Cooking, Traditions

Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Butter in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Butter

Growing up, we had a little book of Irish toasts and poems sitting in our living room.  My maternal grandmother, seeing that the strength of the Irish was growing too strong, came over one day very briefly and went into the living room.  When she left, we found an Italian book sitting next to the Irish one so her grandchildren wouldn’t forget their mother’s roots.  It is with great irony and a big smile that I remember one of the Irish poems, which I read so many times that I have now have memorized it:

Soaking raisins in Whiskey for Irish Soda Bread    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Soaking raisins in Whiskey for Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick was a gentleman
Who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland
Here’s a toasting to his health
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself
And forget good St. Patrick
and see all those snakes again.

Assembling Ingredients for Irish Soda Bread    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Assembling Ingredients for Irish Soda Bread

Every year, my mother & father would host a party for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate my father’s ancestors (and because it was a really good excuse to have a party). The party was complete with brisket, potatoes, cabbage and Irish Soda bread + spirits and beer galore. Over the years, I have tried making many different Irish Soda bread recipes because I can’t stand the imposter store-bought kind. This recipe hails from Rose Mary Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and is the best recipe I have found so far. I hope your family likes it as much as mine!

Incorporating the butter into flour for Irish Soda Bread       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Incorporating the butter into flour for Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread dough after mixing flour and butter with fingertips      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Irish Soda Bread dough after mixing flour and butter with fingertips

Oh, and if you’re not a beer drinker, make sure you try a Whiskey, Ginger Ale and Lime this St. Patrick’s Day.  It will clear out your sinuses.

Irish Soda Bread

Original recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1 cup raisins
1/2 c Irish whiskey (i.e. Jameson)
4 T unsalted Kerrygold butter (or regular), cold
2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c + 1 T buttermilk

1 T Demerara sugar (Optional)

1. Soak the raisins in the whiskey for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the whiskey for the whiskey butter.
2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Cut butter into 8 slices. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, incorporate the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins with a silicone spatula/wooden spoon. Slowly, stir in the buttermilk until just incorporated. Be careful and don’t over mix. Empty dough out onto counter and knead, roughly 8 times, using a bench scraper to bring it together. Try not to use flour unless you have to. (Yes, your hands will be covered in the sticky dough. Big deal).
4. Shape dough into a round loaf, roughly 6″ diameter. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray and make a 1/2″ slash from one side of dough to another, then a second to form a cross.  Optional:sprinkle with demerara sugar
5. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool bread on a wire rack. Optional:Wrap in a clean cotton/linnen dish towel and cool on wire wrack

Irish Soda Bread Dough    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Irish Soda Bread Dough

Irish Soda Bread Dough before Baking     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Irish Soda Bread Dough before Baking

Ingredients for Irish Whiskey Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Ingredients for Irish Whiskey Butter

Irish Whiskey Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Irish Whiskey Butter

Irish Whiskey Butter
3 T reserved Irish whiskey from raisins
1 T Demerara or regular sugar
9 T unsalted Kerrygold butter, softened

Stir together whiskey and sugar in a microwavable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 20 seconds. Stir to dissolve most of the sugar. (It’s ok if the sugar does not completely dissolve.) Cover and allow to cool. Stir the softened butter until smooth. Then, slowly stir the whiskey into the butter until incorporated. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Enjoy!

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Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Assembling Ingredients for Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

This weekend, we were in the middle of the first real snowstorm in Chicago’s 2014-2015 winter season!  So far, we have received about 19″ of snow.  Yesterday and again this morning, my husband and I went outside to finish shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.  The snow is the heavy, “packing” kind,  perfect for kids wanting to make snowmen and forts, but really irritating for adults trying to clear footpaths!  Stella was jumping around like a kangaroo in the snow!  This was before it got too deep for her.  After a few more hours, we ended up clearing a path in the backyard so she could walk without having the snow reach up past her   fluffy tail!

Stella Bear Braving Chicago's Big Winter Snow       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Stella Bear Braving Chicago’s Big Winter Snow

When we got inside from shoveling, I wanted something quick, simple and a lot like buttered noodles.  I made this ridiculously simple dish that does not even need a recipe once you make it a few times.   I put 1/2 a box of orzo in a pot of salted, boiling water.  I drained the orzo and made my butter-olive oil blend fancy by flavoring it with lemon peel and sliced garlic cloves.  Then, I stirred in some lemon juice, Romano cheese and parsley to finish the dish.  Easy!

