Sunday, November 30, 2008


Maybe it was my fault for thinking I could do two things at once.  First I was making hummus and roasted eggplant/yogurt salad for dinner- to eat with pitas and some lettuce, tomato, and roasted red peppers.  This is the cubed, roasted eggplant with the Greek yogurt, a bit of honey, toasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds, and some cilantro waiting to be chopped and added.

Then I was also trying to make a caramel pecan ganache tart for Thanksgiving, and a few extra pie crusts to stash inthe freezer.  But, I had a would be helper who would not take "no" for an answer:

Eeew.  Actually, she gets her love of butter from her Swedish side (that would be me).

Crust rolled out beautifully...

"UP!"  "UP!"  "UP!"
I thought giving her the camera would buy me a few minutes to get the tart dough into the pan.  Too bad she had those buttery fingers.  It fell on the floor, for like the 20th time- but this time it broke.

See you when I get a new camera, everyone!

Mustard Glazed Pork Chops

I have carnivore guilt just looking at the picture.  Thick cut, bone in pork chops with a sweet, smoky, and tangy BBQ mustard glaze, sweet potato and apple casserole, and plain blanched sugar snap peas.

I seasoned the pork with just salt and pepper, then seared them in a very hot saute pan.  I didn't even need to add any extra fat since the chops were well marbled.  Let me explain about that skillet- it's not dirty, really.  That black stuff all over the sides is like the seasoning on a cast iron skillet.  A permanent coating from cooking a lot, with very high heat.  I don't even notice it since all the saute pans in restaurant kitchens are this way, but when someone- like my mom- tries to scrub it off I feel a little embarrassed about it so I thought I'd just put that excuse out there...

SO the chops are nice and brown and almost cooked through- I added a dollop of this BBQ mustard, a splash of white wine, a pinch of brown sugar and a glug of chicken stock and let it all boil down into a sticky intense glaze.

Previously, I had cooked some diced Fuji apple in butter and a pinch of allspice. 

I folded the apples into some mashed sweet potatoes, spooned the mixture into a little Pyrex baking dish, and topped it with a scattering of buttered pretzel crumbs before popping it into the oven to crisp up.  I'm a big fan of the crispy toppings, in case you hadn't noticed! 

The chops and potato rest while I blanch the snap peas in boiling water.  They only take about a 45 seconds to perfection.

Lasagna Bolognese

This is an absolutely delicious lasagna.  Unfortunately the photo of it is as a leftover.  I made the lasagna on a night when we went to the Opera and left my parents in charge of baking and eating it while they babysat.  I had the Bolognese sauce in the freezer so it went together in about 15 minutes.

First I made a roux- you know, equal parts flour and fat (in this case butter) cooked briefly together.

Then I added whole milk and brought to a boil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  I used about 1/3 cup each of butter and flour, and about 4 cups of milk.  The sauce should be thinner than you might think, since the noodles soak up liquid.

Can I just say again how awesome those no boil lasagna noodles are?  I never used to make lasagna until someone told me how well these work- now lasagna is a feasible everyday meal.  So anyway, the bechamel (that's the milk sauce) gets layered with the Bolognese and the noodles.

Sprinkle some Parmesan on the top, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes at 350'.  Then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes or so.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Steak Soft Tacos

Adobo spice rubbed Flank steak,  with black beans, seared peppers and onions, avocado, and fresh salsa on warm flour tortillas.

It's kind of messy to cook a flank steak on the stove top.  The broiler might have been a better plan.  Foil over the top keeps the spatters to a minimum and helps speed the cooking.

The ingredients for a little fresh salsa...

The peppers and onion cook while the steak rests...

And voila.  I couldn't resist a little cheddar, too.

Funny thing about this blog.  We just had something like this meal about 10 days ago.  You see how you eat in reality, not just how you think you eat.  I would have said we eat fish and vegetarian both about once a week-also I would not have thought that I repeat meals within the month-  obviously, that's not exactly true.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Swedish PanneBouef

It's like little meatloaves cooked on top of the stove, with lots of nice creamy gravy.

