SET THE TABLE for simple, quick to prepare recipes from the kitchen of Kentucky-transplant, Brandy Steinhilber. From veggies to burgers, soups to pies, there is something here that everyone will enjoy.
THIS PAST WEEKEND was one of my favorite events of the year: the all-school camping trip. Every summer, the school where I work has a campout for all the students and their families, and it is always a weekend of fun and food. Saturday night is the campout potluck and there are always many delicious treats to choose from. Cooking space over the fire can be a little tough to claim since there are so many chefs needing to cook all at once, so I decided to bring something I could make in advance at home - pasta salad. Here is the recipe for this yummy and simple side dish.
Colorful Campout Pasta Salad
Boil the pasta by package directions minus a minute or two if you are not planning to eat the salad right away - if you are planning to store the salad for the next day, it is best to leave it a litte extra chewy because as it sits in the dressing, it will soften. When the pasta is done, run it under cold water to stop the cooking process and keep it from getting sticky from the starch. Set it aside to drain.
Chop the bell peppers into approximately 1/2" pieces. Mince the red onion finely, and chop the green onion into thin rings. You can add more veggies if you like. Chopped carrot and broccoli go nicely in this salad, too. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta and veggies, adding the Italian dressing as you mix. You may want slightly more or less dressing depending on your taste and the type of Italian dressing you chose; some are stronger than others. You can serve the salad right away, but it is best if it sits for at least an hour to let the flavors of the onion and dressing permeate the pasta. Enjoy!
SUMMER IS SWINGING and the farmer's markets and grocery stores are brimming with beautiful fruits. We are gorging ourselves with all the melons, plums, peaches, cherries and berries we can get. Today, I would like to share with you a recipe for a fruit salad dressing that is light and fresh and delicious on any fruit. Our young one declared it "yummy!" as she poured it over bananas and cantaloupe for an afternoon snack.
I halved and pitted cherries, peeled and chopped apples, peaches and bananas for a fresh brunch treat, but whatever the fruit, whenever the time, this dressing will make fruit salad fantastic.
Stir the ingredients together thoroughly and allow it to sit for half an hour or so to infuse the lime flavor. I used the zest from three key limes left over from a pie a couple of weeks back instead of buying a regular lime. You could experiment with different citrus peels, too.
When you have your fruit cut into nice bite-sized pieces, pour the dressing over it and gently toss the fruit and dressing together. If you are not serving it right away, you may want to give it a gentle stir just before serving.
I garnished mine with a little curl of lime peel for color. Enjoy!
Brandy Steinhilber grew up in Kentucky as a member of a cooking family. Breakfast, dinner and larger family gatherings always meant sitting together around a table full of good home-cooked food, and she has carried that tradition into her home with her own family. She is a firm believer in the importance of family meals as a time to be together and listen to each other. When she's not cooking she's knitting, sewing, camping, cycling, skiing or hiking.
I HAVE BEEN on an egg kick lately as our young one, who is allergic to eggs, is off to two weeks of camp, so we are enjoying those perfect little protein-packed pearls in a myriad of ways. This week I am sharing my method for poaching an egg. Poached eggs can be served in Eggs Benedict, on top of a decadent burger or standing alone for a quick and healthy breakfast. There are a number of little devices available for poaching eggs, and if you plan to make them often, I highly recommend the little silicon ones, but if you prefer not to have many single-use gadgets around, a metal ladle will do just fine, too.
To poach an egg, begin by putting a medium to large pot of water (about 1/3 full) on the stove and bring it up to nearly boiling. Spray oil into the cup of your ladle (or poaching device) and carefully crack an egg into the ladle.
As usual, I recommend letting your egg sit out of the refrigerator for about half an hour so that it's not cold going into the pot. When the water is almost boiling (a few gentle bubbles), carefully lower the ladle into the pot so that the bottom of the ladle is submerged in the hot water, but make sure the water doesn't come into the cup. If you are lucky like me, the lid will hold the ladle for you, but if not, don't fret. Poaching an egg doesn't take long and the lid should shield you from the steam as you hold the ladle in place.
In about 3-5 minutes, the egg should appear to be white all around. If you like the yolk soft and runny, pull the egg out while the center is still a bit jiggly. Leave it in a bit longer if you prefer a more firm yolk. Once the egg is done, you may need to gently loosen it from the sides of the ladle, but it should slip out gently.
Serve it immediately and enjoy!
Make your eggs into a full eggs benny with this Sunny, Citrusy Hollandaise Sauce recipe!
HAPPY FOURTH OF July! When I was growing up we always had a big cookout for the Fourth. We would light our sparklers from the little cinders left in the bottom of the grill long after the burgers and hotdogs were gone. Besides being allowed to play with fire, one of the things I liked best about these big cookouts was dessert. On normal days, my family did not have dessert, so I looked forward to every opportunity to enjoy some cake or ice cream or pie. This Fourth, along with celebrating Independence Day, I am celebrating the love of sweet treats with a Key Lime Pie. It is sweet and limey, cool, creamy and delicious.
You will want to begin with the crust so that it can cook and cool while you prepare the filling. You may prebake a ready-made shell from the store or make one at home. Crusts are not nearly so difficult as they are sometimes made out to be, so I encourage you to try making your own.
For the crust you will need:
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the flour and other dry ingredients into a food processor and give them a couple of pulses. Add about 1/2 of the butter and shortening (cut into 1/2" pieces) and mix thoroughly.
Add the rest of the butter and shortening and mix again until you have a crumbly consistency. Begin pouring the water in a few drops at a time, pulsing the mixer as you go. The goal is to get as little water in as possible but still have it hold together. When it just begins to come together, stop adding water and dump the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Flatten it into a thick little disc and put another piece of parchment paper over the top.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1 1/2" times larger than your pie pan. Carefully loosen the parchment paper and transfer the crust to the pie pan. Settle the dough into the pan and trim all but about 1/2" of the excess dough from the edges. Pinch a little decoration around the rim to make the edge of your crust. From the parchment paper, cut a circle a little large than the bottom of your pie and place it in the pie pan on top of the crust. Gently pour pie weights (or dry beans work great) on top of the paper and place a crust protector (you can make one from foil) around the edge of the pie.
Put the crust in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until it just begins to get golden and flakey. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool, leaving the pie weights in to cool, too.
For the filling you will need:
In a small sauce pan combine the sugar, lime juice powder and corn starch, mixing them well to avoid corn starch clumps in the cooked filling. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Turn the stove on to a medium heat and stir constantly. When a liquid containing corn starch reaches a temperature close to boiling, the corn starch thickens. If you do not stir, the starch will thicken at the bottom of the pan and the filling will be gloppy instead of smooth. When the starch has thickened, you should have a fairly thick custardy filling.
Turn off the heat and set the filling aside while you remove the pie weights, parchment and crust protector from the crust. Pour the filling into the crust and set them in a cool place (by a breezy open window is great) while you make the meringue. It is very important to not put the meringue on top of hot filling as it will adversely affect it, so if you think in will need more time to cool, take a break or wash up some dishes while you let the temperature come down.
For the meringue you will need:
Put the whites in a large mixing bowl. Make sure to remove any of those litte white "strings" (chalaza) from the whites if they came out of the eggs when you were separating the yolks. Add the cream of tartar and begin mixing at a medium speed, working your way up to high speed until you have soft peaks (the meringue sticks up just a bit when you lift out the mixer). Gently fold in the sugar, sprinkling a bit at a time as you mix. When the sugar is mixed in, slowly bring the mixer back up to high and continue mixing until the meringue is shiny and makes stiff peaks (you can make litte mountain ranges with the mixer as you lift it out).
If the filling is no more than slightly warm, spread the meringue evenly making a little peak in the center. Turn the oven on to high broil and raise the rack up close to the top. As the broiler is kicking on, pull up a chair to the oven so that you can watch the meringue as it browns.
Put the pie in under the broiler just off to one side or the other so that the peak is not directly under the heat. Watch the meringue carefully turning it as it begins to get golden brown. When it is evenly browned all the way around remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. As I mentioned before, it is very important not to let the meringue get warm. Heat will cause a reaction that will make the meringue become runny and will ruin the look and consistency (but not the taste!) of your pie. Making sure the filling is cool and browning the top as quickly as possible will keep your meringue beautiful.
Refrigerate the pie for several hours before serving and enjoy!
I am a room all in white with no windows and no doors.
Inside, I hold the sun.
What am I?
WHY AN EGG, of course! In honor of solstice, here is a recipe featuring those little nuggets of sun - Hollandaise Sauce. This is one of the "Mother Sauces" in French Cuisine and can be used as a base for a number of other sauces - Béarnaise, Maltaise, etc.
