Monday, December 31, 2012

first thing in the morning

An 11:00a football kick-off means breakfast brunch, which is never as exciting as starting the day with chicken wings and whiskey cocktails, but we made the most of things with this Italian Sausage Bread and mimosas. And that's not to say that the second thing I ingested wasn't a delightful wing from Hoagies & Wings.

I tried to be healthy and bought whole-wheat pizza dough (a couple fewer calories, more fiber), but if I were to do this again, I'd just use regular pizza dough (or go for the hot Italian sausage originally called for in the recipe). The heaviness of the whole-wheat dough really fought with the mild breakfast sausage, but it was still a fun way to serve breakfast to a crowd (and to tide us over until the wings showed up).

Italian Sausage Bread
slightly adapted from Food Blogga
Makes 15 slices

1 lb. pizza dough
1 T. olive oil
1 lb. breakfast sausage
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. parsley, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Lightly grease a small baking sheet, and press out the pizza dough to form a rectangle about 10x12 inches. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage, and cook for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the eggs, and cook for 2-3 minutes - the eggs should only be partially cooked, but still solid enough to transfer to the dough. Stir in the parsley.

4. Spread the egg mixture on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Turn the long sides of the dough up on the filling, and then roll the dough into a loaf, jelly-roll style. Turn the roll over with the seam on the bottom.

5. Lightly grease the top of the loaf, and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once. Let cool slightly, slice and serve.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

the heart is the yolk

Our experiment with homemade pasta continues, and dare I say, this spaghetti was an even more stunning success than the ravioli. We used a new pasta dough recipe, one that uses a lot more egg yolks, and every tender bite was worth the egg whites I tried to save, but will probably eventually throw out after I forget about them.

There was just such bite, such snap, such tender richness in each strand. I'm still trying to be good about portion control, but I was sheepishly caught by our friend Greg sneaking an extra bite as I was cleaning up. I couldn't help it!

The sauce was just something quick I whipped up - a diced onion and 1 lb. ground beef simmered in 1 c. red wine, 42 oz. canned diced tomatoes and 1 c. cream. It ended up being a little too milky, so I thinned it with a little beef broth. Just heaven.

And the salad was not too shabby either - arugula, shredded Brussels sprouts and thinly sliced artichoke hearts. Made the meal seem extra healthy.

Fresh Pasta Dough
slightly adapted from Barbara Lynch's Stir
Makes 1 lb. pasta (serves 4-6)

2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 eggs
4 egg yolks

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix until you get a cohesive ball of dough. Remove the dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Divide the dough into four pieces, and feed them through your pasta maker attachment according to the machine's instructions, ending with the cutter of your choice.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

filling up

Matty's been wanting to get into pasta-making, and frankly, who am I to stop him? Very selfishly, his Christmas gift included a ravioli maker, which we were able to test out on his parents while we were visiting for the holidays.

We were originally going to try this agnolotti recipe, but I think I successfully turned my brain off for the break, and frankly could not get my head around the instructions on shaping the pasta. We figured the various Kitchen-Aid attachments plus the ravioli mold would be self-explanatory enough, so we stuck with the truffled potato filling from the agnolotti recipe, but just made regular ol' ravioli.

The mold did require a little bit of preparation, though - it wasn't all fun and games. Even if you think you've floured the mold enough, throw some more in there. Rub it into every corner of each square, and then throw some more in. It's the difference between gorgeously formed ravioli and lumpy little numbers pried out with a teaspoon, if you don't rip it with said spoon.

All well worth it, though. We cranked through about 7 dozen ravioli, cooked about 2 and froze the rest. I would definitely go for a much lighter filling on the next go-around. While the heaviness was decadent, I felt it competed with the pasta dough - it wanted to assert itself as the carb of the dish when it was supposed to be about the homemade dough. Plenty of ideas for the next time, though, and I can't wait to try them all.

Truffled Potato Ravioli
Makes 7 dozen ravioli

For the dough
3 1/2 c. flour
5 eggs
1 T. water
1 t. salt

For the filling
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 oz. mushrooms
8 oz. cream cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the dough ingredients, and beat until the dough just comes together. Remove to a floured surface and knead a few times. Let rest for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender. Mash, then mix in the cream cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Put the dough through the pasta maker attachment per the instructions. Lay a sheet over the ravioli mold, then fill with a teaspoonful of filling. Lay another sheet over the filling, and roll to seal and perforate the ravioli. Repeat until you're out of dough or filling.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli a few at a time so they don't get crowded and stick together, for about 2 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

give me up again

Ah, fruitcake by any other name would taste as stanky. Although panettone has the benefit of having a lovely fluffy texture that regular fruitcake doesn't have, I still can't deal with that whole preserved fruit business.

So what to do when a 2 1/2-lb loaf shows up at the house? Soak it in custard and re-gift it as bread pudding!

That little ramekin was for Quality Control, i.e. us for breakfast. While the fruit was still quite strong, it was very much mellowed out after being baked again. The original recipe comes with accompanying amaretto sauce, but I couldn't deal with any more cream, so we had the tester plain. I won't hate on anyone who has to serve this a la mode, though.

Panettone Bread Pudding
slightly adapted from Ezra Pound Cake
Serves 12-16

1.5-2 lbs. of panettone bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
7 large eggs
4 c. cream
1 c. sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the panettone cubes into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and sugar to blend.

3. Pour the egg mixture over the cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, turning once.

4. Bake for 60 minutes, or until the pudding is set in the center. Cool slightly and serve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

i love the dough

These Parisian-style gnocchi were absolutely amazing, but they were a near-crisis averted. I even had a lasagna going as back-up.

I'm not sure what happened, but although I thought I had followed the instructions, I got dumpling soup, not dumpling dough. Luckily, an extra cup of flour saved it, but I can't figure out what I did wrong. Some possible scenarios:

- I shouldn't have doubled the recipe. However, I'm not sure how that affects anything since everything was doubled. I even recounted the eggs to make sure I put in the right number.

- Maybe I didn't cook the dough long enough. It did leave the sides of the pan, but didn't necessarily form a ball.

I mean, I could have just stopped adding eggs once it started looking crazy, but live and learn. I also had so much dough that I had to freeze the leftovers. Hopefully, it'll still rise after it thaws.

What I have below is the doubled recipe, with the cup of flour added after the eggs were added. They were still fluffy and feather-light, but I wonder if they'd be even more so if everything had been correct (and without the extra cup of flour).

The original recipe calls for bathing the gnocchi in 2 cups of bechamel sauce, but I didn't think I could handle that much decadence so I made a quick bolognese-style sauce out of Italian sausage, canned tomatoes and a touch of cream - I figured the acidity of the tomatoes would cut the richness.

So looks like I have a lot of work to do: 1) try the original recipe and be more thorough about cooking the dough, 2) try the frozen dough, and 3) try a version with bechamel. What New Year's resolutions?

Gnocchi alla Parigina
adapted from the Harry's Bar Cookbook
Serves 4-6, with leftover gnocchi

2 c. milk
12 T. butter
1 t. salt
3 c. flour
8 eggs
3/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 c. sauce of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Bring the milk, butter and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, and stir the mixture vigorously over low heat until the dough forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan. Stir for a minute or two over low heat and remove from the heat.

3. Make a well in the center of the dough, and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the Parmesan.

4. Pour the sauce into a 9x13 pan. Spoon out golf ball-sized pieces of dough and place them on top of the sauce, leaving a little room between each. I ended up with about 18.

5. Bake the gnocchi for 25-30 minutes or until they are well-risen and golden brown.

Monday, December 17, 2012

three hours

I have nothing but love for this recipe. You literally do next to nothing, and 3 hours later, you have delicious pulled pork that is perfect next to/on top of mac and cheese, or polenta, or grits and just as good the next day in a sandwich. All of the very simple flavors combine with all that time and heat to make a sweet, decadent sauce. My only gripe is I would definitely have to make more next time.

Cranberry Braised Pork
adapted from Bitchin Camero
Makes 6 servings

2 T. olive oil
2 lbs. pork shoulder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion, diced
1 c. pomegranate juice
1 c. red wine
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 dried pasilla pepper, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, and sear the pork for about 5 minutes on each side until golden. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, cover and place in the oven.

3. Cook for 3 hours, turning occasionally.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

seven ways

It's our first Christmas as homeowners, so we suckered some friends to come over and help us trim our tree. We promised them appetizers done to the tune of the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes in exchange for an ornament to start our collection - don't tell them we only really ended up with six because I panicked and ran out of time.

1. Ahi Tuna Meatballs
That's what you see there in the bottom left of the picture above. Very sadly, I overbaked these in the oven, and literally spit them out as soon as I put them in my mouth. Luckily, the night was only up from there. I won't waste space with the recipe since I'm still trying to forget my mistake, but click on the link to take you to what it should be.

