Monday, April 16, 2007

Now, that'll stick to your ribs!

There's only one breakfast that I like almost as much as yogurt and homemade granola, and that's a warm earthenware bowl full of Irish oatmeal with a pool of real maple syrup and a hefty dallop of real butter melting deliciously over the mound. I haven't treated myself to Irish oatmeal lately, so when I saw some at the store this evening, it called to me from the shelf. Not only does the foodie in me love the stuff, but the aesthete in me also gets a kick from the old-fashioned style tin.

So, what is Irish oatmeal, anyway?

Irish Oatmeal, also known as Steel Cut Oats, are whole-grain groats that have been cut into pieces with steel blades. They're substantial, chewy, and full of good stuff for your body, like fiber, protein and B-vitamins (just the stuff you need to keep your body happy and your emotions calm). Plus, the grains are all grown by local Irish farmers and are not genetically modified.

After bringing my Irish Oatmeal home from the store, I showed it off to my husband and then I slipped away to write this post. Before long, I could smell it. That familiar scent of steel-cut oats simmering on the stove. Lucky for me, my husband's generous; I was able to score a couple of bites of his oatmeal, topped with butter and brown sugar. He offered me more, but I'll wait. My bowl will be filled in the morning.

For more information on Irish Oatmeal, visit the McCann's website.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The New Best Recipe Book and The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook

I didn't discover Cook's Illustrated until about a year ago and when I did, I fell head over heels in love. All of those basics I'd never cared to learn as a teen in my mom's kitchen popped out of those beautifully illustrated, ad-free pages. It was as if they knew the very decisions I was trying to make--they knew that I was shopping for the perfect set of knives, and that I had just butchered sixteen chickens and needed to know the best ways to grill them, and that the knew that I had a scad of hot peppers in my garden that were crying out for new recipes. Every page taught me something new, either basic or more advanced, that I'd never tried before.

Now, even in my earnest search to find each issue, I have a difficult time laying my hands on one and really should just subscribe to the thing.

A few months ago, I borrowed several of the Cook's Illustrated cookbooks from the library. I enjoyed Cover and Bake, Baking Illustrated and devoured The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles. I didn't want to return them.

And now, I have one of my very own. Over the weekend, I visited a sweet little bookstore in Mt. Vernon, Ohio called Paragraphs. The wonderful ladies there read book after book to my children while I perused the shelves for goodies of my own. I came away with The New Best Recipe Book which has the heft of a college textbook but at a much more reasonable price. They don't call Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen for nothing. It's fascinating to me to read recipes where someone else has done all of the guesswork for you.

I also bagged The Ultimate Cheesecake Cookbook by Joey Reynolds and Myra Chanin. I hope to turn my cheesecake-baking fifteen-year-old son loose on this one. Read one reviewer here, who says:

With the "Bonus" Magic Formula Which Will Allow You to Experiment and Concoct
Your Own Personally Flavored Baked Cheesecake, you can add any of the flavors
they haven't already, and you'll never have to make the same flavor twice.

This, my food-loving friends, is right up my son's alley.

I look forward to delving into these books which will, I'm sure, inspire me to collect a few more of Cook's Illustrated's editions. I have my eye on Steaks, Chops, Roasts and Ribs next.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Dinner

No recipes to post today. Just a photo of our Easter dinner--English roast with red onions and baby carrots, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed asparagus with lemon butter. Delicious!

I hope your Easter was a very blessed one!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

An Easter Lunch: Gruyere Fondue Salad

I was a bit dubious about this salad as I was preparing it. It wasn't that I haven't experienced and enjoyed warm-dressing salads before; it was just that the combination of ingredients sounded a bit contrary. Cold endive and warm roasted yukon gold potatoes? Vinaigrette with a gruyere fondue-type sauce? Yet it sounded irresistably appealing.

So the family gathered in the kitchen to make a unique Easter Sunday salad lunch to tide us over until evening when the roast beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, corn and fresh bread would be ready. One person sliced potatoes, one browned the bacon, one rinsed and spun the greens, one mixed the vinaigrette and the white wine sauce and, before long, we were eating a fabulous lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

The white wine sauce would be wonderful alone with a fresh pasta.

Roasting the potatoes takes time, as well as making the different sauces, but I think you'll really enjoy my variation of a recipe that I found published in a 2004 issue of Country Home magazine, created by Red Cat chef Jimmy Bradley.

Be sure the potatoes aren't too thick and that they lay in a single layer, or they won't cook evenly.



Gruyere Fondue Salad

8 oz gruyere cheese, finely grated and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 oz fresh shitake mushrooms, rinsed and de-stemmed
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, chopped, or two cloves or garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups arugula
2 cups belgian endive, chopped, or romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups arugula, torn

Mix vinaigrette: In a screw-top jar, combine vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil and sugar. Shake to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a bowl and drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a greased baking sheet in a single layer on one end of the baking pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes.

Toss mushrooms with remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to other end of the baking pan after potatoes have roasted for ten minutes, then bake ten minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine wine and shallots or garlic. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes or until wine is reduced to 3/4 cup. Stir together the softened butter and the flour, then add it to the wine mixture, stirring well. Add whipping cream. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually add the grated cheese, little by little, stirring after each addition until all the cheese has been added and melted.

Combine the potatoes, mushrooms, greens and vinaigrette.

Divide the warm cheese among six bowls and top each with the potatoes and greens mixture. Top with crumbled bacon. Serve while still warm.