Mrs. Bentley’s Cooking Class

May 26, 2014

Quince de Mayo! OLE!

Cooking class #13

Grilling Corn Tortillas

I conducted my first cooking class at the home of a dear friend.  She asked that I put together a class for her networking group.  Since the class was scheduled for the 15th of May, I called it Quince de Mayo!  and came up with a Mexican menu.  Here’s what we made:

  • Corn TortillasCorn Tortilla Chips, Grilled with a Touch of Sea Salt for a No Fat, Crisp and Tasty Dipping Chip.  We laid fresh, uncooked corn tortilla chips on a hot grill and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.  The heat of the grill causes the sea salt to stick to the tortilla.  Using tongs, we peeked at the undersides and when they had nice grill marks, we flipped them.  After just a few minutes, they were nicely charred and we tossed them into a bowl.  We kept grilling them until we had a nice big pile.  We cracked them by hand into approximate quarters.
  • GuacamoleSkinny Guacamole is Lightened Up by adding Roasted Tomatillos to Fresh Avocado – So Fresh and Yummy!  Tomatillos look like green tomatoes.  They come with a lose papery skin that feels like tissue paper.  They are very acidic and have a flavor similar to a lime, but a little more intense.  I discovered that if they are added to guacamole, the guacamole never turns that horrible grayish brown color.  Yeah!  Also, they are fat free and very low in calorie, so they thin down the calories in quacamole.  Yeah again!  Two problems solved!   Everyone loved this new twist on an old favorite!  It was so good, we had to make a second batch.
  • Roasted Tomato Salsa 500Roasted Tomato Salsa, Earthy and Surprisingly Light.  We grilled whole tomatoes for about 10 minutes, until they had nice char marks and the skin was beginning to peel off.  At the same time, we had pablano peppers on the grill.  The grill was set to high.  We grilled the pablano peppers until they were completely black on all sides.  Then, using tongs, we popped them into a zip bag and sealed it up so the pepper would steam.  After about 10 minutes in the bag, the blackened skin on the peppers slips right off.  We slipped them out of their skins over the sink because it can get a little messy.  Then, we cut the tops off the peppers and removed the seeds under running water.  The tomatoes and the peppers went into the food processor along with a few grilled tomatillos we had left over from the guacamole.
  • MoleChickenLegsSmallChicken Seasoned with Mrs. Bentley’s Secret Mole Spice Blend and Baked for an Aromatic Savory Treat!  I taught the participants how easy it is to make this delicious chicken, and it can me made for a crowd just as easily.  We had 30 chicken thighs in the oven while we made the other items on the menus.  Normally, a tray of chicken for a family dinner would cook in about an hour.  For 30 thighs on 4 trays, it took an hour and a half to cook.
  • GreenRiceI modified my basic Green Rice recipe by adding onions, peppers, garlic and cumin to give this dish a Mexican flair.

 

 

  • PannaCotta5My friend had asked that I make everything “healthy”, so instead of making a Mexican flan, I made Panna Cotta, the Italian gelatin based dessert.  This is another basic recipe that can be changed up in so many ways.  It is essentially, milk or cream and gelatin.  You can add any flavoring you like.  You can sweeten it with sugar or Splenda.  I’ve made chocolate, key lime, raspberry and vanilla before.  Look at the basic recipe and then use your imagination.
  • margarita2Everyone really enjoyed the Skinny Margaritas we made!  We made them with fresh lime juice, orange juice, tequila and the secret ingredient – Diet Mountain Dew!  I’m not kidding, we used Diet Mountain Dew and they were incredible.

 

Cooking class #1a

Participants Watching Intently As Salsa Is Being Made

Cooking Class #8a

Enjoying Skinny Margaritas!

PennySqueezingLimes

Our Hostess Squeezing More Limes Than She Has Ever Squeezed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tamales!

September 11, 2011

Aromatic Mole Rubbed Chicken Legs

I pulled out an old favorite cookbook and immersed myself in southwestern cuisine.  The book is, Cayote Cafe by Chef Mark Miller.   When I aquired this book, twenty some odd years ago, it was so edgy I didn’t know what most of the ingredients were, let alone where to get them.  For example, the book includes recipes for tomatillo salsa, ancho chile rubbed rabbit, poblano pesto and grilled nopales (cactus leaves).  Sounds pretty ordinary for these days, right?

Revisiting the book inspired me to create a mole rub for meat.  I mixed together; Hershey’s dark cocoa powder (unsweetened), instant espresso powder, cumin, ancho chile powder, dried oregano, salt and a bit of raw sugar.  I rubbed it on some skinless chicken legs and cooked them for my husband, David and I.  Wow!  We were both, completely blown away by these chicken legs!  The coffee acted as a meat tenderizer, the sugar created a crusty coating that sealed in all the juices and the chocolate and spices added flavor and aromas that knocked us over. I knew I had to make these chicken legs for company.

Tamales Tied With Corn Husk Ribbons

I was also inspired by a variety of tamale recipes in the cook book.  I had never made tamales before.  I think I had only eaten them once or twice before, but none the less, I ventured forth on a tamale quest.  There is a lot involved in making tamales and a variety of methods, wrappers and fillings.

In addition to the recipes in the Cayote Cafe cook book, I searched through three other Mexican cook books I have.  (I know what you’re thinking.  “Why does she have so many Mexican cook books?”  Ha!  Are you kidding me?  Name a cuisine and ask me if I have a book on it.)

I was a little frustrated with what I found on tamale making.  None of the books were very clear on the tamale process from start to finish.  I watched “you-tube” videos on tamale making and they weren’t very clear either.  The best instructions I found were in the Cayote Cafe book, so with a few minor adjustments, I forged ahead.

Tamales Stacked In The Steamer

You can’t make just a few tamales.  You have to make twenty or thirty at a time because you need to pack them, vertically in a steamer, and if the steamer isn’t packed full, the tamales fall over and the filling runs out.  So my next quandary was, if I make all these tamales, who can I get to eat them all?

I decided to add my newly created mole chicken legs to my tamale menu and I invited my friend Becky and her husband, Ed over for dinner.  Perfect!  They are both good sports about trying new things.  Becky brought the wine and an apple pie for dessert. Ed always brings good conversation with a dash of hilarity, always a great thing to have at a dinner party.

Plum Tomatoes Roasted With Cumin and Lime Juice

I paired the chicken and tamales with a batch of plum tomatoes roasted with cumin and a spritz of lime juice.  This simple side dish balanced the plate with freshness, flavor and color.   I adapted a recipe from Ina Garten that I have made often.  She slices fresh plum tomatoes and places them on a cookie sheet.  She drizzles them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkles them with salt and a bit of sugar to bring out the fresh tomato flavor.  She roasts them in a hot oven for 25 minutes.  They are super yummy and a synch to make.  I changed up her recipe to accommodate my Mexican menu.  Instead of using balsamic vinegar, I used fresh lime juice and I added a sprinkle of cumin.  The changes turned out to be subtle, but perfect for my menu.

The Menu:


Jamaican Jerk For Cousin Jane

June 12, 2011

My husband’s cousin Jane flew in from New York for a sunny break from the miserable weather up north.  She  came in with David’s sister, Mary Anne, who lives in Connecticut.  Mary Anne and Jane are like sisters.  They grew up together and get together often as adults.  My regular readers know I like to put on the Florida/Tropical/Caribbean dog when the yankees come to visit.  I like to make sure my guests know they are not in “Kansas” anymore.

Jerk Chicken On The Grill, Whole Split Chicken Plus Extra Legs

So, in that vein I came up with the following menu for Mary Anne and Jane’s visit:

I was doing my no-carb thing, so everything was made with no or very little carbs.  For the coconut rice, I used my “mock coconut rice”  recipe.  It is actually made out of fresh cauliflower that is riced in the food processor.  Most people can not tell the difference and are truly amazed when I tell them it is not rice.  Jane was no different, she was shocked!

Apparently Jane does not eat vegetables because she hates them.  I wasn’t aware of this, so I felt pretty pleased when she absolutely loved my mock rice and – shock of all shocks –  she had seconds on the creamy Jamaican greens!

Callaloo - Jamaican Greens With Smoked Turkey and Coconut Milk

I was wanting to stick as close as possible to my Jamaican theme, so I used Jamaican Callaloo, a hearty and sturdy green native to Jamaica.  You can easily substitute Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Kale or whatever you normally like.   The method is to boil the greens with a smoked turkey wing, leg or neck, whichever you can find.  The salty smoked meat imparts a fabulous flavor to the greens.  Callaloo takes a long time to get tender, so I boiled it for about an hour.  I drained it, and drizzled a little coconut milk over it and tossed in some of the turkey meat that I pulled off the bone.  It was really delicious.  Jane proved it!

