Sunday, September 28, 2014

Italian Style Sausage Pasta Sauce (slow cooker recipe)

Last Christmas I received a really cool fast, slow cooker.  This thing is amazing; it can braise, slow cook and pressure cook in the same machine.  I have not yet experimented with the pressure cooker setting, but the slow cooker part I really love.  You can also extend the warming time before or after cooking.  One of the first things I tried in the slow cooker part was a recipe for pasta sauce.  My husband loves pasta and sauce and is constantly asking me to make this sauce for him.  It also freezes well as it makes a large batch (10 cups).

Spicy Sausage Pasta Sauce (adapted from Italian Slow Cooker by M. Scicolone)
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 large red onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 dry red wine
1 28 ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes with basil and in their juice, roughly chopped
1 28 ounce can tomato puree
salt to taste

Turn the setting to braise (or in a skillet before putting into the slow cooker).  Break the sausage into lumps and brown.  Once the sausage is browned, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.  Add the wine and scrape down the sides of the pan.  Pour the contents into the slow cooker.  Add the roughly chopped tomatoes, puree and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 5 hours.  Taste for seasoning once complete.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tomato Pie

During my last year of high school I was an exchange student to New Zealand.  One of my friends there was from Sweden.  One night she invited me for dinner, and she had made a recipe from Sweden - tomato pie.  I was in heaven.  My grandma taught me to love tomatoes and I frequently eat them as she does - only with salt.  So when I had this tomato pie, I fell in love.  I am sure I asked her for the recipe, but I never made it and have since lost the recipe.  When I visited her in Sweden some years later, she made it for me again....and again I was in love.  So when I saw this recipe from America's Test Kitchen, I knew it was time that I tried to make it.  I still long for the recipe my friend gave me all those years ago, but this one was a very good replica even if it didn't have the wonderful memories attached to that Swedish tomato pie.

Summer Tomato Pie
Double crust pie dough  (see below)
2 pounds tomatoes (I used roma), thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
4-5 scallions sliced

Double crust pie dough
2 1/4 flour
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
cold water

Directions:  Mix flour with cold butter and salt until the dough resembles small crumbs.  Add cold water until a ball of dough comes together.  Divide into two pieces for a top and a bottom dough.  (Refrigerate until you roll it out.)
Layer the thinly sliced tomatoes on paper towels/cutting boards to drain off as much water as possible.  Sprinkle with salt to avoid for more weeping.  Press dry with paper towels.  Roll out your dough and place one round in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll out the top round as well and also place that in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Spread a layer of shredded cheese on the bottom of the pie dough.  Mix the mayonnaise, cornstarch, and remaining cheese in a bowl.  Place a third of the tomatoes on top of the cheese.  Then sprinkle half of the cheese and mayonnaise mixture over the tomatoes.  Place another layer of tomatoes over the cheese.  Sprinkle the last of the cheese on top and place the remaining tomatoes on top.  Sprinkle the scallions on top (or between each layer if desired).  Arrange the crust on top of the pie and press the edges together.  Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 10 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 325F and baked until the crust is golden brown, about 50-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack until room temperature.  Serve at room temperature or slightly warm.  (The next day I put it in the microwave for a minute just to slightly warm it up and bring out the flavors.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Red Quinoa Pancakes

I think I have mentioned that I have been on a whole grain kick recently.  I also love to eat breakfast...if I could I would cook and eat breakfast every morning over a leisurely glass of orange juice, coffee or tea.  So combining the love of breakfast and whole grains, I wanted to try Andrew Wiel's quinoa johnny cakes from True Food.  This is also a restaurant which I have only been to once, but everything I ate and drank there was delicious.  The kicker for this whole grain pancake is the toppings....plain yogurt and just a little real maple syrup.  The down side is that the batter needs to sit an hour....and who wants to wait an hour to cook up quick pancakes?  I think it was worth it.  I am going to try to reheat them tomorrow for breakfast since it makes quite a lot of pancakes.  Note: Reheating worked well.  They were almost as good as the morning I had made them.

Quinoa Pancakes
1 cup red quinoa (though you could use any color)
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar or cane sugar
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup milk (I usually use 2%)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup blueberries
greek yogurt  and maple syrup for serving

Bring a medium saucepan to boil with 2 cups of water and a pinch or two of salt.  Once boiling add the quinoa and stir. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the water has evaporated and the quinoa is fluffy.  Set aside to cool.  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.  In another bowl combine the milk, eggs, vanilla extract and oil.  Stir to combine all ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until combined.  Add the quinoa and gently mixed.  Set aside for about an hour.

Brush the cooking surface with oil.  Once hot add the batter in about 1/3 cup increments.  Add the blueberries and press them in gently.  When bubbles form and lightly browned, flip and cook until lightly browned.  Serve with yogurt and maple syrup.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hand Pies (Hand Held Mini Fruit Pies)

Before my husband and I were married, his family came to visit us one summer.  We decided to go somewhere for the weekend.  Camping was out as it was cold and rainy.  So we decided on a drive through the mountains and ended up in Breckenridge for the weekend.  I don't think I had ever been to Breckenridge in the summer before and it turns out it is very nice (and quieter) in summer than it is in winter.  As we were wandering through town trying to decide on a place to eat lunch, my husband's father stumbled upon a place that sold "hand pies" which were mini fruit pies for one.  We ended up going back there several times.  My husband and I went to Breckenridge this summer again to see some friends who were staying there for the weekend.  We had recently been talking about the hand pies and wanted to find out if the place was still there and open.  Sadly, it had closed, but I was determined to replicate these hand pies in my kitchen.  Looking through some recipes I found one which was similar using a basic pie crust and filled with jam (or homemade pie filling or if you want savory you could fill it with tomato sauce and cooked sausage and any rate the possibilities are endless).

Hand Pies

For the pie dough:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cinnamon (if desired)
12 tablespoons butter, cold
water (enough to form the dough)

your choice:  jam, marmalade, spinach and ricotta, nutella
Egg beaten

Mix all the ingredients except water.  Mix until the butter looks like a fine crumb.  Slowly add cold water, just enough to form a ball of dough.  Do not over mix.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll out dough into a rectangle.  This should make 12 rectangles (or 6 hand pies).  Once rolled out, choose a filling...the easiest is to start with jam.  Spread about a tablespoon of jam in the middle of the dough.  Be sure to leave an edge to be able to press together.  Place the second rectangle over the first and press the edges together with a fork.  Spread the egg mixture over the crust and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Blood Orange Juice

When I was growing up my parents had a juicer.  Not like the one pictured here, but one of those big ones that could juice vegetables as well as citrus fruits.  One year my grandma got one too, so there were two floating around our family.  Once my grandma downsized from a house to an apartment, I inherited the juicer, but it sat unused for so many years I finally gave it to a friend in one of my moves.  After a couple of years I decided I wanted another citrus only juicer as that is the part I can see myself using.  So here it is above with blood orange juice mixed with regular orange juice.  Because blood oranges can be a bit tart, it is good to mix them 1 to 3 with regular oranges, but you can be the judge of what ratio you use.

2 blood oranges
6 regular oranges

This makes about two good sized glasses of orange juice depending on how much juice is extracted from each orange.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pork and Tofu Stir Fry

I have made a number of recipes from the book Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion.  It is a great book for those of you who like to cook during the week, but don't want to spend a lot of time doing it.  I wanted to add to the rotation some interesting, quick recipes that came together quickly so I wouldn't be spending my whole evening cooking and then cleaning.  This is an interesting recipe because the pork and tofu are basically the whole meal.  For me next time I would add at least one vegetable.  If I am taking out my wok to make this I might as well make it a bit healthier, so that I don't have to make an additional side dish that matches with these flavors.  That being said, it is also different because it uses a ground pork instead of a marinated steak sort of meat.  I liked the difference, but will have to make it a couple more times before I am assured of the balance of flavors.  Also, watch the salt in this recipe as I found it became salty quickly.

Ground Pork with Tofu
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoon safflower oil
1 1/2 inches of ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon hot bean sauce
1 -2 pinches crushed red peppers
1/2 chicken stock
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 package silken tofu, cut into cubes

Serve with rice, pepper and scallions

In a small bowl, mix together the wine and half (1 tablespoon) cornstarch.  Add the pork and mix together.  Marinate for about 5 minutes.  In another small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and water.  Heat your wok over high heat (or high heat setting) and the add the safflower oil.  When it reaches the smoking point add the pork, cook until no longer pink.  Add the ginger, garlic and red pepper, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds.  Add the stock and soy sauce and bring to a simmer.  Add the tofu and bring back to a simmer.  Cook until the tofu is hot, about 1-2 minutes.  Check your seasoning as adjust as necessary.  Clear the bottom of the wok and add the cornstarch and water mixture.  Mix everything together and simmer until thickened (about a minute).  Serve over steamed rice with additional red pepper if desired.

Serves about 4

Friday, September 5, 2014

Farro and Lentil Soup

This past winter I have experimented with lentil recipes.  This was one of them that I tried.  I have mixed feelings about lentils as sometimes I really like them and sometimes they just aren't very good.  This recipe definitely falls into the very good category.  It is one of the reasons I still have lentils in my house.  I want to have more recipes that make me like lentils, so I can make more soups/dishes with them as I find them filling, tasty and healthy.  The other part of this recipe that I like is the farro.  I have been obsessed with farro for more than a year and I am always happy to integrate it into recipes which I didn't have to do for this one.

This soup is based off a recipe in Bough, Borrowed and Stolen by Allegra McEvedy.  This is quite an interesting cookbooks as each chapter focuses on a different part of the world where she traveled to and wanted to replicated in this book.  I like it as it has several recipes for a place and because I like to cook different and interesting recipes from around the world.

Farro and Lentil Soup
5 oz. smoked bacon, cut into pieces (mine were about 1/4 inch thick)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced finely
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped (with leaves)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 generous pinch (or two) of red pepper flakes
6 oz. lentils (small lentils)
3 oz. farro
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions and bacon.  Put on a lid and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  After a minute or two, add the celery, rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch or two of salt.  Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and farro and then add them to the saucepan.  After about 2 minutes, add the chicken stock.  Stir everything together and place the lid on (allowing for steam to escape).  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  After about 20-30 minutes your lentils and farro should be cooked.  Remove half the soup and place in a blender (to thicken the soup) and return it to the saucepan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let it simmer for another 5 minutes (lid on, but allowing for steam to escape).  Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil on top.