Monday, June 23, 2008

Cooking Week - Jack (and Ben) cook dinner

This week is Cooking and Science week at our house. I asked Jack what he wanted to learn to cook and he said, "Cookies. And bacon." Who could blame him? Well, today we started one science experiment (growing crystals on river rocks) and the boys made dinner. It was great!
Tilapia stuffed with lobster and breadcrumbs
Salty fingerling potatoes*
Mango-blueberry fool*
*recipe below

What, you don't wear a superhero costume when you cook?

Salty Fingerling Potatoes
Chez Carnes, we have a high tolerance for salty food. If you don't, these potatoes will probably be a bit much for you. You could probably increase the water or decrease the salt. Regardless, these potatoes are irresistible, even without butter. This is Alton Brown's technique.
1 1/4 lb. kosher salt (Morton is saltier than Diamond)
2 qts. water
2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, cleaned (I think small red potatoes would be great, too)
Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when poked with a fork, about 20-25 minutes. Immediately remove from water and place on drying rack. The excess salt will crystallize and look like frost on the potatoes. You can toss with butter, cheese, chives, pepper, etc., but they are delicious plain - very buttery tasting with salty, earthy skins.
Mango/Blueberry Fool
My boys and I love fruit. I was counting just for fun tonight and realized that just today they've had strawberries, bananas, grapes, mango, and blueberries throughout the day. When I took out some frozen mango chunks so we could make this dessert, they started eating them right out of the bag, despite how cold they were. When I finally closed the bag, Ben said, "Mommy, that's my favorite, favorite food."
This recipe is based on one from
1-2 cups mango chunks
2 T. sugar
2 T. lime juice
pinch salt
1/2 cup cream or milk or yogurt
1 1/2 cup blueberries
Blend mango chunks, sugar, lime juice, and pinch of salt until smooth. Add enough cream, etc., to create a pourable consistency. Pour mango mixture into bowl and mix in blueberries. Pour into 4-6 small glasses. Chill for half an hour and garnish with blueberreies and lime zest before serving.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pacific Northwest Gourmet Club

I mentioned in an earlier dinner club post that the night I hosted had a Pacific Northwest theme. While that was several months ago now, I've been wanting to post the details and a recipe.
(I can't figure out how to get my picture horizontal; it is before I attach it!)
I was inspired by a book, Timberline Lodge Cookbook, given to me by my brother- and sister-in-law a few years ago. It's from a lodge on a slope of Mt. Hood, Oregon, and it looks lovely. The food in the cookbook favors seafood, vegetables, berries, herbs, and hazelnuts. Here is our menu.

Pre-dinner: Tillamook cheddar cheese and grapes. My friend Kaeley from college was from Oregon, and she always raved about Tillamook cheese.

Amuse bouche: Shrimp with a remoulade sauce. The remoulade is not very Northwestern, but I like it better than cocktail sauce. I served two shrimp hanging on a shot glass filled with sauce. It was really cute; the shrimp make a heart shape, so it would be nice for Valentine's day.

First Course: Creamy Gazpacho. Wow, was this good! I think it may have been the hit of the night. I was so happy to have leftovers. It's a great warm-weather cold soup. The olive oil and sour cream make it more decadent than typical gazpacho. I served it in glass bowls stored in the freezer. Recipe below.

Main Course: Poached salmon with hollandaise and raspberry sauce, hazelnut wild rice pilaf, and glazed carrots. The carrots were cut matchstick sized and tied with a green onion into little packages, which added to the cute factor as well.

Dessert: Hood River Pear and Hazelnut Tart. This dessert was truly labor intensive but delicious. The tart pastry was lined with chocolate ganache, then layered with an almond paste/butter/egg/sugar/toasted ground hazelnut mixture, topped with poached pear slices and sugar, and glazed with hot apricot preserves. I seemed to have too much filling for my tart pan, so it wasn't as pretty as the picture, but it tasted amazing anyway.

It was a fun night! I think the four children took out every toy in the house while we were eating.

Here is the recipe for the creamy gazpacho. I'm going to make it again this weekend. I'll try half the oil this time, but most of the ingredients are so low-calorie that the overall profile isn't bad.

Sauvie Island Creamy Gazpacho

Serves 8

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 green onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bunch parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 T. honey
1 T. chopped fresh dill or 2 t. dried
4 cups tomato juice
1 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
garnish with fresh chives
Combine all of the ingredients except the chives in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with chives. Serve very cold.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chocolate Cake/Pond Cake

Last week was Pond Week at our house, and for the second year in a row, we had Pond Cake. I got the idea from a very old Woman's Day magazine. The magazine version was much more elaborate, but the boys like ours. I usually use Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake recipe for chocolate cake, but I only had brown sugar in the house. I used this Death by Chocolate cake from, and I thought it was very good with a few changes. The other components of the cake are white frosting to seal the cake for the "water" and blue jello for the water. I'm pretty sure only kids would like the taste combination of chocolate cake and jello!

Note: I always substitute coffee for water in chocolate cake recipes. It doesn't make the cake taste like mocha, but it adds a depth of flavor.

Death by Chocolate Cake

2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. shortening
2 eggs
1/2 c. cocoa dissolved in 1/2 c. boiling coffee
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix brown sugar, shortening and eggs until very creamy. Dissolve cocoa in boiling water and add alternately with flour, beginning and ending with cocoa mixture. Dissolve baking soda with a few drops of water in bottom of measuring cup and add sour cream. Mix thoroughly. Add to batter and stir until mixed. Add vanilla. Bake in 8-inch round greased metal pan 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on racks.

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling coffee
Directions:1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. 2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling coffee (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. 3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mixed Antipasto

I've been making this recipe for years - it's another one that is great for a crowd. I also like it because whatever diet or eating plan your guests are following, they will almost certainly be able to find something in it that they can eat. I often mix the leftovers with pasta or bake it into a lasagna. The original idea came from, but I've lightened the marinade and changed the ingredients somewhat.

Mixed Antipasto


1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried orégano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Pour in olive oil slowly, whisking until emusified (mixture should be translucent, not separated). Set aside.

Fresh broccoli florets and baby carrots, blanched (boiled for a minute or so, then plunged into cold water)
Roasted red peppers
Sun dried tomatoes
Chunks of mozzarella cheese
Chuncks of provolone cheese (buy unsliced from the deli)
Stick pepperoni, cut into small chunks
marinated mushrooms
pepperoncini peppers or banana peppers
artichoke hearts

Chop all ingredients into bite-sized chunks and put in large serving dish. Re-whisk marinade and pour over ingredients; toss gently. Chill for several hours. Can serve cold or at room temperature. Set out toothpicks for guests to make their own combinations. Obviously, if you use large quantities of all the ingredients, you will need to make additional marinade.