Friday, February 26, 2010

A beautiful steak dinner

While shopping (with my gift card) at Marczyk Fine Foods, an up-scale Denver spot, several days ago, we were treated to a sample of what they call “Pedro” steak. It was delicious and we bought a ¾ lb. piece. It was seasoned with just Montreal grill seasoning. When I went to King Soopers I couldn’t find the Montreal brand. I went with a Kroger house product called Grill Time Spicy Steak. It’s peppery, salty and very flavorful.

Now this Pedro thing is an unusual cut, very similar to flap steak, or flatiron steak. It’s striated with more fat than either of those, but not to the extent that I had to do anything but trim out some grainy looking bits. Pedro is named after the owner, Pete, so don’t try to find it elsewhere.

We had one more portion of fingerling which Peter roasted (as he has before) with some Indian chat seasoning. We also had half a head of cabbage. I cut up half of that and braised it. You only really need salt and pepper and a bit of broth to do the braise, but we had another unique condiment we had brought home from lunch at a middle Eastern restaurant on Wednesday, thum. The restaurant’s owner described it thus: “99 percent garlic with a hint of lemon, olive oil and a touch of whipped egg white.” It is pungent and no adjective I can think of at the moment suffices to describe it. “Wonderful” will have to do.

My steak technique is very simple. Rub with a bit of olive oil, then rub in (energetically) steak seasoning on both sides (no additional salt and pepper was necessary). Then I heated the ridged side of our stove-top grill to screaming hot and cooked it 4 minutes on one side and 3 on the other. That made it pretty rare, but I sliced the more well-cooked ends for Peter and feasted on the rare center.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Homemade sauerkraut

I’ve just read a fascinating book called “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s all about fermenting and curing pretty much anything you wish. There is extensive discussion of the (supposed) actual health benefits that derive from preserving foods … enhanced nutitional value, e.g.

In any case, Katz inspired me to make my own sauerkraut. The process is extraordinarily simple. It’s not my habit to “cop” a recipe from someone, but the book might be very hard to find (Denver Public Library has only a single copy), and this is worth sharing.

The container I like to use isn’t large enough for the 5 lbs. of cabbage called for. I made ½ a head of standard green cabbage (about 2.5 lbs). All I did was adjust the salt proportionally. Simple. The quantity my amount of cabbage yielded was about 32 fluid oz.

The flavor and aroma are fairly pungent, more like sour dills than a can of kraut off the shelf. We loved it.

My next Katz-inspired attempt will be Korean kimchee, something I’ve made a couple of times with only moderate success.

Homemade sauerkraut (from “Wild Fermentation” by S. E. Katz)
5 lbs. cabbage
3 tbsp non-iodized salt (4 if using kosher salt)
Ceramic crock or large bowl, plate, and something to weight the cabbage down with (brick, jug of water, etc.
Kitchen towel for covering

Chop cabbage or grate it. Layer it in your crock or bowl sprinkling with salt as you go along. You actually don’t need to use all the salt; it might must take a little longer to ferment. Use your hand to press the cabbage down forcefully (without hurting yourself or breaking your vessel) as you go along.

Top the cabbage with a plate or disk of some kind so that, after the cabbage exudes moisture over the first 24-36 hours, the weighted disk will keep it all submerged.

For that initial period cram the cabbage down every few hours and recover with plate, weight and a kitchen towel (to keep out foreign matter). Let the curing vessel sit in a warmish place while the cabbage ferments. If it doesn’t exude enough liquid to cover itself, add some brine to it (1 tbsp salt per cup of water). If it’s in a cooler place it will still ferment, just more slowly.

After 5-7 days start tasting. You have to decide for yourself when it’s “sour” enough. For me it was about 10 days, after which I packed the sauerkraut into jars and refrigerated it.

Boned and stuffed Cornish game hens

I taught myself to completely bone out chickens many years ago. Since the anatomy for game hens is the same, it was easy to bone them. Unless you want to try boning, just leave the birds whole (or use another technique you can see demonstrated online for removing the breast bone and ribs). I post the recipe as if you are not boning the hens.

It was my intent to remove all the bones, but when I got to the wings I realized they were so small that I'd just leave their little bones in. Besides it made the birds still resemble birds after I trussed it up, as above.

What makes this fun is that once the hens are cooked you just slice them like a roast. I wish I could create a YouTube video of my boning technique, but I’m afraid that’s beyond me.

