Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kokkari: Moussaka


Eggplant and I have not always gotten along.  Apparently I am not alone in this.  But I was able to overcome my issues with eggplant thanks to a fabulous little Greek casserole I had while traveling in Europe.  Called moussaka.  No, I wasn't sure what was in it before I tried it.  Probably best.  But I can confirm that it's meaty, creamy, starchy, and all-around fabulous.  And it may just convert some eggplant-phobics in your life, too.

Moussaka
From Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors

2 globe eggplants, each about 1 pound
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Yukon gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes
Béchamel sauce
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
½ cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt, homemade or purchased
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Lamb Filling

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the ends of the eggplants and score them lengthwise in 4 to 6 places, then cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a wire rack and salt both sides lightly. Let drain for about 1 hour, then pat dry.

In a bowl, combine the eggplant slices and the ½ cup olive oil. Toss to coat the slices evenly, then arrange them on a heavy baking sheet in one layer. Season both sides with salt, using a total of 1 teaspoon. Grind some pepper over the top and bake until the eggplant is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice them ⅜-inch thick. Toss them in a bowl with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Arrange them on a heavy baking sheet in one layer and bake until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. (You can bake them at the same time as the eggplant.)

Whisk the béchamel until smooth and no longer stiff. Whisk in the egg, egg yolks, cheese, yogurt, and nutmeg to make a custard topping.

In a 15x10x2-inch baking dish, arrange the roasted potatoes in a single layer. Top with the lamb filling, compacting it into an even layer with the back of a wooden spoon. Top with the roasted eggplant slices in a single layer. Dollop the custard topping on top, then spread gently into an even layer. Set on a baking sheet and bake until well browned and set but still quivery, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing.

Serves 8

Béchamel Sauce
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
7½ cups whole milk, warmed

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour all at once and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to darken and smell nutty, about 3 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the milk to the pot and whisk until smooth. Add another 2 cups and whisk again until smooth. The mixture will look like creamy mashed potatoes. Whisk in the remaining 3½ cups of milk and 1½ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes to eliminate the raw flour taste. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent the sauce from scorching, and scrape the sides of the pot occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let cool.

Lamb Filling
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound white onions, chopped
2½ pounds ground lamb shoulder
¼ cup Italian tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pour the olive oil and the onions in a large skillet. Sauté over high heat until the onions soften slightly and begin to smell sweet, about 4 minutes. Do not allow them to color. Add the ground lamb and sauté, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is no longer pink and there are no clumps, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking until the meat releases its juices, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Drain in a colander set over a bowl. Return the meat to the skillet. Let the juices settle for about 5 minutes, then skim the surface fat with a soup spoon and return the skimmed juices to the skillet with the lamb.

Add the tomato paste, honey, bay leaf, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ½ tablespoon salt, and several grinds of pepper. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the meat is moist but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fritz Rahr and Terry Chandler: Rahrzehnt Beer Braised Short Ribs


I think I need to change my favorite phrase.  It is now "Everything tastes better with bacon...and beer."  Seriously.  These ribs were amazing.  They have this flavor that is indescribable.  And for the chile-averse, they're not spicy.  Highly recommended for that cold evening when all you want is some really tender, flavorful beef.  And beer.

Rahrzehnt Beer Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from Fritz Rahr of Rahr and Sons Brewing and Chef Terry Chandler from Fred's Texas Café, Ft. Worth, TX

2 tablespoons ground guajillo chile powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
4 pounds beef short ribs
Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 (22-ounce) bottle Rahrzehnt Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups heavy cream, reduced by half

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, cumin, granulated garlic, and black pepper.  Dust the ribs with half of the chile powder mixture and salt liberally.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering.  Quickly sear the ribs on all sides in batches.  When the ribs are seared, set them aside in a bowl, and pour off any extra oil.  Pour in the beer, the remaining chile powder mix, the sprigs of thyme, and bay leaf. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get up the browned bits.  Return the ribs to the pot, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender and pulls away slightly from the bone.

Remove the ribs from the liquid, then skim the fat from the liquid. Stir the heavy cream into the liquid and bring back to a slow boil.  Cook until the mixture thickens slightly.  Salt to taste, then pour the gravy over the ribs and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Veg Recipes of India: Gobi Masala (Spiced Cauliflower)


Indian food is so amazing to me.  I still can't believe how much flavor they manage to pack into one pot.  Seriously.  It's like a party in your mouth.  I think most Americans don't like it because it seems almost excessive after the blandness of white bread.  But this is friggin' fantastic.  And it's definitely going into the usual rounds.

