Saturday, June 28, 2014

Simply Vegan

No I am not a vegan - I come from a looong line of carnivores and I am dang proud of it! Buuuut once in a while we try to err on the lighter side of cardiac arrest with a more veggie than meat meal.

 Braised Grape Tomatoes with Shallots over Spaghetti Squash

This little plate of food packs a ton of flavor and has a kind of meatiness that in surprising given the only animal product involved is a leeetle bit of butter. Spaghetti squash takes the place of real pasta - not a perfect replacement but the dish is not diminished but the lack of carbohydrates.

Pioneer Woman -

Well I suppose if you live on a farm you dang well better bee good at beef and Food Network's Pioneer Woman sure is!

I rarely get the luxury of watching TV anymore on a Saturday but not too long ago I just decided all the other things going on in my life could take a back seat while I murdered a few brain cells in front of the - I was going to say squawk box but who has a box any more - so lets just say the electric slab...

I think I have voiced my displeasure with the Food Network's new format before - they really ought to start calling it the Stupid Games with Food Channel...It truly is getting out of hand - Not too terribly long ago that was my go to place for recipes and instruction...Where oh where has Emeril gone and Ann Burrell and Good Eats??? The Food Channel that's where - ya religated to the rerun channel for sad that the greats are shoved off to the channel that you only get if you pay top dollar - the "extended cable bundle" and so on...Very sad...

If I see one more show where someone has to make a meal out of something stupid like jelly beans and duck I am gonna scream...Oh you did not capture the essence of the jelly bean in your sauce" says Judge Alex Guarnaschelli...have you no shame Chef? You of the most amazing Egg Plant Parmigiana to ever grace a plate, reduced to judging a show of off the street hacks trying to make their bones cooking moose liver and cough drops? Sigh.
Really people - Did ya have to go down that road? Really? Oh wait let's tape a freakin' pan to my hand and see if I can cook tea for the Queen...Alton Brown shame on you!

But I digress...There are a few shining lights - very few - and Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) is one of them. Now mind you Ree has been around for a while - let's not forget her blog on which many of us cut our teeth when food came to the interweb...My post today is a little twist on one of her eposides (Feeding Cows, Feeding Cowboys).

On this lazy day I stopped channel surfing just a moment when I saw the pretty horsey (who wouldn't stop to watch the pretty horsey I ask you?) and was hooked. Ree's treatment of boneless rib loin roast to make French Dip sandwiches looked FABULOUS, though I was looking for a dinner not lunch. But I figured we could make a few slight changes - Ree would applaud! So, since I no longer have a horsey, I jumped in my car and road off to the store to get me some MEAT!

I carefully and faithfully followed Ree's recipe but we did not slice up the meat for sandwiches - we served it up as a roast with the lovely sauce reduced to make a gravy. Now I will tell you there is a LOT of pepper in this bad boy so beware, it it not overpowering but close - strain the sauce and get a little of it out, then will want to bath in this stuff!

Yum Yum Yum...I couldn't tell you what I made with it because the meat was the shining star.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tariffa bene La Cucina Italiana

So very sad that La Cucina Italiana is leaving our shores - Yup this stunningly beautiful magazine will no longer be printing in the United States - such a loss to the culinary wanna-be like me.
La Cucina has not always been one of my favorites to cook from - I found things a little complicated sometimes but I ALWAYS found it to be a wonder to the eye!
In honor of this very last issue I have made the recipe from the cover.
As frequently happens with food art the recipe did not look like the photo! In this case either they used a MUCH smaller pan or doubled the recipe to gain the wondrous height you see in the cover photo...

The recipe - true to La Cucina form - was a little complicated and required the use of several of my kitchen power tools. The mess to taste ration was spot on - my theory - the bigger the mess the better the food!

One wonders why anyone would willingly use SOUR anything in a desert. Straight from the jar the sour cherries were basically meh - what ever. but added to the deep  dark flavor of the filling they really popped with flavor and not a bit sour either! Never one to let a good sugar syrup go to waste I reduced the syrup after draining the berries (with a sinful amount of additional sugar added). Well talk about elevating boring to beautiful! Not only was it bright and VERY cherry - it was beautiful to look at! Make the sauce you won't be sorry!

I really worried about the ground almonds in the filling - "it's gonna be grainy" is what I thought. Yes, there was a texture there but it was not unpleasant and think gave this desert a little character it might have lacked without that little roughness. Without it it would have just been a hefty flourless cake...been there done that, have the tee shirt...Rich luscious and of soooo chocolatey this one's a keeper.

torta morbida con amarene in guscio frible

Word to the wise, make it and eat it - don't refrigerate it - you loose the lush  depth of flavor and the interesting mouth feel once it has been chilled....


