Holiday cooking, home cooking, Italian Food, vegetarian

Simple, Silky Tomato Sauce

marcella

I have often spoken of my deep love for Julia Child, and my girl crush on Nigella Lawson, however there are some others that I have affection for, for example Madeleine Kamman and Marcella Hazan.  Such exotic names aren’t they?  Chef and teacher Ms. Kamman was someone I was also introduced to via public television, I believe as a teenager.  Many years later I bought her large tome, The New Making of a Cook.  Believe me, if you can lay your hands on it, buy it.  It’s truly a lesson in not only French cooking, but in being a true cook.  It taught me about slurry, great pastry crust, and some of the most wonderful sauces.  I highly recommend it.  Marcella Hazan (photo above), who sadly left us in 2013, I became aware of due to the New York Times.  She has a long history of bringing simple traditional Italian food to the American public.

The recipe I am offering today is one of Marcella Hazan’s.  It’s comforting in these days of turmoil. It’s so simple, it’s almost not a recipe, but wow, the end product is seriously delicious! Yes, there is a great deal of butter and no olive oil or garlic, and some onion you don’t eat with your pasta, but believe me, it will be  a new favorite!

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz can of best quality whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (see my note below)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • Salt (to taste)

Yup, that’s it!

Place the tomatoes, butter and half onion in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  It’s up to you to salt now or at the end, try a pinch or so.  Just remember even though you do not cook this for a long time, it will concentrate, so be careful with the salting.

I’ll be honest with you, even with canned tomatoes, I usually seed them.  All you have to do is cut them in half, wriggle your fingers in them to release the seeds over a fine mesh strainer and bowl.  Then gently press whats in the strainer with a spoon to release any liquid, and add to the pot.  You’ll need the juice, but not the seeds.  Of course that is personal preference, you don’t have to do it, and seeds won’t change the outcome in any way other than texture.

Bring the pot to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring, and pressing the tomatoes with a spoon to break them up.  Uncover the pot and cook another 15 minutes, still checking and stirring.  Once 45 minutes has passed, check for seasoning, and add salt as needed.  Remove the onion (eat it, cooks treat, it’s delicious), and you’re ready to dress pasta.  And that’s all folks.  Easy as boiling water, but much more tasty.  This will keep for about a week in the fridge, much longer if you freeze it, but I am fairly certain after the first try, there won’t be much left over!

I will admit, I do sometimes puree this, just to make it smooth, with an immersion blender.  Again, just my preference.  If you do this though, put it back on the stove for another 10 minutes at low, pureeing will release a lot of water from the cooked tomatoes.

Butter Note: I am newly re-obsessed with Dairy Gold which is an Irish butter, from 100% grass-fed, pastured cows.  I know it from when I was a kid and young adult when we went to Ireland.  It’s delicious and very healthy.  I don’t need to tell you how important fats are for your body, but this is a wonderful and recently more available source.  I don’t know what to suggest if you are vegan, but let me know if you try it and what you used.

Buon Appetito!

 

Standard
home cooking, Italian Food, lasagna, Mark Bittman, non-gluten, vegetarian

Low Carb Vegetarian Lasagne

As I mentioned, the Hubby, for digestive reasons, has gone no-carb.  Not only has be lost a great deal of weight, but the digestion and overheating issues he had are completely gone!  But, as a vegetarian, that makes his options for eating a little monotone.  So, when he was in Grand Rapids recently and had no pasta lasagne, he thought he had found something he could have!  Big surprise was, I had already made it for him in the past.

Since Hubby will be starting a new job tomorrow that’s about a 40 minute drive, he won’t be able to come home and make his lunch, so I offered to make the lasagne.  He can pack it up and take it with him for lunch instead.  I got an enthusiasic “Sure!”, and so we went grocery shopping.

In this version, I used 2 kinds of zucchini as the “pasta” layer, and in the past I have used thinly sliced root vegetables, but I also can see using cooked and chopped spinach, or cooked mushrooms, maybe a duxelle.  Any number of vegetables can be used, the key is to get them as dry as possible, because any liquid generated can’t be absorbed by  the pasta, and so to avoid a soupy mess, dry is the best way to go!  Honestly I started this on Saturday, and assembled and cook this on Sunday, but you can do it all in one go.  You can also vary the cheese you use, as well as the sauce.  For this I used a homemade tomato sauce, but I have also used a bechamel in the past and blogged the recipe.  I can see a cheddar or even a Swiss cheese, yum!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise, as thinly as possible
  • 1 teaspoon course salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 1 large package of mushrooms, sliced finely
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove or garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 4 – 6 cups of tomato sauce (see below for recommended preparation)
  • 24 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup ground fresh Parmasean cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1/2 cup shredded fresh
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 – 5 grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 lb mozarella sliced into thin coins

On a tea towel or a few layers of paper toweling, lay out all the zucchini in one layer (you may have to do it in batches).  Lightly sprinkle each with some salt, and allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes, to draw out the water in them.  Use paper toweling to dry them on both side, which will remove much of the salt too.  Set them aside in a bowl.  And as you’re prepping, check them periodically and drain away any water collected.

In a large, wide frying pan, heat the olive oil until hot, and add in the mushrooms, get them into one layer if possible, or again do this in batches.  The target is to cook the mushrooms until most of their liquid is evaporated.  I usually very lightly salt them in the pan, just a pinch spread over them.  Allow them to warm through, and as they start to let their water go, toss in the garlic.  Stir them over medium heat until they are all wilted and cooked through, then turn up the heat and stir them well until the water is almost completely evaporated.  They may start to brown a little, and that’s OK, but take them off the heat once that happens and allow them to cool.

