Wednesday, April 27, 2005

another dinner party staple

it's scrumptious.

it's easy.

it's impressive.


i just had some of this (leftover from dinner party, natch) and feel compelled to spread the scrumptiousness. personally, i have always loved lemony or fruity desserts more than chocolate (i know, i know. it's unusual. and yes, i am a real woman). i even asked for lemon birthday cakes when i was a kid most of the time (and i got them - thannnnnnnks mom). so maybe it's just me, but i love. this. pie. and actually it's not just me. trust me. make this pie. you will win friends and influence people. enjoy!

from cook's illustrated (of course).

Key Lime Pie

serves 8

Lime Filling

4 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice from 3 to 4 limes
4 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce)

Graham Cracker Crust
(yes, you have to make it yourself. and no, it's not that hard. do it!)

11 graham crackers processed to fine crumbs (1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Whipped Cream Topping
(absolutely essential. you may NOT cop out with an aerosol can.)

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 lime sliced paper thin and dipped in sugar (optional)

1. For the filling: Whisk zest and yolks in medium bowl until tinted light green, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk, then juice; set aside at room temperature to thicken.

2. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter; stir with fork until well blended. Pour mixture into 9-inch pie pan; press crumbs over bottom and up sides of pan to form even crust. (this is the hardest part - i get josh to do it when i want to to look really good.) Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

3. Pour lime filling into crust; bake until center is set, yet wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (Can be covered with lightly oiled or oil-sprayed plastic wrap laid directly on filling and refrigerated up to 1 day.)

4. For the whipped cream: Up to 2 hours before serving, whip cream in medium bowl to very soft peaks. Adding confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continue whipping to just-stiff peaks. Decoratively pipe whipped cream over filling or spread evenly with rubber spatula. Garnish with optional sugared lime slices and serve.

and eat. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

dinner party staple

if you've ever come over to have dinner at our house, you've probably eaten this. i make it a lot when people are coming because it is crowd-pleasing and sort of impressive but really not that hard to make. you get to set shrimp on fire with cognac, which is a lot of fun, but kind of scary. if you are (like me) kind of panicked by the idea, make sure someone is with you when you do it to assure you that the flames will not spread and burn down your house.

from cook's illustrated.

Shrimp Fra Diablo with Linguini

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound medium-large shrimp (preferably 31 to 35 count), peeled (and deveined, if desired), preferably Gulf or Mexican Whites
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes crushed (or more, to taste)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
4 tablespoons garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press, (about 12 medium, 8 large, or 5 extra-large cloves)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 can diced tomatoes (28-ounce), drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine , such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 pound linguine or spaghetti

Flambeing the shrimp in cognac brings out its natural sweetness.

1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in large Dutch oven or stockpot.

2. While water is heating, heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, toss shrimp, half of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Add shrimp to skillet and quickly spread in single layer; cook, without stirring, until bottoms of shrimp turn spotty brown, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir to turn shrimp, and add cognac; let stand off heat until cognac warms slightly, about 5 seconds, and return pan to high heat. Wave lit match over skillet until cognac ignites; shake skillet until flames subside, transfer shrimp to medium bowl, and set aside.

3. Off heat, cool now-empty skillet 2 minutes; return to burner and reduce heat to low. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic foams and is sticky and straw-colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Add remaining red pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, tomatoes, and wine; increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and accumulated juices, remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, and parsley and simmer until shrimp have heated through, about 1 minute longer. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

4. While sauce simmers, add linguine or spaghetti and remaining 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water, stir to separate pasta, cover, and cook until al dente; reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta. Transfer drained pasta back to now-empty Dutch oven or stockpot; add about 1/2 cup sauce (without shrimp) and 2 to 3 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water; toss to coat. Divide pasta among warm serving bowls, top with a portion of sauce and shrimp, and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

it'll feed your family for a week

so i haven't cooked for a while. lots of traveling tends to make me very lazy in the kitchen. monday, i tried -- really tried!! -- to make the lentil soup (stew, really) i'm about to talk about, but i coudn't do it. we went to green tango instead, and it was good.

tuesday, i tried again. and i succeeded. this soup is really not very hard to make, and -- as i said before -- it's really more of a stew, nice and hearty and chunky so that you don't really have to make anything else for dinner. it was excellent with some whole wheat sourdough from whole foods.

the recipe is from diana shaw's almost vegetarian. with a few lazy modifications by moi.


1 Tbsp (estimated) extra virgin olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 large celery stalks, including leaves, coarsely chopped, or 1 small fennel bulb, including fronds, coarsely chopped (i used fennel this time, but i've done it either way)
3 cups torn washed spinach leaves (i used baby spinach from a bag because i'm lazy)
1.5 quarts vegetable or chicken broth (again, i've done it both - and both are fine)
1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed in a food processor (usually i do this, but this time i just dumped in a can of crushed tomatoes. again - all was well)
1 cup uncooked green lentils
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup minced fresh italian parsley


1. heat the olive oil in a large pot. add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery or fennel, and saute over medium heat until everything's very soft, about 20 minutes.

2. stir in the spinach and cook, stirring, until it turns bright green, about 2 minutes more

3. add the vegetable broth, tomatoes (pureed or not), and lentils. stir well, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes over medium low heat.

4. stir in the rice, cover again, and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes more.

5. combine parmesan and parsley, and stir it into the soup, blending throughout. season with pepper. ladle and serve (i also like shaving some extra parmesan and putting it on the top of each bowl. as i've mentioned, i like cheese.)

bon appetit!