Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sausage Ragù over Creamy Polenta

2 T olive oil
2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 C chopped carrot
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1 lb Italian sausage
15 oz tomato sauce
¼ C sugar
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
creamy polenta
Optional garnish: grated Parmesan and chopped parsley

Small dice (or chop) onion. Mince garlic. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots, salt and pepper; cook until tender, stirring occasionally (5-7 minutes). While onion mixture is cooking, slice sausages.

Remove onion mixture to bowl, add sausage to pan and cook until browned. Return onion mixture to pan, Add tomato sauce, sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to boil; reduce heat, simmer at least 10 minutes. Season with additional salt or pepper to taste.

Serve over creamy polenta; if desired, garnish with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chocolate Cake

I still love the denser (almost pound-cake-like) chocolate beet cake. But for a more basic version, I find this one's a bit moister and richer than the chocolate cake recipe I've used previously.

2 C sugar
1¾ C flour
¾ C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T unsweetened dark cocoa powder*
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1 C coffee*
½ C vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

* I used more of the dark cocoa powder...simply a matter of preference. And I don't like coffee; a little coffee boosts the dark/bitter flavor of the chocolate without any strong coffee flavor taking over the cake, but a whole cup is too much for me! However, any similar liquid option will do. Water doesn't alter the flavor. Fruit juices could be fun to try (orange, cranberry, raspberry, pomegranate...). I stuck with water this time knowing I had chopped peanuts and caramel as a filling between a couple layers...

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour pans, or coat with non-stick cooking spray, and line bottoms with parchment. 2 9" pans, 1 9x13" pan, or cupcake tins.

Whisk together (or use low setting of electric mixer) sugar, flour, cocoa(s), baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Pour batter (which will be thin) evenly into pans. Bake...about 30-35 min for rounds, 35-40 min for 9x13, 18-22 min for cupcakes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to finish cooling on wire rack.

Frost as desired.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ground Beef (or Elk) Stroganoff

Beef is, obviously, traditional. However, thanks to Dad's hunting success and generosity, I have ground elk on hand. :)

2 T butter
8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef, elk or other meat
1½ C beef broth
1½ T Worchesershire
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ C flour
1½ C sour cream (+ more to garnish at serving)
Italian parsley, finely chopped for garnish

noodles or rice

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; cook mushrooms, onion and garlic until tender (6-8 minutes). Transfer to small bowl; set aside.

Brown ground beef (or elk...) in skillet over medium high heat. While meat is cooking, whisk flour into ½ cup beef broth; set aside. Add remaining broth, Worcestershire, salt, pepper and nutmeg to browned meat; bring to boil. Add flour and broth mixture, stirring as it thickens. Stir in mushroom and onion mixture; cool slightly. Stir in sour cream.

Serve over noodles or rice, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and chopped parsley.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Peppered Ricotta & Honey Crostini

I've long been a fan of peppered cheese; Boursin's peppered cheese is probably what got me started (photo below; black pepper, so it doesn't look as 'pretty', but it's still a good option, especially if you're short on time). And I learned to really love honey drizzled cheese in Italy, where it was served often. So when I saw a Crostini with Ricotta and Pink Peppercorns recipe in this month's Food Network Magazine I was excited to give it a try! Crunchy crostini, creamy ricotta, savory cheese, sweet honey and a kick from peppercorns...there's a lot to love!

baguette (about 1/2 baguette for generously spread crostini)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher/coarse salt

Ricotta spread
1 C ricotta cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/8  tsp kosher salt

¼ C honey
1½ T flaky salt*
2 T pink peppercorns, crushed

* With the pink peppercorns, I used a pink Himalayan salt to coordinate the look. However, for my taste, salting the crostini, a pinch of salt in the cheese, and then 1½ T of salt dusting them at the finish was too much salt. I like it on the finish (topping) so it is 'flavor forward' in each bite. I'd probably do without it in the ricotta. Go easy on it at first, and taste before you use it all.

As peppercorns go, green are my favorite. The pink is a pretty look -- and I'd love to try this completed crostini with sliced strawberries sometime. I think the flavors would go really well together. I'd also like to try green peppercorns sometime...a more earth-y looking presentation, and subtle flavor difference.

Preheat oven to 400˚. Cut the baguette on a slight bias into ¼" slices. Place on baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil and salt.

Once cool, top each crostini generously with  with ricotta mixture. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with flaky salt and crushed pink peppercorns.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Red (or purple) Velvet Rolled Cookies

I already have a red velvet drop cookie recipe. These were in Better Homes & Gardens magazine this month--specifically with red hearts for Valentine's Day (I'd link to it here, but I can't access it online; red heart photo is theirs). I opted for purple food coloring as I plan to take them to my students at NVHS...if the snow ever melts, roads clear and we actually have school again! Any color could be used, though with a bit of cocoa powder in these, if you want light or pastel colors it would be better to make a rolled sugar cookie.

