Bolognese for Vegetarians and Meat Eaters!

onion celery carrot mush

I find myself in a flurry of cooking and great ideas recently.  Mainly, I am all about cooking so that we have food during the week, and I don’t have to cook, or get takeout each night.  With that being said, I usually cook like it’s a job, sometimes taking photos for blogging and then forgetting to post it all, getting lost in the cooking and not enjoying the results.  My pledge has always been to remember to enjoy the cooking, not just doing it by rote.

A few weeks ago, I had another opportunity to cook with some colleagues, as a part of their year end retreat.  They looked at it as a cooking lesson, I looked at it as an opportunity to show friends that cooking isn’t all that hard and certainly even without the gear you see on TV and in the stores, you can make a serious dish, and make it easily.  So, we learned how to make pasta, without the rollers, by hand.  We did a white mushroom lasagna I made here.  We also made a tomatoes based lasagna with Swiss chard, and no-boil, store bought pasta.  Hands down, the homemade was the winner.  A few days later, one of the colleagues told me she made two dishes with the pasta recipe we made, and they were both excellent.  Mission accomplished!  I wish I had taken photos, but it’s hard to remember while you’re showing other people how to do something!  I’d love to have the opportunity to do that again and again, and get people cooking from scratch!

Another sweet thing that happened over the holidays, was that I gave my youngest niece the childhood cook book that I talked about in a past post (here). She was delighted, and wanted to know how old I was when I got the book.  I am pretty sure I was between 8 and 10, she is 7 by the way, and she seemed happy with that answer.  She then told me she was making one of the recipes in Play-Doh!  That’s a good start!  I look forward to choosing a few of the recipes and cooking them with her!

Which leads me to the recipe in the blog title.  Hubby is vegetarian, I am not, and I increasing find myself cooking separate dishes for both of us, which is double the work!  I can’t do the soy for dietary reasons,  and he can’t do meat.  So, when I found this recipe for white Bolognese, I realized we could have pretty much the same dinner, with the same flavors, and satisfy both of our dietary deals!  The full recipe is below, with the vegetarian options alongside the meaty ones.  It was spectacular, and this time, I just relaxed and allowed the satisfaction of cooking to take over!

The recipe calls for rigatoni, which honestly is the best pasta, with it’s ridges and places for sauce to gather!  You can use any pasta, for example pappardelli would be fab, Fettuccine too, even macaroni would do in a pinch, so experiment with what you have on hand.  Admittedly, I did have a lot of the ingredients on hand for both versions.  The base of the sauce is an onion/carrot/celery mush, but again, you can vary it depending upon what you have in the fridge, for example if you don’t have onion, use garlic, or add in some.  Definitely don’t skip the celery if you can manage it, it’s a flavor that adds a lot in the background.  You can add all kinds of herbs, as I did to duplicate the flavor profile on the vegetarian version.  For my Vegetarian version, I added dried fennel, since I couldn’t find vegetarian sausage flavored crumbles.  Here we go!

White bolognese:

 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1/8ths)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 6
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 6
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mild/sweet Italian pork sausage meat (1 bag of vegetarian crumbles, you can get Morningstar, or Quorn in the freezer section)
  • 1 pound ground beef (omit for vegetarian version)
  • (for Vegetarian version add in 1 tsp ground fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and some red pepper flakes of you like)
  • 1 ½ cups dry Italian white wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water (use 2 cups warmed up veggie broth instead)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (don’t skimp!)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other pasta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

The easy way to start this is to add the onion, carrots and celery to your food processor and pulse until they’re finely ground, but you can still recognize the vegetables.  The hard way is to finely chop them all by hand, it’s up to you!

In a large heavy bottomed pot, add enough olive oil so the bottom of the pan is covered completely with a thin film (about 2 tablespoons).  Warm this on medium for about 1 minute, watching so it doesn’t start to smoke or burn, then add in the pulverized vegetables and raise the heat slightly and saute them.  While stirring, add in a pinch of salt and several good grinds of pepper, or about 1/8 tsp of both, and if you’re making the Vegetarian version, add in the fennel, basil, oregano and pepper flakes.  When everything is translucent and fairly soft, but not colored, tip in the 2 meats and saute until cooked through, breaking it up as you go so they are in small pieces, about the size of an olive.  You will want to again raise the heat slightly but not to high.  If you’re using the Veggie crumbles, do the same, and stir them around until everything is well combined and the crumbles are completely defrosted and heated through.

The meat mixture will give off a great deal of liquid, so when you’re sure everything is fairly cooked through (probably 15 minutes on medium high) turn the heat all the way up and stir until the juices are reduced, almost dry.  Be very careful here, if the sides of the pan start to burn (as mine usually does)  turn the heat down slightly and allow for more reduction time. Once you can see the bottom of the pan while stirring, add in the broth/water and bullion, bring the pot to a boil (this goes for both versions), and start to stir again.  Once you’re confident everything is well combined, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to cook gently, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  Allow it to bubble away until the liquid is again, almost dry.  For the Vegetarian version, this should be between 15 – 20 minutes.  For the meat version this may take up to an hour.  Again, when you stir and see the clean bottom of the pan, you’re ready to go.  When you’re at this point, take the pot off the heat, add in the cream, stir well and keep covered off the heat but still on the stove.  Taste the sauce, it should be highly seasoned, but adjust it to your liking.

Make your pasta according to the package directions, and your taste. I would start the water to boil half way through the final reduction period, you can always cover it and allow it to keep a simmer until you add the cream to the sauce.  When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.  If the pasta looks dry, add enough of the pasta liquid and stir, you may not use all the water.  The big trick here is to stir like mad once you add the water, so that it is completely amalgamated into the pasta and sauce.  It won’t effect the taste at all, but will make it more silky if too dry.  When you serve, pass around the cheese and chow down!

This recipe is a little time consuming, but completely easy, and so delicious!  Yum!

 

 

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!!

Merry Merry, 2015

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We made it to another Christmas, this time in the year 2015.  Honestly, it feels as though we just got here, and now, it’s gone.

What have we to show for the year?  As I see it, it’s the worst geo-political in recent history.  All the terrorism and all the domestic absurdity, how do we move past this progressively? And when I say progressively I mean, how do we thoughtfully move to a place of greater clarity, a place we have tried to be?

My inclination is to move forward with food and knowledge.  In early December, I taught a class to some co-workers about making pasta.  Just lasagna sheets, which are supremely simple, but labor intensive.  and after the class a coo-worker texted me that she was making home made pasta for her family gathering that weekend!

That is the preeminent reason this blog exists.  Making people realize that all this fancy cooking you hear about on the Food Chanel and the Cooking channel are simply not complicated.  If your Nonna could make it regularly each and every Saturday and Sunday, how easy is it for you to recreate it occasionally?  Take the leap of faith that you’re capable of mixing some eggs, flour and seasonings on a board and ending up with an outstanding pasta dish.  If you have your hands, a cutting board and the ingredients, you can make it too!

I am linking back here to a recipe and blog relating back to pasta and all it’s lovely, easy to create forms, take a look.  Enjoy the holidays, and be sure to spend some time thinking about your impact on your family.  What is your role, are you happy with it?  And how do you deepen and broaden it?  That’s your charge for 2016.

Happy Christmas to you all and a very happy, healthy and productive 2016.  We all need some good news!

E

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

For the 14th anniversary, I offer this story again

wtc_1024x768

wtc_1024x768

It remains something I am either happy to talk about, working and living there for so long, or something so emotional that I can’t even think about it without crying.  This year, I’ll go dark and not post anything anywhere, no patriotic flags, no discussion on how we truly have not learned much, but rather I offer this view, something I re-read occasionally and meditate on.

http://detroitfoodist.com/2012/09/11/how-do-i-begin-this-story/

Independence Day in the USA! Summer fruits!

Kuchen

I have been missing for a month or so because I unexpectedly took a class, 4 credits in 6 weeks, which kicked my tush big time.  I didn’t clean the house or cook for the majority of that time, and I am grateful to the Hubby for tolerating that!  But, I hit this holiday weekend with a bang, and lots of cooking ideas, and lots of cleaning up to do.  I made sauce and meatballs last week, some for the week, some for the father-in-law and some for freezing.  The whole thing turned out delicious and reminds me of the sauce my mom used to make when we were kids.

