Saturday, January 12, 2019

PASTA PARTY!

We spent New Year's Eve this year with our good friends Steve and Debby Vis. Deb, a fantastic cook herself, had never made pasta or ice cream so we decided to add both to our New Year's Eve dinner. There are endless variations of pasta recipes using anywhere from 1 egg to 6 eggs; different amounts of flour; oil or not to add oil; salt or no salt. I really like this very basic, simple recipe, but next time I think I'd like to try adding some flavoring to the pasta. I'm thinking finely diced basil and red pepper flakes.
SIMPLE 4-EGG PASTA
Deb, excited to begin, mounds her pasta on the counter.
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup (more or less) water-You most likely will not use it all, but keep it handy.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
 
Preparation:
Mound 3 cups of flour on a clean surface. Add 1 tsp. of salt to the flour evenly. Make a large well and drop eggs into the well. With your hands start to slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs.
Add 1 Tbsp. of water at a time to help bring dough together until it starts to form a ball. The dough should be stiffer than bread dough, but still pliable. Continue adding water 1 Tbsp. at a time until you have the desired consistency. If the dough is too loose, add more flour. If it is too stiff, add more water. This is not an exact science. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over the dough and mix that into the dough continuing to bring it all together.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If you think you have kneaded enough, press your finger into the dough. If the indentation comes back quickly you have kneaded enough. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, cut into 4 sections. This allows it to fit into the pasta roller and makes it easier to roll.
Start rolling out the pasta on your widest setting. When you have rolled through once, fold pasta in half and roll again at that setting, then lower to the next setting. Once rolled, fold pasta in thirds the long way and roll twice at that setting. Continue in this fashion switching back and forth between folding in half and folding in thirds until you are at either the lowest setting or the pasta is very thin.

I use a Roma. Deb has a Marcato. My Mom used Weston Brand.
All excellent machines and cutters are interchangeable.

I love the simplicity of this machine.
And here it is with cutter attached.
Once you have reached the desired thickness cut the pasta either by hand with a knife or run through the pasta cutter at desired style: spaghetti, fettucine, tagliatelle or whatever you choose. We chose fettucine and because the cutting got a little hectic neglected to get any photos, but this process is very simple. Feed your thinly rolled pasta into the pasta cutter and crank it through catching on a large tray as it is cut. Sprinkle liberally with flour once it is cut. You cannot add too much flour as any excess will fall off in the boiling process. If you don't add enough flour the newly cut pasta sticks very quickly and you will have a tangled mess.
Drop pasta into boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly so check for doneness after 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve. We topped our pasta with a rich seafood bisque that I had made the previous day. The bisque was made by starting with a shrimp and lobster shell broth, cooked down for hours. I added cod, shrimp, scallops, lobster, mussels and clams, a little cream, white wine, seasoning. It was good, but what made this meal really good was the fresh pasta. Deb did a beautiful job. You would not have known it was her first time making it.

Before the main feast Steve made
one of my favorites: Steak Tartare!
And I made the same Shrimp Louis we had at Christmas.

It was a fabulous night filled with lots of
laughs, love, feasting and good cheer!

HAPPY 2019!

Next time I will share the Butter Pecan Ice Cream we made
along with some of my other favorite ice cream recipes.

6 inches of snow greeted us right after New Years!
Very unusual for the sunny, southwestern desert!











Sunday, January 6, 2019

HAPPY EPIPHANY!

Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, occurs every year on January 6. Epiphany means "manifestation" as it commemorates the first time Jesus' divinity manifested itself through the visit of the Three Kings. I thought in honor of the first day of Epiphany, which is the beginning of Epiphanytide, a period lasting until Lent, I would talk about our Christmas dinner. My dear mother-in-law, Helen, always considered Epiphany the last day of Christmas and that is when she would take down her tree. Christmastide ends and Epiphanytide begins!

For now...back to Christmas dinner!
Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb,
Butternut Squash with pecans,
Creamed Spinach and Hasselback Potatoes.

But first, our favorite appetizer...

We celebrated this year with our friend Leslie Jackson and her two pups, Gracie and Ruby.

Gracie on the left and Ruby on the right.
We started with an array of appetizers, but my favorite was a recipe from my friend, golf buddy, and neighbor Bonnie Ungerecht. Unfortunately it is not shown on the tray as the shrimp was just coming out of the oven. A perfect hors d'oeuvres for a party as you can make the sauce several days in advance, clean the shrimp in the morning so within 10 minutes your fancy hors d'oeuvres is served!

SHRIMP LOUIS
Ingredients:
2 lbs. peeled large or extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined*
Good quality olive oil
Kosher salt/freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise**
1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. bottled horseradish, drained
2 tsp. Sriracha (I used 1/2 tsp. as my husband does not like hot spice.)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup minced scallions; about 2 scallions
2 Tbsp. capers, drained

*Of course, use less shrimp if your party does not require 2 full lbs. and you will have Louis Sauce leftover, which is not a bad thing!

