Cooking From My Books: Ahi Tuna Tartare On Jicama

With the weather warming up here in California, we’re breaking out the shorts, the sundresses, and the bathing suits. With that in mind, I thought I’d post something on the lighter side for this week’s edition of CFMB.
This delicious appetizer was featured in Blame It On Your Heart, the first book in my Big Timber series. It was served at a surprise birthday party Jane Decker hosted for her husband. And because Jane is an A list Hollywood actress, of course it’s low carb :).

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Ahi Tuna Tartare On Jicama “Chips”
Ingredients:
3 3/4 pounds very fresh tuna steak
1 1/4 cups olive oil
5 limes, zest grated
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 1/2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hot red pepper sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups minced scallions, white and green parts (12 scallions)
3 1/4 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
5 ripe Hass avocados
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, optional
3 large jicamas, peeled and sliced into 2″ rounds

Directions:
Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place it in a very large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, hot red pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and mix well. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed, and peel. Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch dice. Carefully mix the avocado into the tuna mixture. Add the toasted sesame seeds, if using, and season to taste. Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Serve on jicama slices.

  • May 18, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Brady’s Grilled Lamb Chops with Cranberry Chutney

A smoking hot guy who can cook? How does it get any better than that? That’s what was on my mind when I conceived of Brady McManus. If only he existed in real life…
Anyway, while the man might not leap from the page any time soon, his food is accessible to all of us!
This week, it’s delicious lamb chops served with a sweet and spicy cranberry chutney. Enjoy!

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Ingredients
Cranberry Chutney:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups cranberries, divided
1 cup water
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 serrano chile, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Grilled Lamb Chops:
8 (4 to 5-ounce) porterhouse lamb chops
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves, garnish
Finely chopped chives, garnish

Directions
For the Cranberry Chutney:
Combine the sugar, honey, 2 cups of cranberries and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the cranberries pop and become soft and the mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the onion, ginger, chile, garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until thick about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining cranberries and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the Grilled Lamb Chops:
Heat the grill to high or a grill pan over high heat. Brush chops on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides and cooked to medium doneness, about 6 minutes total. Remove lamb from the grill, loosely tent and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve on a plater with cranberry chutney and cranberry sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

  • May 11, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Shrimp and Grits

This is another recipe from Delicious. Readers might remember when Reggie Visited Biddie Lee Hughes, a lovely older restaurant who unfortunately couldn’t keep track of where she was and what she was supposed to be doing. It quickly became clear that if the producers of Simply Delicious had any chance of filming the segment, Reggie was going to have to take the lead.

So Reggie jumped right in and improvised, realizing that the classic southern dish had similarities to an Italian recipe Reggie could make in her sleep.

Enjoy this recipe for shrimp and grits, or if you like, gambieri con polenta!

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Ingredients
4 cups water
1 bay leaf, plus 2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
1/2 rib celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds rock shrimp
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 2 tablespoons

Directions
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pot, combine the water, bay leaf, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Gradually whisk the cornmeal into the pot, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir constantly until the polenta is smooth and thick, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Turn the polenta into a serving bowl and keep warm.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the celery and garlic, and process to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Saute until softened and slightly browned, about 3 minutes, then add the celery and garlic, and remaining bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and wine, mix well, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add a bit of water if necessary to keep the mixture from getting too thick, cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp are tender but cooked through.
Remove the bay leaves and stir in the parsley. Serve immediately with the warm polenta.

  • May 4, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Sullivan’s Chicken Wings

This recipe is from A Taste of Sin, the very first novella I ever wrote! It ended up in the anthology, A Taste of Honey, which featured three out of the four Donovan brothers. This story featured Nick Donovan, the youngest of the brood.
When the Donovan brothers hit Sullivan’s Bar after a long day, they like nothing more than to order a big pile of wings, paired with icy cold beer. Unlike many Buffalo wing recipes which call for heavier breading, this method focuses on creating a crispy skin and juicy meat. Enjoy!
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Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1-2 quarts peanut oil, for frying
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
18 chicken wings (about 3 pounds), wingtips removed and remaining wings separated into 2 parts at the joint
4 stalks celery, cut into thin sticks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks
1 recipe Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows)

Preparation:

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the hot sauces, brown sugar, and vinegar until combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat 2 1/2 inches of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 360 degrees. While the oil heats, mix together the cayenne, black pepper, salt, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Dry the chicken with paper towels and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the wings and toss with a rubber spatula until evenly coated. Fry half the chicken wings until golden and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fried chicken wings to the baking sheet. Keep this first batch warm in the oven while frying the remaining wings.

