Manchego Bites

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Everybody likes cheese, right?  These gorgeous little tarts are a glorious way to showcase tangy manchego in a simple no-cook romesco sauce. The sauce is a simplified version of a classic Romesco sauce with just a hint of zing from red pepper flakes and a brightness from a good red wine vinegar.  It also uses those convenient little phyllo cups you can buy in the frozen foods section.

You can make the sauce ahead, cube the cheese and have them put together in no time.  With this recipe you’ll have sauce left over, which can also be served on crackers, sliced baguette, or tossed with a bit of pasta.

I first made these for a family birthday celebration along with a few other starter dishes. They were so easy I made them again for my 2015 Christmas party.  Easy peazy and a real crowd pleaser.

Manchego Bites
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvre 10 minutes
Cook Time
9 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvre 10 minutes
Cook Time
9 minutes
Manchego Bites
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvre 10 minutes
Cook Time
9 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvre 10 minutes
Cook Time
9 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: hors d'oeuvre
Instructions
  1. Cut manchego cheese into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.
  2. In a blender, add peppers, almonds, vinegar, and pepper flakes. Stream in olive oil and then blend together until almonds are finely chopped and everything is incorporated. Add kosher salt to taste.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. To assemble, place a small amount of romesco in the phyllo cup. Top with a cube of manchego cheese and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, 9 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

I you like a little more kick, sprinkle a few more red pepper flakes into blender when you're making the sauce.

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Bink’s Sweet & Spicy Nuts

 

 

It’s the nuts. It’s always the nuts.  When people try the nuts they are nuts for the nuts.  So I’m going to tell you how to make the nuts.  They’ll make you nuts.

I’ve been making these for more than a decade.  In fact we gave over 1/2 pound of them in gift baskets for all the out of town guests of our wedding. Even people who don’t like nuts loved the nuts. They still talk about the nuts.

These are a lot simpler than most of the spiced nut recipe I see around the Internets and my cookbooks.  It’s just  honey, cayenne, sugar and salt.  Of course they could be dressed up with whatever spices you like but I think they’re perfect as is.  Sometimes restraint is a good thing.

I generally buy a large can of mixed nuts at a restaurant supply store which is enough for about three batches.  They make excellent holiday gifts and work very well at parties.

This recipe gives a moderate amount of heat, but the cayenne can be adjusted to taste.  I’m a fan of them a little spicier but you might like something more mellow.  They’re easy.  Give them a try!

Sweet & Spicy Nuts
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Sweet & Spicy Nuts
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a 1/2 sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large non stick skillet, heat honey and cayenne pepper until it bubbles. Let it boil together for 2 to 3 minutes. Add nuts and continue to stir until they are evenly coated with the honey/pepper mixture. Pour nut mixture onto sheet sheet pan and spread out into one layer. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sugar and kosher salt. Pour nuts into bowl and toss in sugar/salt mixture until covered. Continue tossing occasionally as nuts cool so they don't stick together. Store in an air tight container.
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Patrick’s Favorite Chicken & Dumplings

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I wasn’t raised with chicken & dumplings.  It just wasn’t one of the dishes my mom made as I was growing up.  Since I don’t have any mom or grandma dumplings to emulate, and my spouse grew up eating chicken and dumplings, I had to learn to make something.

As I understand it, there are two kinds of dumplings, rolled and drop.  Rolled are just that, rolled out with a pin then cut out and cooked in the broth of the chicken soup.  Drop is a wet dough dropped into the simmering liquid and steamed.  There are passionately opinionated people on both sides of this discussion.  I’ve had both and I prefer the drop method.  It’s more bready and satisfying than the rolled dumpling and it’s the exclusive dumpling in the MyColumbusKitchen household.

Patrick is obsessed with these chicken & dumplings and if I were to be honest, I probably am too. The secret is using collagen-filled chicken thighs that when paired with whole chicken wings breaks down into a velvety broth that is unparalleled.  I’ve been playing with this recipe for the greater part of the past decade and it’s morphed from the original into something that we both love even more than the original.

