Friday, July 31, 2009

Cherry Almond Salad with Gorgonzola Maple dressing

It's salad week. Are you ready for this? My gosh! I was driving down the road and almost passed our farmer's market until I notice that cherries where 3 lbs for a dollar. No joke. After all the tire smoke and accident reports, I went in an loaded up. Ahhhh. I have found my mystical happy place. If I was 2 inches tall, I'd have a cherry in my rec room, right next to the bean bag.
So, in High School, we called the druggie freaks "stoners". I'm not really proud of the fact that I ever labeled anyone. Now whenever I take out the cherry stoner, I feel guilty...but only for a fleeting second.

This is the stoner my mom gave me.It's the non-drug freak (that mom would give to someone).
My oh my. A war broke loose in my kitchen. Every time one of the boys would take a turn punching the stones out, the other one would make the sound effect of an automatic weapon. I don't know if I should be proud or worried. Neither one ever morned the death of a fallen cherry. In fact, they ate the shattered remains. If I was a fruit rights advocate, this would have been utter horror to watch. Seriously...are there fruit rights advocates?
The dressing was pretty simple:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 tsp black pepper
Oh I love Gorgonzola. If it didn't smell like stinky socks, I would wear a sachet of it around my neck to have on hand whenever I wanted a cheese fix. But, alas, it does have a distinct odor...not very flattering. As a side note, the first year and a half after my baby was born, the spit up that ended up on my clothes now and then would get that same exact smell. Now...don't let that stop you from putting it on your salad. It actually tastes immensely better than spit up. No. I haven't eaten spit up.
Whisk it into your dressing.
Look. It's really awesome. I promise.
I think this dressing would also be amazing with any fresh stone fruit like plums, nectarines and peaches.

I used 5 cups of fresh pitted cherries, 1/2 cup toasted blanched almonds. Just mixed into the dressing and then poured out very artistically on some Nappa cabbage.
For the record, they ate the salad so fast I couldn't even catch it on film! That followed by a "Mom, this is the beeeeest salad I ever had!". Yea, nothing like a 6 year old telling one that to make one feel like a freak genius...which may just be the new term for mom-cherry-stoners. If I must label myself. Chef Tess Bakeresse...freak genius. Feel free to never call me that.
Try it. I think you'll love it! Be a cherry stoner. Do you feel the peer pressure right now? There you go.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cuban Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Pineapple and Jicama

I love Tara. For Christmas she got me a subscription to a magazine that I love. I don't love her just for that (of course). However...I must confess, it has been one of my favorite gifts. It is called Cuisine at Home. I love it. Love it. Love it. This month's issue had an amazing recipe that I knew I would adore. However, I had to break down and do something rash. True confessions. Ready? I know I vowed a solemn vow that I would not turn on my stove this week...but I broke down and used my grill pan. It was only on for 7 minutes so I don't feel like I deviated too much from my commitment. If anyone wants to kick my pat-oootie, I apologize. I just figured that this salad would merit a solid place on this week's summer salad expo. It is a crazy combination of naturally sweet produce in a tangy spicy lime dressing that completely kicks things in high gear. It's vegan. My heart loves it. So here it is. The Cuban grilled sweet potato salad of joy and happiness. Adapted from:
For the salad you will need:
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 of fresh pineapple (I just grilled the chunks)
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds (about 12 ounces)
For the dressing:
2 T honey
juice and zest of one lime
1 tsp red pepper flakes.
pepper and kosher salt, to taste.
I'm a huge fan of jicama. This time we cut it with a crinkle cutter. It just looked really festive and my boys thought they where French fries. Ironically, even though they where not deep fat fried potato bombs, my kids still loved them.
Toss the sweet potatoes on the grill for 5-7 minutes, just until tender.
The grill marks not only add some color, but caramelized the sugars in the potatoes, making them amazing.
While the sweet potatoes where grilling, I sliced the pineapple.
Zesting the lime while the sweet potatoes cooked too...see how efficient I can be when I'm hungry? I also grilled some of the pineapple, but didn't grill it all. If I was outside grilling I may have gone that far...but I just didn't want my house to get much hotter.
Cut the lime in half and add the juice.
I carefully, mathematically and meticulously measured the honey. Okay...I may have just "eyeballed it"...

