Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beef Stew

Ok - its still summer, and its hot outside - but this morning was brisk, and fall is coming and its finally my turn to pick dinner. Usually I make whatever my husband wants, often my daughter also makes her culinary desires known ... once in a blue moon I pick. Today I want beef stew. Its easily one of my favorite meals, and I hardly ever make it. My husband likes to shy away from beef - and summer isn't exactly the time one thinks of stew - but I still love it. Still, you have to do it right. Countless ways to do it right - if your pressed for time use a tender cut of beef, costs more but the stew will be great. Today, however, I have time so I am slowly and lovingly making an old fashioned beef stew.

I have over 2 lbs of stew meat. Tough and cheap - but I coated it with seasoned flour, took the time to brown it in batches!! Now I am letting it simmer in beef broth enriched with thyme, rosemary and bay leaf - going to add red skinned potato chunks, carrots, celery - oh and of course already browned the onion, garlic and some shallot - let it cook all day and it will taste amazing. Might serve this over rice, maybe egg noodles - I know, I know - there are potatoes and we don't need more starch - don't need it but it will taste great!

Old Fashioned Beef Stew 

  • 2 lbs beef stew meat cut into 1. inch cubes
  • flour, seasoned with salt and pepper and garlic powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 shallots chopped
  • Olive oil - 1/4 cup of so
  • 6-8 red skinned potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into 1" slices
  • beef broth
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

Add about 2 Tbs of olive oil to a big cast iron pot, coat beef in seasoned flour and brown (in batches - do not crowd, do not skip this step!). Remove beef to plate, or pan or counter top...add onion and brown, add garlic and shallot, add about 1/4 cup of seasoned flour and stir - add 1 cup beef broth and stir - cook for about 2 mins. Add 32 oz beef broth, return beef to pot add herbs. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook partially covered for an hour or a few hours if you have the time. Add carrots, celery and potatoes more salt and pepper - cook for another hour or so. Taste. Adjust seasoning, add some fresh herbs if you have them - rosemary (not too heavy) parsley, more salt and pepper. Add frozen green peas if you want.

Serve this in a bowl, or over rice or over egg noodles or with biscuits - happy cooking!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brigadeiro - Chocolate candies

Really easy and fun Brazilian chocolate candy - truffle like confection. I first had these at a local Brazilian bakery and then sought to make them at home. Initially, I used a super high quality cocoa powder, and while they were quite good they didn't taste like what I had first tried. I researched a bit and found out that using a chocolate drink mix powder would result in a more authentic taste - so here's my recipe

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 Tbs chocolate drink powder (like quik)
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • chocolate sprinkles

Combine condensed milk, chocolate drink powder and butter in a small heavy bottom saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10-20 mins or until mixture thickens and starts to pull away from sides of pan. This seems to take forever, but it does thicken, all at once. Be careful to stir as mixture will burn if left unattended. Pour out into a wide bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool enough to handle. With buttered hands shape mixture into 1-2" balls and roll in chocolate sprinkles (or coconut, or chopped nuts, or cocoa powder). Refrigerate for a few hours and serve.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lollipops - with no corn syrup!!

My daughter really wanted a super big lollipop, and I promised her I would get her one - but i couldn't find one at the local market, didn't want to go all the way to the mall - looked at ones for sale online and was not happy with the ingredient list. I know I could make them at home, but I don't do a lot of candy making, and I don't have any corn syrup on hand and I don't have any special molds....but she really wanted a lollipop

Easy Lollipops

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tarter
  • food coloring if desired

Combine sugar, water and cream of tarter in a heavy bottom saucepan. Heat over medium high heat stirring to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved stop stirring and continue to heat until syrup reaches 300 F, and starts to color (light amber) remove from heat and add food coloring if desired (can also add a flavor extract like mint or anise). Pour small circles around lollipop sticks (or Popsicle sticks) on a oiled granite surface (like your counter top) or marble slab. Let cool and then lift up and enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Super easy dinner if you used canned soup, easy enough if you make the soup from fresh tomatoes - say you have tons from your garden, have made many caprese salads, homemade sauce and now need to use more tomatoes!!

Cream of Tomato Soup

  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 10 cups peeled, seeded chopped tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups water or chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs sugar, optional

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pot, add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until onion
softens. Add remaining ingredients, except cream and heat to boiling. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Let cool off heat for about 30 mins, using an immersion blender puree soup, or or puree in batches in a food processor. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on solids
to get all juice into pot. Heat over medium heat to a simmer, add cream and nutmeg if desired. Taste and add more salt and freshly ground black pepper and sugar as needed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pork Chops, applesauce and garlic spinach

Dinner tonight had to be really quick, because we came home from a movie and had planned to go out to eat - but everybody decided they were too tired...I had made applesauce earlier in the day, and I had some center cut boneless pork chops, fresh baby spinach and some of that instant stuffing mix ....

So I heated two large cast iron pans and swirled in some olive oil in each pan, chopped about 4 cloves of garlic, made a quick rub for the chops, boiled some chicken stock for the stuffing - and had dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes!

Pan Seared Pork Chops

  • 4 center cut boneless pork chops
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbp garlic powder
  • 1 tbs dried minced onion
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Melt butter and olive oil over medium high heat, combine salt and pepper and spices and sprinkle over chops. Sear chops about 4 minutes per side, remove from skillet to a plate, add 1/2 cup chicken broth to skillet and stir up bits from bottom of pan, return chops to skillet and let a glaze form turn after 30 seconds and remove to serving platter.

Spinach sautéed with garlic

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb fresh baby spinach
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat, add garlic and stir fry for about 1 min, add spinach in small batches turning and tossing to wilt. When all spinach has been added cook for about 2 minutes more.

Homemade applesauce

  • 6-12 apples, peeled if desired
  • 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs sugar (optional)

Cut apples into large chunks, remove core
Heat apples and apple juice in a large pot till boiling, add cinnamon stick and sugar if desired, then cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher till almost smooth and remove from heat.


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Thursday, August 23, 2012

100 Layer Lasagna

This year for my husbands birthday dinner he requested a lasagna like the one he had in Milan. I wasn't with him in Milan, so he had to describe it to me - lots of layers he said, really thin pasta he said, meat like a paste - didn't sound so great but I knew he was talking about a wonderful dish - a classic lasagna bolognese...with home made pasta and a meat ragu and a white sauce. Very different from my standard take on lasagna, with store bought pasta and ricotta and mozzarella filling. So I looked it up, found lots of references to a 100 layer lasagna featured in a NYC restaurant, but not much in terms of recipes. Turned to the Silver Spoon, my go to book for Italian cooking, got some more ideas - and ended up making something he loved and I was quite pleased with. Didn't take a picture of the whole thing, maybe next time...

The secret to this dish is to use very thin layers of filling and lots of pasta layers (maybe not quite 100!)

Lasagne Bolognese

You need a meat sauce, a white sauce, a tomato sauce and fresh thinly rolled pasta sheets

For Meat Sauce

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped 
  • 1 sweet italian pork sausage
  • 1 hot italian port sausage
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs tomato paste

Cook sausage (casings removed) in a little olive oil until no longer pink. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook it. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Drain fat. Add tomato sauce and paste and simmer for a bit.

For Pasta

  • 2 cups Semolina Pasta flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup warm water if needed

In a standing mixer with dough hook add flour and make a well in the middle, add eggs and beat on low speed until moistened, add olive oil and salt and increase mixer speed and beat until a ball forms leaving sides of mixer bowl clean - if dough is too sticky add water 1 Tbs at a time. Once ball forms beat for about 10 mins to knead. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

For White Sauce (Bechamel)

  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3.5 Tbs unbleached flour
  • 2 cups milk, warmed - not boiled
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, do not let brown. Add flour all at once and stir, mixture will look crumbly at first. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly - the goal here is to not let it brown, the roux is not meant to get a lot of color. Add milk, a little at a time and whisk with a wire whisk. Continue to whisk and cook until sauce thickens. Use whole milk for a thicker sauce.  Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese and 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, stir to incorporate.

For Tomato Sauce (or use high quality canned or jarred)

  • 10 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Saute onion in oilve oil, add peeled diced seeded tomatoes, cook for about 30 minutes, add tomato paste, add 1/2 cup chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste. Process with immersion blender.
To peel, seed and dice tomatoes: make a x in the bottom of each tomato and submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain into a bowl of cold water and skins should come off readily. Cut in half and squeeze out seeds and juice. Chop.

To Assemble and Cook Lasagna

Make the meat sauce and then process in a food processor - not to a paste! but just to medium fine crumbly texture, you want to be able to spread it fairly thin. Make the pasta and roll in pasta roller to thinnest setting, cut into large rectangles and cook for about 2 mins in boiling salted water. Can rinse in cold water to cool so you can handle them, then lay sheets out on waxed paper on kitchen towels. Make the white sauce.

Prepare a pan (8x8x2 for 4 servings, larger if you want to double pasta and roll lots more). Butter pan -
layer a thin layer of white sauce over the bottom of the pan. Lay down one layer of pasta, overlap a little if necessary. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce over pasta. Lay down another layer of pasta, spread with white sauce and a Tbs or two of tomato sauce, another layer of pasta, a layer of meat sauce and just keep going pressing down on each layer of pasta. The goal is to create as many layers as possible to use all your fresh pasta and make sure to keep the meat sauce and white sauce layers very thin!! End with a layer of pasta, top with more white sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup grated parmesan.

At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or just cover with foil and bake right away. Bake covered at 350 F for 30 mins, remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 mins or until lasagna is heated though and top browns a bit. You can sprinkle some grated mozzarella on top if you desire after taking foil off.

Let this stand for a few minutes to facilitate cutting, it holds together beautifully. This dish is really spectacular and I served it with a caprese salad, and some garlic bread. For dessert we had a blueberry rhubarb birthday pie...

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