The method of placing a towel between the steaming dumplings and dutch oven lid keeps them firm and moist without getting slimy and mushy.

This isn’t a week night meal.  It takes some work but the results are something really special.

Chicken & Dumplings
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Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Chicken & Dumplings
Print Recipe
Servings
6 servings
Servings
6 servings
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
For the soup
  1. Pat chicken thighs with a paper towel to remove the surface moisture then generously salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the chicken thighs in batches, skin side down and cook until a crust and the thighs release easily from the surface of the pot. Cook the non-skin side for 5-7 minutes until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Pour off excess fat then add 1 teaspoon back to the pot.
  2. Add vegetables to the pot and cook until softened and caramelized. Deglaze with sherry and scrape the brown bits of fond on the bottom of the pot. Cook until sherry is almost completely evaporated. Add broth then return chicken thighs with any of the accumulated juices and the chicken wings. Add the thyme leaves. Bring to a boil then cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45-50 minutes until the chicken thighs are cooked and tender.
  3. Remove the pot from heat and move chicken to a plate to cool. Allow the broth to settle so the fat rises to the surface and after about 10 minutes, skim the accumulated fat off the top.
  4. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove and discard the skin then pull the chicken from the bone. If the wings are meaty you can discard the skin and pull the meat from the wing bones as well. Chop the chicken to 1/2" pieces then return to the pot.
Dumplings
  1. Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add cold buttermilk to the milted butter and stir until the mixed and the butter forms small clumps. Whisk in the egg white. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until incorporated. Only mix until it comes together and the batter starts to pull away from edge of of the bowl.
  2. Heat the soup until it simmers then drop in the dumplings. You can use a greased teaspoon but I use a cookie scoop which gives me consistently sized and shaped dumplings. Wrap a dish towel around the lid of the dutch oven and cover the pot. I use a large flour sack towel which works very well. Be sure the towel does not hang over the edge of the pot so it doesn't catch fire. Simmer until dumplings have doubled in size and a toothpick inserted in them comes out clean. Taste to adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
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Mini BLTs

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When planning an hors d’oeuvre spread some years back I found myself searching for inspiration.  I looked back, as I often have, to our wedding menu and thought of the Mini BLTs that we served. The BLT at our wedding simply  underwhelming,  but I thought I could improve upon a soggy round of bread with a square of iceberg lettuce and flabby bacon.  Around the same,  I ran across an interesting package of crispy cups at IKEA many years back and grabbed them thinking I’d find something nice to create.  While I was looking of the package it hit me and my mini BLT was born.

It’s so simple. The only cooking required is baking off the bacon. The rest is just slicing, stuffing and squeezing. This is a great little dish to have in your back pocket.  It only takes a few ingredients and they go like hotcakes at parties.  The Siljan cups are a specialty item but they’re so versatile and you can use them for all kinds of other applications.  I buy several dozen at a time so I always have them on hand.
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Mini BLTs
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvres 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvres 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Mini BLTs
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvres 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 hors d'oeuvres 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: hors d'oeuvres
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Spread bacon on a half sheet pan fitted with a rack and bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and mostly rendered. Be careful not to over bake. You want the bacon to slice, not crumble. Cool completely and cut into 1/8" slices.
  3. Roll up leaves of Boston lettuce and slice into very thin strips. Cut strips into 1"-1 1/2" pieces and set aside.
  4. Cut the grape tomatoes into thin slices, 3 or 4 slices per tomato and set aside.
  5. When ready to assemble, place a pinch of lettuce inside the croustade. Squeeze a small amount of mayonnaise into the center. Add a few slices of bacon and top with a slice of tomato. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Siljan mini croustades can be found in specialty grocery stores and on Amazon.com.  They're a very neutral-tasting cup and work perfectly for these Mini BLT's.  If you can't source them you could certainly substitute mini phyllo shells.

