Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF...

HEART!
In honor of Valentine's Day I thought I would share the Braised Heart I made the other night. I had never eaten beef heart, so also have never cooked it, but I treated it as you would any other tough cut of meat by slowly braising in rich, wonderful flavors. And it turned out to be delicious!

BRAISED BEEF HEART

Ingredients:
I beef heart* (Or in my case 1/2 beef heart.)
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
6 small potatoes, whole with skins on
3 carrots, cut in 3" pieces
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and rough chopped
1 cup rich beef stock**
1/2 cup red wine
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
Salt/Pepper

* The average beef heart weighs 3 to 4 lbs.

* I happened to have some very rich beef stock left over from beef ribs I had made awhile back, but store-bought beef stock would work, too. Having stock of all types made and tucked away in the freezer gives me a great feeling of comfort and security.
Preparation:
First you must thoroughly clean the heart. I clean all meat before cooking, but with organ meat it is particularly important. Rinse the heart under cold water and pat dry. Remove all visible silver skin.
And then remove anything that doesn't look like meat.
There's lots of stuff in there that comes out pretty easily using a pulling/cutting technique.

Next, cut the heart into 1" thick slices and remove some of the thick outer fat.
Liberally salt and pepper the heart slices and dredge in 1/2 cup flour. Add the flour to a zip lock bag and drop the heart into the bag. This is an easy way to coat all sides of the heart with the flour.
Heat 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil in a skillet over high heat and quickly brown the heart slices on all sides. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic. Reduce heat to medium high. Cook the veg for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to coat with pan juices and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.


Add Beef Stock, red wine, bay leaf and fresh rosemary. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

The heart is very lean so, although not tough, it has a thick almost chewy consistency, but the flavor was out of this world! I wouldn't cook this weekly, but what a wonderful treat once in awhile.

WISHING ALL YOU ROMANTICS
A VERY HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Until next time...Keep on Keeping On in the Kitchen!

Monday, February 5, 2018

BEST EVER BOSTON BAKED BEANS!

I have always believed my Mom made the best baked beans. That was until I tried this recipe, which I found online at Simply Recipes. I did change a couple things and this is what I came up with...
SLOW-COOKER BOSTON BAKED BEANS
Ingredients:
1 pound dry white beans-I used Navy Beans
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. salt
3 cups hot water
3 pieces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, diced
Preparation:
Soak beans overnight in water with at least 2 inches of water above the beans as they will absorb lots of water. Next day drain beans.
Mix molasses, brown sugar, mustard, ground cloves with 3 cups of hot water.
Line the bottom of your slow cooker (aka Crock Pot) with half of the bacon pieces. Add half of the beans. Add all of the diced onion. Top with the rest of the beans and remaining bacon. Pour the molasses water mixture over the beans to just cover the beans. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 hours until the beans are tender. Check the water level in a few hours to make sure beans remain covered. My beans did not dry out and the 3 cups of water was the perfect amount to make nice juicy and tender beans! I served the Boston Baked Beans with Pigs in Blankets, Coleslaw and Cape Cod Potato Chips!

That's all for today.
Valentine's Day is right around the corner
and I will share with you my recipe for
Braised Beef Heart!

Monday, January 22, 2018

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI'S MADE VERY EASY!

This Ree Drummond recipe (Food Network's Pioneer Woman) makes Pumpkin Ravioli's so easy and if you didn't know you were not using pasta you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.


I made these with the help of our good friends Dennis and Diana on the occasion of Dennis and Jerry's birthday last November. We always enjoy cooking together!
Birthday Boys, Dennis and Jerry
November 13, 2017
PUMPKIN WONTON RAVIOLI
Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 large egg, slightly beaten
48 wonton wrappers
1 1/2 cups shaved parmesan cheese
6 sage leaves, rolled and very thinly sliced or I fried them.
Freshly ground pepper
Getting them filled.

"Many hands make light work"...
my Mom used to say that all the time!

 
Preparation:
Melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and heat it for a couple of minutes (do not brown). Add the pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp. salt and the chili powder. Cook this filling for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to warm it and cook off some of the excess liquid. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly while you get the other components ready.
Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet, set aside. Melt the remaining 6 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat; let it cook and bubble up for an additional minute or so, until the foam is golden brown. Watch it carefully and take the pan off the heat as soon as it's ready. Because I decided to fry the sage I used this brown butter to fry the sage in which also gave the butter a lovely flavor. Finally, beat the egg with 1 Tbsp. cold water to use as your wonton glue. Now you're ready to form raviolis.
 
