Summer can last all year!

At least in your kitchen it can!  I have, every year for the last 20 somehow stored tomatoes for the long bleak winter.  One way is to blanch, peel, chop and freeze in freezer bags, for soup and sauce all winter long.  Another way I have tried several times, and did this year, is oven roasting them until they are almost dry, and then dousing with olive oil and stashing in the fridge or freezer.

This method preserves and intensifies the ripe flavors, and allows you to use them in several types of dishes in the future.  Honestly, I have taken them out, pulsed them or chopped them and put on crispy toast for a fast crostini snack.  The oil is delicious after they have steeped for a while, and you can even use it to make roasted tomato pesto.  I’ll add a recipe for that at the end of this post, but before we get there, we have to roast the little suckers!

My last post was the Egyptian tomato salad, and I used a gorgeous gaggle of cherry tomatoes someone had given me.  In case there weren’t enough, I bought a big basket of ripe organic tomatoes, so I could supplement if needed.  But, the little cherry tomatoes were plenty, as a matter of act we are still eating them 3 days later!  The larger tomatoes were really ripe, and I wasn’t about to put them in the fridge, so I decided to go to my roasting option.  Directions are below:

Ingredients:

  • Large ripe tomatoes (as many as you can find)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (may need more, depending upon how many tomatoes you do)
  • 1 cup (or more) of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375º Farenheit.

Slice the tomatoes in 1/4 inch slices, from stem to bottom.  Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat/silicone mat. Don’t use aluminum foil, it will react with the acid in the tomatoes and make them taste metallic.  If you don’t have parchement or Silpat, lightly oil the sheet pan so they don’t stick when roasting.

Arrange the tomato slices in rows, they can touch, but allow some room so they don’t stick together. Lightly sprinkle with some of the salt, have a light hand here, you’re going to intensify the flavors by roasting them, so too much salt will ruin them.  Allow to stand for a few minutes for the salt to dissolve, then put them in the oven.  I usually do two sheets at a time, so the wait time is perfect in between sheets.

Before:

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Roast them in the oven for an hour, but check at 50 minutes.  You’ll see that they are drier, and carmelized a little.  If not, roast for another 10 minutes.  They should look like this:

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Allow them to cool for 20 minutes.  Once they are cool, find the container of your choice, I usually just use a Ziplock bag, pile them in and cover with the olive oil.  Give them a stir or a squeeze to be sure the oil is evenly distributed.  You can keep these refrigerated for a long time, and if you freeze them, they will last for a year.  To use them, you can make a roasted tomato tapenade.

Roasted Tomato Tapenade:

  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can use the oil you stored them in, YUM!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (plus one cut in half for rubbing the bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 green olives, pitted and chopped roughly
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 baguette or crusty bread, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

In a blender or food processor, add all the ingredients except the bread and hold back 1/4 cup of the olive oil.  Pulse and process the mixture until it’s uniform in color, and there are no large chunks of anything.  The texture you’re looking for is thick enough to coat the bread, with some liquidness to it.  As you process, add more of the olive oil, you may need more to reach the proper consistency.

To serve, lightly toast the bread, and rub them with the half garlic to coat lightly.  Spoon the tapenade on the bread and enjoy!

This is an intense flavor, so you don’t need a great deal of it.  You can also top it with a little piece of cheese, mozzarella or some Parmesan, or even some feta!  I have also used this to toss with hot pasta, and Parmesan, it’s delicious.  This is a versatile recipe, you can change out the garlic for some onion and hot peppers, or change the herbs to basil or oregano, or a combination of both.

Every time you eat this over the winter, you’ll think about summer and the sun on your face!

 

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

 

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!

Thanksgiving is here (almost)!

Every year the Hubby and I host his family for Thanksgiving.  The attendance numbers fluctuate year to year, but it’s usually no less than 16 people.  In the old house, it was super easy to accommodate the number, but since we have only just moved, we opted out of hosting this year.  We just don’t know how many people we can fit into our little dining room, although I am SURE we will have no problem, once we get settled.

I find myself completely at odds with myself, not having any planning to do, other than making a cake for the gathering we will be attending.  So, I thought I would spend a few days of blogging going over a few of the tried and true recipe’s for what we normally do, and share a few photo’s of the beautiful tables we have set over the years.

