Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

No, I'm not a racist for calling it Mexican lasagna -- you can never be racist against lasagna. If I wanted to be more politically correct I could call it Enchilada Lasagna but it's more than that. It incorporates many of the staple foods of the central American region like corn, potatoes and beans; although my ingredients inevitably come out of a bag or jar, even if it's a produce bag, this is pretty much as authentic as you can get whilst striving to be fancy. There's not much Americanized about this except the fact that it's made in...gasp...a CASSEROLE DISH! I have recently realized that I could be the goddess of casseroles, but that's another entry and you probably knew that already if you've read the rest of my blog.

I wanted to make a few notes here about ingredients. Don't ever subject yourself to corn tortillas that do not resemble something made out of corn -- it should look like a big round raw corn chip rather than a stiff version of a white tortilla. The latter have no flavor, no fiber and simply are wrong, wrong, wrong. Also, I use Frontera enchilada sauce because it's the best and my attempts haven't come close. However, feel free to use any sauce you like, just keep the sugar far, far away. It amazes me how many "real" Mexican restaurants around here put sugar in their enchilada sauce. It's gross and that's why I make things like this at home instead.

Alas, the beans. I've taken a liking to dried beans, although they're much trickier to work with. They're cheap too. The night before you want to make this, take a cup of dried black beans and pick through them to remove any that are split, broken or shriveled. Sometimes there are little stones in there so be vigilant. Rinse them off then soak them in a big bowl of cold water overnight. If you don't feel like all that, use a 16 oz can of black beans rinsed well.

You will need:

1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight OR 1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, uncut
1 1/2 tbsp taco/burrito seasoning (some variation of paprika, red chili flakes, cumin, etc.)
4-5 small potatoes like fingerlings, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas
oil for frying
2 cups enchilada sauce
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco

Take the black beans and mix with the stock, garlic, taco seaoning, salt and potatoes. Cover and simmer over medium- low heat in a medium saucepan for about an hour -- you want the beans to retain a firmness but not be crunchy either. Keep checking on them and stirring. In the meantime, take a skillet that's slightly larger than your tortillas and heat about half an inch of oil over medium heat in it. Once it's reached the right temperature, slide the tortillas into it and allow to fry for a few seconds. This may take some practice if you've never done it before, you want to fry just enough to make them pliable, so that's usually about 5 seconds. Much more and you'll just get really stiff, crunchy tortillas and those are harder to work with. Place them on a plate and allow to cool, this can take up to half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 415. Using a casserole dish, press 2-3 of the tortillas into the bottom and sides. Pluck the cloves of garlic from the beans (or mash them up and put them back in) and put about a quarter of the beans over the tortillas. Use 1/4 cup of the queso fresco over the beans, then enough enchilada sauce to cover topped with 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat until you're out of tortillas, you don't have to put everything in exact order or use as much cheese as I did but you do want to make sure you've got the right amount of each ingredient. Leave the queso fresco off the top layer and finish it with enchilada sauce and some of the jack cheese. Let it bake for about half an hour, but keep checking to make sure the edges aren't burning. Take it out once the top gets bubbly and slightly browned.

Allow to cool for at least 30 more minutes. It's a little less runny than regular lasagna but not by much. Some people like a dollop of sour cream on the side. This also makes for great leftovers and holds its shape pretty well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How To Make Your Own Apple Cider (It's Not Hard)

This doesn't need a reason, apple cider is awesome and that's all the justification I need to make it. And it's cheaper/healthier to make it at home than to buy the premade stuff at the store.

You will need:

apx 6 apples, peeled and quartered with the seeds cut out
6 quarts water
1 cup honey
1 tbsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
dash of cardamom
2 tbsp (at least) fresh grated ginger
1 cup sugar

Boil the water in a large pot and reduce to a simmer, then put in the apples. Add the spices, sugar and honey and allow to simmer, covered, for at least 4 hours. You can either lift the apple slices out of the cider and mash them for applesauce or mush them up a bit and allow to simmer longer to get a thicker cider. I opted for the latter.

Beans and Rice, My Way

No food is more familiar to me from my childhood than red beans and rice. At least once a week my mom would concoct kidney beans and kielbasa to serve over buttered rice, which was ironically one of my least favorite dishes. Now that I know stuff about nutrition and have to cook on a budget, beans and rice and I have become friends. I found a way to make it right for me. Maybe it will be right for you too.

NOTE: You could use canned beans for this if you must, but I prefer the dried so that's how I'm listing it. You'll want to soak them for about 8 hours in cold water.

you will need:

2/3 cup dried black beans, soaked and rinsed
2-3 whole cloves of garlic
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Mexican seasoning (some people have their own mixtures, I buy mine premixed)
5-6 small potatoes, like French fingerlings
1 cup jasmine rice
1 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp butter
1 cup monterrey jack cheese
1 onion, chopped into small strips when separated
oil for frying

Simmer the black beans and potatoes over low heat with the whole garlic cloves, spices and chicken broth. Cook the jasmine rice with the combination of water and chicken broth provided. Heat the oil over medium and once it reaches its full temperature, put in the onion. Allow to cook until barely browned and crispy then set aside. Stir the beans occasionally and set the rice aside once it's done, the beans should cook for 40-60 minutes. Add more broth if they start getting dry or if you're low on gravy. Combine the rice with the butter once it's finished while it's still hot, throw in a pinch of salt if you want. Serve the beans over a bed of rice, topped with the monterrey jack and fried onion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creamy Dill Potatoes

This is the quintessential Swedish comfort food -- dilled potatoes. I fancied it up some by baking with bread crumbs but you don't have to do that if you're crunched for time or want to keep things simple. You will need:

1 lb Swedish or Russian fingerling potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp slightly salted butter
about a tsp of salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Boil the potatoes until you can easily stick a fork through them, usually about 30 minutes. Drain the water off and mash them roughly with the butter, salt, dill, pepper and sour cream -- you want it to remain chunky, not like regular mashed potatoes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the potatoes into a baking pan and top with the bread crumbs, bake for about 12 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Fall Fruit Salad (with a twist)

This is a great recipe if you're anything like me -- usually on the go, but wanting something fresh and healthy to take wherever it is you're going to. I work evenings and nights these days so it's important not to succumb to the fast food, pizza and soda so prevalent at my office. That's why I love keeping a container of something like this in the fridge, I can nosh on it without even having to reheat. Since it's dairy free, you don't have to worry nearly as much about keeping it out at your desk, although it's definitely better chilled.

