Tag Archives: Pernod

BAKED WONTONS

The Sunday family dinner with Carol and her family has become a regular thing. Carol always comes up with interesting and delicious things to cook. In general, she has also tried to make things that are relatively simple so that she and the family can spend most of Sunday on the beach or at one or another family activity. Still, that puts the pressure on me to come up with something that is easy and tasty – with the added requirement that it is not a repeat of one of our earlier menus. This last week my assignment was appetizer and dessert. For dessert I made a mixed berry galette. I have included the recipe in an earlier post, but I had never made it for our family dinners, so its inclusion seemed legitimate. Berry galette bakes up beautifully and has the fresh, sweet taste of spring (even though it’s winter) I have made the recipe a number of times. My most important insight is that you should bake the galette on a parchment or Silpat lined jelly roll pan and NOT a cookie sheet. No matter how hard you try to seal the crust around the berries, some of the juice well leak out. If you have no sides to the baking pan, they will spill into the oven creating a lot of smoke and a huge cleanup project.

For the appetizer, I was looking for something simple and tasty. There is a recipe for deep-fried cheese-filled wonton wrappers in our family cookbook which served as the beginning idea. A search of the internet revealed a large number of versions of filled wontons, baked or fried, lots of fillings, often centered on crab. Since some of the family have an aversion to crab (How is that possible?), that was out. One of our diners has a great affinity for goat cheese. That was in. I picked shrimp, spinach, and mushrooms as other good stuffing ingredients.

These wontons are basted in olive oil and baked rather than deep-fried. I’m not sure if that cuts back on the calories, but it makes one feel more righteous. Our family recipe just calls for the wonton wrapper to be folded over the filling into a triangle. That seems dull. This version pulls the corners of the wonton wrapper into a little pyramid that bakes up with a golden crust. They look difficult to make. Actually, they are just as easy as the boring triangles

There was enough filling for 40 to 60 individual baked wontons. At the end of the evening there were none left. I call that success.

RECIPE

Baked Wontons

Shrimp filling

Ingredients

  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese (may substitute softened cream cheese)
  • ½ pound small (51-60/pound) shrimp (sometimes called salad shrimp), cleaned, peeled and cooked
  • zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Pulse the goat cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse only until combined, leaving shrimp bits to your liking.
  3. Set aside until ready to fill the wontons.

Mushroom and spinach filling

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 4 handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup goat cheese (may substitute softened cream cheese)
  • zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat
  2. Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach is completely wilted.
  3. Pulse the mixture in the bowl of a food processor until the desired consistency.
  4. Add the goat cheese and pulse until well combined. Add Pernod and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Set aside until ready to fill the wontons

Baked wontons

Ingredients

  • 1 package of wonton wrappers (should have at least 60 wrappers)
  • fillings as above
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • olive oil

Method

  1. On a clean, dry surface, arrange wonton wrappers for filling.
  2. Place about 1½ teaspoons of filling in the center of each wrapper. Be careful not to overfill so that the wontons will stay sealed during baking.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg and water together until well combined. With your finger, trace the outer edge of a wonton with the wash. Then, pull up adjacent corners of the wonton and press together. Repeat with the other corners to form a four-sided “tent”. Make sure that the edges are all well sealed.
  4. Repeat with the remaining wontons. Repeat the entire process until you have used up all the filling or have gotten tired.
  5. Lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange the filled wontons so that they do not touch one another. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the wontons with more olive oil.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 400°F.
  7. Cool on a rack. Serve while still warm or later reheat in a 300°F oven for no more than 5 minutes. Makes about 40-60 wontons.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

SHAVED FENNEL AND HARICOT VERT VINAIGRETTE

Fennel is beginning to appear at the farmers market. It is unlike  that in the supermarkets. The bulbs are big, and the tops are left on so that you may have four feet of vegetable, including the fronds.

I think fennel is beautiful. The fronds are lacy and brilliant green. The bulbs have the interlocked leaf bases that remind me of a nautilus shell. The perfume is that exotic, unforgettable odor, not quite of licorice or anise, but wonderful. And it’s all edible.

