on Friday, August 21, 2009

Yeah, the "Elegant" part of the last two posts, that's partly up to your own eye and sensibilities.

You can make any dish ugly, and make any dish gorgeous (not "any dish" exactly, but you know what I mean, I trust... either that, or congrats on getting the staff to let you use one of the internet connected PC's at the home.) It's kind of up to what you want to put on top, or how you wish to arrange it.

Just, you know, for all that that's worth.

Easy, Elegant Hors D'oeuvre pt. II of II

Sadly for this, as for the prior, no pictures were taken. I was cooking, and (to be honest) drinking. The next go 'round we will take some photos, hopefully of adequate quality, and provide them here.

Next, as I've always loved the classic prosciutto and melon as a summer appetizer or course, and as my wife doesn't eat red meat, this is a slight twist for pescatarians... you can of course make these without the lime and onion and simply make little prosciutto/melon bites, but you didn't some schmuck to tell you that... you probably don't need me to tell you this either, but you can always stop reading.

The more flavorful the melon, the better the dish will stand up, and of course be willing to look at other varieties of melon (as honeydew and canteloupe are often very bland depending on the season.) We've had interesting luck with so-called Santa-Claus melons, and I'm fond of Canary melon (though not for this dish, as I learned this time around... it lacks firmness, and has too subtle a flavor.)

Make sliced squares of melon, again we are using these as a sort of tray/cracker/handle for the bite of snack, so size accordingly... as always, it's to taste.

Sliced nova lox in appropriate shapes are added on top, along with some slivers of red onion, and when you are ready to serve you can squeeze a trickle of lemon or lime juice over the tops, and finish with a grind of pepper for each.

Easy, Elegant Hors D'oeuvre pt. I of II

Just a really quick take, we had folks over for dinner the other night, and did a few things that were well received, and some of them were a new twist...

Here then are two simple appetizers/Hors D'Oeuvre, one based on the beef we made an eon ago.

I had bought an eye round to make sandwich roast beef, and found out we were having company over, and decided to do a quick take on the classic Roast Beef with Horseradish...

You'll have a sizable amount of roast beef before, I made it the day of, when it really is at its best...

One cucumber
Sour Cream (lowfat/nonfat is FINE)
Tellicherry Pepper*, cracked or coarse ground
Sea/Kosher salt
Mayonnaise (lowfat/nonfat is fine here too)
Horseradish, your choice of type

Peel and slice your cucumber (thick enough that they will hold up almost in lieu of a cracker in a canape), sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt over it, to add flavor, and almost "quick pickle" the cuke. Put it in tupperware or on a plate, covered, in the fridge. The cold cucumber is much better than warm...

Combine sour cream and mayonnaise, I started with about four parts sour cream to one part mayonnaise, but it's not an exact science. Grind black pepper into the mix, add horseradish to taste. Bear in mind that this will be a little dab of flavor on the eventual bite of food, and a bit of punch to the horseradish is just lovely.**

Take the sliced beef, cut up the pieces to fit the cuke slices, top them, add a dab of horseradish sauce (more or less based on your preference, but not so much that it slops onto the serving plate, it's nasty looking,) grind fresh black pepper over the whole plot, and you are DONE.

*any other variety of black pepper is fine, but Tellicherry really has an exceptional flavor, and where you are relying on a present and up front hit of black pepper, it's worth the few extra pennies a pound. As always, for god's sake, DON'T EVER USE PRE-GROUND PEPPER. Buy a pepper mill, okay? Trust me, if you wouldn't mind.

**This horseradish sauce makes a wonderful topper for those eventual cold beef sandwiches, and it's especially fabulous with some whole grain mustard, and a handful of arugula on a baguette...

Sorry for the Hold-Up

on Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This is for T., who was over for dinner and wondered how the salad dressing came together...

Mirin-Miso Miracle Dressing:

You'll need the following base...

8 parts neutral oil (rice bran or grapeseed are you loveliest of heart healthy options...)
4 parts mirin (japanese sweet cooking wine)
4 parts rice wine vinegar (if you like the dressing sweeter, you can substitute mirin for some or even all of the vinegar, but it's not my personal preference, plus vinegar is a calorie free way to add bite and flavor, while mirin is definitely not)
1 part Dijon mustard (more to taste if you like)
*1 part miso paste (red/white to taste)

Once these are combined, add salt and pepper to taste. It's quite important to put the miso in BEFORE adding in the salt, as you otherwise risk over-salting the dressing altogether.

Depending on the density of the miso paste, you might find it useful to add the liquid to the miso a little bit at a time, blending it in, so that you don't have chunks of miso paste floating in the liquid... nasty, and a pain to get rid of.

We keep a few different dressings on the sideboard in the dining room, in old, clear wine bottles... it's the "Re-Use" part of green living, and they are a pretty good size both for mixing and for holding a reasonable volume of dressing close by.

Use less miso, or none at all, but in that case you'll need to increase the amount of salt, and probably increase the mustard portion. That's my own taste talking, but I find it's a bit bland without some added beefing up.

If you want a more hearty and robust version of this dressing, substitute sesame oil for a portion of the neutral oil indicated. Be advised that a little goes a LONG way, you can always add a touch more if you like.

With any dressing/vinaigrette, trust your own palate; if you need more acidity, add vinegar, more sweetness to balance the acidity comes from mirin, mustard rounds out the flavor and emulsifies the dressing (this will keep it from separating back into oil and vinegar in the bottle), and salt tastes, well, salty.