Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gipper Sipper

Yesterday (3/30) in 1981 President Ronald Reagan survived a gunshot attack by deranged drifter John Hinkley.  President Reagan's favorite cocktail was the Orange Blossom, made with Gin, Sweet Vermouth and Orange Juice.  Remember how he told Nancy, "I forgot to duck," when she joined him at the hospital?

Gipper Sipper
Makes 2 cocktails

Survival made updated orange cocktail in honor of Ronnie.

2 oz. Grand Marnier
2 oz. Orange Juice
2 oz. Vodka
8 oz. chilled champagne

Mix together Grand Marnier, orange juice and vodka.  Divide into 2 champagne flutes.

Top with champagne.

For a traditional Orange Blossom, combine equal amounts of gin, sweet vermouth and orange juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.  Shake 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled martini glass.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Potential VP Applicant Pepper & Egg Sandwiches

Putting Marco Rubio on the ticket is widely seen as one of Romney's few existing plausible options for closing the GOP's favorability gap among Latino voters.

Potential VP Applicant Pepper & Egg Sandwiches
Makes 6 servings

This could potentially be your favorite sandwich.

1 thin French or Italian baguette (8 oz.), split
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs
3 Tbsp. milk
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup mild giardiniera, drained
1-1/2 cups lightly packed arugula leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine olive oil and garlic.  Brush cut sides of bread with 3 Tbsp. mixture.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp and golden brown on edges.

Mix together eggs, milk, roasted peppers and giardiniera.

Heat remaining oil and garlic in large nonstick skillet.  Add egg mixture; cook over medium heat 2 min.  Sprinkle with arugula and add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 2 min. or until set, stirring occasionally.

Fill prepared bread with egg mixture.  Cut evenly into 6 sandwiches and serve immediately.

Substitute 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, for red pepper that is roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Excessive Gas (Prices) Cowboy Beans

I learned a few things about what really drives the price of gas.

Excessive Gas (Prices) Cowboy Beans
Makes 8 servings

The price?  Social inconvenience...but worth it!

1 lb. pinto beans
4 oz. chorizo
6 slices bacon
1 cup chopped white onion
8 dried arbol chilies
1/2 cup boiling water
1 qt. chicken stock
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard

Chopped white onion Chopped cilantro 
Crumbled queso fresco

Soak beans overnight (see note).  Drain and rinse.

Cook chorizo and bacon in large skillet until about 2 Tbsp. fat is rendered.  Add onion; cook and stir until chorizo and bacon are cooked and onion is tender (bacon will not become crisp).  Place mixture in mesh strainer and press down with back of spoon to drain.

Pour boiling water over chilies and soak 15 min. Place chilies and water in blender and puree.

Add beans to sauce pot with chorizo mixture, chilies, stock, tomatoes, brown sugar and mustard.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until beans are tender and sauce is slightly thickened.  Add salt if desired.

Serve beans in shallow bowls, passing onions, cilantro and queso fresco. 

To soak beans quickly, cover with 2-inches water and bring to a boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour.  Drain and proceed as directed.

One large white onion will provide enough onion for both the recipe and the topping.

These flavorful beans, also known as frijoles charros, are great to serve at a barbecue with grilled chicken or ribs.  You can double the recipe and serve in a slow cooker on the warm or low setting.

Product endorsement:  
I prefer Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Riveting Mandate Debate Risotto

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding whether or not the health care mandate is constitutional.  Who's winning the debate, liberals or conservatives?

Riveting Mandate Debate Risotto
Makes 6 servings

Your taste buds will be defenseless!

2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
½ cup finely chopped onion
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
2 cups arborio rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken stock + 1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat oven to 400°F.  Toss tomatoes gently with 1 Tbsp. olive oil on baking sheet.  Spread into single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until soft; set aside.  

Meanwhile, heat stock and water in small sauce pot.  In medium to large sauce pot, sauté onion in remaining olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter 2 minutes.  Add rice, cooking and stirring until grains glisten, about 1 minute.  Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.  

