Sunday, August 29, 2010

Things We Eat

When you're two something as simple as a mini dill pickle can make you say "You're a good cook Mommy."  Ummmm thanks buddy.  But when you're....... let's just say no longer two..... you can cook up a storm and not be overly impressed with any of it.  It is Tuesday and I can already tell that when it comes to next week.... I got nothin' fur you.  I know this because I'm still battling a head cold from last week, I am drowning in homework thanks to the cold, and I have class again this week which means unless I make something miraculous on Sunday I GOT NOTHIN' FUR YOU.... of course if I make something amazing on Sunday you wouldn't be seeing this post so guess what?  There is a fantastic recipe at the end of the post if you want to just skip on down to it, but it was just posted for the first time a week ago or so, and even I have scruples enough not to repost so soon after the original post.  So scroll on down if you want to skip the whining, however if you enjoy a good miserable sulk let us take a stroll down disappointment lane for a moment shall we?

It's not that I was a slacker in the kitchen, I really wasn't.... I made these gigantic meatballs that Guy Fieri raved about in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives....

This photo really doesn't do it justice, I mean it looks kind of big here but seriously they are bigger than baseballs, you can tell when they are in the pan....

You can only fit 6 in a pan it's crazy.  I knew there was no way all the food from those places could be as fantastic as he says... I mean these were so-so at best.  Fairly bland which was a pity.  I do like that they are big enough that the meatball alone can be the meal, so I plan on adjusting this to more my style in the near future.  Right now they are in the process of the freezer experiment, which is where I take a serving of everything I am cooking, throw it in the freezer and then thaw it in a week or two to see if it is still edible.  This is in anticipation for the upcoming arrival where I will have a 2 year old, a newborn, a teenager, a full-time job, and a 10 day window to have a baby, recover and study for a test and get back to class.  Which means I won't be cooking anything that requires more time than oatmeal for about a month, and I have no interest in living on oatmeal if I can avoid it.

I made these Raspberry Breakfast Bars from Smitten Kitchen

Yummy and tart, but there's only so many recipes you can poach from another blogger before you really should feel ashamed of yourself. Also in the freezer experiment.

I did re-make the Spanokopita (last piece is in the freezer) in pie form for my sister, with the addition of a bunch of sliced scallions....  Delish, but I just wrote about that... is that self-poaching?

To make it into a pie I buttered and folded some of the phyllo, lined the bottom of a small square glass pan, baked the phyllo at 350 for about 5 minutes then added the filling.  Baked again for 15, topped with buttered, layered phyllo and baked until golden brown.  Click here for filling composition, but don't forget to add the bunch of sliced scallions.  All the white and up to the dark green.... even more flavorful.

However, the highlight of my week was finding these little guys at the co-op.

How gorgeous and cute are they?  I say cute because they are tiny.

Locally grown Bolivian Rainbow Peppers.  Never heard of them before but I had to buy them, but what to do with them... ahh look.  I also found these leftover from my husband's birthday.

and then thanks to my blog obsession I found this recipe for Green Bean Curry from No Recipes.  Mine doesn't look nearly as appetizing as his for one I used a green pepper instead of a red, so there wasn't much for color contrast but I just wanted to use my little peppers, and I just wanted dinner since I was sick and really just wanted to ball up on the couch and be miserable. However this was hot enough to clear my sinuses if only for a bit.  SOOO good... I highly recommend giving a it a look  See you next week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Composed Cheese Course

Just another reason to love and trust Thomas Keller....

When I placed these dishes in front of our guest, everyone seemed to think they were lovely (I did), but as I explained to them that what we had was a raisin puree, topped with a shaved carrot salad dressed in a carrot juice reduction, layered with Gruyere and a side of powdered carrot, some of the smiles kind of seemed a little frozen. I defended my dish by saying.... "It's from French Laundry, it has to be good," and it was.

The thing I like the most about this dish is that it looks all fussy and time consuming but it's not at all, and it was all prepped in advance and then plated right before serving... LOVE IT!