Back story:  when I worked for a Swedish chef in NY (ha ha, like on Sesame Street), a lot of Swedish cooks came over to work there and live in NYC for a while.  Like most fine dining restaurants, the cooks made a meal for the whole staff each service.  Many of us enjoyed to chance to cook "family meal" for our colleagues, but sometimes time was tight and it became a real PITA.  In any case, this PanneBouef was made occasionally by one of the Swedes.  He'd grind up half of a Top Round for it.  The panne evidently means "forehead" I guess- don't really get that- but since it's cooked in a pan it's a good enough name for a simple, quick dinner that most kids will love.

I actually ground up an enormous strip steak for this because I cooked its twin and found it to be less than stellar due to the fact it was frozen for a while.  It was probably close to 1 lb.  Then I added an egg, some breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, dried minced onion (from Penzey's- a decent substitute for when you don't want to bother sauteing a little onion for meatloaves or balls), Worcestershire sauce, a little milk...I think that was it.

I formed the mixture into 4 flattened ovals and browned them in a little oil.  Then, I removed them from the pan and added sliced mushrooms to brown.  You can see the ovals on the inverted pan lid on top of the Dutch oven.  Anything to save a dish!

Then a little minced onion is added and just cooked through, and some beef broth mixed with a tablespoon of flour get whisked in and brought to the boil to thicken.  A hit of heavy cream-

And to finish it I used a touch of stone ground mustard and some capers.  The beef goes back in for a few minutes to cook through and get coated in the delicious sauce. On the side I served roasted sweet and new potatoes (photo is raw).  This was one of those nights I go out and my husband eats with the girls.  The nice thing about the PanneBoeuf is that it can rest there in it's gravy for a little while before dinnertime.  Sour cream is good to use instead fo the heavy cream, but it must be added at the very end and not brought to the boil or else it might curdle.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catching up

It's been a while since I posted so here's what's been on the table:  Sunday somebody gave me a fresh 18 lb turkey (don't ask).  I had thought to roast the whole thing,  but then I came to my senses about having the carcass haunting me for the next week, so I broke it down. I froze the thighs and a breast, I made a nice broth, and I roasted the  drumsticks, wings, and the other breast.  From that, we got dinner plus leftover dark meat and most of the breast for sandwiches.  I didn't take pictures and more's the pity because it was quite the spectacle, with raw turkey all over the counter and the little one pitching a fit to be included.

Monday I made a big calzone, like a stromboli even- roasted eggplant and peppers, spinach, sauce, pepperoni, and fresh mozzarella on a TJ's herb dough.  Rolled it up and baked it about 35 minutes at 380'

Tuesday I used that roasted turkey to make Turkey and Dumplings according to my grandmother's recipe.  Here is it in the pot-

And here plated.

I also made bagels.  They were only OK- I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour which is supposed to be pretty much interchangeable with white, but I thought the bagels were a little heavy and slightly bitter.  Bagels get simmered in sweetened water before they are baked.

The next night we had spinach and feta fritatta with marinated tomato and roasted peppers on crusty baguette.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Schnitzel, southern style

Breaded pork cutlets with collard greens and mashed rutabaga.

I had bought a whole boneless pork loin at Sendiks because it was on sale.  The thing weighed 8 lbs.  I took off the trimmings for grinding- that was about half a pound, plus there was about a quarter pound of waste. Fat, etc.  The remaining I cut into 4 chunks.  3 I froze.  The last I cut into 4 cutlets, pounded to heck with the pointed side of the meat mallet to make sure it's tender and thin, and breaded.  First I sprinkled them liberally with Penzey's Salad Sprinkle- chosen mostly for the garlic (I don't keep garlic salt but that's the flavor I wanted).  Then, they get dusted in flour, dipped in beaten egg, and dredged in fine, dry breadcrumbs.

And pan fried in vegetable oil.  This is a rare treat and it was SO delish!