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Twelve Cooking Adventures I’d Like To Tackle in 2016

Sliced Green and Red Bell Peppers

I’ve decided to take a run at posting to the cooking blog again.  The New Year is as good a time as any to get started, and I thought I’d kick it off by talking about some of the culinary goals I have for 2016.

These aren’t resolutions.  Resolutions are little more than future broken promises.  I think of these more as goals and projects.  A dozen is a sizable list but I feel like it’s doable in a 12-month period.  Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Yummy Bacony Cornmeal Waffles

Bacony Cornmeal Waffles

What’s better than waffles and bacon, right?  I decided to try some bacon-infused food for Christmas Breakfast this year to show off the waffle plates my brother-in-law gifted me last year for the holidays.  I haven’t had had great luck making waffles of late. Every time I find a recipe I think will be light and fluffy, they turn out to be dense gut-bombs of disappointment.

These waffles are chock-full of bacony goodness and have an interesting texture from the cornmeal flour, but they lighter than that description brought to mind.

The in-laws didn’t recognize the bacon until we told them about it, then it was obvious, so maybe we can add “somewhat subtle” to the mix.

Yummy Bacony Cornmeal Waffles

8 thick slices bacon

1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup medium grind cornmeal

2 ½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

2 large eggs

¼ cup maple syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a rack on a ½ sheet pan and spread the bacon out.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until the bacon has rendered its fat and the slices are crispy.  Remove from oven and immediately use a paper towel to soak up the grease on top of cooked bacon. Cool and cut into ¼” slices.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs and maple syrup until well-blended.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until it’s incorporated.  Gently stir in the bacon.
  5. Preheat the waffle iron to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray and cook according to manufacturer directions, until brown and yummy.  I was going for a crisp waffle, but my iron didn’t want to cooperate, so I just waited until they were golden brown.

Garden Tomato Soup

I made a soup similar to this when living in Manhattan circa 1992.  I was fresh out of University in a little Central Illinois cow town and living on the Upper East Side of New York City.  I went from  living in a city where no one locks their doors to living in the grungiest, hardest place I could imagine.  This soup brings me back to that time.

Over the years, I’ve change the preparation a lot. Originally, I cut the vegetables very roughly and the result was something far more rustic, but the flavors didn’t marry as well and overall it was just kind of thrown together.  It was more about being a lazy cook than making some kind of intentional choice, but there it is.

Recently, I’ve paid more attention to my knife skills, which up to now have been have been far from up to snuff.  I’ve always hated cutting carrots, for example, because they always roll around and I inevitably end up with cuts on my fingers, band-aids, latex gloves on top of crudely shopped carrots.

Then chef Keller came along.  Hubert Keller, who is probably my favorite celebrity chef, has a great show on PBS called “Secrets of a Chef”.  I dutifully record it every week, and less than dutifully watch.  At some point in the recent past I saw an episode where he demonstrated how to cut a very small slice from one side of the carrot to give it a stable bottom so it won’t slide around when cutting.  Genius.  It completely changed my skill in cutting small and relatively consistently sized carrots.  I suggest trying it out and feeling like a knife skill superstar.  I realize I might be in the minority when admitting to this goal.

Garden Tomato Soup

1 large or 2 small onions, cut in 1/4″ to 1/8″ dice

2 large or 4 medium carrots, cut in 1/4″ to 1/8″ dice

4 stalks celery, cut in 1/4″ to 1/8″ dice

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter

5-6 large garden-fresh tomatoes

Kosher salt & White pepper

1/4 cup freshly torn basil leaves

Fill a large saucepan about 2/3 with water and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut a small “x” into the bottom of the tomatoes and lower them carefully into the boiling water for 60-90 seconds.  Remove and set aside, repeating with the remaining tomatoes.  As the tomatoes cool, the skin will start to pull away from the flesh and it will be easy to pull it off.

