Saturday, 13 October 2007
I knew all of those gourmet cooks out there would come up with exciting and exotic combinations for their risotto. The problem is, I'm just a Mom cooking for her family, far from being a gourmet. So I opted to just go with what I knew my kids would like.
Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day, so it only seemed fitting that I try to combine the two and make a breakfast risotto with bacon and eggs. I considered setting poached egg atop of the risotto, but I didn't feel that the rice would take on the egg taste that I imagined. I also considered adding some fresh tomatoes to the risotto, but I thought the tomatoes just might overpower the subtle egg.
So here it is, for better or worse: Breakfast Risotto
Bacon and Egg Risotto
2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
6 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
Fresh salsa for garnish
Slice the bacon slices into 1/2" pieces. In heavy-bottomed pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain.
Remove all but 4 tbs of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the chopped onion and let it cook until translucent.
Turn heat down to medium and add the arborio rice. Stir well with to coat all of the rice with the bacon fat. Add 1/2 cup of stock. Cook, stirring almost continously until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Continue in this manner until you come to your last 1/2 cup of stock.
Add the last 1/2 cup of the stock. When it is just about absorbed, stir in the bacon and crack three eggs on top of the risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Let the eggs sit for about one minute (the whites will begin to cook) and then carefully stir into the risotto. This process goes very quickly as the egg will cook immediately.
Remove from heat. Garnish with some fresh salsa or chopped tomatoes and serve.
Friday, 12 October 2007
It's funny how there are so many things from my childhood that are a bit fuzzy or I just can't remember them altogether. I remember breaking my arm, but for the life of me I can't remember how old I was. We had a cat, and I can't even remember her name. (In all fairness, I'm not a cat person, so that's not surprising.) The kids up the street that I played with, yup, forgot their names. I remember Mrs. Danzilio, my sixth grade teacher, but all of my other elementary school teachers' names are gone with the wind. So why haven't I forgotten the brand of tuna that I ate?
My mother was a marketer's dream. When she liked a brand, she was more brand-loyal than the marketers themselves. And for better or for worse, I believe I have inherited her sense of brand loyalty. Maybe that's why I've made marketing my career.
So many brand-name items that my Mom swore by are top-of-mind with me, even though I don't use them all today. Like Ivory soap and Ivory Snow. My Mom wouldn't use any other brand to save her life. This is one brand tradition I have not carried with me into adulthood. That stuff is harsh! But my Mom, I mean she even swore by Ivory Dish Soap. Quite the Ivory Poster Girl my Mom was.
Then there was the Land o' Lakes butter. My Mom couldn't eat butter for health reasons and used margarine for herself. I remember the sticks of oleo in the gold box with the crown on it, but can't remember the name. But I'll never forget the Land o' Lakes.
Hellman's mayonnaise was also a staple in our house. My Mom never used that fake stuff and neither have I. Now, I don't particularly like mayonnaise, but there is always a jar of Hellman's in my fridge. I never use it all before its expiration date, but when I throw out the old jar, I go right back and buy a new one. Yup. Just like my Mom.
Outside of Morton's salt, Crisco shortening and Crest toothpaste, there are really no other brands that I can remember from my childhood. I don't remember what cereal I liked or what cookies or snacks I craved. So why can't I forget the tuna?
My mother served us "Tonno Tuna" in the gold can. It was packed in oil. Yummy, scrumptious olive oil. I have never really deciphered what the real name is because the can says "Genoa Tonno". Genoa, Italy is where it's from and "tonno" I assume means tuna in Italian. We just called it "tonno tuna". Again, I'm 48 years old and have never purchased any other brand of tuna. No Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea for me. If I can't find tonno tuna, I go tuna-less.
There were three things my Mom made with tuna: tuna-noodle casserole (egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup, tonno tuna and frozen peas -- yuck yuck), macaroni salad (which was basically elbows, tonno tuna, mayo, salt&pepper and celery), and my favorite tuna sandwiches mixed with a little mayo and lots of pickle relish, served with a slice of processed American cheese on white bread. (Sunbeam white bread I believe.)
I remember my Mom would partially open the can and then tilt it over a cup to let the oil drain out before she used it. My sister and I would just sit there and stare the at can of tonno tuna, waiting for that last drop of oil to ooze out so that we could enjoy it. Tuna torture.
Take my word for it, be careful before you try tonno tuna, because there will be no going back. All of the other brands, packed in oil or not, will taste like cardboard. Just trust me.
I guess that's why I just can't forget the tuna.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Minko at Couture Cupcakes has done her part and has challenged us to create some pink dishes to show our support for this worthy cause. I opted to go the candy route this time and whipped up some pink Raspberry-Chocolate Marshmallow Hearts for the event.