When I bought my farmers market fennel, the woman behind me wondered aloud what you can do with it. The vendor said that she puts it in salads. I said, “Braise it’,” thinking of quartered bulb braised with a juicy pork chop. But you can turn both bulb and fronds into soup, a boiled vegetable, and even a desert.

The large-bulbed (not actually a bulb but the thickened ends of the stems of the fronds) variety is sometimes called Florence fennel or finocchio to distinguish it from common fennel that has no bulb and grows wild in abundance in Northern California. In the past, I’ve written about using the “pollen” from wild fennel to flavor bread, as they do at Rich Table, or to add to soups and custards.

I also bought some haricots verts from one of my favorite vendors at the market. I like his products because he has fingerling potatoes in several colors, squash blossoms, petit pan squash, and heirloom tomatoes that are not as popular with other vendors. That made me think that a fresh salad of fennel and haricot vert would be a perfect summer accompaniment to seared ahi tuna.

RECIPE

Shaved Fennel and Haricot Vert Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Use your best stuff)
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • salt and pepper
  • good pinch of sugar
  • 1 good-sized fennel bulb, trimmed and washed
  • haricots verts (about two good handfuls), trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • lettuce leaves

Method

  1. Using a dinner fork or small whisk, combine the lemon juice and mustard in a two-cup glass measuring cup
  2. Beating vigorously, gradually add the olive oil, one tablespoonful at a time, making sure it is completely incorporated.
  3. Beat in the Pernod, salt and pepper to taste, and sugar. Set aside.
  4. Using a mandolin, slice the fennel bulb into paper-thin slices.
  5. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to the boil. Stir in the trimmed green beans and return to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes after the pot has returned to the boil. Drain and plunge the cooked beans into a bowl of ice and water that you have prepared ahead.
  6. When the beans have cooled, drain and combine with the shaved fennel. Dress with the vinaigrette, toss, and cover with plastic wrap. Reserve any remaining vinaigrette for another use.  Refrigerate for 2 hours until ready to serve on lettuce leaves.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants

DEVILED CRAB AND MUSHROOM GRATIN

For those of you who live near an ocean, crab is probably not so special, even more so now during crab season. Evan fishes for crabs at the beach near home in San Francisco. Carol goes to a great seafood shop right on the pier in Los Angeles. We land-locked folks are not so lucky. We can buy small plastic containers filled with pasteurized crab from Indonesia, and that’s about it. The pull date on the package is nearly 6 months away, so it is hard to think of the product as “fresh”, although it certainly beats canned crab filled with paper wrapping hard to distinguish from what is called the crab.

In spite of these shortcomings, I recently bought some of the pasteurized crab because I thought it would be easy for Susan to eat. As directed, I looked for bits of shell, and sure enough I found some. I admit that I did use a crutch. Some time ago, we bought a little ultraviolet (“black light”) flashlight from American Science & Surplus to search for scorpions in the desert with the grandchildren. It really works for that, and so I thought it might work with crab. Many restaurants use black light to screen their crab before they use it, so it was not an original idea. Nevertheless, our cheap little black light worked, and I found several pieces of shell and cartilage. One of my images shows my discovery of a bit of cartilage, although holding the camera and flashlight in a dark room while struggling with proper focus and exposure was a set of coordinated activities beyond my skill set.

After that little adventure, I set about using the crab in something that would be soft enough and not too spicy for Susan. Crab and mushrooms seemed like a perfect option.

RECIPE

Deviled Crab and Mushroom Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon prepared whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod
  • 6 crimini mushrooms sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup crabmeat
  • 1 cup panko, divided
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Method

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and to make a blond roux. Do not allow to brown.
  2. Stir in the milk and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and then stir in the garlic, mustard, parsley, and Pernod.
  3. In another saucepan, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the olive oil. Stir into the sauce along with the crab and ½ cup of the panko.
  4. Arrange in one or two buttered ramekins. Top with the remaining panko and grated Parmesan. Brush on melted butter.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 15 minutes or until bubbling. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is browned.
  6. Serve immediately. Serves two.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

PISTACHIO-STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Stuffed mushrooms are so retro. They were very popular in the 1960s, but you almost never see them now except at the Olive Garden. That is too bad, because they are easy to make and delicious to eat. They are perfect with cocktails and also make a good first course. The important step is to sauté the mushroom caps before you stuff them. Then you can let your imagination run wild and stuff them with whatever sounds appealing. We have a big bowl of pistachios that we have been snacking from for days, and even though pistachios are surprisingly low-cal, they are not when you eat them by the bowlful. Stuffing them into mushrooms seemed like a good dodge. That’s partly because I have no idea how many calories are in a stuffed mushroom.