2. Shrimp Toast
This was by far my favorite party trick of the night. I love shrimp toast, but I hate the guilt of being able to taste every drop of oil that went into frying it - that bread loves nothing better than to soak up grease! When I found the muffin tin-toast round trick, I knew I had to repurpose it for this dish. It was just perfect, really. Recipe at the end.

3. Crab Cakes
This one nearly went by the wayside as the panic set in as guests started arriving. No way I was going to get any crab cakes fried up in time. Luckily, there was a lull between the first few folks, and the next few, and well, we had already bought the crab meat, so I whipped these together really quickly and threw them in the oven. Worth it.

And I only just realized I've made these before. Must be a great recipe if it calls out to me twice!

Basically something I've made before, but I tried to make it a little Christmas-y by adding julienned celery and radishes. Another Bittman winner - really good and refreshing.

This was supposed to go on crispy rice, but I just got crispy rice (and edamame) crackers instead.

Still no photo, because while it is delicious, it remains unattractive.

At some point, I'd love to do an actual dinner with seven seafood courses, but I got in way over my head thinking I could do seven individual appetizers for a group of 20. Or maybe I'll just turn this shrimp toast into a full dinner spread and call it a day - really, that good.

Shrimp Toast
adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
Makes 48 appetizers

For shrimp paste
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves
1 lb. tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 c. water chestnuts
2 egg whites
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 T. soy sauce
2 t. sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste

For toasts:
12 slices white bread
Pam spray
4 T. toasted sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the remaining shrimp paste ingredients, and pulse until you have a paste consistency that still has some texture. Set aside.

3. Using a biscuit cutter, stamp out 4 rounds from each slice to toast. You'll want them large enough to just clear the bottom of a mini muffin tin. Spray the muffin tins with Pam, add the toasts, and then spritz each toast round with a little more Pam.

4. Spread a heaping Tablespoon of the shrimp mixture onto each round of bread, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Serve immediately.

Friday, December 14, 2012

gotta have it

It's been a long time since I've come across a recipe that begs to be made right away. As I go through my Pinterest list, I see recipes that have been patiently awaiting their turn for months, almost a year. As soon as I came across this one, though, I called Matty to have him defrost the chicken we had in the freezer, for fear I would forget when I got home, and we would have to wait any longer to prepare this meal.

Everything about this Roast Chicken Pasta sounded right, though. What a genius idea to roast up some buttery chicken and use the pan juices as a sauce! I simplified it even further from the original recipe, and it's still divine - proof that a recipe with good bones doesn't need anything more.

If I'm being a little more patient next time, I'd wait for the chicken to fully crisp up, and then chop rather than shred it. Just a little more composed for a prettier plate.

Roast Chicken Pasta
adapted from The Amateur Gourmet
Serves 6-8

3 lbs. bone-in chicken leg pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. butter, cut into pieces
1 lb. fusilli
5 oz. spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted until golden in a skillet

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Arrange the chicken in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and dot with the butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Reserve 1 c. of the cooking water, drain and set aside.

4. When the chicken is done, let cool slightly, then pull the meat and skin from the bones, making bite-sized pieces. Discard the bones.

5. Add the pasta, spinach and reserved cooking water to the pan with the chicken, and cook until the spinach is just wilted. Add the toasted pine nuts, and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 10, 2012

raw deal

I'm throwing a Feast of the Seven Fishes party this weekend, and wanted to try out a new recipe. I was thinking of doing a spicy tuna dish, but while I trust my basic abilities as a cook, I'm also very paranoid of poisoning my friends with raw seafood. Really not the way to ring in the holiday season.

A lightbulb came on while I was rearranging my cookbooks onto the new shelves Matty and Joe built for me. Oh, you want to see the shelves? Okay, here:

Gorgeous, no? And it looks like I have room for more cookbooks!

Anyway, I happened to grab an appetizer book I had forgotten I owned. While flipping through, I noticed the abundance of smoked salmon recipes. I didn't want to do anything quite so simple, but then - ding ding! - why not replace the tuna with smoked salmon?

The experiment became dinner tonight. So easy it should be a crime. I did feel a little bad about not including vegetables in this meal, but I got over it.