In most supermarkets you can only find a wild rice and white rice mix packaged. It’s fine to use that. Just cook it the way the box says.

Boned Cornish hens with wild rice and mushroom stuffing
2 Cornish hens*
1/2 cup wild rice or wild rice mix, cooked according to the package
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 large white button mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1 small lemon, sliced, seeds removed
2 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature

Reconstitute the shiitakes in hot tap water for 30 minutes.

Cook the wild rice in water or broth, but be sure to use the mushroom liquid. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the middle position.

Cut out the shiitake stems and slice thin. Slice the button mushrooms thin. Saute them both in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter until they’ve released all their water and begun to brown.

Mix the rice and mushrooms together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. If using whole hens (as you probably are), dry them thoroughly inside and out. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Lay lemon slices inside the cavity and then spoon in the stuffing. Tie the legs together to provide a cover on the cavity.

Smear butter all over the birds and season all over with salt and pepper. Place them on a rack, breast side down, in a baking pan with 1” sides. After 20 minutes, turn them over and baste with some more butter. Roast to 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Remove from the oven, spoon out the stuffing and keep it warm, tent birds with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and you know the rest. The total roasting time should be in the 35 minute range.

* Since I boned my birds, I lay them open skin side down on a cutting board. Season with salt and pepper. Lay the lemon slices in the middle and top with a pile of stuffing. Gather the meat together in the shape of a roast and tie with kitchen string to hold it together. Slather the skin all over with butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Then roast as above. You won’t need to remove the stuffing before slicing across, but do remove the strings.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The best "not" tuna salad you will never make

Here he goes again I hear you all saying! Once again Peter and I took advantage of some miscellanea from the fridge and the pantry and last night’s leftover to make something unique and delicious.

On my 65th birthday last year I was given a gift card to a very high end market here in Denver. The amount: $650. Yep. We’ve been making visits off and on and “spending” nearly $100 each time and coming home with some spectacular goodies. I look forward to sharing photos and menus this coming week, during which time we will be feasting on some of the “free” bounty.

Yesterday we bought a piece of hebi, a fish I had never heard of. It’s a “short-billed spearfish” from Hawaii, quite dense in texture. It was cut into 2” thick steaks. In retrospect I wish I had sliced that down to 1” before broiling. I confess I slightly overcooked it. The flavor was good though, and the salad Peter made from it for lunch today was out of this world.

We had a salad with dinner last night and a bed of Israeli couscous under the fish. In the future I will consider preparing couscous and tuna or some other fish just for the purposes of such a salad for lunch.

We used Indian instant pappadums, a lentil or chickpea wafer, as a delivery vehicle for the salad. We find them at Whole Foods. Peter discovered the perfect way to cook them: brush with olive (using your fingers – they are very delicate right out of the box. He then puts them, one at a time, in the microwave for 49 seconds. Not 48, not 50, don’t ask me, I don’t know, but it works. You can see from the picture that they puff up and crisp and are a savory sort of cracker.

The ingredients you see below are nothing if not eclectic. Yet again, this is a function of “stuff” we had and needed to use up.

Accompanying our salad was a bowl of fruit and yogurt and my second bloody Mary of the day. Oh come on, it’s the weekend.

Be sure to tune in in another week or 2 for a report on my homemade sauerkraut, curing even as we speak in a crock on our dining room table.

The best not tuna salad you will never make
4 oz. cooked hebi fish
¾ cup cooked Israeli couscous
¼ green bell pepper, diced
2 scallions, diced (green and white parts)
2 tbsp mayo
2 tsp Dijon mustard
zest and juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper to taste½ cup baby arugula leaves
Flake the fish into a large bowl and mix with all the other stuff. That's it!

Creamed turnips greens

Let’s face it, turnip greens are kind of bitter. I’ve cooked them 3 times now and this version is terrific and by far the most successful. Part of the reason I decided to cream them is that they were sorta wilting. Rinsing them in a big bath of cold water while trimming away the stems firmed them up pretty well.

If you like collards you would probably like turnip greens. They are bitter like broccoli rabe is bitter. Creaming them resulted in an extremely succulent side dish to go with tonight’s homemade pizza.

Creamed turnip greens (2 servings)
1 large bunch turnip greens, well-rinsed, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp granulated garlic*
½ tsp onion powder
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp flour

Heat the oil in a big sauté pan on medium high.

