Poached Pears with Vanilla

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: about 20 minutes, plus time to cool

Pears can be poached at any stage of ripeness, with sugar added to the cooking water making up for any lack of fully developed natural sugars. So even with an unripe pear, this becomes an impressive, light dessert. Other fruits you can use: apples, apricots, peaches, nectarines, kumquats, or pineapple. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 /2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or one 3-inch

cinnamon stick

4 pears

1. Combine the sugar and vanilla or cinnamon with 5 cups water in a medium saucepan (large enough to accommodate the pears) over high heat. Peel the pears, leaving their stems on. Core them by digging into the blossom end with a melon baller, spoon, or paring knife.

2. Lower the pears into the boiling water and adjust the heat so that it simmers gently. Cook, turning the pears every 5 minutes or so, until they meet little resistance when prodded with a thin-bladed knife, usually from 10 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid.

3. Transfer the pears to serving plates. (At this point, you may cover and refrigerate the pears for up to a day; bring to room temperature before serving.) Reduce the poaching liquid to a cup or less (this can also be stored for a day), then spoon a little over each pear before serving.

Poached Pears with Asian Spices. Add 3 star anise, 5 slices fresh ginger, and 2 cloves to the poaching mix.

Pears Poached in Red Wine. Substitute 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups red wine, 3/4 cup sugar, one 3-inch cinnamon stick, and 1 lemon, sliced, for the poaching liquid.

 

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Roasted Nuts (So Easy, So Good)

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Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 15 minutes

These are a revelation, so far from canned mixed nuts that you may have trouble believing it; and they’re almost no work at all. I suggest relying heavily on pecans or walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews, with a sprinkling of anything else handy.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

2 cups (about 1 pound) mixed unsalted shelled nuts

2 tablespoons peanut oil or melted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 450°F. Toss the nuts in a bowl with the oil or butter and some salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and roast, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool before serving; they will crisp as they cool.

Spiced Buttered Nuts. Real bar food: Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of any spice mixture, like chili or curry powder, to the mix. If roasting, toss the nuts with the spice at the beginning. If sautéing, add it to the butter or oil as it heats.

 

Posted in Baking, Recipes

Roasted Chickpeas

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: Less than 30 minutes with cooked chickpeas

When you cook chickpeas long enough, whether on the stovetop or in the oven, their exterior becomes crisp. These are equally good as a side dish or finger food.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything. Continue reading

Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes

Corn and Avocado Salad

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Here you have three choices for preparing the corn: If it’s truly fresh and really good, leave it raw; just shave the kernels from the ears and toss them with the rest of the ingredients.

That’s not usually the case, though, and almost as good is to roast the kernels from good corn in a skillet with a little oil. Or use the kernels from already steamed corn, which—if the corn was good in the first place—is an excellent way to take care of the leftovers.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Produce

Steaming Fish? Use Veggies

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Fish Steamed over Summer Vegetables

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Versatile and foolproof, this recipe provides both fish and side dish in one preparation (it’s a summer main-stay for gardeners). The idea is to give the vegetables (whichever you choose) a head start in a hot skillet, then use that as a bed to steam sturdy fillets, steaks, or whole fish (which might take just a couple minutes longer).

The goal is to let the vegetables soften but not fully cook. That way when you lay on the fish, everything finishes cooking together.

Other seafood you can use here: halibut, salmon, or trout; avoid fish that tend to dry out quickly, like tuna and swordfish. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

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Makes: 2 to 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

These no-cook rolls are made with wonderfully pliable rice paper. If you have leftover shrimp (or chicken or pork), you can make them in no time flat, especially once you’ve practiced on a batch or two. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 small fresh chile, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon rice or other mild vinegar

1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce) or soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

8 medium to large shrimp, cooked, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise, or an equivalent amount of cooked pork, beef, or chicken

1 cup grated, shredded, or julienned carrot

1 cup bean sprouts

2 scallions, cut into lengthwise slivers

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons roughly chopped peanuts (salted are okay)

4 sheets rice paper, 8 to 10 inches in diameter

1. Combine the first six ingredients and set aside as a dipping sauce.

2. Prepare the other ingredients and set them out on your work surface. Set out a bowl of hot water (110–120°F) and a clean kitchen towel.