Warm, rich and buttery with just a light hint of citrus, Hollandaise is wonderful on vegetables like asparagus, but it is probably most famous for its starring role in Eggs Benedict. It is not a difficult sauce to make, but it does take time and a steady hand, so grab your whisk and get ready to impress your diners with this little paragon of haute cuisine.
In a small sauce pan, place the egg yolks and water. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the outermost layers of the lemon's skin in large strips while avoiding the deeper, white layers of the skin, which are bitter. You want only the yellow part of the peel that contains little cells of lemon oil to give just the right amount of citrus flavor. Drop the strips into the pan with the yolks and water.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2" pieces. It is important that the butter be unsalted. Salted butter has too much salt for this recipe and will overwhelm all the other subtle flavors. Turn the stove to as low a temperature as possible and add 4-5 pieces of butter to the pan. With a whisk, stir constantly and gently to emulsify the melting butter and egg yolks. Add a few more chunks of butter as the first ones melt and keep stirring. After you have added about half of the butter pieces, add the pinches of sugar, salt and cayenne. It is important to keep the temperature of the mixture only warm enough to melt the butter. If it is too hot, you will not get a smooth sauce but a chunky mess as the egg cooks in the heat. (You may even need to take the pan on and off the eye to regulate the temperature if your stove does not have a sufficiently low setting.)
Once all of the butter has been added and melted, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, then remove the pieces of lemon peel. Your sauce should be a beautiful smooth yellow when you are done. Serve it immediately over poached eggs, ham and toast for eggs benedict or over your favorite vegetables.
Leftover sauce can be stored for later use. I recommend storing it in glass not plastic as reheating it is a delicate process. To reheat the sauce, place the container in warm but not hot water and stir it gently as it softens to keep it smooth. Heating it too much will cause it to separate and become and oily mess. Be gentle with this delicate and beautiful sauce and enjoy under the midnight sun or anytime!
Love eggs benedict but find poaching them to be too tricky? Then try this super simple eggs poaching method.
WHEN I WAS growing up, there was an asparagus farm a couple of towns over where my mom and her sisters would go and buy many pounds of the green spears to freeze for winter. I remember standing at the register, an open till on a rickety old table, while Mom or Aunt Polly paid. I stood staring at the surrounding fields full of what looked like giant green Q-tips sticking up in rows out of the dusty soil. That was the best asparagus I ever had.
Refrigerate asparagus upright with bases immersed in water until ready to use
It's is a spring crop, so this is the time of year to find good asparagus in the stores. I recently found some lovely big spears to marinated for the grill. Once they're marinating, they can wait in a refrigerator or cooler (for cooking over the fire grate on your camping trip) for a day.
Wash the asparagus and break of the bottoms. It is important to break off the bottoms rather than cut them because asparagus has a tough, woody base, and each spear will break at the point where it begins to be more tender. Use a vegetable peeler, gently remove just a little of the skin of the lower half of each spear.
Put the spears in a gallon zip-top bag along with the oil. Finely mince the garlic cloves and add them to the bag along with the salt. I recommend using kosher salt because it has a nice consistency for this recipe. If you are using a finer grind of salt, you may want to use a little less.
Leaving some air in the bag, zip it closed and gently toss the contents so that the spears get covered in the oil, salt and garlic. When they are well coated, remove the air from the bag and allow the spears to sit for at least an hour. The spears should cook on a grill or fire that is not too hot. (We waited until after the meat had cooked to put the spears on the grill.)
Turn them every 1-2 minutes, allowing them to cook until they turn a brighter green and get just the tiniest bit flexible in texture. Watch the tips. They are the most delicate (and yummiest) part and can burn easily.
Serve them immediately and enjoy!
I WILL GLADLY pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
- J. Wellington Wimpy
There is nothing quite like a good burger, but a good burger can be shockingly difficult to find. We are lucky to have a few local burger joints who still pat out their burgers from ground beef, but so many burgers are just "wimpy" little mystery-meat discs that have been stamped out by machines and frozen for convenience. I like to make a burger patty that I hope would make that famous cartoon connoisseur proud (and is a little healthier). Here is a basic recipe, but you can add other ingredients for variety. We sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of blue cheese crumbles, for example. You may substitute ground turkey for the beef, but it will be drier and will burn more easily on the grill, so watch it carefully.
Set the beef and egg out of the refrigerator about 1/2 hour before you are ready to work with them so that you are not putting cold burgers on the grill. This way they will cook more evenly. When they have warmed some, put the meat, the egg and the spices (minus the salt - that comes later) in a large bowl and squish the ingredients together with your hands and mix thoroughly.
