Saturday, May 28, 2011

Salt-and-Vinegar Glazed Carrots with Herbed Buttermilk-Honey Biscuits

New this week:
(This is kind of like the beginning part of the church service where they make all the announcements about who had a baby and when the Women’s Group is scheduled to meet.)
  • New subscriber: Welcome, Gloria…it’s great to have you here! 
  • Special thanks: To Rachael Monaco, who this week featured a number of Kissing the Cook recipes on her Facebook page and who, herself, publishes some great-looking recipes for the Buffalo, NY edition of the Examiner on-line publication ( Check out Rachael’s articles: there are some summer recipes there right now that you might even find useful this weekend! 
  • Other notes: Followers of Tawnya’s food blog will be interested in knowing it has moved. Click here for her new location.

Now let's eat!
This week, we continue with our Country Oven-Fried Steak recipe. In last week’s post, we made the star of the show, the steak itself, along with the all-important gravy that must be applied generously to both the steak and the traditional mashed potato side. In part 2 this week, we continue with the other two side dishes: Salt-and-Vinegar Glazed Carrots with Herbed Buttermilk-Honey Biscuits.

A couple of notes before we begin:
  • As was the case with the buttermilk-dipped steaks used for last week’s Country Oven Fried Steaks, if you don’t have other things to do with the rest of the quart of buttermilk you get at the supermarket, you can use acidulated milk to make your buttermilk biscuits. You can make it by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to every 1 cup of room-temperature low-fat milk and letting it rest for five minutes to create a controlled curdle. (Just don't call them Acidulated Milk Biscuits or you'll spend too much time explaining and too little time eating.) 
  • In general, the process of glazing carrots consists of mixing the carrots in a pan with your glazing ingredients, and cooking until the mixture is reduced so much there’s little or no liquid left in the pan. This makes for a delicious glaze as long as you end the cooking at the right time, but you can imagine how keeping the heat on the carrots even a little too long can leave them burned and unworthy of the rest of this delicious meal. Be careful out there.
Let’s start with the biscuits. (The recipe below makes about eight 3” biscuits.)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, in a large bowl combine 1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour and ½ cup pastry flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour); 1 tablespoon of dried parsley, rosemary or any other herb that matches well to the rest of the meal; 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; 2 teaspoons of baking powder; and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. After the dry ingredients are mixed, cut in ¾ cup of very cold butter substitute (keep it in the freezer till you’re ready, making sure it doesn’t freeze) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Make a well in the center of the mixture and add 1 tablespoon of honey and ¾ cup low-fat buttermilk or acidulated low-fat milk. Quickly mix with your hands until a sticky dough forms.
Put baking sheet in oven. While the baking sheet is pre-heating, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and fold it onto itself at least 3 or 4 times to form layers.
Roll or pat the dough to ¾” thick and cut with a 3” biscuit cutter. Transfer cut-out biscuits to the baking pan. Gather the scraps and repeat.

Use your thumb to make an indentation in the top center of each biscuit to help the top rise evenly. Brush with melted butter substitute and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
While the biscuits are baking, let’s make the carrots. The recipe below makes four servings.

Cut 1-1/2 pounds of carrots into 1” pieces on a bias.

Place the carrots, 2 tablespoons of butter substitute, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, ¼ cup white wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of honey into a skillet large enough for the carrots to be in a single layer. Add enough water to come half-way up the carrots.

Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer with the cover ajar until the carrots are tender, about 8 minutes.
Remove the cover and raise the heat to high. Toss the carrots frequently while the liquid evaporates and the carrots get a shiny glaze. (Remember not to overcook. It’s ok to brown the carrots a little – it’s even good to do so - but not to burn them.)
Once the liquid has cooked off and the carrots are glazed. garnish with parsley and serve!
And there you have it! If narrative recipes aren’t your style and you prefer a cookbook style, notebook-ready version of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, send me your e-mail address and it will be sent.

See you all next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and, as we enjoy some great food this Memorial Day weekend, remember to kiss a veteran.  And, after that, kiss the cook. :-;

Friday, May 20, 2011

Country Oven-Fried Steak

For readers outside of the U.S. (and probably some American readers too), Country Fried Steak is one of the truly great comfort foods of the south. It’s a delicious, stick-to-your-ribs meal built around a steak that has been "tenderized" (a genteel culinary term for having the living daylights beaten out of it by a stressed cook wielding a spiked hammer that looks like something out of a horror movie or fetish shop) then dredged, breaded and fried in the style of fried chicken, and finally smothered in gravy. It differs from Chicken Fried Steak in ways that no one can agree on: some say it’s in the gravy (brown vs. white); others claim it’s in the breading (buttermilk vs. egg); and still others insist there’s no difference at all. The one thing almost everyone agrees on is that, in either form, it’s a meal that can start off by warming your heart, and end up stopping it.
This brings us to Country Oven-Fried Steak, the version presented below. Rather than being pan-fried, it’s baked in a manner sometimes called “oven-frying.” Another difference is in the gravy, which either version must be smothered in to have any chance at authenticity.  In the fried version, the gravy is generally made from pan drippings by adding flour, etc., in the usual way. In the baked version there are, of course, no pan drippings, so you’ll see that the gravy is prepared separately using beef broth.

This recipe, as with many Country Fried Steak recipes, calls for the steaks to be placed in about a cup of buttermilk before the breading is applied. Since buttermilk is usually available only in containers of a quart or more, unless you plan on using it for other things too you’ll end up throwing out most of the container. To avoid this, it’s possible to make acidulated milk and use it as a substitute for the buttermilk. Just take a cup of room temperature milk – I use skim and it works just fine – add a tablespoon of white vinegar and let it rest for about five minutes. (The process is a kind of controlled curdling.)

As for side dishes, many are possible, but mashed potatoes (smothered in gravy, just like the steak) are pretty traditional. In the photo, I’ve also plated my steak with glazed salt-and-vinegar carrots and buttermilk biscuits. I don’t have a recipe for the mashed potatoes – improvising them is way too much fun for that – but I’ll be posting recipes for the carrots and biscuits next week.

This recipe makes four servings.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put your baking sheet in the oven to heat it.

Using a tenderizing mallet, tenderize 1-1/2 pounds of beef round steaks until they’re about ¼” thick. Cut them into four servings.

Combine ½ cup Panko and ½ cup plain bread crumbs with ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper in a 1 gallon zip-lock bag. Put 1 cup of buttermilk (or acidulated milk) in a shallow pan.

Combine ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, ¼  teaspoon of ground black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, and season both sides of the tenderized steaks. Dredge each steak in the buttermilk, shake off excess, and coat with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the breadcrumbs in. If they don’t seem sufficiently coated, give them a second buttermilk-breadcrumb treatment. Let the coated steaks rest in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

When the steaks have finished resting, spray your preheated baking sheet with cooking spray. Place steaks on the baking sheet and spray the tops lightly. Bake until the coating is golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes, turning half-way.

While steaks are baking, prepare gravy in a skillet as per the recipe below, but dont let it completely thicken. When the gravy is ready, add the steaks and bring it to just boiling over medium-high heat.

When the gravy has started boiling, reduce the heat to low, put ½ a bunch of chopped green onions on top of the steaks, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve the steaks hot, remembering to add gravy to them and to your mashed potatoes.

To make the gravy:

In a medium saucepan, combine a 15 ounce can of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary, and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Make a slurry of 2 tablespoons of corn starch dissolved in ¼ cup of water and add to the broth mixture. Add ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, and cook until thickened to consistency of cream.

Whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter substitute, a little at a time, and cook a few minutes more to the desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Hope you enjoy this comforting delight!

As always, if you’d like a cookbook style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, send me a note or a comment with your e-mail address and I’ll send it right along.

And also as always, till next week, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mango and Friends Chunky Fruit Salad Sauce

A warm welcome to Isabel, a new subscriber (and fine baker) from the Facebook side!

With warm weather on the way, it’s a good time to gather up recipes for dishes that not only taste great, but that are also cool and refreshing. In the past I’ve been able to share a recipe for my favorite cold, tangy gazpacho. Today we have Mango and Friends Chunky Fruit Salad Sauce. (It’s a pity something that tastes so good ended up with such an awkward name, but even after much thought I just couldn’t come up with a better one. If anyone makes this and, after tasting it, can suggest a better name, I’d be happy to consider it.)

Mango and Friends Chunky Fruit Salad Sauce is something like chunky applesauce, except it’s made from a lovely-tasting combination of mango, pears, cantaloupe and peaches. What do you do with it? Anything you do with applesauce: enjoy it as is, especially with a bit of sharp cheddar cheese (as seen in the photo); bake it into cakes and muffins; spread it on potato pancakes; use it to glaze chicken…you get the idea.

As recipes go, this one is both easy and delicious. If you’ve never cut up a mango before, you may find that part of it a little challenging at first, but you’ll manage it. (Cutting up your first mango is something like cutting up your first whole chicken. You’ll turn it over and around a lot, cutting where it seems to make sense to, wondering how in the world people on cooking shows can do it so neatly, and eventually finish with a pile of pieces, no two of which look alike. Don't worry; they'll work just fine.)

Another recipe note: you’ll see that all the fruit used in this recipe is fresh, except the peaches. You can make this with fresh peaches if you like, but I chose canned here for the same reason cooks generally use canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones: consistency. Great peaches, like great tomatoes, are available for about two and a half minutes a year; the rest of the time, you take your chances as to how they taste and feel. (Okay, the two and a half minutes is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I’m getting at.)