You will need:

1 lb fresh figs
2-3 apples, I used Jonagold
1 large cucumber
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Slice the tops off the figs and quarter them. Cut the apples into bite sized pieces, making sure to discard the seeds and core. You can either leave the cucumber peeled or unpeeled, but I do recommend scooping out the seeds after slicing it in half -- goes much better with the texture of the salad. Add the lemon juice as soon as you add the apples and finish with the spice and sugar, tossing well. Chill and eat!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Food Trends Summer 2010: Spicy Summer Cocktails

So according to Susan Russo at foodblogga, the new "in" drinks are spicy rather than sweet and syrupy. It's high time! I've never been the biggest bloody mary fan since I'd rather eat spicy tomatoes than drink them, but contrary to layman's logic, spicy food cools you down. So give this one a try the next unbearably hot day, which will hopefully begin to fade more and more.

Ginger Lemonade with Basil

1 large regular cucumber, peeled
2 cups ice
1-2 cups carbonated water
1/2 heaping cup of sugar
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp grated ginger, more or less depending on level of spice desired
6 shots Russki Standart vodka (use nothing less!:)
3-4 sprigs fresh basil

Blend together everything but the basil until smooth, if it's too thick you can always add more mineral water. Serve with sprigs of basil as garnishes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Russki Style Potato Salad

This recipe is so freaking easy. It's also very flavorful and generally well received, somewhat to my surprise as I tend to use vinegar more than the average bear. Anywho, here ya go.

You will need:

about 1 lb Russian Fingerling potatoes, cooked until tender
1 white onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup fresh dill, de-stemmed but you don't have to chop it if you don't want to
3 tbsp herbed vinegar (look in the kosher section of the grocery store, it's in a green bottle)
2/3 cup sour cream
salt to taste, about 1 1/2 tsp

Chop the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Mix the ingredients together and chill for about half an hour. Voila, done!

Butternut Squash Cyr Stew with Potatisklimp

How's that for a recipe title?! Don't be frightened, this Swedish-Russian fusion dish is worth the pronunciation and more. Potatisklimp are Swedish potato dumplings and operate quite a bit like matzo balls. Cyr is the Russian word for cheese, and here's why I chose it.

If you're lucky enough to live somewhere where they carry Northern European cheeses, look for LeipƤjuusto. Also known as bread cheese here in the US, this does not melt the way most regular cheeses do. It's also got grill marks which impart a nice texture and flavor that I found went well with the butternut squash soup. I was first introduced to this cheese when I was in Russia, although there let's just say it wasn't made from cow's milk. Anywho, in this recipe you could also use a good Halloumi, but you'd want to add it when the soup was slightly cooler.

Here's what you need:

2 medium butternut squash, sliced in half and de-seeded
3 quarts chicken broth
1 white onion, sliced
4 medium carrots, diced
4 tbsp butter
salt to taste

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs or matzo meal
1/2 cup peeled and mashed Russian Fingerling potatoes
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 lb LeipƤjuusto or bread cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash cut side down on a baking pan or cookie sheet and bake for an hour. Remove and allow to cool.

Heat the butter in a large stock pot over medium until melted and add the onions and carrots. Cook until the onions begin to brown and add a few cups of broth. Add a cup or two of squash then more broth and mix, continue to do this until all the squash and broth is mixed uniformly in the pot. Add the salt and bring to a strong simmer.

Mix the egg yolks and butter; add the mashed potatoes and stir well. Add the spices and bread crumbs and mix until uniform, you definitely don't want any lumps. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold into the potato/egg mixture until even, but strive to not kill the fluffiness of the egg whites.

Take teaspoons of the potato mixture and roll gently into balls with your hands and drop into the simmering soup. Do so repeatedly until you're out of potato dumpling mixture and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes uncovered. Cover and cook another 10. Remove from the heat and add the bread cheese, stirring gently as to not break up the dumplings. This soup is most definitely enjoyed hot and fresh.

La Fin Du Monde Roasted Chicken with Fig Chutney

This was a recipe made under duress. As Till Lindemann would say, you can't have art without pain but art exists for compensating pain. The name of the beer was merely ironic, although the taste it imparted was far from ironic.

You will need:

1 3.5 lb chicken
16 oz can whole coconut milk (please, please don't use the stuff in the soy milk sector)
1 bottle La Fin Du Monde beer
1 tbsp kosher salt

1 lb fresh figs, chopped into quarters
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/3 cup sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and set the chicken spine up in a roasting pan. Sprinkle the salt over it and pour the beer over the chicken, then pour the coconut milk. Bake for about 80-90 minutes, basting about every 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside 2 cups of the drippings.

In a saucepan, heat the figs and tamari sauce together. Add the spices and cook until the figs start to become soft from the heat; add the sugar and gradually add the drippings. Stir and keep adding and reducing the broth. Keep cooking and stirring until it begins to thicken and the sugar begins to form bubbles in the sauce. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Divide the chicken into whatever portions you desire and serve the chutney on the side -- it is a bit spicy, so some may want more or less of it than others.

Heirloom Squash Risotto

Sorry about the lateness of this seasonal recipe, but summer squash is still coming in so it's versatile enough to make while the zucchini is cheap. I made this with a friend of mine using a few different varieties of squash, namely some heirloom patty pan varieties and good old zucchini. This is also a very easy recipe to keep vegan, just disregard the feta.