After rinsing the greens drain them in a colander but don’t try to remove all the water. That’s basically going to be part of the cooking liquid.

Add the greens to the pan and toss with tongs while they start to wilt down. As with spinach and other greens, these will almost overwhelm the pan at first but then reduce to a small fraction of their original bulk.

When they are mostly wilted, add salt and pepper, garlic, onion powder, lemon and orange zest and chicken stock. Turn the heat down, cover the pan, and simmer lightly for about 5 minutes. Put the greens in the food processor and puree. Return to the saute pan. Add the cream and flour and stir to combine. The mixture should thicken in a minute or 2. Taste and adjust seasonings.

This can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated before reheating in the microwave.

*granulated garlic is not the same as garlic powder – it just happens that the last time I was intending to buy garlic powder this was all the store had – I actually like it a lot, but just use garlic powder if that’s what you have.

The liver "best" liverwurst sandwich you will never make

Above: Peter assembling the sandwiches and the finished product.

All right, all right, I’m too clever by half. There’s a reason for the title: the sandwiches were made with a chicken liver pate Peter made over the Christmas/New Year holiday and froze. We decided to treat it like liverwurst, something we love.

I’m not even going to write a recipe here. The whole point to this is that I have to share the more remarkable things that get turned out in our kitchen. Go to your deli and order liverwurst if you must, but this was huge fun. And the didact in me just wishes to reiterate: inventory your fridge and freezer and go to town.

In addition to the chicken liver pate we had some Muenster cheese, which seemed mild enough not to challenge the liver flavor, an onion, and some Russian-style dressing we had made for Reubens not too long ago. Peter caramelized the onions, I sliced up a baguette, he did the assembly, and we oo-ed and ah-ed our way through lunch. Almost forgot - he toasted the bread with the cheese and onion on it for a few minutes in the oven before adding the chicken liver.

These two sandwiches comprised half a baguette, from which we always pull out some of the soft innards. It’s our way of cutting down on carbs. Anyhow, just had to share.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The best gravlax sliders you will never make

This is beginning to be an obsession by the obsessive chef: "you will never make." It's only because I'd rather you did not assume you have to replicate my output, rather use it as a template for your own creativity.

I have made gravlax (salt-cured salmon) many times. It always turns out a bit different from the last time - don't know why.

The unique ingredient this time is taramosalata, a Greek-style fish roe mayonnaise. That may not sound appetizing to everyone, but if you like caviar it's wonderful.

The biscuits are generic supermarket ones, easy to make.

The best gravlax sliders you will never make

1 lb center cut salmon filet (skin on)

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp dried dill seed (or fresh dill fronds)

1 tbsp roughly ground black pepper

supermarket biscuits, baked according to package directions

taramosalata (or a mayo-based condiment you like)

Cut the salmon into 2 pieces of equal size. Line a loaf pan with a nice big piece of plastic wrap. Place one piece of salmon skin side down into it. Top with the mixture of salt, sugar, dill and pepper. Invert the other piece of salmon over the first piece with the thick part over the thin part of the bottom piece.

Wrap tightly in the plastic. Put a weight (like, maybe, a can of soup) on top of it. This works best with something flat (I use a little plastic tray from airline food that I brought home years ago). If the soup can wants to roll around, secure it with a wad of foil underneath.

Refrigerate for 2-4 days, turning the salmon several times and being sure not to lose the brine that will exude within hours.

Rinse very thoroughly under cold water. Taste. Sometimes it can seem very salty, in which case I soak it in the fridge in cold water for an hour. To serve, slice against the grain as thinly as you can. As you slice it you will not try to slice the skin, just use that as something that holds the whole thing together.

To make sliders, put a piece of lettuce on half of a biscuit; top with a generous quantity of gravlax and then some condiment. Delicious!

Beef stew 50's style

A few months ago I thawed out what is called a 7-bone chuck roast. My experience had been that slowed-cooked beef has a tendency toward “sameness” no matter what I did. Adding a fresh dose of spices near the end of the cooking time did help, but I just wasn’t satisfied.