**Hellman's is my favorite, but west of the Rocky Mountains it is packaged and sold as Best Buy--exact same thing.

Preparation:
Make the sauce:
In a medium bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper. Stir in the scallions and capers. Cover and place in the fridge (up to a week) to meld flavors.
When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dry the shrimp well with paper towels. Place them on a foil-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until firm and just cooked through.
To serve:
Put the amount of Louis Sauce appropriate for the number of shrimp you are serving in a serving bowl on top of a tray. Spread the hot shrimp and oil on the tray around the bowl of Louis and serve with crackers, crostini, or any small breads. It is also delicious on its own.
MEDITERRANEAN STUFFED LEG OF LAMB
This recipe is from several I found online and then adapted. I often do a stuffed leg of lamb at Easter, but this is the first time we've had it for Christmas.

Ingredients:
1 (5 lb.) boneless leg of lamb*
Salt/Pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus a few sprigs for roasting
10 oz. bag fresh spinach
6 oz. (or more) soft goat cheese
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 tsp. pine nuts
4 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. fennel seeds, slightly crushed in mortar/pestle
2 Tbsp. sesame oil plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 bottle good red wine for deglazing

Preparation:
Remove plastic netting or twine form around the leg of lamb, if any, and open up the roast on a cutting board. Remove the bone if necessary. Place the boned side of the roast up. With a very sharp paring knife, cut away any excess fat, sinew or silver skin. This takes time, but is well worth it as your lamb will be much more tender as a result. Using a sharp knife cut 1/2 inch deep slits where necessary to help the roast lie flat. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound with a mallet (I use my Mom's very heavy marble rolling pin!) until lamb is uniformally about 3/4 inch thick. This can also be done ahead of time. Wrap the lamb in plastic and put in the fridge until ready to continue, or even do the night before.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Liberally salt/pepper the lamb on all sides. Spread the garlic and rosemary evenly over the lamb. Spread the spinach leaves to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Break up the soft goat cheese and drop evenly over the spinach. Then add the crumbled goat cheese. Finally top with the pine nuts.
Roll the roast into a tight cylinder starting from the wide end. The stuffing will keep popping out, but just push it back in and keep rolling. Tie with kitchen twine at 2 inch intervals. Carefully rub 4 Tbsp. olive oil over the tied roast.
In a flat dish mix together the flour, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. pepper, thyme, and fennel seeds and press the tied roast firmly into the flour mixture to coat all sides.
Heat 2 Tbsp. sesame and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy oven-proof pan over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Sear all sides of the roast, including the ends, to a golden brown. Add 1/2 bottle of red wine over top of roast. Top with 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Place in oven and roast to your desired doneness. Baste every 15 minutes with pan drippings. 145 degrees is rare; about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

*I could not get a boneless leg so got a semi-boned leg and boned it myself. This was a large lamb; my guess bordering on a year old.

I'm going to conclude with my favorite recipe for Key Lime Pie. I've had this recipe so long that I don't know where it came from, but it is a classic Key Lime Pie recipe.

CLASSIC KEY LIME PIE
For the Graham crack crust:
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs, 12 full sheets of Graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Crush the crumbs in a food processor or place them in a strong plastic bag and smash them until they are fine crumbs. Combine Graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Add the melted butter and stir until fully combined and all of the crumbs are moist. Scoop the mixture into a 9 1/2 - 10 inch pie plate. (I should've used a 10 inch plate as I had extra filling, but simply put it in a custard cup and baked alongside the pie.) Firmly press it down into an even layer on bottom and up around the sides of the dish. Use your fingers to do this. You do not want the bottom crust to be too thick or it will be difficult to cut through once cooked. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

To make the Key Lime filling:
Ingredients:
1 cup key lime juice (I use Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Key Lime Juice.)
2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks

Combine the key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and whisk until fully combined. Pour the filling into the Graham cracker crust and spread it around into one even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until the top of the pie is set, the pie will still be jiggly.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. Once chilled, top with whipped cream and lime zest.

I guess this means Christmastide is over and we're on to a new year. I hate to see this season end, but greatly look forward to more adventures in the kitchen in 2019!
 
Until next time...



Friday, December 28, 2018

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHARCUTERIE!



Me and Jay still smiling after 7 hours of salami making!
I recently had the privilege, once again, to work with my friend Jay Bileti making charcuterie. We cut, ground, spiced, stuffed, and hung 20 pounds of pork; two 5 lb. batches of pepperoni, and two 5 lb. batches of salami--A Tuscan salami, which has a lot of lightly crushed whole black peppercorns, fennel, anise, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine, and Calabrese, a spicy salami with cinnamon, red and black pepper, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine.

The pepperoni's contain Kosher salt, black pepper, fennel seeds, anise seeds, sugar, paprika, cayenne, chipotle and ancho pepper, and red wine.

Making salami is a precise process involving exacting science. I do not recommend making at home yourself, as if done improperly you can make yourself or someone else very, very sick or even die. Take a class or work with someone who has extensive knowledge of the science behind curing meat.


This photo is from Lexi's food blog, www.lexiscleankitchen.com.
 
First, what is Charcuterie? In Italy it generally refers to salted and dried meats, such as salamis. In France, charcuterie is generally cooked meat, such as pates. Traditionally pork is the meat that is used in both the dried and cooked processes, but as with everything there are many exceptions and variations. Pates, for example, can be made from meat, fish, poultry or livers. Today you often see both cured and cooked meats served attractively on a wooden board along with dried fruits, cheese, possibly nuts, olives, or onion jam. The word Charcuterie is also sometimes used to define the shop where these meats are sold. And, the French word for someone who makes charcuterie is a charcutier, or pork butcher. Jay is definitely a charcutier, where I am still very much a student. I would not attempt to make this on my own even after two opportunities working with Jay.
We used a combination of Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly and Pork Butt. The Butt sits higher than the shoulder and contains lots of lovely fat. When making salami you want to maintain an 80-20 ratio of lean meat to fat. The pork is cut into 1" dice removing most of the sinew and stringy bits. Next it is ground and finally spiced with cultures added.

One of the most important ingredients in charcuterie is salt. The world's oldest preservative, salt is essential to draw out moisture as the meat cures, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. Since bacteria have no mouths, they need to dissolve their food in water to absorb it through their membranes--no water, no eating! And, salt also draws water out of the actual bacteria, which will kill them. Keeping all tools and work surfaces clean is also extremely important. Jay keeps a bowl of bleach water right on the counter and encourages constant washing of tools and hands. Watching the temperature of both your meat and grinding tools is also critical to discourage growth of "bad" bacteria.

 
Spices added. Next comes the Fermentation agent.


A Fermentation agent or culture mixed with a small amount of water is added to the ground meat. The Fermentation agent pre-populates the meat with beneficial bacteria so the "bad" bacteria (the ones that make you sick or can kill you) have less of a chance to grow.

Now you are ready to stuff the meat into pre-soaked casings. We used smaller intestines from a pig to make the pepperoni and larger casings from a cow for the salamis.

 

Once stuffed, the salamis need to be pricked so moisture can be released in the curing/drying process. The salamis also need to be brushed with a solution that helps form "good" mold. The mold helps prevent growth of "bad" mold on your salami.

Two knots are used to tie off the salami. First a square knot and then just above that knot a bubble knot (two half hitches). The second knot helps ensure that the knot doesn't slip loose resulting in your salami on the drying chamber floor. Some of our salamis weighed over 2 lbs.!
 
Within 24 to 30 hours mold starts to form.
Temperature and humidity are carefully monitored and controlled. Acidity (pH) also needs to be measured, which will tell you if the cultures are doing their thing properly. Bacteria doesn't like acidity and the fermentation process increases it, making life tough for the bacteria and creating a nice tart taste to the salamis. As I said before this is a scientific process and it was such a treat for me to work, once again, with a charcutier.

It will take the pepperoni about 4 weeks to cure and the salamis will need 6.

Jay is also curing a 20 lb. piece of Proscuitto, which takes 18 to 24 months to cure! It will lose 4 lbs. over that time, but 16 lbs. is still a lot of Proscuitto! This will be a good exercise in patience. Proscuitto comes from the back leg of a hog that is both salted and air dried.
A believer in using every part of the pig, Jay is also making Guanciale, which is cured pork jowl or cheek. The name comes from the Italian word for cheek, guancia. Can't wait to see what he does with the snout and ears!
He has already made bacon, which he generously served with wonderfully creamy scrambled eggs made by his wife, Lynn, before our day of meat cutting began.

All in all a great experience and one I hope to repeat!
 
To learn more about the art of charcuterie go to Jay's Facebook Page: Arizona Charcuterie Club.
 
Christmas is behind us and next time I will share
some of the recipes from our feast!
 
Tune in again soon for another episode of...

From my first salami adventure.
May 2017

Monday, December 17, 2018

RACK OF LAMB TO RAVE ABOUT!