Cut the tomato into wedges, then dig your fingers in to push the seeds into a bowl.  This takes a bit of time, but the soup is far superior without seeds than with it, so the extra effort is worth a few extra minutes.

When I do this, I find in the end there is a lot of tomato juice accumulated in the seed bowl, so I pour the entire mess into a sieve and collect it in another container to pour back into the soup.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2″ dice and set aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottom pot.  Add butter and melt just until the foam subsides.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft, but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Salt to taste.

Add prepared tomatoes with juice all the juice your could extract from the seeds and stir.  The heat will break the tomatoes down quickly.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the soup is juicy and delicious.

Adjust the salt , add white pepper to taste, then add the torn basil.  Cook about 5 minutes longer.

You can serve immediately or eat it cold, but I think it’s especially good at room temperature.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

My spouse really dislikes mayonnaise, but we both really like potato salad, so what to do.  We also really like baked potatoes and the toppings one can have added when consuming large amounts of grilled protein.  Some time ago, it must have been close to 10 years ago, I heard a concept of mixing the two concepts of loaded baked potato with potato salad and a summer-time treat was born.  I won’t hold this up as either gourmet or healthy, but it’s a delicious picnic/cookout food and a real crowd pleaser.  It’s worth a try at your next get-together, but I warn you, it’s addictive.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

7 large Russet baking potatoes

24 ounces sour cream

2 cups (sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2-1 pound of thick-sliced bacon

1 bunch green onions, sliced white and green portions

8 ounces mild shredded cheese. (I prefer to shred my own cheese, but in this recipe the pre-packaged stuff seem to work a bit better

Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper

Pierce potatoes with a fork and rub generously with olive oil.  Then, lay them on a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.  Bake potatoes for 1 hour, then turn off the heat and crack the door.  Leave the potatoes in oven until cool.

Meanwhile, fry off bacon strips until very crisp, then drain and cool.  Slice green onions.

When potatoes are cool, remove from oven and peel.  Cut into small chunks and place in a large bowl.  Add bacon, cheese, and onions and mix well.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the sour cream and butter, mixing well.  Season very generously with salt and pepper.  The potatoes will quickly pull the salt out of the salad, and the goal here is to have a salad that resembles a baked potato, so I always salt slightly more than I think should and it comes out great.

Mix sour cream mixture with potato mixture and serve.

The salad tastes a lot better at room temperature, so if you are making it ahead, bring it to room temperature about 1/2 hour before serving.

 

Summer Sweet Corn Salad – Dreaming of Summer

 

It’s been warm in central Ohio this weekend.  Warm might be understating it. In the sun, it’s been downright hot.  Here we are, two-thirds of the way through May. Things are in full bloom and pollen flies unabashedly  through the air.  The unofficial start of the summer season is next week, so I suppose the timing seems right, and in a week people all across the country will be dusting off their grills for several months of fire-cooked meat and cold beer.

All of this got me  thinking about eating summery food and looking forward to fresh produce fresh from the farm. I’ve signed on for a full CSA from Wayward Seed Farm this year, so in the next few weeks I’ll have organic produce coming out of my ears.  I’ll be sharing what I can’t use with friends, but I’m very excited about using all kinds of uncommon vegetables every week and getting a true understanding of what it means to eat in season.  The whole thing promises to be an educational adventure.  Until that happens, I’m craving a salad that says summer.  I saw sweet corn on sale at the market, but right now I’m willing to bet it won’t hold a candle to locally grown in-season ears, so I needed to come up with something using frozen vegetables as a base for a delicious corn salad that makes enough to eat on all week.  There’s no harm using frozen vegetables when it’s convenient after all. They’re picked in season and flash frozen so you get much better flavor than vegetables that have been trucked in from other continents.  It works here and the result is super tasty.