Well, I had 3 miscellaneous beef cuts in the freezer, all only roast-worthy, which I thawed yesterday. After trimming I ended up with 2 lbs. of pretty good looking meat. On 12/14/09 I made pot roast in the manner my mother did when I was growing up in the fifties. This time I made a one-pot meal by adding vegetation for the final hour. I also didn’t use wine this time, rather beef broth (lo-fat, lo-sodium). The amount of mushroom soup and onion soup mix is adequate for 3 lbs of meat. I had only 2, but used all of it anyhow.

The instructions that popped up during a Google search were for the old onion soup, mushroom soup technique, no browning required. It was the best pot roast I think I’ve had in decades. So…here I go again.

Beef stew 50’s style
2-3 lbs. trimmed beef stew quality meat
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can mushroom soup concentrate
1 or 2 cans beef broth
1 medium onion, quartered
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
2 large carrots, cut into 2" chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
flour, as needed
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 stalks fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Put the beef into a Dutch oven or other large stew pot, in one layer if possible. Top the beef with the onion soup mix and then the mushroom soup concentrate (don’t add water). Add enough water to come ¾ of the way up the beef (you don’t want it to wash off the dry toppings. Place the onions around the edges.

Bake covered for 2 hours. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees. Bake for another hour, adding in the potatoes and carrots and more beef broth if necessary. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over them. Remove meat and vegetables to an oven-proof bowl, cover with foil and place the bowl in the oven. Turn off the oven.

Pour the juices into a large measuring cup or a bowl. Skim off as much fat as you can. Place juices in a sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in 1 tbsp flour for each cup of liquid. Add thyme and cream and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep at a strong simmer until thickened. Here in mile-high Denver more flour is often necessary and a surprising length of time for the thickening to occur.

Serve up meat and veggies and top with gravy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Weighty" chicken, matey!

“A spatchcock is a poussin or game bird that is prepared for roasting or grilling or a bird that has been cooked after being prepared in this way. The method of preparing the bird involves removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking.”
This according to Wikipedia. A Google search will get you directions on how to do it. It’s easy.
One reason for cooking a bird this way is that you can get wonderfully crisp skin, especially if you start skin side down in a skillet, weight the bird, and after browning remove the weight, turn the bird skin side up and finish it in the oven.
One of our favorite places to shop is Sunflower Market. They have incredibly good quality produce, organic meats and poultry, and incredibly good prices. The chickens are smallish (3-4 lbs) and free range.

“Weighty” chicken, matey
1 chicken (free range and organic is nice, but any chicken will do in a pinch)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
dried garlic flakes
powdered onion
dried tarragon (optional)

Spatchcock the chicken: i.e. remove the backbone and break the breast bone by pressing it (skin side up) with the heel of your hand.

Brine it in a freezer bag with 2 cups water, 2 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper for an hour or two in the fridge. Remove, rinse, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Allow to come to room temperature (about 45 minutes) before proceeding. If you choose to add any more salt, do so judiciously. The longer the chicken was brined, the saltier it will be.
Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat with the oil and 1 tbsp butter in it. When the butter’s foam has subsided put the bird in skin side down. Sprinkle some garlic, onion, tarragon (if using). and pepper over it. Cover it with a piece of foil and weight it with another pan (I like to use our teakettle with some water in it).
Sear and brown the chicken for about 8 minutes. Turn the bird skin side up, add some more spices, and put it in the oven uncovered.

Roast until the internal temperature (measured in the thickest part of the thigh) is 165 degrees.

The best shrimp risotto you will never make

This is the third in a series of “best things you’ll never make,” so named because the ingredients in our recipes were unique to our fridge, freezer or pantry. Of course you can make a very good shrimp risotto without fennel, ramen flavoring, grappa and cheese. We are ardent fans of Giada DiLaurentiis and she advocates the addition of cheese to shrimp risotto. We like it.

While this was a collaborative effort, the main part of the preparation, and the recipe ingredients, are all from my partner Peter’s efforts and imagination.

We had about 3 cups of frozen lobster stock and made a whole batch more yesterday from the frozen shells of 6 lobsters we consumed over Christmas and New Year’s and our Jan. 3 29th anniversary. After stewing the shells for a couple of hours, removing the shells and reducing by about 1/3, we still had somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 cups. 8 cups have gone into the freezer for future shrimp and grits and who knows what else.

You can find canned fish stock in some supermarkets. I’ve never used it. I think if we didn’t have what we had on hand, I would have used low sodium, low fat chicken stock and added some Thai fish sauce for a hint of seafood flavor.

I also strongly suspect you do not have lobster Newburg sauce in your pantry. A couple of Christmases ago Peter’s mom sent us a package of dried pastas, several jars of marinara sauce and these Newburg cans. It is absolutely a non-essential ingredient, but all the eclectic things Peter put together for this yielded a risotto unparallel in my (our) experience. Thanks, partner!
Just for the record, the side dish is sauteed baby spinach.

The best shrimp risotto you will never make
For the shrimp:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
10 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp shrimp ramen flavoring
pinch of black pepper

Heat olive oil and butter until the butter is melted and the foam subsides. Add shrimp, season with ramen flavoring and pepper. Cook until pink ½ way up from the bottom. Turn shrimp, cook 1 more minute and remove from heat and set aside.

For the risotto:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup fennel stalks or fennel bulb pieces, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup grappa, anisette, Pernod or white wine
5 cups lobster, shrimp, or seafood stock, simmering
1 10 ½ oz. can lobster Newburg sauce (available by mail order from the Vermont Country Store)
¼ cup Fennel fronds, chopped
zest of ½ lemon
juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated finely

Heat oil and butter in a sauté pan until the butter melts and the foam subsides. Add onion and fennel stalks and sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes.

Add rice and stir to coat with other ingredients, 2-3 minutes.

Add grappa, anisette, Pernod, or white wine and stir until it is absorbed and evaporates. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until mostly absorbed. Continue adding stock in ½ cup increments, stirring constantly (the usual routine for risotto).

Loosen the Newburg with some stock and heat it in the microwave on high for about 90 seconds, beating the Newberg with a whisk or fork to fully loosen it with the added stock. About ½ way through the risotto cooking process (ten to twelve minutes in), begin incorporating some of the Newburg sauce with the lobster stock. (You may not use all of it, but you’ll certainly have enough, and better safe than sorry vis-à-vis the quantity of stock required to fully cook a risotto).

When the rice is nearly cooked, still a little al dente (20-25 minutes total), stir in the shrimp. Off the heat add lemon zest, lemon juice, grated cheese, softened butter, and chopped fennel fronds.

Serve in heated bowls.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Asparagus soup

I normally don't think about asparagus soup. But, a couple of months ago Peter and I bought (for reasons unknown to me) a package of frozen "baby" asparagus. This stuff frozen is a terrible product.

Then last week we inventoried our 2 freezers, the one in the fridge and the "geezer" freezer in our basement. There they were, those limp spears (once thawed). So soup came to mind. As with nearly any recipe you can add or subtract ingredients. Some carrot might be nice in this. I would think even some spinach could bring something to the party.

By the way, the croutons are homemade. Half of the stock was homemade (found in our freezer) and half came from a can (low sodium, low fat).

Asparagus soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1o oz. frozen baby asparagus, thawed
1/4 cup frozen edamame
1/4 cup frozen peas
onion powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, all to taste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat the olive oil in your soup pot and toss in the onion. Cook a few minutes until softened and then add the garlic. Cook 2 more minutes.

Add asparagus, edamame, peas, spices and stock. Bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly for 30 - 40 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor (do this in batches). Puree completely and return to the pot.

Add cream, bring to a simmer and check for seasonings. Simmer 10-15 minutes and serve in hot bowls with a spritz of lemon.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Turkey loaf

This picture is a little misleading. It's actually a mini-meatloaf. The disposable aluminum pan is 5.5" x 3" and 2" deep. The recipe below makes 2 of them. Each is enough to feed Peter and me twice!

Here is a device I can't live without: an electronic temperature probe. The tip goes into the meatloaf and broadcasts the temperature to the light gray unit which I usually take to the other side of the house where Peter and I watch "Jeopardy" or "Millionaire" before dinner (with cocktails I might add).

On Nov. 24, 2009 I posted my "best meatloaf you will never make," and this is a variation of that theme.

One thing I will do differently next time is to uncover the pans sooner and/or slide them under the broiler to get the bacon crisper.

Turkey loaf
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
1/3 green bell pepper, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a saute pan and cook the onion and pepper just until softened, 4 minutes or so. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees - oven rack at middle level

In a large bowl combine:
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 lightly beaten egg
1/8 cup bread crumbs which have been soaked in milk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
2 tbsp sage pesto (we just happened to have had this - an alternative is too saute some fresh sage with your onion and pepper)
generous pinches of salt and pepper
the cooled onion and pepper

Mix well. Put a teaspoon of the mixture in a small bowl and microwave 15-20 seconds. Taste for seasonings. Adjust accordingly.

Put the mixture into 2 disposable aluminum loaf pans. Top each with 2 half slices of bacon. Place the pans on a baking sheet with 1" sides. Pour in:

1/2" boiling water

Loosely lay a sheet of foil over the pans. Bake to an internal temperature of 170 degrees, removing the foil after about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cheesesteak sandwiches

Denver Bread company, located just a few blocks from our home, daily makes the most wonderful sfilatini (about 16" crusty loaves with pointy ends), delectably soft and puffy sandwich rolls, and (above) baguettes. The baguettes are long enough to make 4 sandwiches.
Once again today's post is not so much a recipe as an idea forum. A few days ago I posted about home-aging steaks. After getting 2 dinners out of the steaks we still had enough for these sandwiches.
One thing we always do is to pull some of the soft centers of the bread out and make it into great breadcrumbs. We cut down a little on our carbs this way.
Cheesesteak sandwiches
4 slices of your favorite sandwich rolls
mustard or mayo or your favorite condiment (ours was a sort of Russian dressing we made for Reubens last week)
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced moderately thinly
leftover steak, sliced thinly
cheese (your choice)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a wide saute pan. When hot, add the onion and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Saute until caramelized over medium/medium-high heat, tossing often (about 10-12 minutes.
Lay the steak slices on top of the onions and top the steak with cheese. Cover loosely with a piece of foil and heat through until the cheese is melted. Fill up your bread and enjoy! Messy but good!


Over the years Peter has perfected homemade pizza making. On occasion he used to make the dough, but that's a hassle, especially when we can get beautiful dough from Sunflower Market here in Denver. They sell both regular and whole wheat dough balls for on $2.99.

We have a couple of favorites ways to top them. Above is a combination of Roma tomatoes, proscuitto, baby arugula and fontina cheese.

We've always had a pizza stone. Start by putting on an oven rack at the lowest position and preheat for an hour at 450 degrees.

We have used parmesan on pizzas. This time we used fontina.

Oh - the pizza stuck a little bit to the peel when it went in the oven. Did not affect the taste at all, but it points up the importance of the "grease" effect of the corn meal.

1 pizza dough ball
c. 14 oz. Roma tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup (more or less) of your favorite cheese, grated

Let the dough come to room temperature.

Liberally sprinkle a pizza paddle with corn meal and roll the dough out fairly thinly into 14" circle. (Doesn't have to be perfect.)

Slice c. 14 oz Roma tomatoes thinly (1/4") and put them on paper towels so that some of the moisture is absorbed and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit for 1/2 hour.

Brush the top of the pizza with garlic/olive oil. Top it with the Roma rounds. Sprinkle salt and pepper

Bake for 11 minutes. Lay the prosciutto slices on the pizza and top with cheese. Bake 4 more minutes.

Toss the arugula with some olive oil. Scatter the arugula leaves on the pizza. Bake 1 more minute.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Breakfast for lunch

Uh-oh, breakfast for lunch again: leftover baked potato, green bell pepper, a bit of celery, and a couple of reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms made for some hash; leftovers of the steak au poivre from last night's dinner, and 2 over easy eggs apiece. Nuf said.

Home-aged rib eye steak

We took an idea from Cooks Illustrated magazine and tried aging some steaks at home. The process was extremely simple: you wrap it in a few layers of cheesecloth, place it on a rack (for air circulation) and put it on the lowest shelf of the fridge for 4 days.
Then we cooked 2 of them steak au poivre style (salted and pressed with rough ground black peppercorns. Yummo! (Thanks, Rachel Ray.)
The baked potato was rubbed with olive oil and an Indian "chat" seasoning. When done (1 hour at 400 degrees in the oven), we split them open and doused them with butter and more chat.


I've got 3 things to post today. Above is a creation my partner, Peter, made from stuff, stuff leftover and in the pantry and fridge. We enjoy having breakfast for lunch and sometimes for dinner. What we had leftover was a bit of a mushroom mix I had used for making buckwheat ravioli several days ago. The other things he threw into this frittata were eggs, cheese, onion and a package of ramen noodles (without the flavor packet). The bacon is applewood smoked.

A little time on the stovetop until the bottom of the frittata set and then a finish under the broiler for 3 or 4 minutes. It was delicious.

