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The Best Chocolate Cupcakes Make mine dark, sinful, rich and gooey. Make me want to lick my fingers. Make me the best chocolate cupcakes ever. But wait! Don’t use any sissy milk chocolate or not-really-chocolate white chocolate in my cupcakes. Make my cupcakes with dark, bold and slightly bitter chocolate. Please. Pretty please. And while you’re at it, add some aromatic full-flavored coffee to the batter. Yes, they will be perfect, down to the very last delicious crumb. Click on the photo to go to chocolate heaven. Mmmmmmm . . .

The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe based on Hershey’s Black Magic Cake

INGREDIENTS
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa (100% Cacao Special Dark Cocoa)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong brewed black coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F (175° degrees C).

2. Grease and flour a cupcake tin or use paper liners.

3. Combine dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together and make a well in the center.

4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients: eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.

5. Beat at medium-speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin.

6. Pour batter into prepared cupcake tin.

7. Bake at 350° degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

8. Cool on wire rack.

9. Combine frosting ingredients and mix. Spread on cooled cupcakes.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. The moist and rich cupcake batter will saturate light-colored paper liners. See photo above. Not a bad thing, but the next time I make these I will use grease-proof liners.

2. If you prefer to grease and flour your cupcake tin, instead of rubbing butter and shaking flour in each section, make your life easier by using a cooking spray that contains flour.

3. In lieu of fresh brewed coffee, you can use 2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water.

4. If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to enough milk to make 1 cup (250 ml). Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes.

5. This recipe yields about two dozen cupcakes.

Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Robyn Stone of Add a Pinch

INGREDIENTS*
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
2½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
Pinch salt**

DIRECTIONS
1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.

2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.

3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.

4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.

5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears too wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. *The ingredients as posted make half of the original frosting recipe. I cut it in half because I was making cupcakes and not a three-layer cake. I had enough frosting to decorate 25 cupcakes, with some to spare.

2.** I added a pinch of salt with the vanilla and the espresso powder, because I use unsalted butter.

Enjoy!

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Javanese Marinade for Lamb Shish Kebabs To share or not to share? That was my dilemma. Should I reveal a family favorite recipe or should I keep it a family secret? Recognizing that life is infinitely better when shared and acknowledging that my mother-in-law graciously gave this recipe to me, I gladly present this tried-and-true Javanese Marinade for Lamb Shish Kebabs for you to enjoy. The remarkable flavor combination and the ease of preparation make it a winning entrée. It’s so good, you, too, may find yourself questioning whether or not to share the recipe!

Javanese Marinade for Lamb Shish Kebabs
From the recipe collection of Mrs. Y. Chang

INGREDIENTS
1 cup oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon coriander seed
3 tablespoons vinegar
3 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
Curry powder, to taste
Chili powder, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Leg of lamb, cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS
1. If using bamboo skewers, immerse them completely in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan filled with water for about 30 minutes.

2. Debone the leg of lamb or purchase a boneless leg roast, trim fat, and, cut meat into 1-inch chunks.

3. In a large bowl combine oil, soy sauce, chopped onions, ground ginger, coriander seeds, vinegar, brown sugar, curry powder, chili powder, and cumin. Stir to mix ingredients.

4. Add lamb chunks to the bowl of marinade; stir to coat all pieces of meat. Cover bowl and let marinade overnight in the refrigerator (or a minimum of 4 to 6 hours), stirring periodically.

5. Before grilling, let meat come to room temperature. Thread chunks of meat onto skewers.

6. Grill the kebabs.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I use canola oil and light soy sauce in the marinade.

2. My husband, who usually makes this recipe for family events, told me that he always adds way more spice and brown sugar than the recipe calls for. Since the last three spices are added to taste, here are the amounts that I generally use with good results: about 3 teaspoons of curry, 1½ teaspoons of chili powder and around 3/4 of a teaspoon of cumin. Start with those quantities and then add more seasonings and brown sugar as you see fit.

3. I also add a couple of twists of my black pepper mill to the marinade.

4. There is no added salt, because of the amount of sodium in the soy sauce.

5. If my husband and I make lamb shish kebabs for a crowd, we divide the meat into large zip-type plastic bags and pour some of the marinade into each bag. While marinating, we periodically flip the bags over and massage the bags to distribute the marinade.

6. I like to intersperse fresh mushrooms, chunks of onion, and green peppers in between the pieces of meat to add color and interest.

7. Don’t overcook the lamb; in my family, medium-rare is preferred.

Enjoy!

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Pineapple-Lemon Iced Tea What? O.C.D. iced tea? I need that! After putting on my reading glasses, I realize that it is not O.C.D. iced tea, but rather O.C.C. iced tea. O.C.C. stands for the Oahu Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. With a pedigree like that, one would expect a thirst-quenching tropical-flavored drink. This recipe does not disappoint: the fruity sweetness of the pineapple juice balances the crisp tartness of the lemon juice, while the subtle hint of mint refreshes and brightens the beverage. Whatever acronym floats your boat, you’ll enjoy sipping this super easy-to-make iced tea on a warm and sunny day!

O.C.C. (Pineapple-Lemon) Iced Tea
A Taste of Aloha Cookbook

INGREDIENTS
1/2 gallon water
12 tea bags
3 sprigs fresh mint
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
12 ounces pineapple juice
6 ounces fresh lemon juice
Additional mint sprigs, for garnish
Pineapple spears, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Bring water to a boil and steep tea bags and mint. Remove mint after 3 minutes.
2. Continue to steep tea until it is very dark. Remove tea bags.
3. While tea is still warm, add sugar and juices, stirring to dissolve sugar.
4. Pour into a gallon container, adding enough water to fill to the gallon level.
5. Chill.
6. Serve iced with mint sprigs and pineapple spears.

Makes 1 gallon

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used a good brand of regular-sized English Breakfast (decaf) tea bags.
2. The next time I make this, I will try using a sugar substitute.

Enjoy!

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Savory Brunch Muffins 12 – 1 = 11. But in the world of muffins, 12 muffins – 1 muffin = 1 very happy tummy. Combine traditional brunch ingredients – eggs, smoked salmon, and fresh dill – and present them in a delightful and portable manner. These muffins, topped with crunchy and salty potato chips, make for one fabulous brunch-to-go, or serve them hot at your next brunch gathering.

Savory Brunch Muffins
Better Homes and Gardens

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh dill
2 oz. lox-style smoked salmon, chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup wavy potato chips, crushed

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease twelve 2½-inch muffin cups or line with parchment paper squares; set aside.

2. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

3. In a 2-cup measure whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, butter, and dill; add to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Gently fold in salmon and chopped eggs.

4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over batter in cups.

5. Bake 15 minutes or until golden-brown. Cool in cups on wire rack 5 minutes.

Makes 12 servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I cut parchment paper into roughly 5-inch by 5-inch squares. Try not to get any batter on the paper when filling the cups. After baking, any batter stuck to the paper will appear as dark brown spots. This is not the worst thing in the world, but it will look a little messy.

2. Place the potato chips in a plastic bag and crush with your fingers. Some of the potato chips should be slightly pressed into the batter or else they will all fall off after baking.

3. Don’t overbake these muffins or they will be dry.

4. The next time I make these I will add a pinch of black pepper and some snipped chives or chopped green onions to the batter to enhance their flavor.

5. Because of the salty potato chips and smoked salmon, there is not a lot of additional salt added to the batter. If you like your food saltier, cautiously add more salt only after you have determined the degree of saltiness of the salmon and potato chips you are using. Not all smoked salmon or potato chips have the same amount of sodium.

Enjoy!

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Coconut Curry Chili He wanted curry. I wanted chili. Lucky for him, I compromised by making a chili dish with an interesting flavor twist. Coconut Curry Chili looks like a typical chili and packs the heat of a chili, but sports an Asian-inspired flavor combination. It’s a snap to throw together, but don’t hurry this curry. The flavors need time to meld. A bowl of this hot spicy chili fills you up and fires up your taste buds.

Coconut Curry Chili
Adapted from an Allrecipes.com submission

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 (10.75-ounce) cans tomato soup*
1¼ cups water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed**
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed**
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup mango chutney
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coconut milk, divided use
Chopped cilantro, optional for garnish
Light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Cook the ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat. With a spatula or spoon, break it up into small pieces. Cook until completely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off as much grease as possible.

2. Combine tomato soup, water, and minced garlic in a large pot and bring to a boil.

3. Add the turkey to the pot and return the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low.

4. Stir chickpeas, red kidney beans, carrot, chutney, curry powder, onion powder, salt and pepper into the turkey mixture; bring to a simmer; place cover on the pot and cook until the chickpeas are tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Stir in 1/4 cup coconut milk into the chili, return cover to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk into the chili, stir, and simmer 30 minutes more.

Serves 6

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used ground beef, because that’s what I had on hand.

2. *In order to make this recipe lower in sodium and more flavorful, I substituted a 32-ounce box of low-sodium roasted red pepper and tomato soup for the two cans of tomato soup and the 1¼ cups of water.

3. I added a whole carrot, chopped. The more veggies, the better!

4. **To make this chili more substantial, I would add one more can of garbanzo beans or one more can of red kidney beans.

5. To make this a vegetarian dish, replace the ground meat with firm tofu, cubed. Add it towards the end.

6. This chili is great over freshly-cooked brown rice. Top with chopped cilantro and light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, if desired.

Enjoy!

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Corned Beef Potato Salad Take the usual St. Patrick’s Day fare and serve it up with a new twist. Toss corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes together with a few other ingredients and a homemade dressing and you have a potato salad good enough to catch a leprechaun. Every now and then, while searching for a recipe, I come across two similar recipes and can’t decide which one to try. This recently happened with two corned beef potato salad recipes, so I decided to do a head-to-head taste test. The recipes are much the same, but with a few interesting differences. One recipe uses horseradish and mustard for kick and the other recipe gets additional flavor boosts from celery and mustard seeds. One recipe uses sauerkraut and the other uses freshly shredded cabbage. Subtle, but distinct differences. I liked them both. I say po-tay-to and you say po-tah-to. You choose.

Dublin Potato Salad (Top Photo)
Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS
3 large white potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided use
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
12 ounces cooked or canned corned beef, cubed
1/4 chopped dill pickle
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS
1. Cover potatoes in lightly salted water and boil until tender. Drain, peel and cube.
2. Combine vinegar, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; drizzle over still-warm potatoes. Cover and chill.
3. Just before serving, gently fold in cabbage, corned beef, pickle and onion.
4. Combine mayonnaise, milk and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; pour over salad. Gently toss. Serve in cabbage-lined bowl.

Serves 8

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. The evening before, I placed a five-pound piece of corned beef into a crock pot, so that it would be cooked and ready to use by morning.
2. I used shredded cabbage purchased in bags at my local grocery store.
3. This recipe seemed slightly easier to make than the next recipe, because it had fewer ingredients and required less preparation.
4. Of the two recipes, this one yielded a slightly sweeter and creamier potato salad.
5. For my taste buds, this salad required no additional salt. The corned beef brings plenty of sodium to it.
6. This salad tastes better the next day.

Corned Beef Potato Salad (Bottom Photo)
Razzle Dazzle Recipes

INGREDIENTS
Salad Ingredients:
1 can corned beef (the kind you have to open with the attached key) chilled, fat scraped off, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 large potatoes, any kind, about 1½ lbs
4 green onions, minced
1 can (about 1½ C) sauerkraut, drained, rinsed and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped/diced
1/3 C minced dill pickles
1 small jar diced pimentos (optional, for color)

Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 C low-fat mayo or salad dressing
1 C low-fat sour cream
2 to 4 T spicy brown prepared mustard
1 to 2 T horseradish
1/4 C milk, broth or pickle juice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Boil whole potatoes in skins until barely tender.
3. Peel and cut into large pieces (2-inches by 2-inches), and place in dressing mixture while still warm. Toss to coat thoroughly.
4. Stir in other ingredients.
5. Refrigerate. Taste and adjust for salt several hours later.
6. Serve cold lettuce. Garnish with cherry tomatoes, sliced

Serves 4 to 6 servings as a main dish

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used the same five-pound piece of corned beef that I placed into a crock pot the evening before. I don’t know how the recipe would have tasted with canned corned beef.
2. The 2-inch by 2-inch chunks of potatoes seemed too large, so I cut them smaller.
3. Tasting the salad after adding the minimum amounts of horseradish and mustard, I decided to put in the full amounts.
4. I used the pickle juice from the dill pickle jar.
5. Again, for my taste buds, this salad required no additional salt. The corned beef adds plenty of sodium to it.
6. This salad has a little more crunch, kick, and flavor than the other one. The horseradish and mustard bring out the flavor of the corned beef. It is a less creamy potato salad, though.
7. This salad also tastes better the next day.
8. Finally, did you know that sauerkraut is considered a “belly blaster?” According to Dr. Oz’s website: Why it’s a superfood: Directly translated from German as “sour cabbage,” this traditional fermented food delivers gut-friendly flora that boost digestion and can reduce belly inflammation. Sauerkraut’s signature sour taste comes as the added bacteria ferment the naturally occurring sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid; it should keep for months.

Dr. Oz’s Prescription: Check the label carefully and buy only traditional fermented sauerkraut and not one of the more commercially heat-treated brands (which many are), as that will destroy the beneficial bacteria.

Enjoy!

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Curry-Coconut Shrimp Want curry in a hurry? If that’s the case, try this recipe. With its ease of preparation and subtle coconut and curry flavors, this dish will become a favorite for quick dinners and easy entertaining.

Curry-Coconut Shrimp
Epicurious, courtesy of Ying Chang, Cooking with an Asian Accent

INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons seeded and finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups cooked brown rice
4 lemon wedges, for serving
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lemon juice, bell pepper, minced cilantro, sugar, and curry powder in a 10-inch glass pie plate. Add the shrimp, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a covered steamer or pot large enough to hold the pie plate. Wearing oven mitts, carefully place the pie plate into the steamer. Cover, lower the heat to medium, and steam for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the shrimp are just cooked through.

3. Using oven mitts, carefully lift the lid of the steamer away from you, and remove the pie plate from the steamer. Serve the shrimp over brown rice. Garnish with the lemon wedges and cilantro sprigs, if using.

Makes 4 servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I buy shrimp that are already deveined. I peel them and they are ready to go. Peeled and deveined shrimp are also available, but I save the shells to enrich the flavor of soup stock.

2. Start the rice before you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This allows the rice enough time to steam.

3. How long the shrimp take to cook is dependent on what size shrimp you’re using. You do not want to overcook the shrimp, so I would check the shrimp after 4 minutes. If they still appear translucent and have not curled, let them cook one more minute. Continue to check after every minute. Once they are removed from the heat they will continue to cook a little more.

ENJOY!

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Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse Want to serve your sweetheart a killer dessert for Valentine’s Day that won’t kill him? Instead, present him with this cool and creamy mousse that’s rich in flavor, but not heavy in saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories. Don’t mention to him that the base of this luscious chocolate-orange treat is silken tofu—he’ll never guess. Before some of you utter, “Eww . . . tofu,” make this dessert for yourself and then recognize that silken tofu, with its smooth texture and neutral taste, makes the perfect base for a healthy mousse. Plus, after you check the nutritional data below and see that this dessert has no cholesterol, only 40 calories from fat, and a mere 1.5 G of saturated fat, it might just become your favorite dessert.

Silken Tofu Chocolate Mousse
The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces silken-style tofu, drained well
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup (barley malt or rice syrup may be substituted)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (decaf or regular)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 ounce almond liqueur (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Process the tofu, cocoa powder, maple syrup, orange zest, coffee granules, vanilla, salt, and optional liqueur in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender for 1½ minutes, until smooth.

2. Pour the mousse into wine or champagne glasses or dessert-type serving dishes, and chill overnight.

3. Serve the mousse with fresh orange sections, toasted almonds, or shaved chocolate garnish over the top.

Serves 4

Per Serving:
Calories 240
Calories from fat 40
Calories from saturated fat 15
Protein 13 G
Carbohydrate 35 G
Total Fat 4.5 G
Saturated Fat 1.5 G
Cholesterol 0 MG
Sodium 70 MG

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. In general, but depending on brands, tofu is a good source of calcium. Look for brands in which the tofu has been set with calcium sulfate.

2. Because a rich chocolate flavor is critical to this dessert, use a good quality cocoa powder. I used Sharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder.

3. Amaretto is the almond liqueur I used. Rather than add the full amount of liqueur at first, I would add it to taste.

4. Adapt this recipe using other flavors. Raspberry, mint, or coffee liqueur would be interesting variations to the recipe.

5. I filled 3 champagne glasses to the brim with one recipe’s worth of mousse. If I had not filled them to the top, I probably could have gotten 4 servings out of the recipe.

ENJOY!!

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Grilled Pork Kebabs with ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barret Browning did not pen those words while reflecting on food, but for some reason, her words danced through my head as I ate the Grilled Pork Kebabs with Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce. Let me count the reasons why I love this recipe. Made from lean pork tenderloin, these kebabs are lower in fat. In fact, in an article written by Jeff Volek, Ph.D, R.D. for Men’s Health, he states, “Pork really is the other white meat. Ounce for ounce, pork tenderloin has less fat than a chicken breast.” In addition, as the complex flavors of the sauce swirled in my mouth, I thought about its versatility and how fabulous it would taste on other grilled meat, particularly salmon, prawns, or chicken. The final reason why I love this kebab recipe focuses on its ease of preparation and its make-ahead convenience. Serve these kebabs with rice pilaf for Valentine’s Day and experience love at first taste.

