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Sunday, February 27, 2011

freezer-safe plastic bags-the real star.

It's potluck time at IHCC and well the dish I'm bringing to the table is going to be um...frozen.I took the idea of a "potluck" dish and put it in the freezer.

No seriously...I made marinara sauce and I'm freezing it.I decided to make Giada de Laurentiis's  marinara sauce  from Everyday Italian and you know when I decided to make some homemade fried cheese sticks I will have one heck of a dipping sauce,thanks Giada. Here's the before before the after in the freezer:
I rounded up the bulk of my ingredients: celery,carrots,onion,garlic,tomatoes and salt and pepper.
****And just a small note about the onion and tomatoes-see the recipe called for 2 small onions and 2 32-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes.I had to improvise just a little.I only had some rather large onions,so I used a medium-to-largish size onions instead of 2 small ones. And oh the 'maters,I had 2 28-ounce cans and the recipe called for 2 32-ounce,well I grabbed an extra 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes from the pantry and called it even.****
So there.
Moving right along,finely chop the onion,garlic,carrots and celery. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high flame and soften the onion and garlic together. Then add the carrots,celery,salt and pepper and soften them as well.Next add in the tomatoes and the bay leaves.
And now bring all the ingredients up to a simmer,reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.At this point I cleaned up my prep dishes and went to fold some laundry. It's an hour,you would be amazed at all you can an accomplish in one hour. Today it's folding towels,oh the life.
Before I got knee deep in towels,I prepped my Ziploc bags for the freezer. The recipe says it make 2 quarts (8 cups) and I figure/hope that 4 cups will fit in this big ol' bag and will freeze nicely.
Here we are and hour or so later,the sauce has cooked and will now chill overnight in our fridge and then I will pour it up. Trying to juggle hot marinara sauce in strong yet flimsy plastic bags is not my idea of a good time.A glass of wine and a good book,now we're talkin.
The recipe seems pretty straightforward and should be a great compliment to some italian sausage and pasta or even some of those cheese sticks.Mmmm fried cheese.
Marinara Sauce
adapted from Everyday Italian
by Giada de Laurentiis
Makes 8 cups(2 quarts)
1 quart will serve 4 over pasta as a first course (says Giada)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 small onions,finely chopped
2 garlic cloves,finely chopped
2 celery stalks,finely chopped
2 carrots,peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt,plus more to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
1.In a large pot,heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent,about 10 minutes. Add the celery,carrots and 1/2 tsp salt and pepper.Saute until the vegetables are softened,about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves,and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens,about 1 hour.
2. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.(The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool,then cover and refrigerate. Re-warm over medium heat before serving.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Girly Dessert,yum.

A month or so ago,we had some folks over for my husband's birthday dinner.The dinner was actually thrown together for two reasons: A. To celebrate the life of the coolest man on the planet. B. To accomplish TWO Bon Appetit cover recipes in one night (an at some point catch up to the 2011 covers,slowly but surely...)
  I knew this would be a classy dinner of sorts and well wanted to have fancy dessert.I knew that these manly men eating this manly steak would enjoy most any dessert put in front of them,well even it was girly.And this one was girly and so dang good.I mean it,this was tasty and it had layers! Layers of goodness.So the dessert was the August 2010 cover recipe and it deserved the cover,every single layer and all. The recipe was for Blackberry,Lemon and Gingersnap Cheesecake Pudding.Now all of that sounds amazing but the real star has to be the lemon curd.
Oh my stars this is the most amazing stuff I have ever tasted (next to this dish,more coming soon) .
And I found out you can can  the stuff too!!! But I digress.
We're moving on people to heaven in a really nice glass. Those glasses are older than you and I combined,
Ok here goes it:
For the blackberry compote: Soak the fresh blackberries ( I bought some back when they were in season and froze them jokers,thawed like a charm and kept them firmer) in sugar,lemon zest and limoncello . Put them in the fridge and let them marinate. Like candy.
On to the lemon curd:
Melt the butter in a heavy large sauce pan. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar,lemon juice,lemon peel(zest),cream and a pinch of salt. Add in the eggs and the egg yolks;whisk to blend.

