Jalapeño Corn Dip

This tastes suspiciously, surprisingly similar to the dip make with Velveeta and Ro-tel. Ro-tel would probably be quite good here, though it would create more of a salsa than a dip. Either way, this is SO good and is a nice way to avoid plastic cheese without sacrificing the general spirit of party food.

jalapeno dip
• 1 can creamed corn
• 2 Jalapeño peppers, minced
• 2 T minced onion
• 1/4 can black beans
• 1/2 c cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, Italian mix)
• 1 T sour cream

1. Over low heat, combine ingredients. Mix until warm, adding more of whichever ingredients you’d like to add. More jalapeños for spice, more cheese if you’re dangerous that way–whatever is most delicious :)
2. Serve with homemade corn tortilla chips* and a smorgasboard of Tex-Mex creations

*(Just cut a corn tortilla and fry in vegetable oil for a few seconds. Dry on a paper towel, then add sea salt. Wheat flour tortillas are good too, for a smoother flavor)

Tuna Melt

tuna melt

• 1 can tuna
• Bread, a roll, or a bagel
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 T minced shallots (or your chosen onion)
• 1 T lemon juice, more depending on taste
• 2 tsp olive oil
• 1/8 tsp or just a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp pepper
• dash salt
• parmesan cheese, parsley
• pickles, onions, muenster cheese, tomato, and/or other toppings/accoutrement

1. Set broiler to low and heat bread. In small bowl, whisk an egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. Whisk or blend until it thickens slightly. It will not be super thick, but that’s okay.

2. Flip bread so that it is softly toasted on both sides. Add tuna and shallots to egg mixture and blend.

3. Remove bread from oven, then spoon tuna mixture on top. Sprinkle with extra shallots and/or parmesan cheese. Broil on high for 2 or 3 minutes, until edges of bread begins to darken. Garnish with dried parsley and serve immediately.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry is a versatile and light dough that can be used for spectacular desserts and savory treats. Considering how special and *fancy* puffs are when baked, they actually are rather straightforward to make. If you’ve made choux once, subsequent attempts will seem incredibly simple. I like Jacques Pépin’s recipe and directions because the ingredients are minimal/elemental and the long wait times allow you to go about your day while making something magnificent.

I use most of the batter for sweet cream puffs, reserving a half or third for savory cheese gougères.

choux

Choux pastry
• 1 cup water
• 4 T butter
• 1 cup flour
• 4 eggs
• 1/4 tsp salt

1. Boil water, pieces of butter, and salt in saucepan.

2. When butter is melted, remove from heat and add all flour.

3. Quickly mix with wooden spoon until dough begins to form a ball.

4. Put pan over low heat and ‘dry’ for 1 to 2 minutes, mixing occasionally. Try to collect all dough into a single ball to avoid dry bits.

5. Transfer to a slightly larger bowl than would seem necessary and let cool at least 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. The dough will seem to resist coming together, with large pieces sloshing about in the egg (so the larger bowl should be helpful), but keep mixing. It is finished when the dough is thick and creamy.

6. Coat a heavy baking sheet completely with butter, rubbing with wax paper or just holding the stick and fully covering the pan. Sprinkle flour, then hit and shake the pan to coat completely.

8. For Cream Puffs, put dough into pastry bag with large round tip and pipe golf ball sized puffs.
For Éclairs, drag the pastry bag to make a puff that is about 3 inches long and oval.
For Gougères, add some shredded cheese (Gruyére, Cheddar, Parmesan, etc) and/or herbs to dough. More makes for flat puffs, which will look like boring, normal biscuits. Just using a tablespoon or two will allow for savory flavor while preserving the fun puffiness.

9. Brush with beaten egg, smoothing out tips and obvious imperfections as you go. For a design, drag a fork across the top. Allow to dry for at least 20 minutes.

10. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, until puffed and golden. When finished, turn off heat and open oven door halfway, letting the puffs cool slowly and dry for a half hour (inside oven).

Filling

Make Custard Cream Filling:
• 2 cups (vanilla almond) milk
• 2 beaten eggs
• 2/3 c sugar
• 1/2 c flour
• pinch salt
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 T butter

1. Warm milk in saucepan over medium low heat.

2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in bowl. Add eggs and combine, beating well.

3. Slowly add flour-egg mixture to milk, stirring with whisk.

4. It will thicken in a few minutes, but if it does not, add more flour until desired thickness is reached.

5. Add vanilla, continuing to stir.

To fill puff pastry, stab side of puff with pastry tip and squeeze until puff feels full.

Éclairs can be filled the same way depending on your tool, but it is efficient to make a slit lengthwise along the side of the éclair and fill.

Gougères are great on their own or can be filled with a soft cheese and/or other vegetables. Goat cheese with herbs and minced mushrooms and olives is quite good.

Ganache
• 1/2 cup or 4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup regular milk
• 1 T dark rum or Kahlua

1. If you don’t have one (like me), make a bain-marie using two pans of approximately the same circumference. Fill the first with water and boil.

2. Turn heat down to high to preserve a delicate/light boil and place pieces of chocolate in second pan. Put second pan on top of water pan and allow chocolate to melt, mixing frequently with rubber spatula. Alternatively/rationally, melt chocolate in microwave.

3. Pour cream and rum into bowl, then pour melted chocolate into mixture. Whisk until it is creamy. It will be slightly thinner than seems necessary but if it is too watery/thin, melt and add more chocolate. It should be thick enough to coat a cream puff without being translucent, but thin enough to pour.

Pour over cream puffs or éclairs.
For gougères, sprinkle grated cheese and herbs on top instead of ganache.

French Onion Soup

onion soup

The time to make onion soup is best dictated by one’s pantry. As the only ‘fresh’ ingredients are cheese and onion, the biggest variable is bread. Rather than making a free choice in favor of soup, I let a stale leftover baguette decide- throw it out, make croutons, or make French onion soup.

I don’t actually measure anything in this recipe…The quantity of each ingredient can and should be regulated according to taste, with the amount of onion vs liquid the most important consideration. The onions will also cook down so you should add more than you think is necessary. Listed quantities come from Julia Child’s recipe, with the flour omitted.

•  5 cups sliced yellow onion
•  at least 3T butter (as much as you’d like)
•  1 tsp sugar
•  1/2 c dry white wine
•  2 quarts beef or vegetable stock
•  1 tsp salt and pepper
•  half a baguette
•  1 c Swiss or Gruyère + muenster cheese

1. Coat cast iron skillet with 1T butter. Add onions and mix around to coat onion in butter. Cover, and allow to cook untouched 15 minutes over medium heat. Check every 15-20 minutes for an hour or more, depending on heat settings. Midway through cooking, fully turn all onions, then sprinkle with sugar and add 2 T butter. Allow to continue to brown, without stirring them. Onions do not want to be your friend, and do not need to dance all the time-best to leave them alone as much as possible. Some crust on the pan (and onions!) is good, but not necessary.

2. In separate pot, heat beef (or vegetable) stock with a touch of dry white wine (you can use red wine instead-its just important that its dry else the fruitiness can be a bit obvious) and pepper.

3. With onions still cooking, deglaze pan with white wine straight from the bottle. Add stock, some pepper, then adjust to taste. The biggest caution here is to watch your wine-since I just pour some from the bottle I’ve found its very easy to end up with onions in wine-flavored water… If that happens, just allow to reduce much longer.s

4. Slice bread and toast under broiler. I use 1 or 2 for each ramekin, but more layers makes for a kind of bread pudding that is exceptionally delicious, so toast however much you like.

5. Ladle soup into ramekins. Cover with one or two slices of toast, darker side down. To layer, allow each slice to soak up liquid before placing another. Sprinkle swiss/gruyere on top, and cover with a slice of muenster cheese. Muenster melts quickly and evenly, making for an awesome gooey surface, and doesn’t have a strong flavor that will overpower your chosen cheese. If you just want to use one cheese for your soup, it should be muenster.

6. Serve with extra piece of bread. Extra ramekins can be saved for a few days, and make a fantastic breakfast.

Enchiladas

enchiladas

Enchilada Sauce
4 dried chili peppers, crushed or 2 fresh chili peppers, sliced
3 T – 1 mini can tomato paste or a few crushed/diced tomatoes
1 T minced or diced onion
2 T olive oil
1 T vegetable stock
1 – 4 cups water
1 T Adobo seasoning
1 T garlic powder or 1 medium garlic clove, minced with plane grater
1 tsp each cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro
1/2 tsp each oregano, salt

1. Over medium low heat in small saucepan, heat chili peppers in olive oil. Stir occasionally, and if using fresh chili peppers, mash a bit as they soften. Add onion and allow to heat for 5 – 10  minutes.

2. Add vegetable stock, tomatoes or tomato paste, 1 cup water, and seasonings. Continue to heat and stir for 10 – 15 minutes. If pressed for time, heat vegetables for enchilada filling in separate sauté pan.

3. Add more water until desired thickness is reached. Use for enchiladas and store extra in refrigerator for enhancing rice, tacos, or salsa.

Filling
1 can or cup White Beans, lightly mashed
1 1/2 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 Green Pepper
1 small yellow Onion
1 – 2 cups Enchilada Sauce
Rice (optional)

Preparation:

1. Lightly coat square casserole dish with sauce. Add filling to tortilla (technically, it is good to use corn tortillas but I find flour tortillas easier to manipulate) in stripe down the center, and fold over both sides. Put fold-side-down in pan. Line up as many enchiladas in a row (5 or 6) until pan is full.

2. Pour sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle extra cheese on top.

3. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or 400 degrees for 1/2 hour. You can also soften peppers and onion in a sauté pan beforehand and reduce cooktime significantly-that way you will only have to wait for cheese to melt.

4. Garnish with Parsley

Rice
1 c Brown Rice
1 packet Sazon Goya
1/2 c Lentils
1/2 c Onion

1. Cook rice and lentils in rice cooker.

2. After 10 minutes, add diced onion and Sazon Goya. Mix.

3. Serve with enchiladas. If using rice for enchilada filling, start rice cooker before making the enchilada sauce.

Fresh Tortilla Chips
5 – 10 corn tortillas
2 – 3 T vegetable oil
sea salt

1. Heat oil in pan with small surface area over medium heat. You will need enough to submerge a tortilla, about 1 cm.

2. Cut tortillas in half. Stack both halves on top of one another and cut into triangles.

3. When oil is hot, submerge tortillas and allow to harden. If using very shallow oil, flip at least once. Remove with tongs and allow to dry on paper towel or cooling rack.

4. Sprinkle with sea salt and/or other spices and serve.

Vegetarian Meatballs

meataball

These are incredibly satisfying, and, despite the lengthy list of steps, are pretty easy to prepare. The process is comparable to regular meatballs, just with more veggie cutting and less gross meat smell.

The recipe is adapted from the NYT, which specifies half hour waiting periods between stages, allowing the ingredients to cool. I adhered to this the first time, but was more casual about it the second, waiting for everything to cool rather than waiting for a full half hour. Cooking the veggies and lentils at the same time saves a lot of time, as they can cool next to one another, which is better than staggering cool times.  The final cooling step, where you put the entire mix into the fridge, might not be necessary either, but is useful as it allows time to review the recipe and clean up a but before they’re rolled.

« 400 ° // 30 – 45m per pan »

•  1 1/2  c  lentils
•  1/4 c olive oil
•  1 large onion
•  2 carrots
•  2 celery stalks
•  1 garlic clove
•  1 T thyme leaves
•  2 tsp salt
•  3 T tomato paste
•  8 oz mushrooms
•  3 eggs
•  1/2 c Parmesan cheese
•  1/2 c bread crumbs
•  1/3 c parsley
•  1/4 c mixture of basil & oregano

1.  Cook lentils: Combine with a little under 2qt water in stockpot and boil. Reduce to low and simmer 25m. When lentils are soft, drain and allow to cool.

2.  Dice onion, carrots, celery, and chop mushrooms. They will reduce in size slightly while cooking, but they will not be mashed up, and so will retain their basic size & shape of your cut. Mushrooms are most impacted by heat and so can be a bit bigger. Mince garlic.

3.  Cook vegetables: Add 1/4 c olive oil to pan and sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt. Stir frequently until veggies begin to brown.

4. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

5. Add mushrooms and stir frequently for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

7. When cool, add lentils to vegetable mix. Then add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix until everything seems uniformly combined. I used a wooden spoon, but feel free to use your hand and smoosh as you go.

8. Refrigerate mixture for a half hour. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

9. Coat heavy pan with thin layer of olive or vegetable oil.

10. Roll mixture into meatballs or make patties for veggie burgers. The mixture is pretty soft and delicate, and can’t really be mushed tightly like a regular meatball. If you feel they are too loose, it is possible to add more bread crumbs without impacting flavor. Either way, they will stay solid after they are fully cooked, and become even more stable when cooled.

11. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, flipping at least once. You’ll want to use a spatula or tongs for the first flip, then just jostle them until they’re nice and golden brown.

12. Serve whole with pasta, break up for lasagna, meat sauce, or ravioli, or freeze for later use.

Tomato & Bread Salad

tomato bread salad
This is an extremely delicious alternative salad from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz. As its just a melange of ingredients, its very easy to customize– I decreased the quantity of most everything to feed two people and made some substitutions (red pepper, shredded cheese) for ingredients I didn’t have that day (cucumber, feta). It keeps well in the fridge, with the bread getting only slightly more saturated, and is really good the next day.

• 4c bread
• 1tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 1/4tsp coarse salt
• Black pepper
• 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
• 6T red wine vinegar
• 2/3c extra virgin olive oil
• 8 medium tomatoes
• 1 cucumber
• 3/4c pitted black or kalamata olives
• 1 onion
• 1 packed cup of fresh basil, mint, and flat-leaf parsley (mixed together)
• 1/2 lb feta cheese

1. Cut bread into cubes and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning periodically for full coverage.
2. In serving bowl, whisk mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil.
3. Slice tomatoes and other veggies in half and squeeze out juice. Cube.
4. Add vegetables to bowl with dressing. Mix in herbs and bread pieces and toss well.
5. Crumble cheese on top and serve.

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

• 4-6 tomatoes
• a carrot,  a handful of mushrooms, slice of yellow onion
• 1 cup vegetable stock
• 1T olive oil, 2T butter
• 1/4c (unsweetened almond) milk
• lots of black pepper and thyme
• a couple pinches salt, garlic powder, and basil

1. Remove core from tomatoes, heat in large pot, mashing occasionally
2. Purée carrot, mushrooms, and onion with vegetable stock, olive oil, milk, and butter*
3. Add to pot, mix and continue to heat. Add a very generous amount of black pepper and thyme (seriously, lots of both) along with garlic powder, salt, and a touch of basil
4. Pour into blender/processor and purée entire mixture. Return to pot and continue to heat, seasoning as needed. Serve with grilled cheese :)

*I didn’t plan to add butter, but even with spices my soup tasted like raw tomatoes. Butter made it taste more like conventional soup.

Zucchini & Tomato Tart

zucchini tomato tart

• 2 tomatoes
• 2 zucchini
• 1/3 onion
• handful each: mushrooms, spinach
• 2 eggs
• 1/3c (almond) milk
• handful cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella)
• fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and garlic
• herbes de Provence, s&p, olive oil

1. Roast sliced zucchini at 450. Flip once, browning slightly on both sides.
2. In casserole dish, layer chopped onion, zucchini, spinach, mushroom, and tomato. Pour over half mixture of beaten egg, milk, s&p. Add herbs and cheese (in this case, parm & mozz but goat or gruyere would be awesome).
3. Continue layering, finishing with egg mixture then full zucchini layer. Cover with sliced tomato, sprigs of thyme, & olive oil. Bake at 350 for 45m (or more, if needed).

(*inspired by this eggplant tart, which includes crust http://nyti.ms/18DwDUF)