These raviolis were wrapped up in short time!
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Lay out a few wonton wrappers at a time (As you see we laid them all at once, no problem as we worked quickly. You don't want the raviolis to dry out.) and spoon about 2 tsp. of the pumpkin mixture in the middle of each one. Then, one at a time, dab your finger into the egg wash mixture and "paint" around the pumpkin on the wrapper. Lay a second wonton wrapper on top of each one, match up the edges and press the two wrappers together, gently pressing out any air bubbles as you go. To seal the ravioli, use a knife or square cutter to neatly trim the edges. Set them aside while you work on the rest. We decided to seal the edges of each ravioli tightly with our fingers and not trim giving them a more rustic look, but be careful of fingernails as they go through tender wonton wrappers very easily.
Diana's wonton is bleeding pumpkin!
 
We really brushed on the egg wash even
after sealing so the raviolis would stay together.
Drop a few ravioli at a time into the gently boiling water.

Boil them until tender, 2-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on a platter or serving plates. Spoon a little bit of the browned butter over the ravioli, then sprinkle on parmesan shavings, sage (either fresh or fried), toasted pine nuts and a little freshly ground pepper.

We completed the birthday feast with lightly steamed green beans in butter, very garlicy garlic bread and a tomato Caprese salad.
Diana was in charge of garlicy garlic bread.

And Dennis made the Caprese salads:
Sliced tomato, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, Olive Oil, S/P

And our finale was a French-style apple pie (Thanks to Martha Stewarts recipe: http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=martha+stewart+apple+pie, scroll down to find the recipe. This was a LONG blog!) topped with home-made vanilla ice cream. I'm going to have to blog this recipe. It is my favorite vanilla ice cream!
 

Well, that's a wrap for today!
I love celebrating birthdays
and especially love Dennis and Jerry's!

Can't wait to see what we'll come up with next year!

Until next time...

KEEP CELEBRATING!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

"FOOD OF THE GODS"...OXTAIL SOUP!


How did OXTAIL SOUP get its name since it is generally made from beef tail? From what I learned an ox is a castrated bull, but any breed of cattle can be trained to be an ox. Generally the largest bulls are selected so they are able to accomplish the most work. I suspect that OXEN are a different breed from BEEF, but in the same family, but am not sure. Possibly when oxen were more prevalent as 'beasts of burden' used for plowing fields, etc. you truly were eating ox tail, but now beef is much more common and I am sure the flavors are similar. Please weigh in on this debate!

Oxtails weigh on average between 2 to 4 lbs. Mine came from my rancher friend, Duncan Blair, and were already skinned and cut into pieces weighing about 5 lbs. total. They are bony and rich with gelatin and marrow. They need lots of cooking, which is why they generally go into a stew or are used as stock. I used my new slow cooker. Turns out they are eaten in most parts of the world, and why not?...Great taste, lots of nutrition and accessible if you raise beef or know someone who does. I have become a huge fan of eating every part of the animal. (I love Fergus Henderson's cookbook, The Whole Beast-Nose to Tail Eating). I found 3 different recipes online and took the best of all to come up with this simple, but delicious version.

OXTAIL SOUP
Ingredients:
5 lbs. oxtail
1 qt. beef stock
2 bay leaves
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped, include leaves
4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
3 red bliss potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup good red wine divided in half
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp, allspice

14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
Several sprigs of fresh sage

Parsley for garnish
Our good neighbor Brian is an adventurous eater!
I didn't want to go too crazy with spices as never having eaten oxtail I really wanted to taste it, but you can add cumin, curry, scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom--these are all spices commonly found in other recipes. You can also add different types of beans--cannellini, kidney, shell, etc.; or grain, such as barley or faro. The spices vary regionally. I kept this dish more like beef stew.

Preparation:
I chose to cook over 2 days so I could skim off the excess fat after cooling overnight. Oxtail tend to be fatty.
Add all ingredients up to the diced tomatoes, second 1/2 cup of red wine and fresh sage to slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Let cool completely and refrigerate overnight. Next day remove most, but not all of the fat which will have hardened at top of dish. Return to slow cooker, set on low.