I am always amazed at how much mushrooms cook down!

img_6383

Mushrooms pre-cooking

img_8781

Mushrooms AFTER cooking!

While the mushrooms cool, if you’re assembling this right away, in a large bowl, place the ricotta, pepper, salt and eggs, and combine well.  Stir in the basil and set aside.

Now it’s just a matter of assembling it all.  In a lasagne pan, or a deep rectangular cake pan, arrange a layer of zucchini, top with 1/2 the ricotta mixture, sprinkle a layer of Parmasean, then a layer of tomato sauce.  Lay another layer of zucchini, and gently press it into the layer below, so any air escapes.  Top with the remaining ricotta, sprinkling of Parmesean, and sauce.  Over that, layer the mushrooms, and strew with any remaining ricotta and a drizzle of tomato sauce, then layer the mozzarella on top and sprinkle all over with the remaining Parmesean.

img_8511

Allow this to sit for 20 minutes or so, and pre-heat the oven to 375º F.  Before you put the dish into the oven, tap it gently but firmly on the countertop, to force out any air bubbles.  Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350º F and cook for an additional hour.  Start checking it abou 25 minutes before it’s done, to be sure it doesn’t burn on the top.  If it starts to look like it’s burning, lightly cover it with a loose tin foil tent, and continue cooking. Don’t let the tin foil touch the cheese if possible.

In order to remove as much water as possible, when the hour is over, I turn the oven off and allow the dish to sit in the cooling oven for another 20 – 30 minutes.  All you need is a nice salad and a good glass of red wine, and you have a great supper!

For the tomato sauce, there are several ways you can go. There is no shame in a bottled sauce, just remember you are trying to avoid added sugar and carbs, so a best quality sauce is recommended.  My tried and true recipe is below:

  • 1lb tomatoes from the freezer (or 2 cans best quality plum tomotoes, skinned, chopped)
  • 1 can best quality tomato sauce (I love Dellallo, but any good Italian tomatoes are good)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (teaspoons fresh shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)

In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pot, heat the olive oil for 2 minutes at medium heat.  Add in the onions and a pinch of salt, stir well and cover for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and stir well, allow to cook for another 10 minutes with no lid, then add in the garlic, oregano and basil, remaining salt and the pepper.  Simmer this all together until the oinions are cooked through and faintly starting to brown, then add in the tomatoes.  Stir all well, and add in the water and wine, if you’re using it.  If you use canned tomatoes, swirl the water in the cans to grab any remaining tomato.

Once everything is combined, lower the heat to low, put the lid on the pot, and allow to cook for 30 minutes, checking once in a while and to stir, so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  After cooking covered for 30 minutes, take the lid off the pan and allow to bubble away for another 10 – 15 minutes, to reduce slightly.

At this point you can eat with pasta, or whatever you choose to eat it with, or allow it to cool on the stove, wrap up and use within the next few days, or freeze for future use!

Happy Cooking!


This time 1 year ago:
Smooth, Creamy Hummus

2 years ago:
Nutella Cheesecake!

5 years ago:
Homemade cocktail cherries!

 

Standard
gardening, gourmet, home cooking, kid friendly, Meals, vegan, vegetarian

Tomato Salad, Egyptian Style

We are at the tail end of summer and I, once again, have been a bad blogger.  I am making the effort to right that wrong by posting some lovely, easy recipes that are great for dining in the last few hot weeks of summer.  First on my list is this Egyptian tomato salad.  It’s fairly simple, but packed with flavor, and it only gets better with sitting for a while, so make it today and eat it tomorrow. I will admit, I don’t know what makes it Egyptian, perhaps the garlic and shallots?  In any case, it’s very tasty.

Table of bounty

The original version of this recipe requires that you blanch and peel the tomatoes, and you can still do that, but I find that marinating them, in particular if they are burstingly ripe, as most tomatoes are at this stage of the summer, you’ll be fine without peeling.

If you decide to peel, it’s easy enough.  In a wide deep pot, boil some lightly salted water.  Score the bottom of your tomatoes with a shallow x, as somewhere for you to grab the skin to peel away.  Once the water has come to a rolling boil, take it off the heat and pop your tomatoes in for 5 minutes.  Take them out with a slotted spoon, and plunge into an ice water bath.  Let them sit there until you’re ready to peel them.  Honestly, the peels should slip right off in your hands, fairly easily, especially if they are as ripe as they should be.  Let them sit if they are still warm until at room temperature, and proceed with the recipe.

For my attempt this time, a lovely person I work with (Thank you, Karen Tyler-Ruiz!) gave me a beautiful pint of her own garden fresh cherry tomatoes, and I am using them in addition to some big juicy ripe tomotoes I got from the farmers market.  All you need do is cut them in half.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil, best quality
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 5 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 lemon, for juicing
  • Maldon or Kosher course (we’re going for flaky and crunchy)
  • 1 handful chopped fresh herbs (chervil, basil, parsley, your choice)

In the bowl of a food processor, place the shallot and garlic, and pulse 4 – 5 times until chunky.  Add the olive oil and process again for 2 – 3 pulses, so everything is combined, but not pureed.  Add in the Kosher salt and pepper, stir and set aside.

Cut your tomatoes thickly, and lay on a platter in one layer.  Use a spoon to top the tomatoes with the shallot mixture, being sure they all are well covered with it.  Cover and set aside to marinate. At this point, you can chill them, but be sure to take them out and set them at room temperature for an hour before serving.  If they’re cold straight from the fridge, you miss the whole delicious flavor!

Once at room temperature, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle lightly with the crunchy salt and strew with your fresh herbs, and you’re all set.

