Archives for April 2010

Crispy Smashed Potatoes Recipe

Diva Entertains Smashed Potato Final

I’m always looking for new ways to serve potatoes.  My husband, J, is not a potato lover so sometimes it takes some creativity.  And all the better if there is a crispy crust to it.  This he will eat.  Happily.  And this crispy smashed potatoes recipe delivers on that!  Best part is it isn’t fried.  So although it feels like an indulgence it is actually isn’t.  Love that!

These smashed potatoes are easy to make although it is a two-step procedure.  You first simmer baby Yukon gold potatoes until they are tender.  Drain and cool.  When cool enough to handle you gently ‘smash’ them (too hard and you will have ‘mashed’ them…definitely not the goal).  Then bake them in a very hot oven for 45 minutes or so until nicely browned and that’s it!

Diva Entertains Baby Yukons

Crispy Smashed Potatoes (loosely adapted from a Fine Cooking Magazine issue, 2007)

Serves 4

  • 12 to 15 baby Yukon Gold potatoes (yellow potatoes)
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • kosher salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Add the potatoes to a medium pan and cover with cold water by 1 inch.  Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook 15-20 minutes until tender.  Drain and let potatoes cool for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Spray a large knife or bottom of a pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Place a potato on a cutting board and press down with the knife (as shown below) or the pan until it is partially smashed.  The idea is to create more flat surface to crisp (not to flatten the potato completely).  Don’t worry if some break apart – they will still be *delicious*!
  4. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet pan with non-stick spray.  Drizzle the olive oil over the pan.  Add the potato, one at a time, swirling it in the olive oil on one side and then turning it over so that both sides of the potato are lightly oiled. (If you need a little more olive oil go ahead and drizzle some more over the potatoes.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely browned on the bottom.  Turn the potatoes over and cook the other side for another 15 minutes or so until browned.  Remove from oven, salt and serve.
Diva Entertains How to SmashDiva Entertains How to Smash1Diva Entertains Smashed Potato

Delicious Maple-Soy Marinade for Flank Steak

Diva Entertains Flank Steak

Flank Steak was meant for marinades.  A rather tough but incredibly flavorful meat – it benefits greatly from some time in a marinade.  I usually prepare my marinade the night before and let the steak soak it up overnight, however, it will still benefit if it only marinates for 20 minutes.  This recipe will follow the latter.

The secret to enjoying a great and tender piece of flank steak is to cut it thinly and cut against the grain.  Cutting the meat with the grain will result in a stringy, very tough piece of meat.  Also, flank steaks cooks in a matter of minutes so start off with about 4-5 minutes per side until you find the perfect timing/level of doneness for your taste. You can cook it on the grill or inside using your oven’s broiler.

This recipe has a little bit of everything: Asian flavors from the (reduced-sodium) soy sauce, sesame oil, and hot chili sauce and sweetness from pure maple syrup.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

Diva Entertains Peanut Butter Cupcake

These chocolate peanut butter cupcakes are sure to please!  First, there’s the chocolate peanut butter cup that is inside each cupcake.  Then they are topped with luscious, homemade chocolate frosting.  Finally, they are decorated with chopped up chocolate peanut butter cups.  Beautiful to look at, sinfully delicious to devour!

Diva Entertains Peanut Butter Cupcake Open

Although I make almost all my cakes and cupcakes from scratch – there is one doctored up package recipe that my mother has been making for decades that I turn to frequently.  It’s delicious! I’ll share that today as well as the chocolate frosting recipe.

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Jam Bar – A Delicious Homemade Jam Dessert

Diva Entertains Jam Bar

If there is one recipe, more than any other, that reminds me of my mother, it’s her Jam Bar Recipe.  It was a constant in our household growing up but at that time I didn’t pay it the attention it deserved.  At that young age, when I thought of dessert, I thought of ‘chocolate’ – cake, brownies, cookies. However, when I started cooking for friends in my college years I turned to this recipe.  And although it was an immediate hit with whomever I served it to – I soon came to love it too.  *LOVE*.  Now I always have some bars in the freezer; ready to serve at a moment’s notice (after defrosting them, that is:).

