Strawberry-Mint Popsicles

Yep, it’s been a long time. I feel like I’m writing on someone else’s blog. I’m much weirder now. Spending a lot of time hitting other women on 8 wheels while using a pseudonym or spending 12 hours a day talking to a 2 year old will do that to you.

But no matter, we’ve got popicles! And the world is full of flowers and sausages!

I spend a lot of time sitting in the huge convection oven that is the state of Texas in summer watching a naked preschooler play slip n slide. Therefore…popsicles. Mama’s gotta keep cool. Preferably without alcohol. These help.

Some folks call it a paleta. I call it a popsicle. Mmm Mmm. (And then I hit my mother upside the head with it.)

I did warn you, right?

Whatever you call them, they’re awesome. Summer strawberries, fresh mint, the sweet/tart balance of honey versus lime juice. Kids love them but they’re also not too sweet for adults who tend to have more sophisticated tastes than the crap popsicles you can appease a kid with. Remember those plastic tubes of frozen food coloring? They give me and Owen Meany THE SHIVERS.

These are also a great way to use strawberries that are still good to eat but are looking a bit dodgy. You know the ones.

Don’t have popsicle molds? No problem. I use kids’ paper mouthwash cups and actually prefer them to proper molds. I can have multiple flavors available without buying more bulky plastic gadgets.

I’d even serve these at a grown-up party. I’m finding people are generally wanting fewer heavy desserts and I don’t think I’ve cooked for any group over the last two years that didn’t include at least one gluten-free or dairy-free or vegan eater in the mix. These are perfect for a crowd like that.

Even better, you just chuck it all in the whizzer and go.

Fish on.

Strawberry Mint Popsicles

Makes 8-10 small pops (depends on your molds or cups)

Minimally adapted from The Black Peppercorn. I basically just added mint and more rambling instructions.

4 cups strawberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup water
3-4 fresh mint leaves (or to taste)
popsicle molds or cups and sticks (I use kids’ mouthwash cups)

Put all ingredients in the blender and puree until very smooth.
Pour into molds or cups.

If using cups, freeze for an hour, then insert sticks to partially-frozen slush. This makes the sticks stand up straight.

Freeze until solid.

Rinse under cold water to remove from molds or cup. Or you can peel the paper cups away with no rinsing, which is better if you want to plate them up fancy without slush forming.

 

 

(P.S. I have no patience or time for dealing with comment spam so for now I’ve got comments closed until I figure that out.  Also, there’s a lot of old links, too much stuff laying about, etc, and I’m hoping to work on that ASAP so this site will be easier to read. )

 

 

 

Delicious Sweet Baby

Delicious Sweet Baby
This recipe will take a full 9 months to prepare but you will be rewarded with succulently fat thighs, on you and the baby. 

Serves 2

1 (6 lb, 15 oz) baby girl
1 dozen onesies, in various shades of pink
5 cases newborn diapers
10 cases baby wipes
1 tube Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, optional
2 exhausted parents
the most local milk supply you can find
An infinite amount of patience, and willingness to get up in the middle of the night.

Hello readers! I haven’t disappeared completely.  I finally had my baby, this little bundle of love and cuteness.

More recipes coming soon once I can come up for air. I promise.  Hang in there with me while I get this little Sweet Pea past the hardest part.

Cannellini Beans with Tomatoes and Swiss Chard

I’m originally a Louisiana girl and down there beans come in two varieties: red and white. Red are kidney beans and white are navy beans. We don’t go much farther than that. (Just forget lentils entirely. What are they?) Now that I’m a Texan, it’s pinto or black beans, almost exclusively.

So it makes sense that I still look at the wide world of bean recipes with an odd sense of wonder. Even simple recipes take my fancy like they’re the most innovative dishes I’ve ever seen. I don’t need molecular gastronomy just yet — I’m still finding great pleasure in the basics. Especially when the basics are easy, low-fuss, and nutritious, like these cannellini beans with tomatoes and chard.

Cannellini beans are white kidney beans, longer and a tad sturdier than smaller, rounder navy beans. They have a mellow, earthy flavor. You could start with dry beans and cook them until tender, but for me, good canned cannellini are just too easy and quick to bother with all that.

The tender beans are quickly simmered with garlic, sweet canned plum tomatoes, a bit of dried red chile flakes for heat, and silky wilted chard. The bones of this recipe come from Lidia Bastianich, but I’ve tweaked it for my taste by adding oregano and fresh basil for more oomph along with a grating of salty Parmesan over the top. The result is a steaming bowl of comfort food, good for a side dish or a meal on its own.

The La. girl in me required a wedge of hot, crispy cornbread with my beans, and a few slices of hot Italian sausage mixed in would have really sent me to the moon. It’s probably due to all those bowls of red beans with andouille I grew up with, but still, a bit of sausage would have made this dish even more fabulous.

Cannellini with Tomatoes and Swiss Chard
A quickly simmered dish of mellow beans, sweet tomatoes, and silky wilted chard, topped with salty Parmesan cheese. Great as a vegetarian main dish or as side dish for grilled meats.

Serves 4 as a main dish

Adapted from Lidia’s Italy on PBS.

1 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 (19 oz.) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (28 oz.) can peeled plum tomatoes packed in puree
1 bunch chard, ends trimmed and leaves chopped into large chunks
2 Tbs. tomato paste
dried red pepper flakes
1 pinch sugar
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbs. fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Pour canned tomatoes into a bowl and use your hand to gently crush the whole tomatoes into rough pieces.

In a large high-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the drained beans, tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Drop the chard into boiling water, blanch for 30-45 seconds or until just tender. Drain well. Stir chard into beans. Add fresh basil and adjust seasonings. Remove from heat.

Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

**UPDATE: I’ve now also made this without bothering to blanch the chard first.  Instead, just chop the chard into 1″ pieces and stir into the simmering beans.  Easier and just as good!

Halibut with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Chilies

Even professional cooks freak out when guests are coming for dinner. Maybe even more so, because the pressure is on. How do you cook for friends who know you do this for a living but have never tasted your cooking? It’s hard, at least for me. I’ve cooked for hundreds of happy customers and yet there’s always a sense of “Will they find out I’m a total fraud?”

Couple that with my inability to do two things at once, especially if any of it is social, so when guests are coming I fall back on a few standby recipes, mostly things that can be made ahead of time and finished off at the last minute. Grandma calls that “pulling a Darla.” I call it managing to serve dinner on time while also buzzing on a second martini.

(My refrigerator has two recipe cards stuck to a magnet. One is for “Darla’s coffee”; the other is for “Darla’s martini”. Oh, how pregnancy has changed my rituals!)

This Halibut with Coconut Milk is a dish I love to cook on such occasions or on any busy day. You can completely prep the ingredients ahead of time, wrap them in individual envelopes of foil (“hot pockets” in my house, en papillote to the French, but referring to parchment), and just slide them into a very hot oven 10 minutes before dinner.

Using foil seems like the kind of cooking you would do on a weeknight but never for guests, yet it’s really perfectly respectable, even for a fancy dinner party. This method of cooking steams the fish in the oven and results in succulent, moist flesh scented with the aromatics. In turn, the liquid absorbs all the juices from the fish, making your sauce tastier as well, without having to make fish stock. It’s a win-win situation.

Here, halibut fillets are baked in coconut milk infused with the brightness of fresh lemongrass, lime, and cilantro. Slices of ginger, chilies, and garlic bring heat while a touch of sesame oil adds a deeper background note. The coconut milk gives richness without a leaving a heavy feeling on the tongue, allowing the flavor of the fish to shine through.

To serve, lift the fish from the foil envelopes and pour the juices over as a sauce. Pair it with a bed of jasmine rice or bok choy sautéed in sesame oil with garlic, red bell peppers, and shiitake mushrooms.

You can use either regular coconut milk or light coconut milk, it doesn’t matter. Let your calorie needs decide.

Halibut with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Chilies
Succulent halibut fillets bake in coconut milk infused with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilies, and sesame oil. This method of baking in foil is perfect for make-ahead dinners.

Serves 4

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef Takes Off.
(He uses monkfish, wrapped in banana leaves.)

4 (6-oz) pieces of halibut or other white fish, skin removed
1 fresh red or green chili, thinly sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 Tbs. sesame oil
1 cup light or regular coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
heavy-duty foil

Lay out four pieces of heavy duty foil, about 15×10″, large enough to enclose your fish.

To mince lemongrass: Cut off the root end. Cut away the woody, darker green section near the top. (You can use this for broth.) Remove the outer tough leaves from the tender lower section. Mince the inner leaves.  (See picture above for guidance.)

Combine lemongrass, chilies, garlic, ginger, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, sesame oil, and coconut milk in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Use a slotted spoon to lift the solids from the coconut milk. Divide these solids between your pieces of foil, making a bed for each piece of fish.

Place the fish on top of the solid aromatics. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the top and fold tightly along the sides to make a rectangle.  Leave one end open for adding the liquid.

Pour or spoon the remaining coconut milk mixture into each foil packet, dividing equally. Seal the foil pouches completely.

Place foil pouches on a baking sheet. Refrigerate or bake immediately.

Bake at 450F for 8-10 minutes or until you hear the liquid sizzle when you jiggle the pan. Open a pouch and check for doneness. The fish will continue to cook a little after you take it out of the oven; if your fish is almost done, go ahead and take it out.  Thinner fish fillets will take less time.  Open foil immediately and serve.

To serve, lift the fish fillets out of the foil with a spatula. Spoon the juices over the fish.  Discard the large pieces of ginger.

Garnish with fresh cilantro.