I would eat this as a side dish, with grilled chicken or fish, or even a steak, but also would include some crumbled feta to make it a meal all of it’s own.  Now grab some crusty bread and a nice glass of chilled Rosé, sit out in the garden or on your patio, and enjoy!

Marinating the salad

 

Standard
cabbage rolls, garlic, golubki, home cooking, kitch recipes, mushroom, vegetarian

Vegetable Chartreuse, Modern Style!

PC030035

Vegetable Chartreuse, courtesy of Hye Thyme Cafe (hyethymecafe.blogspot.com)

Have you ever looked at those 1960’s and 1970’s cookbooks?  You know, the ones with everything under aspic, and things like avocado creme?  A friend sent me a link a few years ago to one of the books that had been digitalized, and when I say “Ewwww..!” I wholeheartedly mean it.  Everything had this yellowish hue, but the real kicker was all this supremely labor intensive stuff that came out perfect looking, even if it was a bit technicolor to the eyes!  I recommend looking carefully at the picture above.  Look a the precision you had to have to make that!  My hat is off to them!  I am nowhere as precise as that, and am incapable of being so.  I also found this blog in my wanderings.  They have totally retro recipes, it’s totally worth a browse!  “Hey, my Granny used to make that!”

I saw the below recipe in the New York Times Food section, where I find a lot of my ideas, and the name intrigued me, which led to the search for the dish called a chartreuse.  Normally it’s a “country surprise” dish, meaning it looks decidedly vegetably externally, but hiding a game breast (partridge or woodcock or capon) with foie gras and all kinds of pork and bacon on the inside.  My version is a completely vegetarian version, with butter and a cup of Parmesan but otherwise all vegetable.

The recipe is simple, but the work is quite labor intensive, and should take the better part of a day to make and cook.

Chartreuse of Vegetables:

  • 1 head savoy cabbage, about 2 pounds
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt, separated,plus more for blanching
  • 6 large celery stalks, finely julienned, save the leaves
  • 6 large celery stalks, finely diced
  • 9 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • ¼ cup finely diced white onion (I had shallots so I used them, leaks will work as well)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped sage, rosemary and thyme, combined
  • 10 – 12 cups finely diced mushrooms — any combination white-button,
    cremini, wild (six 8oz packages)
  • ¼ cup good dry white wine (NOT chardonnay)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves celery leaves
  • 2 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream)
  • 2 pounds or 4 large bunches spinach
  • 1 large grate of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sherry (or red wine)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

* One 6 or 7 inch springform pan

To begin, slice the end off your cabbage and discard.  separate all the leaves, and select the best, prettiest and most intact 13 or 14 of them, set them aside.  Trim them so there isn’t much of the touch white core.  Put a large pot of water on to boil, and while waiting, finely shred the remaining cabbage and place it in a bowl.  When the water comes to a boil add a pinch of salt and blanch your cabbage leaves for 30  to 60 seconds.  They should be bright green, not dull green.  Plunge them into an icewater bath to stop them cooking, and lay them on paper towels or kitchen towels to dry.  Once you’ve worked through the whole batch wrap them up in a package and place in the fridge until you need them.

While the cabbage leaves are cooling, in the bowl you have the shredded cabbage, add 1 & 1/2 cups julienned celery and leaves.  Sprinkle over them 1 teaspoon of the salt, and mix well.  I like to use my hands and fingers to really work the salt in well.  Let this stand at room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add 3 tablespoons of butter and one of oil, and heat until the butter stops foaming.  Then add the chopped onion, garlic, remaining celery and combined sage, rosemary and thyme, and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until onion is just translucent. If it starts to brown or stick, add a few drops of water. Add all diced mushrooms, and stir occasionally, cooking 15-25 minutes until the mushrooms’ liquid has all emerged and evaporated. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Mix through, add white wine and cook for another minute. Turn off heat. Add parsley/celery leaves and crème fraîche, and mix through. Remove to a bowl, and refrigerate.

Rinse spinach in a large colander. Put a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook spinach in batches with only the water clinging to the leaves until they are completely wilted. Remove to a colander to cool. Put the spinach in a strong clean kitchen cloth, and squeeze well, until completely dry. Put leaves through a food processor until very well chopped (or chop finely by hand). In a small pan, heat 5 tablespoons butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil until butter has just begun to brown. Add chopped spinach and nutmeg. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt, then sherry. Cook a few moments, until sherry is absorbed. Take the pan off the heat and add Parmesan, mix well.

Now it’s time for assembly.  Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 6- or 7-inch springform pan. Make sure the cabbage leaves are very dry. Put the prettiest cabbage leaf in the bottom of the pan, spreading it into a single layer. Trim any stem/central vein that overhangs. Use 5-7 more leaves to line the sides, pressing some of each leaf carefully into the bottom of the pan and the rest up the pan’s side. There should be some leaf remaining overhanging the top. Continue, lightly overlapping the leaves, until sides are covered.

Best leaves

Put a third of the mushroom mixture into the food processor, and blend to semi-smooth. Mix back into the rest of the mushrooms. Spread half the mushroom mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan, over the cabbage. Cover with an even layer of half the spinach. Drain the cabbage-celery slaw very well, pressing all the liquid. Spread the very dry slaw over the cabbage. Repeat with the remaining spinach, and then the remaining mushrooms. Cover the mushrooms with 1-3 more cabbage leaves, in a very thin layer, trimming to fit if necessary. Fold overhanging leaves to cover the bottom. Dot with remaining butter, divided. Put into the middle of the oven. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let sit to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Dotted with butter

When it is cool enough to handle, turn it out onto a serving plate or platter.

