Salade Niçoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

Salade Niçoise | Pinky's Pantry
I’m sick as a dog. I caught that terrible flu that’s been going around. I had a fever of 103° and felt pretty darn miserable. Finally got rid of the flu, but my doctor says I now have bronchitis, not to mention I’m wheezing like an old asthmatic. Sigh….. Anyway, since I’ve been laid up in bed, I thought this would be a good time to catch up on the blog and post some of my recipes that have been sitting in draft form waiting for a little tweaking or something before being published, so don’t be surprised to see several posts come out all at once.

Salade Niçoise (pronounced ni swaz) is one of my all-time favorite salads. I believe it originated in France and my understanding is the original is made with anchovies, but never having been to Nice, I can’t say for sure. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been made with tuna and my family likes it that way so I just keep it up — though personally, I wouldn’t mind anchovies. Hey! I happen to like the little guys! Anyway, classic niçoise salad typically has boiled potatoes, green beans, and niçoise olives, but there again from my readings it seems that boiled veggies are frowned upon in some areas of France. Whatever. I happen to think the boiled potatoes and green beans are the best part of this salad! Anyway, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll love it!

SALADE NIÇOISE

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 12 ozs. boston, bibb, or butter lettuce
  • 16 baby yellow potatoes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 10 ozs. haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cans (5½ oz. each) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup niçoise or Kalamata olives, cut in half
  1. Fill a bowl with ice and water and set it aside. You may have to replenish the ice and/or water as needed.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes and add a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to the ice water bath to stop cooking.
  5. When potatoes are cool, remove from ice water, cut in half, and set aside.
  6. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover eggs by one inch.
  7. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  8. Let cook for 6-7 minutes until eggs are hard boiled.
  9. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
  10. When eggs are cool, remove from ice water, peel, and set aside.
  11. Add fresh water to the saucepan and bring it to a boil again.
  12. Add the green beans and blanch till they’re bright green, about 1 minute.
  13. Remove green beans with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
  14. Once green beans are cool, remove from ice water, and set aside.
  15. Divide the lettuce equally into 4 salad bowls.
  16. Top each with 4 potatoes cut in half, 1/4 of the green beans, 5 tomatoes cut in half, 1 egg cut into 4 wedges, 1/4 of the olives, and half a can of tuna.
  17. Drizzle lemon-thyme dressing over each salad.

LEMON-THYME VINAIGRETTE

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper with a wire whisk until well combined.
  2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.
  3. Dressing will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE:  We like our dressing with a touch of sweetness, but if you want the dressing to be less sweet, feel free to cut the sugar in half or omit it altogether. 

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Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pulled Pork

Hawaiian Pulled Pork | Pinky's Pantry
I was watching The Kitchen on Food TV last week and I saw Katie Lee make this pulled pork recipe. It looked delicious so I decided to try making it for Superbowl Sunday. It was really good. I served it in dinner rolls topped with coleslaw for yummy sliders. I liked it because it was different from the usual barbecue pulled pork. I think this recipe will become a family favorite. I’m definitely going to be making it again!

SLOW COOKER HAWAIIAN PULLED PORK`

  • 5 lbs. boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 can (8 ozs.) crushed pineapple
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  1. In a small bowl, mix the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Rub the mixture all over the pork.
  3. Put the pork in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Shred the pork with 2 forks, removing any large pieces of fat.
  5. Pour the broth into a fat separator or skim off the fat.
  6. In a bowl, whisk 2 cups of the skimmed broth with the crushed pineapple, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, and vinegar.
  7. Put the pork back in the slow cooker and stir in the sauce.
  8. Cook on low for 1 more hour.
  9. Serve the pulled pork on Hawaiian buns topped with coleslaw.

[Adapted from Food TV]

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur | Pinky's Pantry
I found out that today is National Sandwich Day. Who knew we had a day dedicated to sandwiches? I love sandwiches. They’re the easiest thing to pack for lunch, they’re adorable cut into dainty little shapes for tea, and our family road trips just wouldn’t be the same without a cooler of sandwiches and drinks in the trunk of the car.

It’s commonly believed that the sandwich was the invention of John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England. I can’t vouch for the truth of that, but the story goes that Lord Sandwich was a notorious gambler. They say he spent long hours at the gaming tables and rather than get up to eat, he would ask the servants to bring him some sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could hold the food in one hand and keep his cards in the other. His friends embraced the custom and when they got hungry, they would ask for “the same as Sandwich” and that’s how the sandwich got its auspicious beginnings.