Stir in 1 c. hot stock and cook at medium simmer until stock is absorbed, stirring constantly.  Repeat, adding ½ cup of stock at a time until rice is tender but firm and consistency is creamy. Stir in wine with last addition of broth.

Stir in remaining butter, goat cheese and Parmesan Cheese.  Add tomatoes and basil; stir just until heated through.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper for a little flavor kick.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obama Cares Poached Pears

“You want to call it Obamacare — that’s okay, because I do care.”

Obama Cares Poached Pears
Makes 4 servings

You may care to serve these often...tasty, tender and good for you, too!

2 cups white wine
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
8 fresh ginger slices
8 whole cloves
1/2 lemon, cut into 2 pieces

Heat wine, water and sugar in large sauce pot until sugar is dissolved.  Add ginger, cloves and lemon.

Add pears; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until pears are just tender, about 25 minutes. 

Remove pears with slotted spoon; cover and set aside. Strain ginger, cloves and lemon from cooking liquid; discard.  Return liquid to sauce pot and bring to boil, then cook on medium-high heat until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.  Pour into small serving vessel and refrigerate 15 minutes to quickly cool. 

To serve pears, place in shallow bowls and drizzle a bit of the reduced cooking liquid over. 

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

To core pears, cut in half after peeling.  Use a mellon baller to remove centers from pears.

Make ahead of time and store in refrigerator in a covered container with the reduced cooking liquid.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Southern Boost Beignet 

Rick Santorum trounced Mitt Romney in Louisiana, and with all due respect, I made beignet in his honor.  In April, 300+ delegates are at stake, mostly in the northeast (exception being Wisconsin), where there are fewer voters who describe themselves as very conservative or evangelical...and more who make more than $200K a year.  And so it goes...

Southern Boost Beignet
Makes 50 beignet

A traditional New Orleans doughnut, loved by conservatives and very conservatives.

3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening 
1-1/2 tsp. yeast
1 egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3-1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt 
1/4 cup shortening
Hot oil for frying
1 to 1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar for dusting beignet

Mix water, sugar and shortening until shortening is melted.  Stir in yeast; proof 5 minutes.  Whisk in egg and evaporated milk.
Add flour and salt to bowl of food processor; pulse to combine.  Pour in yeast mixture and run 1 minute (dough will form a ball and spin around bowl).
Remove dough from food processor and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 30 seconds. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Add dough to prepared bowl and cover with towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours.
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or saucepot (350-360°F).
Pour 1 cup confectioners' sugar in paper bag; set aside.
Divide dough in half.  Roll each dough half out to an 8-inch square, 1/4-inch thick, and cut into 25 squares. Deep-fry, turning constantly, until golden brown. Remove from oil using slotted spoon to paper towel-lined tray.  Place beignet in paper bag with sugar and shake bag to coat.  Repeat with remaining dough and confectioners sugar.
Serve with strong coffee.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grilled Peanut Butter, Banana & Bacon Sandwich

A tribute to Elvis A. Presley, SS No. 40-86-35-16, who on this day in 1958 reported to the Memphis Draft Board.  He served a couple of years in Germany and received his discharge orders in 1960. Thank you, Elvis, and to all who have served and are currently serving in the U.S. military.

Grilled Peanut Butter, Banana & Bacon Sandwich

A simple reminder that freedom isn't free.  
Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices soft white or wheat sandwich bread
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 banana, split in half lengthwise
2 slices bacon, crisply cooked
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. butter

Cover bread slices evenly with peanut butter; top 1 slice with banana and bacon.  Drizzle with honey and top with second bread slice.  Spread outside of bread with butter.
Cook in skillet on medium heat until sandwich is golden brown on both sides.
This goes down nicely with a glass of ice cold milk.

This is the 50th post on Kitchen Caucus.  Only 226 more posts until the general election on November 6, 2012!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Search-Your-Soul Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Citizens shooting kids on the street?  Really?  Has Florida become Dodge City?

Search-Your-Soul Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Makes 8 servings

This tasty salad is guilty of being delicious, but it will only do you good.