Add tomatoes, the second 1/2 cup of wine and several sprigs of fresh safe. Cook on low another 5 hours. Remove the sage. Adjust for seasoning. Garnish with parsley. You may either remove the meat from the bones or serve rustic style bones and all. That is what I did as picking up the bones and getting them very clean was half the fun. I served with a big green salad and hot French bread and lots of red wine. Next time I would cook for 13 hours. They were tender, but not completely falling off the bone.
Lori is about to dig in! We love dining with the Itule's!
I have some additional treats from Duncan Blair
including some beautiful hearts and kidneys
so stay tuned for more offal cooking!

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY!
 
PLEASE JOIN ME AGAIN SOON
FOR ANOTHER EPISODE...
After a big day of cooking there is nothing like
lounging on our front porch enjoying the late afternoon January sun!
 




Friday, December 22, 2017

APPETIZING APPETIZERS!

I have been cooking up a storm this holiday season! I love to make appetizers so will share a few I have made lately.
Front and center are Beef Koftas. There are hundreds of variations on this tasty treat. They can be made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken or a combination of several meats as you would an Italian meatball. Popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, they are similar to a meatball, but spiced very differently.

BEEF KOFTA
Kind of looks like a spaceship has landed!
This recipe combines several different recipes I found online. I like the sweet of the raisins with the rich spices. I served them with two different sauces: Cooling Mint and Hot and Spicy Harissa yogurt. I also like the fact that all can be made in advance broiling the meat just before your guests arrive.

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 Tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 piece white bread soaked in milk
1 egg

Preparation:
In a food processor or mini food blender finely chop the onions and raisins. Add the cumin, garlic powder and allspice and blend until a thick paste is formed. Remove from the blender and add half the beef (if using a mini as I did; otherwise add the full pound). Pulse it a few times until the grind becomes more smooth. Add the paste into the meat and pulse again until incorporated. Add the fresh parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper. And finally, add the bread that has been soaked in milk. The bread helps to bind the koftas so they don't fall off the stick when you eat them. Remove the meat to a bowl and add the egg mixing thoroughly with your hands. Form into oblong shape (about 2 oz.--think 2 bites) and keep chilled in fridge until ready to broil.  Bring to room temp before broiling. I made the mistake of skewering before broiling. I had soaked the skewers in water all day and figured they would not burn. Wrong. Because the meat is right under the broiler the wooden sticks 'catch' quickly. I did not start a fire, but it did come close. Very smoky! Next time I will broil and then skewer. As it was I had to remove all the burned skewers and re-skewer before serving.
Broil for 5 minutes then turn koftas over and broil for another 5 minutes. Skewer and serve.

KOFTA SAUCES

COOLING MINT SAUCE:
In a food processor or mini-blender combine 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, 2 Tbsp. chopped onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, a little lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) salt. Blend until well combined. In a slow stream add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You may need more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Blend until smooth.

HOT AND SPICY HARISSA YOGURT SAUCE:
Harissa is a spicy pepper sauce from Northern Africa; Tunisia to be precise. In a bowl combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. water to thin the yogurt to a dipping consistency. Add 2 Tbsp. (more if you want extra spicy) Harissa paste and 1 tsp. smoked paprika. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Adjust seasoning.

RED PEPPER AND WALNUT DIP
I've had this recipe so long I can't remember where it came from, but most likely Gourmet Magazine. Easy to put together and very flavorful. Delicious with an assortment of crackers, toasted baguette, or toasted pita bread.

Ingredients:
2 (7-8 Oz.) jars roasted red peppers (or roast your own, which is what I did)
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation:
Puree roasted peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, vinegar, cumin, cayenne and 1/4 tsp. salt in food processor until almost smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until well incorporated. This is also a "do-ahead" recipe and can be made several days in advance. Bring to room temp before serving.

DEVILED EGGS WITH CANDIED BACON
The Candied Bacon make these traditional Deviled Eggs very special!

To candy the bacon:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lay strips of bacon on a rack on top of the foil-lined pan. Combine about a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the bacon slices. If you happen to have pure maple syrup on hand, drizzle the bacon with a little syrup.
Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bacon and repeat topping. Bake another 10 minutes or until bacon is crispy. Because of the moisture of the sugar and syrup the bacon may not get crispy until it cools. If you like extra crispy bacon, pop under the broiler for a couple minutes, but use caution as the sugar burns very easily.

Prepare your favorite Deviled Eggs (I use mayo, grainy mustard, curry powder, salt, white pepper) and top with large slices of the Candied Bacon. I garnished my eggs with freshly chopped parsley and smoked paprika.

My husband, Jerry had to "test" the Candied Bacon
to make sure it was alright for serving!