Each year, I try to do a completely different table from the previous year, and we do everything real.  Real plates, silverware, glasses, all from a stock I have accumulated over the years.  It was the big tradition of Hubby’s Uncle Henry and Aunt Max to have huge family gatherings at their house for the holiday, and we try to keep that tradition alive.  Henry built basic folding tables, with a T at the top, that would seat over 20 people in their basement.  But they were easily stored for future use, and we did use them last year!

The race to decorate the tables is usually something I really think through carefully.  One year I made my own table runner and loved the material so much, it became the pattern for our wedding announcements and party invites.

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I loved that table, and it got rave reviews!  You can see how long the table was, it went from our dining room all the way into the living room, and I think we had 18 that year for dinner.

Here is a typical menu for our Thanksgiving:

Roasted turkey

Gravy

Mashed potatoes

Sweet potatoes (with Red Hot’s sauce)

Fried or creamed corn

Stuffed celery

Olive puffs

Pickle and olive plate

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts

Coleslaw

String bean casserole

Stuffed mushrooms

Dinner rolls

Tofurkey

Cranberry sauce

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Lime Bavarian

Blackberry cobbler

It’s a lot to put on the table, but generally everyone makes one thing, or more, and brings it.  I do the turkey and mashed potatoes every year, along with the pies and the Tofurkey.  Can’t have Thanksgiving with out that for the Hubby!

So, I’ll miss making all that this year, but through you, dear blog readers, I will virtually make a great deal of it for you in this blog this week!

What are some of your family favorites?  Do you have the same group each year, or does it vary?  I used to do a lonely hearts Thanksgiving every year, for people that had no family locally, or just wanted to be somewhere other than with family (you wouldn’t believe how many peeps I had with that reason!) The Hubby’s Aunt Max used to call it her “Mystery Guest”, and I am thrilled that we do keep up with that tradition as well!

Pop Up Dinner with Chef Greenhill to Benefit The Children’s Center of Detroit

I can’t wait to tell you about the event we just attended!  The Hubby works at a company called Team Detroit and a few weeks ago, he got an internal email about an event they were sponsoring called Pop-Up Dinner with Chef Brad Greenhill to Benefit The Children’s Center.  I had heard of The Children’s Center before through the work we do at the United Way.  But the chance to go to an event that was sponsored by my hubby’s company, that also benefits the kids of Detroit, how can I say no?

It was a spectacular and small event at Detroit Farm and Garden, the last place you would imagine a pop up restaurant, but it was the perfect locale!  DF&G is a barn like structure, near the I-75 service drive in the periphery between Corktown and Mexican Town.  It’s kind of a no-man’s land.  But the DF&G is there, and is a lovely local provider of everything you can imagine for the home farmer, as well as landscaper… in season.  Tonight it was transformed into a delightful foodie wonderland, with fairie lights and lovely mismatched settings all over!

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We were greeted by lovely hostesses and an even lovelier young lady bearing a plank of what looked like cedar with a delightful rum punch provided by the local cocktail emporium, Sugar House.  Any drink from there is worth it!  This was followed shortly after by the lights going out.  But the long farm-style, butcher paper covered tables were dressed with votive candles, which kept the ambiance, and the talk going.  Eventually the lights went back on, and we were drawn to the cheese plates.  Let me tell you they were practical and attractive!

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Once we had had a drink, and were seated, we listened to Tammy Zonker, who is a former colleague from the United Way.  She left the United Way to join The Children’s Center as Chief Philanthropy Officer.  She talked to us briefly about what the organization does, and introduced a video, which I am linking it below.  Talk about powerful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0E9hXyBsCk

After that very serious film, we started talking at the table, and we all realized we were very excited about the food.  The wine was lovely, and poured liberally, so we were really happy.  The Chef, Brad Greenhill is a genius, we were delighted each step of the way.  Honestly, this is the perfect fundraiser, lovely people, a great mix of old, new and some odd people thrown in.  The food was masterful, and honestly, we are supporting a wonderful organization, that is truly making a difference in some children’s very difficult lives.  The Children’s Center serves up to 7,500 children each year, with a multitude of issues, mainly relating to neglect and abuse.  I got a fantastic meal in aide of the cause.  The kids got some recognition and some funding.  That’s worth the price of admission surely!

Next up was the starter, grilled bread, apple butter, strachiatelli and apple salad.  Refreshing, delicious and even the picker eater in front of me was wide eyed with how good the pairing was.  It was paired with a bubbly rosè sparking wine.  The perfect foil to the lovely buttery and rich crostini.  I have never seen apple butter paired with anything but bread, so this was an unexpected delight.

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Next up, after lots of lovely conversation and another glass of wine was the Golden Beet Soup.  On the menu that the Hubby had gotten from work, it said Golden Beef Soup.  We were both puzzled by that, but it turned out to be a lovely silky golden beet pureé, with some lemon scented greek yogurt, and pitachio’s, perfect crunch and lovely fatty mouth feel.  there was definitely a spicy finish, which trurned out to be a red chile roasted and pureed with the beets.  All around a success, although I unfortunatley didn’t get a photo before devouring it!

Then there was a kale salad with mint and pomegranate.  I got the opportunity to share my long term secret for seeding a pom!  Cut in half, hold over bowl, thwack with a wooden spoon.  The seeds rain down like bejeweled beads!  The combo of Lachinato kale, lemon, olive oil, pom seeds and mint was classic and refreshing, and so delicious!  Normally I am all preoccupied with the dressing, I don’t even remember thinking about that tonight.

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Isn’t that pretty!

Next up was the main course.  For me it was lamb shank with pine nut gremolata.  For the Hubby, it was mushroom ragu with polenta, and the same gremolata.  Generally the husband hated line nuts, but here he didn’t seem to mind it! the lambwas perfect, fall off the bone tender, and the polenta was light and fluffy, not at all the way I can ever get it.  I ate every morsel, and I heard a few at the table saying they would like to pick the plate up and lick it!

Mine:

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The Hubby’s ragu:

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Considering that the dinner was to aid children, we were so engrossed with talking about food and the food we were eating, I swear the night ran by us.  Dessert was a salted caramel ice cream by Treat Dreams in Ferndale.  Even the Hubby was smacking his lips and lamenting that we couldn’t take boxes home!

Did you notice that not one dish matched another?  That was totally the charm of the evening.  That and viewing an actual Banksy at 555 Gallery.  Also worth trekking down to Mexican Town!

Bravo Children’s Center on a wonderful event, and to Chef Greenhill.  You’re a genius, and I don’t care who I tell!

Yay, kewl night, great food.  Such a great place Detroit is!

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!

 

 


Three years, and so much water under the bridge!

So I logged into WordPress a few weeks ago, and there was a little icon in the upper right hand side of the screen that looked like an award.  It reminded me that I have been blogging on WordPress for 3 years!  Happy Anniversary to me!  It also means I have been blogging for 5 years!  It seems like a much longer period of time than it feels like!  I have tried hard to make the commitment to write as much as possible, but when it’s a food blog, I do tend to let real life get in the way, which means my work, our family, the Hubby and generic stuff.  I read the blogs of people I feel I am getting to know, connections that are tenuous, and not real, but at least keep me in the mind that I should be writing more and more, not less and less.  My mind runs away sometimes, and writing would be a helpful way to keep it centered.  Do any of my blogging friends feel the same way?

As usual, this break in the blogging has been necessary due to life stepping in.  It’s been an interesting and challenging few months.  On March 7th, the Hubby had a lumbar laminectomy and was out of commission for six weeks.  I was prepared for it, but when the time actually came, I realized that I am pretty alone out here.  He wasn’t able to do much for the first week or so, and so I took the first two weeks off, the Hubby’s brother helped me get him home, and came by to check on us, which I am so grateful for, and my Mom came out which was truly wonderful for us both!  I started thinking though, we’re pretty alone here in Michiagn, in the sense of an emergency.  What would I do if something really catastrophic happened?  Have any of you ever thought, what if civilization as we know it came to an end and something in the vein of “The Road” took it’s place?  How would you survive?  In my mind, I always thought I would some how make it back to New York, but in reality it’s unlikely that would happen.  Too far, how do we eat/sleep/travel along the way?  It’s a daunting, kind of paranoid scenario.  It also crosses my mind that when I am elderly, I’ll be alone too, or the Hubby and I will be alone.  It’s a scary thought!  How many of you have ever pondered that?

