Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Seven Layer Dip for a Party and Port City Life

Port City Life artistic director Susan Hackett and freelance photographer Fred Field came on over today to shoot for their September issue. What wonderful people. Fred's son Robert came along, too and was an extraordinary young man. I love 13 year old boys who have good manners, are kind to their parents, have a good sense of humor and are extremely patient while their dad works. He was a delight! Susan was a hoot and right on target with set up and vision for the shots she needed. Fred on the other hand... well, I guess I'd have to say that anytime he wanted to shoot anything I'm cooking up- he can take the pix and eat it up afterward. He got some shots that were absolutely beautiful! Rich apple butter sliding off a spoon into mid-air; the first glistening, golden droplet of pure maple syrup as it hovered, gravity calling it to it's appley future home... apples in shadow, apples in light. He has a gift for capturing the essence of his subjects. Thanks so much Fred for sharing your talents!
Ok, now for some food, We're going to a party this weekend and I'm bringing a dip that I haven't made for a long time. It's an old stand by that everyone loves- an 80's classic you might say.
7 Layer Dip
Take an oven safe platter or casserole dish and grease it lightly with oil.
Spread evenly in layers:
1. 16 ounces of cream cheese or Neufchatel lower fat cream cheese sprinkled with 1 teaspoon chili powder
2. 1 can or about 2 cups of lowfat refried beans sprinkled with 1 t ground cumin
3. 2 cups shredded jack cheese
You can stop here and chill it overnight if you'd like. An hour or so before serving, place the dish in a cold oven and turn it on to 350 degrees. Set the timer to 30 minutes when you put it in. Check it at 30 minutes and if it is bubbly take it out and proceed.
Gently layer the remaining ingredients on next.
4. 2 cups of your favorite salsa
5. 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
6. 1 cup sour cream mixed with the juice of a lime and 2 or more dashes of Chalula or other hot pepper sauce
7. Sprinkle with 4 or 5 scallions that you've sliced up finely and a handful of pickled jalapenos that have been finely chopped.
Serve with lots of tortilla chips for dipping and napkins of course.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy! -Cynthia

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tomato Salad for a Summer Day

Hi All, We have had the most wonderful week. Wednesday Elizabeth and I were in Casco for the Casco Library's annual morning tea. She was a chef extraordinaire and my assistant. I made sure to speak a little less to allow her to fill in- and fill in she did. Folks even came up to her after the demo and asked her to sign a book. It was simply delightful! The tea was at the Pleasant Lake House B&B, a lovely lakeside place with the perfect flat lawn to host the event. Mark Heidmann of Maple Springs Farm in Harrison supplied us with gorgeous greens- rainbow chard included, three types of basil, lemon balm, flat leaf parsley, and close to five pounds of heirloom tomatoes. These succulent, vine-ripened beauties included a dark burgundy variety called Black Krim. They were absolutely gorgeous and melt in your mouth delicious. Here is a quick recipe for a tomato salad that features each flavor in turn.
Tomato Salad
Have available at least three types of fresh tomatoes. I used Black Krim, Beefsteak and tiny grape tomatoes. I selected the equivalent of at least one large tomato per person's portion.
To serve 4-6
4 large tomatoes
1 8oz box grape tomatoes
1 8oz package mini fresh mozzarella balls
3 T good balsamic vinegar
3 T Gasull or other fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 clove fresh garlic, minced or pressed
6-10 large fresh basil leaves cut into a chiffonade of ribbons or rough chopped plus an additional couple of leaves for garnish.
Combine the tomatoes and mozzarella in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the remaining ingredients. Pour over the tomatoes and toss gently. You can serve this salad right away or let it sit for a half hour or so. Garnish with additional basil and serve.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Food Details-Foodie Tales- What makes the dinner IT factor?

FooDieTaleS It's all in the details...of foodies. It's amazing how quickly you can see the experience and confidence of a person who loves to cook. They are often fearless, seldom follow recipes exactly, and love to experiment. Flavors come together in their heads- in their imaginations- before they ever reach their tongues. They can see a dish, smell its aroma, feel the textures in their mouth; all before they've lifted a spoon. Thee Experience the dish ethereally Waaayy before its actual inception. I LOVE that! I love imagining a food and crafting the dish layer by layer of flavor until it achieves the mmmm level I am shooting for. That yummy noise is better than any tangible certificate on the wall. You've moved people in a way that gives them an involuntary wave of delight; causing an intake of breath and a sigh of pleasure. It matters not if the recipient is a child or adult, neighbor or a king- you've made the world a better place for a moment in time. This is truly what makes the universe propel through space. Imagine if we could synchronize delight for thousands at one moment. It might just shift the path of the Earth for the good.
I offer you this quickie recipe for tonight. Simple delight. Share some with your family or your friends. Perpetuate the yummy noise. Pay attention to the details. You're making the world a better place.

Warm Chocolate Silk with Fresh Strawberries and White Chocolate Curls
Use the best cocoa you can find for this thick chocolate soup. Your tongue will thank you.
Serves 4-6
1 c premium cocoa powder (such as Ghirardelli or Scharffen Berger), sifted
1 1⁄4 c hot water
1 1⁄2 c granulated sugar
1 c heavy cream
1 c chopped semisweet chocolate
8 fresh strawberries, sliced
white chocolate curls
4 T cocoa nibs (optional)
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the cocoa with the water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick.
Add the sugar and whisk until it dissolves. Add the heavy cream and chopped chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate melts completely. Serve warm, garnished with sliced fresh strawberries, white chocolate curls, and, if desired, cocoa nibs.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hot Artichoke Dip for new friends

Summer is a time for gatherings and friends. I've been so fortunate to meet some wonderful people in the last week. Sarah, Jenny and John are three of these folks of note. How amazing is it to begin relationships and choose others to share your life- very cool!
Here is a quick four ingredient recipe to treat your guests. No kidding- they will love it. If you like things spicy, your fifth ingredient can be cayenne or Chalula sauce
Hot Artichoke Dip
In a 2 qt baking dish mix together:
1 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup Real Mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions or shredded vidalia onion
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and hot. If you like to add green healthy bits to your snacks feel free to stir in 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach when you take it out of the oven. Serve hot with crackers or bread rounds.
Savor. Linger. Enjoy!