We used three heirlooms and a zucchini cubed into bite sized pieces, so the measurement on the squash is estimated. This isn't baking so it doesn't have to be exact. I estimate we had about four cups cubed, but it was also a large batch.

You will need:

4 cups cubed various squash
1 bowl cold salted water
3 quarts mock chicken broth (obviously you can use regular chicken broth, but this is what we used to keep it veg)
1/2 lb arborio rice
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 tsp red chili flakes
1/3 cup chopped red basil
1 tsp lemon juice OR 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
salt to taste
1/2 to 1 lb sheep's feta (optional)

Begin by slicing the squash into bite sized cubes. Be careful and use a sharp knife, especially when working with larger squash. Put the cubes in the salt water and begin heating the stock in a large pot over medium-low.

Preheat another large pot to medium, ideally with the stock on the back burner and the new pot on the front to prevent mess. Throw in the olive oil and onions and stir frequently until they become translucent and floppy, for lack of a better word. Add the rice and continue to stir until the rice just barely begins to brown, then step back and add the wine. Often there will be a loud hiss or spatter when the wine hits the pot so you don't want to be facing down into it while you do this.

Stir quickly and as soon as most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add about half a cup of broth and stir. Some people believe constant stirring is absolutely crucial, but I have not found that to be the case. However, you definitely want to give it a good stir every 30 to 60 seconds. Continue adding broth, stirring until thick and adding more until you're about halfway through the broth. Drain the squash and add to the risotto along with another half cup of broth and the red chili flakes. Now for this part you want to stir continuously. Continue adding broth slowly...surely the idea is beginning to sink in now.

When you're about three cups of broth from the finish line throw in the basil and lemon. Finish it off, and the only way to do this is by taste. Take a fork and lift a few grains -- they should be al dente. If it's crunchy, heat up more broth and keep adding gradually until it hits the point of al dente (you can also use salted water if you're out). If it's overcooked it's not the end of the world, but you want to strive for that point of firmness with the grain of the arborio.

Turn off the heat and cover the pot, allow to set for about five to ten minutes. Serve with crumbled sheep's feta on top. This recipe serves about 8 people.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cucumber Feta Hodgepodge

So I went into this wanting to make macaroni and cheese. I was low on ingredients, but the stuff I did have I wanted to use up. The result was surprisingly delicious -- if you wanted, you could add some shredded chicken and that would add a nice texture as well.

You will need:

3 tbsp salted butter
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 oz pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 lb pasta, already cooked (we used penne)
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 large cucumber, sliced thinly
3 oz crumbed sheep's feta
2 bread slices -- toasted brown and crumbled into crumbs
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450. Heat the butter over medium until melted, add the flour and mix quickly. Add the vegetable broth gradually until there are no lumps and the sauce begins to thicken. Add the salt and jack cheese, continually stir until the cheese is completely melted. Feel free to adjust the amount of salt depending on your taste.

Mix together the pasta, vegetable butter sauce, peas, cucumber and feta until uniformly coated. Put into a casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs and cheddar. Bake for 12 minutes or until the top is deep golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

So this is an easy one. All it is is caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes but believe me, the difference is unbelievable. This will take your tastebuds to a new level when it comes to our lycopene-infused friends, the heirloom tomatoes. I also like that the color varies using different varieties, I used one large pale yellow tomato, a few small red ones mottled with purplish spots and a few solid, brightly colored breeds. I don't know the names of the exact varieties, but you don't need to know the name to know it's good.

You will need:

3 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes
2 balls fresh mozzarella, about 1 lb
1/3 cup whole fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, zested
1 tsp sea salt
a few grounds of black pepper, 1/8 tsp

Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and chop them into bite sized pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until everything is uniformly coated in the oil/vinegar dressing. Serve cold and enjoy!

Stuffed Zucchini

This is a recipe inspired by Kayotic's famous stuffed zucchini recipe. It's heavy on dairy so the creamy, savory stuffing combines especially well with the slightly crispy, fresh zucchini boat. This is good to make if you're serving an even number of people, as you can vary the servings depending on how many zucchinis you're working with -- I used 2 for this recipe.

You will need:

2 zucchinis
1/4 cup cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Italian seasoning OR mixed oregano/basil/thyme
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp salted butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 oz monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the ends off the zucchinis, cut them each in half and use a spoon to scoop the innards out, the shell should remain at least 1/4 inch thick. Put the zucchini guts into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, cream, salt and butter and stir until uniform. Add the herbs, red chili flakes and chives and mix in, follow with the bread crumbs and finish with the jack cheese. You don't want to add the cheese too early, as those little pockets of melted goodness are best achieved with a roughly shredded cheese.

Use a spoon to scoop the stuffing into the boats; don't be afraid to heap it on, but keep in mind that some will most likely overflow a bit. If this isn't to your aesthetic, use 3 zucchinis instead of 2 and you'll use less filling in each boat.

Bake for about 20 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Turkey Ragoux

This is essentially a robust marinara sauce with the addition of meat, but I suppose that's the definition of a proper ragoux. I decided to use turkey because of the lower fat content and the fact that I'm a bit more experienced with it. Hopefully you'll enjoy this recipe as much as my friends and I did!

You will need:

1 lb ground turkey
2 16 oz. cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1/2 cup fresh whole basil leaves
3 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
1 tsp red chili flakes
3 cloves of garlic, zested
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning OR 1/2 tbsp dried oregano/ 1/2 tbsp dried thyme

Pour the tomatoes into a medium pot. Add the dried herbs, salt and red chili flakes and heat over medium. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium and brown the turkey. As the turkey cooks (make sure to come back and "turn" it often) add the olive oil and fresh herbs. Finish by adding the cooked turkey WITH the fat and juices. Remember that if you're making a ragu with a different type of meat the fat content may be too high so you'll want to drain that off when cooking with beef or lamb; for turkey, the small amount of fat and juice adds a ton of flavor. Simmer gently for another 15-30 minutes and serve over pasta. This sauce should be significantly thicker than regular marinara, so it does best with a strong pasta like fettuccine or fusilli.

