Thursday, October 27, 2011
If you live near a farm, on a farm, or near some friends who have what may or may not be a legal chicken coop in their suburban backyard you've probably been lucky enough to come across some fresh eggs. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and hadn't seen chickens except on display for the little kids at the farmstand up the road. So when I found fresh eggs for sale at the Thursday market in our little Washington town a few years back, I scooped them up without hesitation. Those eggs cost me a pretty penny, something like $6 a dozen. But the gorgeous golden color of those egg yolks and the fantastically rich flavor helped to ease the pain. I didn't realize that the eggs we buy in the stores are weeks if not months old and the dull yellow color was not what an egg yolk is supposed to look like. So now, when my neighbor offers me a dozen eggs, I don't hesitate to say yes. I know how much they would cost to buy and how much better they will make the food I cook with them. They are beyond compare.
This frittata is not only a nice family dinner or breakfast, it would also be a welcome addition to a brunch buffet or whipped up for overnight holiday guests. I like to serve it with homemade hash browns and these sun dried tomato biscuits (minus the red onion).
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz mild italian sausage, casings removed and broken up into 1 inch pieces (spicy sausage, while I love it with pasta in a tomato sauce will overwhelm the other flavors in this recipe)
1/3 cup heavy cream or milk
1 red bell pepper, chopped
12 oz swiss chard, stems removed and chopped (spinach would work well too)
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray nonstick spray in an 8 x 8 inch baking dish and set aside.
Put 1 tbs olive oil in a medium skillet and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the onions in the skillet and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until browned (about an additional 5 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and cool.
In a large bowl, whip the eggs with a whisk until slightly frothy. Add the cream or milk and whisk with the eggs. With a wooden spoon, fold in the peppers, swiss chard, feta cheese and the onion/sausage mixture. Add a pinch or black pepper. I don't add any salt to the egg mixture because I find that the feta adds enough salty flavor to the frittata. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. The edges will brown and the top will feel firm to the touch. Cool for 10 minutes, them cut into 3 inch squares and serve.
Monday, October 24, 2011
My grandmother, Nana, is the first person I can remember cooking with. That was her job, but she also loved doing it. She and my grandfather owned a little Italian bakery in South Jersey. The bakery was downstairs and they lived upstairs. Because of that, you couldn't escape the smells that came from downstairs- yeast, vanilla, honey, chocolate, almonds... the same scents that instantly transport me back to my childhood. My grandparents closed the bakery when I was still small, but the memories of standing on a stool next to my Nana and kneading dough to make little breads or making watermelon ice (what we fancy gourmet folks call granita nowadays) in her hot upstairs kitchen will stay with me forever.
Nana always cooked our birthday dinners. She would ask us what we wanted, but the answers were always the same, so I don't know why she bothered. My sister always asked for ravioli and I would always ask for her cavatelli (or in her antiquated southern Italian dialect, cavadelies) which are named for the shape but are really ricotta gnocci. Those cavatelli are really a labor of love, but Nana was always happy to indulge her granddaughter. I would help her though, making the pasta by hand, rolling it into ropes, cutting each little nugget of dough and then shaping each piece on a little ridged board. I have two of those boards in my kitchen now and my oldest son loves to help me shape the dough when I make them. It's like playing with play dough for him. I promise I'll share the cavatelli recipe someday, it's so easy to make and just requires a bit of patience to finish pasta. I feel like a kid again when I make them.
I don't think Nana ever made pumpkin ravioli and if she did we would have looked at her like she was crazy. Isn't pumpkin just for pie? I suppose they didn't really make a lot of winter squash in her southern Italian home in Calabria- it's much too Mediterranean there. In nothern Italy, however, butternut squash and all sorts of pumpkins are common fillings for ravioli. Nana did make killer traditional ricotta-filled ravioli, though, which she managed to make perfectly each and every time. I'm sure it was the great little ravioli press that she had. You can still get them and I wished that I had hers while I was making my ravioli. Getting the shape right and the edges pressed perfectly so that the filling doesn't ooze out is tough. Despite a few setbacks (dough sticking to the counter, holes that I couldn't patch, a few ravioli that lost their filling while cooking) I think I still made a dinner that Nana would be proud of. One that I wish I could have shared with her if she didn't live a few thousand miles away. She would have declared them bella. Ti voglio bene Nana.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
Makes about 2 dozen ravioli
I made my own dough for this recipe, because I'm Italian and that's what we do. If you really wanted to, you could cheat and use wonton wrappers for the dough. Try making the dough once, though, I promise it's worth the effort. If you like, you could substitute roasted and pureed butternut squash for the pumpkin.
For the dough (based on Tyler Florence's recipe):
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs, plus one egg yolk
2 tbs olive oil
For the filling:
1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
8 oz whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesean cheese
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
For the sauce:
3 tbs butter
3 sage leaves
1/3 cup heavy cream
Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next. Mix in the olive oil. Raise the speed to medium and knead until you have a soft and supple dough, 4-5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest on the counter at least 1 hour.
In the meantime, make the filling. In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut the ball of dough in half and cover the unused portion with the plastic again to keep it from drying out. Dust the counter with flour and press the dough into an approximately 1/2 inch rectangle. Using a pasta roller, run the dough through the widest setting 2 or three times, folding the dough in half and dusting with flour as needed in between each run. Lower the setting on the pasta roller and run the dough through the narrower setting. Continue to decrease the settings and run the dough through until the dough is about 1/8 of an inch thick (setting 5 on the Kitchen Aid pasta roller). If the dough gets too long to handle, cut it in half cross-wise and continue rolling. I had to do that at about setting 4. Lay the sheets of dough on a lightly floured work surface (trust me, flour under the entire piece of dough, sticking is not something you want to have happen) and cover with a clean kitchen towel while you roll out the remainder of the dough.
When the dough is rolled out, make the ravioli. Using two spoons, scoop about 2 tbs filling onto the center of the dough about 3/4 of an inch from the edge. Continue spooning the filling onto the dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each scoop.
Brush a bit of water or beaten egg along the edges of the sheet of dough and in between each scoop of filling. Carefully lay another sheet of dough over top, pressing along the edges and in between the filling to let the air escape and seal the dough together. Using a knife or pastry wheel, trim the edges of the dough and then cut in between each ravioli. Lay the completed ravioli on a floured baking sheet, being careful not to let them touch. The ravioli can be refrigerated until you are ready to use them or used immediately. They can also be frozen on the sheet pan and then packed into freezer bags.
When you're ready to cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, make the sauce. Place the butter in a large skillet set over low heat. Slowly melt the butter and let it brown, but not burn. Thinly slice the sage leaves and add them to the butter once it is browned. They will sizzle when you first put them in, fun! After a minute, add the heavy cream and heat the sauce through. Keep it on low heat until the pasta is cooked. When the water reaches a boil, carefully add the ravioli one at a time to the pot. Simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 4 minutes. Gently remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon and place them in the skillet with the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the ravioli.
Serve with a salad on the side for a wonderful, hearty dinner. Mangia!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
So, as much as the rest of the world may thing I've gone bananas for the first fruits of fall, I'm going to keep eating them. And using them in just about every meal. Because who's going to stop me?
And I'm betting no one will when I serve them this applesauce. Which for some reason reminds me of my mother-in-law. And not in a bad way, thank you very much. My mother-in-law isn't what you'd call a happy cook. She doesn't really like to be in the kitchen. But there are a couple of things that she does enjoy making and applesauce is one of them. She always serves her homemade applesauce with dinner in little glass bowls. With little spoons. No matter what dinner she serves the applesauce with, I always take some. It's impossible to resist the simple goodness of the slightly chunky sauce.
There isn't much that's simpler or better than homemade applesauce. Sure, you can buy really good unsweetened applesauce in the stores these days. But there's something to be said for doing it yourself. If you and your family are purists you can make it simply, with apples, a bit of sugar and some lemon juice. If you're more adventurous, the basic applesauce recipe can be fun to tinker with. Let your creativity run wild. Try different sweeteners like maple syrup, honey or brown sugar. Go for spices that reach beyond the usual cinnamon.
This version may be the best I've ever made. As I mentioned before (and many other times if you've been paying attention), honey is my favorite sweetener of the moment, so I swapped it in for the usual sugar and added cardamom and nutmeg in with the apples. Cardamom can be a bit assertive if you're not careful, so I went light on it and used fresh ground from the pods rather than the pre-ground bottled stuff. Both it and the nutmeg make you say "huh, what is in there?" when you eat the applesauce, which I consider a good thing. And to really show off the honey and apples, I popped the whole pot of apples and spices into the oven and roasted them. The applesauce that I ended up with has both a beautiful caramel-like color and flavor and my family and I can't stop eating it.
I promise you that when you try it, you'll be hooked too. Maybe I'll have some friends in my Apple/Pear/Honey Lovers Anonymous group meetings!