3. Put a sheet of rice paper into the water for about 10 seconds, just until soft (don’t let it become too soft; it will continue to soften as you work). Lay it on the towel.

4. In the middle of the rice paper, lay 4 shrimp pieces and about a quarter each of the carrot, bean sprouts, scallions, mint, cilantro, and peanuts. Roll up the rice paper, keeping it fairly tight and folding in the ends to seal. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are used up. Serve, with the dipping sauce.

 

Posted in Recipes, Vietnamese

Blueberry Cobbler

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Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: About 1 hour

My friend John Willoughby found this recipe in a southern boardinghouse nearly 20 years ago. It’s become my go-to cobbler recipe, because it’s essentially perfect. I love this with blueberries, but you can make it with any fruit you like.

Cobbler dough is somewhere between a biscuit and a cookie: fluffy, a bit flaky, buttery, and at least slightly sweet. The key is not overmixing the dough; get it so that it’s just combined, barely holding together, then drop it onto the filling in mounds, leaving space for steam to escape from the cooking fruit. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Baking

Sour Cream or Yogurt Dip, 5 Ways

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Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Time: 10 minutes

Perhaps the easiest dip to make, but a revelation if the only version you’ve had is onion dip made with dried soup mix.

A couple of pointers and ideas: If your yogurt is thin, drain it in a cloth-lined strainer for 15 to 30 minutes before using it. You can chop the vegetables in a food processor, but be careful not to purée them. If you prefer a slightly more textured dip, add 1/4 cup or so of creamy cottage cheese to the mix. For a stiffer and more flavorful dip, substitute mayonnaise for half the sour cream or yogurt. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes

Grilled Pineapple and Onion Salsa

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Makes: About 2 1/2 cups

Time: 20 minutes

Grilled fruit makes a fabulous base for salsa; its caramelized sweetness is offset perfectly by the tang of lime juice and the heat of chiles. Use this to dress a green salad, as a dip for tacos, or alongside grilled or broiled chicken or huevos rancheros. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into thick rings (canned rings, drained of excess juices, are also okay)

1 large red onion, cut into thick slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste

1 stalk lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil or mint leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill fire to fairly low heat, and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Brush the pineapple and onion slices with the olive oil; if you’re worried about the slices falling through the grate, thread them on soaked wooden skewers. Cook, turning once or twice, until soft and slightly charred, about 8 minutes total. Remove the slices as they finish cooking. When cool enough to handle, discard the skewers and chop into bite-sized chunks, saving as much of the juices as possible.

2. Put the pineapple and onions in a medium bowl with the chile, lemongrass, basil, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile, lime, or salt as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour.

Grilled Apricot and Onion Salsa. If you can get good apricots—and that’s a big if—this is terrific; but it’s not bad with good dried apricots, soaked in water or wine to cover until soft: Substitute about 8 halved fresh or dried apricots for the pineapple, a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger for the lemongrass, and lemon for the lime juice.

Grilled Peach and Corn Salsa. A nice midsummer salsa: Replace the pineapple with 3 or 4 ripe peaches, halved, and use a tablespoon of minced fresh ginger instead of the lemongrass; add 1 or 2 cobs’ worth of corn on the cob, grilled or roasted and 2 chopped scallions. Use lemon or lime juice.

 

Posted in Produce, Vegan

Blueberry Pudding Cake

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Makes: At least 6 servings

Time: About 1 1/4 hours, plus time to cool

This is just how it sounds: soft and gooey, with a cakey crust. It’s homey and comforting, especially with whipped cream. Try making it with other fruit, too. Recipe from How to Cook Everything. Continue reading

Posted in Baking