Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fresh Tomato Jalapeno Salsa

A few years ago my husband and I went to Puerto Vallarta with his family. At the resort we visited all of us became incredibly addicted to a fresh salsa they served...essentially tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and lime juice. How could you go wrong with something like that??
Ever since we visited that resort, we have attempted to re-create the salsa at home and this recipes is quite good!

You can control the spice by using a serrano instead of jalapeno for a hotter salsa. Or, use the white membrane and seeds from the jalapeno to make a spicier version as well. I think that roma tomatoes make for the best tomatoes for this because they tend to be a bit drier than vine. And of course, you can go with a larger dice to emulate a pico de gallo.

Ingredients to make approximately 1 cup:
  • 2 large roma tomatoes, small dice
  • 1 medium jalapeno, small dice
  • 1/4 white onion, small dice
  • Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime (to taste)
  • Pinch of kosher salt (to taste)
  • Optional ingredients: Cilantro, Garlic

Directions
  1. Finely dice tomatoes, jalapeno, onion. Place in a bowl and squeeze lime over the tomato mixture.
  2. Add pinch of kosher salt and taste to make sure there's enough lime and salt.
  3. Eat right away or let marinate to blend flavors more
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Chicken Cheddar Chowder


My husband and I celebrated the sale of our house last weekend at our favorite steakhouse, Delmonico's. On the menu that night was a Corn Chowder that was mighty tasty. One taste of that soup and I was craving a corn-y, creamy soup all week long. This recipe sounded perfect to satisfy my craving and be filling enough as a stand-alone dish. I found the recipe on myrecipes.com. It's actually a Cooking Light recipe but the creaminess and smoky flavor certainly don't lead you to believe that it's also a lower-calorie soup (only 306 in 1.5 cups).

The recipe came together easily with ingredients I had on hand. I did make a couple of modifications. First - I halved the recipe since it's just the two of us. Halving the recipe meant that I should have started by frying only one piece of bacon, but because I used center cut bacon (which has less fat than regular) I kept the number of strips fried at two. The only other changes I made were to use one chicken breast, yukon gold potatoes instead of red, and several dashes of hot red pepper flakes at the end.

The result was a slightly smoky, relatively creamy (yet still light on the tummy), and satisfying soup. The chicken was tender, the corn had the right amount of sweetness, and is definitely something I would make again.

Here's the recipe on myrecipes.com: Chicken Cheddar Chowder

Here's the recipe for a halved, modified version:
Ingredients
  • 2 bacon slices (if using center cut, 1 if using regular)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/4 cups fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced peeled red potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups 2% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Dashes of red pepper

Preparation
  1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Crumble; set aside.
  2. Add chicken, onion, bell pepper, and garlic to bacon fat in pan; sauté 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth and potatoes; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Add corn; stir well.
  5. Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup.
  6. Cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently.
  7. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper(s). Top with crumbled bacon.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homemade Bagels



I've had my eye on a couple of bagel recipes and this weekend I finally bit the bullet and made them. The recipe has been adapted from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, as seen on the Smitten Kitchen's blog. When I first saw her blog with the recipe I hesitated to make them because of the lengthy directions. But, when I saw the same recipe elsewhere I realized that Smitten Kitchen had just posted more details than the other site, and truly the recipe was not TOO difficult. However, I will say that this is a bit more challenging than some of the other bread recipes I've tried thus far.

I think that my sponge was a little dry and I am a bit unsure why. When I incorporated the flour to make the dough, it took a while for the dough to come together and was really a very dry mess. I had to add some water to the dough, but by this point I was nervous. Had I just wasted 2+ hours of rising a sponge only to ruin it?? Did my use of honey instead of the barley malt powder or syrup ruin this?? As I pressed on I realized that no...I just needed some patience! When my mixer acted like it couldn't really handle the stress of the stiffened dough, I kneaded on the counter for about 10 minutes. The kneading for ten minutes really helped the rest of the ingredients come together. It was a stiff dough, and took some muscle to get it into shape.

Boiling the bagels was easier than I thought it'd be. I actually used two chop sticks to turn each bagel and fish them out of the water...despite the fact that I lost one boiled bagel to the floor after it flew off my slick chopstick. Thank goodness I had made 17 instead of 16. Boiling two bagels at a time allowed me to drop two into the water at the exact same time, fish two out relatively quickly, and top two bagels with the toppings before they dried. For the toppings I used poppyseed, minced dried onion, minced dried garlic, kosher salt. I also made several "everything" bagels which I have deemed my favorite.

The baking part was super easy, but I have learned that I need a better set of baking pans. I have a $2 grocery store pizza pan that my husband and I got LONG ago when we lived in an apartment together. It only held five bagels. Then, used an unrimmed cookie sheet that proved to be a messy option given that the lack of sides meant the cornmeal and toppings went flying on to my kitchen floor. And, it only held nine bagels...so I was left with figuring out how to bake the last two when I realized I had heated my pizza stone in the oven. When it came time to boil the last two bagels (which I left plain), I tossed some cornmeal onto the hot pizza stone. Lesson learned here - cornmeal will smoke if you leave it uncovered on a stone! Then, I grabbed the bagels out of the boiling water, let them drain, then tossed them onto the stone. I placed the two other pans in the oven and let them bake for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I rotated the two pans, but left the pizza stone in place. Results of the pizza stone bagels were nice! A bit darker and more crunchy than the other bagels.I suggest using the convection setting on your oven if you've got it.

The results of my bagel baking experience are phenomenal. I am frankly quite impressed with how these homemade NYC style bagels came out. Much better than what I find at Panera or Einsteins. Even my husband, who doesn't like bagels pretty much inhaled an onion one without hesitation. I cannot wait to eat another one.

You can find the recipe I used here, on Smitten Kitchen's Blog: Bagel Recipe

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