You may think that marshmallows are just little white blobs that come out of a bag, but if you've never made them yourself, now is the time. I make a lot of them this time of year, as they're perfect for creating little white marshmallow ghosts to decorate halloween cupcakes!
PS - I cook. I bake. I don't decorate as you can see by the pictures. Minko, I give you all the credit in the world for the beauties that you produce!
PINKOTOBER MARSHMALLOW HEARTS
3 envelopes Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs raspberry extract (or whatever flavor you prefer)
Red or pink food dye gel
Confectioner's sugar for dredging
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 cup cold water and let rest 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
In saucepan over medium-high heat, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for 1 minute.
Working quickly, remove from heat and add to the gelatin mixture. Using whisk attachment if you have it, combine ingredients at high speed. Add salt. Beat at high speed for 12 minutes. About halfway through, add drops of the food dye gel until you reach the desired color.
While the sugar mixture is going, get a 9" x 9" pan and line with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. You should also get your utensils ready by getting a large spoon and a spatula and spraying both of them with cooking spray as well. (You'll thank me for that one!)
When the marshmallow is done, use the coated utensils to empty into the 9" x 9" pan. Use another piece of oiled plastic wrap to lay over the marshmallow and smooth it out. Wait for the marshmallow to dry, approximately two hours. Turn out onto table coated with a think layer of confectioner's sugar. Sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar.
Use cookie cutters or scissors to cut into hearts (or other shapes). Dredge each shape in confectioner's sugar. Dip or decorate the shapes with melted chocolate. Let set.
Store in airtight container.
Note: You can use any color food dye gel and any flavoring that you wish. If you would like to make plain, white marshmallows, use vanilla extract.
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
No culinary round-up of Miami would be complete without a discussion about the two classic Cuban sandwiches, the (aptly named) Cuban Sandwich (also known as the Cubano) and the Medianoche. In South Florida, these two sandwiches have all but replaced our beloved tuna melts and blt's on the deli menus. And rightly so. They are delicious.
The most important parts of both of these sandwiches are the bread and the pork. The bread must be Cuban bread (sweet yellow bread for the Medianoche), and the pork must be slow roasted.
The Medianoche got its name from the time it is generally eaten: midnight. In the United States, we may end a night of dancing with bacon, eggs and coffee at the local diner, but in Cuba, it's a Medianoche. Once you taste it, you'll understand why.
Traditional Cuban Sandwich
1 6" loaf Cuban bread (grinder/submarine/hoagie roll can substitue in a pinch)
4 slices ham
4 slices roasted pork
2 slices swiss cheese
1 dill pickle, cut into thin lengthwise strips
Slice the bread horizontally in half, leaving one edge intact. Spread mustard on one side of the bread and mayonnaise on the other.
Layer the ingredients, starting with the ham, pork, cheese and then pickles. Close up the sandwich. Preheat a sandwich press. If you do not have a sandwich press, you can subsitute a panini press or simply use a cast iron pan with another cast iron pan or a brick wrapped in tin foil to weight the sandwich down.
Butter or oil both sides of the press of panini maker. Place the bread in the pan and cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is slightly hard to the touch. (Note: If you are not using a panini or sandwich press, you will have to flip the sandwich halfway through cooking.) Remove from heat and enjoy!
Follow the directions for the Cuban sandwich. Use Cuban sweet bread (or substitute Jewish Challah egg bread). Omit the mayonnaise and mustard.
Sunday, 7 October 2007
These festivals, known as sagras or festas, may be religious at heart, but they're really all about the food. And you certainly don't need to be Catholic to attend them.
Italian streetfood in all of its glory is traditionally served at these festas: Calzones, Italian ice (lemon of course), pizza slices, fried dough, cannolis, meatball sandwiches oozing hot mozzerella cheese and, something no decent festa would be without, hot sausage & pepper grinders.
I don't make these at home very often, but they're a good "guy" food for the football season and hold up well keeping warm in the crockpot. You can also serve the sausage & peppers as a main or side dish, but I prefer them as grinders.
For those of you who are trying to figure out what a grinder is, we also call them sub sandwiches. You may know them as "heros" or "hoagies" or "wedges", but whatever. They're all the same thing!
Italian Sausage & Pepper Grinder
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 hot Italian sausages
6 sweet Italian sausages
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Italian (or sweet) peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste
1 loaf fresh Italian bread, cut into 4 pieces OR 4 grinder rolls
In a large skillet, heat oil and fry sausages on all sides until browned. Drain off excess fat and add the onions, garlic, peppers, tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper.
Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes or until peppers and onion are tender.
Slice Italian bread segments lengthwise almost but not all the way through. Load with sausage & peppers. Serve with plenty of napkins.
