Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Black Forest Cake

WE HAD A FAMILY BIRTHDAY and I planned to cook dinner and make birthday cake. I had been thinking I would make spaghetti because it is always a crowd pleaser and I was in the mood for it (I still am). I also had fresh cherries on hand that wanted to be used. I had seen a recipe for cherry upside down cake which sounded delicious.

I asked Alice what she wanted and she said barbecue and chocolate cake. Naturally, I changed gears in my planning. After all, I did ask.

Pritchard Parker grilled ribs which were outstanding. I made freshly shredded cabbage slaw, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Still wanting to use my cherries, I decided to make Black Forest Cake.

I made the cake, the cherry filling, and the whipped cream from scratch. If you didn't want to do that you could use cake mix, canned cherry pie filling, and cool whip. But be warned, it won't taste nearly as delicious as homemade.

Black Forest Cake

1 Devil's Food Cake (Recipe I used)
Freshly Whipped Cream - directions follow
Fresh Cherry Pie Filling - recipe follows

If you have never made whipped cream, do yourself a favor. The taste is superior and you can make it much faster than you can thaw frozen whipped topping. Pour 8 ounces of heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla into mixing bowl. Whisk until fluffy peaks form but don't over beat. That's it! 

Fresh Cherry Pie Filling
4 cups fresh cherries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp. cognac

Wash and carefully pit cherries. Place in a heavy, medium saucepan along with sugar, water, fresh lemon juice, and cornstarch. Heat over medium until everything is blended and mixture is beginning to boil. Lower heat and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. 

Remove from heat to cool, then stir in the cognac.

To assemble cake, place one layer on plate or cake board. Top with whipped cream, then cherry filling, as desired. Top with second layer and repeat with whipped cream and cherries. Chill before serving. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Nicoise Salad

I AM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE unrelenting heat wave that has us in its grip. I am not going to talk about living in an older, un-air conditioned home in the mountains. I am not going to talk about my love of summer.

What I will mention is that this is the first summer Pritchard Parker is not working in an air conditioned office all day but rather from home. And he is not enjoying it. He does not love summer. Even when he is not saying anything, he is saying plenty, if you know what I mean. The heat will break soon and he will be back to his usual good humor.

Meanwhile, I have been serving only cold food. If I need to do any cooking at all, like I did here with cooking the beets, potatoes, and eggs, I do it early in the morning before the afternoon sun beats down on our west facing kitchen.

By dinner time, the ingredients for this delicious and satisfying Nicoise salad will be cold and we will dine a little later. I made a simple lemony vinaigrette and chilled that as well.

Nicoise Salad
Washed, torn, and chilled lettuce
Oil packed tuna
Boiled eggs
Sliced Vidalia (or other sweet) onions
New potatoes, simmered until tender
Beets, simmered until tender
Tomato slices
Anchovy fillets
Calamata olives

Lemony Vinaigrette Dressing
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place lettuce on individual plates. Top with tuna, eggs, onions, potatoes, beets, and tomato. Garnish with anchovies and olives. Drizzle with lemony dressing.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad with Marinated Grilled Drumsticks

The first thing I noticed when I awoke Memorial Day was the silence. There was no traffic noise with neighbors leaving for work, no lawn mowers, no barking dogs, just quiet. Nice! I knew that our nearby downtown area was already teeming with tourists.

We had previously decided we were going to break out our grill for the season. And we decided we were going to grill chicken and vegetables. The day remained relatively quiet. I guess our neighbors had left town for the holiday weekend, while thousands of tourists were pouring in.

Pritchard Parker did the grocery shopping. He chose chicken legs and marinated them overnight in olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, paprika, and salt and pepper. They were outstanding! He also bought the vegetables I wanted--corn, zucchini, onions, red bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, limes, and parsley.

We don't have a fancy, modern grill that involves turning a knob. We have an old school charcoal grill. While Pritchard Parker was getting the fire ready, I prepped the vegetables. While they cooked, I put on the pasta and made a dressing. While the chicken was cooking, I finished the salad, and we were ready to eat.


Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad
8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
3 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut in half
3 ears sweet corn, husks removed
2 Vidalia onions, cut in half horizontally, stems left in place
1 whole head of garlic
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, membranes removed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Juice of 2 limes (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey

Rub the zucchini, bell pepper, corn, onion, and jalapeno peppers with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slice the top off the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Grill vegetables until tender and slightly charred.

Cut grilled vegetables into bite-sized pieces and combine with pasta. Squeeze in whole garlic cloves.
Sprinkle liberally with parsley.

Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and maple syrup. Pour over salad and toss to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Homemade Old-Fashioned Southern Caramel Frosting

THERE IS A GROUP OF SOUTHERN LADIES, of a certain age, I make a luncheon for every couple of months.  These are the deep south bless-her-heart, yes-mam-no-sir, tea-is-always-sweet, set-a-proper-table, use-your-best-manners, go-to-church-on-Sunday Southern ladies.

I love cooking for them. One reason they are such a joy to cook for is that I don't have to wade through a list of dietary restrictions--low carb, paleo, whole 30, gluten free, clean, vegan, keto, raw, sugar free, nut free, plant based, etc. They are from the "eat what is served and be thankful for it" era. I am free to choose my own menus and I always try to cook things that are delicious, interesting, and provoke memories and discussions.

Recently, I made a cake with an old-fashioned, cooked, caramel icing. They swooned.

This icing has several steps and does take time stirring, mixing, cooking, and caramelizing, Plan to spend some time in the kitchen, and enjoy! It is a true labor of love.

Homemade Caramel Frosting
(Southern Living)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar in a shallow, heavy 3 1/2 quart Dutch oven; cook over medium heat stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until sugar is melted and syrup is light golden brown. (Sugar may clump). Remove from heat.

Stir together 1 Tbsp. flour and 2 1/2 cups sugar in a large saucepan; add milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat., stirring constantly.

Gradually pour about one fourth hot milk mixture into caramelized sugar, stirring constantly; gradually stir in remaining hot milk mixture until smooth. (Mixture may lump, but continue stirring until smooth).

Cover and cook over low heat about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium; uncover and cook, without stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees (soft ball stage) about 10 minutes. Add butter, stirring until blended. Remove from heat and let stand, without stirring, until temperature drops to 110 degrees (about 1 hour).

Pour into bowl of heavy duty electric stand mixer. Add vanilla and beat at medium speed (setting 4) with whisk attachment until spreading consistency, about 20 minutes.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Chop Suey

 THERE ARE MANY VARIATIONS OF Chinese-American Chop Suey. At first, I didn't feel sure about even calling this stir-fry meal Chop Suey. One glimpse at Google Images, and all the variations, gave me the confidence to go ahead and all it Chop Suey. After all it is not even a traditional Chinese dish at all but rather one invented in California, out of necessity, by a Chinese-American Chef.

Any protein (or none) can be used--chicken, beef, pork, tofu. I had a couple of thick cut pork chops in the freezer, so I used those. Any vegetables can also be used. I used onion, garlic, celery, carrot, red bell pepper, cremini mushrooms, water chestnuts, and bok choy. Bamboo shoots, broccoli, and bean sprouts would also be delicious.

Most times, when I make a stir-fry, I serve it with rice. This time I wanted to use noodles. The noodles we used were called "Chinese Noodles" and we found them in the Asian section of our grocery store. Any noodles can be used--udon, soba, rice noodles, cellophane, or even vermicelli.

The recipe I am giving is enough to serve 6 people. Since we are a family of 3, I divided the ingredients and cooked it fresh 2 times, rather than making the whole recipe and having leftovers. Stir-fry wants to be served fresh.

Chop Suey
8 ounces pork, thinly sliced
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced on a diagonal
1 cup carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 (8oz.) can sliced water chestnuts
1 large bunch bok choy, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger (to taste)

6 ounces Chinese noodles, cooked according to package directions

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, in a wok or large skillet. Add the pork; cook, stirring until the pork begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from the wok and set aside. If needed, add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet.

Begin adding the vegetables to the skillet, cooking and stirring after each addition. While cooking the vegetables, mix the sauce ingredients in a 1 cup measure, adding water up to the 1 cup mark. Stir until thoroughly dissolved. Cook noodles according to package directions. (Our noodles cooked in 2 minutes).

When the vegetables are to your liking, add the meat back to the wok and stir. Add the sauce, stirring for about a minute until beginning to thicken. Stir in the cooked noodles.

Serve piping hot and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.