1 C butter, softened
1¼ C sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 T liquid food coloring
1 tsp vanilla
2¾ C flour
    powdered sugar for dusting

Cream butter and sugar. Add cocoa, baking powder and salt; beat, scraping sides of bowl to fully incorporate all ingredients. Beat in eggs, food coloring and vanilla.

Slowly add flour and stir until just combined. Chill 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to " thick; Cut with cookie cutters and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 7 to 9 minutes, until bottoms are very light brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar, using stencils if desired for decoration.

Makes about 3 dozen 2 - 2½" cookies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chewy Sugar Cookies

1½ C sugar
2 oz cream cheese
6 T butter, melted
½ C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 T milk
1 T vanilla (and/or lemon)
2¾ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
optional: additional sugar for rolling or dipping (coarse sugar, colored sugar)

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Cream sugar, cream cheese, butter and vegetable oil. Add egg, milk and vanilla; stir until thoroughly blended.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into batter until well combined.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto parchment. If desired, dip or roll in course/colored sugar. Bake 9-11 minutes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Yellow Cake (2)

I already have a yellow cake recipe, but it was a bit dry. I came across another, richer version. This is a combination or compromise of the two, and much better. Delicious with chocolate frosting, or topped with fresh berries and whipped cream!

1 C butter
1¼ C sugar
2 eggs
4 egg yolks*
2 tsp vanilla
¾ C milk
2 C cake flour*
1 T baking powder
½ tsp salt

* For a less rich cake -- and lighter yellow color -- substitute 2 eggs for the 4 yolks (for 4 eggs total). All purpose flour works too, though the cake will not be quite as finely textured. If you'd like, you can reduce the flour by 2 T and add cornstarch instead for a substitute for cake flour.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour two 8" pans, or coat with non-stick spray.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture by thirds, alternately with milk blending after each addition. Divide evenly between pans (or scoop into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers). Bake 25 minutes (or approx 18 minutes for cupcakes).

Cool in pans 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Morsures de Concombre Bruschetta (Cucumber Bruschetta Bites)

Simple, but fancy...especially if you use the French ("morsures de concombre..."); I took these to this year's Christmas dinner party, our annual Fête de Noël, with my French lady friends.

1 English cucumber
½ C bruschetta*
¼ C crumbled chevre (feta would also work well)
fresh cracked pepper and basil leaves to garnish

* This time, I used a purchased bruschetta mix; but a quick mix of tomato, garlic, basil, maybe a little onion or olive or other herbs like oregano or a dash of paprika...anything similar would work! 

If desired, peel cucumber (I used a julienne slicer to partially peel the cucumber for added visual appeal.) Slice the cucumber. Top each slice with a half teaspoon of bruschetta. Garnish with crumbled chevre and a basil leave. Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper.

Steak au Poivre

I suppose you could create this in entrée size portions, but I've only done it as an amuse bouche or appetizer. This recipe makes a couple dozen tasty little bites! The photo's not was taken with my phone when I took these to a 'Fête de Noël' dinner party with my French ladies. :)

1 lb baby yellow potatoes (small Yukon Golds)
2 Tbl butter
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinkly sliced
1 Tbl fresh thyme
kosher salt and coarse ground pepper to taste
1½ tsp brown sugar
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1½ Tbl mixed peppercorns, crushed or ground
     (or use more coarse ground pepper)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 8-oz filet mignon steak (thick cut, and cut into 4 strips)
¼ C sour cream
vegetable oil, for frying

The day before serving, thinly slice the potatoes (about ¼"); place in bowl of water, refrigerate. Change water every 6-8 hours. (Potatoes will be crispier when fried.)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan or pot over medium heat; cook onion, shallot, thyme until very soft (about 30 min). Season with salt and pepper; stir in brown sugar, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire, cooking about another 10 minutes until liquid has evaporated or been absorbed by onions. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine crushed peppercorns and 2 tsp kosher salt in a bowl. Toss steak with salt and crushed peppercorns to coat, pressing mixture into meat. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in skillet over medium high heat; cook steak to medium-rare, turning to brown on all sides. (Do not overcook steak -- especially if you plan to reheat just before serving!) Remove from heat onto cutting board; let rest 10 minutes.

While steak rests, drain potatoes and pat dry. Heat large pot with enough oil to cover potatoes. Fry potatoes in hot oil until golden brown on both sides, stirring and turning as needed. Remove from oil (to a rack set over a baking sheet, or onto paper towel...) season with salt. (Potatoes can be fried ahead and reheated in the oven just before assembling and serving.)

