Monday, April 30, 2007

Beer Margaritas - and I don't LIKE beer!

First off, I don't have a photo of this. Obviously I was enjoying the margaritas so much I forgot! Would you have ever tried beer margaritas? I know I wouldn't have. But, last week my friend Cherrie and I attended a cooking class focusing on the food for Cinco de Mayo; the teacher is one of our favorites, Phillis Carey, who teaches at A Store for Cooks in Laguna Niguel, and at a couple of places in San Diego, where she lives. Rarely does Phillis demonstrate anything that Cherrie and I don't like, but we shook our heads and made frownie faces as she was describing it and mixing it up. Cherrie doesn't drink beer, either, but we both whispered that we'd take a sip. Just a little sip. Hah! We both drank the glasses down to the last drop. Not fast, mind you, but we enjoyed it. We both like margaritas, and the flavor is really very similar.

The initial taste of beer is okay with me. It's the bitter aftertaste that I don't like. Sometimes on a truly blistering hot, summer day I will drink beer if it's offered. Otherwise I pass it up every time. But this - there is a little hint of that beer aftertaste, it's not bothersome somehow. Since I'd never heard of this concoction, I did a little sleuthing on the internet, where I found other recipes for beer margaritas, although most of them included a big glug of vodka in the mixture. I think this is just fine the way it is, but you could add more tequila if you like it stronger. About the only instructions Phillis gave us was to not be tempted to use any fancy beer - you do not want the beer to overwhelm the limade concentrate and tequila. That's why this works. Oh, and be sure to chill the tequila. You want to start with everything veddy, veddy, chilled.

Cherrie and I prepared a dinner last night of most of the food from this cooking class, and you'll see the recipes here in coming days. So, stay tuned.

Beer Margaritas with Lime
1 whole lime, cut in wedges
1/4 cup coarse salt
24 ounces light beer, like Miller or Budweiser
1/2 cup limeade, frozen concentrate
1/2 cup tequila, chilled
ice cubes

1. Rub a wedge of lime around the rim of 4 margarita glasses and dip in salt. Fill glasses with ice and drop lime into glass.
2. In a pitcher combine the beer, limeade and tequila. Pour over ice and serve immediately.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 185 Calories; trace Fat (0.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5646mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Fruit.
Click on the title above and you can print a pdf copy of the recipe only.

Friday, April 27, 2007

How do I love thee - garlic

In most things in my life I’ve learned moderation. Like when a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of crushed thyme, I know to use 1-3 teaspoons. Not 3 tablespoons. Or if it calls for 2 teaspoons of Madras curry powder, I won’t use 2 tablespoons. Now cookbooks are another matter. Well, I’ve never learned moderation there, as my sagging family room bookshelves can attest. And when it comes to garlic, there’s hardly ever enough. If a recipe calls for 1 clove, I’ll generally use 2, maybe even 3 cloves. And I like to buy good-sized heads - I can’t stand those little, puny cloves that need microsurgery to remove the skins and chop. I seek out a couple of markets that always have good, fresh garlic where each clove is the size of a thimble. We’re not talking "elephant garlic" here, but just your everyday garlic. And it’s a rare day when my kitchen is without at least one or two heads in my kitchen-counter bowl. Hence, I have numerous recipes for garlic-enhanced salad dressings. And the more the merrier.

So the next question is, how do you like your garlic - minced, mashed, chopped, squeezed through a press, food processed or blended? I suppose each method would have its proponents. For me, it depends on what it’s in. Bigger pieces go into stews and braises. Minced and chopped might go in a salsa. Food processed I don’t do much anymore because my trusty Cuisinart doesn’t always get the pieces uniformly cut. So what’s that leave? Ta-da:

THE BLENDER METHOD: So, some years ago I heard or read about a method for enhancing garlic flavor. Salt, as we know, can suck the juice out of most things, and that’s exactly what it does here. Using a chef’s knife I mash the clove of garlic with the side of the blade just to remove the skins. Drop the clove(s) into the blender and then add table salt. Whiz briefly (lid solidly affixed) and let it sit for about 5 minutes. That’s while you go collect all the other things that go into this dressing. Measure things out, and you’ll be ready to finish it. I’ve made this with olive oil, but find the olive flavor overwhelms the dressing, so I prefer using Canola oil or other unflavored vegetable oil.

This recipe was given to me in the 1960's by a family friend. And it’s become one of my standard dressings ever since. Although I’ve tried making the salad with lots of different vegetables, I keep going back to the way it was originally served to me - the salad must contain mostly head lettuce, small florets of cauliflower, some shaved almonds and crumbles of Feta cheese. I like the way head lettuce holds a lot of that garlic-whammy dressing. And I will add, although this dressing keeps, it’s the very best an hour after making it.

Garlic VIP Salad Dressing
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp celery seeds
½ tsp paprika
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/3 c vegetable oil

Place garlic in blender with salt. Blend briefly and allow to sit while you assemble other ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until well combined. Pour into a covered container and allow to sit about an hour (ideally) before serving. About ½ cup will dress a side salad for 4 people. Refrigerate remainder and use within a week.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chili Spaghetti (aka Cincinnati Chili)

I think it was about 1973. At the time I was living in Oklahoma City with my then husband, and our daughter, Dana, who was about 5 years old. A neighbor invited my daughter and me for dinner. She said "oh, it's just chili spaghetti, the kids will love it." Now I must tell you, this IS a casserole (uh oh, is that an ugly word in blogdom?). But, when you consider the ingredients - chili with beans - buttered spaghetti - and a very unhealthy mound of shredded jack and cheddar cheese - it becomes comfort food to the sublime. How can this stuff be so darned good, I ask you? It was only years later - years and years and years - that I found a mention of Cincinnati Chili and reckoned this was a similar piece of work. The Cincinnati version is not baked, but it's a do-it-yourself plate with many similar ingredients (and a couple of toppings like crumbled crackers and green onions).

Chili Spaghetti is simple. It's tasty. It can be frozen. It's kid friendly. It reheats well in the microwave. It can be made in lickety-split time if you need to, as long as you've got all the ingredients at the ready.

I made this recently and wondered why I hadn't prepared it in so long. It's not gourmet in the least. But it sure tastes good on a cold winter's night. Below is the original recipe. You could substitute ground turkey with very little taste alteration, and you can definitely reduce the amount of cheese. I've even made it with less pasta, to try to bring down the carb count. Serve with a green salad, using a simple oil and vinegar dressing. You can serve garlic bread with it, but you hardly need it.

Chili Spaghetti (Cincinnati Chili)

Servings: 10 Preparation Time :1:30
Chili: 1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole yellow onion -- chopped
2 cloves garlic -- peeled, minced (2 to 3)
1 whole shallot -- peeled, minced (optional)
16 ounces chopped tomatoes -- with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

16 ounces black beans -- with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce -- preferably low sodium
water - as needed
1 pound linguine -- cooked al dente
2 tablespoons butter -- optional
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese -- shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese -- shredded

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, then crumble in the ground beef. While it is cooking, mince up the onion, shallot and garlic separately. Once the beef has lost all its pink color, add the onion and shallot, stir in and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the onions are limp. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute or so. Add the chili powder and cumin, the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir gently with a spoon, then bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the chili is too thick, add water to make it a soupy consistency (the pasta absorbs much of the liquid when it's baked).

2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt, then boil the pasta of your choice (I just happen to like the thin linguine, but any pasta will do) until it's just undercooked, al dente. Drain (but do not rinse). Return pasta to the pot and add the butter (if you want to add it), stir until melted. Have the piles of cheese nearby. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. To the pan add half of the buttered pasta first, then scoop half the hot chili over it, spread to cover the pasta more evenly, then sprinkle liberally with the cheeses, then more pasta, more chili, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling hot.