These are similar to a shortbread but richer and moister thanks to the addition of egg yolks.  However, those eggs help to create a sticky batter.  The easiest way to work with this type of batter is to run your hands under cold water, then shake the excess water off.  You don’t want to get the batter ‘wet’ – just have your hands damp enough so the batter won’t stick.

I’ve made this recipe at least 100 times.  And I have learned that the vast majority of tasters/recipients have preferred it baked to the point where the edges are just beginning to brown, as shown below. and the top of the bars have just a hint of browning.  This gives them a very rich and moist crumb. However, if you prefer yours a little more browned and crisp, by all means cook them a few minutes longer.  They will be delicious both ways!

Diva Entertains Baked Jam Bars

Jam Bars (Makes one 9″ x 13″ pan)

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large or extra large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 14 – 15 oz. of your favorite jam or preserves

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray*.
  2. Beat sugar and butter together until combined – do not over beat. (This is a dough, not batter, so you don’t want to beat the butter and sugar to a ‘light and fluffy stage)
  3. Add egg yolks until just combined.  Then beat in flour until incorporated, a minute or two; do not over beat.
  4. Pat 1/2 of dough into the bottom of the baking pan.  Because the dough is sticky it will be easiest to do if you wet your hands with cold water (then make sure to shake them to get any excess water off) and ‘pat’ pieces into place.
  5. Spread the jam over the bottom dough layer.  The easiest way to do this is to first warm the jam jar for 30 seconds in the microwave.
  6. ‘Pat’ the remaining dough in place by taking small portion of  dough at a time.  Don’t worry that you have to ‘piece’ it together – it adds to its looks and charm!
  7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, and then check for doneness.  For soft, extremely most jam bars remove from oven when edges are lightly browned.  For a crisper top and a firmer bar, let cook a bit longer until the top is lightly browned too.

Diva Entertains Spreading JamDiva Entertains Patting Dough for Top Layer
Diva Entertains Laying Dough for Top LayerDiva Entertains Ready for Oven

*I like to use a non-stick spray made specifically for baking.  These typically have flour added to them and are found in the baking section along with the other non-stick sprays.

Moist Banana Bread Recipe with Mini Chocolate Chips

Diva Entertains Slices

I’m a bit of a food snob.  When I’m out and have a slice of a sweet (brownie, cookie, quick bread, etc.) with a cup of coffee at a restaurant or cafe, upon tasting the sweet I immediately assess it.  And in my mind the #1 baking offense is to ‘overbake’ something or not have enough richness to the recipe to begin with.  Both of which results in a dry baked good.  Which is, in the words of my older sister Barb, “dégoût”.  Which I believe is French for ‘disgust’ but which she interprets as “A waste of calories on a less than delicious treat.”

Diva Entertains Mini Banana Loaf Open

Quick breads such as banana bread should never be dry.  In fact – its moistness is essential to giving it flavor and appeal.  And this banana bread recipe is high on both.  Easy too.  Of course you can make it without the chocolate chips, or perhaps you would like to add nuts to it.  Any of these versions still result in a moist, delicious treat.

When making banana bread or banana cake, I have found that what works best for me is to take ripe bananas and put them in the freezer for at least a week (my freezer tends to be a holding bin for such bananas for months at a time).  They’ll turn brown/black in there but once removed and thawed for a recipe they will practically slide out of their skins and are very easily be incorporated into any baked good recipe.