Mock Coconut Rice Made With Cauliflower

The mock coconut rice is a synch to make if you have a food processor.  I put the ricing blade on and pushed the cauliflower through it to get the small, rice-like pieces.  I pulled out the bigger pieces and set aside for another use.  It cooks really fast, so I brought some chicken stock with some coconut milk to a boil and added the cauliflower.  I only cooked it for about seven minutes.  I drained it, added my secret ingredient, a couple of drops of coconut extract.  I seasoned it with salt and onion powder.  I added chopped green onion and fresh cilantro, reserving some of both for garnish.  I swear, you will fool your guests and yourself with this clever lo-carb side dish!

I found the dried hibscus flower buds at a large Jamaican market in the Fort Lauderdale area called Broward Meat And Fish Company.   It is an amazing market!  The first time I went in, I was so overwhelmed I left without buying anything.  Everything was so exotic, so foreign to me, I didn’t know where to start.  But I went back, and now I go all the time.  They have tons of specialty food items from Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, as well as other places.

Refreshing Jamaican Cocktail

They have a huge fresh seafood counter, another huge meat counter and a fabulous prepared food counter.  You can buy goat meat or oxtails along with the usual chicken, beef or pork.  They sell fish I’ve never even heard of!  I found a package of what I thought was dried morel mushrooms.  When I got them home, I realized the package said, Dried Sorrel – oops!  It turns out dried sorrel is Jamaican hibiscus flower buds.   So, I did a little research and came up with a very refreshing cocktail made with Hibiscus/Sorrel flower tea and ginger ale.  I used Splenda to sweeten the tea and sugar-free ginger ale, but you could use sugar if you like.  I offered the cocktail “virgin” or “slutty”, as I am want to do.  The “slutty” version had a bit of Jamaican rum added – yummy!  As I recall, we were all “slutty” that evening.

Key Lime Panna Cotta

When I’m doing the no-carb thing at my house, everyone has to do the no-carb thing.  So, for dessert I made a sugar free panna cotta and flavored and colored it with key lime extract.  It was very pretty and everyone loved it.

It was great to see Jane and Mary Anne and I hope I may have inspired Jane to eat a vegetable once in a while!  Come back soon, gals!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Hot Off The Grill


Up With People Kids In Town

April 20, 2011

My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting four young men from the international traveling troupe, “Up With People”, while they were performing in Fort Lauderdale.  The boys stayed with us for eight days.  Some folks might think the task of feeding four hungry young men every day for eight days overwhelming, but me?  I was in heaven!

We had two boys from Japan; Hiroaki and Yasuhiro and two boys from Mexico; Packo and Sergio.  All spoke beautiful English, so communicating was no trouble at all.  Each morning David took them into Fort Lauderdale where they did community service work or rehearsed.  Each evening, David picked them up and they arrived at our house tired and hungry.  What a boon for me!  I planned my menu trying to choose things that were universally likable, taking special consideration for the “clean” food style of Japan.

Here is what I served each day:

Saturday

  • Poached Salmon with Fresh Dill and Lemon
  • Steamed Green Beans with Butter
  • Roasted Multi-Colored New Potatoes
  • Key-Lime Pie

Poached Salmon with Fresh Dill and Lemon

Mixed Roasted New Potatoes

Sunday

Puerto Rican Pork Roast

Coconut Rice

Monday

  • Grilled Chicken Thighs with Crispy Skin
  • Bow Tie Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Insalata Caprese Salad
  • Roasted Summer Squashes
  • Ice Cream Sundaes

Insalata Caprese

Grilled Chicken with Crispy Skin

Tuesday

  • Salmon Burgers
  • Big-Boy Mac and Cheese
  • Tossed Green Salad
  • Warm Brownies with Chocolate Sauce

Big-Boy Mac N Cheese

Wednesday

  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mango Salsa
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Thursday

  • The boys had a concert at the Bank Atlantic Center during a Florida Panthers Hockey game, so they ate dinner on the road.

Friday

  • Sister Patti’s Grilled Ribeye Steaks
  • Baked Potatoes with the Works
  • Fennel and Feta Salad with Lemon and Dill
  • Apple Pie

Crisp Fennel With Feta, Lemon and Dill

Saturday

  • The boys had their big concert and ate during all day rehearsals.  The show was fantastic!

Sunday

  • The boys cooked for us!
  • Mole Chicken Breast
  • Mixed Vegetables and Rice
  • Japanese Cabbage & Bacon Pancake (Okonomiyaki)

It was an honor and a pleasure to host these fine young men in our home.  We wish them well in their travels and performances.  I heard they were in the Czeck Republic when this article was posted.