This weekend though, I have been in baking mode.  I made an easy and good foccaccia yesterday,  for a little get together we went to last night (thanks to DeAnn for a lovely evening!) and today I am making something called a kuchen (coo-ken).  It’s a German sweet bread, covered with fruit and an eggy glaze, then baked.  Seriously good, and the dough is so beautiful and yellow, I just wanted to sit and look at it for a while!  I grabbed this, once again from Nigella and added some twists for the American palate.  Having said that, I can not resist a good blackberry in season.  And they’re just coming in now.  Usually I make this with blackberries and Granny Smith apples, really sour, but alas, I couldn’t find them at the market last night, so I went with pears, a favorite of my Hubby’s.  They’re sweet, so I cut back on the sugar in the crumble and the recipe itself, but that  makes no difference with the very sweet Anjou pears.  There is a good deal of lemon peel, for freshness and lightness.  All in all it’s a lovely bit of heaven in a yeasty sweet bread!

Pear and Blackberry Kuchen

For the base:

13 x 9 inch jellyroll style pan

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/3 c white all purpose flour (can use bread flour if you have it)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp rapid rise yeast (half a packet)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed lemon (*see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 c butter, soft but not melted

For the topping:

  • 1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk or cream and a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 small firm pear, cut into dice
  • 1 pint of blackberries, picked through for leaves and clean
  • grated zest of the remaining half of the lemon
  • 1/3 c self raising flour (or 1/3 c regular flour with 1 1/2 tsp removed and replaced by 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds, or fine almond flour (you can make your own)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, very cold, cut in small dice
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated brown sugar, for crunch
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, peeled almonds

To start the base, put 2 1/4 cups flour in a stand mixer with the salt, sugar and yeast.  In another smaller bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla extract, lemon zest and cinnamon together, then add the warm milk.  with the dough hook of your mixer, add the liquid to the flour mixture and beat at low, gradually increasing to medium as everything is incorporated. Once everything is combined and starting to look like a dough, add in the softened butter in 2 or 3 additions, and beat well after each addition.  To get all the butter into the dough, process for about 5 minutes, and I suggest flouring a board with the remaining 1/8 cup of flour and kneading by hand for another 5 – 10 minutes.  The dough will suddenly become this lovely yellow springy dough, that is not really sticky and as smooth as a baby’s bottom.  Lovely really! Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and let it rest and rise for an hour or so, it should double, but may even triple with all the sugar and yeast.

While you wait for the base to rise, you can put the crumble together.  I use a food processor for the beginning of it, then fork in the almonds and brown sugar at the end.  So, place the self raising flour, ground almonds and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse 2 or 3 times to really combine, then add in the cubed butter and pulse until you have a mixture that is like wet, lumpy sand, there should be large chunks of butter and some well processed lumps.  Turn this out into a bowl, and fork through the sugars and sliced almonds. Set this aside until you’re ready to assemble the final product for the oven.  Then in another large bowl, combine the pears, blackberries and lemon zest, and toss with your hands to combine, it may stain your hands, but believe me it works.  Set this aside as well

Once the base has rested and risen, punch it down and press it into the jelly roll pan.  Go slowly, and press firmly with your hands.  It will take some time, and you should let it rest several times until it covers the whole pan.  It seems like it won’t but it will, and it will rise again after.  Let it sit for 20 minutes or so, to rest and rise more.  Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the rest, brush the entire surface of the dough with the egg wash mixture, this stops the fruit from sopping the bread with it’s juices.  Leave a few spoons full of the egg wash for the edges.  Tumble the pears and blackberries onto the dough, spreading it so it covers all of the dough, with a slight edge.  Top this with the crumble mixture, start at the edges and work your way to the center.  Then brush the edges one more time.  Slide this into your preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes.  The dough will be browned and swelled up, and the fruit should be bubbling with the crumble set, it won’t be crunchy, more like a dry topping.

Allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so, then slice into it and eat!  Yumm!  Try this with the apples, and you can use raspberries or even strawberries.  Or apricots, or peaches!  Lots of options, the same process.

(* Note: If you are not sure if your lemons are waxed or not, wash them in warm water and baking soda, use it as a scrub.  It will remove the wax, and leave the oils that you want in the lemon peel.  Dry them well, and let them sit for a few minutes before you grate the zest.  You can use a box grater on it’s finest setting, or a rasp.)

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Smooth, Creamy Hummus at Home? Here’s the Secret… shhh!

hummus

Hummus is something we eat a great deal, but it always, for me, comes out grainy when I make it at home.  I was talking to a friend recently and they told me their mother takes the skins off the garbanzo beans before they make the hummus.  So, here I am showing you how to take the skins off.