NOTE: Italian sausage sold in packages is generally 1 lb of sausage in six 3-4" links. I like to slice them in half lengthwise after browning to make them easier to eat. If you are buying fresh Italian sausage it will probably come in one large link. Just simply cut into pieces 3-4" long.
TIP: Most authentic store-made Italian sausage has some fennel in it. If you are buying a name-brand it probably does not include the fennel. You can throw some fennel seeds into the dish to give it a more authentic taste.
Saturday, 6 October 2007
Sixteen years later, I divorced. Quiche was back on the menu. Woo hoo!
Quiche is another one of those foods that I love but has almost dropped off the face of the earth along with nehru jackets and lava lamps. It may have gone out of fashion, but it has so many appealing qualities. It is a great way to turn leftover meats and veggies into a like-new meal, and you can also make it ahead of time and reheat it just prior to serving which means it's a good choice when hosting a breakfast or brunch.
In my home, quiche has become a staple for holiday breakfasts. My daughters' favorite breakfast is pancakes and bacon and my son prefers eggs and sausage. No problem! I just whip up a sausage and cheese quiche the day before the holiday so that I don't have arguing kids OR two meals to cook! I also make it occasionally on the weekend so that my son can heat it up during the week for a quick hot school morning breakfast.
So let's turn the clock back. Make a quiche this weekend! And be sure to let me know what unique combinations you come up with.
One 9" deep dish pie shell uncooked and well chilled
1/2 to 3/4 pound meat or veggies
1-3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbs butter, softened
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup shredded cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the bottom of the pie shell several times with a fork. Spread the butter on the bottom of the pie shell. Pre-cook meat (thoroughly) and/or veggies (slightly or not at all, depending on the veggie).
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Place pie shell on baking sheet. Place meat and/or veggies on bottom of pie shell. Top with shredded cheese. Pour egg mixture into pie shell, covering meat and cheese.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let sit for five or ten minutes before serving.
Tip #1: Wrap the crust edges in aluminum foil or use a pie ring to prevent the edges from getting too browned. Remove foil or ring during last 15 minutes of cooking.
Tip #2: If your pie crust seems too soggy after the quiche is cooked, next time, try omitting the butter, filling the pie crust with dried beans or pie weights and cooking for 10 minutes before adding the fiilling. Filled cooking time remains the same.
Suggested quiche ingredient combinations:
- Bacon and cheddar
- Sausage and half cheddar/half mozzerella
- Omit the meat and veggies and instead use 1-1/2 cups shredded hard cheese (cheddar, swiss, gruyere, etc.) and 1/2 cup soft cheese (goat, ricotta, etc.)
- Canadian bacon and brie (cubed)
- Broccoli and cheddar
- Crab and swiss
- Spinach and gouda
- Bacon, swiss and chopped onion (traditional Quiche Lorraine)
- Asparagus and mushrooms with Havarti or swiss
- Ham, bacon, jalapenos and tomato with Monterey Jack and cheddar
Friday, 5 October 2007
You know I love Italian cooking, so it was no surprise to discover that the Muffuletta was invented by a Sicilian immigrant in 1906 at the Central Grocery in New Orleans. What sets it apart from other Italian sandwiches is the olive salad. Oh, how I love olives. All kinds. Every kind.
Adapted from a recipe by my favorite Chef in the world, Giada DiLaurentis. The best bread for this is a Ciabatta loaf, but if you can't find a round one, just make sure you get a hearty, crusty round loaf. These are great sandwiches for picnics and road trips. If you press them long enough, when you slice them into wedges they tend not to fall apart too easily.
Olive salad (recipe below - can be made ahead)
Red wine vinaigrette dressing (recipe below - can be made ahead)
1/4 lb prosciutto
1/4 lb thinly sliced sandwich pepperoni
1/4 lb genoa salami
1/4 provolone cheese
1 large ball fresh mozzerella, sliced thinly (do not use pre-packaged)
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
Roasted red peppers (homemade or jarred, packed in water)
Artichoke hearts (jarred, packed in water)
Arugula or romaine lettuce
Fresh basil leaves
Cut sandwich into wedges and serve.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
10 large pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata olives
4 tbs red wine vinegar
2 tbs finely chopped shallot
1 tbs Dijon mustard
4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
This is my last in the series (for now at least) of my favorite recipes that use homemade applesauce. I've grown up eating this to-die-for dessert which is spot-on for crisp fall and winter nights. I'm actually quite surprised that to date, I've not met one other person who has ever heard of it! You've all had applesauce and most of you have had gingerbread. Well, imagine steaming the gingerbread atop a pot full of applesauce? Yummy-licious!