RECIPE

Pistachio-Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 8 large crimini mushrooms (the largest you can find not labeled as Portobellos)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 scallions, including green ends, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Pernod
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the mushroom caps. Sauté for about 3 minutes and turn over. Sauté the other side of the mushroom caps until cooked through. Remove to a plate, draining any liquid that has accumulated in the caps.
  2. Remove any woody part of the mushroom stems and chop finely. Return them to the sauté pan along with the chopped scallions. Add more olive oil if needed. Sauté until cooked through. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the pistachios, Swiss cheese, bread crumbs, sour cream, and Pernod. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3. With a small spoon, fill the mushroom caps with the pistachio mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the grated Parmesan cheese, and place under a hot broiler until the mushrooms are heated through and the tops have browned.
  4. Serve immediately.

2 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

CHEESE BLOSSOMS THREE WAYS

Cheese straws are such a classic Southern tradition that it seems almost cliché to write about them. They are served at ladies’ luncheons, cocktail parties, and holiday festivities. I have been making them for years except that  during my early attempts I had a hard time turning the dough into “straws”. I used a cookie press, and the treats came out flowers. Never mind, my kids loved them so I have been making them that way ever since.

Cheese straws/blossoms are required at every family gathering, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I make double and triple batches and lug them in my carry-on luggage when I travel. That way they don’t get turned into cheese crumbs.  Even at that, the little gems disappear before everyone has had his or her fill. In fact, after many years, I have learned that some of the family have hidden away private stashes, not trusting the others to share gracefully.

This year, Carol and Cameron will be visiting from Los Angeles for a few days. Then my wife and I will head to the Bay Area to enjoy Thanksgiving with the others. I decided to make three batches and to try different cheese combinations. The usual version uses extra sharp Cheddar cheese. I gave Swiss (Emmentaler) and bleu (Roquefort) cheeses a try as well. The recipes are not wildly different, but because of the different moistures and consistencies of the three cheeses, a little different approach is required for each. In the end, though, I was pleased with the result.

RECIPES

Cheddar Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese, flour, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen.

Swiss Cheese and Dill Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces “Swiss” (Emmentaler) cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons dill fronds, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese,flour, Kirsch, dill and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen

Roquefort Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. Crumble the cheese into the bowl of the food processor. Add  flour, Pernod,  and salt. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  2. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  3. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  5. Makes about 6 dozen

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

BOXED MACARONI DINNER INCOGNITO

Some time ago I wrote about James Kraft and his invention of Velveeta processed cheese food. His small company morphed into a giant food manufacturer that has been responsible for some of the inventions that have made American cuisine what it is. Those inventions include Miracle Whip salad dressing, Cheez Whiz, Parkay margarine,  and arguably the most famous of all, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner that came into being in 1937.

Since then, there is probably not a single American child who has not had boxed macaroni and cheese. In fact, in our family it is a child’s favorite that is often preferred to Mom’s carefully crafted (no pun intended) macaroni and cheese made from the finest ingredients. The good news is that children’s tastes change as they grow older.

Recognizing the appeal of boxed macaroni and cheese dinners with kids, some time back when we were watching over some of our grandchildren for several days, I bought a box but wound up not using it. It came home with us and has been residing in our pantry for awhile (It is virtually indestructible and will probably last forever, along with my box of Velveeta). It has become a bit of an embarrassment, so when I was reorganizing the pantry a while back, I decided to use it with the sub-plot of disguising it so much that it would fool an adult.

Well, it turned out to be pretty well disguised, but sorry to say, you will not be fooled. Still it was a pleasant diversion and something that went ok with soy-sauce-and-lemon-vinaigrette-braised flounder.