Add the chile flakes, pepper and salt.

Cool the sweet potatoes slightly, crinkle cut, and toss with the salad.
We had it as a main course, but this would also be a wonderfully flavorful side dish for some spicy kebabs or grilled fish. Totally different. Totally fat free and funky fresh.
There you go.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Favorite 'Tater Salad

Would salad week be complete without adding an American classic like Potato salad? I personally can't remember a picnic without a big bowl of the stuff...nor do I want to imagine life without potato salad. Now, I am absolutely certain that there are several thousand recipes for perfect potato salad, but this one is one of my personal favorites. I adapted it from the original 1950's Betty Crocker it has to be good right folks? Good enough for Granny is good enough for me. True to my word, I will not be cooking on the stove, but rather, cooking this batch in the Solar Oven . It's just to stinking hot here to cook a lot indoors.

My Potato Salad
3 cups cubed cold boiled potatoes (about 5 medium potatoes)
2 tsp all purpose seasoning salt ( I use my seasoning, but you can use the brand of your choice)
1/4 cup prepared homemade French Dressing
1/4 cup fine sliced green onion
3/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
6 cloves garlic, roasted or boiled, and then mashed
1/2 cup chopped Refrigerator Pickles
4 hard cooked eggs (I use the whites and omit the yolks...just better for the heart)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking the potatoes in the Solar oven was actually easy. Just peel and cut the potatoes.
I covered the potatoes with water and then added the uncooked eggs. It took just over 45 minutes in the heat of the day to cook the potatoes and eggs perfectly in the solar oven. I also had the 6 cloves of fresh garlic in the water. They got perfectly soft and "mashy" added some amazing flavor to the potatoes. On the stove top it would take about 25 minutes on medium heat.
Remove the eggs, and drain the extra liquid off the potatoes. Take out the garlic and mash it. Season well with all purpose seasoning and then add the French Dressing.

Add the chopped Refrigerator Pickles, low fat mayonnaise, roasted garlic, peeled chopped eggs, salt and pepper to taste.

Chill several hours covered in the fridge. Garnish with some ground paprika just before serving.
Remember it's important to keep potato salad cool. Food borne illness really loves potato salad too, so don't be a victim. Keep those salads cold. Most of all...enjoy!
There you go!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

French Dressing

Well, I want to kick off salad week with something that I use a lot. I think it is a good base for what we will be doing and I wanted to be sure that everyone has the same advantage I have. I think one of life's simple basic skills is learning how t make salad dressing from scratch.

One experience I remember with great fondness is the joy I had making gallons and gallons of salad dressing at the resort to go on seemingly endless plates of salad. That is where I first learned how to make Homemade Ranch Dressing . Ironically it wasn't something I picked up at culinary school, even though I'm almost certain it was covered...I might have been flirting during that lecture. At any rate, being involved with banquets was very labor intensive. Oh...I don't miss that at all. Honestly. Granted, the opportunity was invaluable in my salad dressing experience, it's not one I relished. No pun intended. If you've never had homemade French Dressing, you are in for a shock. It's not at all like the stuff you get in jars. I think the flavor is immensely better. Personally, I'd take the home made dressing any day on just a simple salad. I had one today. I make much smaller batches of salad dressing now. This one makes just about a cup of dressing. Perfect for the average family. Cost wise, it's pennies compared to dollars that you may spend on a jar of commercially prepared dressing. It's saved my budget on many occasions. You may be shocked to see what is on the list. You probably already have it in your house. So...let's make salad dressing.

French Dressing
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (or one fresh clove pressed)
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
3/4 cup salad oil
1 T minced onion

I combine the dry ingredients in jar with a tight fitting lid.

Add the vinegar (I had to put in a shameless plug for this apple cider vinegar that I love. I think it's divine), oil, onion and seal tightly.

Shake and shake. I try to get at least 2 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. least salad dressing related exercise.

