Archive for the ‘Daring Kitchen’ Category

Blog-checking lines: Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

OMG so laaaaaate….I saw that the challenge was potato salad, picked my recipe out, and then work immediately became a fiery whirlwind of stress and drama, and the potato salad never was made. But then Jenn was having a 4th of July pool party, and I said AHA! A time and place for a healthy potato salad, especially one that doesn’t have mayo in it!

I didn’t take any pictures…so I suppose you can’t really believe me when I said I made it. 😩

Original recipe here. Bask in the authoress’s gorgeous photographing abilities. I’m jealous!

I am all about the Indian flavors this year — maybe because I’m working more closely than ever before with my subcontinental coworkers? These flavors were a big hit, both among those who tried it at the July 4th pool party and the neighbors who had it at the July 5th Leftovers Party I lugged it to. This was easy to make on the morning of the 4th while Jim deconstructed the tents in the backyard from our July 3rd party (can you tell our neighborhood takes the 4th of July very seriously?), and the kitchen didn’t even get too hot. Totally a plus.

Indian Potato Salad (no mayo)
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes*
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
couple of shakes of cayenne
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped*

*I think I used about 3 medium sized white potatoes? 2 1/2 pounds or so?
**As always, what did I do? I left out the cilantro! Yes, always. It tastes like soap. You’re welcome.

Bring water to a boil and add the cubed potatoes. Boil until just tender (about 5 mins). Test with a fork. You don’t want them too firm but you don’t want them falling apart in to mush either. Drain in a colander in the sink.

Heat the oil in a skillet and toast the cumin seeds for a minute. Add the salt and curry powder and stir until well mixed. The mixture will get amazingly fragrant as it heats up, this only takes a minute or so but be sure you don’t let it burn. Take fragrant spiced oil off the heat.

Place the potatoes, scallions, and red pepper in a bowl and add the spicy oil. Toss gently then add a couple of shakes of cayenne. Finally, add the cilantro if you are using it and toss gently.

And enjoy!


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Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

Mandatory Items: Prepare a pot of gumbo, using one of the recipes provided, a variation thereof, or any other gumbo recipe you find that tickles your fancy.

I’m so happy when a Challenge host says to us that we can use any recipe that tickles our fancy, or fits our dietary/lifestyle needs. Because I’m trying to cook more healthfully, traditional recipes don’t always mesh harmoniously with my lifestyle, and long, complicated recipes don’t always mesh with the busy lives we have. When the husband is coming home from work an hour or two late, you don’t want dinner to be stuck in some sort of limbo while waiting, or wait until he’s home to begin the 4-hour-long preparations required for the meal. Plus, this month my folks are in town from Las Vegas, so the Challenge recipe had to be something that a diabetic eater could fit in to her daily diet, and not include shrimp. So while I didn’t go with one of the provided recipes, I was able to find a gumbo recipe that came together quickly, used easy-to-find ingredients, and was healthful enough to possibly become a regular recipe.

Note: My apologies for the quality of the photos! I had to do them with my cellphone camera. I never charged up the rechargeable battery on the good camera. 😩

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo*
serves 4 or 5

6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1-inch cubes
9 oz. Aidell’s jalapeno chicken sausage (3 links), sliced
10 oz. frozen gumbo-style vegetables (corn, pepper, okra, and onion)**
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried thyme***
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

*This could also be Chicken & Shrimp Gumbo, or Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo, but for one anticrustacean among us. I’m looking forward to a Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo version in future!
**Perhaps it is my geographic area, but a mix of gumbo vegetables could not be found in my local stores. I was, however, able to find a 10-ounce bag of frozen cut okra, so I supplemented that with some frozen whole kernel corn and frozen chopped onions, to total between 10 and 14 ounces.
***WHY DO I NEVER HAVE DRIED THYME?? I seem to be allergic to thyme, in that there is never any in the kitchen, even when I could have sworn there was. I substituted dried tarragon, with no ill effects. With so much chicken in the dish, it was quite complementary.

Step 1: Get your ingredients together and recruit some assistants! As you can see, my assistant is so excited to participate, she has to be held back:

Until she realizes there is food in progress:

Coat the bottom of a large stewpot generously with non-stick spray. Heat to medium-low heat and add the cubed chicken and the sliced sausage. Brown, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

Stir in frozen vegetables and garlic; saute until vegetables are thawed, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of flour over and cook 1 minute, stirring well. Stir in chicken broth and tomatoes and scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom. Add bay leaf, thyme (tarragon), salt, pepper, and simmer 5 minutes.