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Clean Food

Every time I make eat Caprese, I think "It tastes so CLEAN"...That's the best way to describe it, clean and fresh... Get yourself some yummy farm stand tomatoes and basil  and spend the little extra it takes to buy GOOD fresh mozzarella - But really the Balsmic makes this dish sing...don't scrimp, get the good stuff, you will be glad you did!

I did love the prosciutto but really you don't need it - and it can over power the cheese. So if money is an issue spend it on the vinegar and leave out the meat!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Beautiful Tribute - Never Forget

This video was aired one time only - on the Anniversary of 9/11. Never forget.

Thank you Budweiser.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My First Wedding Cake!

A year or so ago I offered to make my Niece's wedding cake, at the time she wanted cheese cake for 40. I thought that that was something I could do no problem. Well, the plans changed a little and the cake changed from cheese cake to Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Butter Cream. I have to say RV cake is not one of my favorites and was not something I had a "go to" recipe for...eeek! And the count changed from 40 to 100.

I panicked at first, but I am never one to walk away from a challenge - and besides she was depending on me!

So here is what I came up with - Red Velvet cake layered with Cheese Cake instead of butter cream. I am ever a cheese cake fan, and was determined that she would get the cheese cake she originally wanted. I kept this secret until the day I brought the tasting cake to Jess and Tony.

The Tasting Cake

I was so pleased when they saw the cake and Jess said it was perfect! Sigh, I was terrified that they would think my design was too simple...I was even more thrilled when I told Jess that I had layered cheese cake with the red velvet - she actually clapped her hands and said "cheese cake cheese cake cheese cake" with the biggest smile I have ever seen. Well, I'll tell ya I almost started to cry - I had hit exactly what she wanted! Another huge sigh of relief!

Practice Practice Practice - the form

I worked up a form so I could get it just right. (If you want a perfect form made to order by a really nice vendor try The wedding was to be outside in the middle of August so as you might have guessed the butter cream was kind of a problem! Well, I decided that I would try my hand at fondant...I know I know fondant tastes like (as my step son puts it) a$$. So I was pretty worried - I scoured the web looking for some direction and I found a website - I called them and they were super helpful - recommended a few different kinds and steered me clear of Wilton (which I had tasted and yes it does taste like a$$). I tried two, Satin Ice and Fondarific. I went for the Satin Ice - I liked the flavor and it was a much whiter white...just my humble opinion.

Can I just say that The Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes make fondant look WAY easier than it really is!!! OMG my first attempt at covering the six inch layer ended up thrown across the room! Fondant is definitely an art and I don't recommend to anyone to try to teach yourself on a wedding cake that you need to serve the next day!!! I did get the hang of it - after what, 10 teirs? Ya I had to do some slicing cakes because I made the display cake out of I said August, outside - we wanted the actual cakes for eating kept cool. So there were the tiers for the display, plus the one for the Bride and Groom to cut, plus 5 10 inch cakes for serving. I had made an extra to serve because there was a danger of there being more than 100 guests...

Once I got the hang of things - about tier number 3, I think, it went fairly quickly, but the whole thing still took me 5 hours...They were not all perfect - the foam tiers were much easier to work with than the 5 butter cream coated tiers - but they were pretty darned good if I do say so my self!!! I was proud and pleased and REALLY sore when I was done. If anyone tells you rolling out 20 pounds of fondant ain't a workout they are wrong! My arms ached for 2 days!!

The roses - which arrived 3 days early...

I ordered the flowers from Costco, there were a few problems though. Costco recommends that you order your flowers to be delivered a day before you need them - I called and was told this. That's all well and good but, they also reserve the right to deliver you flowers earlier than your delivery date - THAT'S not in the fine print and they did not tell me that when I called. Anyway, the flowers showed up on Wednesday and I did not need them until Saturday...and it wad freakin' 90 degrees outside! The arrive cut and not in water so keep that in mind. I followed the directions to a tee - cut off 1-2 inches and place in warm water (I used cool water) with some preservative. I placed them in my office with the AC at 64 and the door closed. I figured I was good to go. Well when I looked the next morning they had all opened!!!!! That photo was taken on Thursday. Well I panicked and called every place I could think of to find a cooler to put them in...Thank you Country Trails Antiques in Hubbardston for emptying out a soda cooler and allowing me to use it! They saved this cake! The flowers stopped opening and were much the same Saturday morning as they were Thursday.

