Pear and Gorgonzola Cheese Salad Dressing

On February 23, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

I celebrated my birthday, earlier this month, at one of my favorite local restaurants – Sweet Lorraine’s in Southfield, Michigan. They make some great food that is always very fresh and sometimes very interesting. I had a mixed grill dish with couscous, lamb sausage, shrimp and chicken all in a Moroccan styled marinade. It was excellent (sorry don’t have the recipe for that.)

I did have a disappointment on my last visit. They had by far my favorite salad dressing, a Pear Gorgonzola dressing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ordered enough so they discontinued making it. Well that got me thinking about trying to replicate their recipe. After some Googling of pear and gorgonzola salad recipes, I found a basic pear dressing recipe that I modified a bit to emulate Sweet Lorraine’s dressing.

My mother in-law was over at dinner last night when I served the dressing with some fresh greens, sliced red onions and sliced carrots. She says I should bottle it. It was amazing. A four out of four stars, according to her. Everyone else really enjoyed it too, especially odd from a bunch of people who don’t like Gorgonzola. So, even if you are anti-stinky cheese, this recipe is sweet and very tasty I’m sure you’ll find it to be one of your favorite dressings too.

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad Dressing

Makes enough for approximately 10 salads

2 canned pear halves in natural juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper

Separate the pear halves from their juice, keep pear juice aside. In a blender or food processor, puree the drained pear halves with the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper until very smooth and silky. You may need to adjust by adding some pear juice liquid to thin the dressing or add another drained pear to thicken the dressing. Puree to desired consistency and add Gorgonzola cheese at the last moment and pulse the blender or food processor to quickly blend into dressing. Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate.

Tagged with:

Country Cider Hot-Pot

On February 23, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

Sunday night was a birthday party for my twin boys. We were having some family over so I decided to try something new and something that could just sit in an oven for a hour and not need a lot of attention.

The original recipe from a cookbook I own called for rabbit for this dish, I decided to go with boneless skinless chicken breast instead. Also, I found that the cider really needs to be increased about another cup (the recipe below includes the extra amount of cider so please use about 3 cups of cider, get it to where it just covers the chicken and vegetables.)



Country Cider Hot-Pot
Serves 4

2 tsp flour
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thirds
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
15 baby onions
4 strips of bacon, chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 cups apple cider
3 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
12 ready-to-eat pitted prunes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag, add the chicken pieces and shake until coated. Set aside.

2. Heat the butter and oil in a flame-proof casserole and add the onions and bacon. Fry for 4-5 minutes, until the onions have softened. Remove with a straining spoon and set onions and bacon aside.

3. Fry the seasoned chicken pieces in the oil until they are browned all over, then spread a little of the mustard over the top of each piece with a spoon (doesn’t have to be perfect.)

4. Return the onions and bacon to the pan. Pour on the cider and a add the carrots, parsnips, prunes, rosemary and bay leaf. Add more cider if food is not covered with liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 1 hour until tender.

5. Remove rosemary and bay leaf and serve with mash potatoes.

Tagged with:

Chicken Goat Cheese Burritos

On February 19, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

It was at my first culinary class at a local culinary college in Portland, Oregon that I tried my first taste of goat cheese. Back in 1993 goat cheese just wasn’t that common. I had tried it on toasted french bread in a French Bistro cooking course. It was excellent. Since then I have enjoyed goat cheese in several recipes, including this one that I make about every couple of months.

The photo above includes a dollop of sour cream and instead of green salsa I used Jack’s Special Medium Salsa. I also made some fresh guacamole to accompany the main course. Usually, I just make some Spanish rice but simply forgot tonight, so hey chips and guac is always a good quick backup!

The other thing I tried this time was a tortilla product at Whole Foods by IndianLife foods. They are large tortillas with a good flavor but not enough of an improvement to justify the $4.79 price compared to the ~$2 packaged flour tortillas. My favorite choice is picking up fresh made tortillas at Mexicantown Bakery in Detroit’s Mexican Village.

Chicken Goat Cheese Burritos

Makes 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp. (each) salt and pepper
4 flour tortillas
1 can (15 oz.) black beans
1 tsp. oil
1⁄2 cup soft fresh goat cheese, broken into small chunks
1 cup fresh green salsa

1. Cut chicken into bit sized strips. In a bowl, coat evenly with cumin, salt, and pepper.

2. Seal tortillas in foil and warm in a 350° oven until hot, about 10 minutes.

3. Place beans and their liquid in a 1-quart pan and cook over medium-high heat until bubbling,
about 5 minutes.

4. In a 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir chicken and oil until meat is no
longer pink in center, about 6 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine the goat cheese with a little olive oil in a small bowl to make a paste.

6. Lay tortillas flat. Spread some goat cheese paste on tortillas. Then toward one edge of each,
fill equally with chicken, beans (including liquid), and salsa. Fold over sides and roll up tightly
to enclose. Add more salsa to taste.

Tagged with:

Beef and Chorizo Chili Comes with a Kick

On February 13, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

This is a recipe from Cooking Light magazine that I had torn out of an issue years ago. The best part is a serving is only 325 calories, if you care about such things. I rarely do. I have my Wii Fit now, so I don’t have to worry about calories, right?

Calories aside, this chili recipe has a great bite from the chipotle chiles and chorizo sausage. Chorizo is probably one of my favorites, make sure you go to a good deli counter like Papa Joes.

Beef, Black Bean, and Chorizo Chili

10 servings (serving size: about 1 cup chili)

2 links Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces), thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 tablespoons masa harina
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chorizo to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned. Remove chorizo from pan. Add half of beef to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes.

Remove 4 chipotle chiles from can, and chop. Reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Add chorizo, beef, chopped chiles, tomato paste, and next 6 ingredients (through ground cumin) to pan, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in red wine, lime juice, beef broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Gradually stir in masa harina. Add pinto beans and black beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Tagged with:

Japanese "Popcorn"

On February 6, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus

I’m sure we all have our weird snacks, or maybe not? Maybe only I enjoy an occasional weird evening snack. My choice is mochi and yes it is not the most appetizing looking snack.

What is mochi you ask? It is a small Japanese rice cake that when baked in the oven (the way I like it) its outer shell becomes very crispy and the center of the rice cake becomes gummy. It is said that eating mochi is said to bring the spirits of the gods into your body.

I prefer mochi that is sold in a bag, individually wrapped, stored at room temperature (try this online shop or Noble Fish Market in Clawson, Michigan). There is another variety that is refrigerated or frozen that I’m not a fan of for this recipe.

Here is my recipe for what my father called “Japanese Popcorn”:

Baked Mochi

2 Mochi
1 Tbl butter
1 salt to taste

Preheat oven on Bake (500 degrees) and slit the mochi cakes with a knife three times, the slits are not deep, maybe 30% into the thickness of the cakes. Cook for 9-10 minutes making sure that the mochi is only light brown in color on the outside. The rice cakes will bubble out. Remove the mochi and put in a few slivers of butter into each mochi’s gooey center and sprinkle both with salt. Enjoy.

Tagged with:

Virtual Chili Cook Off

On February 4, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

Chili has become the food challenge of most places of business. Both of my last two jobs have hosted Chili Cook Offs. I have always been too busy to make any of these challenges, but if, and when I finally do, here is the recipe I plan to use. It has a couple of nice surprises including the cocoa powder and cinnamon sticks (make sure you remove the sticks before serving.)

So here is my take on Chili. Hope you enjoy it.

If you like your Chili really spicy, make sure you increase the cayenne pepper and switch the sweet and mild peppers to hot pepper choices. The recipe below is spicy, it’s what I would consider “medium” spicy or “mild” for those who enjoy eating the hottest hot sauce around.

Chili con Carne
Makes 4 servings
Prep: 25 min. Cook: 1 1/2 hrs.

3/4 lb ground beef
1/4 lb ground pork
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cans (15 or 16 oz can) red kidney beans, undrained
1/2 cup mild or sweet pepper, thinly sliced and diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 cinnamon sticks

1. Cook beef, onion and garlic in 3 quart sauce pan, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown, drain.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients except beans, breaking up tomatoes. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 hour stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in beans. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desried thickness
4. Remove cinnamon sticks. Serve.

Tagged with:

The Most Amazing Crab Cakes Ever

On February 3, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to crab cakes. Some feel the best are full of crab enhanced with a flavorful bread-crumb mixture. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I came to appreciate crab cakes when I had an opportunity to try some at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon back in the mid-1990s. Wildwood Restaurant & Bar does a very interesting take on the crab cake using shaved potatoes formed into a nest that encrusts the crab meat mixture. The recipe below is from their cookbook.

As you can tell this is not a quick after work recipe, so make sure you set some time aside. It is a bit complex but definitely worth the effort. Although, you can make ahead the crab mixture and refrigerate overnight and then put it all together after work for gourmet meal even on a work day.

Wildwood Crab Cakes

1 tbl. Unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated asiago or pecorino cheese
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg, beaten
2 tbl. Dijon mustard
2 tbl. Minced green bell pepper
2 tbl. Fresh chopped parsley, Italian flat-leaf preferred
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 pound fresh lump Dungeness or other crabmeat
4 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into strings on a Japanese turning slicer or box grater and soaked in water until ready to use (see NOTE)

1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
4 to 5 tbl. Canola oil

To form the crab cakes: In a small pan or skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. In a large bowl, combine the shallots, bread crumbs, cheese, lemon juice, mayo, egg, mustard, bell pepper, parsley, salt and cayenne pepper. Gently mix the crabmeat into the mixture. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and form into balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and blanch the potato strings for 2 minutes. Transfer to an ice-water bath; set aside.

To cook crab cakes: In a shallow bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs until blended. Put the flour and potato strings in 2 separate bowls. Remove the crab balls from the refrigerator. Flatten each ball to make a 3/4 inch thick cake. Dip each crab cake into the flour, then the eggs. Pack a layer of the potato strings around each cake.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Cook the crab cakes, turning once, until golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes total, adding more oil as needed to prevent sticking.

NOTE: If using a box grater to prepare the potatoes, don’t blanch the potatoes, as they are likely to fall apart.

Tagged with:

A Few Tips for Great Pasta

On February 1, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus

It wasn’t until I went along with a friend while visiting New York City several years ago that I really learned to appreciate the beauty of pasta. Mario Batali’s Babbo’s is a phenomenal restaurant and by miles the best Italian food I have ever had.

There are just a few simple things to making amazing pasta dishes.

1. Fresh Pasta Noodles
2. A Simple Red Sauce
3. Don’t Over Sauce

For noodles, I recommend one of the gems of Southeastern Michigan – Ventimiglia Italian Foods in Sterling Heights. I make at least one trip there a month and you can stock up on fresh pasta and freeze it with still better results than any dry pasta purchase. If you can’t get to Ventimiglia, try making your own pasta. It really isn’t as hard as it looks. After about 2 or 3 times you will become a pro. I promise.

For the red sauce (photo above), I use Batali’s Basic Red Sauce recipe. The most important thing about this recipe is using the right canned whole peeled tomatoes. I highly recommend using ONLY Carmelina ‘e San Marzano. I make it according the recipe and freeze about 4 containers with enough sauce for making a pound of pasta. You can change up this sauce in a variety of ways. Here are a couple ideas: Add fresh ricotta and spinach. Add crumbled cooked italian sausage and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (and either blend in a food processor or not, either way is great.) Add mushrooms, fresh basil, and thinly sliced chicken breast. Or try your own modification.

For the best sausage, I recommend Alcamo’s Market in Dearborn. They make some amazing sausages including classic Italian and some very interesting varieties like their parsley, wine and cheese sausage and an orange peel sausage.

Finally, don’t over sauce. It is all about just having enough to coat the pasta, not drown it. This is my biggest issue with 95% of the Italian restaurants I have been to.

Tagged with: