French Fridays with Dorie: Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak~

25 04 2011

For once in my life, I’m ahead of the game with a dish from French Fridays with Dorie!  I was off work for Spring Break, ran across these little steaks while shopping, and the next thing I knew I was all set to prepare Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak.

Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak starts with butter and oil, peppered steaks, and morphs into a wonderfully sauced steak in the end.  I wrapped my peppercorns in waxed paper and smashed them with my kitchen mallet a few times.  No escaping peppercorns, and nicely crushed.  I like to toast dry herbs and spices, especially seeds before I add them to a dish, but this time, the peppercorns are actually a peppercorn crust on the steaks.  Since they’ll be getting direct heat all the while the steaks are cooking, they don’t need to be toasted.

When the steaks are cooked, while they rest, the sauce is made.  Pour off any remaining oil and butter, and deglaze the pan with cognac (or brandy).  This is the touchiest part of the recipe…the alcohol will likely flame if 1) you don’t cool the pan before adding the alcohol to the pan (the hotter the pan, the faster the alcohol produces the flammable vapors);  2)  you have a gas stove.  Flaming the alcohol is easy enough, and nothing to be afraid of, if you’re ready for what will happen.  Flames will jump into the air at least 18 inches and often a full 36 inches.  Be ready for that.  If you keep a lid that will fit the pan tightly within reach (or better yet, in hand), you can quickly smother any flames that get too excited.  Keep your head…the alcohol will burn off completely in a matter of seconds.  Next, add the cream and wait for the proper consistency to arrive.  It’s really good!


Bake! Best & Easiest Carrot Cake~

25 04 2011

Easter is a great time for Carrot Cake…and Nick Malgieri’s recipe from Bake! makes a really good carrot cake.  To be utterly fair…it’s still not my favorite recipe though.  My mom made a killer carrot cake, and while this one is really good…it’s not as good as Mom’s was!

Moist and tender…full of juicy carrots and bits of toasted walnuts, this cake couldn’t be easier to put together.  Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, combine…with perfect spices…and frost with cream cheese frosting…what could be better?

Okay, I confess… It was Easter Sunday and I didn’t have any cream cheese in the house.  I thought I did, but I sure didn’t.  What I did have was a fresh quart of whipping cream… We had just had strawberry shortcake, so I knew whipped cream was merely moments away.   That actually made a lighter topping for the cake than the cream cheese icing, and was a little more refreshing.

Our next recipe is for a Strawberry Chantilly Cake…with whipped cream icing…LOL!  I don’t think I’ll trade the icings…  I made a 9 inch square layer and 12 carrot mini-cakes that I froze for those nights when we yearn for something sweet.  I think the Strawberry Chantilly cake will need to be done as a half recipe…there are still only two of us here to eat all these goodies, and I’ve still got a dozen or so to catch up on!

Bake! Banana Bread~

25 04 2011

I’ve been watching all the lovely things coming out of Kayte’s kitchen for awhile now…enviously, no less!  She’s been baking from one or the other of two of Nick Malgieri’s books, Modern Baker and Bake!  While I’ve purchased both books, I’m going to commit to cooking from Bake!  for now!  I’m a dozen or so recipes behind, but I’ll catch those as I can.  Kayte wondered what my first recipe would be…and I had planned it to be one of the recipes on the list, but several very ripe bananas made the decision for me!  Banana bread!!  I’m sure this recipe will pop up sometime in rotation…and I won’t hesitate to bake another one!  It came out very moist and sweet, and the 5-fingered mouse kept nibbling at it until it was gone… I’m glad I was able to get a picture before it completely vanished!  Now…on to the list!

Thirty Minute Thursday: Going Rogue~

24 04 2011

Usually I’m content to cook a recipe, as is, from Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta, but not this week.  I was in the mood for something a little on the spicier side.  To make sure I stayed within the “allotted” 30 minutes, I began with my pasta water and went from there.  I began with Giuliano’s recipe for Fusilli with Sausage, Ricotta and Fresh Tomatoes…  Changes:  1) Exchange Sweet Italian sausage for the recipe sausage; 2) exchange linguine for fusilli; omit ricotta and add granulated New Mexican chilies courtesy of Marx Foods.  I was after a spicy Roman style sauce with sausage that could stand on its own.  I think I got that!

I’m participating in Marx Foods Chile Sampler trials… They graciously sent me a box of six different granulated dried chilies to try in the kitchen.  This is the first recipe I’ve used them in.   I was trying to lean away from the obvious…at least somewhat!

Linguine con Salsiccia  all’ Amatriciana
serves 2

1/2 pound linguine
1 pint chopped tomatoes (I used home-canned San Marzano tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 Tbsp. granulated dried chilies (I used New Mexican chilies, got a very, very mild heat)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing and cooked

Start your pasta water…at least 3 quarts for 1/2 pound pasta, 4 quarts is better.
Cook the sausage until it’s done, set aside to add to the sauce later.

When you add the pasta to the boiling water, begin to complete the sauce.

Saute the onion in the oil until translucent and beginning to turn golden.  Add the garlic and stir.
Add the tomatoes, if whole, chop before adding to the pan.  Add the granulated chilies.
Reserve the liquid from the tomatoes.  You may need some to thin the sauce (cooks quickly, and the tomato liquid has a lot more flavor than water).
Add the sausage to reheat before adding in the pasta.

When the pasta is done,  drain and toss with sauce and the Parmesan cheese.
Serve with additional Parmesan at the table.

Tasting Notes~
I have to admit that we really liked this.  It had some low lying burn, but not much…you had to think about it.  I’d try a hotter chile the next time.  The sausage didn’t over-power the dish, but added a nice little flavor.  Using the linguine was nice…similar in heft to bucatini, but not quite as hefty.  All in all, a relative success!

Look Who’s Cooking~
In keeping with the season…bunnies, carrots, Easter…Kayte from Grandma’s Kitchen Table made Spaghetti alle Carote (Spaghetti with Carrots) this week.  It’s a colorful dish that they didn’t not like, but wouldn’t be considered a first choice repeat, but would be okay again…sometime.   That’s okay…we all have those!  It is rather pretty though…  *Ü*

If you’ve picked up a copy (or Kayte has made the recipes look so good and so easy that you can’t resist!) please feel welcome to drop my an email…the link is on the sidebar…and join us!  Round-up is on Thursday, the recipes are free choice.  I’m even okay with you going a bit rogue now and then!  LOL!  One of my favorite rogue recipes will end up here some night.  I’ll share!

French Fridays with Dorie: Catching up!

19 04 2011

Sometimes when you just can’t…then you need to play “Double Up!”  That’s my term for seeing how many recipes I can work into one meal…especially when I’m behind in my cooking and posting.  Today, I’m posting the Quinoa Fruit and Nut Salad and the Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli…both exceptional dishes from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Leading off our dinner is Dorie’s Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad.   This recipe takes a little bit of prep time…you need to cook the quinoa (keen-wah) and let it cool, then assemble the ingredients (your choice of dried fruits, nuts and seeds) and dress it.  The salad mix tastes better if the flavors are allowed to blend and mellow some before serving (at room temperature) over greens.  I’ve been looking for a way to get more whole grains into our diet.  THIS is the recipe!  Yes, it’s a little on the sweet side…but that depends on the dried fruit you add.  I was planning on adding golden raisins, but found the dark ones first.  I’d love this with cranberries!  The options are pretty much endless.  Rather than adding a yogurt topping, this time I chose to sprinkle the salad with gorgonzola just before serving…seriously tasty!  The saltiness of the cheese was a great balance!

Quinoa is a quiet little “pseudocereal” (neither a grain, nor a grass…) that we’re going to call a grain for simplicity.  It’s tiny and looks completely innocuous.  It originated in the South American Andes mountains, and is a complete protein (containing complex amino acids) that swells many times it’s original size when cooked like rice.  I’ve used the seeds in breads for years, but never quite got around to actually cooking it.  WOW!  The recipe says that the grain is cooked when you see the little white belt around the grains.  Easy enough!

Let the grains come to room temperature, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add some chopped nuts, dried fruits and a few chopped herbs…dress it with a light dressing and you’ve got a great way to add whole protein grains to your salads.  The quinoa has a completely neutral flavor when cooked in water…I’ll bet you could play with this!  But…we still have food to prep for dinner…let’s get back to that!

Next up is Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli.  It’s hard to get easier than this for a really nice side dish…  Steam your broccoli until crisp tender…mix up the garlicky crumbs and finish the broccoli in the pan with the buttered garlicky crumbs.  We polished this off in fine style…but who wouldn’t?  This time, I used broccoli crowns only…they were the same price as regular broccoli… Mine got a little more cooked than I would have liked, but that’s how things go when you’re cooking a lot of things at one time sometimes.

While prepping the broccoli, I was also poaching tilapia fillets in an herbed butter and wine mixture that turned into a buerre blanc at the end.  Unfortunately, I’d already used the last of my parsley in the garlicky broccoli…so my fish looks a little pale…but then…white fish with buerre blanc is pretty pallid!  Thankfully, the broccoli draws your eye, abd that’s what I want you to look at anyway!

Tasting Notes~
The quinoa dish took a little warming up to…  It’s good…but I don’t mix many fruits into my salads…  I guess I just don’t think of that.  However…this is really good on top of greens…so why not?  I can see me playing with quinoa a little more now…and I might give millet another try too.  Amaranth is a little smaller than quinoa, but could be subbed…much the same, it’s a seed grown in the Andes, and is a complete protein.  The garlicky broccoli came out great!!  I’d like to keep it back as a holiday dish though… We like broccoli just as it is most of the time.  The buttery-garlicky-yumminess is really worth working the recipe up…but like another blogging friend…it’s not quite healthy enough to serve this way all the time…but those special dinners…oh yeah!!

That catches the first two recipes of April at French Fridays with Dorie.  I’m still behind though… There are Vanilla Eclairs, Mustard Batons and Bistro Paul Bert steaks to fix by month’s end.  Hmmmm…. At least I’ve gotten 2 recipes completed this month!  LOL!

Thirty Minute Thursday: Maccheroni with Pancetta and Ricotta~

14 04 2011

My Thirty Minute Pasta dish this week is Maccheroni with Pancetta and Ricotta.  I didn’t have the size macaroni they suggested, so I pulled out some very macaroni-esque tri-colored pasta that I did have, and made do with that.  This is another dish that goes together really quickly.  A quick sauté of a few seasoning vegetables and pancetta,  a quick stir of the ricotta and parmesan, mix together in a bowl with hot, freshly drained pasta, and you’ve got an entreé!

Tasting Notes~
Not one of my favorites…which is definitely not to say it wasn’t good.  It was.  And it was ever so easy.  It’s just not a recipe I’d select over some of the others.  And yet…if these were the ingredients I had handy…I’d fix it again.  It was a little on the bland side…and the texture didn’t work well for me.  I’m just that way with some textures…and I know I’m not alone in that.   I might add a bit of this and some of that and see how it comes out the next time…  I’ll let you know!  LOL!

Look Who’s Cooking~
Over at Grandma’s Kitchen Table, I found that Kayte was busy making Fusilli con le Zucchine Giaffe e Ciliegini (Fusilli with Yellow Squash and Grape Tomatoes).  First off…follow the link.  No, I’m serious…I’ll wait.  The picture is worth the visit!  Don’t worry…it’ll open in another window…go take a look!  Isn’t that a gorgeous photo?  I love it!  And I love Kayte’s selection this week.  What a fun dish!  I’m sure it went really well with steak just off the grill!  We’ll be seeing more and more of these kinds of recipes as the Summer approaches!

I’m very excited about cooking from this book through the summer.  A couple fresh tomatoes, a bit of basil and you’re good to go!  Bonus scores if you can add fresh from the vine summer squash or peppers!  I love that this book works really well with a summer garden!  Even if you have to grow a few things in pots, you really should treat yourself to a few pots of basil and a nice, solid looking Italian or paste tomato plant.  If you’ve got the space for a zucchini, you won’t be sorry.  The male flowers are edible as well as the squash itself.  My goal is to have enough male flowers to be able to fix stuffed squash blossoms.  I’ll get there!  LOL!

Food ‘n’ Flix: Woman on Top~

10 04 2011

I caught up with Food -n- Flix just as the dishes for this movie went to round up.  I didn’t quite have time to get a dish ready for this, but with all the research I did on Brazilian recipes, I couldn’t let that go to waste!  One of the things I discovered is the broad use of Malagueta  peppers.   The leading character talks about the chili in her various cooking scenes…and encourages her viewers to smell it…

And I will not vouch for the chili pepper the producers chose for the above picture…looks more like a jalapeno gone red to me.  The jalapeno looks much more seductive than the chilies in this jar…

The chilies in this bottle (vinegar) are small…like Thai Bird Chilies.   I will, however, applaud the producers of Woman on Top though, for their ability to convey the sexiness of this chili!  Oh, my gosh!  It has a totally different fragrance from any other pepper I’ve come across.  I’m truly sorry it isn’t available to me fresh.  I’m going to have to see what I can do to fix that!  Yes, it’s a hot chili.  However, the heat mellows and the pepper’s flavor comes out…and it’s incredibly seductive!   I was able to find a great place, on-line, to buy a few ingredients that seemed to me, hard to duplicate…  This is not a paid endorsement, nor have I received any gifts from the company.  They have a nice selection of Latin foods and were really easy to order from.  That’s all.

Woman on Top was an amusing little romp into Brazilian food, music and passion.  Isabella is a gifted chef whose cheating husband drives her away from him, his restaurant, and their country.  Isabella finds her way to San Francisco and a TV cooking gig almost immediately! The Fates are protecting her from her grief… The rest is entertaining…drag queen-BFF, new beau, old husband chasing her down…  However, her food, although incredibly hot, seems to captivate everyone who eats it.  The next thing you know…

I had such a great time checking out Brazilian recipes, that I was inspired to find a Brazilian cookbook.  I’m very pleased with this one so far.  I selected a recipe from Tasting Brazil to try out my “malagueta sauce.”  I was initially frightened by the amount of the vinegar the recipe called for.  Tasting it from the bottle, it has a pretty intense heat…but that aroma and flavor!  I made sure we had some milk to kill the heat if need be, and went for it.  The pepper sauce was so intensely aromatic!  Oh my gosh!   I chose the author’s recommendation for a type of Brazilian salsa to accompany the chicken.  The flavors were very light and fresh and went together well.  In the end, I decided I wanted just a splash of heat in the salsa.  The chicken had mellowed in heat, leaving behind the warmth of the pepper’s flavor.  Winter tomatoes are so flavorless, a little acid zing couldn’t possibly hurt either!  And a splash was all it needed.  Served with roasted corn and a Brazilian rice, we had Coxas Apimentadas (Spicy Thighs, pg. 187) dressed with Molho Campanha (Country Sauce, pg. 91).

Tasting Notes~
We’ve decided we rather like Brazilian food…so far.  A few of the recipes have sounded quite good.  This was very good.  I was amazed that the heat dissipated so much.  I find I really love the flavor of the Malagueta.  I’ll be figuring out a seed source soon.  I need to pick up a few more key ingredients, and I’ll be playing here more…especially in the summer.  Being so close to the equator, it’s rather tropical, and a lot of their food is grilled out of doors.  Fancy that!  *Ü*  I would too!  I know that our summers are hot too, so I can see a lot of the grilled dishes coming up this summer.  Watch for the flag!

My Kitchen, My World…Cooking Egypt~

9 04 2011

Cooking with the ladies at My Kitchen, My World this month takes us to exotic Egypt…  I think of Egypt and in my mind’s eye I see Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in all her glory…  I think of lotus blossoms and dates…  As for food…I had to do some research!  I love foodie research!

There are a lot of interesting flavor combinations in Middle Eastern cooking.  A lot of things run a bit on the sweetish side.  There seems to be a lot of lamb (maybe goat as well) in their diet as meat proteins.  That makes sense.  Goats and sheep provide both meat and fiber, and are more easily grazed due to their smaller size.

This dish is an Egyptian recipe for braised lamb shanks.  I found the recipe while I was dancing across the world via my computer!  What a world we live in today!!  You start by browning off the lamb shanks, then add the vegetables and seasonings and pop it into the oven for a couple of hours.  This was a great choice for Chorus night!  It cooked while we were rehearsing.  What a deal!

When I took the pan from the oven and tasted the final sauce, I decided it needed just one more layer of texture and flavor… I toasted some pistachios and chopped them fairly fine to garnish the top of our plates.  They have a slightly sweet nutty taste and they added a really nice little touch.

Majestic flavor from an inexpensive cut of meat

* 4 lamb shanks
* 2 Tblsp. Olive oil
* 2 onions [chopped]
* 1/4 cup Armenian or Italian parsley [chopped]
* 1 green bell pepper [chopped] *I used red, as I didn’t have a green one
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 15 0z. can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
* 1 teaspoon of fresh basil leaves [chopped]
* 1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves [chopped]
* 1 teaspoon fresh Rosemary leaves
* 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
* Salt and pepper to taste

* In a heavy skillet, brown off the lamb shanks in the olive oil. (Can also be placed on a grill and browned off)
Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over the shanks. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours
or until tender. Baste with the sauce 2 or 3 times during cooking. (Can be cooked on top of the stove in
a covered skillet or chicken fryer at a med-low setting and served when the meat begins to fall off the bone.
About 2 hours. Add white wine or water if necessary *PLAN on it being necessary! )

Tasting Notes~
This dish was declared a keeper for us!  We enjoy lamb, and are fond of braised lamb shanks.  I’ve cooked a variety of cuisine interpretations of this dish.  There’s a particular Mexican lamb dish that we love, and would love to have a recipe for.  This recipe comes close in flavor…it’s a bit on the sweet side.  Remember, we did add 2 Tbsp. brown sugar in there.  The Mexican dish in my mind has a slightly sweetish flavor too.  I tried serving the lamb over thin noodles…that was a disaster.  Thankfully, you can’t see that part here!  LOL!  I think grilled polenta (hush) or rice would be a better side with this.  Regardless…you do want something to help you get every drop of the sauce up.  I was sorry I made only 2 of the 4 shanks!  Incidentally…I did not reduce the sauce ingredients, only the number of lamb shanks.  I would fix this again, and love every bite!

Thank you to our hostess, Andrea, for coming up with such a great location!!  Next month…we’ll be visiting…

Thirty Minute Thursday…on Friday~

8 04 2011

The school year is drawing to a close (final third of the year), and things are getting the better part of my energy during the day.  I just haven’t been able to get these round ups posted on Thursdays!  Even though I cooked my dish on Sunday!  LOL!  This will get better soon.  Spring Break is still just around the corner!  Now…let’s get to the fun stuff!!

My selection from Thirty Minute Pasta this week is Spaghetti with shrimp, tomatoes and capers.   I had some calamari that I needed to cook, and this was a really nice follow up to Marcella Hazan’s Calamari Fritti, or Fried Calamari.  I was hungry for seafood, and this was a really satisfying pairing.

The recipe for the calamari is incredibly simple, and is found in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.  The book is certainly worth the purchase!  Marcella cooks old style Italian, and explains her recipes as she goes.  It’s no wonder her son grew up to be a teaching chef!

The recipe calls for onion, parsley, tomatoes, shrimp and capers.  There’s an incredible balance of savoriness here.  You’ve got a sweetness from the tomato that is offset with the piquant saltiness of the capers.  The shrimp are cut into bites that help the spaghetti twine nicely.   The spaghetti pasta absorbs the extra liquid in the sauce…you may even need a couple tablespoons of pasta cooking water to help when you toss the pasta.  The colors are beautiful, and the flavors…*sigh*

Look Who’s Cooking~
Chaya didn’t get a chance to drop by this week, but she had a post in reserve…just in case!  Her post at Bizzy B. Bakes features Penne with Peppers, Fresh Tomato and Parsley.  This was the first recipe Chaya tried from this book, and she really seemed to enjoy it.  She has since found, as did I, that there’s a lot of repetition in recipes.  There will be recipes that are almost exactly the same, but using a different pasta.  There’s also little seasoning, aside from fresh herbs and vegetables.  That doesn’t suit everyone equally.

Chaya has discovered she would like to play more with the recipes, and I’ve told her to have a great time!  I know myself that after a few recipes, I was really getting the feel for what I was doing.  I wanted to get more adventurous!!  I have no problem with anyone doing that!  I want you to ENJOY what you’re cooking!  If something doesn’t quite work or you want to add some personal touches to one of the recipes…by all means!  Yes…even if it means 30 Minutes becomes 3 hours!  LOL!!  I’m not BIG on rules…but I am big on enjoying yourself and doing what is best and acceptable to those you’re feeding.  Food is a kind of love gift.  Be happy with your gifts!

Speaking of happy…Kayte at Grandma’s Kitchen Table was happy with her Fusilli ai Porri e Cipolla Rosso (Fusilli with Leeks and Red Onions).   She said this is great if you like onions!  Light, and as easy as boiling water and sautéing onions!  They love onions (as do I) and really enjoyed this dish.  It’s very pretty too!

Thanks for stopping by…and if you’d like to cook with us, pick up a copy of Thirty Minute Pasta and drop me an email!  Anyone is welcome!

Thirty Minute Thursday: Fusilli with Asparagus and Prosciutto~

2 04 2011

I apologize for being so late with the round-up this week!  It seemed like Thursday-Friday-Saturday whirled into being one long day!  I did get here with my dish that night, and managed to get started with the post, and then…time was gone!  I’m sorry… I try to get us all together on Thursday, but this week…Life got in my way!  *Ü*

Look Who’s Cooking~
First in this week is Kayte from Grandma’s Kitchen Table.  Kayte prepared Fettucine al Gorgonzola.  I absolutely love her presentation… The prepared dish is very plain in color, however, Kayte gave it the most regal presentation with a beautiful blue drape.  She also says the dish has a “great flavor punch” and that it’s sinful.  Sounds like a keeper!

Chaya, from Bizzy B. Bakes and Sweet and Savory has created her own adaptation of Tagliatelle with Peas.  Chaya’s primary changes included omitting the onion altogether and using goat cheese.  What a great idea!  And what a fun twist!

As for me, this week I chose to make a twist on Hazan’s Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto.  This recipe calls for just a few ingredients and goes together very quickly.  A quick simmer and sauté, and it’s all finished.

This is a great example of how easily you can change from one kind of pasta to another.  The trick is to evaluate what kind of sauce you’re making and then match it with the right kind of pasta.  When you have a smooth, thin sauce like seasoned olive oil, it’s best to use a thin pasta like a spaghetti.  Heavier or chunky sauces go wonderfully with pasta that has ridges or ripples…such as penne, fusilli or radiatore because the sauce will catch in the riffles of the pasta.  Creamy smooth sauces are best suited for long, thin-but wider, pastas like linguine and fettucine, or even the wider shapes…but use care, because there’s more pasta surface that will soak up the sauce very quickly.

Tasting Notes~
This is obviously a keeper.  It’s a great recipe to use up the last little bit of prosciutto, and it’s wonderful with bright fresh asparagus!  This time around, I also added in some sauteéd mushrooms…just another little layer of flavor and texture.  They stirred in wonderfully!  This is a really quick recipe…cooking the pasta is the longest part of the dish!

If you’d like to join us, you’ll need to pick up a copy of Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta…you can either put his recipes together as they are, or use them as an inspiration to stretch beyond!  If your adaptation takes more than 30 minutes…we won’t penalize you!  After all…some Italian dishes are really meant to be cooked slowly and lovingly.  Our primary focus is learning new things, getting comfortable with the procedures, having fun creating and sharing what we’ve done!  I’m using Thirty Minute Pasta as a vehicle to get me there…and all rules have to have a certain amount of flexibility built in!