Now switch to a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat,stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You know it is done when it coats the back of a wooden spoon and a path can be made when you run your finger through the lemon-curd coating. Now like you finger,this stuff taste amazing. This will take about 6-7 minutes(DO NOT LET IT BOIL! You could wind up with lemon-tasting scrambled eggs.
Now get out your fine mesh strainer ( or even some cheese cloth over a colander,just keep the cheesecloth over the big holes.)Gently press the curd through the strainer into a medium size bowl and then when you're finished straining all the lemony goodness into the bowl,cover the top of the curd with plastic wrap,pressing it gently onto the curd. Chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Ok well right before you assemble those babies,whip up your mascarpone whipped cream. Using an electric mixer,handheld or the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment,beat together the mascarpone,heavy cream and pinch of salt just until soft peaks form. While those peaks are whipping up,take your gingersnaps,put them in a large ziploc bag and crush them up with a rolling pin or heck even a can of creamed can,just get the in crumbles.
Here's how the layers go: berries,whipped cream,lemon curd and gingersnaps. And so forth and so on.
This was so good and flavors that come together in that vintage glass really are outstanding,a real classic dessert.
adapted from Bon Appetit August 2010
Blackberry compote:
2 cups fresh blackberries
3 TBL sugar
2 TBL limoncello
1 tsp finely grated lemon peel (lemon zest)
Directions: Toss all ingredients in a small bowl and let chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.(this can be made up to 1 day ahead)
Lemon curd:
6 TBL (3/4 stick ) unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 TBL finely grated lemon peel(lemon zest)
2 TBL heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1.Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat;whisk inthe sugar,lemon juice,lemon peel,cream and pinch of salt.Add the eggs and egg yolks;whick to blend .Switch to a wooden sppon.Cok over mdium heat,stirring constantly for 6-7 minutes (DO NOT BOIL!!!) until thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon and you can run a parth through it with your finger.Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.Coer with plastic wrap and press the plastic wrpa gently onto the curd.Chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
Whipped cream and the ginger snaps:
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)
pinch of salt
Directions: Whip the heavy cream,mascarpone and salt until soft peaks form. For the ginger snaps;crush about 16 cookies in a large ziploc bag until in crumbs.
Layer from the BOTTOM ----> UP: berries,cream,curd then gingersnaps. You should get 2 layers or so of each. Chill the assembled desserts for at least 1 hour up to 3 hours. Enjoy!!!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #19

"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.There are seven million."- Walt Streightiff

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Burnt Garlic Ain't Good

 It's a big help when making a new recipe for the first time to read it all the way through.The first lesson I always forget when cooking is to read the recipe all the way through the first time.I have on the other hand gotten a little more prepared,namely because of this blog,I now have all my ingredients ready before I begin preparing a recipe.
Ok well really I remember most of the time to read the whole recipe start to finish but on those rare occasions,oh say a weeknight when we both need to be in bed early and you read the recipe halfway through preparation that the sauce takes an hour or so to cook,oh brother.A quick glance to the clock on the wall and a quick sympathy glance to my hungry husband and we're going to have a tasty,a bit tardy dinner.But darnit it's gonna be tasty I hope.
The theme for this week with the IHCC group was "Using Your Noodle",ha ! I chose Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce from Giada de Laurentiis"s cookbook, Everyday Pasta .It was a wonderful choice of recipes and won the heart of that sympathetic husband of mine. Thank heavens.It was a fairly easy recipe and packed some rich flavors in that spicy tomato sauce.We loved it and I hope you will too! Here's how it all went down:
 Heat up some olive oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven,add the onion and garlic AND don't walk away from that pot and look at delicious  blogs that could potentially catch your attention for an extended period of time.JUST DON"T DO IT. I did and it didn't turn out pretty.
 Then two minutes into those delightful blogs you remember to add the carrots,celery,salt and pepper.Ok kid stick with it. And then you figure I got a few seconds to kill,back to blogs.Just real quick. UH...HUH.
 This is what happens when you walk away from your pot cooking on the stove,burnt garlic. Burnt garlic ain't so good and well then you have to put on your big girl boots and fish or cut bait. Either quit now and eat ramen noodles or carefully wipe out the pot (thank you sympathetic and patient husband) and START OVER.I mean really...
 So moving along I have now started over: heat up the oil in your pot,soften your onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. DON'T WALK AWAY,TAKE ROOT IF YOU HAVE TO.  Then add in the carrots,celery,salt and pepper.Saute another 5-10 minutes until softened too.

