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Friday, April 6, 2012

Phyllo Wrapped Salmon

A little pastry makes everything more delicious.  So does a little dijon mustard.  And butter.

The idea for this dish is not mine, but I've been making them for so many years that I no longer have the original recipe to attribute to.  It took me some time to work up the guts to try this recipe in the first place.  I was afraid of working with phyllo dough.  So many recipes that use it give caution after caution...handle it gently lest it break...work quickly lest it dry out...keep it covered at all times with a damp towel...brush lightly...fold carefully...it just seemed like a food product that was more trouble than it was worth.  Boy, was I wrong! 

First of all, phyllo is not hard to work with.  It may tear a bit...that's OK.  It may get a bit dry as you work...that's OK.  You don't really need to be working at super-speed or with damp towels or anything like that.  Most preparations using phyllo involve brushing oil or butter between the layers and as we  know, butter fixes everything.  It works as a glue to hold the phyllo sheets in place, it patches tears, it moisturizes dry dough.  You and your phyllo will be A-OK. 

Where to get phyllo?  If you're really bonkers, you can make it yourself (I most emphatically do not).  It comes frozen, usually in the area where frozen pies and Cool Whip live (usually next to the puff pastry).  You'll need to put it in the fridge overnight or on the counter for about 4 hours before it's workable.  The brand I buy comes in 1 lb. boxes which contain two plastic-sealed tubes of rolled phyllo sheets.  You'll only need one tube for this recipe.  You can use the 2nd tube to make more of this recipe or make some genuine Greek goodies like spanakopita (spinach and cheese pies), teropita (like spanakopita, but without the spinach) or baklava. 

If you make these ahead to freeze, you will need to be attentive to wrapping them very, very well in plastic wrap.  In prepping them to cook immediately, you don't need to worry so much about the phyllo drying out, but for longer storage, drying does become a problem.  I wrap each packet individually in plastic wrap before putting them in a larger ziptop bag to make very sure they're protected.  And then of course, when you bake them off, a healthy brush of oil or butter goes a long way toward correcting any freezer dehydration they may have suffered.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Ginger pork chops

I saw the original recipe for this one in an email recipe newsletter (you know, the ones that usually go straight to the junk mail folder sight unseen).  I'm glad that newsletter didn't get automatically junked this time!  I've modified the original recipe significantly in order to make the recipe freezer kit-friendly, a leetle more calorie-friendly and because it's the wrong season to be finding candied ginger easily at the store. 

If your grocery store sells packages of "assorted pork chops" (meaning a mix of bone-in and boneless, loin and sirloin chops), this is a great recipe for those guys.  Please note there is no pepper or salt called for here...the ginger carries plenty of zing so pepper would be overkill and the soda brings sodium to the party. 

To shortcut the actual cooking of this recipe, you can skip the browning step if you are really pressed for time or only brown on one side...if you choose the latter, be sure to put the browned side up in the baking pan.  I highly recommend roasting some broccoli, cauliflower or carrots alongside the pork chops to cut down on the allover dinner workload.

 I like Vernor's ginger ale for this recipe (and just in general). It's got the strongest real ginger flavor IMHO of the ginger ale brands that are widely available. I'm sure there are micro-soda companies making really good ginger ale or ginger beer (not an alcoholic beverage, btw), and if you have some available (especially ginger beer) use that!

Extra double bonus cocktail recipe: Dark and Stormy...1 shot dark rum over ice in a 12 oz. glass, fill with ginger beer. 

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Eclair Cake

This was one of my husband's grandma's specialities.  She made it annually for Easter dessert, so he starts getting jones-y for it about this time of year.  And I confess to jonesing for it myself lately. 

It's one of those back-of-the-box recipes that there are a million variations of on the interwebs, which form two of its obvious virtues...it's fast and easy to shop for and make, and it works for whatever flavor combinations you want.  You can use as many low-fat, sugar-free components as you like or as few.  You can go the vanilla pudding/chocolate frosting route, or play with flavor combinations like lemon-strawberry, double chocolate death, coconut-pecan, butterscotch-vanilla or pistachio-cream cheese. 

If you are the type of person who enjoys making buttercream frosting from scratch, go for it!  If you make pudding from scratch, go for it!  If you make graham crackers from scratch, get some help!  Btw, I think making a pudding out of this pie filling recipe but using 3 cups of milk instead of water and 1/3 cup strong espresso instead of lemon juice/zest would make O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G eclair cake.

And what made this recipe worth blogging about was the realization that you CAN FREEZE THIS!!!!  You could thaw it to serve, or serve frozen like ice cream cake.  Oh jah.  Perfection.

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Tofu Burgers

This recipe was among my first tries at cooking with tofu.  I think the original recipe came from one of Molly Katzen's Moosewood cookbooks, but I'm not entirely sure now.  I did find the combination of flavors in the OR both a little weird (tahini, miso and basil???) and underwhelming, and have over time found my own happy flavor mix.  But the basic technique for creating a burger patty out of tofu remains the same.  A delicious twist on this flavor mixture is using a curry paste instead of tomato paste with mint for the fresh herbs. 

The one thing you can do "wrong" here is to make the mixture too wet by not pressing enough moisture out of the thawed tofu or by adding too much stock.  The result will be a mushy patty rather than a toothsome burger at the end of cooking.

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