Cucumber Lemonade

Here's a refreshing treat to whip up on the most stiflingly sticky hot days of summer -- if you don't feel like dragging out the blender, just thinly slice the cucumbers into the lemonade and refrigerate. Don't you love when the things in season are the things you want the most for the weather?

You'll need:

1 medium cucumber, peeled
2-3 lemons, depending on how sour you like it
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup ice
3 cups water

Cut the cucumber into chunks and slice each lemon in half. Juice the lemons and remove any seeds. Throw all of the ingredients into the blender and pulse until the mixture is smooth and uniform, it shouldn't be too thick. Nothing else to it, just drink and enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Potatoes Au Gratin

Potatoes and squash au gratin is a recipe I grew up eating but until recently never thought of recreating. I suppose I didn't realize the comforting powers of potatoes, cheese and bread crumbs until recently, oops. Either way, I used a mixture of cheeses for my version and you could vary it up as you like -- if you don't like swiss or brie, cheddar and cream cheese would work too. The sauce with Icelandic brie, which is much less ammoniac and strong as French brie, on top of the buttery yellow slices of Yukon potatoes gives this version an almost sweet taste. It's creamy and delicate as opposed to the results of using a robust Irish cheddar. Anywho.

You will need:

2 1/2 lbs golden Yukon potatoes
6 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
4 oz Icelandic brie, wax removed
3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Salt to taste
2 stale slices of bread, dry and toasted (I like sourdough)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully slice the potatoes thinly -- "1/4 or smaller, dropping each slice into a bowl of salt water so they don't oxidize. Once all the potatoes are cut, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together with the flour and add about 1/3 cup of the milk, stirring until most of the lumps are gone. Once the sauce becomes hot add the brie and Swiss cheese, stir together until melted. Taste the sauce at this point and salt it to your liking. Remove from the heat.

Put several tablespoons of the cheese sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish and put a layer of potatoes over it. Repeat, and shred one of the slices of bread over the second potato layer. Keep doing this until you've used all the potatoes, pour the remainder of the sauce on top. Follow with the shredded cheddar and crumble the second slice of bread on top as well. Cover dish with tin foil and bake for an hour; after an hour, remove the tin foil and cook for 30 more minutes or until browned. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving, it's like molten lava!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Goat Cheese and Basil Borek

I've been feeling guilty lately -- I haven't been keeping up my blog the way I used to, or the way I should. Despite that I have few readers, I like remembering how and when I first made a recipe when I find it. My great-great grandmother, a native of the Lapplands in a small village near Kiruna, Sweden recorded her recipes in a small leather journal. My grandmother recently unearthed it and gave it to my mom for safekeeping. As my Swedish is rather limited we only managed to decipher a few of the recipes, although my mother recognized the names of quite a few from eating them as a child. My great grandmother kept all of her recipes in a small green box, especially in her later years. My grandmother did the same, and now my mother has her own. It's a hybrid of everyone's recipes, from my great grandmother and namesake to a few of mine. In the internet age it may not be as romantically antique but I enjoy being able to have these all at my disposal and be able to share them with just a few clicks.

Back to the food! I finally found a fellow blogger (who has clearly had much more experience) with a wealth of northern European recipes, as well as gorgeous photography -- Dutch Girl. Pop on over to her blog sometime, as it's where I got the inspiration for this dish. It dates back to the Ottoman Empire and has since spread throughout the region. Here's what you need:

36 strips phyllo dough, about 3-4 inches wide and 14 inches wide, thawed
4 oz olive oil
8 oz goat cheese, plain
1 cup fresh basil leaves, whole
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 heaping cup parboiled or quick braised asparagus, chopped into very small pieces (think edamame sized)

Chop the pine nuts and basil leaves finely and combine with the lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Add the goat cheese and mix until mostly even, follow with the asparagus. Combine until the asparagus is evenly distributed and there are no pockets of spices.

Preheat the oven to 400. As I've mentioned before, phyllo dough can be tricky. Make sure your hands are dry before you begin to handle it. Take one sheet and using a pastry brush, put a light coat of olive oil over it. Place another sheet on top of it and do the same thing. Do this until you have 3 layers of phyllo. In the center of the far left side of the phyllo place about 2 tablespoons of filling. Fold the bottom corner up, forming the beginnings of a triangle. You want to fold it like a flag -- flip the corner over and repeat until you're to the other end of the dough. I got good results dabbing the top with olive oil; use a sharp knife to cut off any raggedy edges. Do this until you're out of phyllo, I've adjusted the recipe so there's no dough or filling left over.

Brush some olive oil onto a large baking sheet. Place the triangles at least an inch apart from one another and bake for 7 minutes; flip onto the other side then bake again for 8 minutes. Definitely allow these to cool for a few minutes before serving, the filling is HOT!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Irish Macaroni and Cheese

I've been reading a lot about cheese lately, which is an interesting and disgusting but oh-so-delicious topic. Macaroni and cheese, a distinctively American dish, was based on somewhat similar European counterparts but was not made as we know it until the last few centuries. My tried and true recipe relies on sharp cheddar, but when you tread into Irish cheddar territory, it's a whole other ballgame.

I'd been experimenting with my regular recipe -- what pasta shapes work best, what cheese combinations? This one is definitely a winner. A greasy, artery clogging winner guaranteed to be a success at any potluck or family gathering.