It’s the thoughts of the future and the unknown that make me so grateful for our family and my husband.  They’re great people, that love me tons, and there are many people that don’t have that in their life.  SO, I am super lucky!  And I love to cook for them, and so we come to this episode’s recipe.  it’s something very simple, so delicious and family oriented, that I can’t believe it took me so long to make it for the Hubby, in vegetarian fashion of course.

Most of the time Hubby was laid up, I heated up convenience foods, but I also made and bought him ice cream, and cookies and pretzel treats, all to keep him happy.  In anticipation of being laid up for 6 weeks, before he went under the knife, Hubby bought a very large bag of lentils, which he loves.  When I finally had some time to cook, I thought about making them the way I normally do them, the French way, beautiful green grey Puys lentils, a bottle of red wine, diced onion and garlic, long slow cook, but I had gotten tired of that. I also had a cabbage around that never made it into St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  Enter Mark Bittman and his wonderful iPhone app “How to Cook EVERYTHING Vegetarian” and VOILA! I stumbled upon lentil and rice stuffed cabbage rolls.  And we were off!

Bittman suggests just rice, lentils and onion.  I had a great deal of greens and other vegetables left from the Door to Door Organics box delivery we get, so I decided to pump this up pretty hard.  We had some carrots, a ton of onion, garlic, some broccoli rabe and some organic pear tomatoes.  Of course, being the pantry supply maniac that I am, I also had dried herbs, Indian spices, nuts, and all manner of packet flavoring.

Living in Hamtramck, MI, also known as Poletown (thank you Chrysler) anything Polish is pretty standard, and stuffed cabbage rolls are called golubki (which is pronounced golumki).  A few years ago, I helped a friend do her version of them and a semi-hilarious scene (for me, not for her) ensued where her in-sink disposal broke and landed all the greasy, cabbagy, smelly things that should have gone down the drain in the cabinet under her sink.  I recall much swearing and name calling of the person that had fixed said disposal.  With this version, there isn’t any meat, so the grease is cut down to a minimum.  And of course, when I was cooking I forgot to take photos.  I am sure you will forgive me, considering how awful my photo’s usually are!  

This recipe is fairly fool proof, and if you are not dextrous enough to get the rolling right, you can always just layer them like a casserole.  But, softening the cabbage in water first is essential.

 

Vegetarian/Vegan Cabbage Rolls (adapted from Mark Bittmen)

1/2 cup uncooked lentils

1/2 cup uncooked rice (normal long grain white)

2 cups water (or vegetarian no or low sodium stock)

pinch of salt & pepper

Large soup pot, full of boiling salted water (water should taste a little of the salt)

8 – 10 cabbage leaves, stem removed (white cabbage works best but Savoy might be nice)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion chopped finely

3 garlic cloves pressed or chopped finely

8 – 10 mushrooms chopped

2 carrots finely chopped

1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned (if fresh remove the seeds and pulp, leaving only the skin and flesh)

1 medium bunch of broccoli rabe finely sliced (and/or kale, or spinach)

1 14 oz can low sodium tomato juice (or vegetable juice, like V8)

 

In a heavy bottomed pan that has a tight fitted lid, bring the 2 cups of water, salt & pepper to a boil.  Stir in the lentils and rice, stir to evenly distribute, and bring back to the boil.  Lower the heat down to a simmer and cover tightly.  Let cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until all the water has absorbed.  Once it’s done, set it aside, still covered. 

In the meantime bring the large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare a very large bowl with an ice bath.  Blanch the cabbage leaves 2 – 3 at a time, until they’re softened but not falling apart, about 3 minutes each.  Remove from the boiling water and plunge into the ice bath.  Make sure they’re completely covered in the cold water, and continue the process until all the cabbage leaves are processed.  Set the whole bowl and cabbage aside until you’re ready to stuff.