Remove bay leaf.

At this point, I kept simmering, as I was waiting for the rice cooker to finish up and the gumbo sauce to thicken. I was concerned that it was looking too soupy. When the rice was done and in a bowl on the table — and my diners were waiting — I said the gumbo would be what it would be, and transferred it to a large bowl with a ladle for serving. My dad’s first comment — “Looks good! Although I know some chefs [who] would’ve added a bit more liquid.” So it must not have been too soupy after all! (What qualifies him to pronounce on my gumbo? We lived in Louisiana ages and ages hence.)

In the serving bowl:

Served with rice:

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Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

Mandatory Items: To make a SAVORY edible container and fill it with something appropriate.

Variations allowed:

  • You may want to use one of the ideas provided here as described, or give them your own twists and your own recipes for the content.
  • Or, you can choose to create something totally new, from scratch.
  • As long as it is a container, it is edible, and has a content suitable for it, I want you all to have a lot of fun challenging your creativity!

Well, my faithful kittens, I feel like I am finally shaking off the late-winter malaise that’s been affecting my cooking. I read this challenge when it came out, gave a cheer, then promptly became distracted by the menu for my birthday party dinner. Then Jim sends me an email asking me to send the link to the Daring Kitchen website to someone, because “his wife cooks like [I] do.” Is this a compliment? Because I took it as one. And it reminded me to do the challenge post haste, since the posting date was fast approaching!

The challenge is to make an edible container, and we can take this dictum wherever our creativity leads! I loved the idea of toast cups that is put forth in the challenge intro: a slice of bread molded in to a bake-proof container, filled with an egg and baked to doneness. Well, I also had some Canadian bacon in the freezer, and some shredded low-fat 4 cheese blend, and a mad hankering for some guacamole, so I put them all together with the idea of a baked toast cup and made it happen.

It’s amazingly easy:

1. Take a slice of toast and cut the crusts off with a sharp knife. Place the bread in an oven-proof container sprayed lightly with non-stick spray to assist in removing the finished product.

2. If desired, place a slice of Canadian bacon, or some fried bacon, or a few sausage crumbles, or sliced ham, or sliced turkey, or whatever, on top of the bread.

3. Gently crack an egg over the meat. Now, the challenge host said be careful not to let your egg leak outside of your bread, but since it was inevitable in my case, I didn’t worry about it. This was part of the reason I used non-stick spray, so that any escaped egg wouldn’t gum up my removal process.

4. Place in a preheated oven and bake until the yolks and white reach desired doneness. I placed my individual vessels on a cookie sheet to aid placement in and removal from the oven.

And now, a word. The challenge directions recommend a 180-degree oven for this. I started out with the oven preheated to 180 degrees, but after a half hour of my egg not cooking, I began to gradually bump up the oven temperature. I finally settled at 300 degrees, when I started to get some really excellent browning action on the exposed toast corners, and some lovely setting of the whites and yolks.

5. Once the eggs are about as cooked as you’d like them to be, remove them from the oven and  layer 1/4 cup of shredded cheese over the eggs. Make an even layer, and once again, I didn’t worry about the potential of any cheese to run outside the toast container. No big deal, right? Pop vessels back in to the oven for 5 to 8 minutes for the cheese to melt.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool so that the contents retain their shapes when removed from the baking vessel. After a couple of minutes I tentatively reached in with a fork and made sure the cheesy, eggy stacks would release from the edges, and when I was satisfied, I left them to sit for another 5 minutes to cool.

7. Use two forks to gently airlift your cheesy, eggy, bacon toast cups on to a waiting plate! Garnish with a small spoonful of prepared guacamole and enjoy.

(Jim says: Since this took an hour and a half to bake, does that make it gourmet?)

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The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Note from the challenge host: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.

I made this soba dish twice this month, and both times forgot to go unpack the camera from vacation and take pictures! Rest assured that it was passably lovely and incredibly tasty. Usually by the time I remembered that I should take a photo, my bowl of soba was practically gone. Sad face.

Soba is a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, as opposed to European-style pasta which is traditionally made with durum wheat flour, semolina, or egg. The brand of soba noodle I bought is conveniently packaged in paper-wrapped bundles, three bundles (or incredibly generous servings) to a bag. This style of soba, called hiyashi soba, is a cold soba noodle salad with toppings of the diner’s choice sprinkled in, and a thin sauce or broth to accompany it. The recipe from Lisa serves 4, but this can be easily adjusted to serve 1 or 2 or 20.

