Monday, December 31, 2007

The Perfect Tortilla (Española)

There are a few dishes that I can say I'm an expert on. One of them is, of course, ceviche. Another one is the perfect rib eye steak, and there's always my scrumptious jambalaya. So I figured that if I want to increase my cooking repertoire, I have to get another Diva signature dish under my belt. So, after several tries, I have finally conquered the tortilla Española. So my friend, give this a try. The best thing about this recipe is that you can make it the day before or even the morning of, and it will be fantastic.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 6 - 8 as an appetizer)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper or half of a large one, thinly sliced into 2" pieces
  • 1 small red bell pepper or half of a large one, thinly sliced into 2" pieces
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 6 large eggs or 5 XL eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

In a cast iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and cook for 4 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and add bell peppers (green and red) and chopped garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and cook slowly for 10 more minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

Wipe the skillet and add about 1/2 cup of olive oil and heat on medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer a little, add all the diced potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss for a two minutes then lower heat to medium-low. Put a lid on skillet or cover with the skillet with a plate and let potatoes cook for 15 minutes--just remember to keep tossing every 5 minutes or so. You want the potatoes to cook through yet not be mushy. Drain the potatoes on a colander and set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a bit more black pepper. Mix potatoes, onions and peppers lightly, until well combined and set aside.

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet, add 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the potato/egg mixture and pat down. Let cook for 3 minutes then lower heat to medium-low again and cover. Let it cook for about 15 minutes, checking the sides to make sure it doesn't get burnt.

Place a plate over the top of skillet and flip it over (see movie below).

Cook the tortilla on the other side also on medium-low for another 10 minutes. Once tortilla is done, slide it into to your serving plate and let it cool down to room-temperature. The tortilla tastes best at room temperature and with a side of aioli. Buen provecho!

Diva's Amazing (and super easy) Aioli Sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • The juice of half of a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Best Foods Mayo
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and place in fridge for a few hours for flavors to marry. Serve at room temperature with the tortilla.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

As you all know, I'm not a good baker, so when I see recipe that only involves three ingredients I totally have to go for it. I'm not a big peanut butter fan (unless I eat it with bananas), but I did like these cookies. And if you're a fan of the Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, crumble some of these cookies for a peanut butter kick!

INGREDIENTS (makes about 1 dozen)

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

Combine sugar and egg in mixing bowl, stirring till smooth. Add peanut butter and mix in thoroughly. Roll into walnut-sized balls. Place the balls on ungreased cookie sheets at least 2" apart.

Flatten with the tines of a fork. Turn 90 degrees and use fork again to create cross hatches.

Bake 10 minutes at 375F (or till done). Let cool in pan for 1 minute before removing to cooling rack.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Potato-Crusted Salmon Fillet

As the holidays approach, Matt and I have been eating lots of cookies and cakes and breads and we've been going to many holiday parties. So we haven't been really eating very healthy and we've been loading up on carbs. In an effort to eat healthy, I found this recipe. I liked it because it's protein rich and it has just a bit of carbos with the potatoes. Plus, salmon is my favorite fish. A light-oaky chardonnay goes wonderful with this dish.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 3/4 lb salmon fillet with skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 fresh sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from stems
  • 1 medium-sized russet potato
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and white pepper

Cut the salmon fillet vertically into two strips, one for each serving. Remove the pin bones from the fish with a pair of needle-nose pliers, or by hand if you can get a good grip. Place the strips skin side down and season with the pepper, salt, and thyme.

Peel the potato and slice as thin as possible (the should be flexible and translucent) with a mandoline or sharp knife. Cut the cloves of garlic in half lengthwise, score the cut surfaces with a knife, and rub garlic over the potato slices. Cover the surface of the salmon with a layer of the potato slices. Add a second layer, draping it from the top over the sides of the fish.

For the sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Once it is melted and bubbling, add the flour and stir thoroughly until a uniform paste is formed. Continue cooking until the roux just starts to brown. Add a quarter of the milk, and whisk to incorporate. Repeat three more times until all the milk has been added. Lower the flame to prevent boiling. Cook, stirring a couple of times, for five minutes, then whisk in the mustard. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. It should shimmer, and begin to just barely smoke. Place the fish potato side down in the pan. Be careful not to bend the fish. Cook for two minutes. Once a crispy crust is formed, carefully turn the fish over so that the skin side is down. The potato crust should be a lovely golden brown.

Continue to cook until the skin becomes crisp and the fish is medium rare to medium. This should take about four or five minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. A small knife tip in the side of the fish can be used to check doneness.

To serve, place the fish potato-side up and drizzle some of the Dijon sauce on the side. Serve with a side of sauteed spinach and sauteed baby carrots.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

T-Bone Steak

I am a master at cooking rib-eye steaks, so when I bought the biggest T-bone Steak (on sale) that I've ever seen, I said to myself, "bring it on!"

As always, I first looked for recipes in my cookbooks, but surprisingly there weren't any interesting recipes. So I made my own wet rub for the steak and served chimichurri on the side and, oh my goodness, it was perfection.

In case you didn't know already, chimichurri is a pesto-like sauce that originated in Argentina. It's bright green in color and a bit pungent and tangy to the tongue. This is an excellent sauce to serve on the side of steaks. I think you can also marinate beef in this jolly green juice. Que bueno!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)


  • 1 T-bone Steak, about 1/2 pound (or a bit more) and 1" thick--one of these was enough for Matt and I, but you can double the recipe if you want to make 2 steaks.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, washed, stemmed, and dried
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the steak: rinse steak in cold water and pat dry. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil all over the steak. In a small bowl combine the remaining rub ingredients and mix to combine. Generously sprinkle the rub all over the steak. Cover steak with plastic wrap and let it marinate in fridge for 1 to 2 hours. Take the steak out of the fridge 30 minutes before you're ready to cook it to bring it to room temperature.

For the chimichurri: finely chop the parsley and garlic in a food processor. Add the onion, vinegar, water, salt, oregano, pepper flakes, and black pepper and process in brief bursts until the salt crystals are dissolved. Add the oil in a thin stream. Do not over process; the chimichurri should be fairly coarse. Correct the seasoning, adding salt or vinegar to taste.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In an oven proof pan or cast-iron skillet add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot, place your steak on pan. DO NOT MOVE IT! Let is sear for exactly 4 minutes. Turn over and sear for 2 minutes more. With your oven-mittens on, carefully place the pan in oven and let it finish cooking. Bake 5 minutes for medium-rare, up to 10 minutes for medium-well. Don't go longer than 10 minutes.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let the steak rest for EXACTLY 5 minutes. Cut out the "T" bone and with a sharp knife, carve the beef into broad thin slices, holding the knife blade at a 45 degree angle to the top of the meat. Serve at once with chimichurri on the side. Baked potatoes or shoestring potatoes go extremely well with this dish.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lussekatter (Swedish St. Lucia Buns)

Matthew has been on a baking kick lately. Yesterday he made (by accident) a brioche loaf, which was excellent after he sliced it and made it into French toast (recipe coming soon). So we have been looking for new bread recipes that are not very common for us, and this one caught my eye: Lussekatter, or St. Lucia Buns, which are traditional breads served in most Swedish homes on December 13th. These are moist, tasty and very yellow buns. I have no idea who St. Lucia was, or why Sweden celebrates this day--because I think St. Lucia is Italian--but I figured since Matt's family is part Scandinavian we'd give it a try. By the way, "lussekatter" translates to "Lucia cats." Meow!

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 buns)

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 and 3/4 cups flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Raisins

Place milk and butter in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until the butter melts.

In a large bowl mix the warm water and yeast and let stand 60 seconds. Add the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add the egg, sugar, salt, and saffron.

Add 1-1/2 cups of flour. Mix well. Add more flour gradually until the dough is stiff. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Coat the bowl with a little vegetable oil and put in your dough ball. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 sections. Roll each section into a rope. Cross two ropes in the middle and curl the ends into circles (see diagram). how to make a lussekatterCarefully place the buns on a greased cookie sheet, cover, and let rise until they are doubled in size. Mix and egg and water and brush the tops of the buns. Decorate with raisins on each end (see diagram) and bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.