Diva Entertains Ripe Bananas

This recipe makes one big loaf but I like, instead, to make 4 mini loaves. That way I can put at least a couple in the freezer to use for another time. Diva Entertains Mini Banana Loaf

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Asian Broth with Mini Turkey Meatballs

Diva Entertains Asian Chicken Broth1

Upon coming across this recipe on my recipe swap and noticing that it came from Eating,  I immediately dismissed it (“yeh – like that’s going to have a lot of flavor”).  But upon seeing that a good friend posted the recipe *and* that she raved about it gave me pause.  After reading the ingredients…and then immediately thinking of how I can tinker with it…I decided to give it a try.  And I am so glad that I did.  Because it is delicious!  FULL of flavor.  So much so that I have already made it several times this month.  (I had a miserable sinus infection and flu and this was far better than any other medicine I consumed!)

Little Touches: Slow Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

Diva Entertains Tomatoes
It’s hard to believe something this delicious started its life in a can.  But aside from a bit of butter, sugar and salt that’s all there is to this dish.  Put in the oven and 90 minutes later you have the most delicious side dish possible.  Slightly sweet tomatoes rich with flavor.  Can be made a couple of days ahead and rewarmed.  Perfect for weeknights and for company when pulling out all the stops!

This recipe is a house favorite at the Watershed restaurant, in Decatur, Georgia.  Slow roasting concentrates the flavors – it’s great as a side dish or as a ‘tomato jam’ added to sandwiches, burgers, etc.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes (from Gourmet Magazine, 2008)

Servings: Makes 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in juice, drained
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter an 8-inch shallow baking dish.
  2. Stir together sugar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a cup.
  3. Put tomatoes in baking dish and sprinkle all over with sugar mixture. Dot tomatoes with butter, then bake until tomatoes are partially collapsed and deeply caramelized in places, 1 to 2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Diva Entertains Tomato PrepDiva Entertains Tomatoes Baked

Chocolate Corruption Cheesecake

Diva Entertains Cheesecake Slice

I *love* cheesecake.  Which is not to say I love ALL cheesecakes.   If it isn’t rich, creamy and absolutely luscious I’m not going to make it.  Which means it needs to be the full-fat version.  Heck, it’s not something I eat every day or even weekly.  So if I am occasionally going to indulge in something that goes straight to my arteries and hips it sure better be worth it.  And believe me, this brownie cheesecake recipe is just that!

This recipe is a combination of two cheesecake recipes.  One is the famous Lindy’s cheesecake, the decadent, creamy, rich cheesecake that I grew up on and that I *love*.  The second is Marcy’s Goldman’s Chocolate Eruption Cheesecake.  I love her brownie crust and all the goodies (chocolate chips, candy bars, brownie chunks and caramel sauce) that went in it – but I didn’t care for the actual cheesecake recipe made with sweetened condensed milk. (However, Marcy is a fabulous baker and her “A Passion For Baking”, that contains her recipe, is one of my most used and beloved cookbooks)

This recipe is easily broken down into three parts:  1) The brownie base.  Made first in a 9″ x 13″ pan, the contents of which will be used as a crust for the cheesecake and the rest to cut into small chunks and add to the batter. 2) The Lindy cheesecake – a very easy cheesecake to make, and 3) the delicious add-ins.  It takes a bit of extra time because you need to make the brownies first (unless you are like one of my sister’s who would, instead, purchase a pan of brownies from her grocery bakery to save herself time and trouble.  I think it’s a great idea!) but you can always do that a day or two in advance.

The secret to a fabulous cheesecake is knowing when to remove it from the oven.  I learned from a superb lemon cheesecake recipe (to be shared this summer!)  that a cheesecake is done when the temperature at its very center is 150F.  It will still seem a bit jiggly but it stays in the turned off oven another hour and will firm then and as it cools.  This method has never failed to turn out a luscious and creamy cheesecake every single time.

Let me also say that this makes a very large and full cheesecake.  I actually invested in a small 6″ springform pan and end up making one regular size cheesecake and also a mini one.  Cheesecakes freeze beautifully and I love having the little one  on hand should I need it for last minute company.

Diva Entertains Cheesecake1

One last thing.  I am not upset in the least if my cheesecake cracks.  I’ve never had anyone refuse to eat a slice because it had a crack.   The best way to prevent a crack is to bake the cheesecake in a baine-maire (a water bath)* but it is quite a bit of work and, most of the time, not worth it to me.  But I fully appreciate it if that’s the route you choose to go.

Chipotle BBQ Sauce with Caramelized Onions

Diva Entertains Chipotle Chicken

It’s been a few years since I’ve made my own barbecue sauce.  However, when I came across a recipe for caramelized chipotle chicken it sounded so good that I had to try it.   Of course, being me, I tinkered with the recipe somewhat and was really pleased with results.  Whether you use it to coat chicken or pork chops as a entree or grill shrimp basted with it as an appetizer, I bet you’ll make it over and over again.

The keys to success with the recipe are: 1) Watch your garlic carefully as you saute it.  It quickly goes from golden to burnt in a matter of seconds.  And you do not want to use burnt garlic in this or any dish – it will ruin the flavor.  Better to start over.  First time cooking garlic this way and nervous?  Don’t worry if you remove it from the pan when it’s not as golden as it should be (see below) –

Diva Entertains Golden Garlic

it will still contribute great flavor to the sauce.  2) The caramelized onions also provide terrific flavor.  Same advice as with the garlic – don’t let it burn.  However, onions aren’t at all fussy like garlic is.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity to remove it from the pan before it burns.

Chipotle Barbecue Sauce with Caramelized Onions (adapted from Caramelized Chipotle Chicken, Gourmet Magazine, September 2009)

Makes enough sauce for 8 pieces of chicken.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canned chipotle chilies in adobo (from a 7 oz. can)*
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until golden and then remove immediately with a slotted spoon to a plate.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 15 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, set up your blender or food processor and add the ketchup, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, chiptotle chilies in adobo, Worcestershire sauce and cider vinegar.  Add the garlic and onions (once the latter has cooled 10 minutes).  With top on blend until relatively smooth but with some texture.  Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).

Here’s the Gourmet magazine instructions for using this on chicken in your oven – its fabulous!:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F with rack in middle.
  2. Coat chicken with half of sauce, then roast, skin side up, in a 17×11 inch heavy 4-sided sheet pan 25 minutes.  remove from oven and brush with remaining sauce, then continue roasting until chicken is cooked through and well-browned in some spots, 20 to 25 minutes more.

*If you’ve never used chipotle chilies in adoba before you are in for a wonderful surprise.   The product can be found in the International aisle of your grocery store in the Mexican section.  I’ve shown an example of the product below:

Diva Entertains Chipotles

The VERY BEST Lemon Pasta (not to mention the easiest too!)

Diva Entertains Lemon Pasta

When I first came across this recipe I was intrigued by it.  It called for tossing the raw spaghetti with melted butter and then cooking it in chicken broth until the broth was absorbed.  Because I love the way many foods taste when cooked in chicken broth (collards, potatoes, etc.) I thought this had potential.  Further – it was EASY.  A one pot meal.  The only turn-off was that it called for 4 tablespoons of butter for 2 servings and that seemed a bit excessive.  Or indulgent.  And I wanted this recipe to work not only as a company dish but also as a weeknight side;  if it was going to be the latter it couldn’t swim in butter.  And, finally, I wanted the lemon to be the most pronounced flavor.  Using both lemon zest and lemon juice helped to ensure that.

Diva Entertains Lemon Zest

So I made it several times.  First with 4 tablespoons of butter.  It was delicious with a noticeable lemony butter taste.  Then I tried it with 3 tablespoons of butter and it still fabulous.  Then I took it down to 2 tablespoons of butter and I am happy to report that although the ‘butter’ taste wasn’t quite as pronounced as the fully-loaded recipe – it was every bit as delicious and still had a creamy, luscious mouth-feel to it.

Diva Entertains Lemon Pasta with ShrimpTo serve this lemon pasta as an entree, I simply added shrimp that I quickly sauteed in olive oil and a bit of red pepper flakes.  More on that after the recipe!