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

serves 2

1 c. orzo
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 2″ lemon peel
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 c. parsley, minced
1/3 c. Romano cheese + extra for serving
sea salt & pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Orzo. Cook according to package directions until ‘al dente.’ You are better off undercooking the orzo at this point. Drain into a colander and transfer to a medium glass or heat-safe bowl*. Return pot to medium heat. Melt butter in pan and add olive oil. Gently place the sliced garlic and lemon peel in the butter/oil and stir a little bit. BE CAREFUL! Let bubble until garlic just barely starts to turn golden, ~30-60 seconds.  (It will go from golden to burned quickly) Remove garlic and lemon peel from pan with slotted spoon. Let cool on a plate before discarding.

Pour flavored butter/olive oil over the orzo. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and Romano cheese. Season to taste with sea and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy!

 

*Note: You can keep the cooked orzo in the colander and just stir it into the saucepan once the butter/oil has been flavored and the garlic/lemon peel is removed. I do this to minimize dirty dishes. The problem is the orzo can stick to the hot sides of the pan if you do not stir vigorously and immediately. The choice is yours.

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

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Achieving Balance in the New Year: Mushroom Soup with Greens

Mushroom Soup        www.morewinelesswhines.com

Mushroom Soup with Greens

I will be honest with you.  I struggle to find balance  – among work, graduate school and home life – between travel and rest – between my dietetics undergraduate training and my ill-acquired grownup habits.   It is a continual process, one which forces me to look forward and strive to improve each day.  I’ll take the struggle over complacency.

While trying to improve the foods my family cooks and eats together, I found this unusual Mushroom Soup in Jean-Georges:  Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef.    I am constantly on the prowl for a creative spark to jump-start a cooking session – and this cookbook has done wonders for my culinary prowess.  See the Sautéed Chicken with Green Olives and Cilantro + Chive Oil recipes on this blog as evidence.

The soup, along with other recipes in the cookbook, achieves a harmonious balance of colors, textures and flavors.  What better way to usher in the new year?

Mushroom Soup before adding broth      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Mushroom Soup with Greens before adding broth

I started the soup by making a rich mushroom ‘broth’ on a Sunday.  Then, I assembled the actual soup for dinner on a Monday night.  The final brief cooking &  ‘assembly’ went quickly.  It is not until all the ingredients come together at the last minute that you will agree with me and go “ahhhh, this WILL be delicious!”

Ingredients for Mushroom Soup (note, the broth is in the bowl and was made ahead of time)       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Ingredients for Mushroom Soup (note, the broth is in the bowl and was made ahead of time)

Mushroom Soup with Greens
Recipe from cookbook Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef

For the broth:
2 lbs button mushrooms, rinsed & coarsely chopped
4 oz shiitake mushrooms
4 T. unsalted butter
sea salt
4-6 shallots, roughly chopped (~1 c.)
6 garlic cloves, smashed (ok to leave skins on)
4 thyme sprigs

For the final soup:
2 T. minced shallots
1/2 c. fresh or frozen and thawed peas (Optional – I did not use)
2 tsp. walnut or hazelnut oil
2 T. soy sauce
freshly cracked black pepper
1 T. port
2 c. mixed salad greens
2 T. toasted breadcrumbs (I used Panko)

1.  Heat a deep skillet over high heat and add butter, chopped button mushrooms and a tiny bit of sea salt.  When mushrooms release their juices, add shallots (chopped), garlic & thyme.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are brown.  Add 6 c. water.  Keep heat at medium-high to high and cook at a steady boil for 30 minutes, until reduced by half.

2.  Pour mixture through a strainer, pressing on mushroom mixture to release all juices.  Keep broth warm.  (Broth can be made up to 2 days ahead of time in a covered container:  Cool broth by putting strained broth on top of an ice pack or nest in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes, then transfer to the refrigerator).

3.  While broth is cooking, place 2 T. butter in a skillet, turn heat to high and add minced shallot and shiitake caps.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.  (Optional:  If using, add peas and cook for 1 minute at this time).  Turn off the heat and stir in walnut oil and 1 T. soy sauce.