Something else worth pointing out: the fruit mixture is seasoned using, among other things, salt. The salt and fruit combination may strike some people as strange, but one of the best bits of cooking advice I ever got was never to underestimate how nicely a bit of salt can bring out the flavor of fruit.

This recipe makes 4 to 5 cups, depending on the size of the fruit you use and the thickness to which you cook it down.
Prepare the fruit by peeling and coring 4 pears, and slicing them into ¼” thick pieces; peeling and slicing ½ a medium cantaloupe into ¼” thick pieces; peeling 1 mango and cutting into bite-size pieces; and cutting two well-drained 15 ounce cans of sliced peaches in juice into bite-size pieces.

Combine the pears, cantaloupe, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup orange juice, ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

After the mixture has simmered (uncovered) for about 10 minutes, add the mango and peaches. Stir to combine, bring the heat up again until the mixture boils, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture has a “chunky applesauce” consistency, about 1 hour. (Use a masher after about 50 minutes, but be sure to leave the overall texture chunky.)

Refrigerate overnight in a sealed container, then use anywhere you would applesauce.
You can’t get fresh-made good taste much easier than that!

For a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, just drop me a line or a comment, and include your e-mail address. It will be yours before you know it!

See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Apricot Molten Lava Cake with Lemon Glaze

Welcoming new subscriber CatherineK to the Kissing the Cook family: it’s great to have you!

Molten lava cake: if you like delicious, whimsical desserts that are easy to make and fun to eat, it's one of the best.

There are many recipes for this classic dessert, and every I've looked at uses chocolate. Since my wife is allergic to chocolate, even to the smell of chocolate, I’m unable to cook with it. And so I took the lack of any recipes that weren’t chocolate as a personal challenge to create one, and a low-fat one at that. I decided on Apricot Molten Lava Cake with Lemon Glaze.

This was not done without a bit of trepidation. It’s one thing to put your own twist on an established food concept; it’s quite another to want to do something that’s unheard of. Jerry Seinfeld once said, “The road less traveled is usually less traveled for a reason,” and I’ve found there’s a lot of truth in that. (An earlier ill-advised attempt at another chocolate work-around - rice-krispy treats coated with butterscotch - comes to mind as just one example of what Mr. Seinfeld was referring to.) Still, the lava cake challenge was alluring, and somehow I knew it would work, and that adding the lemon glaze would give a nice contrast to the natural sweetness of the cake. I’m proud to report the delicious dessert below.

The ingredients, and the method for making the batter, are simple. (In overview, you’ll see that there are certain key substitutions for the usual lava-cake ingredients involved: apricot preserves instead of chocolate; fat-free Greek yogurt for egg-yolks; egg-substitute eggs for regular eggs; and butter substitute for butter.) The trick to making any lava cake work – moist cake on the outside; hot, tasty liquid filling on the inside – is in the baking time. Since this will vary somewhat from oven to oven, there’s a chance you may overcook these the first time, getting a nice, moist cake that tastes great but that is not liquid in the middle. Don’t be discouraged; eat them anyway and just remember to bake them a little less next time. (Remember, though, try to resist the temptation to eat them all. These are low-fat, not low-calorie.)

This recipe makes 6 large-muffin-size servings.

While preheating your oven to 425 degrees, melt 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter substitute, and use it to grease 6 ramekins or large muffin tins, then coat each with granulated sugar.

In a double boiler, melt 6 ounces of apricot preserves and 8 tablespoons of butter substitute, stirring gently and frequently. When they are melted and smooth, gradually stir in ½ cup of all-purpose flour, ¼ cup fat-free Greek yogurt, and 1-1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. When the mixture is combined and smooth set it aside.

In a bowl, use a hand-mixer to beat together 3 egg-substitute eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until they are thick, about five minutes. Once that’s done, gently whisk the preserves mixture into the beaten egg mixture until they for a well-mixed batter.

Pour the batter into the ramekins or large size muffin tin. (The batter doesn’t rise much so you can fill them nearly to the top.) Bake them for 10 – 14 minutes (depending on your oven), turning half-way, until the tops are firm and the edges are just starting to brown. The first time you make these, you’ll want to be sure you keep an eye on them in the oven so that the inside of the cake stays liquid. As with any molten lava cake, the bake time is critical.

After removing the cakes from the oven, let them rest in the ramekins or muffin tin for 3 – 4 minutes. While the cakes are resting, combine 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to form a glaze.

After the cakes have rested, run a butter knife around the edges of the ramekins or muffin tins to loosen them, and turn them out, as in the photo at right. Drizzle the tops and sides with glaze, and serve while warm.

I hope you enjoy this special treat. If you prefer a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, just send me your e-mail address (if I don’t have it already) and it will be done!

(You can also find this and many other yummy desserts at, a great forum for all things sweet!)

See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)