Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hall of Shame: Kiwifruit Jellies

I have to admit that not all of the things we try here at 2DG are raging successes. I have had my share of culinary disasters. All the way back in the mid-80s, when I was but a mere child (well it seems that way now!), the first, and for a very long time ONLY cake I ever made was an Oreo Cake, from scratch of course. The recipe called for about a cup of crushed Oreos, as I recall. Well to my way of thinking, if a cup is good, a POUND is BETTER! So in went way more crushed Oreos than it called for, and into the oven went my cake. What came out later was not a nice fluffy tasty Oreo cake. Nope. I got crumbs. Lots and lots of crumbs. Evidently all those crushed cookies soaked up every drop of moisture. Oh well, live and learn.

Years later, I made one of those "impossible pies" for dinner, using canned salmon. I also used fish stock. And probably one other fishy ingredient. What I got was "impossible", all right...impossible to eat! But Mike, being the wonderful and smart man that he is, while I was grousing and scraping my plate down the disposal, was saying "No, Honey, it tastes good!" What a guy.

Well my most recent less than successful endeavor was a few weeks ago, when I was trying to use up about 8 or so kiwifruits that had accumulated in the fridge from our produce deliveries. I found a recipe for something called Kiwifruit Jellies, that sounded like they'd come out like those Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slice candies. The puree gels and you can cut it into whatever shapes you want. Sounds great!

I also read that kiwi fruit contain an enzyme that will prevent gelatin from setting up unless the kiwi puree is cooked to a certain temp, but that shouldn't be an issue here, since this was a recipe for jellies, and it called for cooking the puree for several minutes. I go.

I prepared the kiwifruit, pureed and cooked it as directed. I poured it into an 8 inch square pan, lined with wax paper, as instructed. I chilled it in the fridge for the prescribed amount of time. It looked like it was nicely set. With great anticipation, I picked up the wax paper edges to move it onto a cuting board and...instead of nice little wiggly jellies, it was still runny! So I put it back in the fridge for a while and tested it. No good. OK. So I transferred it to a sheet pan and put it in the freezer overnight.
The next morning, nope now I had slush.

I let is sit in there for a while longer, then I was tired of playing this game, and I rolled it up and wrapped it in plastic, and if I need some sort of sweet jelly/paste fruit type thing, I'll slice some off and put it in.

But at least I got a 2DG post out of it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing, Poached Egg and Clam Chowder

The title says it all. Mmmmm!Along with nearly everyone else, I've resolved to drop some pounds this year. I've found that carbs, while they pretend to be my friend because they taste soooo good, are actually the thing that makes me heavier than I want to be. So we're trying to live a reduced carb lifestyle. One of the benefits of that is that we get to use things like bacon! I don't know about you, but I think it's a pretty fair tradeoff...less bread or potatoes or pasta, more bacon! I also love spinach, so I'm sure you see where this is heading.
Mike wanted a nice soup to go with our spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, so he made a delicious red clam chowder. It's not exactly Manhattan Clam Chowder, but it sure is good. He started with cooking some bacon, which we'd use in both dishes. When that was done, he reserved some of the browned bacon and some of the fat for me for the hot bacon dressing, and then he put in some chopped carrot, parsnip to cook them down some. He browned some onion, celery, and green pepper in the same pot. Later he added tomatoes (from our garden!) and his spice blend of thyme, fennel, and all kinds of assorted goodies that he won't tell me and let them simmer for an hour or so in 2 cups of our homemade chicken stock and 2 cups of water. He did reserve some extra chopped carrot, parsnip and tomato to add later so that there would be some "less cooked" veggies in there too. Then he put in 2 cans of whole clams and 1 can of chopped clams and the liquid, reserving a tiny bit for the cats who'd become his best friends when he opened the cans. That all simmered for a while longer, then I added the rest of the chopped veggies about a half hour before we were ready to eat.
After putting the rest of the veggies in, I started on the Spinach Salad. After thoroughly cleaning the beautiful fresh spinach we got in our Orlando Organics delivery, I took some of the leftover bacon drippings, 2 T or so, and heated that in the top of my double boiler. (You don't have to do it in a double boiler, but Mike mentioned that's how the restaurant he worked in had heated up their dressing, so I thought I'd give it a try, and it worked well.)
While that was heating, I mixed together 1 T of flour and 2 T of sugar, and separately mixed together 1/4 c. cider vinegar and 1 c. water. Then I added the flour mixture to the hot bacon fat and whisked it for a minute to make a light roux. Still whisking, very slowly add the water/cider mix in small batches, only adding more when it looked like it was thickening up nicely. Next time, I think I'll add the vinegar and water separately so I can control the thickness and amount of each a little better, but this time it still tasted great.
While that was keeping warm, I put a small skillet with about 1 1/2 inches of water on the burner and added about 1 T of white vinegar to it. While that was heating, I tore up some spinach and put it in salad bowls. Then I thinnly sliced some red onion and added them and some chopped pecans to each salad, along with the remaining crumbled bacon.
Now the water was about to boil, so I turned it down a little to just about a simmer. Break each egg into a small bowl and then carefully add it to the simmering water. Do this one at a time! One egg in the bowl at a time, into the water. Let them simmer for 3 minutes, slightly less for a softer egg, longer for a harder cooked egg. While they're cooking, spoon some of the dressing on the spinach salad and toss to coat. Add a little more as you go if you'd like. When the eggs are done to your liking, fish them out with a slotted spoon and let them drain off all the water for a few seconds, or hold them over a towel for a few seconds. Place them on the salad, and season with a little pepper.
Serve along with the clam chowder and enjoy a reduced carb dinner!