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Don’t mind the voice… It’s simple, although it takes a little time.  But oh what a difference it makes!  I also am a complete sucker for really garlicky stuff, so here I use a great deal of garlic, and I grate it into the mix, because that stops the chunks from getting stuck i your teeth.  Now, you can put some Greek yogurt in here, for a bit of tang and to enhance the smoothness, but I think that’s gilding the lily a little bit!  Enjoy!

Simple, Creamy Hummus

  • 1 can of organic garbanzo beans or chick peas, drained, rinsed well and peeled (reserve the liquid)
  • 2 cloves finely minced or grated garlic (must be fresh, nothing out of a can)
  • 3 tablespoons of tahini, or thinned out peanut better
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (important that it’s either freshly ground or freshly purchased)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp of good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

After you have skinned the beans (see the video) place all the ingredients up to the olive oil in a food processor.  Pulse until it all starts to form a paste, and then set the processor on high, and add the olive oil in a dribble down the funnel.  Process this for a good 5 – 7 minutes, and it will kind of whip up. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If it seems dry or too thick for you, add a few spoons full of the reserved liquid at a time and allow to process.  Once you get the desired consistency, turn it all out into a bowl.

Memorial Day Cooking Ideas

Summer fruits and veg
Summer fruits and veg

I am constantly reading food sites and blogs, and I have a new obsession with the NY Times Cooking section.  If you haven’t seen it, please do yourself the favor and go there.  I have been a beta user of some of their newer features, and I absolutely LOVE it.

http://nytimes.com/cooking

I also was looking at the Epicurious website today and happened upon this article about best cookout dips.  Some remind me of my post here, about dressings that you can easily make and riff on to your hearts content.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes-menus/best-dips-spreads-hummus-bbq-gallery/1

So what are you all cooking this weekend?  I am thinking of doing some ribs on the grill, since the weather seems to be holding out for me.  Do any of you use lime or lemon when you go ribs?  What’s your cooking method?  Do you parboil, then grill, marinate or no? Drop your comments below!!

Basta, Pasta!

pasta machineOh, pasta, is there anything better than you for comfort food?  I know you can buy just about any kind these days, all over the place.  But years ago, I was at the Macy’s in Herald Square, the original Macy’s store, and their kitchen area, which used to be called “The Cellar” was having a huge sale.  I saw a shiny silver pasta roller there, and it was all of $25.  Now that I think of it, that was a little pricey, but I still have it and use it, as I did the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  I promised you no mystery, easy to make pasta and this is it.

First, lets talk through how you make pasta and what goes into it.  There is a basic ratio, 3/4 cups flour to each large egg.  And please note, I said large egg, not extra large, jumbo or regular.  It really does make a difference!  The extra large or jumbo have more white, and therefore more liquid in them, which causes you to have to second guess how much more flour you’ll need, and the regular size eggs have less liquid.  You can make pasta with no eggs, but that’s not what I am displaying here, I’ll do that another time.

The kind of flour you use also makes a difference.  There are pastas made from all purpose white, wheat, buckwheat, semolina, etc.  For our purposes, I used half semolina and half all purpose.  I try to avoid the bleached flour, since it’s just more processed than regular, but it really doesn’t make a great deal of difference in texture, only color.  Semolina makes a stronger pasta, and it’s great if you’re trying to make a dough that has to stand up, like for ravioli or lasagne sheets.  What I am doing here is the basic spaghetti, or linguini.  Now, if you don’t have a pasta roller, you can very easily use a rolling pin and a knife to cut the strands.  My only advice then would be to roll the sheets as thin as possible, let them rest, then roll them out again.

Here’s the recipe, which makes about 1 1/2 lbs of pasta:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or part semolina/part plain flour or part whole wheat)
  • 4 whole large eggs (or, 3 large eggs, 2 yolks, depending upon how yellow you want it)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, fine grained (optional)

There are two methods for mixing the dough, the traditional way is to put the flour in a mound on your board (mix the salt into the flour well before you do this.)  In the middle of the mound make a well with your fingers and drop the eggs into it.  With a fork, begin to beat the eggs, and as you do, start to incorporate the flour from the sides of the well into them.  Keep the walls of the mound as you go, but eventually the whole mixture will leak out. Honestly, using a fork to start and then continuing with your fingers is easier.  The modern method is to use a stand mixer, beat the eggs well before you mix them into the flour on medium.  As it begins to cohere, switch to a dough hook and allow it to mix all the flour in.  With any method, you’ll end up with a sticky shaggy dough, which you will turn out onto a board and knead with your hands.  There isn’t any method, other than using your hands, that will do this better.  As you knead, it will spring into into life, and you’ll have a smooth, yellow dough.