Honey Roasted Applesauce
Makes 4 pint jars of applesauce. You can refrigerate them and give them to friends or process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for keeping in the pantry for the winter. I don't think they'll last that long, however.
9 lbs apples ( I have no idea how many apples that is, so use the scale sitting nearby in the grocery store. My apples came from my front yard so I had to use the bathroom scale!)
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup unfiltered and unsweetened apple juice or cider
12 cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Peel, core and coarsely chop the apples and put them in a large, oven proof pot. Add the honey and apple juice to the pot.
Crush the cardamom pods with the back of a knife and scrape the seeds from the pods. You can coarsely grind them with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder or even chop them with a chef's knife. Don't grind the seeds too finely or the flavor will be too overpowering. Add the ground cardamom and nutmeg to the pot with the apples. Mix all the ingredients until the apples are well coated. Put the pot, uncovered, into the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until the apples are completely softened and have begun to break down. Stir every so often to keep any exposed apples from burning.
Mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill. Spoon the applesauce into jars and refrigerate or process for canning.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Here's another pear recipe for all the pear lovers out there. I'm so glad to know there are others of us and that I'm not alone in my pear devotion. Although, I must say, the pear is not the star of the show here. It takes on a supporting role in these pancakes, adding moisture and sweetness to a highly spiced and good-for-you Saturday morning staple. But I'm not trying to talk you out of trying these pancakes, they really are fantastic and great for both a lazy weekend morning or for a special breakfast with friends and family (think Thanksgiving or Christmas morning).
I love the combination of pear and gingerbread. Look closely at a lot of the food magazines during the fall and winter months and you'll see variations of the duo, mostly in the form of cakes. There's a reason for that- the pear can stand up to a lot of spices and it's flavor blends in to the gingerbread seamlessly. Those warm vanilla notes that the pear hits are a perfect match for the ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
So when I fell into a pancake rut recently, I decided to try something different. I've been using applesauce in a lot of baked goods lately to replace all or some of the sugar and it seemed to me that pears would work just as well. I pulled out a recipe that I tried at Christmas last year for gingerbread pancakes (a variation of the perfect everyday pancake that is my standard) and tried it again. This time I used a combination of mashed pears and molasses as sweeteners and swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat. The end result was a light and fluffy pancake which was moist, warmly spicy, and just a tiny bit sweet. I fell in love and will definitely be finding more excuses to make these pancakes. A drizzle of warm maple syrup and couple slices of salty bacon (I'm a sucker for the sweet and salty combo) and you've got a great breakfast for your family and company alike.
Gingerbread Pear Pancakes
Makes approximately 2 dozen 4-inch pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbs molasses
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
1 medium very ripe pear
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In a second bowl, beat together the eggs, molasses, buttermilk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to fully incorporate.
Peel and finely chop the pear. You can add the pear right to the batter as it is now or you can lightly mash it with a fork before adding it to the batter (which is what I did). The only real difference it will make is to the texture of the pancake and it's completely a matter of taste. In either case, stir the pear into the batter.
Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet and pour the batter into pancakes that are about 4 inches in diameter. Cook in batches of 3 or four, flipping when the bottoms are lightly browned and bubbles appear at the edges of the pancakes. Cook for about 1 minute on the other side. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a plate. You can keep them warm in a low oven if serving all at once or hand a plate to each of your kids and let them fight it out over who gets the first ones.
Serve with warm maple syrup and a smile.
|This is what happens when your two year old wants to help flip the pancakes but doesn't like having his picture taken!|
Monday, October 17, 2011
Pears are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fruit world- they just don't get enough respect. This time of year all everyone can talk about are apples. They're in everything from pies to cobblers to applesauce. I like apples, I really do. I made them into soup. I made some roasted applesauce that's the best I've ever had (don't worry, I promise I'll share it soon). Oh, and I made these doughnuts too. But here's the thing. And please don't tell the apples. I personally think pears are so much better. Shhh, I said don't tell...
I think people shy away from pears because they're always either totally unripe and hard at the grocery store or way too soft. It's hard to have the patience to wait for that hard pear sitting on the counter to ripen. You have to have impeccable timing. A day too soon and the pear is still hard and has that funny texture that people always grumble about. A day too late and the pear is mush. But if you get it right, I swear there is nothing in the fruit world that can compare to the aroma of a ripe pear and the flavor- a sort of vanilla flavor that's enhanced by the juices that will inevitably end up running down your chin and hands- well, it's like nothing else. And I mean that in the best way possible.