I did call Costco and complain and they did send me new flowers, but the flowers I had ordered originally were not available and so they sent me the closest thing...Those flowers arrived at 11:30 Saturday morning and were tea roses - WAY too small and pretty much dead...Not their fault they tried...They have made restitution and I will try them again - just not in the summer!!!!

The Cake!!

The cake was finally finished and we drove it the hour and a half up to New Hampshire - AC blasting and me hugging the darned thing like a baby so it would not tip...Well, it did tip a little and then a little more going down the steps but all in all I am proud of my first Wedding Cake and might even try another one...just as soon as I recover from the first one - in about a year!!!

Congratulations Jess and Tony!

Thank you for letting me a part of your special day!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Food Network Finally Hits one outta the park.

I used to be a HUGE fan of the food network, but well, it's gotten kind of - I don't know, um icky. I've really lost faith in their chef choices lately. I mean Ellie Kreiger gives me the creeps - no body - I mean NO BODY smiles that much! And the chick that does the cooking for a week shtick - puh-lease! Even the old standbys don't do it for me any more Emeril is looking pretty apoplectic and Giada's big head is well bigger and her food doesn't match! Paula Dean's food is starting to become too repetitive - butta butta butta - oh and a dash of mayo to go with. Sorry Paula, now I love me some butta but there is a limit ya know. Guy Fieri - nope, I won't even go there - blechk.

Admittedly I don't watch much anymore because it was getting stale so I may be missing some new and fresh stuff. Actually I guess I HAVE because I watched Anne Burrell on "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" the other day. She's a little bit out there and that was good. I liked her style and the way she was kinda just talking to herself and cooking away. I truly believed it when she tasted the dish and did a little happy dance cause it was so good - unlike the Giada Cranberry Granita Debacle.

**See Giada cringe at her own recipe!

Anyway I happened upon Anne cooking Butternut Squash Soup - one of my all time fav winter warming meals! Well, it looked interesting enough that I decided to watch the entire show - and boy am I glad I did!

The other recipe featured on the show as Braised Cabbage Stuffed with Pork. I had actually missed the beginning bit and came in right when she was rolling the cabbage leaves...she made it look SO easy! Once finished and put together this dish looked like something that I HAD to try.

I went out and bought all the ingredients - which for some weird reason I had not one thing in the recipe in the house. Well, M took me shopping and while we were driving I mentioned maybe serving orzo with the cabbage and M just looked at me like I had made up the word. So, I explained what orzo was and he made a quantum leap - Risotto, me likey - ya I guess I shouldn't have described the orzo as looking like rice! I'll leave the risotto story for another post though...Anyway I gathered up all the bits and pieces and went home to gleefully cook all day.

Now the recipe is listed as easy and it really wasn't tough, but there were a lot of steps so it was way more time consuming than the 30 minutes of the show! Gee wish I had a souse chef to do all my grunt work!

Don't make the same mistake I made with the sauce veggies - I should have processed them a little longer to achieve a real paste, mine was kind of a little chunky - didn't alter the flavor but it kept the sauce from being as smooth as I would have liked. One other thing I changed - I HATE LOATH DESPISE Rosemary - and it called for a lot in the stuffing. Nope sorry that bit got skipped, I replaced it with more Thyme and a little more red pepper flakes than they called for. The flavor was superb if I do say so myself. Oh, word to the wise - cook more cabbage than you think you'll need. The fakin' stuff disintegrated while I was preparing the other ingredients - and no I did not over cook it. It just kinda tore into small pieces all by itself (That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!).

Another pitfall? Pan size, make sure you have a big enough skillet to accommodate all those yummy bundles. I was a little tight on space and my giant skillet didn't have a cover so I just skipped the cover and simmer 15 minutes and just simmered the whole thing for 30 minutes or so.

Let me tell you, I have never had stuffed cabbage before so it was a total and very pleasant surprise when I tasted them. Oh, my YUM YUM YUM!

This is a real keeper and a great meal for a very blustery fall day (ya 46 degrees on Oct 10 global warming my a'nt fanny).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Constitution Day

Lo those many years ago, on this day in 1787, did 39 great Americans set pen to paper to sign the single most important document in the history of these United States.

Take a moment to contemplate the power which that single piece of paper has wielded, the security which that piece of paper has provided, the freedom that you have enjoyed under it's shadow.

Now think about what would have happened if those men had never met.

Protect the Constitution.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Zia Zhiang Mien

One of my mostest favoritest dishes at the local Chinese restaurant is Zia Zhiang Noodles and one of my mostest favoritest blogs is "use real butter" - with a name like that how can you go wrong -right?