My didactic self continues to offer the instruction that one should make a list of "stuff" and what you can do to combine them and not end up throwing them out. A fritatta can be occupied by so many things. It's the perfect vehicle for lots of leftovers. Send me your ideas.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sausage and sauerkraut casserole

The finished product

After rummaging about in the freezer and fridge I hit on an idea to use up a long piece of frozen German sausage and the rest of a bag of sauerkraut we've been using to make Reuben sandwiches. Gosh, this was good!

Sausage and sauerkraut casserole
16 oz. German or Polish sausage
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, sliced
½ cup chicken or beef stock
2 carrots, in bite-size pieces
8 oz. red or new potatoes in bite-sized pieces
1 tsp fennel seed, coarsely ground
1 tsp caraway seed, coarsely ground
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

1 Granny Smith apple, quartered, cored and sliced thin
sauerkraut, drained but not rinsed (enough to cover the top of the casserole)

Cut the sausage into 2-3” pieces. Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan. Add the sausage and onions and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute 10 minutes, until the sausage is browned and the and onions softened. Deglaze the pan with stock.

Meanwhile boil the potatoes and carrots in salted water until nearly done – about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

The veggies and sausage await the apples and sauerkraut

Grease a casserole. Put the sausage mixture into it. Add the potatoes. Add ½ the fennel seed, caraway seed, salt and pepper. (Be judicious about the salt – the sauerkraut and sausage might be salty.) Add the broth. Scatter sauerkraut over the top, enough to cover everything.

Bake covered until hot and bubbling, 1 hour if chilled; 30 – 40 minutes if already warm.

Serve with a grainy mustard and crusty bread if you wish.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Buckwheat pasta

Pizzoccheri is what the Italians call buckwheat pasta. It's not made entirely with buckwheat flour, but rather with a combination of all-purpose and buckwheat. I encountered so many variations of this that I finally just almagamated several ideas into my own very satisfying version.

It has a deliciously nutty flavor and is extremely easy to do in a food processor (which also obviates the need for much kneading).

The dough enhancer is important due to the lack of gluten in buckwheat.

Buckwheat pasta (4 servings as linguini or ravioli)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dough enhancer
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup warm milk

Put the flours, salt, and enhancer into a food processor and buzz for a second or two. Drop in the egg yolks and process until thoroughly combined. With the motor running, drizzle in warm milk only until the contents gather into a ball.

Each time I make this I find I have to incorporate more all-purpose flour on my cutting board to get the right consistency. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to sit for 30 minutes. If you make this a day ahead, refrigerate it, but take it out of the fridge a couple of hours ahead to get the dough to room temp.

Now for the pasta machine. I bought one Ebay a couple of years ago. It's an Italian one made by Markato. I love it. Start with the widest setting (1 on my machine). Cut the dough into 4 pieces and form each by hand into a rectangle thin enough to feed through the pasta maker.

Reset the machine to 2 and run each strip through again. Repeat with settings 3 and 4. The machine has a cutter for spaghetti or linguini. If making ravioli, I cut it by hand. Let the finished pasta sit for an hour or two before cooking.

It will take only 3-4 minutes max in a big pot of boiling, well-salted water to cook. Transfer with a spider into a large pan containing your favorite sauce.

What to fill the ravioli with? I've done pureed squash and most recently sauteed mushrooms (1/2 and 1/2 white buttons and reconstitued dried shiitakes with some salt and pepper and a bit of ricotta cheese).

Polenta cakes with ratouille

We thawed out some ratatouille the other day (see my recipe from Sept. 22, 2009) and had it served over instant polenta. Then last night I cut the leftover polenta into cakes to serve with the last of the ratatouille.

I know using instant polenta may seem like a bit of a copout, but I was a little short of time. Actually it's very, very good and having it set up while you are stirring it for only 1 minute is a gift.

When I make polenta from scratch I tend to make it fairly loose. That makes it less workable for frying cakes of it.

As you can see in the photo, we served dinner with a tossed salad with a homemade vinaigrette (and a liberal pour of vodka on the rocks).

Polenta cakes
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated finely
leftover polenta, cut into cakes
2 egg whites, beaten until a bit frothy
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
chopped parsely, to garnish

Mix the bread crumbs with 1/2 of the parmesan (a little more or less, your choice) in a wide bowl. Dip two sides (opposite each other) of the cakes in the egg whites and let excess drain off. Press the cakes into the bread crumb/parmesan mixture.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a non-stick saute pan. When the butter has melted and the foam subsided, fry the cakes for 4 minutes per side. I put a piece of foil over them and weighted them with a small cutting board to increase contact with the pan.

Take the pan off the heat, leave the foil on, and let the cakes sit for 2 minutes. This is to allow the heat to distribute throughout them.

Serve them as is or with some leftover sauce of somekind (just in case you don't happen to have ratatouille on hand. To save time you certainly could use a jar of your favorite tomato or marinara sauce. Top with the remaining parmesan cheese and some parsley.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A soup redux

This is one of my simpler recipes (I do go on a bit, don’t I?). I made mine with a type of whole lentil bean called urad dal, but any lentils or even canned beans would suffice. Why don’t I add the lentils until the very end? I find that they (or a soup pasta) will suck up a lot of liquid overnight in the fridge (assuming you have leftovers). Beans are less of a problem in that regard. The second time you serve the soup you can warm the lentils in the microwave and the soup will have a fresh taste.

I combine broth and water again for a freshness that all broth might not give you. I think half and half broth and water would probably be fine as well. Individual taste trumps the details of any recipe after all.

A soup redux
3 bratwurst or other sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 large carrot, cut into ½” pieces
3 cups beef broth (or chicken broth) – low sodium
2 cup water
salt and pepper
1 cup lentils (any kind, cooked according to package directions)
juice of ½ lemon
cilantro or parsley for garnish

Put the sausages in a sauté pan with 3 tbsp water. Turn heat to medium. Cook, turning frequently, until the water has evaporated. Add the olive oil and sauté until browned and nearly cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Remove the sausages from the pan and set aside.

Add a little more oil if necessary and when hot add onions to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (4 min.) and then add the garlic. Add the carrots and sauté 5 minutes, again stirring occasionally.

Add the broth and water and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In the meantime, cut the sausages into bite-size pieces. Add the sausages to the vegetable mixture and simmer until the carrots are tender.

When ready to serve, place an appropriate amount of lentils in each heated soup bowl, garnish with lemon juice, cilantro or parsley (or both!) and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish. Refrigerate any leftover lentils for seconds another day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Homemade pastrami sandwich

Corned beef and pastrami are easy to make (if you can find all the ingredients). Dry pickling mixes can be found in most supermarkets, but the pink salt (Prague powder #1) may be a little difficult to acquire. If need be, there are numerous online sources. You don’t need much, so unless you plan a lot of corning, buy just a few ounces.

This pink salt is what keeps the corned beef or pastrami pink when it’s cured. It contains sodium nitrate and sodium chloride, but gets rinsed off after the picking process is finished. I’ve followed a number of different recipes for corned beef and have settled on my own system.

Essentially I made corned beef which I then turned into pastrami (magic!). Get yourself a corning recipe online or maybe in a cook book you own. I think it’s best to use one that calls for the water and pickling mix to be brought to a boil and then cooled completely before the meat goes in.

Most recently I used a portion of some kind of chuck steak. Brisket or flank steak is the norm, but I’ve made corned beef with a number of different cuts. My only criterion is that the “grain” of the meat be discernable and consistent throughout the cut.

Some recipes say steep the beef for 3-5 days, others for several weeks. My last batch went for 2 weeks and was my best effort. After it’s cured, rinse the meat thoroughly – get all the spices bits off it. Put it in cold water and refrigerate for 24 – 36 hours, changing the water once or twice.

Now, here comes the pastrami part. Instead of simmering the corned beef for a few hours with additional pickling spice (though no pink salt), I dried it off and rubbed it with about 2 tablespoons each of cardamom seed and black peppercorns (roughly ground in a spice grinder). Then I put it in a shallow baking pan, on a rack, with water underneath it; covered it with foil and baked it for 3 hours at 250 degrees. Add more water from time to time.

The meat will dry out some, but I steam it to warm it before slicing and making sandwiches. I realize I’m counting on you for taking some initiative with this, but if you are patient you will be rewarded.

Pastrami sandwich
Russian dressing
Swiss cheese
Rye bread

I don’t think you need me to tell you how to make a sandwich, just be sure to steam the pastrami before slicing. And, of course, slice it across the grain and very thin. Pile it high!

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