Sunday, November 15, 2009

Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls)

Mimi had given me an Italian cookbook for my birthday and I was flipping through it. I saw Arancini and planned on trying it out. I had really forgotten about it till I looked in the fridge and saw a fresh mozzarella ball. I had all the ingredients and some time, so I started by making a basic mushroom risotto. You can find the recipe here:

 Once it has time to cool (or use leftovers from the day before), add 2 eggs. 

 Then form them goo into balls about the size of a golfball. Take small cubes of fresh mozzarella and work them into the center of the ball. Next, get some oil hot. Roll the balls in breadcrumbs (I was out of regular breadcrumbs so I used panko).  These can be frozen at this point and fried later. I dropped some in the oil and fried on both sides until browned. I drained them on paper towels and seasoned them with a bit of salt.

 I was surprised how tasty these were. The gooey melted cheese center makes them fun to eat as well. I will NEVER through away leftover risotto again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spicy Italian soup w/ gnocchi

I have always enjoyed a good soup. I have recently experimented with gnocchi and thought I would use it in a soup. I started by browning 1 lb of spicy Italian sausage.

Once browned, I added 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped onion, and 3 cloves of minced garlic. I sautéed that for about 10 minutes until the onion was translucent. I added almost 8 cups of chicken stock, a can of crushed tomatoes, a package of frozen spinach, 1 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp oregano, a shake or two of red pepper flakes, and plenty of pepper. I let that simmer for about 30 minutes to infuse all the flavors. I tasted it and ended up adding a little salt. Then I added the prepackaged gnocchi. I know, I know! Prepackaged when I could have spent hours making it from scratch? Maybe next time.

Once the gnocchi was cooked, I ladled it into a bowl and topped with shaved Parmesan.

It was more spicy than I had predicted and will omit the red pepper flakes if/when I make this again.

Now it is time to break down and play with making gnocchi from scratch. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Veggie night. AKA: Fight with Tanner night.

We had a great Sunday and did very little. It was a recharge day.

We still had to eat so Heather took heads of garlic, cut the tops off and put them in an oil filled roaster. They went in a 350 oven until the oil was gone, a little over an hour.

Then she took asparagus and put in a glass pan. She seasoned them with olive oil, garlic salt, and the juice of one lemon. They went in the oven for about 20 minutes.

She sliced an eggplant and cored and hollowed the leftover tomatoes. Everything was salted and allowed to leach on a rack. She took a box of frozen creamed spinach and made it according to the direction on the package. She stuffed the tomatoes with the creamed spinach and topped them with Parmesan.

She lightly floured the eggplant, then setup a dredging station. They went into an eggwash, then into panko.

The eggplant was fried in peanut oil until golden brown.

Once removed, she liberally salted them.

I had made some garlic brad with the roasted garlic, butter, and Parmesan. She plated it all up and we had an eclectic and very delicious meal. Tanner learned that he actually likes asparagus. We confirmed that he doesn't care much for spinach.

Heather's cinnamon-nut buns

Wow! Where do I start on this one? Heather saw a recipe she wanted to try so we gathered up all the ingredients. She asked me whether she should make the dough by hand, or use the bread machine to make the dough. It took some convincing on my part to get her to use the bread machine. She set the timer and we went to bed. She got up early to finish them. The dough was just as it was when she put it in the machine. Urgh! The stupid bread machine didn't do anything. Heather was just a bit irritated and took all the ingredients and put it in a bowl on the Kitchenaid and mixed it all up. The yeast dough proofed and Heather halved it and rolled them out. She took the filling and put it on the rolled dough, then rolled up the dough into loaves. She took a very sharp knife and sliced the rolls about 1 inch thick.

They were placed in a greased pan and then allowed to rise again for another hour and a half.

Once they had risen, she put them in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes. She let them cool a bit then put on a glaze.

So, it was well worth the effort, but the bread machine is finding it's way to the landfill.

The dough:
1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
2 packets active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
6 cups AP flour

You can "cook" the yeast if you want, but Heather just threw it all into a mixer bowl because of the bread machine fiasco. She mixed it for about 5 minutes with the dough hook. She put the dough in a bowl and placed it in a warm spot for about 2 hours. It had doubled in size. She punched it down and split it in half.

The filling:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In a food processor, combine brown sugar , nuts, chocolate, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until coarse.

The glaze:
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
6 Tbl unsalted butter
2 Tbl water

Heat everything in a small saucepan stirring constantly. Let it simmer for one minute, then drizzle over the warm buns.


Pork tenderloin with chipotle sweet potatoes and cabbage

I know this doesn't sound like a harmonious trio, but it was what I had that night.