1 1/2 cups milk
4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp European style butter
6-8 oz Irish cheddar, cubed
1 lb dry penne rigate
salt to taste
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar

Preheat the oven to 450 and set a pot of water to boil. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium low until melted, and mix with the flour until even. Add half a cup of the milk and mix until even. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Add the rest of the milk to the sauce mixture and stir until hot; add the cubed cheddar. Stir until melted and add the salt. Set aside to thicken.

Drain the pasta and combine well with the sauce. Put into a baking pan and top with the mild cheddar. Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is bubbly; allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken parm, the Americanized version of eggplant parmigiana, is a recipe I only started making in the last few months. It's my male acquaintance's favorite dish that I make so far -- however, after repeated testing, I've determined that for it to be good versus excellent chicken parm, the quality of ingredients is vital. For that purpose I am being strangely specific with this recipe. It's time and labor intensive but worth the work if you want to impress someone. This recipe serves 3.

3 kosher, organic chicken breasts, thawed (don't use large, mass produced varieties, they don't have near the flavor of naturally raised chicken meat)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
dash of salt
1 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, chopped finely

Heat a large skillet over medium. Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt and red pepper flakes. Put the butter and garlic in the pan and using a spatula, whisk together. Dip the cutlets into the egg mixture then toss in the bread crumbs and place into the skillet individually. Once one side is browned, flip and repeat until they're all done. Set them on a small baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining garlic butter, set aside.

1 can fire roasted tomatoes, crushed
1 can regular tomatoes, crushed
1/2 cup basil leaves whole, or 3 tbsp chopped finely
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 lb cooked rigatoni pasta or 1 box dry
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
3 tbsp finely shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the above ingredients except the pasta in a large saucepan over medium low heat and simmer for at least half an hour. In this time, cook and drain the pasta. Put a small amount of mozzarella in the bottom of a baking pan, follow with the pasta, then the sauce and then the rest of the mozzarella. Bake in the middle rack for 30 minutes. Put the chicken breasts on the bottom oven rack and bake along with it. Remove from the oven, transfer the chicken onto the pasta and serve.

Strawberry Morozhenoe (Russian-style Ice Cream)

For the life of me I can't seem to find morozhenoe in my city -- maybe it's the lack of a large Russian population, but what makes it different from regular ice cream is the texture. Unlike American ice cream, which tends to be very dense and heavy, morozhenoe is rich yet lightweight. It's meant to be served slightly soft; the high fat content allows this to happen without the ice cream melting all over. I used vine ripened strawberries for this and it turned out great.

You need:

1 liter heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 pints fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar

Put a large metal bowl in the freezer. Quarter the strawberries and heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the berries are soft and the mixture becomes slightly syrupy. Set aside to cool.

Once the sauce is cooled take the bowl out of the freezer, and pour in the heavy whipping cream. Using an electric mixer begin whipping at medium speed; when the mixture begins to thicken, add the remainder of the sugar and whip at a higher speed. Make sure not to overmix so the cream doesn't separate. Gently fold in the milk and strawberry syrup. In a large bowl freeze for 2 hours, come back and stir, then freeze for 8 more. This is best served within a day or two of making, otherwise the ice crystals stiffen the signature texture.

White Zucchini Parmesan

This is a recipe I made for a group of people during a get together at the house; it's assembled from various odds and ends I had in the kitchen but came together amazingly well. The Torog cheese is a fresh farmers' cheese that can be found in most Russian markets; if you absolutely cannot find it, substitute regular farmer's cheese or ricotta.

Step 1: Parming the Zucchini

2 large zucchini, sliced fairly thin
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
dash of salt
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and chili flakes. Put a skillet over medium heat. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg mixture and follow by tossing in bread crumbs, set aside. Once several of these are completed add about 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan and arrange the slices. Once they're browned on the bottom, flip them. Remove onto a paper towel or piece of parchment and repeat until you've used up all the zucchini. You may have leftover egg and bread crumbs; if you want, you can combine these and fry them to make hush puppies.

Step 2: Sauce and Assembly

1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 oz Torog cheese
4 oz Irish cheddar, chopped into cubes
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
salt to taste
2 large cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 450. Heat the butter over medium-low until melted, quickly whisk in the flour. Add half a cup of milk and stir until uniform in texture, then turn the heat up to medium and add the rest of the milk. Once the mixture becomes hot add the Torog and cheddar, stirring until melted and incorporated. Add the salt and garlic and remove from the heat.

Put a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and arrange the zucchini slices in one layer over it. Top with half of the mozzarella, more sauce and continue to layer the zucchini. Finish with the rest of the mozzarella on top and bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 and serve.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lobster and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This is a recipe modeled after a similar one at one of the restaurants here in Richmond. It's easy enough and definitely worth making if you want to impress a party.

You will need:

3 tbsp salted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb lobster meat
2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red peppers
1 tsp dried dill weed
8 oz neufchatel cheese

Over medium heat melt the butter and add the garlic. Add the lobster and cook for several minutes, stirring often with a spatula, until done. Make sure to watch so the butter doesn't burn. Halfway through add the red peppers. In a blender or countertop mixer, put the neufchatel and dill weed. Take the lobster off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before adding to the neufchatel mixture. Blend until almost all chunks are gone. This makes about a cup, serve with pita chips or flatbread.

Baked Casarecce

This is a dish I've found myself making a lot lately, probably because it's so easy and you can vary the content. I keep mine simple with sauce and vegetables but you could include anything, such as meatballs or even roasted nuts.

I'm posting the recipe I use which serves 2 people, maybe 3. Increase as you see fit.