Pretty result

It’s so pretty!  Reminded me of the tree of life.  Don’t forget this is all about the layers of flavor.

the layers

Eventhough it’s fairly labor intensive, it was so pretty, and very tasty!  Enjoy this one.

 

 

Standard
brownies, chocolate, favorite chocolate, Holiday cooking, home cooking, homemade desserts, Nigella Lawson, pudding, vegetarian, winter desserts

Easy chocolate cake for the New Year!

Chocolate Fudge Cake

My messy, frosted cake!

Below you will find a seriously good, slightly unusual chocolate cake, and the best buttercream frosting I have been able to figure out how to make!  It’s a little labor intensive, it’s easier to just grab a Betty Crocker box and take the short cut, but it’s SO much better to make your own!  Normally I shy away from buttercream, but I figured out the perfect way to make it light and delicious without the grittiness I usually get!

I did steal this one, but made the adjustments that get the cake to be super silky and very dense.  Check it out below and let me know what you think!

Fudge Cake:

  • 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • ½ cup corn oil
  • 1 ¼ cups chilled water

Fudge icing:

  • 6 oz chocolate, melted and at room temperature
  • 18 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

You’ll need 3 mixing bowls for the cake, and a stand mixer or hand held mixer for the cake and icing.  It’s a lot but it’s necessary, I found out the hard way!

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour two 8 inch cake tins, round or square are fine.  In a medium sized bowl combine all the ingredients for the cake up to but not including the eggs.  Use a fork to combine them and set aside.  In a small bowl, or a measuring jug, combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract, combine well and set aside.  (*quick note here, please, please use good extract, and not artificial essence.  That will quickly lose it’s flavor.  To make your own, 2 cups good vodka or bourbon in a Mason jar, and one vanilla pod, pushed down to cover with the alcohol.  Let it stand for a few days, you’ll see the change in color almost immediately.  Keep in a dry cool place and shake every few days.  After about 2 weeks,  you’ll have good extract.  You can keep it forever, and feed it more alcohol as you use it up!)

In the third bowl, if you have a stand mixer, use that bowl, combine the vegetable oil and melted butter and beat them together like mad.  When they look fairly amalgamated, add in the water and again beat like mad.  Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour mixture.  Mix until well combined, then add in the sour cream mixture.  Don’t do it out of order, or skip a step and add all the dry ingredients to the wet, do the two additions of dry then the sour cream, that will make the cake dense and rich.  If you short cut it, you’ll end up with a flat hard cake (my husband said it “hurt” his mouth to eat, but it was still delicious!)  Stir all well to combine and divide up in to the two pans.  Tap the filled pans on the counter lightly to release any air bubbles and put them in the oven.  They will bake for 50 – 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Once fully baked, cool the pans on a rack, and when fully cooled, either wrap well with plastic wrap and save until ready to frost, or just start frosting them.  It’s critical they are completely cooled.

For the frosting, you’ll have to do a little forward planning.  Critical step number one is to allow the butter to come fully to room temperature well in advance.  I usually take it out of the fridge the night before I make it and let them wrapped sticks sit overnight and most of the following day.  When you’re ready to make the frosting, plop the butter into the mixing bowl and beat it like mad, for longer than you even think necessary.  Once it’s pretty light and looks whipped, start adding in the confectioners sugar one big spoonful at a time.  This is going to take a while. Critical step number 2, once the sugar is fully incorporated, once again, beat like mad.  In doing so, you’re not only adding air, you’re also allowing the sugar to dissolve more in the liquid in the butter.  It’s not going to curdle, the sugar also acts as a stabilizer, so beat away.  At this stage, I let it sit for a good 20  minutes, beat it again, then add in the vanilla, and then the completely cooled chocolate.  And one more time beat like mad.  Stop occasionally to scrape down the bowl and beater, as you beat it, the color will be come lighter, and the texture will be very fluffy.  Once you’re sure it’s all combined, time to frost!

Find the plate or cake stand you’ll be serving on, and set the cake on strips of wax or parchment paper, like so with the rounded top side down (borrowed from the Betty Crocker site):

Betty Crocker frosting

Dab a tiny bit of the frosting under the cake on the plate to hold it in place. Use about 1/3 of the frosting on the top of the cake, and leave a 1/4 inch border around the edge, for expansion when you put the second layer down.  Next layer should be humped side up. Use the rest of the frosting to ice the remaining cake, including the sides, and once you’re done, remove the paper strips, and you’ll have a clean presentation!

Of course, you can change up all the flavors of the cake by changing the vanilla extract to something else, and also replacing the water in the cake with a fruit juice, or a liqueur.  If you do, just watch the baking time and test slightly earlier than 50 minutes.

Happy New Year all!  Go forth and bake!!

Standard
brunch, cooking for one, Holiday cooking, home cooking, vegetarian

A Traditional Americas Thanksgiving

Hello, dear Readers!  We have had a frenetic past 6 months. They’ve involved a surgery, we’ve moved, we’ve had a sick kitty thrown into that mix, and now we’re unpacking!  As you know, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am usually running myself pleasurably ragged preparing for dinner on Thursday.  This year thought, Hubby’s cousins are hosting at their house, and so I am off the large hook.  That doesn’t mean I won’t cook, just on a much smaller scale.  I am offering to bring a roasted turkey breast and pumpkin mousse/pudding so they have their favorite dessert, but dairy and soy free to accommodate the dietary needs of one of our newest, tiny family members!

As I look back on many years past, I realized that the American Thanksgiving dinner does still bear some resemblance to what we can see from historical accounts was the first dinner, with the Pilgrims giving thanks, not only for the bounty of a harvest, but also to the Native peoples that helped them get to that harvest. Where on our dinner tables are the squash, beans and corn, traditionally now called “the three sisters” of the past?  It’s more than likely they were on that first Thanksgiving table.  So, when looking for easy to freeze vegetarian entrees, I happened upon this little gem, called Three Sisters empanadas, just in time for Thanksgiving!