Anyway I can't tell you how THRILLED I was to come across Jennifer's post titled "Very Cool". She gives a fabulous (as always) recipe with gorgeous (as always again) pictures and instructions that even my husband could follow! Okay, maybe not M, but you get the idea. The recipe of the day was Zia Zhiang Mien and I just could not pass it up!

A few months ago a little Asian Market (ya, that's what they call it too!) opened up right across the street from where I work. I had occasion to drop in to pick up fish sauce for last week's short ribs and was completely in awe of all the neat stuff they had! With recipe in hand I dropped in and started the hunt for all the lovelies in Jennifer's Dad's recipe. Well, thank gawd she had pictures of everything! Let me tell you, Asian Markets are, well, Asian, and 99% of what they have is not labeled in English (some stuff was but where's the adventure in that?!). Anyway with lots of hand gestures and some help from the shop keeper's son I was able to get everything I needed and all for under 20 bucks. I just LOVE this place!!!!

There's lots of chopping and dicing which I find to be pure joy. And I was inspired by the beauteous photos so I even put everything into pretty little bowls and took my own photo - not as pretty as Jen's but I'm proud just the same.

The recipe turned out just wonderful, reminiscent of my local fave, but much better. I was so pleased, it even looked right - and the flavors were perfect - although just a tiny bit too spicy for me, so next time I will cut the chili garlic sauce by a little - not a lot though, the flavor mellowed a little over night (left overs for lunch - heaven!). I don't know about you but when I can reproduce (even better) a dish that I have had in a restaurant I fee pretty good! Give this one a try you won't be disappointed.

You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not Just A Pretty Face

Ya, by now everyone knows I'm a sucker for a pretty face, or in this case a pretty picture. I spotted the magazine cover from the opposite end of the aisle. fine Cooking June/July 2009, Issue #99. The cover featured a beautiful shot of beef short ribs - and of course the word ice cream was printed there as well - talk about your eye candy!!!!

I've been trying to limit my magazine purchases to avoid a possible landslide of monumental proportions from crushing some unsuspecting passer by in my house. Nine times out of 10 I thumb through and to see if there really is a recipe in that issue that I would ACTUALLY make. Problem is, until my recent attempt at reform I ALWAYS decided that there was. And, like so many other cooking mag addicts I would dog ear the page and set it aside to "make this soon". As stated my "make this soon" pile has become a hazard. This time I didn't, I just grabbed up the pretty picture and scurried to the register to purchase my guilty prize before anyone caught on.

I didn't relegate this mag to the "pile", this time I kept it floating around the kitchen, then neatly stacked on top of the magazines on the coffee table - basically in my face at all time. And, in M's - which one day resulted in him asking "are ya gonna make this?" while holding up said pretty picture and pointing? What else could I say but "yup".

Part of what attracted me to this mag was the short ribs - I seem to be stumbling over short rib recipes like it's some kind of message lately. Well I figured it was time to heed the call and make some! Over the last few weeks I've seen short ribs at my local bulk food store on a regular basis so that's where I headed once the decision was made. Well, let me tell ya, it must have been a mirage because there was a dearth of short ribs in my area. I tried said bulk food store - beep thank you for playing...I tried the grocery store I NEVER shop at any more because they had the audacity to change hands and change floor plans, again beep. However, I was regaled by the Meat Manager for a solid 10 minutes about something to do with ordering and green and slimy. I'm pretty sure he was speaking English, or some English. Ya, I could not understand a freakin' word this guy was saying but he was on a roll so I just stood there, smiled like an idiot, nodding like a bobble head doll until it seemed like he had finished...then I dropped my basket and ran!!!

Last resort was another local, but kinda out of the way store that I hardly use but M thought it might be worth a shot. Thank gawd for M - although they did not have the English Short Ribs called for in the recipe they did have boneless short ribs. I got a very good explanation of butchery from a nice young man (did I really say that - man I'm getting old). Well he talked me into trying the boneless 'cause - guess what - short ribs are a FALL food item! Ya, like why would a magazine print a recipe for summer grilling using an item usually reserved for fall???? (To their credit they do mention you may need to special order - way in the backity back of the magazine).

I had to make a few adjustments due to the fact that I used 4 pounds of boneless meat rather than bone in...more meat guys, oh ya! I also did not use the grill for braising as called for in the recipe, it was just too much of a pain and the bugs were crazy that night. Other than that I followed the recipe closely and was rewarded with short rib perfection! My photo is not as pretty as fine Cooking's is but boy the ribs were spectacular!!

There are heaps of steps so plan accordingly. I made this on a week night, next time I will save this for a weekend. Oh, any changes I made are noted in my version of the recipe - click the link below the photo.