Friday, July 26, 2013

labneh (yogurt cheese) balls

One of my daydreams (there are several... I used to get notes sent home from school all the time about this bad habit of mine) involves living on a small farm and making cheese. How gorgeous of a life would that be? For now, I am far too lazy and comfortable in my "city" life to take that rubber boot-clad step. But, I can still make cheese! City cheese! 

This labneh, a Lebanese yogurt cheese, is barely any work, and I won't bother you with a "recipe." You just put Greek yogurt (I mixed a dash of salt in, but that's optional) in some cheese cloth and let it hang over a bowl in your fridge for a couple of days. The liquid drains off and the yogurt becomes a soft cheese consistency that you can either roll into balls or just use as is as a spread. 

This is the Labneh-hanging set up in my fridge.
The variables for flavoring the labneh are innumerable... I did some with some really good olive oil, garlic slices, lemon zest and black peppercorns, and some with cardamom and honey as a sweet option. It's yogurt, so the cheese is tangy, and works well as either savory or sweet. You could roll the balls in herbs or nuts, or drizzle them with chili oil. Try labneh instead of cream cheese in your favorite spread and dip recipes. It's great when flavored simply and spread on crackers or flat bread.

Labne balls with cardamom and honey.
Labneh balls with garlic, lemon peel, pepper & olive oil.
Labne fresh out of the cheese cloth.
2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

food media forum TICKET GIVEAWAY!!

I've written the top ten reasons YOU should go to this year's Food Media Forum... now you can WIN a free ticket! Just enter using the rafflecopter below! Easy! THREE lucky people will win a ticket. That's pretty good odds...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don't win (but I hope you do!), you should still consider coming. We are über proud and excited about our line-up of presenters and content this year. Also, thanks to our awesome sponsors, and the fact that we're holding the conference at a cooking school, the food promises to be exceptional. Need more convincing? Check out some other posts about the Food Media Forum:

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

cod potato balls with lemon garlic aioli

In my extensive post of last week's salad/housewarming/selling out party, I mentioned I made balls. Of course I did! While researching traditional tapas recipes for the Spanish-themed shindig, I found a recipe for salt cod balls. Perfect! Except... I couldn't find salt cod. Plain old fresh cod, however, is readily available (thanks, refrigeration!), so I adapted the idea to use that instead. 
These were a hit! I love the potato in them... I should make more balls with mashed potatoes. I also made an aioli to dip them in. People close to me will tell you that I can't stand mayonnaise (worst foodie ever?), but in recent years I have grown to like aioli... even though in my heart I know it's pretty much the same thing as mayo. This aioli is very flavorful, with bright lemon and fresh garlic, pairing perfectly with the fish balls.

Cod & Potato Balls 
-3/4 pounds cod fillets
-2 russet potatoes, cut into big chunks
-1/2 cup flour
-1 egg
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1.5 cups bread crumbs, divided
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-1 handful of Italian parsley, chopped fine 
Sprinkle the cod generously with salt. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, bring some water (fill the pan 3/4 full or so) to a simmer. Place the cod fillets in the hot water and simmer until cooked through, about 7 minutes or so. Remove fish from water and set aside. Put the potatoes into the water and bring back to a boil. Cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, about 12 minutes. 
Strain potatoes from water and place in a big bowl with the cooked fish. Use a potato masher to mash them together into a not-quite-smooth paste. Add the flour, lemon juice, garlic, egg and 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs and mix well. Put in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set up a bit. 
Form into balls using wet hands, and roll the balls in the remaining bread crumbs to coat. Place the balls on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cook in a 400ºF oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with lemon garlic aioli.

Lemon Garlic Aioli 
-1 egg yolk
-juice of 1 lemon
-2 cloves garlic, grated
-about 3/4 cup olive oil 
Put the yolk, lemon juice and garlic in the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl if you are going to whisk by hand) and beat until creamy. Add the olive oil, starting with a small drop at a time and gradually adding a slow stream, beating constantly until all of the oil is incorporated and you have a thick, creamy sauce. Serve.

2013: Year of MORE BALLS Posts:

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

salads and tapas housewarming party - sponsored by Dole and Schnucks!

I'm Baaaaaaack!!!! Did you miss me? I missed blogging! I missed you! Sincerely! Well, I'm back with good news...I bought a house! I am in love with it and slowly getting settled in. With impeccable timing, Dole and Schnucks' social media teamed up to offer to give me everything I need to host a house party... I couldn't say "no" to this generous offer because... well... FREE HOUSEWARMING PARTY! So, before I start let me clarify that I work for Schnucks, and that Dole and Schnucks gave me free stuff and grocery money for this post. And I am very thankful to them! Now, on to the fiesta.

Shopping for lettuce with someone else's green.
Sweet Paprika Almonds (recipe below)
Dole's big promotion for their bag salads this year is "Taste of Spain" so for the house parties they encouraged a Spanish theme. I made a couple of Spanish-inspired salads and some tapas. And SANGRIA, duh. They have recipes on their website and they gave me a tapas cookbook, and I also relied on the world wide web for research and ideas. Several of these party dishes can be made a day or 2 ahead, making my housewarming a bit less hectic, so I could enjoy giving proud tours of my new digs. 

It was a good party... my little house survived a couple of rain showers and a few dozen people with minor casualties (dirty floors, broken lawn chairs, clogged drain). The food was fresh and tasty and the family and friends truly warmed my home. Thanks to everyone who could come, and to Dole and Schnucks for giving me the opportunity to have this party on someone else's dime :)

Thanks for the salad, Dole!

The Salads:

Baby Greens with tuna, potatoes and roasted red peppers (pictured at the beginning of the post) 
-1 bag of Dole® Baby Greens
-1 red bell pepper
-1 can olive oil packed tuna
-1 russet potato, boiled until tender
-1/4  red onion, sliced thin
-handful of capers
-1/4 cup high-quality olive oil
-juice of 1 lemon
-salt and pepper to taste 
Char the red pepper over a flame or under a broiler. Remove the seeds and stem and slice into strips. Put the baby greens on a platter and top with the pepper and the rest of the ingredients. Serve.

Salad with Pepitas & Raisins 
-1 bag of Dole® Salad greens of your choice (I used butter blend and baby greens combo)
-1 carrot, peeled and sliced
-1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
-1/3 cup salted pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
-1/3 cup raisins
-1 Tablespoon pumpkin seed oil (can sub with 1/2 Tbsp sesame seed oil)
-3 Tablespoons olive oil
-2 Tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
-2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
-salt and pepper to taste 
In a splash/leak-proof container, shake together the pumpkin seed oil, olive oil, balsamic and orange juice. Place the greens in a bowl and top with the rest of the ingredients, including the vinegreiette.
The Snacks:

Marinated Olives: Orange and Herbs 
-1.5 cups pitted olives
-zest of 1 orange
-1 sprig rosemary, stripped from stem
-2 sprigs thyme leaves, stripped from stems
-1 Tablespoon Walnut oil 
Stir everything together and marinate overnight, up to 2 weeks. 

Sweet Paprika Almonds  (pictured above)
-2 cups unsalted almonds
-2 Tablespoons paprika
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-1 Tablespoons water
-1 Tablespoon honey 
Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet and bake at 400ºF for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure they don't get too brown. Meanwhile, mix the paprika, sugar, salt and cayenne in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. When the almonds are toasted, heat the olive oil, water and honey in a large skillet until just heated through. Add the almonds and toss well so that the almonds are coated. Dump the almonds in the bowl with the spices and sugar and toss well. Spread back out on the cookie sheet to dry for at least 30 minutes. Serve or store for up to 2 weeks.

Spinach Garbonzo Bean Tapas (not pictured) 
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 red onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
-3 bags Dole® Baby spinach
-Salt and pepper to taste
-toasted bread to serve 
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic and beans, cook about 5 minutes. Add the spinach in batches (don't worry, it will wilt down and eventually all fit). Once all the spinach is wilted down, remove from heat. Serve hot, warm or cold on toasted baguette slices.

Spicy Garlicky Marinated Olives 
-1.5 cups pitted olives
-6 garlic cloves, grated
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1 teaspoon chili oil
-1 Tablespoon good olive oil 
Combine everything and let marinate at least overnight before serving.

Spanish Cheeses, of course. MANCHEGO!! (I love shouting that...)

Last but not least...


I made 3 sangrias! 3!! All were different, and all were great party drinks.

Peach & Ginger White Sangria 
-2 peaches, sliced
-1-inch knob of ginger, sliced
-1 bottle dry white Spanish wine
-1/4 cup Big O Ginger liqueur
-ginger ale to finis 
Combine all ingredients except the ginger ale. Refrigerate for 3 hours up to overnight. When ready to serve, pour in the ginger ale and stir. Serve over ice.

Strawberry Lime Rosé Sangria 
-1 pint strawberries, stemmed and quartered
-1 lime, sliced
1 bottle dry rosé
-1/2 cup tequila
-lemon-lime soda to finis 
Combine all ingredients except the soda. Refrigerate for 3 hours up to overnight. When ready to serve, pour in the soda and stir. Serve over ice.

Red Wine Sangria 
-2 apples, sliced
-1 orange, sliced
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 cup Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
-club soda to finish 
Combine all ingredients except the club soda. Refrigerate for 3 hours up to overnight. When ready to serve, pour in the club soda and stir. Serve over ice.

6 pack of wine? YOLO.
Shopping tip! Buy your sangria wines at Schnucks on Wednesdays (or as they have dubbed them "WINEsdays"), as they are 15% off when you buy 6 or more bottles! Cha-ching!

I also made some BALLS tapas, of course, but I'll save that for another post. Thanks to everyone who came back after my 2-week blog hiatus! And thanks again to my family and friends who came to my party and helped me make this house a home. Thanks, of course, to Dole and Schnucks for sponsoring my housewarming party and helping me learn about Spanish cuisine! Happy summer everyone!