Anyway, in deference to National Sandwich Day, I decided to make Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight. Croque Monsieur is typical French bistro fare. Fancy as its name is, it’s basically just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce and more cheese. It’s delicious served all hot and melty with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. If you top a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg, you’ll have what’s called a Croque Madame. But that’s for another post.

CROQUE MONSIEUR
(Makes 6 sandwiches)

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 12 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • room temperature butter for spreading on the bread slices
  • 1 jar dijon mustard
  • 6 ozs. thinly sliced Black Forest ham or Virginia ham
  • 8-10 ozs. Gruyère cheese (can substitute Emmental, Comté, or Swiss cheese)
  1. Slice enough Gruyere to make 6 sandwiches (6 or 7 ozs.) and grate the rest to use for topping. Set cheese aside.
  2. Make béchamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  3. Add flour, whisking until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk in milk, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Set béchamel aside and preheat broiler to high. You’ll broil the sandwiches later.
  8. Butter one side of all 12 slices of bread.
  9. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove.
  10. Place 3 of the bread slices, butter side down, in the skillet.
  11. Brush some mustard on top of each slice of bread in the skillet.
  12. Top each with a slice of ham and a slice of Gruyère.
  13. Cover sandwiches with 3 slices of bread, butter side up.
  14. Cook until deep golden brown, then carefully flip over and cook other side.
  15. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining bread.
  16. Spoon béchamel sauce over each sandwich.
  17. Sprinkle a little grated Gruyère over béchamel.
  18. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and light brown.
  19. Serve hot.

Chili con Spam

Spam con Chili | Pinky's Pantry
At work a couple of weeks ago, two of my friends and I were reminiscing about Spam. Verna is Hawaiian-Filipino and Kaileigh is Mexican-Filipino. Besides having Filipino blood in common, we all share a love of Spam. Anyway, Kaileigh was telling us about this really easy dish she makes called Chili con Spam and she shared her recipe with us.

Fast forward to today. School is officially over and 3 of my kids came home this morning. I decided to fix a late breakfast to feed everyone…. bacon, eggs, hash browns…. and then I thought it would be a perfect time to try the Chili con Spam recipe. I searched everywhere but couldn’t remember where I saved it! I decided to google it, but only ONE recipe for Chili con Spam came up. It was a recipe submitted by a lady in Guam named Jane Certeza who apparently took 2nd Place for it at The Great Spam Cook-Off Island Style. I looked at it but it had way more ingredients than I remembered Kaileigh’s recipe having so it couldn’t be the same one.

I decided to text Kaileigh and ask her for her recipe again which she promptly sent off to me. Ah…. that was the one I remembered! Super easy with just 4 ingredients. But then another obstacle came along. Kaileigh’s recipe called for yellow wax chilies which I didn’t have. Great. I didn’t want to drive all the way down the hill just for chilies and none of the kids did either. So with wails of, “But I just drove hours to get here, Mama. You want me to drive some more?!?” ringing in my ears, I turned back to the Guamanian recipe which I happened to have all the ingredients for in my pantry.

Guess I’ll have to save Kaileigh’s Chili con Spam for next time. Sigh……. By the way, the Guamanian Chili con Spam was a hit. Everyone loved it and it quickly disappeared.

CHILI CON SPAM

  • 1 can (12 oz.) spam, cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. cumin (I only used 1 Tbsp.)
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  1. In skillet, fry spam until light brown on all sides.
  2. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are softened.
  3. Stir in stewed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and sugar.
  4. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add tomato sauce and kidney beans.
  6. Simmer over low heat for an additional 10 minutes or so.

Cuban Picadillo

Cuban Picadillo | Pinky's Pantry
Growing up, my Mom always made us Picadillo, but it was a soup. It had ground beef and potatoes swimming in a tasty broth and it was absolutely delicious. So the first time I went to a Cuban restaurant and saw Picadillo on the menu, I was very surprised to learn that their version was not a soup at all! It was completely different, but equally delicious. Served with white rice, black beans, tostones (fried plaintains) and mojo (garlic sauce), it was different and to die for. I asked a couple of my Cuban friends at work what spices go into Picadillo and was surprised to learn that both of them put cumin and cinnamon in it! Well, cumin wasn’t surprising, but I only ever use cinnamon in sweet stuff like pies and desserts. So… here’s my attempt to recreate the Picadillo I had at the Cuban restaurant. I think it turned out pretty darn good!