Spicy Salmon Rice Bowl
Serves 1, generously

3 oz. smoked salmon, finely diced
1 t. mayonnaise
1 t. Sriracha
a dash of sesame oil
1 t. sesame seeds
1 1/2 c. cooked rice

1. Combine the smoked salmon, mayo, Sriracha and sesame oil in a small bowl and mix to combine thoroughly.

2. In a small dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden brown and fragrant.

3. Place the rice in a serving bowl and top with the salmon mixture. Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

not giving in

It's getting to be that time of year where the sweet people you've done business with send their holiday love via perfect lemon bundt cakes and irresistible DeLuscious cookies (their chocolate Bing cherry cookie is the real crack cookie).

And it's the time of year when I throw caution to the wind and indulge in these cakes and cookies just about any time I need a snack in the office. Or even when I'm not at all hungry. That is, until I happened upon the Notes on my phone where I keep track of how many miles I've logged at the gym every workout. And realized that I hadn't updated that particular Note in 31 days.

Embarrassing. And yet, it always happens after I train for a big endurance event. The same thing happened at the end of 2010 after I did the half-marathon, and it culminated in me crying in the dressing room at The Gap last Christmas, trying on double-digit sized pants that I had to disturb all the other pairs of jeans off the display to get to. Well, not crying. But feeling like crying.

So, that's not happening again. This triathlon got me back into my skinny jeans, and I'm going to stay that way. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app to my phone, and have been diligently entering calories and workouts. I'm on Day 3, and truthfully, this is the first day I've been to the gym, but I'm more motivated than ever because I get to see my net calories for the day go into the negative until halfway through lunch.

The calorie counting thing is going to be a challenge, I know. And certainly, some of it's going to be off - I'm pretty sure the French dip I had for lunch yesterday was entirely too delicious for the 300 calories the app thinks it was. But hey. You gotta start somewhere.

And when you're making homemade foods, how do you count for the calories? Well, if you're OCD like me, you take down the calorie content of each ingredient, measure out how many cups of finished product you get and multiply, add and divide like crazy. In case you're wondering, there are about 284 calories per one cup serving.

And what a glorious 284 calories it was. It was a recipe born out of necessity - Brussels sprouts nubbins from the Thanksgiving salad, as well as cauliflower and mushrooms purchased for the Thanksgiving-Leftover-Pot-Pie-That-Never-Happened, needed to get used imminently. I'm trying to limit my carb intake, but this particular recipe has a 3:1 vegetable:pasta ratio, so I didn't feel too guilty about it.

But what to bind all of these delightful ingredients together? Certainly not cream - I've set a new rule for myself where I can have limited carbs and limited dairy, but not both together because, while delicious, they are inevitably the worst calorie bombs. Goodbye mac and cheese, goodbye grilled cheese sandwiches, goodbye bagel with the delicious jalapeno cream cheese and lox spread I found at Whole Foods last week.

Pesto! Pesto works! But I still wanted to get a nice fall flavor rather than the summertime burst of a traditional basil pesto. I pulled together inspiration from a couple old favorites:

- Cranberry-Pistachio Pesto
- Pistachio Cream Pasta

I loved how the nuts in the sauce can turn any dish so creamy, but I also loved how the cranberries in the pesto gave a pop of tartness. Because this particular dish was going to already have so many earthy flavors from the roasted vegetables, I wanted the same kind of perk in this sauce.

Enter a newly-Pinned recipe, Spaghetti all Foriana. Golden raisins - brilliant! I changed the nuts around a little because I'm not a huge fan of walnuts, and I thought they might be a bit bitter in such large quantities, and used pine nuts and pistachios. This mixture basically turned into a a deliciously sweet nut butter that was equally good thinned out with pasta water as a sauce as I can imagine it will be spread thickly on my now-lonely bagel.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Raisin-Pistachio Pesto
Serves 6-8

1 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
12 oz. cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. pine nuts
1 c. pistachios
1/2 c. golden raisins
12 oz. pasta
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Toss the Brussels spouts, cauliflower and mushrooms with 2 T. olive oil and season to taste. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, tossing once or twice.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, coarsely grind the pine nuts, pistachios and raisins. Add the remaining 4 T. olive oil while the machine is running. You'll basically get something resembling crunchy peanut butter.

4. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Remove 1/2 c. of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

5. When the vegetables are done, toss them with the pasta, about 3/4 c. of the pesto and the reserved pasta water to thoroughly coat. Add more pesto to taste, but save some for your toast the next morning.