I started by taking 1/4 olive oil, 1 Tbl of fresh rosemary from the backyard, 2 tsp of fresh thyme, and 2 crushed and minced garlic cloves. I minced the herbs and made a paste out of all the seasonings. I coated the loins in the paste and set it aside. Ideally, it needs to rest about an hour to really infuse the herbs.

I thinly shredded half of a head of cabbage and half an onion. I set those aside. When the cabbage is that thin, it doesn't take long to cook. Once the pork was on the grill, I sauteed the onion for 2 minutes in our dutch oven, then added the cabbage. I then put about 2 ounces of beer I was drinking at the time and put the lid on. It takes about a total of 6 minutes to be perfect.

I made chipotle sweet potatoes because they are one of Heather's favorites. I love her so I made them. It is just coincidence that I love chipotle sweet potatoes as well. I strongly encourage you to try this. Take 2 sweet potatoes, peel and cube them. Put them in a steamer for 20 minutes. Take 4 Tbls of butter, salt, pepper, and chipotle in adobo. Be careful though. The first time I made this they were hotter than Heather's hot wings. Chipotle is readily available now since we are becoming a very hispanic country. If you have the chipotles in adobo in the can, use 1 pepper and about 2 tsp of the sauce. If you have just the chipotle sauce in the can, use about 1 Tbl. Either is fine. When the taters are done, put in a bowl with the butter, seasonings, and adobo and mash with a potato masher. Simple, cheap and easy.

I grilled the tenderloins on a very hot grill for about 9 minutes. The first time you try this, use a thermometer and cook the thickest part to about 145. I use the feel technique. I have made this so many times I feel the tenderloin till it feels right.

This is the end result.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fish in Papillote

This is the classic French preparation of fish in parchment. It is really easy to make, is relatively healthy, and inexpensive. The tri-fecta of dinner. It works well with most flaky fish. I used cod, but you could use halibut, sea bass, or snapper. Start by looking in the pantry. This is easily adaptable to what you have on hand. This night I had carrots, onion, and green onion available so that is what I went with. Think outside the box though. Zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, or just about any quick cooking vegetable will do. The trick is to cut the vegetables to the correct thickness so they all cook in the same amount of time. I thinly sliced the carrots. (Peel, then cut the carrots in 3 inch segments. Then slice one side to make it falt. With the flat side down, you can make thin planks. Then turn the planks over and make matchsticks.) I sliced the onion thicker and took green onions in chuncks. I also took a garlic clove and minced it. Why not?

I mixed the vegetables and added salt and pepper. I also took 4 Tbl of butter and added salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and about 1/2 tsp of lemon zest. A fork will blend that up into a nice herbed butter.
Place 1/4 of the vegetables on a 6 x 6 square of tinfoil. I know, it is supposed to be fish in parchement, but I am not very good at origami. Foil keeps everything nice and sealed so everything steams and stays moist. I sprinkled about 2 tsp of vermouth over the vegetables to give it some harmony.
I took the cod and placed it on the vegetables. Then I spread 1/4 of the herbed butter on top of the fish.
I took another 6x6 sheet of foil and placed over everything. Roll up the sides creating a nice pouch that will keep the steam in. Bake in 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. DON'T overcook it.
I opened the pouches and plated them. Then I topped it all with some lemon zest.

So not very "classic" but this is a very easy way to add your servings of vegetables and incorporate more fish in your diet. Don't make it the same way twice and it won't get boring.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicken Piccata with mushrooms and artichokes

This is one of our favorite quick and easy meals.

I started by mixing flour, basil, pepper, and a little salt. Then I juiced and zested a lemon. I added about a Tbl of capers and about 3 Tbl of chardonnay.

I tossed chicken tender chunks that I had sliced and pounded out to a constant consistency in the seasoned flour.

I sautéed the chicken in 3 Tbl of butter with 2 Tbl of Olive Oil. Depending on the thickness, it takes about 2 minutes per side.

I simultaneously sautéed some mushrooms in a bit of butter until they were soft. Then I tossed in some chopped artichokes just to heat it through.

Once the chicken was done I removed it and deglazed the pan with the lemon/wine/caper mixture. Then I added the chicken back to let it thicken.

Then I tossed angel hair pasta with the mushrooms and artichokes. Once the pasta was plated I topped it with the chicken and sauce. Some shaved Parmesan just for the fun of it and we chowed.

The key to this is the lemon zest. It really brightens the whole dish. I used chardonnay, but I prefer a Pinot Grigio, but I had chardonnay readily available so that is what I went with. Also, if you need more liquid, you can add chicken stock to get the consistency you want.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Boursin fillet with stuffed tomatoes and onion strips

This is a "go to" we have not as often as I would like. Lets start with the tomatoes. I halved 3 Roma tomatoes and scooped out the seeds and core. I know that is where all the great nutrients are, but I don't really like it. I liberally salted the inside and put them on a rack to leech them.