First I got to use my handy dandy shiny new juicer to produce 3/4 cup of carrot juice

Which if you reduce as instructed will do some funny things.... first all of the carroty parts separate out so you have this brightly colored liquid

Then all that bright carroty stuff becomes almost like a solid on top and you can actually strain it off, I used a wok like skimmer thing which isn't super fine mesh so it didn't strain it perfect, but you can't tell at the end, so I'm not worried.

You also get to play with your husband’s old school antique mortar and pestle after dehydrating the carrot (read the recipe people... don't be like me.... that says LOW on microwave for 40 minutes... LOW... not HIGH for 2 minutes or until you smell smoke)... I managed to save it in the end. Place this stuff in the mortar and pestle and smash it to bits. Then clean above wok thing and use it to sift the smaller pieces of the carrot power into a container


Carrot Powder Recipe:

1/2 cup very finely chopped carrots (chopped in a food processor; or use the pulp left after juicing the carrots... that's what I used it was perfect as it has almost no juice left at that point)

Squeeze the carrots in a towel or blot on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Line a microwave tray with a piece of parchment paper and spread the carrot on it in a thin, even layer. Microwave on low power for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are completely dried out. Let cool to room temperature.

Grind the carrots to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Store in a covered plastic container.

Toast Spices

Combine carrot juice with toasted and ground spices

Corsu Vecchiu with Spiced Carrot Salad and
Golden Raisin Puree
Adapted French Laundry


1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
One 1-inch long piece cinnamon stick or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cups carrot juice (from about 1 1/4 pounds carrots, or purchased)
1/2 cup golden raisins
Juice of 1/2 lemon
One 8-ounce wedge Corsu Vecchiu or Gruyere, Emmenthal, Mahon or Petite Basque, rind trimmed
3/4 cup shredded sweet bunch carrots
*2 teaspoon Brunoise
Kosher salt
6 sprigs Chervil (skipped this too, only because I have never seen Chervil in Nebraska)
Carrot powder (recipe above)

*Recipe in the French Laundry Cookbook, but it's adds so much extra work so I skipped it and used a little chopped chive for color, not sure if a smidge of parsnip and such would make a taste difference... probably but it was good without it. I'd give you the recipe but I happened to get the cookbook from the library to preview before purchasing and then had to laugh that I would never have time to make even one of those dishes. This week I took out Bouchon instead... that one has promise for the kind of cooking I do lately.  I'm sure you could google the recipe.  I know one of the bloggers I follow did a French Laundry blog where she cooked everything in there so it has to be out there somewhere.


Cutting the cheese into thin slices for serving allows more air to circulate around it; oxygen brings out the flavor of cheese, as does the proper temperature. The perfect temperature for cheese is 65-70-F.

Heat the spices together in a small pan until fragrant. Place in a spice grinder and grind to a powder. You will have about 2 1/2 tablespoon spice mix. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or in the freezer for longer.

Strain carrot juice into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for about 1 minute. Skim off the scum that has risen to the top, strain the juice again, and simmer for about 10 minutes for about 10 minutes longer, or until reduced to 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons. Add a pinch of the spice mix and set aside.

Place the raisins in a saucepan. Cover completely with water add lemon juice, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes just until plump. Turn off the heat and let the raisins sit in the liquid for a few minutes. Place the raisins in a blender with enough of the cooking liquid to allow them to turn and blend to a puree. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer (this didn't work for me; I just used the puree as is).

Cut the triangle into 30 thin triangles. Fan the triangles out so they get the air needed to develop flavor.

To complete... combine the shredded carrots with the carrot reduction and the brunoise in a small bowl. Season with salt to taste. Place about 1 tablespoon of raisin puree in the center of each plate. Top each with a haystack of carrot salad. Set a fan of cheese on top of each carrot salad, and top with a sprig of chervil. Sprinkle a line of carrot powder down the side of each plate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


So even though it's still 113 here for the heat index, some things require you to move away from the skillet, crockpot, and drive thru.  Your husband's birthday is one of those times. 

Every year we host a birthday dinner for my husband, and every year I make him something new.  These were not the new item.  That was the cheese course

Which you get next week because I promised a friend I would post the Spanokopita first.