Now the secret to amazing salads...lightly toss the dressing with the salad. I only use about 3T of dressing to a head of lettuce. Just for flavor and a little sheen. Oh never overpower the salad with dressing. It's meant to add dimension, not take center stage.
In the words of one of my mentors, "It's a garnish, not a hair-do". Meaning...keep it as an accent not as the focus.
French Dressing is the base of a lot of the dressings I make. I will share some great details about how to make the fat free varieties as well. You won't want to miss out. We'll see you later this week when I share more of the salad making world.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Zucchini String Salad

In honor of the freaky-death-parching-heat of agony and despair in Arizona, I have decided to devote an entire week to salads...though in all reality is should be about 6 months of utterly unwavering discipleship to anything cold. Why on earth do I live in one of the hottest places on earth? Oh yeah, it's for the winters of love and happiness. Summer saps my memory of winter as well as my desire to do much cooking. Ouch. Is that legal for me to say? As a chef am I allowed to admit I may not really have any desire whatsoever to turn on my stove? Can we pull off a week of it? Maybe. I might break down and cook some pasta in the Solar Oven, but...I'm going to have some time away from the actual stove top. What do you all say to that? Should we do it? I say yes. Starting with this crazy cool salad that I made today with little Face. It was Marry Poppins salad...practically perfect in every way. Yes. Life is always good when I can get my kiddos to suck down zucchini. Even funnier when they suck it down under the false pretense that those long green things are "frog noodles". Little boys are too gullible. Now that I think of it, I could have come up with gross names for all the ingredients...but...I digress.
You will need:
9 ounces of fresh fettuccine, cooked, well seasoned with salt and pepper
2/3 cup Pickled red onions
kernels from one cob of corn (I used some that was cooked last night and cold in the fridge.)
2 zucchini, skins removed with a peeler and sliced thin like noodles (reserve the rest for a later use)
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled (I cheated and bought it already cooked)*Optional...totally okay to use the soy bacon bits here.
2 cloves pressed minced garlic
1/3 cup basil or sun dried tomato infused oil (Use a heart healthy oil if you can.)
2T red wine vinegar
2 tsp all purpose Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the dressing. Add the salad ingredients and coat well. Enjoy cold.

Look at Face's fork. He begged me to take a picture for the blog. Grin. Tee I tell him it's loaded with veggies? Nah. Frog noodles worked really well. I may call them that forever.
For legal purposes I must specify that no frogs where injured in the making of this salad. Oye!

There you go legal department.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

News in New Jersey

With all the excitement with Fox 10 yesterday , I failed to mention that I had the amazing and flattering opportunity of being interviewed for a piece by Amy Kuperinsky of The Record (a newspaper in New Jersey). It actually went out earlier this week, but I had honest to goodness love and joy reading the article. I think she did a wonderful job capturing the feelings I have about painted bread...and bread in general.

For more information on the painted decorative bread, feel free to look here:
Basic Bread Painting Technique

Many thanks and love to Amy for giving me the opportunity to appear in the paper. It is humbling. Big hugs!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Good Morning!

Brace yourselves people. I am taking my kiddos and going into the Fox 10 Phoenix studio for another cooking segment. Bright and early in the morning, 8:45 AM, the boys will be helping to roll and mix graham crackers and then make a Chocolate Chip Cheeseball to share with the everyone. If I can actually get the boys to sleep tonight (which is like getting them to sleep Christmas Eve) then tomorrow will be perfect. Mind you, I'm just as giddy as they are to be on TV again. So...if you're just joining me for the first time, feel free to look around. If you want the recipes from the show, go here:

graham crackers
Chocolate Chip Cheeseball

If you missed the segment, here is the link to the Fox 10 website:
Whatever you do...feel welcomed and loved.

There you go.

Greek-ish Pizza

Dinner tonight was a snap. I don't always have days like today, but I had one of those days where I thought to myself "self... that was utterly brilliant..."
It started with having homemade oven rise pizza dough (Friday's Freeze Frame...) in the freezer and ended with a delightful Greek-ish, Greek-like, flavorful pizza that my family literally devoured in about 3 gasping gulps. I'm still shaking. It was scary.

2tsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dill
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 prepared frozen pizza crust (Friday's Freeze Frame...)
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese (low fat )
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 T fresh chopped basil and parsley

Combine oil, Italian seasoning,dill, vinegar and garlic. Brush the pizza crust with the oil mixture using a pastry brush. Place on a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Top with tomato slices, cheeses, parsley and basil.

If you wanted to make this a freezer meal, you would simply place on a cardboard cake circle, wrap with heavy freezer plastic wrap and then put in a gallon size freezer bag. I chose to Bake at 425 degrees 25-30 minutes.

