Archive for July, 2010

Cowboy Caviar

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I love summer for many reasons—not the least of which is that it simplifies entertaining.
In winter I feel that my guests must be rewarded for schlepping through the snow with warm, solid food and a relatively clean house.
In summer I feel no such obligation. The weather and the sparkling conversation are my friends’ rewards for coming to visit of an evening.
I tend to specialize in two types of summer evening parties. One is a dessert party, usually a sundae party. Guests help themselves to ice cream with a variety of toppings and chat as they juggle dishes, spoons, and smiles.
The other is a cocktail party. I adorn the deck with a table topped with glasses plus wine, beer, liquor, ice, and soft drinks. (Fresh flowers help, too.) And I serve simple yet tasty appetizers.
I don’t even have to clean the house before these parties because my guests won’t be inside!
Even if you don’t entertain a lot, I suggest you try throwing a cocktail party—or even just a wine/beer party—or even just a lemonade party! Offer your guests something cool to drink and a light snack; then sit back and enjoy the long summer evening.
The appetizer recipe below comes from my friend Teri Tynes, a dyed in the wool Texan who now lives and writes in New York City.
Teri makes her caviar look a lot prettier than mine by chopping everything up finely and arranging the dish artistically. Last time I made it I was in a hurry so my chopping was rough and my arrangement (pictured above) was … well, let’s just say it was free form.  

My guests loved the caviar anyway. In fact, my neighbor Alice took home the leftovers and ate them for lunch the next day.

The Caviar
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces ripe olives, drained and chopped (feel free to use more; I usually throw in the whole can!)
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 pinches of salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
4 to 5 shakes of hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch of pepper
1 8-ounce package cream cheese—regular or light–softened
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 scallion, sliced
In a bowl combine all the ingredients except for the cream cheese, eggs, and scallion. Cover the mixture and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. When you are ready to serve your caviar spread the cream cheese over the surface of a circular serving dish. Spread the bean mixture on top of it. 

Arrange the egg pieces in a ring around the edge of the plate (the effect is sort of that of a wreath). Sprinkle the chopped scallion overall. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. Serves 8 to 12, depending on what else is on the table.

Liza’s Red, White, and Blue Pie

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

In her signature red, white, and blue pants, Liza cooks fennel over the campfire. (I'm working on getting THAT recipe!)

My friend and neighbor Liza Pyle made this festive pie for Independence Day. The recipe originally described a strawberry pie—although I don’t see why it couldn’t be used for just about ANY berry.
Liza’s notes appear at the bottom of the recipe pretty much as she typed them.
The recipe hailed long ago from Liz Simonds, a friend of Liza’s grandmother (and my honorary grandmother), Mary Parker, known to all local children as Gam. 

If you bake the crust early in the morning, you won’t have to bake anything later in the day—a definite advantage in July. 

The pie awaits the berries........

The Pie
for the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (I’d use salted since Liza doesn’t specify)
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
for the filling:
1 cup cream
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 quart berries—in this case, whole or thickly cut strawberries mixed with whole blueberries
2 tablespoons currant jelly
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use a pastry blender or knives to combine the crust ingredients. Place them in a LARGE pie plate (see notes below). Bake for 15 minutes. Watch to make sure that the crust doesn’t get more than a bit brown. Allow it to cool.
For the filling whip the cream and blend in the cream cheese and sugar. Place this mixture at the bottom of your pie shell. Artistically arrange the berries on top. (Liza is MUCH better being artistic than I am!)
Melt the jelly. While it is still warm brush it lightly over the tops of the berries. Let your pie stand, gently covered, in the fridge for several hours. Liza reports that 4 hours are ideal; at 8, the jelly starts to bleed unattractively but deliciously into the whipped cream.
Serves 8 to 10.
Liza’s Notes:
1) Unless you use a large and deep pan (or use a tart pan), you will have too much filling and too many berries………so you could reduce the filling and berry measurements by 1/4, or move a small amount to a smaller pan, or just use a big pan (a big tart pan….even a 13 x9 will work)!
2) Just blueberries are great too………. 

3) My favorite variation is to use an easy chocolate crust, made by crushing to dust in blender/processer 2/3rds of a box of Nabisco chocolate wafers and mixing it with 1/4 cup melted butter.

Pat that into a buttered big pie plate on the bottom and halfway up the sides….or use a springform pan….and bake at 375 for 8 minutes.

Cliff’s “I Have No Fear of Cholesterol” Potato-Chip Chicken

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

This chicken recipe strikes me as appropriate for July 4. Something about its excess of fat and good nature is very American.
I was inspired to seek out this recipe by Ginny Ray, my editor at the Shelburne Falls and West County Independent. (This long name represents a very small paper. It’s a good paper as well as a small one, however.)
Ginny told me that Cliff and Kelly Phillips are making a culinary splash these days in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with Cliff’s Smokin’ Backyard Barbecue. Every Friday night they offer a special meal at the local VFW post, and in warm weather one can find them there on other days as well offering simpler fare. 

Cliff parks a huge smoker outside the VWF building and generates wonderful smells. I was fortunate enough recently to buy some of his pulled pork.

I asked Kelly for a recipe, and she responded with a family favorite that she described as “yummy in your tummy.” The secret ingredient in Cliff’s chicken recipe may surprise you. In fact, I had never purchased Miracle Whip before making this dish. Overseas readers may not even be familiar with it! Basically, it’s a lot like mayonnaise. It’s sweeter, however, with extra vinegar and spices. 
I admit that I strayed from the recipe A LITTLE when I made it. I had no onion or garlic powder so I used the real things (very finely chopped) and added a few dried herbs. I think Creole seasoning might be nice in the sauce, too.

Cliff’s chicken came out just a little crunchy and very moist indeed, thanks to its high fat content. I wouldn’t make it again immediately: although you might not guess it from reading this blog, I do try to keep my diet reasonably healthy. The chicken is a fun occasional dietary extravagance, however.

The Chicken
1 cut-up chicken
1 cup Miracle Whip (plus more if needed)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
hot sauce to taste
1 large bag potato chips, crumbled (These can be any flavor you like; Kelly says ridged ones work best. I used about half of a 14-ounce bag, but one could use a few more, I suppose!)
Pat the pieces of chicken dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients (except the potato chips), adjusting for taste with the pepper and hot sauce.
Coat the chicken pieces with this mixture and then roll and press well into crumbled chips. Arrange them on a baking sheet, making sure not to overcrowd.
Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear. 

Serve with your favorite salad and barbeque sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

Happy Independence Day! Don't forget to wear red, white, and blue....