In a saucepan, sauté the onion, garlic and carrots in the olive oil.  Cover and lower the heat so they cook and the onions start to get brown but don’t burn, about 4 minutes.  Once they’re soft, add the mushrooms, cook string occasionally for another 3 – 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms soften.  Add the greens, and sauté until they start to wilt then, add the tomatoes, stir well and cover.  Cook for 7 – 10 minutes, string occasionally until it is heated through and the tomatoes thicken.  Remove from the heat and stir the mixture into the rice and lentils.  Set aside to cool.  At this point, when it’s still hot, I usually add some dried herbs, really to taste, or you can be traditional and use parsley, marjoram and dried chive.

Preheat your oven to 350°

You’re ready to start rolling and stuffing.  Drain the cabbage well.  If you have a salad spinner, place them gently in it and spin, the key here is to keep them as whole as possible but to dry them really well.  If not a salad spinner, use tea towels or paper towels and gently dry them off, and stack them until you’re ready for them.  On a flat surface lay a leaf cupped side up, with the cut end where the core was facing you.  Take about 1/4 cup of the stuffing and place it 1/3 of the way into the cup from the but end.  Fold the cut end over the filling, and fold in the 2 sides to form a kind of envelope with the open end facing away from you.  Roll the filling end of the package over the leaf until the open end is on the bottom of the packet.  It should look like a very fat stuffed grape leaf.  Place the packet, open end side down, in a square baking dish.  Continue to stuff and roll the others placing them in the baking dish.  One they’re all tucked into the dish, pour over the tomato or vegetable juice, until they’re covered.  You may not use all of it.

Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, until they’re bubbly and beginning to brown.  Let them cool to room temperature and serve.

ENJOY! 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few of my favorite things!

Who doesn’t love The Sound of Music?  It’s where I get today’s blog title.  With the advent of vegetarianism entering my meat eaters life, I began to realize two things.  The first is, living without meat and meat by-products isn’t as hard or easy as it sounds, and second meat substitutes are OK, but vegetables and alternative sources of protein are much better for you!

So in my quest to help my husband reach his goal of being the worlds fattest vegetarian (Joking of COURSE!) I have found some really tried and true products that allow me to keep him vegetarian and well fed, and don’t make me miss meat at all!  Here are several of my tried and true products, and a few sources of where to find them, along with a few “can’t live without” kitchen items that I would truly be lost without!

Quorn is a product that I have become completely addicted to.  You can find their website here: http://www.quorn.us/  or here: http://www.quorn.com/ .  Their products are not soy based, but made from Mycoproteins, which are a kind of fungus, similar to mushrooms.  And I can tell you, they’re delicious!  They come in chicken and beef styles, and everything from cutlets with goat cheese and cranberries to meatballs.  They’re out of this world, and we eat them at least twice a week!

Our two favorites are the cranberry and goat cheese cutlets and Quorn roast, which is what Tim eats for holidays.

Cberry gcheese cutletsTurky roast

Believe it or not, Meijer in Michigan is very vegetarian friendly, and they have these fantastic soy products called “Gardein”, they have BBQ chicken wings, beef tips, which I use for a fast stew in the cooler weather.  They have a website too (http://www.gardein.com/index.php), and tons of options, that are all super good!

Gardein

There is another product, we get it at Whole Foods, called Match.  It’s a sort of raw ground meat type product, it comes in beef, chicken and sausage flavors, and it seriously tastes and looks like ground meat.  I make faux chicken cutlets with it, and hamburgers.  It’s really delicious, and a soy based product.  They do have a website, to find where their products are sold near you:  http://matchmeats.com/wp1/

Match meat

We do use several other “meat replacement” products.  TIm loves the Tofurky products (http://www.tofurky.com/), I don’t particularly like them, they don’t really agree with me.  His favorite, after the famous Tofurky roast is brats and now they can be grilled, which is pretty sweet when you’re going to a BBQ.

We have a local restaurant that I may have mentioned before, Brooklyn Street Local (http://brooklynstreetlocal.com/), and they make this uniquely Canadian dish called poutine.  It’s french fries, cheese curd and beef gravy, sounds odd, but it’s delicious! They make a vegetarian version that Tim loves with mushroom gravy.  They also make a traditional diner breakfast, with tempeh bacon, which we have now found!  It’s admittedly NOT bacon, but if you like the smokey flavor, this will hit the spot.  Much better than the faux bacon strips that look like pink and white communion wafers….