Either way it's all good.
Quick and easy dinner that was a huge success. Now that's something to blog about.
There you go.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fascinating Nachos

Tara took me out to eat. We had the most fascinating nachos I have ever had.
If you missed my drug-less acid trip on the Pickled red onions , you will need to make them first before you venture further into the nachos. However, I can promise that these little pink onions will be featured quite a bit the next few days, as I have been sucking them down like a sick bird on it's last worm feast before death. It sounds all picturesque, but really, I'm like a nutty seagull on it's last power binge before being hit in the coco-head by a passing speed boat. I really love the onions THAT much. And I do look like a crazy bird most days anyway.

So... we were on the nacho post. Nachos always remind me of that crazy movie that Jack Black did called Nacho Libre. It makes me want to wear stretch pants...just for fun. And if I fight, I get ten thousand pesos.
You're eyes are not deceiving you...there are radishes and pink onions on those nachos. There is also a lot of jalapeno and the stinky cheese. I used feta. I think at the restaurant, they used something called queso fresco, but I couldn't find it in my local store, and it tasted a lot like feta. So...I did fudge a little. Also, these are meatless for my vegetarian husband...who only eats meat if my 10 year old makes dinner. It's okay to not eat the wife's cooking...but the kiddos are a totally different deal. The addition of marinated chicken was off the charts, but we didn't do that here. So, we still may be on a chart somewhere.

I used, well seasoned refried beans, Pickled red onions , salsa verde, roasted peeled green chilies, sour cream, radishes, feta cheese, and shredded jack cheese...and some crispy tostada shells. Not those little tiny round tostada chips...full size ones. I guess if you wanted to serve these as a full meal they would totally count, but I just love that there wasn't one nacho chip with nothing on it and a pile of stuff on another nacho chip. Oh...and those nachos where the cheese melts and then the whole plate of chips and cheese stick together like some kind of modern art. It seems like a perfect cure to just make one giant nacho chip, right?

Simple construction instructions:
Smear some beans on there and then top with cheese, chilies, jalapenos and Pickled red onions. I then did the unthinkable...I microwaved them. If you're a purist and want to put them on a broiler safe sheet and cook them in the oven, be my guest. I just know it was late, and I didn't want to heat up my house with a five hundred degree oven. So, I popped them in the microwave for 2 minutes. It was fast, and I felt really good about it.
Once the cheese was melted, I topped the nacho grande with some salsa verde, sour cream, feta, and radishes. As odd as the radish addition was just an awesome "earthy" kick that I loved.

Now, I mentioned that these where the full size deals right? Ace still managed to eat 5. I could only tank down one and I was full. So...that being said, my kids still are asking for them today and I am thinking I need to make them again very soon. If the kids will eat them and beg for more...something must be horribly right. On the kids nachos, I omitted the hot peppers. All the more for the crazy bird mom with pink glazed over eyes, right? Happy nacho-fest people.

There you go.

Pickled red onions

Friday night I ventured out of my house into the scorching heat to visit a friend who I've known since culinary school. Tara ...or Evil Tara, as she has come to be known. Most of our time together is spent further exploring the world of food and sharing crazy experiences. I love having friends who are willing to try something new. They are few and far between. At any rate, Tara took me to have some good stuff. One of the highlights came in the form of nachos, believe it or not. Not that I've never had a nacho before, but these where particularly fascinating. One of the distinguishing ingredient that set them apart... pink pickled onions. I have never had pickled onions on nachos. Never. Mind you, I make pickled onions for my burgers. They are usually sweet Washington onions with an amazing creamy sauce... but these where different. These where pink! The pink color is really just the red onions after being in acid for a while. It's a very cool effect. No...I am totally avoiding any drug references right now. Be impressed.

As I focused on the onions and the flavor, I realized I could totally duplicate them at home. they are. I wanted to make the nachos for Ace, who loves trying new food.

Pickled red onions

2 red onions, sliced thin
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tsp pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a covered bowl, refrigerate and allow to cure 24-48 hours. That's it!
These would be amazing on sandwiches, pizzas, fajitas, tacos, with fish or chicken and salads. I'm really excited to explore other possibilities. The nachos will be next.