CREAM CHEESE WITH
RASPBERRY CHIPOLTE JELLY
This simple appetizer is one of my favorites and the easiest of all. Place a block of cream cheese on a serving tray. Cover generously with Raspberry Chipolte jelly. Our pomegranate tree bore fruit for the first time this year so I topped with pomegranate seeds which add a nice element of texture. Serve with assorted crackers.
This jelly is not as "AssKickin" as advertised, but it was the perfect complement to the smooth and mild cream cheese. I bought it at the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice, Co. in Tumacacori, (www.santacruzchili.com) but similar jellies are readily available at Trader Joes and many other locations.

ARE YOU FULL YET?
 
I LOVE TURNING APPETIZERS INTO DINNER, ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS WHEN WE (THAT'S ME!) TEND TO OVERINDULGE!
 
ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL AND FESTIVE SEASON!
 
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS
FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!




Friday, December 8, 2017

IT'S PERSIMMON SEASON!

 
...And Acorn, and other squash season, too. Persimmon run a little longer--October to February, where squash is in-season October to December, although stores carry squashes almost year-round. So if you are buying in July know that it has been picked awhile. I was fortunate to receive this freshly picked bounty from our good neighbors, Brian and Lori Itule, who are in the food business. Thank you friends!
 
The first thing I decided to do was roast and stuff these beautiful squash.

SPICY STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

Ingredients:
3 squash cut in half
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups+ cooked Red Quinoa (or other whole grain, such as brown rice, farro, etc.)
1/2 cup cubed Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, sauted in butter until tender
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. clove
Salt/Pepper to taste

Preparation:
Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy pieces. If you want to save the seeds, rinse in a colander and pull off any remaining squash pieces. Spread the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil and sea salt over the seeds. Roast for about 10-15 minutes at 375 until seeds start to pop. Remove. Cool. Enjoy!

Back to the stuffed squash...

If you decided to roast the seeds, reduce oven temp to 350 degrees. Rub the insides of the squash with olive oil and salt liberally. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until squash is just tender. Timing will depend on the size of your squash.

Mix all ingredients together and fill squash. Either set aside or re-bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

These squash are delicious filled with about any combination of grain, veg, nut, and dried fruit you can come up with. Have fun experimenting! I am going to try them stuffed with Persimmon!

Since the oven was hot and I had lots of squash I roasted the rest of the squash and made Acorn Squash Soup.


Here's a similar recipe I made a few years back using Butternut squash. http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=squash+soup

This time I kept the soup very simple. Bring 1 Qt. of chicken stock to boil. Add a diced carrot, diced celery stalk, and 1/2 diced onion. Simmer until veg is tender; about 20 minutes. Scoop out the roasted squash from the shells (cool first) and add to the stock. Cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt/pepper. Let cool and blend either in the blender or using an emulsion blender. It is so rich and creamy that no cream is necessary! It also freezes well.

And now on to the Persimmon. I found this recipe for Persimmon Bread on http://allrecipes.com/recipe/6964/persimmon-bread-ii/.  The only change I made to the recipe was to cut the sugar from 3 cups to 2. Now that my fruit is a little more ripe I will add 1 1/2 cups sugar. My batter easily filled 5 little bread tins, not 3.

There are several varieties of Persimmon that have different characteristics. These Persimmon are called Hachiya or Japanese Persimmon. When the fruit is not completely ripe it has a very astringent, pucker your mouth, kind of feel. Delicious taste, but mouth-feel not so nice, but once cooked they lose that mouth-feel and their delicious delicate flavor comes through. And once ripe, they lose most of that puckery feeling when eating raw.



PERSIMMON BREAD
Ingredients:
1 cup persimmon pulp (about 1 1/2 persimmon)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups white sugar (amount of sugar will depend on ripeness of fruit)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 12/ tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup water
3 cups white flour
1 cup walnuts

I love the way these fruit look inside!

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 5 mini loaf pans (6x3"). In a small bowl, stir together the persimmon pulp and baking soda. Mix so the soda dissolves. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken the pulp.
In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp and water alternately with flour. Fold in nuts.
Divide batter into prepared pans, filling each pan 2/3 full.
Top the uncooked breads if you like with a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
That's all for today.
I hope you are doing lots of holiday baking
in preparation for the festive Christmas Holiday!
 
MUCH LOVE FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!

I am feeling HO! HO! HO! festive.
So many parties...so little time!

www.cookwithcindy.com