Tempeh bacon

There are many other things that I adore, although right now, I have an obsession with a juicer we got.  It’s bright yellow and sunny looking, and juices citrus like a breeze:

Fancy juicer

However, my very old friend, the wooden reamer has to do for larger citrus, like large oranges and grapefruit:

Non fancy juicer

I am in the process of getting more blog posts put together, so I won’t be posting so sporadically, upcoming is the promised tomato gazpacho, and a really lovely desert my cousin Petula taught me to make that they called “Wellington Squares”.  I recently found a version of it in a New Zealand blog I have been following.  Maybe this favorites will be a  quarterly thing, not sure yet, but I love giving people options that they may not have known on, or wouldn’t have tried if they hadn’t heard of it.

Happy Fall everyone, the weather here in Detroit seems to have turned, I hope for the cooler side of things!

PS: Look at what Tim brought me back from Hungary!  YUMMY!!

Truffle honey

Pretzel bread…. YAY!

Last weekend, we had a semi-surprise family gathering at our house.  Tim’s second cousin was in town with his dad at the local bar playing a show.  The family, Tim’s uncle and his cousin, as well as another cousin, came by for drinks and some picky food before we all went over to the show.  It was a nice opportunity to see everyone, talk about the upcoming family wedding, and just catch up.

Of course, I was all a-twitter about what to serve, and ended up making Tim’s mom’s “Olive Puffs” … so yum… and buying other things, like some marinated mozzarella balls, and various dips.  We had cocktails and wine too.  When Tim’s cousin Keith arrived, he came bearing a cheese plate and pretzel bread.  The bread was SO good and I was reminded that one of my brothers loves it.  So I started thinking about how to make it.  I had attempted hard pretzels many years ago, but this was a new thing for me.

I looked at several recipes I found online, and there are many ways to make pretzel dough.  I attempted two of them, one involving refined sugar, one using a combination of self raising flour and plain flour, but neither was very successful.  The self raising flour seemed to bubble up all over the place and the baking soda flavor was overpowering.  So I looked at all 5 of the recipe’s I found and came up with this one.  This time, it came out great, moist, dense and very flavorful, with that chemical tang that you find in pretzels but can never pinpoint the exact flavor.  There are two methods of imparting the flavor that I came up against, both involve boiling, one in a water/baking soda solution and one in a water/lye solution.  When I mentioned to Tim about the lye, he was 100 against it, (“Why would you want to boil bread in Drano?!”) so I went for the baking soda solution.  The purpose is to set the crust, and sort of flash cook it, so it really darkens and caramelizes when you bake it, similar to the way that bagels are made.  I also added some salt to the water, because I figured it would add more flavor, and it really did.

A few notes here about the flour you use.  I ended up buying bread flour, which I know I will use again, but if you only have all purpose, don’t sweat it.  They will both work fine, I also think you can combine whole wheat and plain flour to make it a little healthier and more hardy.  I would go 1 cup whole wheat, and the rest plain flour.  And yes, it’s worth opening up another package of yeast for this one.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference, both in the rising of the bread and the flavor.  We made mock chicken burgers and had them on the breads last night for dinner… and it was divine!

Elizabeth’s Pretzel Bread

Dough:
3 ½ cups of bread flour (or all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
3 teaspoons (1 ½ packets) instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (110 – 120 °F)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
2 tablespoons whole milk or half and half
½ cup flour reserved for kneading
1 tablespoon oil