Add in your tomatoes and bay leaf.At this point heat up a little skillet and add in the briney/salty goodness that makes this recipe shine.
 Add some minced anchovies ( I love anchovies,well just started to love.I fell for them in a homemade caesar dressing,it was love at first bite.mmmmm) and a little of their oil. Let them dissolve a little then add in the kalamata olives,capers,red pepper flakes and black pepper. Add them into the tomato sauce and let it simmer on low for an H-O-U-R or so.Hoooray for tasty late dinners.It was so worth it I tell ya.
At this point while you're waiting for the sauce to cook,get that pasta going in a big 'ol pot of boiling then salted water. After the pasta has cooked,save a little of the pasta water to loosen the tomato sauce if needed. Drain the pasta and add it to the anchovy/olive tomato sauce and stir to coat. Add in a little pasta water if needed. Then serve on a lovely plate and garnish with some chopped fresh parsley.Ta-da!
Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion,finely chopped
1 garlic clove,minced
1 celery stalk,finely chopped
1 carrot,peeled and finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt,plus more to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper,plus more to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes,with juice
1 dried bay leaf
8 anchovy filets packed in oil,minced
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives,halved
2 TBL drained capers
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound penne pasta
3 TBL chopped fresh parsley
In a Dutch oven,heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent,about 10 minutes. Add the celery,carrot,and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper.Saute until all the vegetables are soft,about 10 minutes(maybe not that long really) Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour over low heat until the sauce thickens,stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of pasta water if the sauce get to thick.
**During this hour cook you pasta according to package directions,so you have your pasta water to add when the sauce is done with its simmering. I'm just sayin.**
Place the anchovies and some of their oil in a small skillet over medium heat until they  begin to melt,about 2 minutes. Add the olives,capers,remaining 1/4 tsp of black pepper and red pepper flakes.Saute until the olives are heated through,about 2 minutes. Stir the olive mixture into the tomato sauce and simmer over medium heat until the flavors blend,stirring frequently,about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the pasta to the sauce,stirring to coat evenly and then transfer to a large serving bowl or plates to serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daring Cook Challenge #1,LOOK OUT!

  I mentioned to you all that I've joined up with IHCC and now,well I decided for more cooking adventures and I joined The Daring Kitchen ! The badge for this cooking group has been on my page for a while,but folks now it's challenge time. Oh no Mr. Bill! The Daring Kitchen has two challenge groups: Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers.

What the heck was I thinking?....
    So with my big-girl boots on I took on my first Daring Cooks challenge: Hiyahi Soba and Tempura.Hiya-what? Tempura..that means fried right? I knew my Asian-food lovin' husband would love this meal and it was going to be a challenge that was for sure.
The February 2011 Daring Cook's challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including , and . Well Lisa what a challenge and a fine meal we had last Saturday night.
First the Hiyashi Soba noodles: 
  The are buckwheat noodles or better known as soba noodles. They are a type of Japanese noodles that are made from buckwheat flour.We ate them cold with the sauce chilled.(I got it all confused forgive me.) Officially you can eat them chilled with the chilled dipping sauce on the side OR served warm with the noodles in a hot broth.(I will aim for that next go 'round,geez.) The noodles had a great wheat flavor and the sauce was so rich and savory,oh umami. Here are the ingredients and directions for the noodles:

Hiyashi Soba noodles:
-adapted from and other 
sources mentioned above
2 quarts water + 1 cup cold water,separate
12 oz dried soba noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
 **(I bought mine at the Asian foods grocery store,that was so cool and a bit intimidating at the same time.A whole store of wonderful Asian food and I can't read a word on 99% of the packages. Thank heavens for the clerk who asked if I needed help.)**
1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a full boil in a large pot over high heat. Work with one bundle at a time. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time,stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil,add 1 cup cold water. Repeat this twice more. When the water returns to a full boil check for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them! 
2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process,but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool,drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set then aside allowing them to cool completely.
**This process didn't take that long and the broth takes even shorter amount of time to come together. Lisa mentioned that she can make this meal in under 30 minutes and well...I believe her. You are working with a ton of water,say like with spaghetti noodles so it takes no time for the water to return to a boil. You just have to set a rhythm when making the noodles and adding the cold water. Ok on to the sauce:

-adapted from
2 cups Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (or basic vegetable stock ,thats what I used,I couldn't find the dashi)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 mirin (sweet rice wine-found at Asian grocery stores)
1. Put mirin in a saucepan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.(this sauce taste so rich and savory,so dang good)
Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
ham,boiled chicken breasts,cucumber,boiled bean sprouts,tomatoes,green onions- We enjoyed the thin slices or cucumber and green onions, delish.

Now onto the Tempura: (yummy fried goodness and so light all at the same time,perfect)
 These are the ingredients for the tempura batter.I ran out of vegetable oil so I had to fry the shrimp and vegetables in canola oil,it worked just fine.

 Here's what we fried up into crispy,light,pale golden goodness: shrimp,portobello mushroom slices,bell pepper strips,sweet potato(peeled,thinly sliced and blanched) and carrot (peeled,thinly sliced diagonally).
Here goes it with the tempura and how it all worked:
-adapted from sources mentioned above
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup iced water
1/2 cup plain,all purpose flour,plus extra for dredging
1/2 cup cornstarch (also known as cornflower)
1/2 tsp baking powder
oil,preferably vegetable oil
ice water bath,for the tempura batter to chill in(make sure this bowl is bigger than the bowl you make the batter in)
1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water,stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once,stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in a ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. For the vegetables the oil should be 320 degrees F;for the seafood it should be 340 degrees F.It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don't have a thermometer,but it can be done.I recommend using a thermometer,it helps greatly. The oil is ready when you drop a piece of batter in the oil,it sinks a little then immediately rises to the top.It's ready.
3. Start with the veggies,such as sweet potatoes,that won't leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and dip them in the batter. Slide them into the hot oil,deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
4. Place finished tempura on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items,frequently scooping out the excess bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
5. Serve immediately for best flavor with this savory dipping sauce. What a challenge,it's worth every bit of the work and really truth be told it's not that much work. Find your rhythm when making all of this wonderful food and all will be well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #18

"A smile starts on the lips,
 A grin spreads to the eyes,
 A chuckle comes from the belly,
But a good laugh bursts from the soul, overflows and bubbles all around. "-Carolyn Birmingham

Sunday, February 13, 2011

True love and mascarpone .

 Here's a little love story for you on this Valentine's day and later we'll talk about my love for mascarpone,but first :
Here's a picture of (my maternal grandfather) George.Ain't he handsome.George met a nice girl at church named Dorothy.
Here's a picture of (my maternal grandmother) Dorothy. Dorothy and George met at 4th Avenue Methodist Church in Louisville,Kentucky.George had moved up there to take a job just over the river in Indiana.His roomate Hatton Bomar (what a name) went to 4th Ave. Methodist Church too. George ad Dorothy became friends and over time fell in love.
What a sweet couple,I mean really she was such a lady and he was such a gentleman.Love. They got married and moved to Memphis,Tn. He was a general contractor and built lots of houses.He built the house my mom and aunts grew up in.Great house,great kids and great family.My family,I love my family.
On to mascarpone,my new love. 
  The IHCC theme for this week was romantic fare and what better than pound cake.Toasted Pound Cake with mascarpone and amaretto , enough said. I saw this recipe and I knew that no store-bought pound cake would be good enough for my love. 
I mean my husband,not the italian cream cheese.
My great-grandmother made this fantastic pound cake.My grandmother made the same amazing pound cake.She also taught my mom and aunts how to make the same delicious pound cake.And lo and behold my Aunt Carol taught me over lunch one day.No I am not kidding,we were sitting at a deli having a ham sandwich when she realized I didn't know the recipe for this superb,legendary pound cake.
Oh gosh stop the presses. 
Well she found a piece of paper in her purse,wrote it down and folks I'm passing it down to you.It's so easy,has a minimal number of ingredients and will win over the hearts of all the folks in your life.And after those people make it,it will win over the hearts of their loved ones too.
I promise.
Toasted Pound Cake with Mascarpone and Amaretto
adapted from Everyday Italian and my grandmother Dorothy
Here's the pound cake recipe first:

**My Grandmother's Pound Cake-
2 sticks of unsalted butter,room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp almond extract
1tsp vanilla extract
 parchment paper
tube pan
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy about 2 minutes.

2. While the butter and sugar are creaming together,butter just the inside,bottom circle of the tube pan.And then cut a pice of parchment paper just to fit the same inside,bottom circle. The butter will hold the paper to the pan and the parchment paper will prevent the bottom of the cake from burning.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time,mixed just until blended in. The add in the vanilla extract and almond extract. Then add the all-purpose flour just until blended together. DO NOT OVER MIX.

4. Gently scoop/pour the batter into the prepared tube pan. Smooth out the top just until level,doesn't have to be perfect. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the outside edge of the cake,let cool completely on a wire rack.**(my oven runs hot so I bake mine 25 minutes then check it and turn the pan halfway,then bake 25 minutes more.)**
      Now the cake might look done but check with a toothpick inserted in the middle circle of the cake.If it comes out clean it's done. The outside will get golden/crusty and the inside will be soft and tasty.Yum.
 Ok so back to IHCC and the romantic fare theme:
The mascarpone softened real nice on the warm,toasty piece of pound cake.I mean it's klassy cream cheese that mascarpone. Oooh.

Toasted Pound Cake with Mascarpone and Amaretto
adapted from Everyday Italian ,by Giada de Laurentiis 
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup apricot preserves
3 TBL amaretto liqueur (I didn't use this because the cake already had the almond extract in it.)
1 (10.75 ounce) pound cake,cut crosswise into 12 slices
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the sliced almonds on a large,rimmed heavy baking sheet, and toast in the oven,stirring occasionally until the nuts are fragrant and light golden brown,about 7 minutes. Let cool completely.
2.In a small bowl stir the apricot preserves and the amaretto to blend. Working in batches toast the pound cake slices in the toaster until golden brown.
3. Place 1 cake slice atop each of six plates, and spoon the mascarpone cheese atop the cake slices. Arrange the remaining cakes slices offset atop the bottom cake slices. Spoon the apricot mixture over the mascarpone cheese. Sprinkle with almonds and serve immediately.Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Way different and so much better.

  So for a while now I've been wanting to write some posts on homemade stock.I looked all over the internet and in my cookbooks here at home for the stock recipe that just seemed right to me.I wanted recipes that were simple,straight-forward and well to be honest that I could make in one night (or weekend afternoon).
     I bought a lovely book this fall called Urban Pantry by Amy Pennington. Get. It. Amy. This is a fantastic book that by a pretty talented lady.I got a chance to read it cover to cover on a trip last fall to my sister's house in Kentucky.The cookbook has recipes for "thrifty,sustainable and seasonal kitchens" and it had a great vegetable stock recipe.Simple,rich and easy. Please and Thank You,Amy .
   I figured (for some unknown reason,but I went with it) chicken stock was a good place to start,so I made some chicken stock.The recipe is from this Urban Pantry cookbook I've been raving about recently and it's simple,rich and easy.When I was making the chicken stock (which actual prep/work time is about 30 minutes tops) I saw the pieces comes together and well I knew this would be fun.The idea is to "cook" the chicken bones,veggies in some olive oil,get 'em nice and brown.
Amy uses cooked chicken bones in her recipe and that's genius folks.
  There is still flavorful,fatty goodness on those cooked bones and it's also being resourceful.I can't tell you how many times I've tried remember to save raw chicken pieces be it from a chicken or turkey and then remember to set them aside and freeze them?!?!
good gravy.
Then I saw it,the recipe asked for cooked chicken bones,done.I got this.
Well I made the chicken stock,realized how easy it was and knew I had to make more.I turned the page in my new favorite cookbook and there it was vegetable stock.Well I'll be darned,it ask for just about the same ingredients as the chicken stock,MINUS the chicken and took even less time.I'll start with the vegetable stock and then we'll move on to chicken,then beef stock.The recipes are a little work the more ingredients you have in your stock,but the work pays off,trust me here.The flavor difference made in a bowl of soup is well...awesome.Get out your veggies and let's do this:
I chopped up a carrot,onion,celery stalk and smashed some garlic cloves.
Gathered together the rest of the ingredients: splash of vermouth,a dried bay leaf,some whole black peppercorns and some herb stalks (rosemary,sage,thyme and oregano).