Divide the mixture into four equal amounts. To make the patties, begin with a nice round ball on a flat surface such as a large plate. Gently flatten out the ball, shaping the sides as you go, until you have a round patty that is about 1 inch thick. These patties can be cooked on the grill, in the oven or in a skillet.
They need medium-high heat and should be turned every 2-3 minutes until they feel moderately firm in the middle. Do not press down on the patties with the spatula as it squishes out the juices. After they have been cooked, sprinkle a little salt over them. I learned that it is best to salt meat after it has been cooked because salt draws out the moisture, making the meat drier and tougher.
When your patties are done (cooked to at least medium for food safety with ground meat), you can add a slice of cheese and any other toppings of choice and serve it on a nice toasted bun. Enjoy!
MY FAMILY LOVES to camp. We go out into Alaska's beautiful wilderness nearly every weekend from spring to autumn. Of course we often roast weenies (well, sausages) on a stick, but that does get old pretty quickly, so I have looked for ways to keep the menu exciting and to get some vegetables cooking over the fire. One dish that we all particularly enjoy is yellow (sometimes called summer) squash with onions.
Below, I am giving instructions for cooking the squash over a campfire, but they could easily be cooked in the same foil pouches on the grill or in a skillet on the stove. I usually prepare the pouches at home as I'm packing up the cooler so they are ready to cook at camp when we get the campfire hot and ready. The squash and onion can be prepared up to one day in advance if they can be kept cool. This recipe feeds 3-4 people.
Campfire Squash Packets
Cut the foil into approximately 18" pieces. I use about 1 piece per 2 squash. If you put too much squash and onion in each pouch, it will not cook evenly, and I prefer not to make a pouch for each serving because it uses so much foil. Wash the onion and squash slice onion thinly. I use a v-slicer, or mandolin, almost daily. It makes lovely even slices, is very easy to clean, stores away neatly and saves me time.
Once you have the onion sliced, trim the ends from the squash and slice it in slightly thicker pieces (about 1/4"). The squash cooks more quickly than the onion, so it is important to slice it more thickly or it will get mushy before the onion is done. Lay out the foil pieces, folding each in half and unfolding to mark the middle. On one side of each piece, sprinkle about 1 tsp of olive oil and spread the onion slices over the oil. Lay the slices of squash over the onion and sprinkle salt and a dash more oil over each one. Make sure you get a fairly even amount of each of the ingredients into the pouches so they will cook at the same rate. If you like, you may garnish with couple slices of green pepper. I don't always add the pepper, but I had some in the refrigerator that needed to be used this time.
Fold the foil carefully over and roll each of the edges, turning each for at least two rolls so they will not leak. You will want to cook these over a fairly even heat, so wait until your fire has made a bed of coals and is not flaming up so much. Place the foil pouches over the fire onion side down first.
As the pouches get hot, steam should build and make them puff up like pillows. Once they puff, turn the pouches every 3 minutes or so and allow them to cook for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!
I GREW UP where I could walk across the road and pick corn for dinner. I do miss that corn because it was as sweet as candy. As soon as corn is picked, its sugars begin to convert into starches, so the longer it has been since it was picked, the more the flavor is compromised. There has been quite a lot of corn available at the local supermarket lately, and while it isn't as good as fresh-picked, it has been tasty. This weekend, we put some on the grill, and I served it with spiced butter.
For grilled corn, place the corn (shucks on) in warm water to soak for at least an hour, turning it occasionally to make sure all the shucks are soaked. It's important the the corn has enough time to soak so that the shucks are thoroughly wet; if not, the shucks will burn off, leaving the kernels to burn.
The corn will need a hot, but not too hot, grill for cooking, so we usually put it on after the meat has cooked and the coals have cooled some and use the lid to make the heating more even. Place the corn on the grill and give it a quarter turn about every two minutes or so. It will need to cook for about 10 minutes.
Set it aside for about 3-5 minutes so that the shucks can cool enough be handled. Remove the shucks and silks and serve immediately.
For the spiced butter, I set a stick of salted butter out on the counter a couple of hours before I was ready to make it so the butter could soften.
Place the soft butter in a medium bowl and add:
Using a fork, mash the butter and spices together until they are thoroughly mixed. Put the spiced butter into a smaller, serving dish and serve it room temperature with the corn fresh off the grill. Enjoy!