First, though, I made the collard greens and rutabaga.  Collards are possibly the toughest, hardiest green.  They need long, slow cooking.  Remove the central rib with a paring knife,

Stack and roll up all the leaves, and slice about half an inch thick.  Then wash them well.  I threw these in a pot with some water and a small amount of baked ham I had in the freezer.  Covered, they took at least 45 minutes to get tender.  Towards the end, remove the lid so the excess water can boil off.

Here is the rutabaga.  The skin is thick and wax- coated.  It needs to be peeled with a knife rather than a flimsy vegetable peeler.

First cut a slice off the top and bottom to stabilize it.

The rutabaga simply gets diced and cooked in salted water, then mashed with a large pat of butter.  It's mild and quite tasty.  Takes longer to cook than  potato, and never really achieves that silken texture (unless you want to get out a blender or Cuisinart).  Nevertheless, I like them a lot. 

Beef Barley Soup

A richly flavorful, thick broth with chunks of savory vegetables, tender beef, and hearty barley.

 I started with about a pound of chuck, cut by hand into medium dice.  That gets nicely browned (in bacon fat- mmmm), then celery, onion, garlic, and thick rounds of carrot are added and lightly sauteed.  Next, some tomato paste, and paprika get added and cooked until the bottom of the pot is starting to have a nice brown "fond" (in other words, the juices are sticking to the pot and caramelizing).  

This is how I store the rest of the can of tomato paste in the freezer.  It's pre- chunked so I can just take a little bit.

The liquid for this soup is beef broth, red wine, and a little dried shiitake mushroom soaking water.  Those shiitakes, some thyme, and the barley get added along with the liquids, and the soup cooks for about an hour.  You have to dutifully skim the frothy stuff that comes up, otherwise your soup will look and taste a bit muddy and greasy.

Near the end, I added some white mushrooms that I had sauteed separately.  I had a nice comforting bowl when I got home from a Mom's Night Out.  It was just right.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On top of Spaghetti

All covered with cheese,
I pulled out some meatballs
From the deep freeze.
My children love meatballs,
So I make a huge pot.
When I don't feel like cooking
They sure hit the spot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greek Steak Flatbread Wraps

One of my husband's favorite meals, this is marinated flank steak (grilled in summer, broiled in winter) wrapped in a flatbread with some greens and a saucy Greek salad.

The salad is tomato, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives (one of the few flavorful varieties that are available pitted), feta, and some red onion in a quick balsamic vinaigrette.

When I use raw onions in salads I always cut them very thin with a sharp knife and then rinse them under cold water.  It takes away some of the sharpness that can take over a dish.

The flank steak, marinated overnight in salt, balsamic, a touch of brown sugar, lots of garlic, and a little red wine.  After broiling I let it rest, then slice it thin and toss the slices back onto the juices on the broiling sheet to get all that good flavor. 

This is a pretty quick dinner if you use pita bread.  I felt like cooking, though, so I made breads.  First I made a "sponge" of a few tablespoons flour and about a cup of warm water.  That sits for an hour or so to give the yeast a chance to get going.

Next, salt, olive oil, and the rest of the flour are added and it gets kneaded.  Such a little bit of dough is easier to do by hand than cleaning the mixer, I find.

This is the "smooth and elastic" ball of dough before rising...

And after about 45 minutes.  I cut it into 6 pc and roll it out into rough circles about as thick as one of those floor puzzle pieces- pretty thin.  

If you try to work  the risen dough into balls to get perfect circles, you will have to let it rest again before you will be able to roll it out.  Dough seizes up when worked and your rounds will sort of shrivel back in if the dough is not sufficiently relaxed when you go to roll it out.  

Then throw it right on your griddle or cast iron skillet.  It cooks quick.  You can roll the next one out while they cook.  Probably no more than 2 minutes for both sides. 

As they come off the stove, wrap them in a clean towel to stay warm and pliable.  I cooked the breads while the steak was resting.  Fresh cooked breads are awesome.