Hiyashi Soba
serves 4

Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.

Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stop the cooking process, but it also removes starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside, allowing them to cool completely.

Lisa also gave us two recipes for dipping sauces, a traditional one called mentsuyu and made with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and a spicy one. After surveying the ingredients in each, I chose the spicy dipping sauce, and I’m glad I did.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

3/4 c. green onions or scallions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. English mustard powder*
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste**

*I found powdered Colman’s in the spice section of my nearest large grocery store.
**Roughly 1/3 tsp. of each.

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water. Season again if needed.

Common hiyashi soba toppings that Lisa suggests are:

thin omelet strips
boiled chicken
boiled bean sprouts
toasted nori (dried seaweed)
green onions
grated daikon radish
pickled ginger

The first time we made this, I used just what I had on hand, which was some shaved deli ham and julienned cucumbers and some more chopped green onions. We decided that tofu would be a good topping as well, and also filling, which might let us reduce the amount of pasta per serving, since one serving-sized bundle of soba made for a huge serving! So the second time we made this, I prepared and cooked half of a brick of extra-firm tofu and split one bundle of soba in to two servings (one bundle makes about one cup and three-quarters, cooked). I also bought some bean sprouts, which I love, but then I forgot to add them to my dishes! (It’s been a very forgetful sort of month for me.) It’s nice to be able to use pretty much whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s germane to the flavors of the dish (I nixed the idea of using peppers) — fresh, not overwhelming, and well-balanced. I loved the way the shaved ham’s salty savoriness played off of the dipping sauce’s spicy saltiness, and the cucumbers are clean and crunchy, playing up texture while toning down the sauce a bit. The tofu experiment turned out well, but I need to perfect my skills for cooking with it!

Hiyashi soba definitely earns repeat appearances at the Eatery!

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Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

Following up on the success of the Leek Confit (Daring Cooks Challenge Part 1), I thought, Hey, this cassoulet won’t be too difficult. I did have the vague apprehensions in the back of my mind that haunt me every time I attempt making a soup, and that is that the soup will taste exactly like food floating in water, instead of tasting like soup. But I swept those aside by saying to myself:

“It’s a recipe from Gourmet, it has to taste good.”
“It’s a Daring Challenge; I don’t have to be stellar the first time around.”
“If we don’t like it I never have to make it again.”
“If we don’t like it, maybe we can find ways to improve the recipe the next time around.”

Armed with such positive thinking, I embarked one Saturday evening on An Adventure in Cassoulet. What is cassoulet, you ask? That’s a very good question. Cassoulet originated in the southern, Occitan region of France, and is easily described as a slow-cooked bean stew or casserole containing meat (pork sausages, goose, duck, or mutton) and white haricots beans, which are familiar to us in America as cannellini beans. Occitan cuisine itself is mostly Mediterranean and shares similarities with Catalan cuisine to the west and Italian cuisine to the east, and indeed this particular cassoulet recipe reminds me strikingly of the Tuscan bean soup ribollita, which also features cannellini beans. The name cassoulet itself comes from the dish the meal is made in, a deep, round earthenware dish called a cassole. Think of American casseroles from the 1950s and you’re along the same track. Same etymology and same basic idea.

Despite the recipe being easy to read and clear in its instructions, my worst soup fears came true: It tasted like not much more than vegetables floating in a bowl of water. Even the herbs and spices, which smelled so divine during the cooking, couldn’t do much to make this taste like something other than a bowl of tender veg in boiling water. I don’t know where I go wrong with soup, but I have noticed one thing: Using only water, NOT stock, is not the way to go. To keep this vegetarian, a vegetable stock may well have been used; but if we use this recipe again, and we might, we’ll use chicken stock and toss in some chicken or turkey meatballs. It makes it a sort of Occitan Wedding soup, but what’s wrong with that? Nothing, I say. A part of me thinks that half the point of these challenges is getting our creative cooking brains jump-started, thinking about possibilities and tweaks and hacks and improvements. Maybe if we get a rainy spring I’ll revisit this cassoulet and make some adjustments to the recipe.

Vegetarian Cassoulet
serves 4 to 6
originally appeared in Gourmet March ’08; online recipe here

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-oz) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt water

4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaf from the cassoulet pot. Mash some of beans in the pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

I put a dollop of leek confit on the top of the soup, since part of the challenge was incorporating our confit in to our cassoulet; but it didn’t do much to improve the dish.

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Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I’m noticing a trend with the latest Daring Cooks challenges…soufflĂ©…confit…cassoulet… Can we do something next month that pronounces ALL the letters? LOL! I’m definitely feeling the French cooking vibe going around in the Daring Kitchen lately. I never thought I’d be learning to do soufflĂ©s and confits and cassoulets, but really, I don’t think I knew what to expect. Just that I’d be challenged with “exotic” recipes. Some would turn out, some wouldn’t, and I’d probably learn something new. So far, so good.

Here’s the thing about cassoulet, though. I’d never heard of it before I read The Matchmaker of PĂ©rigord a while back, and let me tell you — it turned me off cassoulet forever. I didn’t even know what it was supposed to be, but in the book it’s a dish that’s been going for 40 or 50 years, and there’s a button in it, and GOD HELP YOU if you take the button out. And there’s a 40-year-old goose leg floating around in there somewhere. It’s incredibly unattractive. So my reaction to this challenge was “Ack! A cassoulet! Noo!” 😩 But the helpful, wonderful hosts, Jenni and Lisa, included vegetarian options, and I embraced this. Not just because it avoided the abundance of duck fat necessary for the carnivorous confit, but because it was leek-based, and you know how much I love that particular vegetable. And as a BONUS, the Leek Confit was Molly Wizenberg‘s recipe.

Leek Confit
Makes 2 cups/480 ml.
originally appeared in Bon AppĂ©tit Oct ’08; online recipe here.

Πcup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into Πinch thick slices (about 5 cups) and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed.
2 tbsp water
œ tsp salt

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.

2. Add well-rinsed leeks, stir to coat. 3. Stir in water and salt.
4. Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
5. Cook leeks until tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.
6. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2-3 minutes.

Serve with Melba toasts and a thin smear of spreadable chevrie goat cheese.

First of all, my apologies to any other Hough’s Neck/Quincy Center-area Daring Cooks: It was I who pretty much cleaned out the Super Stop & Shop’s selection of leeks on the evening of January 7. There were exactly two bundles of leeks left after I was done stocking up for the confit and the vegetarian cassoulet.

Make sure your leeks are pre-approved by your local Welsh representative:

I personally approve this leek.


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Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose SoufflĂ©s as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflĂ© recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

The very name strikes fear in to the hearts of even the most intrepid cooks and bakers: SOUFFLE. But I was really excited, because I thought the recipes were all well written, easy-to-follow, and confident. And some of that confidence leaked over to me. And since I already had a packet of frozen artichokes in the freezer, I chose to make the Crab & Artichoke Soufflé. I had to buy white pepper and a 2 quart soufflé dish, but I had everything else. And that made me feel good too, that my kitchen is getting better stocked with tools and ingredients!

You can download the PDF with the directions for all three soufflés (Crab & Artichoke, Watercress, and Chocolate) here.

I gathered all my ingredients together in prep bowls before I began, since the directions recommended working as quickly as possible once you get going to take advantage of the souffle’s chemistry. Because I was zipping around the kitchen grabbing bowls and things, my assistant had to be excluded from the room. I think I tripped over her five or six times before I made her go in the other room.

And stay there!

Here’s my crab and my chopped artichokes waiting to be employed. Note also the annotated sheet of directions. I took the motto “Be Prepared!” very seriously here because I knew I could turn out a passable soufflĂ© if I didn’t make a dumb mistake.

To make a savoury soufflé you start with a roux of butter and flour, then add in the milk, herbs, and cheese to build a cheese sauce. Watching the cheese sauce develop was like magic, as the grated soft gouda melted and smoothed out at the same time as the sauce thickened.

(Yes, the recipe calls for gruyere cheese, but I can never find gruyere very easily, and when I do, I don’t like the flavor. So I substituted the same young gouda I used for the Broccoli and Mushroom Quiche.)

My soufflĂ© did not rise fantastically — my baked goods almost never rise correctly, so I did not get upset over this. But once we had cut in to it, it did deflate. So it did se souffle a little bit.

Upon exiting the oven:

A few minutes later after Jim took the first bite:

I was a little bit disappointed in the texture of the finished soufflĂ©. I found it very wet and wished it had been fluffier; perhaps what it really needed was to be baked a bit longer to release the moisture and steam, and therefore rise, a bit more. I also found it MUCH too peppery, so the next time I make it — and it has been requested! Will wonders never cease — I am going to halve or perhaps even quarter the amount of white pepper that the recipe recommends. Jim did not think it was too peppery, and says he can always add a bit more if he feels like his needs it.

Amy wants the soufflé very badly. She loves seafood.

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