The “three sisters” are the trinity of beans, squash (or zucchini) and corn. They’re symbiotic crops, the beans and squash need no trellis for support, because they use the corn for it.  And so you have crops that depend upon each other in the garden.  Quite ingenious of those first Americans! I am calling this post traditional Americas Thanksgiving, because this dish is truly that, something from the Americas, both north and south.  The beauty of this dish is that you can freeze it and the dough and filling for a future feast.

The base is the squash and corn, roasted in a hot oven with oil, salt and a little chili powder.  Then you add green chilies, beans, seasonings, and let it sit.  While that happens, you can either freeze the filling, then make the dough, and freeze that too.  Or, you can shape, fill and bake them for immediate eating, later lunches or snacks, or freeze them for later!  You really can’t get more versatile than that!

On a side note, I am implementing what a lot of food blogs have started to do, which is detailing what you’ve done at this time in years past.  I realized I have blogs that go all the way back to 2007, imagine that?  There is a lot to share, so don’t skip the very bottom of the post!

Three Sisters Empanadas (adapted from The Kitchn)

Preheat the oven to 400 º Farenheit

Ingredients:

For the filling:

1/2 pound zucchini (2 medium), cut into 1/2–inch cubes

2 cup fresh corn kernels (2 medium ears) or 1 small package of frozen kernels

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste1 teaspoon of chili powder

1 small can black, pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 small can diced green chilis (you can use fresh if you like it hot, but then it’s 2 small chilis, seeded and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

For the dough:

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed

For the egg wash:

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon water

In a large rimmed sheet pan, lined with foil or parchment, lay the corn and squash in one layer, season generously with salt, pepper and chili powder.  Drizzle the olive oil over the ingredients, and with your hands, toss everything so they’re well covered with oil and seasonings.  Place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, but after 15 minutes start checking so the corn doesn’t burn.  You want everything browned and a little toasted.  Depending on how fresh it is, it might be drier or full of sugar, which tends to make it burn faster.  If you feel like it, after 20 minutes, if everything isn’t already browned, give the pan a shake to redistribute and allow the other side to brown.  Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool down.  Check your email, check the mail, clean the bathroom, whatever will take enough time for the ingredients to cool off!  Once it’s cooled, place in a large bowl, and add the beans, green chilis, cumin and chili powder. Mix all together well, taste and adjust to your liking.  Then cover, and set in the fridge to mingle a little.  The mixture should be wet enough to hold together on a spoon, but not watery.

IMG_2399

Meanwhile, make the dough.  I used a food processor, you can use your hands, or a pastry cutter or two forks.  I find the processor is just faster. In the bowl of your processor, place the flours, salt and cumin. Pulse a few times to mix well.  Drop in the butter and begin to pulse until everything looks like lumpy cornmeal.  Then start to pulse while you drizzle in the water a few spoons at a time.  Pulse until the dough starts to cohere and ball up.  If it looks too shaggy/dry to cohere after 1/4 cup, measure out another 1/4 cup and pulse it in, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Once it’s in a ball like stage, dump it all out onto a scantly floured board and knead the dough, until it’s smooth and will hold it’s shape.  Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge to rest, 20 minutes or so.  If you’re freezing it, wrap well in plastic, then put into a freezer bag.  When you’re ready to use it, aloow it to thaw overnight or for 8 – 10 hours in the fridge, then knead until pliable.

When you’re ready to assemble, pat the dough into a log like shape and cut into 12 pieces.  If you like a thick dough, cut into 10 and cook 4 -5 minutes longer.  Roll each piece into a ball with your hands, then flatten out on a cutting board, and with a rolling pin, roll it out into a circle shape.  It should be about 4 – 5 inches in diameter and fairly thin.  This dough is fairly tough, so it can handle thin rolling.

IMG_2398

In the center of your dough spread a tablespoon of the filling. Pull the top of the dough over the filling and press into the bottom half, carefully pushing out any air pockets in the filling.  Then, twist the edges together and press down, crimping as you go.  Mine looked like this:

IMG_2400

You should get 12 out of the batch, but if you only get 10 that’s fine! Use a fork to punch some holes in the dough, so there is somewhere for the steam to go.  In a small bowl, beat together the egg and water, and use a brush to brush all over the exposed parts of the empanadas.  Place in the oven (at 400 degrees) for 20 – 25 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when they look browner and slightly shiny.

IMG_2401

You can serve these with salsa and sour cream, or just eat them as they are.  They’re so good, and make a fab hand held lunch.  Think of them as home made “Hot Pockets”!

Have a lovely Thanksgiving all, and let me know what you end up cooking!!

 


What Were We Cooking?
1 year ago:

Countdown to Thanksgiving

3 years ago:

Pretzel Bread

5 years ago:

Homemade Pancake mix

Standard
home cooking, Julia Child, mushroom, pearl onions, vegetarian

Cooking French Food for Your Vegetarian

pixabella-Red-Stylised-Heart-with-Smaller-HeartsHappy February!  It’s soon to be Valentines Day, and I usually go all out and make a really romantic meal for the Hubby.  I’d love to hear how you, my dear readers celebrate your significant others, or even celebrate yourselves for a special day!

You all know, I have a vegetarian husband, for whom I will try to cook anything vegetarian style.  I have however never really been successful with the full blooded classic French dishes.  Mainly, I am half successful in creating something that has the meat replaced by something processed to be like meat, or by substituting something else for the meat.  He always says he likes it, and I am sure he does, but it always feel like I am cheating!  Flash forward to today.  I was trolling around the usual cooking sites I look at for food inspiration, and I came upon this gem, Mushroom Bourguignon (yes all those ‘g’s” are supposed to be there.)