 

RECIPE

Boxed Macaroni Dinner Incognito

Ingredients

  • 1 7.25-ounce package of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional)
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (doesn’t need to be EVOO)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup panko
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated
  • butter to dot the top of the casserole

Method

  1. Prepare the macaroni and cheese dinner according to instructions on the box. Pour the finished dinner into a bowl and set aside.
  2. With your hands, squeeze as much water out of the thawed spinach as you can. Chop finely.
  3. Saute the mushrooms over medium heat in the olive oil. Drain.
  4. Combine the spinach and mushrooms with the prepared dinner. Stir in Pernod to your taste, but be careful as it can be overpowering if used too liberally)
  5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper
  6. Top with panko and grated Parmesan. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake in the middle of a 350° F (177° C) oven for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Serve.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

SANTORINI AND SPANAKOPITA

The ship sailed into the harbor at Santorini just as the dawn broke over the Aegean Sea. We were surrounded by mountaintops glistening a blazing white. Snow, I thought. In the Mediterranean? Impossible. And then I realized that the villages of Santorini were perched on the peaks surrounding us, washed an incredible white, and glued to the impossibly steep slopes all the way to the harbor below. No wonder so many tour guides call Santorini the best island escape in the world.

The islands have been populated for thousands of years, but they have also been the scene of unthinkable human disasters. Even from a ship, it is clear that the villages have been built upon the remaining walls of an ancient volcano, and that the harbor nestled in the ring of islands is the caldera of that volcano.

Minoan culture once thrived on the islands, not that of the capital in Crete, but clearly more than just an outpost. Ancient ruins have been excavated showing vivid wall paintings, impressive buildings, and a thriving population center. All of that came to an abrupt end in about 1600 BCE when the volcano exploded with one of the largest flows of smoke, lava, and ash during historical times. Crops failed in China because of the explosion, and the civilization on Santorini was annihilated. The islands remained uninhabited for hundreds of years. Some believe that the disaster is the source of the legend of Atlantis.

There have been other eruptions over the centuries, and seismic and volcanic activities have been recorded in recent years. Still the inhabitants seem oblivious to all of this, and the visitor is soon caught up in the apparent tranquility of the scene.

The sands of the popular beaches may be red or black or white depending upon the color of the volcanic layer from which they come. The environment is that of a desert with desert plants and no natural sources of water except the rains. Some of the buildings are painted in pastel shades, but the great majority are whitewashed with bold blue trim. Churches are everywhere, and their vivid blue roofs meet the clear blue of the cloudless skies. Narrow streets weave along the crests of the hills. Everyone seems to relax in a casual stroll.

Our  visit ended with a ride down the cable car with a panoramic view of the harbor down below. It is easy to see why many Greeks as well as celebrities have chosen Santorini as a quiet getaway.

 

SPANAKOPITA

More than forty years ago when we lived in Salt Lake City, Susan was well-known amongst our friends for one of her hors d’oeuvres which she served with drinks. The recipe came from the local Junior League’s Heritage Cookbook and was called “crab triangles”. The dish was equally popular when we moved to Shreveport. It called for flaked crab meat, cream cheese, phyllo dough, and butter. At the time, neither of us knew that the triangles were a riff on the Greek treats, tyropitas (phyllo triangles filled with cheese) or spanakopita (phyllo triangles filled with spinach and cheese)

The following recipe is not necessarily authentic (every Greek family has its own recipe so, what, after all, is really “authentic”?) But it’s pretty close to the real thing, and it is good enough that you probably will not have any leftovers. It uses frozen phyllo dough which usually comes in a 1 pound box containing two separate rolls of 20 leaves of dough in each roll. Be sure to read the label.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter
  • 1 roll (½ pound) phyllo dough thawed according to instructions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 9 ounce package of pre-washed spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Prepare clarified butter by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Let milk solids settle to the bottom of the pan. Then pour the skimmed butter slowly into a glass measuring cup, being careful not to pour the milk solids into the cup. Set aside the clarified butter in a warm, not hot, place.
  • Heat a medium frying pan over a medium-low flame. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in the shallots and cook until wilted and translucent. Do not brown.
  • Add the chopped spinach, cover, and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the wine and Pernod. Cook until the mixture has given up most of its moisture and is dry. Do not brown or allow to burn. Cool for 5 minutes.
  • Combine spinach mixture, feta cheese, eggs, and Parmesan. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
 

10 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel