Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

There's nothing I love more than a great seasonal dish, and this cake just screams summer. Chock-full of sweet blueberries, with crispy, buttery edges from the pan, and that subtle cornmeal texture, this cake is a sure crowd pleaser. 

A cross between a cobbler, muffin, and cake, this stunner would be perfect for breakfast with coffee, or a casual dessert.  

* 1 1/4 c. flour
* 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
* 3/4 c. sugar
* 1 tsp. baking powder
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla
* 1/2 c. buttermilk
* 2 eggs
* 1 stick butter, melted, plus 2 tbsp, separately
* 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried 
* powdered sugar, for dusting (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine melted buter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.  

Place a 12 inch cast-iron pan or oven proof skillet in the oven with remaining 2 tbsp. of butter.  Heat it for 5 minutes, or until the butter is melted.  Swirl the butter around the pan. 

Add egg mixture to flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.  Pour into the heated, buttered, skillet.    Distribute blueberries on top of the batter (it will be thick, but the batter will bake around the blueberries). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.  Let cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar.  Serve warm.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Strawberry Basil Smash

If I had to pick my poison, 9 times out of 10 it will be red wine.  This summer, however, the heat and humidity are starting to get to me.  These temps require a more festive seasonal cocktail. 

This Strawberry Basil Smash is so refreshing.  I've been buying strawberries every week since they're so inexpensive (and delicious) this time of year, and somehow I've managed to keep my basil plant alive, so this was super simple to whip up.  

This would work well with a variety of seasonal fruits and herbs.  Let me know if you come up with another winning combo!

Ingredients (1 cocktail)
* 1 shot Cointreau
* 1 shot vodka
* 1 tsp. lime juice
* 4 strawberries, sliced
* 2 basil leaves, roughly chopped
* ice
* club soda

Place strawberries and basil in the bottom of a mason jar (for easy shaking) and muddle them together.  Add cointreau, vodka, lemon juice, and ice and shake well to combine.  Top with cold club soda, stir, and serve.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Corn & Bacon Risotto with Shrimp

There's nothing I love more than a simple date night at home after a particularly hectic week.

Of course, i'm one of those people who finds stirring risotto while sipping my glass of Malbec incredibly relaxing.  Others may not enjoy it as much, but it's a small price to pay for the deliciousness that is Sweet Corn and Bacon Risotto with Shrimp. 

I've been using the sweet corn that is in season at every opportunity; there really isn't a frozen kernel that can compare.  The salty bacon adds just the subtle smokiness and crunch the dish needs.  I topped mine with tender shrimp, but if you have a land lubber in your family, it also pairs perfectly with steak. 

Ingredients (serves 2)
* 1 c. abrorio rice
* 4 c. chicken stock
* 2 ears corn
* 3 pieces bacon
* 1 tbsp. butter
* 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Add the chicken stock to a pan and warm over medium heat.  Slice the bacon into small chunks and add it to a preheated (medium high) skillet.  Saute until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.  Drain off all but about 1 tbsp. of the bacon fat (you want just a light coating on the pan).  Add the rice to the pan and stir it with a wooden spoon, toasting the rice for 1 minute for so.  Add a ladle of the warmed chicken stock to the pan and stir until it is absorbed (if it sizzles up or is absorbed very quickly reduce the heat to medium).  Each time the stock is absorbed, add another ladle full. 

When there are about two ladles of stock left, slice the kernels off of the corn and add to the pan, stirring well.  Continue to add the stock until none remains.  

Meanwhile, heat a separate pan to medium heat and add butter.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add them to the pan, sautéing until they are just cooked through (light pink and white).  Stir the bacon back into the finished risotto and serve with shrimp. Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

I'm always looking for a new way to enjoy our weeknight staple, chicken.  For the longest time, i've been meaning to try the classic Beer Can Chicken.  What in the world was I waiting for?  Not only is it super simple to make, but the results are the juiciest, most tender chicken you have ever tasted.  

How cute is this guy? 
Once you pop the chicken in the oven, no other work is needed.  This would also be great on the grill.  

* 1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
* 1 light beer
* 1 tsp. onion powder
* 1 tsp. garlic powder
* 1 tsp. paprika
* 1 tsp. ground mustard

Preheat oven to 350 and lower the top rack to the lowest third of the oven.  Combine onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and ground mustard in a bowl.  Rub the spices all over the chicken.

Pour out (or drink!) about 1/3 of the beer and place it in the center of a roasting pan.  Place this chicken on top of the beer with the legs facing down.  Use the legs to prop the chicken up.  Roast in the oven for 1.5-2 hours, or until done (to test, gently cut the skin between the leg and the thigh; if the juices run clear, it's cooked through).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Last time I was home in Greensboro, my mom, sister and I ventured to PF Changs for a late lunch.  My order is usually pretty predictable (spring rolls are a must and why would anyone NOT want beef with broccoli?) but fortunately for me, my sister convinced me to try their lettuce wraps. 

I'm not going to lie.  Those lettuce wraps were pretty bomb.  Both sweet and salty, with a little bit of heat, and a subtle crunch of water chestnuts.  Delicious! I immediately started to dissect the ingredients and I think my version is pretty close to the real thing. 

These lettuce wraps could not be easier to put together and make a great appetizer or main course (serves 4 as an app, 2 as an entree). 

* 1 lb. ground chicken
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 2-3 garlic cloves, depending on size
* 1/2 can (or 4 oz) water chestnuts, roughly chopped 
* 2 whole scallions, sliced
* 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
* 1/4 c. soy sauce
* 1 tbsp. honey
* 1 tsp. ginger paste
* 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
* Iceberg or butter lettuce, for serving

First, prepare the sauce by combining hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, ginger paste, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Heat a large skillet to medium high.  Add the oil and garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add the chicken to the pan and use a potato masher to break it up into small pieces as it cooks.  When the chicken is just almost done, stir in the water chestnuts, half of the green onions, and the sauce.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the  chicken is done and sauce has just slightly thickened. Garnish with the remaining green onion and serve with lettuce leaves.