My sons love pears. Given the choice of a pear and an apple, they will always choose to eat the pear. And I love that about them. I imagine that in their adult lives that will mean they will have style and sophistication. Pears are the ultimate in sophistication, aren't they? Just picture a perfectly poached pear in a beautiful puddle of vanilla scented sauce. It's the best of less is more. And that's what's wonderful about a pear. You don't have to dress it up. It can carry the weight of a whole dessert by itself but with one or two well placed accents, it's the height of good taste.
Pear and Honey Tea Bread
Inspired by these muffins found on the pastry affair's blog.
The pears I was working with were probably a day or two from being ripe, so I helped them out by sauteing them in a tiny bit of butter and honey. I didn't fully cook them, just softened them a bit. So if you're impatient like me, you can do the same. If you have ripe pears, however, there's no need to saute them- you'd just end up with mush.
2 medium pears, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced into small pieces ( I used bartletts)
1/4 cup light flavored oil such as canola
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 heaping tbs honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or 3/4 tsp pre-ground nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch bread pan and sprinkle the sides and bottom with granulated sugar. I like to use sugar instead of flour on the pan to help keep the bread from sticking because it gives the edges a bit of a crunch and caramel flavor.
In a large bowl mix together the eggs, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and butter. Stir in the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Add the pears and stir until they are spread throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. The top of the bread will be browned and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean. Let the bread cool completely in the pan set on a baking rack. Slice and serve with tea or wrap in foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
For those of you who know me, this may seem to be an unusual post. If you don't know me well- let me explain. I do not eat seafood. At all. Not because I have some ethical reasons for disliking seafood or anything like that. On the contrary, I wish I did like it. I know the health benefits of a good piece of fish vs. a ribeye. I wish I could have made use of all the fresh salmon while I lived in the Pacific Northwest or the blue crabs from the Atlantic ocean while I lived on the east coast. Trust me, I've sampled many types of seafood over the years. It's all led me to one simple fact however, I just don't care to eat anything that ever lived in the water.
It's a shame really, Matt loves seafood and I wish I made it more often for him. But honestly, all that means is that I would have to make two dinners and I'm only willing to do that on rare occasions. When I do, it's usually shrimp because it's quick and I can come up with some easy variation of the same dinner for myself. This time I made enough spaghetti for the whole family and while the shrimp were roasting (the easiest way ever to cook shrimp) I made a quick olive oil and garlic sauce for my own pasta. Two dinners finished in about a half hour. Not bad huh?
Herb Roasted Shrimp with Spaghetti
If you want to pump up the good-for-you-ness of this dinner you could use whole wheat pasta or even toss the shrimp and sauce over roasted spaghetti squash.
6 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp grated lemon zest
cracked black pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 lb uncooked spaghetti
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
In a 9 x 13 in roasting pan, toss together the olive oil, garilc, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest and pepper. Place the pan into the oven and roast until the herbs and garlic become fragrant (about 10 minutes). In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti.
Remove the pan from the oven and mix the shrimp in with the oil mixture. Return to the oven and continue to cook until the shrimp have turned opaque and a rosy pink color. The amount of time this will take depends on the size of the shrimp. For smaller shrimp, this can take as few as 4 or 5 minutes, for larger shrimp about 7-8 minutes. When the shrimp are cooked, remove the pan from the oven.
Remove the stems from the rosemary and thyme and discard. Add in the lemon juice and spaghetti and toss all of the ingredients together. Serve in bowls with lots of the sauce, a big slice of garlic bread for soaking up all of the juices, and a glass of white wine. Then toast yourself for having such a tasty dinner on the table in such little time!
Monday, October 10, 2011
Let's not be mistaken. I wasn't even making the doughnuts for dessert last night. I was making them for breakfast this morning. Breakfast for my husband and his buddies who are waking up at the crack of dawn to go deer hunting. I thought I'd send them off with something delicious to get them motivated and fill them up for a long day of waiting for the deer to pass by. Luckily, the recipe makes lots of doughnuts, enough for breakfast for four hungry men and two little boys in the morning, plus a few for taste testing for the cook.