1 cup black-eyed peas, rinsed
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup oil (olive or canola)
2 shallots, chopped
3/4 cup each chopped red and yellow pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced

Soak peas overnight (see note); drain.  Bring peas in medium saucepot with enough water to cover by 2 inches to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes or until tender; drain.

Place jalapeno, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in blender container; pulse until smooth.  With motor running, gradually add oil until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds.

Combine black-eyed peas, shallots, peppers, parsley and garlic; add dressing.  Toss lightly to combine.  Serve on lettuce-lined platter.

To soak peas quickly, cover with 2-inches water and bring to a boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour.  Drain and proceed as directed.

Serve with cornbread.

Substitute 2 cans (15-1/2 oz. each) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained, for 1 cup dried black-eyed peas.  Skip black-eyed peas cooking step.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rich Boy, Po' Boy

Tomorrow is the Louisiana primary, and there's a chance Mitt Romney could win his first Southern state.   Will it be The Big Easy or bon rien for Mitt?  Can the good people of Louisiana overlook Mitt's inability to relate to the common folk?
Rich Boy, Po’ Boy
Makes 6 sandwiches
Po'?  HELL NO!  You'll feel like a bazillion-aire when you eat this!

3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning, divided
2 eggs 
1/3 cup each corn meal and masa harina
1 lb. medium-size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Hot oil for frying
1 (8 oz.) French baguette, cut in half 3/4 through crosswise and then cut lengthwise into 6 equal pieces (see note below)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 Tbsp. Creole mustard (see note below)
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups shredded lettuce
12 pickle slices

In a medium bowl combine flour with 1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning.  In a separate bowl beat eggs with 2 Tbsp. water.  In a third bowl combine remaining Creole seasoning with corn meal and masa harina.

Dredge shrimp in flour mixture.  Dip in egg and then coat with corn meal mixtue.  Fry shrimp in batches in hot oil until just golden brown (about 2 minutes in 350-375°F oil).  Transfer shrimp to paper-towel lined baking sheet and keep warm in 180°F oven until all shrimp have been fried.

Fill each bread piece evenly with mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and shrimp.

Disclaimer alert:  There was no good, fresh French bread available when I shopped to prepare this recipe.  I substituted bolillo rolls.  French bread has to be fresh when you’re making a Po’ Boy.

If you can’t find Creole mustard (Zatarain’s has a good one), you can make your own by combining 1/3 cup Dijon mustard with 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce and a dash of hot sauce.

Look for a good local brew to enjoy with this sandwich.  I've never actually tried the Abita Saint Gleason Imperial Red Ale, but it sounds like a perfect Lenten compliment to this "fish on Friday" meal.  The Abita Amber is another good choice.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bush Push Grilled Chicken Salad

Bush Push Grilled Chicken Salad

This salad doesn't need an endorsement!
Makes 6 servings

1 lb. cheese tortellini, cooked, drained
3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, grilled and chopped (about 3 thighs)
1 each red and green bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan
6 cups arugula

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. each fresh chopped mint, basil and parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. each ground black pepper, cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a medium bowl or large measuring cup.

Combine chicken, peppers, onions, and olives in a very large bowl.  Add pasta, dressing and cheeses; toss lightly.  Serve over arugula.

This is a wonderful salad to serve in spring when there are so many fresh herbs available.  

For some extra flavor, marinate chicken in 2 Tbsp. of the dressing 20 minutes before grilling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

White (First Lady) Sangria

Is America ready for another white first lady?

White (First Lady) Sangria
8 servings, 8 oz. each

You'll love this cocktail, and that doesn't make you a racist.

1/2 cup each freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 oz. orange liqueur (triple sec or Grand Marnier)
2 oz. brandy
1 bottle (1500 ml) white wine (pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay)

Mix together juices, sugar, liqueur and brandy in large pitcher 2 min. or until sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in wine; cover and refrigerate. 
Ann Romney

To serve, fill glasses with ice; add cut-up fruit and sangria.

