Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

I recently picked up a container of Harry & David's shortbread cookie mix and finally decided to make them.  They turned out great, but I decided to make them even better by dipping them in chocolate.

For the cookies:  Follow the directions on Harry & David's shortbread cookie mix.  I rolled small balls of dough into nice spheres to get round cookies.   The cookies came out a lot lighter than my preferred brand of Walkers.

After the cookies had cooled I dipped them in melted semi sweet chocolate.

Ingredients: Half a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips and one tablespoon of shortening.

In a double boiler slowly melt the chips and shortening.  The shortening helps with tempering the chocolate and makes the chocolate have a nice glossy appearance.  I only dipped 1/2 the cookies in chocolate so that they'd be easier to handle.  After dipping place them on wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate sets up.

Next time I dip cookies in chocolate I think I'm going to add some sprinkled toasted nuts on top.

Cheese Fondue

Who doesn't love some cheesy fondue?

Basic Fondue Recipe: 1-2 cups of white wine, blend of Emmentaler, Swiss, & Gruyere (about 1 lb),  2 Tb corn starch, dash of nutmeg, 1 garlic clove & fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a good glass or enamel saucepan and rub it down with a cut piece of garlic.  Discard the garlic.  Over very low heat bring one cup of wine to simmer.  Add in a handful of grated cheese and stir until nice and melted.  Add in the cornstarch, nutmeg and black pepper.  Stir to combine.  Slowly continue to add in the cheese by the small handful.  If it's too thick add in a little more wine.  This whole process will take about 30 minutes.

I served my fondue with salted and boiled mini potatoes, cubed french bread, broccoli & cauliflower florets, mushrooms and pearl tomatoes.

We ate the whole pot.  It was fantastic.  I suggest a good California Sauvignon Blanc for the wine.  If you use cheap wine, you'll regret it.

Olive Oil, Rosemary & Lemon Roast Chicken

Ingredients: 1 whole chicken cut into pieces, 3-4 meyer lemons, 3 parsnips, 4 large carrots, 3 white onions, 1/2 cup good olive oil, fresh rosemary, 4-6 cloves of garlic, salt & pepper.

Start by making a simple marinade of olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  In a bowl combine 1/2 good olive oil and the juice of 3-4 meyer lemons.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon of crushed black pepper.  Put chicken pieces in a plastic bag and pour in marinade.  Chop up several springs of rosemary.  Bruise with the back of you kitchen knife and toss in the bag as well.  Smash the garlic cloves and had it with the rosemary.  Seal it up and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  I prefer to let it marinade for about 6 to get maximum flavor.

Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly spray a roasting pan with oil or non stick spray.  Slice up the onions into rounds to use as base for the chicken.   The onions add moisture and flavor during cooking.  Roughly chop up the parsnips and carrots.  Season them with salt & pepper.  Take the chicken out of the marinade and arrange in the baking pan.  Place the parsnips and carrots around the chicken.  Place the lemon rinds in the pan as well. Pour any leftover marinade over the top.  Pick out any huge pieces of rosemary and discard.

Roast for 30 minutes at 450 and then turn down the heat to 350 and finish cooking for about 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nudi Dumplings or Malfatta

I make a lot of home made gnocchi and finally decided to branch out to Nudi sometimes referred to as Malfatta.   Nudi dumplings are basically the inside of a ravioli and are super easy to make.  They also go fantastic with Sunday Gravy.

Ingredients: 15 ounces Ricotta, 1 box frozen thawed and drained spinach (really squeeze the water out), 2 egg yolks, about 1/3-1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, dash of nutmeg along with a little salt & pepper.

Mix everything in a bowl except the flour.  Start adding the flour in by the large spoonful until the dough comes together. You may need a little  more or less flour depending on the humidity.  Roll small balls of the dough in your hand and place on a floured surface.  It's easier if you flour your hands first.  My nudi ended up slightly smaller than golf balls.  I made around 2 dozen.

Drop the balls in salted boiling water.  After they start to float let them cook a bit more.  I served mine with Sunday Gravy and some cheesy toasty bread.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Gravy or All Day Tomato Meat Sauce

Every few weeks some form of tomato sauce in made in the kitchen.  I like to keep frozen containers of home made sauce on hand for easy weeknight meals.  Today I made Sunday Gravy.  The entire process took about 4 hours.

Ingredients:  Olive oil, 1/3 cup of red wine, 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 1 small can diced tomatoes, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef, 1 large onion, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of sugar and my spice blend.
Spices: salt & pepper, 1 teaspoon of each of onion granules, garlic granules, oregano, dried sun dried tomatoes, and 2 large bay leaves.
You'll also need about 2 cups of water on hand.