While the tomatoes leeched, I took 2 oz of blue cheese, 2 oz of cream cheese and about Tbl of finely minced red onion. I took a fork and blended the mixture. Then I stuffed the tomatoes with the mixture and topped them with a bit of panko. Then they went into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Then I took 2 fillets and seasoned them with Penzey's BBQ 3000. This stuff is amazing. It defies logic, but it really enhances the pure beef flavor.

I took about 4 Tbls of softened butter and half a container of boursin. I blended it with a fork.

I learned this little trick to get the gas grill REALLY hot. I turned all 3 burners on high and put an aluminum chaffing dish over the grill. I closed the lid and walked away. Once the thermometer pegged out, I removed the chaffing dish and scrubbed the grates with a brush. The fillets make the most beautiful sound when they hit that hot grill. PShhhhhhhh!

Heather had the great idea of topping the fillets with a sprinkling of onion strips. She sliced up a yellow onion and coated them with a cajun spiced batter. The results were not what we intended and the strips clumped up. We chose to make it a side item instead of a topping. No biggie.

A change in format

Life has gotten a bit too hectic to post often enough to keep this fresh. I always said if it got to this point, I would stop. Instead, I have decided to change the format. Instead of just listing everything we have made, I thought I would list a few more details of how we made the meal. By no means have we had any training or reason to think we can teach anyone anything, so take this for what it is worth; nothing but a few moments of your time. Let us know what you think.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Hull's come to visit

Brian had a shoot for MDOT so Hollie and the kids hitched a ride and hung out with us. It is always a pleasure to have them visit. We made fillets with boursin butter and roasted asparagus. Heather had made a HUGE batch of roasted garlic and we noshed on everything. The big hit of the night was dessert: Snickers Ice Cream Bars. Yummy!

A picture too cute not to post

This is Tanner showing something to Jake and Emma.

Chicken with artichokes and hearts of palm

We had a busy night so I again, grilled some chicken breasts, but this time I tossed some vermicelli with artichoke hearts, chunks of hearts of plam, and olive oil. I topped it all with a bit of shaved Parmesan.

Pickwick fillet with green beans

We were allowed to spend another weekend at Pickwick and had some fillets. We premade as much as we could so when we got there we could relax as much as possible. The fillet was seasoned with my steak seasoning blend and topped with boursin butter. Heather took care of the green beans by blanching them for 6 minutes then sauteing them with onion and bacon. The boys had burgers. Everyone was happy. Chance chased girls around in the golf cart. What a great weekend.

Greek rollups

We didn't have plans for the chicken we had out so I through this together. I seasoned the chicken with Cavender's Greek Seasonings and grilled them. I took some Flat Out whole grain pitas and layers some hummas on. Heather made a feta dressing out of feta, sour cream, and garlic. I added the sliced chicken and sauce, then rolled them up. Amazingly enough, Tanner even ate it.

Heather's carmalized onion and blue cheese pizza

We cheated on this one and used a premade crust. Heather carmalized some red onion and layerd it over the crust. She added chunks of blue cheese and a bit of mozzarella to bind it all together. She halved some grape tomatoes and put it all in a very hot oven. The results were not at all what I expected. The carmalized onions added a very sweet flavor with a nice contrast from the blue cheese.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rueben with home chips

We braised a corned beef brisket and I sliced it up into chunks. I added saurkraut, cheese, and thousand island dressing on rye bread. The chips were thinly sliced potatoes brushed with oil and seasoned with a cajun seasonings blend and crisped up in the oven.

Berry Cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Heather took a bag of frozen mixed berries and add a little sugar. She whipped up a topping for cobbler following the bisquick box instructions. It was quite good considering its simplicity.

Hanger Steak with horseradish sauce and Hez Mac & Cheese

Heather marinated a hanger steak overnight in some concoction she developed. She was supposed to mix horseradish with sour cream and some other things, but forget the horseradish at home. She substituted creole mustard and it worked well with the steak. She had pre-prepared the mac & cheese. Elbow pasta, sour cream, cottage cheese, sharp cheddar, 1 egg, salt/pepper, and a dash of cayenne. We just threw it in the oven an hour before we knew the steak would be ready. Can you believe Tanner ate all of his?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trip to Pickwick

My sister and brother-in-law let us use their "cabin" at Pickwick. This was exactly the break we needed. It was far too short, but our boys had a blast. Thanks to Karen and Tommy for allowing us to forget about reality for 48 hours.