The plan was to make things that could be made in advance and then just throw them in the oven after people arrived allowing me to actually visit and see people instead of being in the kitchen.  That part of the plan worked... the "easy" part was blown by these little babies.  I hate working with phyllo.  The only thing I can imagine worse than working with phyllo would be to make your own phyllo.  The man I trained to replace me at my old job was from Greece.  He asked my favorite Greek food I said Spanokopita.  He brought me some... in pan form, like a flaky topped lasagna.  Brilliant!  Why had that thought never crossed my mind?  I plan on trying that out with this recipe in the near future.  However this time I wanted them for appetizers so they had to be finger food.  And they don't really take THAT much time, and they are so very worth it.  Here we go.  PS... He said even his Grandmother back in Greece hates working with phyllo.

Step 1: Mix everything in a bowl

Step 2: Find a helper

Step 3: Go crazy trying to separate out the fine sheets of phyllo.  Not really... here let me give you a pointer or two... first, make sure it is completely thawed and at room temperature before taking it out of its protective wrap.  Next gently unroll the pastry.  Set it up with the wax paper stuff it comes in, then a layer of plastic wrap, then a damp towel.  This will keep it from drying out and breaking into a million pieces.

Step 4: Put your helper down for a nap, and begin to wrap the spanokopita.  I cheat a little.  I take one sheet of phyllo.  Plop it down on the cutting board.  Brush it lightly with melted butter (recipe for all of this is below), then fold it into three instead of cutting and layering.

Step 5: Place a small amount of filling onto the folded phyllo.

Step 6: Fold the edge over the little mound (flat) so that it covers about half the filling.  Honestly this little pile is kind of centered, its better if you place it more towards the bottom of the pastry.

Step 7: Begin your flag fold.  The key with the flag fold is to remember every other fold is a diagnal fold the folds in between are just a straight fold... See what I mean.... right here you're just folding straight as the line between the little package you are folding and the dough is straight.  Hopefully that makes sense.  If not there is probably a youtube video to help you out.

Step 8: Send photos to your father to make sure he is good and jealous.  Have said father tell you he's digging clams in North Carolina drinking a cold beer while he sits by the ocean.  Try not to disown him.  Move on.

Step 9: Repeat steps 1-7 with remaining filling, this batch took almost the whole box (2 rolls) of phyllo.

Step 10: Serve warm or reheat as people arrive. 

Step 11: Enjoy.

From the kitchen files (which really means I don't know where I got this recipe... I think I may have adjusted a recipe once upon a time)

2 packages of chopped frozen spinach
1 ½ cups crumbled feta cheese
½ cup grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground peppers, to taste
1 box phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
8 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled


Thaw frozen spinach to room temperature. Place in between two or three paper towels, and squeeze excess water from spinach. Place in a large bowl and break up clumps. Add the feta cheese, parmesan, eggs, and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a baking sheet. Cut the stack of filo sheets lengthwise into 3 equal strips. Remove 1 strip (1 layer at a time) and cover the remaining phyllo with the set up mentiuoned above.  Brush lightly with melted butter. Place a heaping teaspoonful of the filling about 1 inch from the bottom of the strip.  Fod the end halfway over the filling, then fold the filling on the diagonal to form a triangular shape. Bring the bottom of the triangle up against the straight edge. Continue folding in this manner until the tip of the strip is reached, forming a triangular pastry. Brush lightly with melted butter. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes (watch these). Remove from the oven and transfer to a platter. Serve immediately, warm or at room temperature. Makes approximately 30 triangles.

I makes these ahead of time for appetizers and then reheat them quickly in the oven.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Steak Panini with Horseradish Mayo

What a boring photo.... really... this doesn't do it justice, I mean by the looks of this photo the cheese and horseradish mayo doesn't even look like the melty, gooey, amazing, mess they were.  Geesh... someone better tell this photographer to get off her bum and take a food styling, or photo class pronto.  What's that?  Oh she said she would get right on that after changing her two year olds daycare, helping her teenager, and creating a new baby in unbearable heat, while finishing her Masters degree.  Sorry... did that sound like I am feeling sorry for myself?  It did?  Oh good just the sentiment I was trying to portray. 

That's right.... this photo looks  uninspired, becasue it's hard to be inspired when you feel SICK ALL THE TIME.  Actually maybe I could pull off that my life is drab in the withering heat as it turns everything from green to brown so I left out the green as a symbolism of something or other.  No?  Okay fine, let's move on.

So today is the first day it hasn't been in the high 90s in the remeberable (is that a word?) past but it's so humid I feel like I must bring an oxygen tank to walk to my car.  Really... I'm a Northern girl, I can't wait for August to be done so I can go outside for longer than the time it takes me to sprint from one air conditioned place to the next.  Until then... we will continue to turn out quick and easy meals that require little skill, little heat, and are PERFECT for my core audience that "doesn't cook", or as is more likely doesn't have time to cook.  However, if you happen to be a talented food blogger or chef and have wandered onto this site somehow this is going to taste really, really, good.  Promise.

If you are lucky (like me) you have a father who loves food as much as you do.... and feels really sorry for you and your exiled status in middle American and lack of good ingredients.  Sorry enough that he gave you a jar of this!

Home canned fresh (can you say fresh if it's been canned?)  horseradish!  Oh yeah... that'll open the sinuses on a clouy day.  Or you can used freshly grated horseradish if you are so lucky as to have some available.  I used half this and half that prepared cream horseradish stuff from the grocery store.

Flank Steak Sandwiches
from the binder of recipes with no known origin in my kitchen

1 recipe Horseradish Sauce (see recipe below)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander 
1 teaspoon salt (I used freshly ground)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 large sweet onions, such as Texas 1015 or Vidalia, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pounds beef flank steak or boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1-inch thick
6 purchased bakery sourdough rolls or 12 slices sourdough bread, toasted if you're  not going to squish it
OR... a loaf of ciabatta


Prepare Horseradish Sauce; cover and chill. In a small bowl combine oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, garlic, and half (about 2 teaspoons) of the spice mixture. Cook, covered, for 13 to 15 minutes until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes more or until onions are golden. Remove from skillet; set aside. Wipe skillet clean, or not, I didn't bother.

If using flank steak (I used sirloin this time because I was hoping it would make for a less messy sandwich... I was wrong), score meat on both sides by making shallow cuts at 1-inch intervals diagonally across steak in a diamond pattern. Rub steak on both sides with the remaining half of the spice mixture. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add steak. Cook, uncovered, for 12 to 16 minutes or until meat is medium-rare (145 degree F), turning once. Remove meat from skillet to cutting board; cover with foil and let stand 10 minutes.

Thinly slice steak across the grain.

I have started slicing these a whole lot thinner since this photo was taken

To serve give both sides of cibatta a good smear of horseradish sauce, arrange steak on bottoms of rolls, top with cheese of your choice if you want then onions.  Add roll tops.  Squish in Panini grill if available to melt the cheesy goodness or serve as is.   Makes 6 sandwiches, or 3 sandwiches and enough steak for your child that eats it as steak with a side of bread.  

Horseradish Sauce: In a small bowl stir together 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

It's still way too darn hot around these parts.  To make life easy on my exhausted, hot, tired, self this week I succumbed to taking the easy way out, by making something for dinner that was: a) easy b) delicious and c) would cause no arguments that go something like this... "sit on your bottom, eat your veggies, sit on your bottom, don't climb on the table, good boys eat their rice, sit on your bottom, on your bottom, on your bottom.... little man... that is not your bottom!"

I don't have any prep photos because I didn't know they were going to be this good, but they were so light and fluffy and tasty I had to share.  Hope you like them for whatever meal you serve them for.  P.S. I flash froze the leftovers and they reheated this morning fabulously in an oven at 350 for about 2 minutes.  Must remember this for the big cook and freeze fest coming my way in a few months.

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Bobby Flay


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Butter, for griddle
Fresh raspberries, for garnish
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish


Preheat a nonstick griddle.

Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Brush the hot griddle with butter. For each pancake, pour approximately 1/4 cup measure of the batter on the griddle and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Repeat until no batter remains.

Top with fresh raspberries, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.