Gobi Masala (Spiced Cauliflower)
From Veg Recipes of India blog

1 large head cauliflower
2 medium Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dry-roasted cashew nuts
3 large cloves garlic
1 (½-inch) piece ginger root
5 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
1 small bay leaf
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon red chile powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons full-fat Greek or Indian yogurt. whisked until smooth
1½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon crushed dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Separate the cauliflower into medium florets, rinse well, and set aside.  Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower, cover, and remove from the heat.  Let blanch for 15 minutes.  Drain the cauliflower in a colander and set aside.

Put the tomatoes and the cashews in a blender, and puree until smooth.  If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a little water.  Set aside,  Mash the garlic and ginger together to form a paste.  Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large pan, kadai, or wok.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the drained cauliflower.  Sauté on medium heat until the florets begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the cauliflower from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the bay leaf and caraway seeds, and fry for a few seconds until the oil becomes aromatic.  Add the chopped onions, and sauté until the onions become golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger paste to the onions, and sauté for a few seconds until the raw aroma of the mixture goes away.  Pour in the tomato mixture and stir well.  Add the turmeric, chile powder, garam masala, coriander, and cumin and mix well.  Sauté the mixture until the oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.  The whole mixture will start to clump together and you will clearly see oil leaving the sides.  This is an important step, as if not done properly, the flavors won't come through in the finished dish.

When the masala is ready, remove the pan from the heat and add the whisked yogurt.  Stir well, and then pour in the water.  Stir again, and then move the pan back onto the heat.  Add the salt and the sauteed cauliflower.  Stir and partially cover the pan.  Simmer the cauliflower for approximately 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

When the cauliflower is tender but not mushy, mix in the heavy cream, fenugreek leaves (if using), and nutmeg.  Stir well and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Serve with rotis, naan, or rice.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nigel Slater: Vanilla Bean Seville Orange Marmalade


I can't believe it.  I actually found and acquired the incredibly illusive Seville orange.  They're like phantoms in the night.  Or maybe Crosse & Blackwell is absorbing the entire world supply or something.  I hurried home with my "orange gold", and quickly...  Okay, quickly is probably not the best word here.  Over two days, I managed to coax those oranges into something incredibly delicious.  And the fact that I now have multiple jars of marmalade at my disposal makes me a little giddy.

Vanilla Bean Seville Orange Marmalade
Adapted from Nigel Slater, as seen in The Guardian

6 Seville oranges
1 lemon
3½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Using a small, particularly sharp kitchen knife, score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting the fruit into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel but without piercing the fruit. Cut each quarter of peel into fine shreds (or thicker slices if you like a chunkier texture). Squeeze each of the peeled oranges and lemons into a jug, removing and reserving all the pulp and pips.

Make the juice up to 8½ cups with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. You may need more than one bowl here. Tie the reserved pith, squeezed-out orange and lemon pulp and the pips in muslin bag and push into the peel and juice. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.

The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enameled pan and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer merrily. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. This can take anything from 40 minutes to a good hour-and-a-half, depending purely on how thick you have cut your peel.

Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Add the sugar to the peel and juice and turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil. Squeeze every last bit of juice from the reserved muslin bag into the pan. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface. (If you don't your preserve will be cloudy.) Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes. Remove a tablespoon of the preserve, put it on a plate, and pop it into the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface of the refrigerated marmalade, then it is ready and you can switch the pan off. If the tester is still liquid, then let the marmalade boil for longer. Test every 10 to 15 minutes. Some mixtures can take up to 50 minutes to reach setting consistency.  When the mixture is ready, remove from the heat and add the vanilla bean paste.

If canning, ladle the hot marmalade into sterilized jars, one at a time, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe any marmalade from the rims of the jars. Center lids on jars. Twist on the bands until fingertip tight. Place filled jars in the canning rack inside the canner, ensuring jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Place lid on canner. Bring water to gentle, steady boil. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars from water and cool. Check lids for seal after 12 to 24 hours.

Makes 4 half pint jars

Friday, January 30, 2015

Broccoli Blue Cheese Casserole


I hate having to throw out the remainders of expensive ingredients.  For example, I may only have needed 1 tablespoon of crème fraîche, but I had to buy eight ounces of it.  In this case, I may have only needed a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles, but I had to buy a whole friggin' container.  So basically, this casserole saves the blue cheese day.  And it's super delicious at it.

Broccoli Blue Cheese Casserole

1½ pounds broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
10 Ritz crackers, crumbled
¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut broccoli crowns into flowerets, discarding the stems.  Boil flowerets in water or chicken broth for about 5 minutes, until just beginning to soften.  Drain broccoli and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter.  When butter begins to sizzle, sprinkle with flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes until the flour begins to smell nutty, but not is browning.  Whisk in the milk.  Simmer over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, cream cheese, and blue cheese.  Whisk until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth.  Add the cooked broccoli and stir to coat.

Pour the broccoli mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish.  Top with crackers and almonds.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Piña Colada Muffins


I've never been a huge fan of super-sweet muffins.  I figure if they're that sweet, they have fallen over the very thin line into cupcake territory.  Plus, I should at least attempt to be somewhat healthy with one meal of the day, right?  So, voilà, pineapple-coconut-rum muffins with very little sweetener and lots of good stuff.  The coconut flavor wasn't quite as pronounced as I really would have liked, but I think that can easily be solved with a little coconut extract next time around.

Piña Colada Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup dry milk, sifted to remove lumps
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
3 tablespoons rum
¼ cup coconut cream
Whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Insert paper muffin cups into one 12-cup muffin pan.

Drain the pineapple into a measuring cup.  You should have about ¼ cup of juice.  Add the rum and coconut cream to the pineapple juice.  Add whole milk to make 1 cup.  Add the egg, honey, and oil.  Mix well.

Combine the flours, dry milk, baking powder, and salt.  Create a well in the middle and pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl.  Stir gently just until flour is moistened.  Fold in the drained pineapple.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with coconut.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Serve warm with butter.

Makes 12 muffins

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens: Hamburger Pie


Ah, another dish of my childhood.  Hamburger pie.  That isn't pie.  Honestly, I have no idea why this is called "pie".  Maybe the mashed potatoes are supposed to resemble meringue.  But honestly, does it matter?  Call it Magical Beef and Potato Casserole if you want, but give it a try.  Your tongue will thank you.

Hamburger Pie
Adapted from the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 pound ground beef
½ cup onion, chopped
Dash salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can green beans, drained
1 (10¾-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
5 medium potatoes
½ cup warm milk
1 large egg, beaten
2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook the ground beef and onion until the meat is browned and crumbled. Drain off any grease that has collected and discard. Add salt, pepper, green beans, condensed soup, and Worcestershire sauce; pour into a greased casserole dish.

Peel and cube the potatoes. Cook in simmering water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash while hot; add the milk and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the potatoes in mounds over the prepared casserole. Sprinkle the potatoes with Cheddar cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the potatoes are beginning to brown.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bake Your Day: Toffee Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake


I think the older I get, the more evil my sugary concoctions become.  I mean, first, Crack Pie.  Now this.  It's a Paula Deen-esque dessert taken to the next level.  And then the level after that.  Make sure to share with your friends, because I can totally see this being something you hoard for snacking in the light from the fridge long after bedtime.

Toffee Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake
Adapted from Bake Your Day blog

For the cake layer:
2 cups cake flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the Biscoff layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup Biscoff spread
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar (about 3¾ cups)
1 (8-ounce) package Heath milk chocolate toffee bits (about 1½ cups)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix with a whisk until well combined. Add the egg, melted butter, milk, and vanilla, and mix well. Press the mixture into the prepared pan.

In the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla, and Biscoff spread, and beat on medium-high until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, in batches, and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the toffee bits. Pour the Biscoff toffee mixture onto the cake layer, and use an offset spatula to spread evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes; the edges will be set, the top will be shiny and the center will still be a slightly underdone; it will continue to cook while the cake cools. Cool the cake completely in the pan before cutting.

Makes 20 squares

Friday, January 09, 2015

Frangelico.com: Frangelico Mudslide


It's a little late in the evening for happy hour, but this is my own personal definition of happy hour.  I'm happy that this week of twelve hour days is over.  Very happy.  And to celebrate, I'm having a fabulous cocktail.  Because I deserve it.  Especially since it tastes like a chocolate milkshake.

Frangelico Mudslide
From frangelico.com

1 ounce Irish cream (such as Bailey's)
¾ ounce Frangelico
¾ ounce vodka
½ ounce coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)

Shake and serve over ice.

Makes 1 delicious cocktail

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Hoppin' John with Collard Greens


I'm not a superstitious person.  I don't think I'm cursed if a black cat walks in front of me.  I'm not afraid to step on cracks in the sidewalk.  But I also like to cover my bases.  And if eating a bowl of blackeyed peas and collards will get my new year started off right, it certainly won't hurt to have a bowl.  It also helps that it's delicious.  Good luck with the new year, my friends!

Hoppin' John with Collard Greens

3 strips bacon, cut into batons
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ pound collard greens, stem removed, sliced into ribbons
11 ounces fresh blackeyed peas (1 container)
1½ teaspoons Creole seasoning
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups chicken broth

In a skillet, cook bacon until fat is rendered and the bacon is starting to get crispy.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, and place it into the crock of a slow cooker.

Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic to the hot bacon fat, and cook until the onion is translucent and the other vegetables have softened slightly.  Pour the vegetables into the crock over the bacon.

Add the remaining 7 ingredients to the slow cooker, and stir to make sure everything is distributed evenly.  Cook on high for 5 hours, or low for 8. Serve with rice and Tabasco sauce.

Makes 8 servings