Yasuhiro, Packo, Hiroaki and Sergio Cooking

Japanse Pancake with Crispy Seaweed Flakes

Hiroakis Skillfull Flipping

Mixed Vegetables and Rice With Mexican Seasoning

Packo and Sergios Mole Chicken

Fun With Wigs and David's old "Up With People" Albums Yasuhiro, Hiroaki, Sergio and Packo


Feeling Fall Dinner

September 13, 2010

Herb Roasted Cornish Hens

It’s the first weekend after labor day and I am pining for some cool, crisp fall weather.  Instead, in South Florida, the heat is even more stifling than usual.  I don’t know if I can take much more of it.   So, how about I crank up the air conditioning, put on a sweater and cook some classic fall dishes?  It’s a plan!

Feeling Fall Menu:

I stuffed the hens with sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano and a good sized piece of lemon.  I made a puree of the same herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  I loosened the skin covering the breast to make a pocket.  I filled the pocket with the herb puree.  It smelled amazing while it was cooking.  The hens came out very juicy, tender and so flavorful.


Caramelized Butternut Squash with Brown Onions

For the Squash, I peeled and cubed a butternut squash.  I melted some butter and added, salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a teaspoon of brown sugar.  The sugar isn’t meant to sweeten the dish, it is for enhancing the caramelization process. I tossed the squash cubes in the seasoned butter and roasted them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes


Herb Roasted Cornish Hen with Caramelized Squash and Onions and Parslied Egg Noodles

I was going to serve the onions separately, but in the end I added them to the roasted squash.  It was a marriage made in heaven.  The browned pearl onions were made using Julia Child’s classic recipe for “Oignons Glaces A Brun” or “Brown-Braised Onions”. This dish used to be a ton of work to peel all those little onions, but not anymore – I use the Birdseye frozen pearl onions and they work very well in this dish.  They’re already peeled and ready to go.  Thaw them and drain them for a bit in a mesh strainer.

Julia uses 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan.  Once the fats are bubbling, add the onions in a single layer.  Cook and stir over medium high heat until the onions are browned.  Then she adds a bit of beef stock and braises them until all the liquid has cooked off.  After the liquid has cooked off, I like to add more and reduce the liquid again.  Sometimes I do it three times.  Just make sure the onions are very tender but not falling apart.

When David and I lived in Connecticut (and we had proper fall weather), I used to make a compote of apples, raisins, walnuts, brandy, brown sugar and a bit of butter.  We would eat it warm on vanilla ice cream.  It is really easy to make and just screams, “New England Fall Food”.  So, I conjured up that recipe and made it for our “Feeling Fall Dinner”.  I was as delicious as I had remembered.


Vanilla Ice Cream with Warm Apple Compote


Sunday, May 16, 2010 Grilled Split Chicken

May 24, 2010

My joys in the kitchen have caught up with me once again.  As a result, I’m back on the low-carb diet and this time  I’m serious!  Really, I mean it!  The menu for today is fantastic for low carbers.  And your carb lovers won’t miss a thing, I promise.

Menu:

Grilled Split Chicken with Sage Rub

My toasty chicken wasn’t very photogenic for me.  In real life, it was beautiful, smelled amazing and was moist and delicious!  After removing the little bugger’s back bone, I layed him flat, rubbed him all over with olive oil and a lovely dry rub made with sea salt, black pepper and poultry seasoning (mostly sage).  I let the bird relax with the herbs for a few hours before putting it on a hot grill on indirect heat.  My grill has three burners, so I turn the middle one off, and leave the outer two on high.  I weighed the bird down with a heavy floor tile wrapped in tin foil to promote even cooking.  It only cooked for 30 minutes.  I turned him over after 15 minutes.  Don’t forget to let the bird rest for at least 10 minutes after removing from the grill.

Cauliflower Au Gratin

The au gratin was a big hit.  I thought it was every bit as good as a potato au gratin.  I used my food processor to thinly slice the fresh cauliflower.  I stacked the slices in the pan and poured a cheese sauce overtop.  Sprinkled a little grated cheese on top and voila, easy on the eyes as well as the taste buds.

I asked David to help with the asparagus.  He had never grilled asparagus before and when he hadn’t returned after 10 minutes I got scared.  I ran out to the grill just as he was pulling them off, but I was a little too late.  They were a teeny bit over done, but oh man, they were delicious anyway.  For you newbies, don’t grill the asparagus more than just a few minutes.  Just long enough to put a grill mark on.

Minty Chocolate Pana Cotta

This pana cotta can be made with real sugar if you want.  I used a standard recipe and substituted Splenda for the sugar.  It was creamy and delicious.  I think the minty flavor disguised the fact that I had used an artificial sweetener.   The mint flavor and the food coloring was my little idea.  David and I discussed whether to use pink or green food coloring.  He voted for green.  What color do you think I voted for?


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