You will need:

1 cup dry casarecce pasta
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup either provolone or mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli, spinach or asparagus

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil the pasta and vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside. Mix together the salt, marinara and ricotta and add the pasta. Put into a baking dish and cover with the remaining cheeses. Bake for about 10 minutes, then broil until the top becomes bubbly and begins to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

A Quick Note About Meat

I figure it deserves an explanation, my increasing inclusion of meat in my recipes. Due to some health issues I've had to start cooking it for myself; before I only made it for dinner parties per request. There will be more recipes including poultry and certain types of seafood appearing in the future, but I plan to post plenty of vegetarian or veggie-based dishes as I always have. If you do choose to eat meat, I highly recommend getting the organic, cage free, antibiotic-free variety. A happy chicken is a tasty chicken :)

Roast Chakhokhbili: Roasted Georgian Chicken

Making this dish was an adventure in and of itself; eating it was another. Chakhokhbili is a Georgian chicken stew infused with lots of spices and vegetables; instead of making a stew, I decided to roast the chicken whole to give my guests their desired selection of meat. This was the hands-down favorite at my last dinner party. Georgian cuisine is very flavorful and based on ingredients native to the region; one cannot categorize it as Middle Eastern, Indian or Russian, it is an entity in and of itself. The Georgian people are fiercely proud of the culinary bounty provided by their native land, which is clear from the first bite.

The recipe is based on Clarissa Hyman's chakhokhbili recipe published in The Jewish Kitchen, one of my favorite cookbooks. I had to adjust a few ingredients and the cooking time, as always, but I stuck fairly close to the original recipe. However, the sauce came out a little too chunky for my taste, so I'm describing each step separately.

For the sauce:

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 lb peeled and boiled potatoes
15 oz can plain tomato sauce
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup Shiraz or other red wine

Put the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent and slightly browned; remove from the heat. Combine all sauce ingredients and mash together, not all lumps need to be gone but the potatoes should be mashed enough to contribute to the texture of the sauce. Heat for about 10 minutes.

For the chicken:

1 medium chicken
1 large roasting pan, lined with foil
1 cup chicken broth
several tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the broth into the roasting pan and after salting and rinsing, add the chicken. Top the chicken with a cup to a cup and a half of the sauce and bake for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 400. Using a wooden spoon, gently clear some of the sauce from the top of the chicken -- this will allow the outside to become crispy. Put it back in the oven and cook until the outside is brown and crispy; using a meat thermometer, check to make sure the meat on the thigh hits at least 165 degrees before removing for good. You can either serve this whole and allow people to sauce it as they desire or you can divide it into about 8 sections, toss and coat with the remainder of the sauce and finally, top with the fresh mint.

I Artichoke You: How to Prepare, Steam and Serve an Artichoke and Hollandaise

So I'll start this off with a nod to Susan Russo of Foodblogga. She has an absolutely fabulous guide to selecting and preparing fresh artichokes so I can't take complete credit for the guidelines on how to do those things. However, I've repeated her method several times and it always works. What never fails to escape me is which poor sap initially thought this strange vegetable would be good to eat.

Whoever they were, they took one for the team -- the combination of sweet artichoke with the spicy, lemony, creamy goodness of Hollandaise sauce is alarmingly decadent. However, I consider this something every good cook should know how to make, so I'm sharing my methods.

To prepare the artichoke:

Using a large sharp knife, cut off the base stem and top 1/5 of the artichoke. Pull off any dead or bruised leaves and use kitchen shears to trim the tips off of the leaves on the sides. Very carefully pull the sides of the artichoke open until the purple flower of the choke is visible. I like to use a grapefruit spoon for this, but a regular spoon works fine -- pluck out the flower and scrape out the fuzz in the bottom of the choke. Working quickly, rub the surface with a sliced lemon and squeeze some juice into the cavern where the flower once was, lest you want a brown and oxidized artichoke.

For this recipe, you will need:

2-3 artichokes
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few dashes of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup melted butter

In a large covered pot, heat the artichokes in about 2 inches of water over medium heat with a dash of salt and lemon juice. Allow to simmer and steam for about half an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, being careful to not let them fall apart.

Using either a blender or a countertop mixer with a whisk setting, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until very hot, but watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. With the blender or whisk on high speed, pour the butter in a very thin stream into the yolk mixture. It will end up thickening almost immediately, so there's no need to continue mixing after the butter is all incorporated.

I like to serve the artichoke with a bit of Hollandaise put into the center of the cavern, but others prefer to serve it on the side. Pluck a leaf off, dip into the sauce and using your bottom teeth, scrape the meat off of the fibrous outer leaf. As you progress to the center the leaves will get more tender, eventually ending with the coup de grace: the heart. Smother it in Hollandaise and smile.

Raspberry Vanilla Creme Tart

This is a recipe I actually scrounged from random things I had around before grocery shopping -- phyllo dough, raspberries, vanilla butter, etc. Despite the riskiness of the dough, it was a success.

Phyllo dough is like the grizzly bear of the food world, it can smell fear and will react accordingly. For first timers this is a good recipe to try for getting used to working with it; the sheets don't have to be perfect and you can utilize small pieces that were torn off. So face this bravely and you'll tame the wild phyllo you'll have an awesome tart.

To make vanilla butter, bring a liter or two of water to a rolling boil and throw in 2 sticks of butter. Follow with 2-3 vanilla bean pods and turn the heat to a quick simmer, allow to cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the mixture and set in a cool place for a few hours. The butter will rise to the top and solidify, leaving the liquid in the bottom to easily drain out. If you don't have this kind of time, regular butter will work fine as well.

You will need (for the crust):

12 inch round cake pan
1/2 - 1 cup melted vanilla butter
1/2 lb phyllo dough

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of the cake pan with a few tablespoons of butter and stick a sheet of phyllo to it. Repeat the process of brushing with butter and wallpapering the phyllo down. Make sure to get the sides and bottom evenly and do this until you run out of dough. Bake for 5 minutes or until it turns a golden puffy brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

For the pastry creme:

2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
4 tbsp salted butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
4 tablespoons flour

Heat the milk, 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Whisk the remainder of the sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl, when they become light and fluffy add the flour. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly mix a thin stream of it into the yolks; after about half is added, switch your method and start adding the milk-yolk from the bowl to the rest of the milk in the saucepan, keeping it over medium-low heat. Stir quickly as it heats and once it thickens, remove from the stovetop. Set aside.

For the raspberry filling, you will need 1- 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries and 3-4 tbsp cane sugar. Heat these in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring often.

Take the raspberry syrup and drizzle into the phyllo crust. Follow with the pastry cream, smoothing the top with a spatula. Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Italian Ricotta Pie

This is a recipe from Foodblogga that I've been wanting to try for a long time but never had the audience. I followed her recipe fairly closely, which is a bit unusual for me but I'm glad I did. It turned out fluffy, sweet and delicious.

You will need for the crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 stick salted butter
2 eggs

For the filling:

1 lb whole ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup light cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 eggs
10 oz crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Using a pastry cutter or food processor with a metal blade, combine the dry ingredients for the crust. Cut in the butter, then add the eggs, being careful not to overmix. Form a ball with the dough once combined and wrap in plastic; refrigerate while you mix the filling or for up to 2 days.

For the filling, combine the ricotta, cream, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Add the eggs and finish by adding the pineapple. Set aside and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roll the dough out until the radius is about 10 inches. Grease a 9 inch pie pan and press the dough into it. Pour in the filling and top with a dusting of cinnamon. Bake for 20 minutes at 425, then 30-60 more at 350. Check every ten minutes and once the center is firm, not jiggly, it's ready to come out. Allow to cool and chill before serving.

Lobster Bisque

This is a quick, relatively easy recipe for lobster bisque. It calls for a lb of chunk lobster meat, which you can either harvest yourself or buy in the seafood section of more upscale grocers. This recipe serves 3.

You will need:

2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp flour
1/3 white onion
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb lobster meat
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat the milk, salt, broth, peppers and onion over medium heat and allow to simmer. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the lobster. Stir with a spatula every few minutes for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Take the broth mixture off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Using a blender or food processor, combine the lobster meat (as well as drippings/butter from the pan) with the broth and onion until finely mixed. Put back on the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce and flour, whisk well. Keep hot several minutes (to thicken) or until ready to serve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Manicotti Formaggio al Spinaci

Manicotti formaggio: possibly my favorite Italian dish, yet it has taken me numerous times and lots of testing to get it remotely correct. The issue isn't usually in the ingredients, it's in the execution. One mistake and you're left with a soggy mess or crunchy, thick pasta outside runny ricotta. I had tried everything -- hand rolled pasta, egg roll wrappers, different flours, you name it. I finally broke down and just got the pre-rolled pasta sheets at Whole Foods.

With as many failures as I've experienced, this recipe is the closest that I've been able to get to that oh-so-elusive perfection attained by an Italian grandmother. The result is still a bit flimsy to handle so I'm adjusting the cooking time accordingly. The taste is still fabulous. This recipe serves about 2 so adjust it if need be. I also call for small amounts of several different cheeses; if this puts a dent in your budget either money or time-wise, use Parmesan and ricotta in the filling and mozzarella instead of provolone on top.

You will need:

4 oz ricotta cheese
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 oz non-smoked provolone, grated
2 tbsp grated parmesan
2 eggs
1 cup lightly steamed spinach, drained
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
5-4"-6" flat pieces of fresh pasta to wrap
1-1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the ricotta, spinach, egg and salt. Add the red pepper flakes and spinach, finishing by adding the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Put a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of a baking pan. Wrap a few tablespoons of the ricotta-spinach mixture in the pasta, forming long filled tubes. Set side by side in the baking pan and top with the rest of the marinara, then with the parmesan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, broiling for 2-3 if the top is not browned. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes, ideally. Make a small incision in the middle of one of the center manicottis after the cooling time to ensure that the filling is not runny (if so, bake another 10 minutes -- better to be safe than sorry!) I've found that they require a different baking time each time, but working with fresh pasta does change the game a bit. Once it's cooled enough to serve, it's wonderful alongside garlic bread.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Swedish Black Forest Cake

This is another recipe I feel I should put a disclaimer on -- this stuff is rich. However, just by looking at it you know that. This dish serves about 8 and is based on kladdkaka, a Swedish recipe for what is basically a very rich, sticky chocolate cake. I had wanted to make a black forest cake, but seeing as my ingredients and time was limited I opted to make this instead and got Scandinavian on the traditional black forest recipe.

You will need:

9 inch round cake pan
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, 2 tbsp set aside
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted salted European style butter
4 oz lingonberry sauce
1 tube marzipan
2 tbsp butter
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 and grease the cake pan. Combine the eggs and sugar and the dry ingredients separately. Mix the two until just combined then slowly add the vanilla and butter. Mix well and pour into cake pan, bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool at least an hour.

Take the 2 tbsp of butter and grease a smooth surface, rolling pin and set aside the rest for your hands in preparation to handle the marzipan. Remove from the packaging and knead into a ball, then roll it out until it's approximately 9 inches in diameter.

Using a spatula, spread the lingonberry sauce over the top of the kladdkaka. Put the marzipan sheet over it and use a knife to trim any extra off the edges. Using an electric mixer, beat the whipped cream and 1/3 cup of sugar until fluffy. Spread over the cake like icing. Using a sifter, sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top. Store in the refrigerator until it is to be served.

Brie, Apple and Hazelnut Schmear

This was the first thing people went for at the party after being given the overview of what was being served -- it also got the most feedback. I kept the hazelnuts whole to add interest but most of the guests found them too distracting but loved the rest of the dip. So if you're not a fan of crunchy things in dip or don't like hazelnuts, just leave 'em out. It'll still be good.

You need:

1 shredded granny smith apple
8 oz softened brie cheese (I just bought a "3-"4 wedge)
4 oz neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped finely

Combine and serve. Easy!

Spicy Vodka Sauce

I love vodka sauce but I rarely make it because it involves cream, which is heavy in calories and vodka, which is heavy in cost. However, this recipe made it worth it. It's simple and mostly involves simmering time, which will make your kitchen smell amazing.

