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!