Thinly slice steak. Spoon and spread onion mixture onto each potato slice; top with a slice of steak, and a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle with remaining crushed peppercorns.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Gravlax with Hovmästarsås Sauce

Subbing for a fellow culinary teacher (I'm on a 1-year leave from my regular position) I showed (and watched with multiple classes) a video demonstration of a chef making gravlax. I knew I had salmon in the freezer, and was inspired to try it out! Gravlax is Scandinavian, Nordic especially, and similar to lox -- a cured but not smoked salmon specialty. Traditionally the salmon is cured with salt, sugar, and dill; frequently other spices (juniper berry, horseradish) and liquor are also incorporated. Historically, the fish was buried during curing ("grav"+ "lax" ...grave salmon), so frequently a weight is placed on the fish during curing which helps the curing elements penetrate the salmon. Most often gravlax is served with hovmästarsås  which is simply a mustard-dill sauce.

Here's a very simple version. Easy, but it needs to cure about 3 days, so plan ahead.

1 lb salmon filet
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 C chopped fresh dill OR 1/3 C dried dill

Serve with...
hovmästarsås sauce (recipe follows)
toasted bread / crostini
butter or cream cheese
fresh dill sprigs for garnish

About 3 days before serving...
Combine sugar and salt in small bowl. Using about 1/3 of the sugar-salt mixture, sprinkle a layer on the bottom of a pan or glass dish just big enough for salmon filet. Top with 1/3 of the dill. Set salmon filet into pan, skin side down. Sprinkle with remaining dill; top with remaining sugar-salt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap. Place a heavy pot or a pan filled with weights (or canned goods) on top of the fish and refigerate for 3 days.

About every 12 hours, drain excess liquid from the pan, flip the filet, re-weight and refrigerate.

To serve...scrape the curing elements from both sides of the fish and pat dry. Place salmon on a cutting board, skin side down; slice very thin, on a slant, across the grain, leaving the skin. Slices can be fanned on a platter for service; keep refrigerated.

Serve on thin sliced bread (a dark, heavy bread is traditional) or crostini. Spread butter or cream cheese onto bread, layer with a lettuce leaf and gravlax slice(s), top with a teaspoon of hovmästarsås sauce and garnish with a dill sprig.

Hovmästarsås Sauce Recipe:

1 small garlic clove, finely minced
2 T cider vinegar
2+ T brown sugar, to taste
2/3 C mustard (preferably coarse grain dark mustard)
1/3 C fresh chopped dill

Blend all ingredients, season to taste. Refrigerate until serving; serve at room temperature.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Turnips Anna

This one comes from Sunset Magazine. Inspired by Pommes Anna, with turnips instead of the traditional potatoes. I'm always looking for tasty ways to get more veggies into my diet. A little cheese and bacon in this recipe go a long way. In fact, though it was delicious as is, a little less bacon would still be delicious; or at least with the cured bacon, I would do without the salt next time I make this recipe. And add a little extra of the thyme, which I personally love. Personalize it to your own taste!

6 T butter, melted
6 oz sliced bacon
½ C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 T flour
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
     (additional thyme sprigs for garnishing)
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 lbs small - medium turnips, peeled and trimmed

Generously brush a 9" pie pan with butter. Preheat oven to 425˚, with rack in lower third of oven.

Brown bacon until crisp; drain, and chop.

Combine bacon, cheese, flour, minced thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Thinly slice turnips into rounds - easiest using a handheld slicer or mandoline. Arrange one sixth of the turnips in concentric, slightly overlapping circles, in a layer in a pie pan. (I only did 4 layers.) Evenly sprinkle a heaping 2 tablespoons of bacon-cheese mixture over turnips, and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons melted butter. Repeat layers, ending with turnips.

Lightly butter bottom of another 9" pie pan; set on top of turnips and add pie weights, dried beans or other oven-proof weights. Set layered pans on a rimmed baking sheet to catch bubbling butter. Bake until edge turns golden (about 50 minutes). Remove top pie pan with weights. Continue to bake until browned on top (10-15 minutes more).

Loosen Anna from pan with a knife; invert onto/into serving plate or dish. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

This is an approximate recipe...but soup is easy to make by tasting and adjusting along the way!

¼ C olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 yellow onions, rough chopped
50-60 oz canned, diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 C chicken broth
¼ C sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
12-15 large, fresh basil leaves
1-2 C cream
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic; heat until fragrant. Add chopped onions, cooking until soft and translucent (8-10 minutes), stirring frequently.

Add diced tomatoes, broth, sugar, oregano and basil; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes (more is fine, let those flavors blend). Using an immersion blender, purée until smooth.* Add cream as you purée, return to boil. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Serving suggestions: Serve with cheese lace (pictured), topped with shredded parmesan, a dollop of sour cream, a fresh basil leaf...

* If you don't have an immersion blender, simply work in batches to purée soup in a standard blender.