4.  If needed, reheat broth.  Season with remaining 1 T soy sauce, cracked black pepper and port.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

5.  Place greens in individual bowls and spook shiitake mixture over them.  Add bread crumbs.  Pour soup over ingredients in the bowls and serve warm.

Enjoy!

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Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter, Sautéed Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Simple and delicious.  If you like scallops, try this recipe.  If you’ve never eaten scallops before, start with this recipe.  The trick is to use high quality scallops that are free from additives.  One of the local grocery stores had a special on Peruvian Bay Scallops, so I used them instead of the traditional kind.  (These are smaller than regular scallops -think the size of a nickel-quarter instead of a half dollar) and cook very quickly.  I found several recipe variations using a simple combination of butter, olive oil, lemon juice & thyme, but the best one was from Bon Appetit.

Try to space the scallops out in the pan so they are not overly crowded or touching when you first sauté them.  I should have cooked up the scallops below in two batches to obtain a better crust, but I was impatient.  (Note:  they still turned out fine and tasted incredible).

Dinner - not too fancy, but really good     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Dinner – not too fancy, but really good

If you like pairing your food with wine, there are two New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc labels that I really like right now.  One is “90+”, which is like the Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s private label brand for the wine world.  The other wine is called “Wild South.”  I tried both of them at wine tastings first and then with these scallops.  Delicious!

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

I made these scallops for dinner on a Sunday night and they took me less than 10 minutes to prepare.  I served these with sautéed spinach, lemon orzo & a roasted red pepper sauce.  Everything was excellent (except the orzo)!   The recipe for the roasted red pepper sauce is coming soon!

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter www.morewinelesswhines.com

Sautéing the Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

 

Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

Many variations on this recipe exist, but I will give credit for this one to Bon Appetit

1 lb. sea scallops, side muscle removed
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
juice from 1/2 a lemon

Place sea scallops on a paper towel lined dish. Top with a second paper towel to draw out any excess moisture. Let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle tops of scallops with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add oil. Once hot, add scallops, salt & pepper side down. Cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes. Sprinkle tops of scallops with sea salt & pepper. Turn scallops using tongs. Add butter and thyme to pan. Continue cooking, spooning pan sauce over scallops, until scallops are cooked through, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in lemon juice. Serve scallops with the pan sauce.

Easy Prep for Brown Butter Scallops      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Easy Prep for Scallops with Herbed Brown Butter

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My Signature Move: Phyllo Pastry Cups (Plus Bonus: Crab Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette)

Phyllo Pastry Cups   www.morewinelesswhines.com

Phyllo Pastry Cups

We all need a secret recipe in our back pocket – the kind that will “wow” innocent bystanders and invoke appreciative whispers among guests.  For several years, my go to appetizer has been phyllo pastry cups.  I have stuffed the phyllo pastry cups with chicken salad, crab meat, sausage & cheese, mushrooms & pancetta and more.  The fun part is getting creative.

These have graced my table at baby showers, family holidays and appetizer parties.  The actual ‘cups’ require 2 ingredients: phyllo dough & unsalted butter.  (Ok, 3 ingredients if you spray the mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray first).

Yes, you can buy the pre-made phyllo dough cups in the freezer aisle, but these taste better.

I made these as an appetizer for Mother’s Day.  I had been craving seafood, crab to be exact, and wanted to make a crab salad that was light and refreshing, without a hint of mayo.  This crab salad with champagne vinaigrette is the result.  I served some in phyllo pastry cups and left the remainder in a small glass bowl.  This would also work well served in crisp bibb lettuce cups.

Enjoy!

Phyllo Pastry Cups
Makes 84 individual cups

Ingredients:
8 oz pkg Phyllo pastry sheets*
9 T unsalted butter, melted
nonstick cooking spray

Equipment:
mini muffin tins
pastry brush
Large work surface or cutting board (24″ x 24″)
saran wrap
sharp knife or pizza cutter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Melt butter in microwave safe glass bowl.

Remove 1 sleeve of phyllo dough from box. Open plastic wrapped phyllo dough. Unroll phyllo onto a saran wrap covered cutting board. Cut phyllo (with a knife or pizza cutter) into four equal ribbons, about 1.5″ wide. Move one strip of ribbons forward on the cutting board. Cover the remaining phyllo strips with saran wrap. Top saran wrap with damp paper towels or a damp kitchen towel.