I saw this recipe while flipping through a magazine in the grocery store checkout ( I can't help it, I'm a sucker for a good cover photo). Usually I can make myself put the magazine back, but when I saw the doughnuts, I was sold. They reminded me of a doughnut that I used to get as a kid and I just needed to try them. There is a farmstand in the town where Matt and I grew up that makes and sells their own apple cider doughnuts. Matt even worked on the farm from time to time, the owners were, and still are, friends of his family. When we'd stop into the stand for our fresh veggies, we'd get the doughnuts (8 to a bag) and chow down. Fluffy and covered in cinnamon sugar, they were a real treat.
Now, I am strictly a yeast risen doughnut kind of gal. Cake doughnuts are not my thing. I much prefer the bread-like texture of the yeast doughnut, and I like that they're not as sweet. My favorite is a simple yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting. But these applesauce doughnuts, like the apple cider doughnuts from that farmstand in New Jersey, might just turn me to the dark side (excuse the Star Wars reference, I live with three boys). They're addictive and they're sitting on my counter in the kitchen right now calling me-all sweet and appley with their sticky glaze. I'm having a very hard time not giving in and eating more. Even the tiny doughnut holes, covered in a dusting of cinnamon sugar, know they've got their hooks in me.
From the Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking 2011 magazine (you can also find it on the BHG website)
Makes about 2 dozen 3 inch doughnuts and doughnut holes
For the doughnuts:
4 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs + 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
vegetable oil for frying
For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp cinnamon
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs and egg yolk, sugar, applesauce, buttermilk and melted butter. Mix with the paddle attachment until fully incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients until all the flour has been moistened. At this point, the dough may seem a bit too moist and soft, but it will be just fine, promise. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or until easily handled. You can also mix the dough by hand in a large bowl if you like.
When the dough is ready, heat the oil. Fill a pot (I used a 5 quart stock pot) about halfway with the oil and heat it to 365-375 degrees (use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature). Do not let it get hotter than that or your doughnuts will burn before they cook.
Remove the dough from the fridge and turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter or a biscuit cutter of the same size dipped in flour, cut out as many rounds in the dough as you can. If using the biscuit cutter, you'll also need a cutter for the center of the doughnut, about 3/4 inch in diameter. My cannoli tubes worked very well for this task. You can gently re-roll the scraps as necessary to get as many doughnuts as you can.
Fry the doughnuts 3 at a time until golden on both sides (flip them over after about 1 minute and a half) and drain on paper towels.
Make the glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar, cinnamon and applesauce in a medium bowl. You can spoon the glaze over the doughnuts or dip them in one at a time. The glaze will take about 1/2 hour to set. Alternatively, you can roll them in cinnamon sugar when still warm. That's what I did with the doughnut holes.
If you don't glaze the doughnuts, you can keep them in an airtight container over night. But I don't think you'll have any problems getting folks to eat them. In fact, you'll probably have to beat them away with a spoon while you're still frying them.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
We had our first really cool, rainy day here in Southern California yesterday. The kind of day that makes you want to curl up on the couch under a blanket watching cheesy movies or bad daytime TV. In my case, days like that make me want to bake and cook all day long. And that's precisely what I did. I made homemade applesauce, 2 lemony zucchini loaves (you can find the recipe for the bread here), and tested out a new recipe for a honey-nutmeg pear bread. The pear bread was lovely and you'll be seeing it posted soon, promise. The afternoon ended with wonderful braised short ribs, something I crave whenever the temperature dips below 60 degrees.
I know, there are a zillion recipes out there for braised short ribs. Believe me, I think I've tried them all. Some have been good and close to what I'm looking for, others...not so much. And I don't think I've ever made the same recipe twice. Until now. This. one. is. IT.
This is the second short ribs recipe that I've used that originally came from Michael Symon, Iron Chef extraordinaire. For some reason I trust the man when it comes to meat. Maybe it's because he's midwestern. Don't midwesterners know a lot about meat? Well, whatever the reason, he seems like a man who knows his short ribs. The first recipe I tried was tasty, but way too heavy on onions. This one is sheer perfection. And I think I know why. It's that darned anchovy again. I talked about it in my recipe for basil caesar dressing and here it is again. It's that thing that is absolutely unidentifiable, that 5th taste- umami, which words can't quite pinpoint. But you would notice it if it were missing. One silly little fish that makes all the difference in the world.
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
I apologize that I don't know the exact origin of this recipe. The blog I found it on did not list the book that it came from, only that the source was Michael Symon. I looked all over but could not find a listing for the recipe anywhere else on the web, so I assume that it came from a book by Symon. If I find the original reference I'll let you know.
3 lbs boneless short ribs (These do exist and they are way better than the bone in ribs- less fat and less waste. If you can't find them in the store, ask the fellow behind the meat counter to cut them for you. They really will help you, you just have to ask.)
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 anchovy or 1 tsp anchovy paste
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used syrah)
2 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a heavy oven-proof pot (this is a good time to use one of those enameled cast iron pots) over a medium high heat. Add two tablespoons olive oil to the pot and heat. Generously sprinkle the short ribs with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place half the ribs into the pot and brown on both sides (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the browned ribs and set aside on a plate. Repeat the browning procedure with the remaining ribs. Remove the second batch of ribs as well.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot. Toss in the onions, carrots, and garlic cloves to the pot. Saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute. Then stir in the anchovy and herbs. Pour in the wine and beef stock and tuck the ribs back into the pot, making sure they are covered by the sauce. Cover the pot and place in the oven.
Cook the ribs at 350 degrees for about an hour, then turn down the heat to 300. Cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The meat should be tender and easily fall apart with a fork or your fingers.
Remove the stems from the herbs and fish out the garlic cloves. Crush the garlic cloves with a fork and return them to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Serve one or two ribs per person over a bed of parmesean mashed potatoes with a generous ladle of the sauce over top.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Is it possible that my love of baking was passed down to me by my mother and her mother before her? That on some little chromosome deep in my cells lies a series of chemicals that means I was destined to want to spend every waking moment elbow deep in flour, sugar, eggs, and butter? Is there a baking gene? Or is it just that, as a little girl, I spent my days along side my mother and grandmother at the bakery my grandparents owned kneading bread and cutting out cookies? Were those days so influential in my life that I can't help but want to recreate them over and over again as an adult? These are the things I think about (the many genetics classes I've taken over the years and 10 years teaching science don't help to quiet the debate in my head).
In the end, I suppose I'll never know the answer, but I suspect it's a little of both- nature and nurture. What it really boils to is that I bake because it tells a story about me- it is the expression of who I am at that moment. My emotions fuel my choices. Some of my best creations come from the highs and lows of my life. Ever taste a brownie that was baked in anger or sadness? It's deep, dark and rich and in an instant you're comforted. Or a wedding cake made at a time of pure joy? You can taste the happiness in the lightness of the cake and the sweetness of the raspberry filling. I bake when I'm bored, lonely, excited, or anxious. And most especially, I bake out of love.
These scones are my expression of contentment and happiness. Isn't that what a scone should be? Made on a lazy weekend morning as a treat for your family or for friends coming over to share coffee and stories of their lives?
Maple Oat Scones
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe found on the Martha Stewart site
I love scones. When I was still teaching, not a day would go by without a chai tea latte and a pumpkin scone accompanying me on my 45 minute drive to work. I haven't tried to re-create the pumpkin scones yet (though there seem to be scores of recipes for them on the internet), but these maple oat scones are a close second in terms of my favorites. I've lightened the original recipe of some of it's butter and added a bit of cinnamon in the glaze, but other than that I didn't tinker with it too much. Next time you're feeling happy or content, bake up a batch of these- you'll thank me.
Makes 7 or 8 large scones
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat, it has the same nutritional value, but a more subtle flavor. Bob's Red Mill and Kind Arthur Flour are two companies that carry it.)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbs heavy cream (for brushing on the tops of the unbaked scones)
For the glaze:
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs powdered sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, oats, sugar, and baking powder and mix to distribute the dry ingredients evenly. Add the butter to the bowl and mix on low until the butter in is small, pea-sized pieces. In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until the ingredients just come together. The dough will be slightly sticky. You could mix the dough by hand if you were so inclined. Simply use a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers to cut the butter in and use your hands or a wooden spoon for the rest of the mixing..
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, pat the dough out into a rectangle that measures between 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick. Using a 3 inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into as many scones as you can (you'll probably get about 5). Place the unbaked scones on the baking sheet. Gather the scraps of dough gently and re-pat it to the same thickness as the first scones you cut. Again, use the 3 inch cutter to cut out as many scones as you can and place them on the baking sheet. If there is enough dough left, repeat the process or pat the last of the dough into a final scone. Brush the tops of the scones with the heavy cream. If you want to get these ready ahead of time, you can make the scones up to this point, cover the tray and refrigerate them overnight. Take the tray out of the fridge while you preheat the oven in the morning.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Let the scones cool on a rack for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, make the glaze by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl.
When the scones are cool, spoon about a tablespoon of the glaze over each one. Let the glaze harden for a minute or two and enjoy!