 Summer Sweet Corn Salad

2 lbs (32 ounces) frozen sweet corn, thawed

2 small or one medium zucchini, diced in 1/2″ pieces

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 4-ounce can mild green chilies, undrained

1 2-ounce jar  diced pimentos

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, finely minced

In a small bowl, mix olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic and whisk until it’s well emulsified.  In a large bowl add corn, zucchini, red onion, green chilies and pimentos.  Mix well.  Pour the vinaigrette  over the vegetable mixture and mix well.  Refrigerate overnight for flavors to marry. Serve at room temperature for the best flavor.

Corn and Chicken Chowder

Chicken and Corn Chowder

It’s February and typically that means bone chilling cold here in Central Ohio.  This year notwithstanding, the tail end of winter is a great time for soup.  I’ve been on the soup train a lot lately, making vegetable and then vegetable with beef twice, but I thought I’d try something new.

I have a huge 10-pound bag of Russet potatoes in my kitchen right now and I’m trying to work through them before the eyes pop out and they get gross.  I don’t typically buy Russets in bulk but since I’ve happened upon this massive amount of tubers, I’ve been coming up with recipes to use them up.

Today’s creation is Chicken and Corn Chowder.  It’s super simple and even tastier.

With this soup, it’s important to check seasoning levels throughout the cooking process.  This calls for no-salt broth so it doesn’t have the same sodium kick in other broths and remember, potatoes pull salt out of the liquid they’re cooked in so make sure you check one final time before serving.

A note about heat:  I  like some kick in the background, so I’ve used Sriracha, or what some people call Cock Sauce (because of the big rooster on the bottle).  I’m kind of a late Sriracha convert, but now days, I use it in a lot of things.  Sriracha doesn’t have the same vinegar overtone of Tabasco and Tabasco-type sauces, just a warm heat.  We had some Sriracha flavored ice cream at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood in Vegas a couple of years ago and we pegged it incorrectly as spicy paprika. So there you go, perhaps it’s more of a paprika flavor.  Still, I find it stays subtle in the background but gives me that back of the palate kind of heat without being overwhelming.  It’s super cheap, like $3.00 a bottle so if you don’t already have it, pick some up and add a little spice to your life!

 

Chicken and Corn Chowder

4 slices thick cut bacon (I use the Smokehouse Bacon from Giant Eagle) cut in 1/4 inch strips

Olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch chunks patted dry with paper towels then seasoned well with Kosher salt and pepper (This equated to 1 whole or 2 half breasts)

1 medium yellow onion,  minced

1 4-ounce can green chilies

1 14.5 ounce can creamed corn

10 ounces frozen corn

10 ounces frozen white corn

Sriracha sauce, to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste

3 cups no-salt chicken broth (homemade is better, but I wasn’t that resourceful)

3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks

3 cups milk (you can whole or save some fat and use 2%, but I wouldn’t recommend skim here)

Salt and Pepper

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional, for garnish)

Thinly sliced green onions (options, for garnish)

 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add sliced bacon.  When the bacon begins to cook, turn the heat down to medium to keep it from burning and so you render out as much fat as possible before it crisps.

When the bacon is brown and crisp, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat.  Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to pan and heat until almost smoking.

Brown the chicken in two batches, putting the browned pieces on a plate covered loosely in aluminum foil to keep warm.

Once chicken is removed, pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the pot.  Add onions and season with salt and pepper, cooking until translucent.  Add green chilies and creamed corn, mixing well. After chilies and creamed corn are well incorporated, add frozen corn and cook together until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Add Old Bay Seasoning and Sriracha sauce to taste. Continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.

Add chicken stock  and potatoes.  Adjust seasoning and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.

To thicken the soup without using flour or cornstarch,  put about 1/4 of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth.  Alternatively,  you can use an immersion blender to puree about the same amount, which is what I did.

Return chicken to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.  Adjust seasoning and serve garnished with cheese, green onions and reserved bacon.

Serve to your loved ones and be a hero!