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Fresh or Dried? That is the question

What are you doing with your fresh herbs?

It’s September, and if you live in Central Texas, this is the time of year when some of those fresh herbs start to dwindle. What to do? While many chefs don’t advocate using dried herbs, I’ve found that using the herbs from my garden produces much more fragrant and flavorful dried herbs that what you can purchase from the store. Plus there is the satisfaction of having something from your garden.

You can create a better dried basil that can get you through a few cold months without resorting to store-bought dried basil. Here’s how:

Pick over fresh basil. Wash it and spin it dry in a salad spinner and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let it air dry for a little longer then place it in the oven. I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome. Home-dried herbs will last a few months in an airtight container and will always be of superior flavor and quality to store-bought. Below is my favorite minestrone soup (Okay, not a purists minestrone. It has Italian meatballs in it.)

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Serves 4 Total time 35 minutes

12 oz Italian sausage formed into 1” balls

2 c beef stock or broth

1 c chicken stock or broth

½ c chopped onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 T olive oil

1 C water

1 14 oz can crushed tomato

1 4 oz can tomato sauce

2 cups frozen vegetables, such as corn, green bean, red bell pepper, and carrot

1 can Great Northern beans

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

1 t dried thyme

2 c cheese tortellini

freshly chopped basil and parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 6 or 8 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides. Remove sausage from pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion and garlic; cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, stocks, Italian seasoning, and water. Heat to a simmer and add frozen vegetables and tortellini. Cook until vegetables are heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Try pairing this with a nice Sangiovese wine and some crusty French bread. Delicious!

I would love suggestions from you on home-drying other herbs as well! Please see the upcoming article in the October 2018 issue of  Waco Today for suggestions on using your fresh basil in marinara and pesto.

Happy Cooking!

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Summer Ceviche

Summer Ceviche served in glasses rimmed with salt and lime
Summer Ceviche

Summer Ceviche
Makes 8 – 10 servings

1 1/2 pounds seafood, diced small, such as shrimp, scallops, yellowtail or tilapia
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 English cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 ear fresh sweet corn, kernels only
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup Sriracha
1 cup Clamato with Clam Juice or Tabasco Bloody Mary Mix
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
2 firm avocados, sliced, for garnish

In a large bowl with a tight fitting lid, combine the seafood with the lime and orange juices. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally until the flesh becomes firm and opaque, about 3 hours.

Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, oil, and Sriracha. Season with salt, pepper and stir. Add the tomato juice and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry. Season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve in chilled bowls or glasses garnished with avocado, lime and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.

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Karyn’s Bowtie Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil

Karyn’s Bowtie Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil

 

Karyn making pasta salad in the kitchen.
Karyn Miller Brooks

This recipe combines similar flavors, but it a nice alternative if you don’t want sandwiches for your picnic.

 

  • 8 oz farfalle (bowtie) pasta, cooked to package directions
  • 3 oz sundried tomatoes, julienne cut (I like Mariani. They are simple sundried tomatoes with no added oil. They come in a plastic package usually located with other tomato products in the grocery store.)
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil, chiffonade cut
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (also try this with the sundried tomato-basil feta)
  • 2 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ c light olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ½ c Kalamata olives, pitted and quarter (optional)

 

Toss first 6 ingredients together, adding Kalamata olives at the end. This keeps well for three or four days in the refrigerator. If you are eating this after refrigeration, you made need to toss in a little more oil to revive. This salad is delicious hot or cold, and it is safer for picnics than mayonnaise-based pasta salads.

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Aioli Deviled Eggs

Aioli Deviled Eggs

 

6 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup Stonewall Kitchen Aioli

Salt and pepper

Crumbled bacon, cilantro leaf, parsley leaf, paprika, or dill sprig for garnish

Mayonnaise (if needed)

 

Place eggs in a pot large enough for the eggs to be in a single layer. Cover eggs with cold water, enough to cover eggs by 1-inch. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook eggs. 14 minutes for large eggs, 12 minutes for small and medium eggs, and 15 minutes for extra-large and jumbo eggs. Add 1-2 minutes more if eggs are cold directly from refrigerator and not room temperature. Plunge eggs into cold water to prevent further cooking.

Once eggs are cooled peel off shells. Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove egg yolks to a small bowl. Add Aioli, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth and uniform. If dry add more aioli or mayonnaise. Spoon or pipe egg yolk filling into each white. Garnish and serve.

Tip:  Older eggs are best to use when making hard boiled eggs, they will peel easier. 

Roasted Garlic Aioli
Roasted Garlic Aioli
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Healthy Bean Thread Noodle Salad

Chicken Salad with Bean Thread Noodles (Serves 6)

Chinese Cuisine Made Simple, Chef Dorothy Huang
Chinese Cuisine Made Simple, Chef Dorothy Huang
1 pound boneless chicken breast 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
¼ teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 ounces dried cellophane noodles  

Salad dressing:

1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil 4 tablespoons rice vinegar

Salad:

2 cups shredded carrot 2 cups shredded cucumber
Several sprigs of cilantro 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

 

In a mixing bowl, mix chicken with oyster sauce, salt and pepper. Preheat oven to “Broil”. Broil chicken on the upper rack for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Slice chicken across the grain 1/8- inch thin slices.

Soak dried cellophane noodles in a pot of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Cut into 3 to 4-inch lengths.

Combine salad dressing ingredients in a jar. Shake well.

In a mixing bowl, toss noodles, carrots, and cucumber with 2/3 of dressing. Transfer to a serving platter. Place chicken slices on noodles. Drizzle the rest of the dressing over. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serve at once.

** Make it vegetarian! Add tofu, mushroom or edamame instead of chicken.

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Early Summer Recipe


Fried Green Tomato

Late Spring and early Summer is the prime time to find green tomatoes at the Farmers Market. What exactly are green tomatoes? There are two types of green tomatoes, those that are green when fully ripe (generally heirloom varieties), and unripe tomatoes. Here are two recipes for a favorite dish using this seasonal fruit.

Fried Green Tomatoes

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 pinch cayenne

1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk

kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

4 large unripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, ends removed

1⁄2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

hot pepper sauce, for serving

lemon wedge, for serving

 

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, and cayenne together.

Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Dip the tomatoes in the buttermilk and then dredge them in the cornmeal mixture, coating both sides well.

Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil.

When the oil is hot, pan-fry the tomatoes (in batches if necessary) until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Carefully remove the tomatoes and drain on paper towels.

Serve with hot pepper sauce and lemon.

 

Crunchy “Baked” Fried Green Tomatoes

4 large firm green tomatoes

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, more for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Pam Cooking Spray or olive oil for drizzling

Slice tomatoes 1/8 inch thick. On a large plate mix flour, salt, and pepper. Place yogurt and buttermilk on a second plate, and Panko Bread Crumbs on a third plate. Coat tomatoes with the flour mixture, then the yogurt – buttermilk mixture (you may want to put the yogurt in a small bowl so that dipping them is easier), then the Panko Bread Crumbs.

Place coated tomatoes on a cookie sheet and spray with Pam Cooking Spray liberally on both sides or drizzle them on both sides with olive oil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 7 minutes on one side then flip them over and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with extra salt and serve warm.

 

Buttermilk dipping sauce: 

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped chives

hot sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and stir to combine. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste. Chill until ready to serve.


 

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Farmers Market

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market offers FREE cooking demonstrations using farm fresh ingredients from their vendors. Enjoy these recipes from our demonstration on March 4th using many ingredients available early spring.

Waco Downtown Farmers Market Logo
Waco Downtown Farmers Market Saturdays 9 am – 1pm

Pumpkin Bread French Toast

  • half a loaf of pumpkin bread or zucchini bread, sliced thickly (about 6 pieces), The Wine Maker’s Pantry
  • 3 eggs, Various Vendors
  • ½ cup whole milk, Richardson Farms
  • a splash of Nielsen Massey vanilla **
  • Cinnamon honey syrup, recipe follows
  1. Whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla together. Heat a nonstick or oiled skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Dip each piece of pumpkin bread in the mixture and soak for about 20 seconds. Let excess drip off, then transfer to the hot skillet and fry for a few minutes on each side (and repeat if needed) until both sides are golden brown and almost crispy (but the insides will still be soft).
  3. Serve with Cinnamon Honey Syrup.

Cinnamon Honey Syrup

  • 3⁄4 cup honey, Round Rock Honey
  • 1⁄2 cup butter
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon**

Heat all ingredients in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm.

Herbed Pecan Pesto:

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, Various Vendors
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans , Pecan Shop
  • 4 cloves garlic, Various Vendors
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, Texas Hill Country Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 pinch ground black pepper to taste **

Blend the basil, pecans, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a food processor until the mixture becomes a slightly chunky paste.

Bowl of Vegetable Soup and a slice of bread topped with Pesto
Farmers Market Soup

Farmer’s Market Italian Soup

  1. In a heavy bottom pot, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the sausage and brown , about 5 minutes. Put the sausage aside on a plate.
  2. Add more oil, the carrots, celery, leeks and onions. Add in 2 tsp salt and 21 tsp pepper. Cook over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits from the sausage on the bottom of the pot, and stirring occasionally. Cook until the onions turn translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. When the onions have turned translucent, and the vegetables have cooked through, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add in the can of diced tomatoes, bone broth, sausage, and thyme. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add in the spinach (or other leafy green).
  4. Add in pasta. Stir and continue cooking until pasta is cooked, 5 – 10 minutes depending on type of pasta.
  5. Taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
  6. Serve it topped with herbed pesto and warm bread.
  7. Will keep in an air tight container for 1 week in the fridge. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.

** Ingredients available at Gourmet Gallery

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Lemon Trifle

Lemon Trifle

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup granulated sugar
12 -ounces cream cheese, softened One 8-ounce jar prepared lemon curd
2 cups heavy cream 22 hard ladyfinger cookies
3 cups mixed raspberries and sliced strawberries Powdered sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream, for serving

 

A clear trifle bowl with layers of lady fingers, raspberries and lemon cream

In a small measuring cup, mix the lemon juice with the sugar and 1/4 cup water until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Place the cream cheese, lemon curd and heavy cream in a food processor and process until smooth and a bit fluffy.

To assemble the tiramisu, place half the ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, breaking a few to fit, and drizzle with half of the lemon syrup. Top with half the lemon cream and 1 cup mixed berries. Repeat the layers, using the remaining ladyfingers, syrup and lemon cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, top with the remaining 2 cups of berries and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with whipped cream on the side.

 

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Making Marshmallows

The Making of Marshmallows & Memories – Family Holiday Traditions

By Karyn Miller

Reprint from October 2013

 

The scents of the cool fall air always spark different emotions and trigger memories for me. As a child, once the Trick-or-Treat candy was consumed (or otherwise mysteriously disposed of), my family got to work on the next series of events. Football, Homecoming, a few fall birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day inspired us and gave us all something pleasing to anticipate.

My father owned and managed retail businesses during my youth. He worked six days a week as long as I can remember, holidays being the rare exception. Mom taught high school homemaking and was a foodie before the word existed. While she managed to deliver some amazing meals for us despite the limited help from her industrious husband and her three indolent children, her magic really sparkled when the cool weather and fall fog rolled into town. From homemade hot chocolate to the best pralines ever, from candied orange peel (still not my favorite) to sand tarts and divinity, Mom’s greatest gifts flowed forth from kitchen. For our family, holiday traditions focused on these sweets and other favorite foods.

My daughter and I rely happily and heavily on those holiday traditions from my mother’s kitchen. With the first breath of chilly air, we make homemade hot chocolate just like we did when I was a kid – that perfect combination of chocolate with the tiniest pinch of salt and spice. After I pour it into mugs, my daughter Molly mounds marshmallows so high that it takes half an hour to get to the beverage. By the time the marshmallows are gone, she and I are halfway through another longstanding family holiday tradition, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Never a drop of hot cocoa remains in either of our cups by the end of the show.

One of our newer traditions is to make our own marshmallows – not for the ordinary cold night hot chocolate, but as holiday gifts for teachers and friends, and of course, as a gift to ourselves. The recipe isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming and messy. And worth every bit of waiting, togetherness, powdered sugar, and fun. That time together is the stuff that holidays are made of, the stuff I remember as a kid with my brother and sister.

Thanks to a mother who was and is a fabulous cook, both of my siblings and I love cooking and eating good food, bantering and being silly with each other; so, what many might view as an onerous tasks in the kitchen I see as luxurious indulgences when we truly take the time to create good food and good memories. I savor the hours “slaving” in the kitchen, even if I complain about how little time we have to sleep, to relax, and to relish the season. Despite my family’s mutual admiration of all things food and all things cooking, our holiday season typically starts with the same friendly sibling argument:

“What are we doing for Thanksgiving this year?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight.”

“How about turkey?”

“I don’t want turkey this year.”

“How about ham?”

“I don’t like ham.”

“Fine. I’ll ask Gary.”

“Gary, are you and Beth in town for Thanksgiving this year?”

“I think so. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Beth.”

Aaaaarghhhh! Thus the holiday tradition in the Miller family begins. Eventually my sister and I will congregate over a glass of wine and talk about our plans through the season. We ponder over recipes, menus, new and old favorites. Finally we emerge with our Thanksgiving dinner plan, typically a mix of a new twist on a turkey we likely found in Bon Appetite, our grandmother’s traditional Southern Dressing, Gary’s Potatoes Dauphin, Beth’s rolls, something green (changes every year), a variety of pies, and of course, Mom’s pralines. Perhaps we should just keep that same menu every year, but then we would lose the traditional pre-holiday argument I have come to anticipate and enjoy.

I “interviewed” my daughter before writing this article to find out what she considers her favorite family holiday traditions to be. Without any prompting she said, “Grandma’s pralines. Grandma makes the best pralines ever.” Next she mentioned hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. She even mentioned how her Aunt Caryl and I have to wrangle over our holiday dinners and gatherings.

She mentioned how she loves for our whole family to get together, usually after New Year’s, to have our official family Christmas where each family member gets to open his or her gifts one by one for all to see. I don’t know why, but it surprised me that Molly defined her holiday traditions and memories so similarly to the way I define mine.  I realized we all have our own traditions – an imperfectly perfect blend of all the traditions that have graced and cursed us through the years. I can only hope she is so lucky with her own family someday.

Mollymallows

Molly and Karyn’s traditional homemade marshmallow recipe for gift-giving and hot cocoa.

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1 ½ c water

2 ½ c white sugar

½ c brown sugar

1 ¼ c light corn syrup

¼ t salt

½ t cinnamon

2 t vanilla extract

½ c confectioners’ sugar

½ c cornstarch

Combine confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.

Line a large jellyroll pan with lightweight foil. Spray with vegetable spray and dust pan lightly with sugar-cornstarch mixture.  Set pan aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, soften gelatin with ¾ c water.

Place the white and brown sugars, corn syrup, salt, cinnamon, and ¾ c water in a heavy saucepan. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240°F). After it reaches the soft-ball stage, remove pan from heat and add vanilla. The mixture will be dark at this stage.

With the whisk attachment and the mixer at high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup mixture into the gelatin until the mixture is very stiff. This takes about 15 minutes. The mixture will fluff up and turn almost white.

Pour the mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth the top with a well-oiled spatula. Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered, at room temperature for several hours, overnight it usually best.

Light sprinkle some of the cornstarch-sugar mixture over a cutting surface. Turn the stiffened marshmallow mixture out onto the cutting surface. Dip a slightly oiled cookie cutter into the remaining cornstarch-sugar mixture, and cut the marshmallows into shapes. Drop freshly-cut marshmallows into cornstarch mixture, then store in an airtight container.

These make beautiful homemade gifts, especially when combined with a cup of homemade cocoa mix and a peppermint stick in a mug.

Variations: Chocolate marshmallows, chocolate-cayenne, peppermint marshmallows, coconut marshmallows. Call me for more ideas or for specific recipes for these. Enjoy.

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The Art of the Charcuterie Platter

Now that I’ve typed it what does it mean? It is the branch of cooking devoted top prepared meat products, such as salamis, sausages, terrines, pates and confit.

According to Lori Krieger, the creator of  “Tastes Elevated,” the idea of a perfect charcuterie platter features cured meats paired with artisan condiments, cheeses, breads and a variety of other condiments.

For more ideas watch this space, and come on February  7, to meet Lori and learn first hand.