CUBAN PICADILLO

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp. salt (add more or less, to your taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and cut in cubes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over medium high heat.
  2. Saute onions and garlic for about 2 minutes, then add ground beef.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until beef is browned through.
  4. Stir in green bell pepper, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, and bay leaf.
  5. Lower heat and let simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in olives and raisins and let simmer for another 8-10 minutes more.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi | Pinky's Pantry
Mango Lassi is a popular drink in India where the climate is frequently sweltering. The yogurt-based drink makes a great treat on a hot day and is perfect for cooling down those spicy Indian curries. My understanding is that traditional lassi is actually a savory drink, made by blending plain yogurt with water, salt, and spices like cumin or mint. I’ve only ever had sweet lassi which is made by blending yogurt with sugar, fruit, and sometimes rosewater. My favorite is mango lassi, though you could use other fruit if you like.

Mango Lassi is so refreshing and addictive. It’s also very easy to make. The hardest part is getting your hands on some good mangoes like the ones from the Philippines. They’re thin-skinned and juicy and very sweet, unlike the fibrous ones that come from South America. Alphonso mangoes are a good choice and can be found more easily in the U.S., especially in Asian food stores.

MANGO LASSI

  • 2 cups mango puree (3 to 5 mangoes, depending on how big they are)
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt – it’s too thick)
  • ¼ cup sugar (omit if mangoes are very sweet)
  • pinch of cardamom powder
  • mint leaves and extra mango cut into cubes, for garnish (optional)
  1. Peel mango and cut into pieces.
  2. Put mango in blender and puree until smooth.
  3. Add ice cubes, yogurt, sugar, and pinch of cardamom, and blend all together well.
  4. If it seems too thick to drink, add a little water to thin it out to the consistency you want.
  5. Garnish with a mint leaf and 2 or 3 little cubes of mango, if desired.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mixed Berry Sauce

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta | Pinky's Pantry
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that’s become very popular all over the United States. It’s a custard-like confection made of cream sweetened with sugar and thickened with gelatin. Though it’s made with rich cream, it’s surprisingly light, and the ease of making it belies how fancy it looks.

To serve, I like to loosen the panna cottas from the ramekins and turn them out onto dessert plates, then pour some sauce carefully around each panna cotta. You could also just pour the sauce on top of the panna cottas in their ramekins and serve them that way. Mint leaves and fresh raspberries make a pretty garnish.

VANILLA BEAN PANNA COTTA WITH MIXED BERRY SAUCE

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (can substitute 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
  1. In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water; set aside.
  2. Place whipping cream, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  5. Pick out and discard the vanilla bean pod.
  6. Add gelatin to hot cream mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves completely.
  7. Pour into 6 lightly oiled 1/2-cup ramekins or other small cylindrical molds and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

MIXED BERRY SAUCE

  • 1 bag (10 ozs.) frozen mixed berries, thawed (can substitute fresh berries)
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (taste and add more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2 Tbsp. brandy
  1. Combine berries and sugar in bowl of a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend until berries are completely crushed.
  3. Pour through a strainer into a bowl, pushing mixture back and forth with a rubber spatula. Discard the solids.
  4. Stir the brandy into the sauce.

Prajitura Desteapta (Romanian “Smart Cake”)

Prajitura Desteapta | Pinky's Pantry
Prajitura Desteapta. Nope, it’s not a disease or some Amazonian jungle plant. It’s actually a Romanian custard cake. I had to bring dessert to my sister Helen’s house for dinner last night so I went searching through my recipe box for something to make. I wanted to bring something different. Maybe make something I hadn’t made in a long time. Lo and behold, I came across this recipe that was given to me years ago by my friend, Lyudmila.

According to Lyudmila, “Prajitura Desteapta” means “Smart Cake.” I guess they call it that because it’s super easy to make which is pretty smart in my book. The ingredients are all things you usually have in your fridge and pantry. While it’s baking, the cake separates into three layers – a dense, fudge-like layer on the bottom, a softer custardy layer in the middle, and a thin spongy layer on top. Lyudmila’s original recipe gave the ingredients in metric measurements. I’ve noted the American equivalents for those who want them. By the way, in America, this cake is called “Magic Cake” and it’s easy to understand why.