When I was younger, we used to spend a few weeks every summer at a log cabin in Rangeley, Maine with a neighbor family. Since even the summer nights in Rangeley feel like they are sub-zero, their Aunt Pat used to whip up this dessert for us. I fell in love with it then, and I hope you fall in love with it now.
Applesauce Steamed Gingerbread
For the Gingerbread:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup hot water
2 to 4 cups pre-made or homemade applesauce
In a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add applesauce until it has a depth of anywhere from 2 to 4 inches, depending on how much applesauce you want in the finished dish. Warm applesauce while mixing the gingerbread batter.
To make the gingerbread batter, mix melted and slightly cooled butter, sugar and egg in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients. Combine molasses and hot water and stir to combine. Add flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture alternately with the molasses mixture and whisk to combine.
Once the applesauce is warmed up, top it with the gingerbread batter, spreading it to create a "seal" over the applesauce. Cover the pot and let it cook for approximately 30 minutes, checking it occasionally to be sure that it has not risen to top. Gingerbread will be done when it has puffed up, it has lost its wet sheen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Scoop into bowls and top with fresh whipped cream.
I'm very much a WFYB cook (Whatever Floats Your Boat) and I believe that most recipes are directional only. Feel free to use your own favorite gingerbread batter (cake -- not cookie batter). I cut the gingerbread recipe in half, used two cups of homemade applesauce and put it in my small 1 quart Dutch oven to cook. And while I generally taste rather than eat my creations lest I weigh 1,000 lbs, I've been snacking on this all day. Someone stop me!
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
Trust me, whatever combination you decide to try, you'll love it!
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups applesauce
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Coat two 9" round pans, one regular sized Bundt or 12 mini Bundt pans with nonstick spray.
Beat butter, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a large bowl with mixer on low speed until blended. Increase speed to medium-high and beat, scraping bowl a few times, for 3 minutes or until fluffy.
On low speed, beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. Beat in flour in four additions, alternately with applesauce in three additions, just until blended. Stir in raisins, if desired. Divide batter between prepared pans, gently spreading level.
Bake according to chart below, or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Gently invert cakes onto rack. Cool completely.
Fill and frost the layer cake with your choice of Buttercream, Creamed Cheese or Caramel Frosting. Garnish with a few very thin slices of apple.
- Two 9" layers: 40 minutes
- One regular-sized Bundt pan: 45 to 55 minutes
- 12 mini Bundt pans: 30 minutes
4 cups apple cider plus 2 tbs, divided
16 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks or 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
When cider mixture is reduced, add cornstarch mixture; cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; cool completely.
Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks from glaze; discard. Drizzle over cake.
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs milk
Monday, 1 October 2007
Applesauce is so underestimated in American cuisine that it seems to have almost exclusively been relegated to the realm of baby food. When I was growing up, though, no self-respecting Mother would serve roast pork to her family without a side of home-made applesauce. In the warmer months we feasted on Applesauce Cake, and in the colder months we just couldn't wait to get a heaping bowl of Applesauce-Steamed Gingerbread with some whipped cream topping. Yummmy!
So here's my Homage to Applesauce. Enjoy the recipe, and be sure to come back to get my Applesauce Cake and Applesauce-Steamed Gingerbread to be posted in the next few days!
You should experiment with a mixture of different varieties of apples until you get a combination that's right for you. If you use some sweeter varieties then you will be able to use little to no sugar in the end product! Measurements and amount and types of spices used are all very approximate as well.
10 to 12 large apples (I used MacIntosh for this recipe)
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
Lemon Juice (as needed)
Sugar (as needed)
Cinnamon (as needed)
Cloves (as needed)
Peel and core the apples. Cut each into 16 slices. In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add the water, cinamon stick and lemon juice. The lemon juice plays two important parts in the making of applesauce. It helps to keep the apples from turning brown before they reduce and it adds a bit of tartness to the end product. If you are using tart apples like I did in this recipe, then shouldn't need more than a few teaspoons of lemon juice. If you're using all sweet varieties, you may need to add more.
Add the apples to the pan and stir to coat with the water/lemon juice mixture. Cover the pan and let simmer for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the apples have broken down. It's important to keep the pot covered or the liquid will evaporate and you'll wind up with apple butter.
There are no rules from this point on. It's all about your preferences. Just turn your heat to low, remove the cinnamon stick and taste, taste, taste. Since I use my applesauce for baking, I like it sort of raw and chunky. Others may want to use a potato masher, food mill or sieve to get a finer product.
If your applesauce is too tart, add some white sugar. (For this recipe with the MacIntosh, I used 3 tbs sugar.) If it's too sweet, add more lemon juice. You can kick it up with some ground cinnamon and a dash of ground cloves, or not. It's up to you.
Yield: 4 to 6 cups applesauce