Grilled Pork Kebabs with Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce
Gourmet, August 2003

INGREDIENTS
For Barbecue Sauce:
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1½ tablespoons molasses (regular or robust, not blackstrap)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or other small hot green chile (1 or 2), including seeds
1/2 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Pork:
1 (1-lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Special Equipment:
About 30 (8-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

DIRECTIONS
1. To make barbecue sauce: Stir together all sauce ingredients in a 1- to 1½-quart heavy saucepan and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 3 minutes. Transfer sauce to a medium bowl and cool to room temperature.

2. Put tenderloin on a cutting board. Starting about 5 inches from narrow end of tenderloin and holding a large sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to cutting board, cut a thin slice (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick) from tenderloin, slicing diagonally toward narrow end and cutting through to cutting board. Continue to cut thin slices from tenderloin following same diagonal, starting each consecutive slice closer to wide end. (You will have about 12 slices. Cut any slices more than 2 inches wide in half lengthwise.)

3. Thread 2 skewers, 1 at a time and 1/2 to 1 inch apart, lengthwise through each slice of pork and transfer to a tray lined with plastic wrap.

4. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 1 to 2 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes.

5. Sprinkle pork slices with salt and brush both sides with barbecue sauce, then grill on oiled grill rack, uncovered, turning over once, until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes total. Discard any leftover sauce.*

6. Cooks’ notes: Barbecue sauce can be made 6 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Kebabs can be prepared 6 hours before grilling (without salt or sauce) and chilled, covered with plastic wrap. If you aren’t able to grill outdoors, cook kebabs in a hot oiled well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. For even cooking, try to cut pork in uniformly thick slices.

2. The spiciness of the sauce can be adjusted by reducing or increasing the amount of minced chile.

3. *I make double the amount of sauce and pour about half of it into a separate bowl to serve alongside the meat or to slather it on the grilled meat prior to serving. Discard the remaining half that was brushed onto the raw meat.

4. These kebabs make hearty appetizers and taste just as good when served at room temperature.

5. I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds on the kebabs and cilantro leaves on the serving plate prior to serving.

ENJOY!

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Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups The Chinese year 4712 begins on Friday. As a nod to my Chinese heritage, I decided to make “San Choy Bao” or lettuce cups. Lettuce cups, also referred to as lettuce wraps, can be served as a hearty appetizer or as a light main dish. Pine nuts, added to the tasty stir-fry mixture and sprinkled on top, bring an interesting flavor twist and crunch to these lettuce cups. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups
Based on a recipe in Chinatown, a cookbook by Ross Dobson

INGREDIENTS
1 lb 2 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine, divided use
4 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 green onions (scallions), white part chopped and green part thinly sliced
2 small red chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts, divided use
1/4 cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped
8 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed and chilled
Hoisin sauce, to taste
Sweet chili sauce, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Put the chicken and 1 tablespoon of the rice wine into a food processor and process until the chicken is chopped. Refrigerate for a few hours, or until ready to use.

2. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 20-30 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid from the mushrooms, then remove and discard the stems and finely chop the caps. Reserve 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.

3. Combine the sugar, stock, oyster sauce, remaining rice wine and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

4. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil, swirling the oil around to coat the wok. When the oil reaches smoking point, add the garlic, ginger, spring onion whites and chillies and cook for a few seconds.

5. Add the chicken and half the pine nuts and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked, stirring constantly to break up the chicken.

6. Add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

7. Add the sauce mixture, pouring it down the side of the wok, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce has almost evaporated.

8. Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with the slivered green onions, the remaining pine nuts, and the lettuce on the side. Assemble these at the table, two per person.

Serves 4 as a starter

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Chicken thighs are preferred over chicken breasts, because chicken breasts tend to be too dry.

2. I ran out of shaoxing rice wine, so I substituted dry sherry.

3. I followed the instructions and grated the ginger, but next time I will just finely mince it.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on medium-heat until they are a pale golden in color. This brings out the flavor of the nuts. Keep an eye on them while toasting, because they burn easily. I toasted more than called for, because I served it as a topping option, rather than as a garnish. If you don’t like pine nuts, you can substitute unsalted, roasted chopped cashews.

5. As mentioned above, I used the pine nuts as a topping. I also sliced extra green onions to use as a topping, too. Fresh cilantro leaves would also make another flavorful topping.

6. In my opinion, the meat mixture needed more flavor. That was easily solved by adding some hoisin sauce. It can either be added to the meat mixture before serving or you can serve hosin sauce on the side as a condiment. Sweet chili sauce can also be served as a condiment on the side.

ENJOY!

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