For the soak:
4 quarts water
½ cup baking soda

For the coating:
Kosher salt to taste (or pretzel salt if you can find it)
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a large bowl combine the flour and salt, make sure they are very well combined and set aside.  In another small bowl, combine the water, honey, dark brown sugar and yeast.  I suggest mixing it all together and dissolving the sugars, then adding the yeast and then mix so the yeast is completely dissolved.  Let this mixture set for 10 – 12 minutes until the yeast starts to proof (bubble up.)  Once the yeast mixture is creamy and bubbly, add in the milk and the cooled melted butter.  Add to the dry ingredients.  Mix well, you can use a stand mixer and paddle to start this, and you will have a slightly sticky solid dough or you can use a wooden spoon and your hands.  Once you have a cohesive dough, turn it out on a floured surface, or you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook, in any case, the reserved flour will help you to get a smooth supple dough (the old saying, smooth as a baby’s bottom comes to mind.)  The dough will feel heavier and more solid than you may think it should be, but that’s OK.  Oil a large bowl with some flavor neutral oil, although I used olive oil in this case.  Make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the dough after it has doubled.  Toss in the dough, turning it so it’s covered lightly all over with the oil, this prevents sticking.

Cover the bowl with a slightly damp tea towel, and allow to rise for 30 minutes, punch it down, make sure it’s not sticking, it won’t seem to have risen a whole lot, but once you punch it down this time, it will rise like crazy.  This time let it rise for another hour in a warm dry place, until it’s doubled.  I suggest on your stove top, with the oven on low.

At this point, preheat your oven to 400 ° C.  You may use a pizza stone if you like, but a good old cookie sheet with parchment over it will work just as well, set it aside, ready for action. The point here is, you need a very hot oven.  About the time you’re done with the second rise, put the 4 quarts of water on to boil.  You will add the baking soda to this when it has come to the boil, but in the mean time, you will punch down the dough again and shape it into the shape you want it to be in when baked.  I would divide it into 8 round balls, also known as boules.  My first time I tried to do pretzel shapes, but they failed miserably, came all undone.  So until you’re more confident, I would try the simple boules below, then experiment with other shapes.  Remember you can also make these into much smaller shapes, bite size servings.  It makes no difference, so do what you want.

Shaped and resting boules, before boiling

When the dough is shaped, let them rest while you add the baking soda to the rapidly boiling water.  Stir well so it’s totally combined.  Work with one dough at a a time and drop your formed breads into the water, top down, and boil for 30 seconds, turning them mid-way.

Boiling in barely bubbling water, 15 seconds a side.

Set the boiled dough onto the final baking sheet and cover with the Kosher salt.  Continue the process with the remaining dough balls.  Once they’re all on the pan and salted, cut some X’s or patterns around the tops, about 1/8 inch deep with a very sharp knife so the dough has somewhere to split and rise when baking.  You can be really creative here, it makes for a dramatic presentation and finished product.

I used a flat slotted spoon to drain them before I put them on the baking sheet.
Course Kosher salt is good, don't over salt, they'll be hard to eat.

Slide them onto your hot oven, and bake for 25 minutes, but start checking them at 20 minutes, they should be highly risen and very dark brown all over.  They may be done between 21 – 23 minutes, depending upon your oven.  They may stick if you used tin foil (as I did for these photos) but they will become easier to remove once they cool down.

They're done! Now for the melted butter.

When the breads are out of the oven, brush them lightly with melted butter, it will make them shiny and soft, as well as adding some nice flavor to them.  Let them cool well before you eat them.  An alternative to the butter after baking, is to brush an egg wash over them before you put them in the oven, that will make them shiny.  All you have to do is lightly beat one egg with a teaspoon of milk or water, and brush it over the loaves, then salt them and proceed as above.

YUM! Salty and sweet at the same time!

St. Patrick’s Day 2012!

I am sure anyone that knows me, knows that my mother was born in Ireland and moved to the States when she and my father were about to be married.  When I think about it now, it was quite the intrepid adventure she set out on.  At the time, 1965 she was very young in only 19, and people didn’t travel back and forth overseas as easily as we do these days, it was prohibitively expensive, not to mention the cost of overseas phone calls!  So this very young woman moved to America, married my Dad and started a family!  No family around to watch the baby, and a husband who worked all day.  It was a different time all together!  My Mom did instill a very strong sense of our Irish heritage in us kids, and we are all still very close to our Irish family.  And so, St. Patrick’s day is a big deal for us, and not in the drink green beer until you can’t possibly drink any more sense.  For our family it’s a day that we really are proud to be Irish!  This year, one of my nieces is even doing her first public Irish dancing recital… big news in the Hennessey family!!