Heated up some olive oil in the biggest cooking pot I had,well technically I have the big pot that I process jars of canned goodness in,but it's not for cooking,just processing.It's humongous,...I digress sorry 'bout that.
   So your heat up your olive oil,brown the vegetables and RESIST THE URGE TO STIR THE POT.JUST LEAVE IT ALONE PEOPLE! The brown,caramel-color crusty edges on the vegetables is what you want,that's your flavor base.(I used a non-stick pot and at the time this is all I had,it worked pretty well .AND because it was non-stick I let the vegetables brown a minute or two longer. The nonstick coating doesn't necessarily encourage brown bits,but you will have some on the bottom of the pot. That's enough.) The brown bits at the bottom of the pot makes this stock sing.
    The nice thing about this stock recipe is that I got to use some herbs from my winter garden,fresh herbs that are toughing it out on my screen porch. Rosemary,thyme,sage and oregano. Oregano is a doozy fresh,it's fairly strong and if you use too much in a recipe,your lovely whatever dish will taste more like floor cleaner than goodness.BUT! when I realized the volume of flavors and liquid in this recipe I ran to the flower pot of oregano and started snipping. You could easily get away with just using parsley I think,but having the herbs on hand was a really special addition.(this spring/summer we will talk about herb gardens,they are fairly inexpensive and pay off big thyme  time.)
   So here's the recipe for Vegetable Scrap Stock and after you've made and frozen your stock,we'll talk about this soup recipe that you should make with the vegetable stock.If you have any vegetarians in your life they will love this soup,but first make the stock. Enjoy!
Vegetable Scrap Stock
adapted from Amy Pennington's recipe
  in her cookbook Urban Pantry
Olive oil
1 carrot,roughly chopped
1 onion,roughly chopped
1 celery stalk,roughly chopped
1 clove garlic,smashed
Splash of vermouth or dry white wine
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
herb stalks
a few whole black peppercorns
1. Cover the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the carrot,onion,celery, and garlic. The trick here is trying to resist the urge to stir continuously . Instead let the vegetables sit on the heat and brown some,about 10 minutes. Splash vermouth in the pan,stirring to deglaze and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Cover the vegetables with 2 inches of water. Add the bay leaf,herb stalks and peppercorns and bring the mixture to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to low and cover simmering for 1 hour. Set a fine-mesh strainer or a large mixing bowl and drain the stock from the solids. Compost the solids if you want. Put the stock in the fridge until it cools.Once cooled,use within 3 days or store in plastic containers in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mid-Week Moment #17

"Faith is like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light." -Anonymous

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life is a bowl full of meatballs.

                We have had a run of meals with meatballs in the last month and I'm not complaining. Long,long time ago I made a spaghetti and meatballs recipe that was out of this world and for the life of me I can't seem to keep up with the actual piece of paper that the recipe is printed on,but I haven't forgotten the meatballs. They were fantastic. Rich,meaty and spicy,hello! After that I was sure I had to get a little more experience making and serving meatballs.I really wanted a few solid meatball recipes to have in my collection.I made some great meatballs for a soup recipe that centered around the meatballs and they did not disappoint. They had cornmeal in them and it was such a unique taste that really brought a lot to the over all flavor of the meatball and the soup,oh what a treat.A few weeks later I used that specific meatball recipe to compliment a rich,smoky tomato sauce that was so stinkin' good,it was really a fantastic fairly quick dinner idea.
         The fairly quick dinner idea was the second recipe I posted for a new,online cooking club I joined a few weeks back, It has been such a treat to compare and share recipes with these folks.I had a small laugh when the theme for this week was,wait for it..."You're such a meatball!" Yep we had to make a meatball recipe of Giada de Laurentiis' s and I was in luck.I did some quick research online and in the cookbook of hers that I have and found one recipe that was sure to please. The only umm.. .thing well we were going to visit my husband's family out of town and well... um I had to act quick.I called his mom and asked sweetly if I could cook dinner Saturday night for everyone. The only catch I had to do some documentation and well that really was the only catch. She happily obliged and it was a date. Here's how the meal came together (yay meatballs!) :
The meal was planned for Saturday evening,but the majority of the prep took place Saturday morning.I diced up the onion and pancetta on the cutest cutting board.I also brought with me some olive oil,it's a little chilled at this point. Chilled is just fine.

Then I heated up the olive oil in a big ol' skillet and browned the pancetta and onion. Oooh the smell of pancetta and bacon browning,I wonder if there is a candle smell out there that smells like that? Well I tell you what these were going to be some fine meatballs if they started off this way.
While the room was filling with some amazing smells,I gathered together the rest of the ingredients that made up the meatballs: ground turkey,chopped parsley,salt and pepper,fresh bread crumbs,eggs,pecorino romano cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Nice ingredient choice Giada,well done.
The pancetta and onion mixture had finished cooking,I let it cool for a minute and then mixed all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. These are going to be good I just know it,hooray.
***Now here's where the thinkin' came in: I am a big believer in letting the meatball mixture hang out and chill in the fridge for a little while,be it at least 30 minutes or in this case all day.It worked out well that this part of the recipe was halfway done and this technique lets the fats in the mixture congeal into one big meatball. It's just a little trick I learned the hard way and can benefit from for many recipes to come.Ok I'm done being philosophical. Thank you.***
So here we are a few hours later,shopping finished and now it's time to get down to business,dinner I mean. See and here's the funny thing,remember that phone call I made to my sweet mother-in-law,well... she told me that she was planning on making spaghetti that night too! In my ingredient bag was fettucine,it wasn't going to hurt a thing using a slightly different pasta.BUT! she had bought some linguine to use in her spaghetti and well the recipe did call for linguine and well.. she was way cool and gave me the linguine. and saved the authenticity of this post,thank heavens. The ingredients pictured here are the ingredients for a tasty tomato sauce.The recipe calls for fresh basil,but folks lets be real it's the middle of winter and I ain't got fresh basil AT ALL! So I figured sage is a pretty herb and would make for a lovely garnish in the picture. Sage can handle the winter months a little better( on my screen porch,thats covered in plastic sheeting,it makes for a great hot house to keep the herbs that can hang with the chilly temps.)
Cut up the whole,peeled tomatoes with some kitchen scissors. The recipe says to drain the tomatoes,but ya know this tomato juices in the can smelled so good and I thought it would be a shame to lose that richness so I kept the juices.It made for a tasty,thick sauce that held up well.
 And ladies and gentlemen here we have it Linguine with Turkey Meatballs and Quick Sauce.And some fine lookin' sage leaves if I do say so myself. Dinner is served. Enjoy!
Linguine with Turkey Meatballs and Quick Sauce
adapted from Everyday Pasta
by Giada de Laurentiis
Turkey Meatballs-
3TBL olive oil
2-ounces pancetta,finely diced
1/2 yellow onion,finely diced
1lb ground turkey,preferably dark meat
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 eggs,lightly beaten
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb linguine
1/4c olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes,drained
    and cut into pieces with kitchen scissors(*see my note above*)
2 whole garlic cloves,peeled
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1.To make the meatballs: Heat the olive oil in a medium,heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion and continue to cook until the pancetta is crisp and the onion is tender,about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2.In a large bowl combine the pancetta-onion mixture to the remaining meatball ingredients and mix to combine.***At this point,I cove the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.*** Then form the meatballs into balls about 2 inches in diameter,using 2 tablespoons for each,and place on a foil-lined and greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
3.In a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite,stirring occasionally,8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve up to 1 cup of the the pasta water.
4. Meanwhile,in a medium saucepan,warm the 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes,garlic cloves,parsley,salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Discard the garlic cloves. Add the cooked meatballs and cooked pasta and toss to coat. Add the reserved pasta water,about 1/4 cup at a time,if the pasta needs moistening. Arrange on a serving platter and top with the basil.