Callista Gingrich


For cut-up fruit use sliced strawberries and blueberries for a patriotic look, or use oranges, peaches, halved grapes and whatever fruit you happen to have on hand.
Carol Paul

Karen Santorum
This recipe can be increased in any amount for large gatherings.  The flavors are best if you make it 1 or 2 days in advance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Righteous Conviction Raspberry-Nut Bars

On this day in 1965, President Johnson sent federal troops to Alabama to protect Martin Luther King, Jr. and 50,000 others who marched 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to protest the discrimination and intimidation used to prevent Selma's black population from registering to vote.  Later that year in August, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

It's also Spike Lee's birthday.  One of his many thought-provoking films was 1989's Do The Right Thing.

Righteous Conviction Raspberry Nut Bars
24 bar cookies

Do the right thing... try these right away, or else you will be angry and annoyed when these bars are all gone and you didn’t get any!

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, cut up
2 eggs, separated
1 cup seedless raspberry jam or preserves
1 cup toasted slivered almonds

Heat oven to 350°F.  Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine 1/3 cup sugar, flour, butter and egg yolks in medium bowl. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 25 min. or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Spread jam over crust; sprinkle with nuts.

Beat egg whites in small deep bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread meringue over nuts.

Bake 25 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Cut bars into diamond or triangle shapes for a pretty look on your serving platter.

To toast almonds, spread in single layer on baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly toasted (do this while you're making the dough for this recipe).

Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Ooh, it's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.  
Radio Raheem, Do The Right Thing

Monday, March 19, 2012

Party Rift Rigatoni

Republican candidates are in Illinois in advance of the GOP primary tomorrow.  If Santorum can win a big northern state, he might have a chance.  The source of the division in the party seems to be primarily religion and money.  Santorum's support comes from folks who describe themselves as very conservative, evangelical Christians, and make less than $100K per year, while Romney's supporters are moderately conservative, not necessarily religious and tend to make more than $100K a year. 

Party Rift Rigatoni

Party?  That means pasta!  No difference of opinions here!

1 lb. rigatoni pasta
4 slices bacon, chopped
 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 can (28 oz.) Italian style diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. each salt, sugar
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
10 basil leaves, chopped

Cook pasta as directed on package.

While pasta is cooking, prepare sauce:  cook bacon in large skillet on medium-high heat; remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. drippings. Add olive oil and onion; cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until tender.  Add garlic and red pepper; cook and stir 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. 

Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Stir in bacon and basil.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce and cheese.  Serve immediately.

Substitute 4 oz. bulk Italian sausage, crumbled, or pancetta, diced, for bacon (use 2 Tbsp. olive oil if using Italian sausage; there will be less than 2 Tbsp. rendered fat).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Show-Me Shortbread

Missouri GOP primary caucus results won't be revealed until JUNE.  Show-Me State?  I think not! 

Show-Me Shortbread
16 cookies
At least you won't have to wait until June to enjoy some delicious cookies.  

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. coarse sanding sugar

Heat oven to 325°F.  

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add combined flour, cornstarch and salt to butter mixture gradually, mixing with gloved hands to a stiff dough (do not overwork).

Roll dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into an 8" square; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Cut into 16 squares and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet using metal spatula. 

Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Substitute almond extract for vanilla extract.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

American as Irish Soda Bread

It's always been a central irony of St. Patrick's Day that Americans do it bigger and better than the Irish.  Americans love St. Patrick's Day, and politicians never miss an opportunity to march in a parade.  In Chicago, they actually dye the river green! 

American as Irish Soda Bread
Makes 16 servings

This quick bread came straight from Ireland, but today we claim it as our own.  It's even good with green beer or a shot of whiskey!

1-1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup boiling water
3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
 2 tsp. caraway seeds 
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 c. sour cream
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a deep-dish pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.

Soak raisins in water 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  

Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients.  Beat in sour cream, eggs and  raisins.  Spoon batter into prepared dish.

Bake 1 hour.

Substitute golden raisins or mixed dried fruit bits for raisins.

Dedicated to the Moore family in Chicago, in memory of Mike, Frank, Mary Agnes and John.