In creating my own little family in Detroit, I do try really hard to honor both of our heritages.  As I have mentioned here before, Tim is half Hungarian, so all the food I can possibly make from there, I do.  And my paternal grandmother’s Belgian roots are honored all the time!  And on St. Patrick’s Day, I go all out… even thought Tim won’t eat the corned beef, I cook it for me, and some years, for friends and family here.  This year, one of my cousins posted a photo on her Facebook page of the “green and gold jellies” that they were having for dessert today (lime and orange “jello” with lots of cream to go over) and I thought, jeez, I should make that for us too!  Alas, Jello, and gelatin products are decidedly NOT vegetarian.  I have experimented a few times with making vegan versions of things like marshmallow, and the pudding I have posted here.  I have had success with all of them, except the marshmallows, and I was dying to figure out what was wrong.  And then, low and behold, I read many, many recipes with something called agar agar, also called agar flakes, or powder.  But, agar is a fickle mistress… and so the great vegetarian dessert caper of St. Patrick’s 2012 was afoot!

I got two pots out and used 2 cups of liquid, in this case, orange juice and limeade, with some white wine thrown in for the grown up in me.  I didn’t add any sugar, but I did add a drop of green food coloring to the lime version, to up the color.  The recipe I found online called for one teaspoon of agar and very little cooking time.  From experience I know now, that it usually takes double that amount to really work, so I used 2 teaspoons in each pot.  I brought them both to the boil, took them off the heat, added in the agar, stirred well, then put them back on the heat and let them simmer for a good 30 min, stirring occasionally.  Then, everything was allowed to cool and the mixture was poured into a lightly greased aluminum loaf pan.  It looked promising when I started:

I put both pans carefully into a Ziplock bag when they were completely cool and set them in the middle shelf of the fridge.  I was told it could take up to 4 hours, so I just walked away and made the soda bread, put the corned beef on to boil and forgot about them.  About 3 hours in, I checked them… I couldn’t resist.  The orange one was completely jelled and looked pretty good.  The lime one on the other hand, seemed fine until I wobbled the pan a bit, and it exploded into a liquid, although slightly thickened, mess.  Uh oh!  I uncovered both and put them back into a cooler part of the fridge and vowed to just leave them!

About 3 hours later, the orange was still gorgeous, the lime still a bit too liquid for me, so I popped it in the freezer, and served dinner.  When we were able to think about dessert, I grabbed both pans and whipped the cream and this is what we had!

The orange, although jell like, was a soft jell, so I am adjusting the agar amounts to account for that.  Here’s the recipe and a few more photos of the day!

Vegetarian Jellies

1 ½ c fruit juice (apple, orange, cherry, slightly sweetened)

½ c white wine or just use fruit juice

2 ½ teaspoons agar flakes or powder

½  teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon cold water

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and mix well until smooth and set aside. Bring the fruit juice and wine to boil in a small heavy bottomed pot.   Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle the agar flakes over the hot juice and stir to  combine well.  Place the pot back on a low flame and simmer to allow the agar to soften and melt totally, about 15 minutes.  Under no circumstances should you boil the agar, it will lose it’s effectiveness.  Take the hot juice off the heat again and lightly whisk in the cornstarch and water, making sure no lumps form, and continue to stir until the mixture become clear.  At this point, it should be slightly thick, not very just enough that it isn’t the same consistency as juice or water.  Set the pot off the heat to cool.  When it has cooled about 10 – 15 minutes, pour it into the container you will chill it in.  You may want to put a very thin layer of light corn oil on the pan, so the jelly will come away from the pan when it’s done.  Allow the mixture to cool completely, and then cover in plastic wrap and put in the coolest part of your refrigerator.  The time to jell will vary but after 3 hours you should be able to nudge the pan and see that it is fairly solid.

When you gently press with your finger on the top of the jelly and it is firm and solid, you can either serve with a spoon, or cut into slices.  I used lightly whipped cream with a spoonful of sugar, but you can serve it to taste.

And here is my soda bread, along with the flowers my mom and dad sent us.  But, I can’t give you that recipe, it’s a family recipe and I would have to kill you…!!