Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Recipes Supreme

The pollen count is in full swing, the sun hangs a little longer in the sky and the temperatures are climbing everyday. Easter is right around the corner and spring is here to stay. Like so many others, it's my favorite time of year. Little bursts of color cover nearly every inch of the outdoors and I'm close to breathless waiting for my first hummingbird to visit the feeder.
Cooking in spring is meant to be easy. God's already given us the freshest, best ingredients that have waited all winter to show off. Get to kitchen and usher in all the flavor of the season.

Little Beet Salad

Serves 4

 If you can’t find small beets, cut larger ones into 1-inch pieces. Although harder to find than the typical red, look for beets that are different colors, like white or yellow. Choose the beets with the greens attached.

3/4 pound small beets (about the size of a golf ball)
1 cup beet greens
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups mixed lettuce leaves

Remove the tops from the beets and peel the beets. Cut each beet into 4 wedges. Steam in a steamer basket for 18 minutes, or until fork-tender.
Meanwhile, choose 1 cup of the smallest of the beet greens, stack the leaves, and slice into ribbons. Set aside.
Whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard, ginger, lemon juice, and salt. While whisking, slowly pour the olive oil into the vinegar mixture.
Combine the lettuce and sliced beet greens and arrange on a small platter. Toss the warm steamed beets with about half the dressing in a small mixing bowl. Pour the beets over the lettuce. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Jalapeño Deviled Eggs

Makes 24

12 large eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cover the eggs with about 1 inch of cold water in a large saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, turn the heat off and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Submerge the eggs under cold water. Peel the eggs while holding them in running cold water. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise.
Remove the yolks from the eggs and place in a medium mixing bowl. Using a whisk, combine the yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, peppers, and salt.
Carefully spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. 

Pecan-Crusted Racks of Lamb

Serves 6

2 (1 1/2-pound) racks of lamb, frenched
1/2 cup pecan halves
2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh herbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450˚F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. 
Place the racks of lamb on the prepared baking sheet. The racks should be lying down with the bones curving toward the bottom of the pan. 
Finely chop the pecans, mint leaves, and herbs. Place the pecans and minced herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Stir in the olive oil. 
Using half of the herb mixture for each rack, spread the mixture on top of the racks. Pat the herb mixture gently so as to coat the entire top side. 
Bake at 450˚F for 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 130˚F for medium- rare. Let the lamb rest  at least 5 minutes before carving. To carve, slice between each bone.

Copyright © 2012 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved.  
Recipes from Quick-Fix Southern by Rebecca Lang, Andrews McMeel 2011

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cooking with Lodge Cast Iron

Never ever, not in a million years, trust a Southern cook that doesn’t own a cast iron skillet. With qualities that don’t come easy, cast iron cookware is literally a must-have for even the most novice of cooks. No other cookware does what cast iron can do. Naturally nonstick, ready for a killer sear at all times, cast iron is comfortably at home both on the stovetop and the oven.
It’s not often that I look forward to the specific date a cookbook is released. The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook had me checking my calendar and nearly marking off the days like a schoolgirl waiting for summer vacation. The cast iron skillet is the one piece of equipment that bonds all Southern cooks together. We all have one (in my case, several) and most of us list it near the top of our most treasured possessions. Lodge Manufacturing has been supplying cooks with cast iron for over four generations.
Most people cook just a few recipes in their cast iron and are missing out on so much of the fun. Now, thanks to this companion for the trusted cookware, the possibilities are endless. Cooking without Lodge is as silly as spending a Sunday morning on the back pew in a church with no preacher.
Pimento Cheese Panini Sandwich

Nothing is simpler to make for a quick dinner than a delicious sandwich served with a salad or a bowl of soup. This recipe from Gourmet Gadget Gal blogger Jane Gaither twists together two classic southern sandwiches, the pimento cheese and the BLT, and presses them into an oozy melt sure to please your family. If you don’t own a panini press, you can always use a smaller preheated cast iron skillet to press the sandwich down. This recipe makes enough pimento cheese for eight sandwiches but it will keep in your refrigerator for two weeks.

Makes 1 sandwich

Pimento Cheese Spread:
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
One 4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
A few grinds of black pepper
6 tablespoons mayonnaise (Jane likes to use Dukes)

2 slices (1/3-inch-thick) bread cut from a dense loaf
Softened butter
2 strips thick-sliced bacon (Jane uses Benton’s from Vonore, Tennessee), cooked until crisp
1 ripe tomato, sliced

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the Pimento Cheese Spread. 
2. Butter each slice of bread on one side.
3. Heat a 12-inch Lodge Grill Pan and Panini Press over medium-high heat.
4. Place 1 slice of bread, butter side down, on the hot grill pan. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the Pimento Cheese Spread onto the bread and spread it to the edges. Add the bacon and sliced tomato, then the second slice of bread with the butter side facing up.
4. Take the hot panini press and place it on top of the bread for 2 minutes, pressing gently to flatten the sandwich.
5. Remove the press, then remove the sandwich to a plate. Enjoy!

Vidalia Cornbread

Vidalia onions grow only in south Georgia and are available from late April until mid-September. They can be found in most grocery stores during these months. Carolyn Gonce LeRoy has had this recipe for over forty years and makes it often.

Serves 8

2 cups white self-rising cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups finely chopped Vidalia onions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, milk, oil, and egg until well blended (the batter will be thin). Stir in the onions, mixing well.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Recipes and images courtesy of The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2012)
Copyright © 2012 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC. All rights reserved. 

I was supplied a free review copy of The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook from Lodge Manufacturing.