Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Traditional Cubano Sandwich....Becomes A Cubano Slider!

How does one prepare for this month's Secret Recipe Club?  Easy.  Go to the local Cuban Restaurant and sample their Traditional Cubano Sandwich!  This was one BIG sandwich....Delicious.


This tasty sandwich originates in, yes, Cuba around the 1500's.  Who would have thought that this sandwich evolved over 400 years ago....?  As sandwiches go, it is pretty basic:  ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, butter and yellow mustard on Cuban bread which has a "tender interior", not chewy....  The key to a great Cubano is said to be in the press.  The idea is to toast and press the sandwich so that the juices from the ingredients are sealed together by the melted cheese. It is grilled in a plancha or sandwich press.  The sandwich, when served, is very thin and has a crusty exterior....sounds good to me.

There are a lot of "twists" on the sandwich as folks add a mojo, a few onions, or a tomato...to mention a few, but, it is not traditional and I am all about tradition!

The idea of making the Traditional Cubano into sliders was excellent!  Sarah at Sarah's Kitchen says that she had to try it when she saw it in cyberspace.  Well, I had to try it too.  I had been thinking that making sliders would be fun so when I saw Sarah's recent post for Cuban Sliders, my decision was made....no fondue, no Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes....Sliders!

I must admit that I did toy with Sarah's recipe.  I wanted to add the roasted pork that is traditionally one of the layers in the Cubano....so I did....and the Lechon Asado is in the next post.  Also, so as not to stray too far from Sarah's creation, I made a couple sliders similar to hers, too.  (We aren't really big onion fans so, sans the onions....)


Sarah baked her sliders but I did not...it is way too hot here to use the oven.  To create the crispy golden brown bread, I needed a plancha....I do not have a sandwich press so it was the next best thing...the George Foreman Grill.  "smile"


The Traditional Cubano Slider!

1 loaf Cuban bread (if available) or sour dough dinner rolls or 1 package Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1/2 pound Black Forest Ham, sliced thin (Any sliced ham would be fine.)
1/2 pound shredded roasted pork (Lechon Asado)
Swiss cheese slices
Dill pickles (I used sandwich slices.)
Yellow mustard
Butter

Slice the bread or rolls in half.  Butter the outsides of the top and bottom half.  Set on a paper plate. On the bottom half layer the sliced ham, shredded pork, Swiss cheese and pickle slice. Squeeze mustard onto the inside of the top half of the roll.  Place the slider on the grill and close the lid, pressing to flatten the slider.  When the slider is heated through and the cheese melted, remove from the grill and serve.

Ice cold beer is a great accompaniment for the sliders!


These little guys are great for a light dinner or for one of those evenings when appetizers are dinner!  We enjoyed making them as well as devouring them!




Friday, August 8, 2014

Hot Artichoke Soufflé Spread


Everybody had a "go to" appetizer that they can count on and this is mine... I call it my "go to" appetizer because I seem to make it when I am in a pinch or want something to take to a friend's and I have been making it for at least twenty years.

I always seem to have the ingredients on hand and it is super easy.  You wouldn't think that this would amount to much just reading the recipe....the proof is in the taste.  To be good, things do not have to be complicated.

Served in your favorite dish, bubbling hot and steaming, with the pungent aroma of Parmesan cheese, this dip will quickly become your favorite!  This also fits perfectly into a 4-inch soufflé dish.

Hot Artichoke Soufflé Spread
adapted from West Coast Cuisine

Yield:  2 cups
Time: 30 minutes

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (I use shredded.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3-4 shots Tabasco sauce
1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Thoroughly blend the cheeses, mayonnaise and Tabasco.  Fold in the chopped artichoke hearts. Pour into a small soufflé or other dish.  Dust the top with additional Parmesan.  Bake 20 minutes until the top is brown.

Serve hot and bubbly with an assortment of crackers.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


My daughter recently had some friends over for the evening....and of course, I took my "go-to" appetizer...there wasn't a smidge let in the dish....no leftovers for me.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Orzo Chicken Salad


Thumbs up to Sam at My Carolina Kitchen!  As Mr. T. says, "She knocked it out of the park with this one!"  I agree.  This was an exceptionally tasty salad and one that will definitely feed a crowd and one that I will be making often.  It is also one of those salads that begs you to toss in a few extras along the way...and, that is what I did.

I had a jar of artichoke hearts that was begging to be part of this salad as well as a few kalamata olives left in the jar.  It seemed like a good match so I tossed them in.  And, I had a package of chicken breast pieces....Costco sells the chicken breast pieces from their rotisserie chicken.  (It comes in a two-pound package so I will be using chicken over the next few days, but that is okay by me.)  Rather than grill chicken breasts, I took the easy way out this time.

Orzo Chicken Salad
adapted from My Carolina Kitchen

Yield:  8-10 servings as a main course

16 ounces orzo pasta
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup frozen Petite Peas
1 red onion, cut into slices 1/2-inch thick
1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper
1 cup of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade, or minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of both
1/2 pint orange grape tomatoes, cut in half, or 12 small heirlooms, cored and quartered, or whatever tomatoes are available
1 jar artichoke hearts, drained, cut in half
10-12 kalamata olives, cut in half, lengthwise
2 cups chicken breast pieces cut bite-size

Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Fill a large pot three-fourths full water.  Salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  While the water is boiling, prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl.  Add the orzo to the boiling water, stirring to prevent sticking.  Return the water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the peas. Drain in a large strainer or colander.  Place the strainer with the orzo and peas into the water bath to cool, or place the pasta and peas directly in the water bath.  Drain again.  Transfer the orzo and peas to a large bowl.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate until cool.

Make the vinaigrette, recipe below.  Whisk the vinegar and mustard in a non-aluminum bowl.  Add the grapeseed oil and whisk until mixed.  Add the olive oil, whisking until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Prepare the grill by brushing both the grill and the vegetables with olive oil.  (The vegetables may be grilled directly on the grate or a vegetable-grilling basket may be used.)  Arrange the onions in the basket or on the grate, directly over high heat.  Grill, turning once, until the onions are nicely charred on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.

Grill the bell peppers directly over high heat, turning occasionally, until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, cover and let steam for 10 minutes.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingers or a paring knife, peel the skin from the peppers and discard.  Core, seed and dice the peppers.

Remove the orzo and peas from the refrigerator.  Add the vinaigrette, peppers, onions, chicken, artichokes, olives, basil or parsley to the bowl and toss to coat.  Add the tomatoes, then taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt and/or pepper.

The salad can be served cold or at room temperature.

Vinaigrette

1/8 to 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil  (I only used 1/8 cup of the olive oil.)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral tasting oil
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more if needed
1 Tablespoon good Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

PRINTABLE RECIPE


We loved the flavor of the grilled onion and pepper!  To us that really made this salad special!!

Mr. T. and I love to visit Sam's blog.  She consistently shares outstanding recipes!  I have made quite a few that she has recommended....we are never disappointed.  Do take time to pay her a visit, you are certain to find a recipe or two that must go "on the rotation"!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Double Chocolate Sugar Cookies


Off to the beach!  Sometimes it gets so warm in the valley that we have to take a trip to the beach to feel the cool breezes and to listen to the crashing waves!  Packing up goodies for a wine picnic and taking along a snack or two makes the trip special!  We enjoy meeting friends, sharing new wineries with one another and taking advantage of the wonderful picnic areas at the wineries!

I had been looking for an excuse to make these wonderful cookies and this seemed like just the occasion.  I saw the recipe on Chris's blog, The Cafe Sucre Farine. Spending time on her blog is delightful..she shares wonderful recipes, her adorable granddaughters and great tips.   You won't want to miss visiting her.....with just one look, I knew that I would have to treat us to cookies!

The cookies are a wonderfully chewy sugar cookie and with lots of chocolate!!  I wasn't certain if they were going to make it with us to the coast....that are that good...

Double Chocolate Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine

Yield:  30 (4-inch cookies)
Preheat oven:  350° F.

1/2 cup raw sugar (Turbinado), set aside
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the raw sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.  Set aside.

Place 10 Tablespoons of butter in a bowl that is microwave-safe.  Microwave until melted, about 1 minutes.  Remove from the microwave and stir in the remaining 4 Tablespoons of butter, which has been cut into small chunks, until melted.  (This process helps to cool down the butter.  It should be from 90-95 degrees within five minutes.  Warm!  Not hot!)

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer.  Whisk the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt into the butter until no lumps remain, scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Whisk in the egg and yolk until smooth.  Stir in the flour mixture a little at a time, until just combined.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Using a scoop, work with about 2 Tablespoons of dough to form balls.  Roll the ball into the raw sugar (Turbinado) and place onto the baking sheet.  Use the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass to flatten the cookies slightly, to about 2-inches in diameter.  Sprinkle each cookie with raw sugar.

Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are slightly puffy and the edges have begun to set.  They will have tiny cracks running around the edges and on the top.  (Do not overbake.  The cookies will look slightly underdone in the cracks.)  If you are not using a convection oven you should turn the sheets midway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I have been trying not to eat sweets...as you can tell from recent posts, I have cut back on sugar!! I had to splurge with these little guys....After eating one cookie I mentioned to my daughter that I had my sugar fix for at least a month.  They are so good.....and yes, I ate more than one.   I even shared with the daughter, neighbors and friends....  I can hardly wait to find an excuse to make these again.

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm and Foodie Friday hosted by Simple Living and Eating.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Greek Village Salad

During the summer we tend to prefer the rustic Greek salads...no lettuce, just fresh garden vegetables.  They are really quite simple, comprised of the same simple vegetables but do lend themselves to a little variation in the dressing and additions.

I have previously posted two other Greek Salad recipes each one had its own appeal.  This Greek Village Salad had the addition of capers and I just cannot turn down a dish with capers!  I also liked the basic dressing of olive oil and lemon juice....nice flavor and it doesn't overplay all of the wonderful fresh vegetables.


Horiatki Salata
Greek Village Salad
adapted from It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

1 English cucumber, washed and sliced, each slice quartered
4-5 tomatoes cut into wedges (I used a combination of cherry tomatoes, and heirlooms.)
A combination of green, yellow and red peppers, about 1/2 of each pepper
1/2-1 small red onion, sliced then cut in half, rings separated
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
8 oz. brine-packed Greek feta cheese, drained and sliced or crumbled
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
2-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon cut into wedges
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Toss the first five ingredients together in a large salad bowl.  Top with slices or crumbles of feta.
Sprinkle the capers over the salad then crush the oregano and sprinkle it.  Drizzle the lemon juice and the olive oil over the salad and allow to marinate at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper and salt to your taste.

Serve with lemon wedges along the side.


This is an easy salad to adjust for two people or for ten!  This really is a perfect summer treat.

As I mentioned earlier, varying a Greek Salad is easy and I have tried a few.  This Greek Salad has dressing that includes vinegar and Dijon mustard.  This Horiatki Salata only uses olive oil.  It is hard to choose which salad is my preferred.  I think it must have to do with what is in the garden, the refrigerator and mood!

I am sharing today at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Zucchini Fritters


While I was taking my cookbook tour of Greece, I saw a recipe for Kolokithopites aka zucchini fritters served with Tzatziki and since it is summer and since there is always an abundance of zucchini in the frig, it seemed like a great way to use up some zucchini and enjoy a tasty appetizer or side dish!  The cookbook is It's All Greek to Me by Debbi Matenopoulos.  It was an excellent read and is packed with great recipes.

Zucchini Fritters
adapted from It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

3 pounds zucchini, cleaned and trimmed
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces Greek Feta, in brine, about 1 1/2 cups crumbled
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable oil for frying
Tzatziki (homemade or purchased)

Preheat the oven to 250° F or turn on the warming oven

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon or small scoop, hollow out the zucchini shells.   If you will be using the "boats" leave a small amount of zucchini in tact next to the skin. Or, if you like, you can shred the entire zucchini in a food processor.  (I scooped out the pulp thinking I would use the shells for another meal...when I finished I realized that I could have saved a great deal of time by shredding the entire zucchini!  I will shred them the next time...)

Place the shredded (grated) pulp into a colander and toss with 1/2 teaspoon of the sea salt.  Set the colander in the sink.  Cover the zucchini with a plate and weight it down.  Drain the zucchini for about 10-15 minutes, gently rinse and then squeeze as much liquid as possible from the zucchini.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, mint, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and pepper until smooth.  Gently fold the drained zucchini into the flour mixture and then add the feta and the Parmesan.  The mixture will resemble a thick batter.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a deep skillet set over medium heat until it shimmers.  Working in batches, use a 1/8 cup measure to scoop out the batter.  Carefully drop it into the oil.  The fritters should flatten out during cooking.  Cook the fritters three to five minutes per side, until they are golden brown. (Flip the fritters as you would a pancake.)  Removed the fritters when they are golden brown and drain them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Keep the fritters in the oven or warming oven while you continue frying the remaining fritters.

Serve the Zucchini Fritters on a platter with Tzatziki.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I would definitely make these again.  They would be perfect for one of those nights when you have Appetizers for dinner!  I love those times...a variety of little bites makes a great light meal...with a glass of wine...perfect!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chipotle BBQ Baked Beans


There are some sides that you just don't mess with....my mom's baked beans is one of them.  She is always called upon to "bring the baked beans".  Making these beans is not stepping into her territory.   They are different from the ordinary baked beans.  They have a nice smokey, zesty flavor and if you aren't careful they could be down right hot...spicy hot!!

The beans are made with the Chipotle BBQ Sauce that I made for hamburgers.  And, as I mentioned, it is always nice to be able to use a sauce in different ways.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of cayenne.  Cayenne and chipotles together would make for one powerfully hot dish. Given that thought, I decided to cut way back on the cayenne.  It is all personal choice but if you want to have any taste buds left after eating...I recommend cutting back on the cayenne!  I also removed all but about 2-3 Tablespoons of the bacon fat when I cooked the onion....once again, it is personal choice.

Chipotle BBQ Baked Beans
adapted from The Good Stuff by Spike Mendelsohn

1 cup Chipotle BBQ Sauce
8-10 slices thick cut smoked bacon, cut into small strips (about 2 cups)
1 small white onion, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 15-ounce cans of white beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon strips and drain on paper towels.

Leave 2-3 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.  Add the diced onion to the bacon fat and cook, stirring, until translucent, about three minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the brown sugar, molasses, and cayenne.  Stir until combined.  Add the vinegar, stirring to combine and scrapping to remove any bits of bacon on the bottom of the pan.  Add the beans, Chiptole BBQ Sauce and bacon and heat throuogh.

Ladle the beans into a 3-quart baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  (I reduced the oven temperature after thirty minutes and allowed the beans to continue to cook until thickened.)

PRINTABLE RECIPE (for both beans and Chipotle BBQ Sauce)


It was fun to make a different kind of baked bean.  As with most bean recipes, allowing the beans to sit for an afternoon or overnight allows the flavors to meld....they kept getting better and better...or maybe I just love baked beans!