Take one thin ribbon of phyllo at a time and criss-cross it into a greased muffin tin opening to form a little cup. Repeat until all the tins are filled. Gently brush each cup with melted butter. Place in preheated oven and bake 8-10 minutes, until edges phyllo edges are golden.

Remove from oven. Let cool in pans 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

*(1/2 of a 16 oz package) – This will make 84 mini ‘cups.’ If you need more than that, by all means, make the whole package. I save the other half of the dough in the freezer.

 

Crab Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette www.morewinelesswhines.com

Crab Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Crab Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

1    lb claw crab meat
2   T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1.5 T champagne vinegar
1.5 T chives, finely chopped

Gently toss all ingredients together with your (clean) hands. Chill. Spoon into phyllo cups just before serving. Enjoy!

Note: Claw crab meat can be found in the seafood section of a higher end grocery store. There is the kind that comes in a 1 lb. refrigerated can that works well for this recipe. Do not under any circumstances use imitation crab meat.  Splurge a little on good crab here.  Your taste buds will thank you!

 

 

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Cooking, Traditions

Flashback 2008: Grandma’s Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

A plate with Grandma's Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

A plate with Grandma’s Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

The year was 2008.  For the first time, my grandmother let one of her 5 children host a holiday.  This meant Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family was being held at our house.  There were certain traditions we couldn’t let go of – including making copious amounts of my Grandma’s Holiday Stuffing.  Still, change permeated the air.  The fine china was replaced by paper plates, the mismatched silverware replaced by plastic look-alikes and the cousins brought the wine.

Butter, Celery and Onion

Butter, Celery and Onion

Growing up, the holidays were not complete without Grandma’s Stuffing, which she called ‘dressing.’  Every year I remember sitting at the “big kids table” and impatiently eyeing everyone take a big spoonful of stuffing while patiently waiting my turn…  We never had enough of this stuffing for my 10 aunts and uncles, 25+ cousins and all of their spouses, children, significant others and everyone else my Grandmother welcomed into her home.

Adding parsley to the stuffing

Adding parsley to the stuffing

Flash forward to 2013.  I am married and spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family.  They have a passion for cooking that cannot be rivaled.  Still, for the past 2 holidays we have spent together, I have held tight to this recipe.  It has been updated with a little less butter and the addition of chicken stock.  I usually double or triple this recipe for the holidays.  As a side serving, it will serve 6 big or 9 small people.

Grandma's Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

Grandma’s Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

Grandma’s Holiday (Dressing) Stuffing

12-13 cups  Italian bread, cut into 1″ x 1″ pieces, left out overnight*
1 pkg. Jimmy Dean’s sausage
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 c. onion, finely diced
1 1/2 c. celery, finely diced
2 T. assorted herbs –  dried Poultry Seasoning plus fresh thyme leaves and sage – if available
1/2 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
4 c+ chicken broth
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
gravy (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F (or whatever temperature the turkey is cooking at).

2.  Place day-old, cubed bread in a huge bowl or stockpot.

3.  Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high flame until cooked through, breaking up into tiny bits with a spatula.  Pour over and mix with bread.

4.  In the same skillet, melt a stick of unsalted butter.  Add onion and celery and sauté until celery is soft and onions are translucent, but not brown.  Pour over and mix with bread.

5.  Add walnuts to skillet to toast slightly, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour over and mix with bread.

6.   Stir poultry seasoning, fresh herbs and parsley into the bread mix.  Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup as a time, as needed to moisten the stuffing.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  (Optional: Melt some additional butter and pour over the stuffing mix to add flavor and moisten).

7.  Before placing stuffing in the oven, ladle gravy or more chicken broth over stuffing to keep it moist (but not soaked) during cooking.

8.  Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, if you like having some crispy bits on top.

9.  Serve to family, friends and loved ones.  Tell everyone it is fat free.

* Note:  If you are traveling or running short on time, you can buy thinly sliced strips of bread from a local bakery or grocery store instead of cutting your own the night before.

Stirring the (Dressing) Stuffing

Stirring the (Dressing) Stuffing

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