Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Stir-fry Seasonings

posted in Spices and Seasonings by Kathy Maister

There are certain food combinations that always work together: salt and pepper, peanut butter & jelly, hot dogs & baked beans, fish & chips, gin & tonic just to name a few. Spices and seasonings work that way too. Nothing goes better with apple pie than cinnamon and nutmeg.

Stir fry recipes have their own unique set of seasoning ingredients.

Some may be more familiar to you than others. In my Chicken & Broccoli stir fry video, I used soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and sesame oil as the four basic ingredients. Here is a very brief introduction to these ingredients.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is a dark, intensely flavored, salty sauce used for flavoring a lot of different foods. Soup, sauces, meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, you name it, and soy sauce works with them all. Different brands may be saltier than others. You often see it as a table condiment at Asian restaurants.

Oyster Sauce

Guess what it’s made from? You’re right! Oysters! Plus a lot of other ingredients (like soy sauce, salt, water, possibly MSG and cornstarch) depending on the brand you buy. It’s dark brown in color and very thick. It will not pour out of the jar – you need a spoon to scoop it out. It has a wonderful rich flavor that is not at all fishy. Oyster sauce helps to thicken the sauce in Stir Fries.

Chili Paste

Chili paste (not to be confused with chili oil, chili powder, or chili sauce), is made with red chilies, fava beans, flour, and (sometimes) garlic. Different brands have different levels of “heat”, so be careful! If you like foods to be hot and spicy, this is the ingredient for you. Add a small amount at a time until you figure out what you like.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has a very strong flavor and fragrance. It is often used as a flavor enhancer rather than for frying. You can buy a light colored sesame oil that has a less intense flavor than the dark sesame oil.

Many people consider soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil as the basic 3 stir fry ingredients.

Buying these 3 at a minimum, is a wise choice if you plan on doing stir fry.

Cheers!

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Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

HOT! HOT! HOT! Well maybe not! You can actually control the amount of heat in this recipe for Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Sausage in two ways:

  1. The type of sausage you choose
  2. How you clean the peppers

You need just four ingredients needed to make this recipe:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of jalapeno peppers (about 18 small to medium)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound of sausage

Start by softening the cream cheese. Just take it out of the refrigerator, open the wrapping, and let it sit on the counter while you cook the sausage. It will soften on its own!

I chose HOT Italian sausage to make this recipe. It ended up with quite a kick! Choosing sweet Italian sausage or pork sausage would definitely have decreased the amount of heat. Buy whatever sausage you prefer, depending on YOUR taste or that of the people invited to your party.

***

Let’s startcooking!

With a sharp knife, slice through the casing of the sausage.

Remove the skin and add the sausage to a large frying pan that has been pre-heated on medium-high heat.

The sausage needs to get broken up into bits and cooked completely.

One way to break the sausage apart is with a spatula (shown above), but it does not do a great job at breaking apart the meat as it cooks. You could try using a fork (shown below) which works a bit better…

…or a potato masher (below), which actually works the best!

Once the meat is cooked put it into a bowl lined with paper towels.

Once all the fat has drained from the cooked sausage, which will only take a minute or so, remove the paper towels and throw them away.

Add the softened cream cheese and the grated Parmesan cheese.

This needs to get totally mixed together.

If the cream cheese is not soft it will make mixing quite difficult.

It should end up looking like the photo below.

Now for the peppers!

(Please take a moment to review my photo-tutorial on Handling Hot Peppers.)

Wash the jalapenos and cut them in half with a sharp knife.

OK! We’re now ready for the second way to control the heat of your final dish – cleaning the inside of the peppers.

The outside flesh of the peppers contain a lot of flavor. Most of the “heat” is contained in the internal seeds and the membrane that they are attached to.

So, we’re going to remove the seeds and membrane with a knife …

…or a spoon or melon baler.

Even the slightest bit of that white membrane will give these Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos quite a kick!

Fill each jalapeño half with about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of filling. A small pepper will require less filling.

Some of the filled peppers may tip over in the oven. To prevent this, you can “snuggle” or “nestle” them together on the baking sheet. (Be sure to use a baking sheet with sides!)

Bake them in a pre-heated 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes.

You can see how some of the larger ones sort of toppled over. Next time, I am going to try to get smaller jalapeños and be sure to nestle them together on the baking tray so they will remain upright.

I left the top stem on some of them just for presentation purposes.

However, be warned. You don’t eat the stem! (Warn your guests.)

Enjoy!

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Avocado Soup

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Cold soups are perfect to serve on hot summer nights. This one requires no cooking at all! Everything just gets put into a blender and mixed together really well, until it is smooth.

I saw this recipe in Gourmet magazine, and thought it would be a perfect startcooking recipe. All you need to make this soup is:

Start by dicing 1/3 of the cucumber and chopping into chunks the remaining 2/3 of the cucumber.

The chunks are going to be put in the blender and the diced cucumber is for the garnish.

The remaining ingredients just need to be chopped up a bit before they get added to the blender.

If you are unsure how to cut avocados check out my blog on Avocados.

Measure 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or yogurt) and 1 1/2 cups of cold water.

Add the water and buttermilk to the blender.

Start by blending everything on a low speed at first, then increase it just a bit. Everything needs to get totally chopped up and then made really smooth. This will take about 2 minutes of blending.

You can chill this soup for up to 3 hours before serving, and then garnish it with the diced cucumbers just before serving.

This soup is a beautiful color and the cucumbers add a wonderful crunch!

* Note:

I discovered one BIG problem with this recipe after I made it. What the heck do I tell a novice cook to do with the leftover buttermilk? In retrospect I should have suggested using yogurt or sour cream instead. Either would work beautifully for this recipe, and there are a lot of things you could do with leftover sour cream/yogurt.

If you are going to use buttermilk, you could always drink the leftovers??? (Has anyone seen “White Christmas”? Isn’t that what they were drinking before singing “Count Your Blessings”?)
Anyhow, I’m asking all my experienced cooks to toss in some EASY suggestions on what to make with leftover buttermilk!

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the soup!
Kathy

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