Pasta Resting
Resting pasta in red plastic wrap

Now we come to a critical point, which I can not stress enough.  You must allow this dough to rest and rest for a good long time.  I wrap it in plastic wrap and forget about it for about an hour.  You can let it sit for 30  minutes if you’re impatient, but in order to roll it out, it has to be completely relaxed.  If you don’t rest it enough, the sheets will be bumpy and rough when you roll it out.  So, 60 minutes, go get a glass of wine, take a walk, call someone.  Then come back.

After the rest, cut the ball of dough in half, and each of those halves into 3.  Place one of the pieces on your board, and rewrap the remaining dough.  If you’re using a pasta machine, set the rollers to their widest setting.  Use your hands to press and knead your dough into a rectangular bar.  It should be thin, but chunky. Roll the rectangle through the largest setting.  You’ll end up with a much thinner version of what you started with.  Fold the dough in on itself in thirds, so take one end and fold it into the middle of the dough, then take the other end and fold it over the piece you just folded.  Run this through the machine again on the widest setting.  Then, progressively, roll the dough through increasingly thinner settings. until you end up with a long thin sheet, set this piece aside to dry a bit on a floured surface.  Process the remaining 5 pieces the same way.

Pasta Strips
The rolled strips, and some cut linguine

If you’re using a rolling pin, process in the same way, using the fold technique too.  You should end up with a piece similar to the piece above.  After all the pieces are rolled out, let them sit and dry for at least 20 minutes.  If you’re using the pasta machine, start with the first piece you rolled out and process it though the cutting end, either the linguine or spaghetti setting, and immediately toss the threads with flour so they are all coated, then put them into a heap, and keep watching them and tossing so they don’t stick together.  At this point, you can let them dry a bit more, or just cook them in boiling salted water, for about 2 minutes, then drain well and dress.

If you’re using the rolling pin method, let the strips dry, again for about 20 minutes or so.  Then roll the strips from the short side up into a roll, and use a knife to cut the pasta shapes, thin for spaghetti and thicker for linguine.  Make sure when you’ve cut them, starting with the first sheet you rolled out, toss the completed pasta in flour, and allow them to dry more.

Finished Product
The finished product!

At this point, you can either cook the pasta as you would normally, or you can make them into bird nests and freeze them.  They will last for quite some time in the frozen state.

Please, try this, at a time when you can be leisurely about your prep of this.  It’s not hard, and you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it long ago!

Enjoy the upcoming week, and Happy March!

Backwards posts!

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I know, I didn’t publish Monday or Tuesday, so I’ll give you a simple and delicious treat as a consolation prize.  I mentioned in the last post a dessert recipe that I stole from Nigella and made my own.  Well, here it is, Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake.    And the best part of all of it, there are only 4 ingredients total and you don’t have to bake it!!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

  • Two 8 oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature (if you can get Philadelphia, use it)
  • One 13oz container of Nutella, or any chocolate hazelnut spread you can find, at room temperature
  • 5 tbsp of soft, room temperature butter
  • 1 package of cookies (graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, chocolate chip cookies, you decide)

And that’s it!  In a food processor, process the cookies until they’re sand-like.  (If you don’t have a food processor, put them in a plastic zip bag and bang the heck out of them, then roll over with a rolling pin until you achieve the same result.  Then use melted butter rather than the next step.)  Add the soft butter to the processor and whiz again, until the mixture starts to clump, and looks uniform.  Turn this out into a 9 inch springform pan, and press it into the bottom, until it’s uniform and completely covers the base.  Store this in the fridge to chill.

In  the same processor, or a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft, then add in the entire jar of chocolate hazelnut paste.  Beat together until completely smooth, about 10 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides and the bottom to be sure everything is combined.  Spread this topping onto the cookie base, smooth with a spatula/spoon, and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill for 4 – 6 hours or overnight and eat.

I will say, I topped this with a chopped up chocolate hazelnut bar, and it was so good!  But you don’t have to top it, just dive in and eat.  I also recommend to let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before cutting into it.  It is more melting and delicious this way.