begin to curl and char. Remove from heat.
• Place the grilled endive cut-side-up in a serving dish. Spoon the beans over the endive and top with remaining dill and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or room temperature.

 

 

Just Five: The Dee Special (Kale and Eggs)

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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Sometimes, I help out at LHC in Tower Grove; I think I bring a certain gravitas to the joint – mostly because I’m twice as old as most of the employees. I truly enjoy bouncing ideas off cook Tom Valli. Case in point: Here’s a recent tête-à-tête about what has become my go-to meal after a shift.

Dee The Helper: I have to figure out what I want to eat. I’m thinking sauteed kale.
Tom The Cook: Really? Just a plate of kale?
Dee: Well, maybe throw an egg at it? Or two?
Tom: What if some bacon were to fall in?
Dee: Well, that never hurt anybody. What do you think would happen if some syrup spilled on the plate?
Tom: Syrup with bacon is good. Syrup with eggs is good. Therefore, it seems logical that syrup and kale would also be good.
Dee: Excelsior! We have hot sauce, right?
Tom: Goes without saying. Don’t tell anyone to order this in real life, OK?
Dee: I wouldn’t dream of it.

The Dee Special (Kale and Eggs)
1 Serving

1 to 2 tsp. olive oil
1 slice bacon, chopped
3 cups kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha or other hot sauce

• Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook 2 minutes. Add the chopped kale and saute 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to wilt. Transfer the kale and bacon to a bowl. Stir in the maple syrup and tent with foil. Set aside.
• Carefully wipe the skillet with paper towels and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil, if needed. Crack the eggs into the skillet, pour in 2 tablespoons of water and cover. Cook no more than 3 minutes, until the whites are just set.
• Slide the eggs on top of the kale, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with hot sauce and serve.

 

 

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