The recipe carries all the French classical steps, braising, reduction of liquids, the mirepoix*, but it is simple, and really delicious.  For the past several years, I have raffled off a meal at work, for our internal fundraising campaign, and Beef Bourguignon is always on offer.  Perhaps I’ll change it this year and offer this dish too!

Mushroom Bourguignon

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1lb Portobello mushrooms, stems cut off and discarded, mushrooms cut into 2 in cubes
  • 2lbs white or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut on a diagonal
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have any)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups pearl onions, peeled (these are optional)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium.  I used my cast iron Dutch oven, even heat makes a huge diference.  Add both types of mushrooms, sauté until lightly browned.  They may give off some liquid, but at this point that’s good.  Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until you begin to smell the garlic.  The aim here is to cook but not to brown the vegetables.  Add thyme, red wine, tomato paste and stock and stir gently, until the tomato paste has dissolved into the liquid. Put the lid on the pan and allow this to cook at a low heat for 20 minutes.  After that time, take the lid off and raise the heat up to high and cook until liquid has reduced, about 15 minutes.  It should be reduced by half, and taken on a more syrupy or rich consistency.  Add the optional pearl onions and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until they’re starting to turn translucent and softer.

Here we use a classic sauce thickening technique.  Mix the cornstarch and cold water together in a small dish until all the cornstarch is dissolved.  Cornstarch will make the sauce thicker and glossier than flour would, it’s more gravy like than stew like, if that makes sense.  Bring the pan to a boil, and add the cornstarch mixture to it.  Once again, the alchemy of cooking shows itself, you’ll see the sauce thicken and darken slightly.  At this point, you’re finished.

Generally I would serve this dish on egg noodles, but you can serve it with boiled or mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, whatever you love.

And remember to love the vegetarian you’re serving this to!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Mirepoix is a classical French flavor base of minced onion, carrot and celery.  You can not duplicate the taste of celery, and I urge you to add just a stalk, even if you don’t like it!  If not, try a pinch of celery seed, trust me you won’t be disappointed with the result.

Standard
brown, eggs, gourmet, home cooking, homemade cheese, Italian Food, kid friendly, lasagna, marinated artichokes, Meals, ricotta, vegetarian, winter

No pressure!

How many of you live outside of the Eastern seabord?  Ok, so of you, how many have heard of something called mostaccioli?  Am I wrong when I say that it’s the poor younger brother of baked ziti?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good baked pasta.  My issue here is that the mostaccioli I speak of is a kind of bland, basic, tasteless staple at Michigan weddings, and in hot bars.  Truly, it’s not worth all your effort to turn out something so bland and kinda boring.

So, Michiganders, and Midwesterners, please see below for a few easy, and very tasty tips to turn your mostaccioli into a mouth watering and delicious baked pasta dish.  I am listing them as DO’S and DON’TS.

  • DON’T refrain from salting your pasta water.  The Italian tradition says your pasta water should taste as salty as the sea.  Listen to them, if anyone knows of what they speak, as far as food, it’s the Italians!
  • DO add luscious cheese and some good ricotta to your casserole.  Now, I am making an assumption here that most people know how to make baked ziti, or mostaccioli?  If not, I’ll give you a run down at the end of this list.
  • DON’T over boil your pasta before you put it in the dish. (Self explanatory.)
  • DO add vegetables, and all kinds of meat or proteins to your dish.  As a matter of fact, I use the very best jarred sauce I can find, or you can make your own.  (You hear me?  No sweet, sugary jarred Prego here, please!)
  • DO be liberal with seasoning, with the exception of salt.  Remember, you have made your pasta cooking water “like the sea” so the salt will be an inherent part of your dish.  I usually add ricotta cheese, and salt that rather liberally too, so there is that salt to remember.  Too much salt isn’t what you’re going for here, it’s mellow, cheesy and luscious.  (Maybe I should just call this Luscious Bake.)
  • DO use a large enough pan.  I was lucky enough to be gifted a set of new bakeware this Christmas (Thanks, Pop!) and it is non-stick and comes with silicone inserts, so no need for the pot holders or oven mitts to get it out of the oven!! My point is, even cooking and enough crunchy brown stuff to go around makes for maximum deliciousness!
  • My final DON’T is, DON’T NOT make this!  It’s so good, and so easy, and will feed you and your mid-sized family for several days.  This, a salad, and perhaps a good glass of wine and some bread?  That’s what will keep you warm in these ridiculously cold days!

Sooo, I forgot to mention above, have you heard of ziti?  Don’t we all know what that is?  It’s a tubular pasta, with ridges, although, I have to say that might be rigatoni, I’ll have to check my pasta shapes book.  But, you can use either, you can also use any stuffed pasta, like tortellini  (I would refrain from ravioli, simply because it will bust open and make a mess, trust me on this one)  I am also imagining how great this would be with elbows, spirals, pretty much anything that will catch the filling and sauce.

Here is the basic recipe.  You can add anything you like, but the bake time should remain fairly the same.  If you’re super adventurous, you can use fresh pasta.  In that case cut back the pasta cooking time, but then you’re probably experienced enough to know when fresh pasta is ready to go.

Bep’s All Purpose Baked Pasta (aka Baked Ziti)

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Prep a large baking dish, about 12 inches long by 3 deep.  You can rub it with olive oil, but you really don’t have to.