We like our meat rare. If you like yours more well-done,
cook it a little longer. You can always add cooking time, but
once meat is overdone you cannot make it more rare!
The outer pieces were perfectly medium rare.
I made this Rack of Lamb for my husband, Jerry's, birthday this past November. Lamb is his favorite and this recipe is simple and delicious. We eat a lot of lamb when we are in Ireland and I found this recipe on 'Allrecipes' and tried it this summer while we were there. We buy most of our meat from our favorite butcher in Spiddal, Mr. Feeney.

Lamb in Ireland is plentiful and not nearly as pricy as it is here. If a lamb is slaughtered between 6 and 10 weeks it is considered to be Young Lamb; between 3 and 6 months it is Spring or Early Summer Lamb. When a Lamb becomes 1 year old it is called a sheep or mutton.

ROASTED RACK OF LAMB

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, extra sprigs for roasting
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (7-8 bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and Frenched
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Move oven rack to center position.
In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. garlic, 2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 Tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.

Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive in in a large, heavy cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1-2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Rub all sides of the rack of lamb evenly with the mustard.
Mustard bath.
Press the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated over both sides of the rack. Do not add the crumb mixture to the bones. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring. I skipped this step as I did not plan on roasting long enough to char the bones.
Ready to go into the hot oven.
Arrange rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven until desired doneness. After 10-12 minutes, take a reading with a meat thermometer in the center of the meat. The temp should read about 120 degrees. Cover loosely with foil and cook another 10 minutes. Check temp again. Between 125-130 degrees will give you a nice rare rack.  If you want more doneness just keep checking every 5 minutes. Medium-rare is approximately 145 degrees. Medium-160 degrees. I roasted my rack 20 minutes total. Let the rack rest, loosely covered,
Just out of the oven, ready to rest.
for 5-7 minutes before carving the ribs apart. The rack does continue to cook after you take it out of the oven.

I served the Rack of Lamb with roasted asparagus and Boursin Mashed Potatoes. It was a beautiful birthday celebration!

I cannot believe Christmas is just a week away. We are having our good friend, Leslie Jackson, from Tucson join us for dinner with her 2 adorable Schnauzers, Gracie and Ruby. Leslie is a fabulous cook herself, but this time I will have the meal prepared so all she will need to do is open the wine!
Here's Gracie sipping some ice water when
she was visiting in the summer.
We were sipping a little more than ice water!
Our menu will include more lamb. This time I will bone a leg, stuff it and roll it. Here's the whole menu:

CHRISTMAS MENU 2018
Hors'Doeuvres:
*Baked Shrimp with creamy dipping sauce
*Irish smoked Salmon with rye crisps

Main Course:
*Leg of Lamb stuffed with Spinach, Garlic, Rosemary, Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts
*Hasseback Potatoes
*Garlic-Herbed Creamed Spinach

Dessert:
*Classic Key Lime Pie

I may add a relish, sauce, or garnish along with a few other surprises, but this is the basic plan.

SENDING ALL MY LOVE
AND WISHING YOU THE
HAPPIEST OF HOLIDAYS!
 
THANK YOU FOR SHARING ANOTHER FABULOUS YEAR OF COOKING WITH ME!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...








Sunday, December 2, 2018

BEST JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE!

I know Thanksgiving is over, but this Cranberry Sauce is good all year long and works well with so many dishes beyond turkey. Think: Pork Roast, Chicken, or even an elevated Meatloaf. My husband, Jerry, loves cranberry sauce from the can (and I think it is other-foodly) so I wanted to find a recipe that works for us both and this one is fantastic; easy to make; and keeps well for up to 2 weeks. I found this recipe on 'The Food Network's' website and made just a couple tweaks. I will give you the recipe as I found it online, but I omitted the ground coriander, used more orange zest and used a whisker less sugar.
CRANBERRY JELLY
Ingredients:
1 pound cranberries (about 4 cups), thawed if frozen
2 oranges
2 cups sugar (I used 1 3/4 cups.)
1 tsp. ground coriander (I omitted.)
Kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients ready to bring to a boil.
Preparation:
Put the cranberries in a saucepan. Remove wide strips of zest from 1/2 orange. I used the zest from both oranges. Add to the saucepan with the juice of both oranges. Add the sugar, coriander (if using), a pinch of salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.
...coming to a boil.
Remove from the heat and remove the orange zest. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
Look at that beautiful color!
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a serving dish, pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula.
Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. I made mine 2 days in advance.

Because I wanted my sauce to look more like it actually came from a can, I put my strained cranberry jelly in a round bottom mold. To unmold gently run a knife along all edges of the mold. Place a warm, moist towel on the bottom of the mold and give the mold a very easy tap. Mine slid right out. I will continue making this sauce every Thanksgiving and throughout the year!

Here are some scenes from our wonderful, fun-filled Thanksgiving feast:

 

 
 

 
Hope your holiday was filled with love and joy.
And now on to the Christmas season!
 
Tune in again soon for another episode of: