Brownie Soufflé

There really isn’t a bad way to eat brownies – brownie bites, brownie cookies, brownie sundaes, brownie crisps etc etc.  One of my deep dark secrets is that I even make boxed brownies on occasion – sometimes you just need a fix and they don’t have to be made with high end Valrhona chocolate to be good.  This recipe is terrific because it serves a crowd but looks a bit more high end then just cutting regular bar brownies and putting them on a plate (though admittedly it’s still not the prettiest dessert as the photos can attest – trust me you wont care when you are eating it).

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If you like to lick the beaters then you are going to love this recipe – the edges get crunchy and baked and the middle stays nice and gooey so it’s practically warmed batter.  I also love that the ingredients are all pretty basic – if you have a decent baker’s pantry then you probably have them all on hand.  You can make it ahead but I would do it day of, any longer than that you will lose the distinction between the crunchy and gooey bits.  This is the ultimate comfort food and right now I need a little comfort as two of the people who supported me most in this endeavor are moving on to bigger and better things in Denver.  Dave and Ashley (and little Eliza) are terrific friends who are always willing to try my menu experiments, pushed me to create this blog, see boundless opportunities around every turn and are fearful of nothing.  They have been an incredible inspiration to me and many others and while D.C. will be sad to lose them I am super excited to see what Colorado holds in store.  Heck it might even inspire a cooking at high altitude post!  So all the best to them and now I can drown my sorrows in this lovely brownie goodness.

Brownie Soufflé (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Brownie Pudding by Ina Garten

Special Equipment: large roasting pan

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the original recipe calls for the seeds of a vanilla bean but that is more expensive, hard to find and frankly I like the extract better)
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (or coffee)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval or rectangle baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Cut up the two sticks of butter, place in a microwave safe bowl and melt it in bursts of 20-30 seconds until melted.  Let cool.  In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or you can always use a regular hand mixer in a large bowl) beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 8 minutes.  This is why a stand mixer can be really helpful – 8 minutes is a long time to hold a mixer!  However, this is a necessary step, you want the eggs to be very light, almost white and thick.  In a smaller bowl mix the cocoa and flour with a whisk and set aside.
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With the mixer on low add the vanilla extract and framboise (or coffee).  Ina suggests the framboise and it really is quite good – you don’t necessarily taste any raspberry flavor but it adds depth.  Understanding that most people don’t have that on hand some cold coffee would be good and bring the same complexity.  Then add the cocoa powder and flour.  Be careful not to over mix here, just blend until incorporated.  Add the butter and mix until everything is combined.

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Pour the batter into the dish and then place it in a large roasting pan.  I use my turkey roasting pan – basically you need something large enough to accommodate your baking dish along with several inches of water (i.e. a baking sheet won’t work).  Use hot water from a tea kettle or the tap and then carefully pour water into the roasting pan so that the water level comes up about halfway up the side of the baking dish.

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This is called a water bath and something you may be familiar with if you have ever cooked flan or creme brulee.  The water helps keep the heat even without baking the brownie mix all the way through and the water helps create steam in the oven which keeps whatever you are cooking from drying out.  Try not to spill any water in the actual brownie batter but if you don’t it’s not a huge deal.  Bake for an hour.  You can test for doneness with a toothpick but it’s not really necessary/helpful because it won’t come out clean – it’s not really a cake, or a pudding or a soufflé either – it’s a half-baked yummy brownie goodness.  Don’t worry if it cracks or craters – its supposed to do that and is part of the charm.  Let it cool a bit (or serve it room temperature) and serve with ice cream.

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Brownie Soufflé

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 1hour 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: large roasting pan

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (or coffee)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval or rectangle baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Cut up the two sticks of butter, place in a microwave safe bowl and melt it in bursts of 20-30 seconds until melted.  Let cool.  In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or you can always use a regular hand mixer in a large bowl) beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 8 minutes.  You want the eggs to be very light, almost white and thick.  In a smaller bowl mix the cocoa and flour with a whisk and set aside.

With the mixer on low add the vanilla extract and framboise (or coffee).  Then add the cocoa powder and flour.  Be careful not to over mix here, just blend until incorporated.  Add the butter and mix until everything is combined.

Pour the batter into the dish and then place it in a large roasting pan.  Use hot water from a tea kettle or the tap  and then carefully pour water into the roasting pan so that the water level comes up about halfway up the side of the baking dish.  Bake for an hour. Let it cool a bit (or serve it room temperature) and serve with ice cream.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

If you read food blogs as much as I do you are probably sick of quinoa…and kale…and chia seeds…and pretty much everything else über trendy and healthy.  However, there is lots of confusion out there about quinoa despite its popularity.  It is not a grain but in fact a seed.  It’s not the brainchild of Trader Joes but is what Andean cultures subsisted on over 4,000 years ago.  Extremely popular in Peru it started filtering into our collective food consciousness several years ago and started showing up on grocery store shelves.

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I have actually read that some indigenous peoples in Peru can no long eat it as part of their diet because the demand for exporting quinoa has grown so significantly.  According to the United Nations in 1970 quinoa was exported for 8 cents a kilogram.  By 2000 it was going for $1.25 a kilogram and in 2010 that doubled to $3.02!  That might account for how this little South American seed started getting used in unusual ways – a scary Pinterst search shows quinoa crust for pizza, quinoa mac and cheese, and buffalo quinoa bites!  You know you have truly made it when you enter the pantheon of pop culture – it did inspire one of the best beer commercials ever.

Don’t let the hype dissuade you – quinoa really is a terrific staple to incorporate into your menus.  It’s very high in protein, quick cooking, gluten-free and like pasta or rice it picks up the flavors of whatever it cooks with.  I like to stick to latin flavors when cooking with it and will let the rest experiment.  This salad is a great way to use up left over vegetables or frozen veggies.  If I have bell peppers that I won’t be able to cook with before they go bad I just chop them up and keep them in a plastic baggie in the freezer for a recipe like this.  There are lots of recipes out there for salads like this but this one is my own creation and is constantly evolving depending on what I have in the fridge so please view this as a method, not a hard and fast recipe.  It would be great topped with sliced avocado and served with fish tacos or with grilled pork tenderloin like I did (recipe for that will be coming next Fiesta Friday).  It also makes great leftovers that can easily be reheated in the microwave for lunch the next day.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   what’s in my fridge/freezer at the time

Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or veggie stock, or water, or some combo of both
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (ribs and seeds removed if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

Bring the stock and or water to a boil in a saucepan with a lid.  Stock will impart more flavor but not necessary by any means.  Once boiling add the quinoa, stir and cover with the lid.  Slowly decrease the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes covered.  Some kinds of quinoa recommend to rinse it in water before cooking, some don’t.  Just look at the box or bag – if it says rinse throw the quinoa in a small strainer and just run under water before adding it to the pan.  After 15 minutes turn the heat off and allow the quinoa to steam in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the lid and fluffing with a fork.

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In the meantime in a skillet heat the oil over medium heat and then add the corn, chopped onions, jalapeno, and bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 6 minutes until softened and maybe browning ever so slightly.

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Add the garlic and beans, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  If the quinoa is done dump it into the pan and stir to combine.  If it still has a couple of minutes just turn the heat off the vegtables until ready to add the quinoa, then return the skillet to medium heat.  If the quinoa is a little wet this is a good way to get rid of the excess liquid and also help the flavors blend.  Stir in the green onions and then serve.

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Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
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Special Equipment: none

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or veggie stock, or water, or some combo of both
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (ribs and seeds removed if you don’t like heat)
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

    Bring the stock and or water to a boil in a saucepan with a lid.  Once boiling add the quinoa, stir and cover with the lid.  Slowly decrease the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes covered.  After 15 minutes turn the heat off and allow the quinoa to steam in the pot for 5 minutes before removing the lid and fluffing with a fork.

    In the meantime in a skillet heat the oil over medium heat and then add the corn, chopped onions, jalapeno, and bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 6 minutes until softened and maybe browning ever so slightly.  Add the garlic and beans, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  If the quinoa is done dump it into the pan and stir to combine.  If it still has a couple of minutes just turn the heat off until ready to add the quinoa, then return the skillet to medium heat.  If the quinoa is a little wet this is a good way to get rid of the excess liquid and also help the flavors blend.  Stir in the green onions and then serve.

Roasted Onions

Panic.  I plan and I plan but somehow every once in a while I suddenly discover I have zero vegetables to serve with dinner.  The emergency frozen spinach was used weeks ago and never replaced.  The fennel bulbs I thought would last forever did not.  Just because I married a meat and potatoes man doesn’t mean I should just serve him those without the hint of a veggie right?  That is when this side dish comes to save the day.

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Don’t consider onions a vegetable?  A quick google tells me they are high in fiber and vitamin C – sometimes that will just have to be enough (also there is parsley for the requisite green thing).  So consider this a solid, easy, vegtablish side that you can serve anytime because who doesn’t have a couple of onions sitting around?  I hew pretty close to the original recipe except I cut the olive oil in half (sorry Ina but I frequently do!).  Feel free to use all white or all red onions if that’s what you have.  Hell, go crazy and use shallots if you are into living on the edge, just make sure to cut down on the time.  Oddly enough in the cookbook version of this recipe it’s spelled out for 4-6 people but online it’s for 3.  Works for me though since I usually make half the recipe anyway but shows how easily this could be doubled or tripled for a crowd.  Just make sure your onions have lots of room on the baking sheet so they roast not steam.

This is a great side to serve along something else roasted like a chicken since you can just throw it in the oven along side.  It can also be served room temperature though I wouldn’t try to make in advance and then reheat as the vinaigrette will break down and you won’t have nice crispy roasted bits anymore.

Roasted Onions (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Herb-Roasted Onions by Ina Garten

Special Equipment:  none needed, unless you have those silly onion glasses that keep you from crying!

Ingredients:
– 2 red onions and 1 yellow onion (or really any combo you like)
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon minced garlic
– 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  First cut the stem end of each onion (the end that looks like a stem once came out of it, not the creepy weird hairy root end).  Then slice off the brown part of the root end, not so much that you hack off all of the root but enough that you have removed the gross inedible part (see pic – would you want to eat that??).  Peel the onion by using the tip of your knife – cut through just through the first layer and peel the onion skin back to reveal the nice clean onion.  Cut the onions in wedges through the root, I like in quarters as that ensures the wedges stay together but if they fall apart its no big deal.  Let the onions hang out on your board while you make the dressing.

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For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and thyme in a bowl large enough to hold the onions.  Terrific trick is to use your rasp/grater to grate in the garlic clove and then flip it over and use it to catch the lemon seeds as you juice over the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Dump the onions into the bowl and toss with the dressing.

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With a slotted spoon, transfer just the onions, and the dressing clinging to them, to a sheet pan.  Don’t wash that bowl though – keep the remaining dressing aside to toss with the cooked onions.  Roast the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, tossing at about the half way point.  You want them browned and falling apart.  When they are ready throw them back into the bowl with the dressing, sprinkle on the parsley and toss.

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Roasted Onions

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 50 minutes plus preheating the oven
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– 2 red onions and 1 yellow onion (or really any combo you like)
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon minced garlic
– 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel onions and then cut in wedges.  For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and thyme in a bowl large enough to hold the onions.  Season with salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Dump the onions into the bowl and toss with the dressing.With a slotted spoon, transfer just the onions, and the dressing clinging to them, to a sheet pan.   Roast the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, tossing at about the half way point.  When they are ready throw them back into the bowl with the dressing, sprinkle on the parsley and toss.

Turkey Biryani

The first time I bought ground turkey at Costco I was confident that I would come up with lots of interesting ways to use it.  Turns out turkey burgers was about as far as I got until I ran across this gem in Fine Cooking DSC04536magazine.  Its a great weeknight dinner and has the requisite carbs/meat/veggie combo I like so much.  It may be a little light on the veggie side so if you want to make it more balanced I would recommend serving it with some spinach sautéed with garlic and ginger for good measure.  It reheats well so make the full recipe even if just for two and you will have some lunches ready to go as well.  I know not everyone is super comfortable with Indian food but this is a terrific gateway meal – it is not spicy in a hot sense but it does have great flavor from the spices you are cooking with.  It’s worth it to go out and get cardamom pods, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks.  If you were to use ground versions of any of these the taste wouldn’t be as subtle and complex.

Green cardamom pods

Green cardamom pods

You can find all of these pretty easily these days – I like World Market for this as they sell pretty small sizes and the spices last up to a year.  Hopefully having them on hand will encourage you to try out more Indian dishes but if not they are also great in mulled cider or wine in the fall.  I increased the amount of curry powder for a bit more punch – and just as important as having the right spices is also to have a Taj Mahal or Kingfisher to drink with the biryani!

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Turkey Biryani (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Turkey Biryani from Fine Cooking

Special Equipment: None

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (I like Madras but any kind will do)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 green cardamom pods (yes the pods, ground won’t do here)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine)
  • ½ cup cashews (or slivered almonds)

In a large pot that has a lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the turkey, 1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder and salt. Let it sit for a minute without disturbing it so the turkey can really brown. Cook stirring occasionally until turkey is cooked through and browned, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add peas in with the cooked turkey to get them to start warming through.

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Heat the remaining butter in the pan over medium heat and add onions, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and salt. Once the onions starting giving off liquid it should be easy to use that to deglaze the pan a bit, don’t be shy about scraping up the good brown turkey bits. Stir and cook until onion begins to brown, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. DSC04553Then add the rice and remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir to coat the rice, then add the broth and raisins and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves (the cloves can be hard to find so if you don’t get them all no worries, the will break down a bit with cooking) then stir in the turkey and peas. Let cook for a minute more to let the flavors meld and then stir in the cashews before serving.

DSC04555Note – the cashews are a nice crunchy, nutty addition but definitely not necessary. I cannot keep cashews in my house longer than a couple of hours before I snack on all of them so I usually skip it. The original recipe also uses cilantro but after years of living with a cilantro hater I left that out by habit but it does add a nice green touch.

Turkey biryani

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
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Special Equipment:  None

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (I like Madras but any kind will do)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 green cardamom pods (yes the pods, ground won’t do here)
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (regular raisins are fine as well)
  • ½ cup cashews (or slivered almonds)

In a large pot that has a lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Add the turkey, 1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder and salt. Let it sit for a minute without disturbing it so the turkey can really brown. Cook stirring occasionally until turkey is cooked through and browned, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add peas in with the cooked turkey to get them to start warming through.

Heat the remaining butter in the pan over medium heat and add onions, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and salt. Once the onions starting giving off liquid it should be easy to use that to deglaze the pan a bit, don’t be shy about scraping up the good brown turkey bits. Stir and cook until onion begins to brown, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Then add the rice and remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir to coat the rice, then add the broth and raisins and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves (the cloves can be hard to find so if you don’t get them all no worries, the will break down a bit with cooking) then stir in the turkey and peas. Let cook for a minute more to let the flavors meld and then stir in the cashews before serving.

Skirt Steak with Rajas

At the Costello household grilling is not confined to the summer.  Partly that’s because of D.C.’s temps and partly because we have a gas grill close to the kitchen.  For me it’s also nice to get Patrick involved in the cooking (though there has been some quibbling if just adding fire to something qualifies as “making dinner”).  This meal is great year round – even if it’s snowing, the steak takes almost no time to grill and the veggies are pretty much seasonless (fresh corn would be way better but frozen is just fine).  It’s not the prettiest dish you will find on this blog but it’s delicious and satisfying.  I have served it with rice or quinoa on the side or chips and guac.  If you want to go really crazy you could stuff both the steak and rajas into a tortilla and have taco night all set. DSC03315 Ok now you are asking – what the heck are rajas?  In Spanish it means strips and usually in latin cooking it will mean strips of poblano peppers but really they could be any pepper.  If you haven’t tried poblanos you really owe yourself to grab one.  Most supermarkets seem to carry them these days, they are green but longer and thinner than regular green bell peppers (which I abhor).  They have a medium heat (more than bell, less than jalapenos) and terrific flavor.  Often, like in this recipe, they are roasted, skinned, seeded and cut into rajas.  They are also great for stuffed peppers (chile rellenos).  Once you have tried them they will become a new permanent member of your veggie drawer.

This is the first official “Fiesta Friday” post – yes Monday’s post was also Mexican themed but that was just because of Cinco de Mayo.  Fiesta Friday is celebrated almost every week in our house.  We have found the best way to usher in the weekend is with food that makes you happy – ie spicy and flavorful.  After a long week a nice mojito and some fried plantains sounds good right?  This has caught on with several of our friends and I hope you all try and spice up your weekends as well.

Skirt Steak with Rajas Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Skirt Steak with Creamed Corn and Poblanos by Food and Wine Magazine 

Special Equipment: none

Ingredients:

– 2 poblanos – stems removed
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 medium onion sliced (preferably red)
– 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (if frozen no need to defrost)
– 2 or 3 tablespoons sour cream (I use light and think it tastes the same)
– 1 1/2 pound skirt steak brought to room temp

First to make the rajas you want to roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or under a broiler.  I use the direct gas flame method but if you want to ensure all the skin and char get off I recommend the broiler as more heat and steam circulate around the pepper that way.  If you do it on a gas stove top, just put the peppers on top of the burner.  Make sure you removed the stems (just pull them off) as those always seem to be the first thing that catches fire!  Jack the heat up and then just keep an eye on them.  You honestly cannot ruin these peppers, in fact you want to burn them. DSC03322 If using a broiler just throw the poblanos on to a sheet pan and put it under the broiler set to high.  For both methods just keep turning until all sides are blackened, about 10 minutes.  It feels totally crazy to just throw your food on the fire but its the best way to go, I swear.  Transfer the poblanos to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the peppers steam in the bowl for around 10 minutes. The steam magically losens the skin from the flesh.   DSC03331

Then all you have to do is rub off the skin, cut open the pepper, discard the seeds and cut into rajas.  As I said, my gas method will not be perfect but I like the bits of char that are left behind.  If you want you can make the rajas in advance and just keep them in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to use them.

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At this point you should heat up your grill on high and season your steak with salt and pepper.  Always take steaks out of the fridge at least 30 minutes or up to an hour before you are ready to cook them.  Super cold steak on a hot grill or pan means a tough steak. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat for a minute.  Then add the onion and cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the corn and rajas and cook for another 2 minutes. DSC03350

Take off the heat and then stir in the sour cream and season with salt and pepper.  The original recipe calls for a lot more sour cream but I just don’t think its necessary.  Keep the corn salad warm over very low heat.  Throw the steak on the grill and grill 4 minutes one side, 2 minutes the other for medium.  Skirt steak is pretty forgiving so if you go longer the fat in the cut will keep it from drying out. DSC03354 Then just let it “rest” for 5 minutes which means put it on a cutting board covered in tin foil to let all the juices get back into the steak.  Slice and serve with the rajas salad on the side. DSC03359

Skirt Steak with Rajas Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

– 2 poblanos – stems removed
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 medium onion sliced (preferably red)
– 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (if frozen no need to defrost)
– 2 or 3 tablespoons sour cream (I use light and think it tastes the same)
– 1 1/2 pound skirt steak brought to room temp

First to make the rajas you want to roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or under a broiler.  If you do it on a gas stove top, just put the peppers on top of the burner.  Jack the heat up and then just keep an eye on them.  If in a broiler just throw on to a sheet pan and put under the broiler on high.  For both just keep turning until all sides are black, about 10 minutes. Transfer the poblanos to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the peppers steam in the bowl for around 10 minutes.

Then all you have to do is rub off the skin, cut open the pepper, discard the seeds and cut into rajas.  If you want you can make the rajas in advance and just keep them in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to use them.  At this point you should heat up your grill on high and season your steak with salt and pepper.   In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat for a minute.  Then add the onion and cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the corn and rajas and cook for another 2 minutes. Take off the heat and then stir in the sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Keep the corn warm over very low heat.  Throw the steak on the grill and grill 4 minutes one side, 2 minutes the other for medium.  Then just let it “rest” for 5 minutes which means put it on a cutting board covered in tin foil to let all the juices get back into the steak.  Slice and serve with the rajas salad on the side.

Spring Veggies

Spring has finally sprung in D.C.  For me that means I get down to the farmer’s market as quickly as possible to see what’s growing.  After suffering the laughable produce in grocery stores all winter I was ready to see fresh spring produce.  Unfortunately, the H Street Farmer’s Market was still pretty bare last weekend but I am sure over the next couple of weeks there will be more selection. However, a beautiful bunch of asparagus and some lovely spring onions caught my eye.  DSC04516I didn’t have a plan for them, in fact I had a week’s worth of menus already planned that didn’t include either but that’s the joy of the farmer’s market.  Grab whatever looks best and make it work.  I decided I wanted to cook them together, both being so green and springy.  Usually with asparagus I just roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper at a high heat but that would kill the flavor of the spring onions.  Instead I opted for a method my mom and I experienced at a restaurant in Chicago – asparagus coins.  I believe Thomas Keller does this as well so if its good enough for him, good enough for me. Basically you cut the asparagus in small bites and saute – I experimented with adding the spring onions and braising them in a little white wine.  It got the husband thumbs up and was deemed blog worthy.

Vegetables are a great place to start experimenting if you are nervous about not using a recipe.  No one ever died from an undercooked broccoli stalk (to my knowledge) and overcooked veggies aren’t great but edible.  Think about the vegetable you are using and what flavors would work well with it.  Start easy with the most established produce relationships – tomato and basil, green beans and ginger, spinach and garlic, squash and pie spices.  Then keep adjusting until you have something just how you like it and voila – an easy side you can make any time that doesn’t send you running to a cookbook.  If I make these coins again I would probably add a little garlic, or maybe some grated parmesan on top when its done.

Asparagus Coins with Spring Onion (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration: Spring!

Special Equipment: none

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Take the asparagus and snap off the woody part at the bottom.  If this isn’t something you have done before you basically grab the spear at either end and bend it until it breaks.  That is where the tender part meets the woody part.  It’s a shame to get rid of those ends – if you want to get some use out of them then asparagus soup would be a good place for them to go. DSC04518Cut the asparagus into “coins” – basically cutting the spears in quarter inch intervals.  Don’t worry too much about perfection here, just cut them into little bite size pieces.  Do the same with the spring onions – white part only.

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Put a skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add spring onion coins and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes until softened.

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Add asparagus and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add the white wine and turn up the heat to medium high.  The wine will cook off and finish cooking the asparagus, about 3 minutes.  When there is only a little bit of liquid left add 1 tablespoon of butter and stir in.

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Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!

Asparagus Coins with Spring Onion

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Take the asparagus and snap off the woody part at the bottom. If this isn’t something you have done before grab the spear at either end and bend it until it breaks. Then cut the asparagus into “coins” basically cutting the spears in quarter inch intervals. Don’t worry too much about perfection here, just cut them into little bite size pieces. Do the same with the white part of the spring onions.  Put a skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add spring onion coins and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes until softened. Add asparagus and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the white wine and turn up the heat to medium high. The wine will cook off and finish cooking the asparagus, about 3 minutes. When there is only a little bit of liquid left add 1 tablespoon of butter and stir in.  Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!

Welcome to a Capitol Contessa! Grab a margarita

I am so excited to get this thing going – what started as a slightly boozy idea at the Fainting Goat on New Years Day, is finally a published product.  The minute I mentioned I was thinking about doing a blog my husband Patrick told me to take 60 days to conceptualize and 60 days to execute which roughly takes us to today.  I would not have even imagined starting this journey without him and his incredible support.  He will always be my number one guinea pig but I am glad that this forum will give me the opportunity to try out new ideas and recipes on a larger universe. My friend Ben brilliantly pointed out that if one is launching an entertainment blog there should be a party involved!  With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner we decided a fiesta with plenty of margaritas were in order.  I was so glad to have my friends and family to celebrate with me. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I tried to keep it pretty simple by grilling tacos and we got super lucky to have a beautiful D.C. spring day.  The cookies, margarita mix, and most of the taco fillings were prepped in advance so all I had to do day of was make the cornbread, guacamole and guacamole salad and have Patrick grill the steak and chicken for tacos.  This kind of party is great for a crowd because everyone can find something they like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Menu

Cornbread by Martha Stewart

Guacamole Salad  by the Barefoot Contessa

Steak and Chicken Soft Tacos

Homemade Guacamole and store-bought salsa

Alfajores Cookies by Fine Cooking

Grate some cheese, chop some onion and plop sour cream into bowls and you officially have a taco bar.  Aided by the dozen or so hot sauces Patrick keeps on hand we had quite the spread and plenty of leftovers for Sunday.

DSC04510 It’s not a party without a cocktail and for this one we went with a household favorite – Spicy Margaritas with Salt Air.  If you have ever been lucky enough to go to Oyamel in D.C. you will be familiar with Jose Andres’ amazing salt air – it’s the perfect solution to getting a salty little touch with each sip of your margarita without ending up with salt crystals all over the front of your shirt.  I was so happy to learn you don’t have to be a gastronomic genius to figure this out – thank you Washingtonian Mag for sharing this with the masses.  I also gave out the tequilla as a favor because you never get too old for goodie bags right?  People just love getting to take a bit of the party back home with them. DSC04513 Spicy Margaritas with Salt Air (printable version at the end of the post) Inspiration:  Salt Air from Washingtonian – margarita recipe is my own Special Equipment: citrus juicer (not necessary but man will it make life easier), immersion blender – 1 habanero pepper, stemmed and cut in half – 2 cups silver tequila (or the whole bottle if you want to infuse it all) – 3 cups freshly squeezed lime juice, divided – 4 cups water, divided – 1 tablespoon kosher salt – 1/2 teaspoon soy lecithin powder (get this at a nutrition store or online, I got mine on amazon) – 2 cups sugar – 1 cup triple sec or Grand Marnier (which I prefer) First you want to infuse the tequila – I suggest go ahead and do the whole bottle as it lasts forever in the fridge and is great to have on hand. If you don’t want to go whole hog just pour out 2 cups which is what you will need for 8 margaritas. Place the cut habanero in the tequila carefully as these little peppers are HOT. I use disposable gloves whenever handling hot peppers so taking out my contacts later doesn’t become a painful event. Let the pepper infuse into the tequila for 3 hours or more depending on how much heat you want (if you want less you could also use a jalapeno instead). At this point you toss the pepper and keep the tequila in the fridge indefinitely for when you want to use it.  Usually I would post pics here but honestly its really just a cut piece of pepper in a bottle so figure you don’t need a visual! For the margaritas first make a simple syrup by combining 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Let cool (this is a good thing to make in advance as well as it lasts forever in the fridge and simple syrup is great in lots of cocktails and iced coffee). Combine the simple syrup, 2 cups of the lime juice, 2 cups of the spicy tequila, and the Grand Marnier in a large pitcher. Stir and taste – if it’s too hot you can add lime juice or water to dilute. DSC04504 To make the salt air combine 1 cup of the lime juice, 2 cups of the water, the salt and the soy lecithin in a large bowl. Tilt the bowl so the liquid is at the bottom away from you and use an immersion blender until you create a good layer of foam. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Pour the margaritas into chilled glasses and top with a scoop of foam. If you run out of foam no worries, just blend again to create more. Enjoy! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spicy Margaritas with Salt Air

Special Equipment: citrus juicer (not necessary but man will it make life easier), immersion blender

  • 1 habanero pepper, stemmed and cut in half
  • 2 cups silver tequila (or the whole bottle if you want to infuse it all)
  • 3 cups freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy lecithin (got mine at GNC but it’s also sold online)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup triple sec or Grand Marnier (which I prefer)

First you want to infuse the tequila – infuse the whole bottle or just pour out 2 cups.  Place the cut habanero in the tequila carefully.  Let the pepper infuse into the tequila for 3 hours or more depending on how much heat you want (if you want less you could also use a jalapeno instead).  At this point you toss the pepper and keep the tequila in the fridge indefinitely for when you want to use it. For the margaritas first make a simple syrup by combining 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring it to a simmer and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Let cool. Combine the simple syrup, 2 cups of the lime juice, 2 cups of the spicy tequila, and the Grand Marnier in a large pitcher.  Stir and taste – if it’s too hot you can add lime juice or water to dilute. To make the salt air combine 1 cup of the lime juice, 2 cups of the water, the salt and the soy lecithin in a large bowl.  Tilt the bowl so the liquid is at the bottom away from you and use an immersion blender until you create a good layer of foam.  Pour the margaritas into chilled glasses and top with a scoop of foam.  If you run out of foam no worries, just blend again to create more.

Sources:  Serapes as tablecloths from Party Swizzle; Mini pinatas from Oriental Trading; Banner from Party City

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