In a large stock pot heat a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Sweat the onions and garlic until tender and translucent.  Add in the ground beef and all the spices except the bay leaf.  Slowly brown the beef.  Take your time.  You want to develop a nice color.  Once the beef is browned add in the red wine to deglaze the pan.  Simmer until the wine is reduced by 1/2.   Add in all the canned tomato ingredients along with the sugar and the bay leaves.  Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45 minutes.
Take a taste.  Add in a little more salt if needed.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45 minutes.
Take a taste.  The sauce should be getting nice and rich at this point as the water keeps evaporating off.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45  minutes.
Add  in another 1/2 cup of water and let simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

During the entire simmering process make sure you give it a stir every 15 minutes or so.  You want the heat to be barely on, just high of a flame to keep it cooking.  

At this point it should be irresistible.  I then turn the heat off and put on the lid while it comes down to room temperature.  Once its cooled down I portion it out into freezer containers.

Don't forget to pull the bay leaves out before portioning it out.  If you don't want to use red wine use a little beef broth instead.

Sopa Seca

I'm always looking for easy ways to use up leftovers.  A while back a came across a recipe for Sopa Seca which is a turkey noodle Mexican casserole. 

Ingredients: Olive Oil, 12 ounces fideos, 1 medium onion chopped, 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 can Ro-Tel canned tomatoes (feel free to sub diced tomatoes), 2-4 finely minced chiles in adobo sauce,  1.5 cups of chicken or turkey stock (I used the leftover frozen turkey stock I had), 2 cups shredded chicken or turkey, 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese.

Spices:  One teaspoon each of the following: coriander, cumin, chili powder, garlic granules, onion granules, salt & pepper and oregano along with 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of tomato powder.

In a large sauce pan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Toast the fideos and then place on a plate for later.   Your going to want to toss them around the pan with some tongs being careful not to burn them.  The goal is just light toasted color on some of the noodles.

In the same pan add a little more oil and add the onion.  Cook until translucent.  Then add the spice blend and cook until nice and fragrant.  This should only take 30-60 seconds.  Next add in the tomatoes and chiles in adobo sauce.  Simmer for about 5 mins to thicken up.   Then add in the broth & fideo.  Cook for 4-5 minutes before adding the shredded chicken or turkey.  Mix to combine.  Pour everything into a greased casserole and top with some shredded cheese.

At this point you can cover and store for 2 days or just pop it into a 375 oven for 25-35 minutes.  I made this casserole in the morning for a quick dinner later in the day.

I served this with some sour cream and fresh salsa.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

About 12-10 button mushrooms
2 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of garlic paste
4 butter crackers crushed or a palm full of fine bread crumbs
1/2 a tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil
Spices: Aleppo pepper, onion granules, savory and a pinch of black pepper

Clean the mushrooms and take out the stems.   Finely chop up the stems and mix in a bowl with the other ingredients.  Fill the mushroom caps with the filling and place in casserole dish.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  The tops should be nicely browned when done.

Because I'm a glutton for butter I also drizzled a little melted butter across the tops before putting them in the oven.

I served these with a nice big T-bone.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

Ingredients: 1 cup All Purpose Flour, 2 egg whites,  1 tablespoon granulated white sugar,  1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbs melted butter, 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup blueberries.

Sift together the dry ingredients with a whisk.   Whip up the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Mix the dry with the milk, butter & blueberries.  Fold in the egg whites gently.  You should still see fluffy pieces of egg white. 

You'll be able to tell the cakes are ready to flip when bubbles start forming on the uncooked side.  

Mushroom Meatballs & Garlic Pasta

1 lb lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Spices: red chile flakes, salt & pepper, garlic & onion granules

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Form into golf ball sized meatballs and place on parchment paper.  Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

You could fry these in a little olive oil, but baking them keeps the fat down.  Good for you meatballs means that I don't feel so guilty about putting butter in the pasta.

1 lb spaghetti
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves of garlic finely minces
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of butter ( you can omit this if you want, but I like the creaminess it adds to the pasta)
1/4-1/2 cup pasta water
Fresh black pepper
Cook spaghetti according to the package directions.  Save about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.  Drain the pasta.  In a large pot heat the olive oil and garlic until fragrant.  Toss in the drained pasta and 1/4 cup of the pasta water.  Add in the Parmesan cheese, butter and black pepper.  Toss.  If it is too sticky slowly add in the remaining pasta water until everything loosens up.

I served my garlicy pasta with a couple of meat balls, some roasted broccoli and a slice of garlic bread.