PRAJITURA DESTEAPTA (SMART CAKE)

  • 250 gm butter or margarine (1 cup)
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 300 gm sugar (1½ cups)
  • 2 packets vanilla sugar (2 tsp. vanilla extract)
  • 225 gm flour (2 cups)
  • 1 liter warm milk (4 cups)
  • powdered sugar, for dusting on top
  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish.
  2. Melt butter in microwave and set aside to cool.
  3. In an extra large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together on high speed until very light and fluffy. Don’t undermix! This step takes about 5 minutes. You want the egg yolks to be a very pale, almost whitish-yellow color.
  4. Drizzle in the melted butter and vanilla, continuing to beat until well incorporated.
  5. Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in the sifted flour, beating until flour is well combined. Don’t worry if the batter seems lumpy.
  6. Raise speed to medium and slowly add the milk, beating until well blended. Batter will be very thin and watery.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently stir the beaten egg whites into the batter with a wooden spoon. Don’t overmix! You don’t want the egg whites to disappear completely into the batter. You want to stir them just a few times leaving lots of clumps and bits of egg white unincorporated and floating on top.
  9. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 50-70 minutes. Oven temps vary so check the cake at 50 minutes by shaking the pan gently. You want the center to have a little jiggle when shaken, but if it’s too jiggly, bake the cake some more, checking every 5 minutes or so, until done. If the top seems to be browning too much, tent a piece of foil over your cake pan.
  10. Cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill.
  11. Once cake is chilled, sprinkle top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.

NOTES:

  • You can easily cut this recipe in half to make a smaller cake. Use an 8x8x2-inch square pan. You’ll also have to adjust the baking time and start checking your cake after 40 minutes.
  • It’s best if your eggs are at room temperature. Put them out on your counter at least half an hour before you begin baking.
  • The butter should be melted but not hot. Make sure to cool it to room
    temperature before using.
  • Vanilla sugar is a very popular baking ingredient in Europe. Dr. Oetker is a very
    well-known brand, but unfortunately, it’s not easy to find in the U.S. However, you
    can easily substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla sugar in this recipe.

Aebleskiver (or Ebelskiver)

Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
Aebleskiver (pronounced ey-bluh-skee-wuh) are puffy little sphere-shaped Danish pancakes. The name literally means “apple slices” in Denmark where they were traditionally filled with pieces of apple or applesauce. Since the 1600’s, aebleskiver has historically been served in Denmark at Christmas time accompanied by glogg or mulled wine. Nowadays you can find them pretty much year round. They’re often made plain, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with jam. You also find them filled with a variety of sweet or savory fillings like chocolate, peanut butter, cookie butter, fruit preserves, fresh fruit like blueberries or raspberries, cheese, bacon, or sausage.

They’re cooked over the stove in an aebleskiver pan which looks like a deep frying pan with several round wells in it. You can easily find cast iron aebleskiver pans on the market or non-stick cast aluminum ones like the one made by Nordicware (which is the kind I have). The trick to making aebleskiver is to be patient. Take your time turning the little pancakes one by one in quarter increments so you end up with a perfect little round ball. It takes some patience, but with practice you’ll have the hang of it in no time! Have fun!

AEBLESKIVER

[Makes about 30 aebleskiver]

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  1. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, and melted butter.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar, whisking until smooth.
  4. Gently fold in beaten egg whites, taking care not to deflate.
  5. Heat aebleskiver pan over medium heat until hot.
  6. Generously brush each little well in aebleskiver pan with butter. You want a little pool of butter at the bottom.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  7. Pour batter into each cup, filling to just below the top. They’ll puff up a little as they start cooking.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  8. Cook till they start to get bubbly around the edges.
  9. Carefully lift and turn a quarter turn using aebleskiver turners, bamboo skewers, chopsticks, knitting needles, or even a fork will do.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  10. After a minute or so, lift and turn a quarter turn again.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  11. Continue cooking, lifting and turning each ball a quarter turn, until completely done. You’ll want to turn the balls a total of 4 to 5 turns each.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  12. After the last turn, let cook a couple of minutes, then keep rotating them in the wells to ensure they cook evenly and don’t burn.
    Aebleskiver | Pinky's Pantry
  13. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  14. Serve with jam or syrup on the side.

NOTE:  If you want to see the traditional way to cook aebleskiver, watch this. It takes a little practice but you can do it!