  • 1 pound uncooked pasta (ziti, rigatoni, etc) Usually one box/bag
  • salt, olive oil
  • 1 large jar spaghetti sauce (or 4 cups of your homemade. I really prefer Newman’s Own, or Barilla here, but it’s up to you) (*Not a paid sponsor)
  • 1 15 oz tub of ricotta cheese (whole or skim, makes no difference)
  • 1 whole egg, per container of ricotta (you can leave out, but it makes a huge flavor difference)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 oz shredded mozzarella (I have used provolone too, really good)
  • 8 oz Parmesan, shredded or powdery

Any or all of the below:

  • 1 pint cooked mushrooms (sliced thin, sauteed in olive oil with garlic until soft)
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach (or a packet of baby spinach leaves), washed and sliced fine (if using baby leave, just leave them whole)
  • Bunch of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, sage, to taste) washed, dried, chopped
  • Meat (1 lb ground meat, chicken cooked, pork sausage diced, you get the idea)

Bring a large pot full of water to the boil.  When it comes to the boil, add enough salt so the water is well and truly briney, taste it (probably about a tablespoon of Kosher, 2 tsp of table salt).  Add a good glug of olive oil, and let it come back to the boil.  Once it’s rolling boiling, add the dried pasta.  Cook it to the packet’s instructions, but my rule of thumb is, stir it until they’re all rolling around in the water.  Once you make the other preparations, it will be ready to drain and sauce (close to 12 minutes.) Now, I said above, don’t overcook it, and I mean that.  You should feel slight resistance when you taste and bit into it, but not crunch, just a nice solid resistance to your teeth.  It should above all be cooked through.

While your pasta is cooking, place your ricotta cheese into a medium sized bowl and add the egg, beaten, and salt and pepper.  Use a fork to beat this until it’s fully incorporated.  Now, you will need to taste it for seasoning.  A little tiny bit of raw egg won’t kill you.  Adjust the salt and pepper so it tastes good to you.  At this point, if you’re using the herbs, add them, and beat again into the ricotta mixture.  Reserve a tablespoon or so for later.  Set this mixture aside.  Prep all the other ingredients you’re adding, if any.  Check if your pasta is done, and if it’s ready, drain it in a large colander. Once the pasta is drained, it’s really just a matter of plonking everything in the baking dish, adding cheese and baking it.

Leave your pasta to drain for a few minutes, and add the sauce to the bottom of your baking dish.  Add the pasta to the baking dish and mix until all the pasta is covered with sauce evenly.  Take 1/3 the ricotta mixture and mix it through the pasta and sauce.  If your using the other ingredients, with the exception of the artichokes, swirl them into the pasta now too.  Once everything in incorporated, add the artichokes to the ricotta and mix well.  Then spread the mixture evenly over the pasta, it doesn’t have to perfect, it will get covered with cheese at this point!.  Sprinkle the Parmesan over it, then cover the whole thing with the mozzarella.

Once everything is done, put it in your oven and bake for 45 minutes, and allow at least 10 minutes of cooling time to be able to cut through it.  If you reserved any herbs, sprinkle them over the plate when you’re serving.  For the two of us, this will make 3 dinners, or at least 2 dinners and 1 lunch.  It’s so good, and honestly, isn’t that easy?  Mostaccioli, FEH!!

This is what ours looked like tonight!

YUMMY!  And so easy!

YUMMY! And so easy!

For all of you that will be getting into Winter Storm Ivan, be safe, and don’t spend much time outside if you don’t absolutely have to!  Cook something instead!

Standard
brown, brunch, Fall, mushroom, Uncategorized, vegetarian, winter

Mushroom Stroganoff

Ok, vegetarians, come on back to the fold!  This post is one I planned to write a while ago, and so the photos are of the old kitchen. But that doesn’t make it any less wonderful!  I wrote a favorite things post a while back, and mentioned one of my go-to’s for easy every night cooking is a mushroom soup base that is vegetarian.  The product is called Better Than Bouillon. It comes in Vegetable Base, No Chicken and No Beef flavors as well, so there are lots of options flavor wise, but to do this stroganoff well, you need a really deep tasting broth.  Just as an aside, they also do kicking Ham, Beef, Clam, Fish and a Lobster Bases that are amazingly good.  And, as an aside, I am not endorsing this product for any other reason than I love it.

So, yes, this recipe is vegetarian, but I wouldn’t recommend it be vegan.  Having said that though, if you can find a vegan sour cream style product, go for it!   For the meat lovers out there, yes, this is the same recipe as beef stroganoff, just with no beef.  If you want to do beef, add browned beef cubes to this, and you’ll be away with yourself!  I often make this for myself, because I love mushrooms, and I don’t add meat, but I sometimes add fake beef strips, to up the level of protein.

I use an array of mushrooms in this, but honestly the lowly button mushroom is also great here.  For mine I used oyster, Shitake and mini portobello mushrooms.  I would stay away from enoki, they really don’t have any flavor.  I also sometimes use dried porcini or morels if I have them handy.

 

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 medium packages of mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic minced finely, or crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup red wine, sherry or marsala (optional)

2 cups good broth (mushroom or vegetable, just make sure it tastes good)

16 oz container of sour cream (low fat, regal, no fat, makes no difference)

1 container/bag beef substitute (I used Gardein Beefless Tips)

1 bag of egg noodles, or rice or couscous, your preference

In a heavy bottomed pan that is cold, place the garlic and oil and turn on the heat to a medium flame.  Once you can smell the garlic, toss in all the mushrooms, and quickly stir to coat them in oil.  The mushrooms will absorb all the oil, but if you sprinkle the salt and pepper over them, stir and clamp a lid on them, they will start to cook and release their juices.  Once this starts to happen, take the lid off the pan and sauté the mushrooms so they are looking limp and cooked.

