Friday, October 31, 2014

new favorite

There's nothing quite as nice as a giant bowl of pasta bolognese. I think some of the joy is that you're tasting effort - the sauce alone is quite an endeavor.

And when you have that much time waiting for the sauce to cook, you might as well kill a little time by making homemade pasta. And what you get is a fabulously silky dish, that's slightly fresher than your average bolognese because of the addition of the bell pepper, but still familiarly luscious and worthy of any Sunday supper.

Bell Pepper Bolognese Pasta
adapted from Tasting Table
serves 4

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
3 T. olive oil
3/4 lb. ground beef chuck
1 c. dry white wine
1 14-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes, undrained, crushed using your hands
3 bay leaves
2 t. nutmeg
3 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs. fresh fettuccine
3 T. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1. Place the carrot, onion and celery in a food processor and pulse until the vegetables have completely broken down. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add 1 T. of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef and cook, stirring until the beef has browned and fat has rendered, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and pour any excess grease out of the pot.

3. Add the remaining 2 T. of olive oil to the pot and place over medium heat. Add the minced vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved beef to the pot, along with the tomatoes, bay leaves, nutmeg and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, covered (leaving the lid ajar) until the flavors have melded and the sauce's texture becomes velvety, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme.

4. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

5. Meanwhile, add the butter to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 to 40 seconds. Add the bell pepper and cook until just slightly blistered, about 2 minutes. Add the Bolognese sauce, reserved cooking water and cream and reduce for 2 minutes. Add the pasta and toss with the sauce until the pasta is well-coated, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pasta and serve.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

all the sugar you'll ever need

This Cinnamon Bun Bread is so easy to make, it's almost a crime. All of the ingredients are standard pantry items, so it can be whipped up any time, in little to no time.

Unless, of course, you're me, and you're home from tour for 48 hours, and the boys who live in your house have somehow managed to survive the last two weeks without almond milk or yeast.

So, I improvised. Instead of regular (or almond) milk, I used sweetened condensed milk. And instead of measuring out 4 t. of yeast, I dumped in two entire packs and prayed. Why the prayer? Because one of the packs may have expired last year.

But it's all fine. Not sure what an actual fresh pack would have been able to do since the rise time is so short, but worth trying again and doing it right.

I cut down the sugar because I was using sweetened condensed milk, but I still thought that we all would have been fine with just half of the topping sprinkled on - the full amount was entirely too sweet for our palates. The halved topping amount is below. If you want to make sure the original recipe is too sweet for you, too, just double the topping ingredients.

Cinnamon Bun Bread
slightly adapted from Baking Bites
serves 9

For the bread:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
4 t. active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the topping:
1 1/2 T. butter, room temperature
6 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.

3. Heat the condensed milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.

4. While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips.

5. Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Cool until the sugar has stopped bubbling.