Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cookbook Challenge: Chimichurri, Roasted Veggies In Balsamic and Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

The Cookbook Challenge and the weather had us heading back to the grill. We've been working the grilled veggies since last night. Looking to lighten up after our calorie-laden breakfast yesterday; our evening meal was grilled vegetables we had on hand: broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots marinated in Champagne vinegar and sprinkled with shallot pepper and lemon pepper. Tonight, I found a recipe in the Fresh and Simple Cooking For Friends (by Jennifer Darling) for Roasted Vegetables that called for green beans and summer squash. Not having either, we adapted the recipe for the asparagus we got from the farmer's market and added fresh red bell pepper as well.


These veggies were the side to filets we had gotten as gifts from our Omaha friend Lisa. K grilled them with a hit of salt and pepper and I made chimichurri sauce to finish off the filets. Chimichurri sauce is considered Argentinian steak sauce. We admittedly don't eat steak a lot but allow me to address the beef eaters (Kak and JB, I'm talkin' to you) among you......if you have not tried chimichurri sauce on beef, you are truly missing out. It's easy to make and it may just be my new all-time favorite sauce with filet or steak period. The chimichurri sauce recipe came from my autographed Planet Barbecue cookbook by Steven Raichlen and it was magnificent. The chimichurri was bright and flavorful and complimented the beef without overwhelming it. I literally chased the sauce around the plate. The recipe calls for one or two teaspoons of red pepper flakes and one, I thought, was plenty and I consider myself a heatseeker. Mr. Raichlen points out that the sauce is more like a vinaigrette and at first, momentarily, it tastes underwhelming. After that sauce sits for 30 minutes or more, those flavors become richer and brighter and just sends the beef into orbit. Beautiful beef, baby!

Dessert came from the Alton Brown I'm Just Here For More Food baking cookbook and I admit his cookbooks intimidate me. We have made several of Alton's recipes from the Food Network website previously, but the recipes in his cookbooks resemble chemistry formulas which would certainly be intriguing to some but a bit alarming for me. Science and cooking have always enjoyed a healthy relationship and with the advent of molecular gastronomy; they are enjoying new heights in their marriage. Alton has many a fan for his humorously scientific approach to cooking and he introduces this recipe as one that tastes similar to Hostess cupcakes. Despite the absence of a finishing swirl and cream filling in this recipe, the idea of those heavenly Hostesses flashed me back to the box of beauties my Mom always stashed in the freezer. The baking process certainly had its fascinating moments. This was the first recipe to call for me to pulverize something and pulverize I did: semi-sweet chocolate squares went into the food processor and got ground into dust. There was also the ice bath that the frosting sat in fresh off the heat and as the stirring progressed the frosting thickened. I wanted to cry, "Eureka!" We had enough of the batter to make both a cake and cupcakes and they both were wonderful and indeed similar to Hostess, but without the cream filling; not quite the real McCoy.

Dinner was all about the deliciousness tonight and these three wonders count as Cookbook Challenge recipes #43, 44 and 45. The recipes with my notes are next:

Chimichurri (Planet Barbecue)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 or 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley(optional)

Place the salt, pepper and garlic in a mixing bowl and mash to a paste with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the oregano, hot red pepper flakes, wine vinegar and lemon juice and whisk to mix. Whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream, followed by the parsley, if using. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or vinegar as necessary. You can serve the chimichurri right away or let stand for an hour or so, the falvors will be better blended and richer.
Note: I highly recommend letting the sauce sit and get to that richer point...it is so worth it.

Roasted Vegetables With Balsamic Vinegar (Fresh and Simple Cooking For Friends)

Note: I'm printing this recipe as is, but we used our grill as an oven to roast the veggies and used asparagus and red bell pepper instead of green beans and summer squash)

8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash salt
Dash pepper
2 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

In a shallow roasting pan, combine beans, onion and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss mixture until beans are evenly coated. Spread into a single layer. Roast in a 450 oven for 8 minutes. Stir in squash and roast for 5 to 7 minutes more, until vegetables are tender and slightly browned. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to boiling over medium-high heat; reduce heat. Boil gently about 5 minutes or until reduced by half (vinegar will thicken slightly). Drizzle the vinegar over the vegetables; toss until vegetables are evenly coated.

Fudge Cake (and Cupcakes) (AltonBrown's I'm Just Here For More Food (Baking))

I'm going to have to refrain from reprinting this one. I can't find it anywhere online to cut and paste and it really needs to be read in its entirety including all of its methods (on separate pages), so I'm just going to refer you to the above cookbook by Alton Brown. It really is a great cookbook and I have a whole new respect for it; having tasted the fudge cake. Enjoy!

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