At this point, I add the wine of you’re using it, and raise the heat up so it bubbles down, all the while stirring.  If you’re not doing that, add the 2 cups of stock, keep the lid off the pan and stir well, then turn up the heat to a low boil, and keep an eye on it, stirring as you go.

IMG_1227

You may want to taste it at this point, for seasoning.  Adjust as you feel is necessary.  After about 10 minutes of high heat, the liquids should be reduced enough that when you stir with your spoon, you should briefly see the bottom of the pan.  Add the fake meat if you’re adding it and stir well.  This will lower the heat in the pan, so cover it and allow it to cook and heat through.  Once you get to that point, take the pot off the heat, and add the sour cream, stirring well to combine.  It may look as though it’s curdling, but it’s not, it’s just a bit shocked.  As you stir, it will all mix and turn a lovely buff color.

IMG_1230.jpg

At this point, I would set this aside, on a very low flame, and cook the starch you’re eating with it.  If it’s noodles, once they’re cooked and well drained, add them to the mushroom mixture and stir well.  If you’re using another grain or starch, pile it up on a plate and spoon the mushroom over it.

Yummy!  Enjoy it!

Standard
brunch, cherry, gourmet, home cooking, maraschino cherries, Nigella Lawson, scones, vegetarian

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day, to all the Mom’s out there, be it of human children, doggie or kitty children, or any of the combinations this modern life affords!  You’re the most important thing to a child, and one day is truly not enough to honor all that you do!  In particular, I send this to my own mother, who’s name happens to also be Elizabeth Hennessey.  She is such a wonderful person in general, that her being an amazing Mom to us, and to many that are not her own children, is something I am grateful for each and every day!

If I lived near my mom and dad, I would do a great deal more cooking for them.  But, I live 600+ miles away, so the cooking has to be special any time it does happen. When Mom came out to help with the Hubby’s recovery, I made lamb shanks for my Mom’s birthday celebration dinner, labor intensive, but so worth it for my mom!  I know my Dad is a big dessert lover, in particular blueberry pie and cherry pie.  I am not a big blueberry pie fan, but the cherries, I adore, I guess I got that from him!  

You will recall I gave you a recipe for preserved cherries (AKA Maraschino cherries) here so it’s obvious I love them in any form they come in.  So, when I got a blog post from Faith from TheKitchn for strawberry sour cream scones this week, I suddenly thought, ohh… cherries!  Then it went off into the transom of my mind, and as usual with my menopausal mind fog, I forgot about it.  But Hubby and I went to Whole Foods last night, and they had bags of gorgeous frozen cherries and they were on sale!  Win, WIN!  The idea of the scones popped back into my head.  Now, I will tell you, my go to thing when cooking with the kiddies are chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes (my niece doesn’t realize they’re actually muffins with Nutella on…) or scones.  And for the scones, I steadfastly go to Nigella Lawson’s cheese scone dough (in Nigella Bites) as “the one” recipe with some tweaks. It’s simply the easiest and tastiest scone recipe, but it’s not the traditional lead bellied bombs you usually see.  They’re light and airy, and she uses them for making pigs in blankets… I have to say they’re divine!  I take out the mustard powder and substitute sugar, and chocolate chips go in rather than cheese, and VOILA, you have a chocolate chip scone!  For one thing, Nigella begins with self raising flour, which I have at the ready all the time, I even travel with it if we drive home to New York!  She also doesn’t use the usual sour cream or buttermilk and I find that incredibly easier for impromptu cooking.  

Faith’s recipe calls for all the traditional things, sour cream, buttermilk, eggs.  I made a bit of a detour and combined the two recipe’s with a few tweaks of my own.  For example, instead of adding the sour cream, I just added an egg yolk for richness and a bit of dough enhancement.  These are simpler, and take mere minutes to toss together, and are really delicious!  Once again, you can substitute many things here, the constant is the flour amounts and the liquids have to roughly remain in the same proportions, or you end up with a too wet mess.  Let me know what you think, and I actually took a few photos’ so you’ll see what inspired me about these this morning.

 

Mother’s Day Cherry Scones


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar (can be refined white, or raw brown)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (cardamom might be nice here too..!)

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 cup frozen (or fresh) cherries pitted and cut in half

1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

1/2 cup milk (I used coconut milk, since we never have milk in the house)

1 egg yolk

Scant 1/3 cup Demerara sugar (or some crunchy, large grain sugar for topping)

 

Preheat your oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil or a silpat.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon), stir well to combine.  Add the cold butter to the mixture and toss to combine.  With your finger tips or two forks, or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour, just until the cubes are better combined, and the mixture starts to look crumby.  Toss in the cherries, still frozen and the almonds if you’re using them and set aside.  In a jug or bowl, combine the milk and egg yolk and beat to combine well.  Here comes the tricky part, combine the liquids and flour/cherry mixture in the bowl with a wooden spoon.  It will instantly clump up, and so my best advice it to use your hands and, as gently as you can, mix the two together.  It will be a sticky messy dough, but it will hold together fairly well.  Don’t worry about clumps of flour or butter, that will all work itself out in the oven.


Cherry Scone dough


Once most of the flour in incorporated, turn the whole lot out onto the parchment lined baking sheet and shape it into a round. With a bench scraper, or a large knife, dipped in flour, cut the round into wedges.  Now you’re ready to bake!


Ready for the oven


Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.  They will be darker than you think they will be, that’s due to the frozen cherries melting a bit.  Let them cool to room temperature to try them.  I like them just as they are, but you can split them and slather with butter too!


Fresh from the oven

 

So, I hope your Mother’s Day is wonderful!

 

 


Standard