3. Pour the sauce mixture in a large bowl, add the chicken wings, and toss until the wings are uniformly coated. Serve immediately with carrot and celery sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing on the side.

Blue Cheese Dressing
Makes About 1 1/2 Cups

5 ounces crumbled blue cheese (about 1 cup)
6 tablespoons buttermilk
6 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper

Mash the blue cheese and buttermilk in a small bowl with a fork until the mixture resembles cottage cheese with small curds. Stir in the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste. (The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

  • April 28, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Danny’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

I have a confession: Danny Taggart, the hero of Unleashed (#3 in my Gemini Men series) might be my favorite. I know, we authors are supposed to treat our characters like children and love them all the same if not differently.
But from the moment Danny popped onto the page, dark, broody, let’s face it, kind of an asshole, I was smitten. Blunt, to the point, and intense in his approach to everything. Including the way he cooks.
Readers first met Danny in the pages of Caught, the first of my Gemini Men books while he was banging around his father’s kitchen cooking Sunday dinner for his father and twin brothers, Ethan and Derek. On the menu:
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 slices white sandwich bread (crusts discarded), torn into small cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound ground pork mixed with ground chuck (the butcher counter at your local store often features meatloaf mix which is good for this)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 large egg yolk
1 small clove garlic , minced (1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
Ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for pan-frying (about 1 1/4 cups)
Smooth Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounce)
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves , minced
Table salt
Ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Parmesan cheese fresh, grated

Preparation
For the meatballs:
Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.
Place ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Add bread-milk mixture and combine until evenly mixed. Shape 3 tablespoons of mixture into 1½-inch-round meatball. (When forming meatballs use a light touch. If you compact the meatballs too much, they can become dense and hard.) You should be able to form about 14 meatballs. After shaping meatballs place on platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Pour vegetable oil into 10- or 11-inch sauté pan to depth of ¼ inch. Turn flame to medium-high. After several minutes, test oil with edge of meatball. When oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Regulate heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
Note: meatballs taste best when browned evenly on all sides. Their round shape makes this a challenge. The solution is to brown the two broader sides of the meatballs first and then use tongs to stand the meatballs on their sides. If necessary, lean the meatballs up against one another as they brown.
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot for pasta.
For the sauce, discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; sauté, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm over low flame.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot. Ladle several large spoonfuls of tomato sauce (without meatballs) over spaghetti and toss until noodles are well coated. Divide pasta among individual bowls and top each with a little more tomato sauce and 2 to 3 meatballs. Serve immediately with grated cheese passed separately.

  • April 20, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Adele’s Key Lime Pie

This favorite from Adele’s Cafe was featured in Blame it On Your Heart, the first book in my series set in Big Timber, Montana. With it’s delicious, tart-sweet filling and graham cracker crust, it’s sure to be a big hit with the whole family.

Note: Key limes are also known as Mexican or West Indian limes. If you can’t find them in your area, substitute bottled Key lime juice.

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Ingredients:

For crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Preparation:

  1. Make crust:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
    3. Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.
  2. Make filling and bake pie:
    1. Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
    2. Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.
  3. Make topping:
    1. Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.
  • April 10, 2016

Cooking From My Box: Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac)

Sorry I’m a little late with this week’s post. With the kids on spring break, I took the kids to Switzerland to visit some dear friends who have moved there (temporarily, we hope).
This week’s recipe is from Delicious, and is one of Reggie’s favorite recipes learned from her best friend Maria’s Vietnamese mother. This is also a personal favorite of mine. If you’ve never had it, I urge you to give it a try.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 Thai bird chiles or 1/2 serrano chile, chopped
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2/3 pound beef sirloin or flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 ripe pineapple (about 1/2 cup), cut into bite-sized slices about 1/4-inch thick (optional)
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 cups watercress, washed, picked over, and torn into bite-sized sprigs
1 ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges

Preparation:

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chiles in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place the oyster sauce, soy sauce and beef in a medium bowl and toss to coat the meat evenly.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add the beef and quickly stir-fry it until just charred on the edges, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the lime sauce.

Add the pineapple slices, if using, Asian basil and red onion to the beef mixture. Spread the watercress and tomatoes in an attractive manner on a serving platter. Arrange the beef mixture and all its juices on the watercress and serve immediately (if desired, with a warm baguette or steamed rice to soak up the juices).-Shaking-Beef-Bo-Luc-Lac-superJumbo

  • April 7, 2016

Cooking From My Box: Tyler’s Coconut Curry

This recipe is also from my first book, Delicious. When sexy PR Manager Tyler cooks this dish for Reggie’s sister, Natalie, the sparks fly. And what follows is way spicier than this curry! Enjoy!

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INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce or salt to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Red Curry Paste*
1-13.5 oz can Coconut Milk or Lite Coconut Milk
1 red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or basil
2 tablespoons peeled, thinly sliced ginger
*also tastes great with A Taste of Thai Panang Curry Paste, Yellow Curry Paste or Green Curry Paste
DIRECTIONS
Step 1
Slice chicken into thin strips, cutting against the grain so it will remain tender. Set aside.
Step 2
In a small bowl, mix lime juice, Fish Sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.
Step 3
In skillet over medium high heat, add Red Curry Paste with 1/2 can of the Coconut Milk. Stir frequently, until curry paste is dissolved and mixture is bubbling.
Step 4
Add remaining coconut milk, onions and bell pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
Step 5
Add the lime juice mixture and sliced chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 6
Add the cilantro and ginger. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes more or until the chicken is cooked.
Step 7
Serve over Jasmine Rice.

  • March 30, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Pork Chile Verde

This is one of my favorite stews ever, and is inspired by one of my favorite places to visit, Santa Fe New Mexico. So is it any wonder that I sent Reggie Caldwell, heroine of my first book, Delicious, to the green chile capital of the world to make this stew?
So before it it gets too warm, get out your dutch oven and enjoy this deliciousness!

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Pork Chile Verde

Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 2½ hours

Ingredients:
4 lbs. boned pork shoulder (butt), fat trimmed and cut into 2-in. cubes
2 to 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, as needed
3 onions (2 lbs. total), cut into 1⁄4-in. wedges
5 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 can (28 oz.) peeled whole tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1½ lbs. Hatch* chiles (about 10), peeled (see tip below) and chopped; or 4 cans (7 oz. each) whole green chiles, drained and chopped
2 tbsp. chopped oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sour Cream
Shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
Tortillas

Preparation:
1. In a 6- to 8-qt. pan, combine pork with 1⁄3 cup water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is very juicy, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until liquid is evaporated and meat is browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Lift out meat and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. If you have leftover rendered pork fat in the pan, discard all but 3 tbsp.; if not, add oil. Add onions, garlic, and cumin; stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
3. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pan. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and broth. Break up tomatoes with a spoon. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook 1 hour.
4. Stir in chiles and oregano. Cover and cook until pork is very tender when pierced and flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges, sour cream, and cheese to garnish with tortillas on the side.
Quick Tip: To peel chiles, remove stems, slice in half lengthwise, then remove ribs and seeds. Lay cut side down on a cookie sheet and broil 4 to 5 in. from heat until black and blistered, 5 to 8 minutes. Let chiles cool, then peel.
*Substitute Anaheim or Poblano chiles if needed.

  • March 24, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Homemade Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

This recipe is from my first book, Delicious, and was featured in Reggie Caldwell’s television show, Simply Delicious, USA. It was on the menu at Gianna’s Trattoria, which specialized in rustic, authentic Italian dishes.

Full disclosure here – I have never made homemade pasta and am unlikely to do so. If you are similarly disinclined, store bought gnocchi is equally delicious!

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Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce07-600x400

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For the Gnocchi:
Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup (or more) all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
Special equipment: Potato ricer or food mill

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet; spread out and cool to room temperature.
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add 1 cup flour; toss to coat. Form well in center of potato mixture. Add egg yolk, coarse salt, and nutmeg; stir with fork until mixture is evenly moistened (mixture will look shaggy). Turn mixture out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is very sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet.

Working in batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until gnocchi rise to surface of water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer gnocchi to bowl. Drizzle gnocchi with olive oil and toss to coat. DO AHEAD: Gnocchi can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

For the Gorgonzola Cream Sauce:
Ingredients:
1 cup whipping cream
3 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 13 ounces)
Chopped fresh chives
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preparation:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add Gorgonzola, whisking until melted. Spoon sauce over gnocchi. Sprinkle with chives and Parmesan, if desired; serve.

  • March 16, 2016