You need:

a large pot
15 oz can cubed tomatoes
28 oz tomato sauce or puree, plain
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup vodka (the higher quality the better the sauce will be)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tsp salt

Heat all ingredients except the vodka and cream over medium heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the vodka and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the cream. Keep hot while serving and refrigerate once you're done -- the dairy makes this sauce a bit more perishable than regular marinara.

Gibanica - Serbian Feta Cabbage Pie

This was a recipe I'd been wanting to try for awhile but it makes so much there was no way I could eat it myself -- I needed some help. Hence how it wound up on the smorgasbord menu.

As something of a disclaimer, this recipe is not for the calorie conscious or vegans. It's full of dairy and is fairly high in fat; however, by cooking this dish using authentic ingredients, one is less likely to go overboard. I found that one piece the size of a playing card was all I needed. Besides, the recipe also makes so much of it that the ingredients called for look a lot worse than they actually are. Anywho, I figured this was a dish that deserved a disclaimer, lest I start getting snarky comments about promoting obesity or heart disease. Besides, that's what gyms are for.

I did lighten the original recipe though; cost was the main reason, although the added nutrients and fiber definitely make a difference. The original recipe called for 2 lbs of feta -- instead, I used 1 lb and one medium-large shredded cabbage.

You will need:

1/2 lb phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup sour cream
6-10 tbsp butter, melted
6 eggs
1 lb feta cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 cabbage, shredded and boiled for about 10-15 minutes
large baking or roasting pan -- the biggest one you have

Preheat the oven to 325. Beat the eggs together and add the flour and salt. Add the crumbled feta, sour cream and cabbage. Put about a tablespoon of butter or two in the pan, enough to grease it. Place 2-3 phyllo sheets in. Follow with about 1/6 of the cheese and cabbage mixture. Top with another 2-3 sheets and add another tablespoon of butter, brushing it over the phyllo as evenly as possible. Again, layer the cabbage and cheese. Do this until you're left with 2-3 phyllo sheets. Use up the remaining cabbage mixture and top with the phyllo and any leftover butter. Bake for around an hour to an hour and a half, or until the center seems set. Allow to cool and cut into squares. This went especially well with vodka sauce but is also delicious on its own.

Potato Gruyere Souffle

I recently held a smorgasbord at my home -- an entire day devoted to cooking and a night devoted to eating for a constantly rotating group of people. It was a lofty undertaking but ultimately, a success. Especially with one cook. Many of these are dishes I would never make for myself, mostly because they're too rich or simply not my taste. I'm trying to expand my culinary horizons, however, so this was a great opportunity to test recipes I otherwise wouldn't have made. These potato gruyere souffles will definitely grace my table again though.

I found the original recipe for these to be a little fussy, and it called for bleu cheese rather than gruyere. I already had a gibanica involving feta so I figured two brined cheeses might be too much. These were a favorite and actually pretty easy once I simplified the method. It may not be a true souffle but it's still worth a try.

You will need:

12-count muffin pan
apx 1 1/3 stick of butter, melted altogether
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 lbs of peeled potatoes
2/3 cup whole milk, room temp
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb gruyere, cubed
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a brush, grease the inside of the muffin tins with butter. Dust with the bread crumbs. Boil the potatoes until tender then quickly peel. While they're still hot, use a fork to scrape away at the potato to produce crumbs -- you can also use a ricer or food mill for this. Throw them into a large bowl and beat with 1/4 cup of butter, the milk, salt and eggs.

Fill the muffin tins halfway with the potato mash. Evenly divide the cubes of gruyere between the 12 tins. Use the rest of the mixture to fill them completely. Brush a little butter over the tops and bake in the middle or lower rack for 15 minutes, then 450 for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tins.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vegan Spiced Vanilla Kasha

Kasha was a dish I got very familiar with in Russia -- it's a hot cereal made from roasted buckwheat, usually cooked in milk. As someone excessively averse to sausages and other breakfast meats, this became my first meal of the day nearly every day for the second portion of the trip.

What was served, however, is not exactly this. This recipe is a professionalized version of what I mixed myself every morning in the cafeteria. The kasha served was bland and not quite salty, not quite sweet so I bought lot of vanilla sugar and cinnamon at the store and used them to add some flair.

I made mine in a rice cooker, but the same method would apply if you were using a large covered pot over medium-low heat.


14 oz can regular coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup rinsed buckwheat grains
6 oz water

Set all ingredients to cook for 45 minutes on the stove top or however long specified by your rice cooker. With the exception of a dash of sugar, it shouldn't need anything else before serving.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Potato and Celery Root Hummus with Avocado

One of the primary ideas behind the slow foods movement is that live food is good food -- there are compounds in fresh produce that aren't found in imported fruits and vegetables. Hence why I stopped in my tracks when I saw something still actually growing on the refrigerated shelves of the Whole Foods produce section.

Upon closer inspection, it was clearly a celery root. Bright tiny celery stalks were emerging from its top as it stood alone on the shelf. No price, no code, but I bagged it anyway. It was just too interesting to pass up, plus it was an ingredient I'd never worked with before.

Celery root reminds me of the baby in that Czech film, Little Otik. A bit creepy, but once the root is cleaned up and peeled it looks like any other root vegetable. To prepare it for boiling, cut off the top and any roots at the bottom. Using a vegetable peeler, get the rest of the skin off. Using a large sharp knife, chop into small cubes.

You will need:

1 cubed celery root
4 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium avocado
4 tbsp butter or olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
dash of chili powder

Boil the potatoes and celery root for approximately 40 minutes. Throw all ingredients into a bowl and mash -- I recommend using a mixer if you can because it takes awhile to smooth out. When storing, use plastic wrap to put directly over the surface to avoid discoloration. This is especially good served with brown rice or warmed pita squares.